PineTab in October 2021: Arch Linux with Plasma, weekly Manjaro images and Focal Fossa waiting for Ubuntu Touch

PineTab in October 2021 When in the summer of 2020 the first units of the pinetab like the edition for the Early Adopters, one could not imagine how far ahead of the rest it was. In the hands of early adopters since September last year, there has been news, but things could still be better on virtually any desktop or operating system we choose. So here we are going to analyze a little how things are in October 2021 for the PINE64 tablet.

There are several projects that are working on software for the PineTab (and the PinePhone). They stand out from them Ubuntu Touch, system that comes by default, Arch Linux, Mobian and Manjaro, in addition to postmarketOS. If we took the good of each one everything would be perfect, but there is always at least one Achilles heel. What's good and what needs to be improved? We analyze it.

To this day and for the PineTab, Ubuntu Touch is the most disappointing

I think that with the above, almost everything is said. The PineTab comes with Ubuntu Touch installed by default, and it might be the best option if it improved the web browser and the desktop applications (Libertine) worked. For some, including myself, lomiri, formerly known as Unity8, offers the best Linux experience on a tablet. That is to say, its panel or dock, the application launcher or the multitasking view make us feel that we are facing a real tablet, and not before a I want a I can not (in this sense) like Phosh.

In addition, it also has a desktop option that is automatically activated by attaching a keyboard to it. But everything stays in borage water when we sail with Morph or we install desktop applications so that we cannot open them. Everything else is fine, but it's a bit like having a Ferrari parked in a garage. So I have Ubuntu Touch: installed in the internal memory and waiting for the base to be updated to Ubuntu 20.04 to see if there are news regarding Libertine.

phosh

I don't feel particularly good surrendering to the evidence, but I have to. Phosh is ugly on a tablet, although Manjaro fixes it a bit by increasing the size of the icons and keyboard. It is clearly seen that it is an interface that has focused on phones, and on a tablet it does not quite fit well. But to Caesar what belongs to Caesar is what works best, whether it is used in Manjaro, Arch Linux or Mobian. Not many bugs are experienced, it allows us to access official repositories and we can install desktop applications, so, leaving aside the design, it offers the best user experience on a Linux tablet.

Plasma

I really like the KDE software. I have used it and use it on two laptops and on the Raspberry Pi, but the desktop software is not the same as that designed for a touch screen. They are taking steps forward, but there are many bugs that need to be improved. For example, there are times when the PineTab will jerk, and the applications are doubled (or tripled, or more ...) in the application drawer. Plasma Mobile is now like the desktop version about 5-6 years ago: everything looks great, but it has to mature.

Arch Linux and Manjaro on the PineTab

Arch Linux has always done more or less well on the PineTab. At first he opted for Phosh, the more mature interface, but we already have a Plasma version. It is in this one where I have tested the KDE software the most, and where I have seen those small bugs that must be corrected yes or yes. On the desktop, the changes we make are not usually kept, so if you add a widget, you may not be able to remove it later. Watch duplicate apps It is courageous, but it is easy to imagine a future in which everything is polished.

Those problems are not from Arch Linux, if not Plasma. It also happens in postmarketOS. We can install AUR software, but you have to know how to undo the changes because some programs might not work.

Based on Arch Linux is Manjaro, my choice on the desktop and on the PineTab… when it works. Months ago they released a version with Plasma, but it was always vertical. Everything was going perfectly, but a tablet looks better in landscape. Right now, Manjaro is releasing images for PineTab (here!) with Phosh and Plasma, but I couldn't test anything because they don't start. I have to confess that I want to have this bug fixed, as Manjaro was running very smoothly when I tried it… before an update broke my installation.

The perfect PineTab, in the editor's opinion

For me, the perfect PineTab does not exist and it is difficult for it to exist. The speakers are very weak, when listening, since, for example, in Arch Linux you have to install alsa-utils and change the sound card to "pinetab". Also, the hardware is very limited. But, with what's out there, the perfect PineTab would be:

  • lomiri: the best interface with gestures for tablet. If they polish Plasma, it would be an option, but not as "tablet" as Lomiri.
  • Manjaro: I remember sharing a video in a group about the PineTab that saw how YouTube videos played, and it did it perfectly. If I remember correctly, it had sound after zero installation, so no need to attach a keyboard to it to make it sound.
  • Arch Linux stability, especially in updates. Arch Linux is stable on the PineTab, and I have never experienced a problem after updating.
  • Arch / Manjaro repositories: in the Arch repositories there is a lot of updated software, plus you can add support for AUR and find everything. Another thing is that it is adapted for touch screens or ARM architecture, but this is something that we do not have to give sitting in the Debian repositories either.

2 Option: Ubuntu Touch with Libertine running. One of the things UBports has in mind is that we can't easily break the system. For that reason they do not allow us to access official repositories by default, and for that reason you can install desktop software in containers with Libertine. It also offers an option to perform a "factory" reset from the operating system settings.

Patience

This is how things are today, and once again we have to be patient. In the last year, Plasma has started to work in Spanish, Manjaro has started to launch images weekly and Ubuntu Touch… well, now you can also see it vertically. Maybe next year Plasma is polished and can be used with decent video and audio on Manjaro, some distribution releases images with Lomiri or Ubuntu Touch is what it should be and is on other devices. There are options. You just have to improve things, and I think they will.


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