I have not been one that has been real huge on stickers. Historically, I have not been one to sticker anything up, I have enjoyed keeping things plain, ordinary and uniform or incognito. With my recent computer acquisition, the very nice, sleep albeit cold HP EliteBook felt very impersonal. I felt, it needed a touch of green, a touch of happiness and maybe a little less of the cold and detached presentation it provides. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for that, just not today on this machine.
I did a little searching on the webs and I found a site that provides many, many options for stickers. That company is called RedBubble. What is interesting about this site is that it is like an Etsy of stickers and merchandise. If you do a search for openSUSE or Ubuntu, you will get different products by different designers. I do not know the business model here but I am very fascinated by having these options available.
Since I have an almost unhealthy obsession with openSUSE, I had to take my rather plain and uninspiring, cold, metal machine into something with a bit of warmth.
I even bought a little something for the inside of the laptop too. You don’t always get the pleasure of seeing the logo on the menu button when you are playing a game at full screen. Sometimes, it is nice to look down and bring that smile back to your face after some 12 year old gamer crushes you on a first person shooter and laughs at you for being an old man with terrible reflexes sprinkled with some other colorful language and riddled with slang you don’t understand.
The sticker material itself is of good quality. It is not flimsy nor will it easily tear. These are of quality vinyl, the type that is removable. Although, I can’t verify the durability of them, they are claimed to be water proof.
So, I guess I’ll find out how they hold up over time. I figure, as long as they hold up for a few years, I will most certainly have my value out of them.
Just by tugging on the material, it appears to be tough, as far as stickers go. I do like that these are vinyl and will remove without leaving residue, or at least, too much residue. It will be interesting to see if the sticker I put by my palm rest starts to peel up on the edges or fades out due to wear.
Though I have never been a big sticker / customize your computer kind of guy, I really do like these stickers. They express more than just the brand logo of the manufacturer as to where my priorities like with my technology. Also, since I did put this on a business class machine, there is very little likelihood that it would be confused with anyone else’s corporate machine, should I find myself in such an environment again.
I do believe my tone has changed on the notion of making your personal computer a bit more personalized. I am not going to go sticker crazy but a few stickers that express my almost unhealthy obsession with the openSUSE project is just right for my laptop and other computers.
With the digit changes into the new year, so goes some changes for the layout of the tech in my home. My new HP EliteBook needs a place besides my lap or in a computer bag and my Dell Latitude D630 that has been beside my main machine has been getting less and less use due to the encumberment of the Nvidia GPU. This D630 has served me well since I purchased it new from Dell in 2007.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I purchased my gently used Dell Latitude E6440 and put my Latitude D630 on a standby state. It’s been a good computer that has seen many adventures of my life from my extended time in other countries to playing calm music in the background for the birth of my three children. I have upgraded and fixed this machine more times than most people would consider doing but now, it is time to remove it from its active reserve status to full retired.
I won’t actually get rid of the machine, I’ll keep it going, turn it on periodically to update openSUSE Tumbleweed but it won’t stay on. The computer would be fine if not for the Nvidia GPU as its closed source, proprietary nature, along with being abandoned by Nvidia means I can only use the Nouveau drivers which are,, unfortunately, a bit ropey.
I performed the last update as it sits on a dock station at my stand up desk. One quick sudo zypper dup to get things updated and tested before I shut it down. Thankfully, everything continues to work well, albeit the GPU troubles and it all shut down cleanly. In a way it is a bit sad for me to retire it, but it was time.
After a bit of dusting and wiping the shelf off, I placed the HP EliteBook in its new place. Since the D630 was also a 14″ machine, this fits well though it is a bit smaller, and that is fine.
Just below, on a lower level of the desk, I placed the Dell TB16 Thunderbolt 3 dock station to provide power and an extension of functionality. Since the computer is without an SD Card reader I will eventually purchase one and attach it to the dock station. I will perhaps add a monitor too but that is not really a priority.
I know it is silly to anthropomorphize a computer but I can’t help but to have a kind of connection with the technology. It has been a tool to get my work done, entertained, educated and allowed me to explore many aspects of tech for many years. It was also the first business grade laptop I purchased from the manufacturer that I spent countless hours researching. I really believe I would continue to use it if not for the Nvidia GPU as performance wise, it does a great job in many other aspects.
What this has cemented for me is that I will avoid proprietary hardware, like Nvidia from this point forward. I will most certainly steer clear of anything where I am limited by the corporate decisions of a company that cares little about the long term viability of their products.
I was given an incredible gift by my former employer as a parting gift, an HP EliteBook 840 G7. I didn’t unpack it right away as I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into my mess of computer equipment. I have been very happy with my Dell Latitude E6440 and decided my next system was going to be a desktop system.
Bottom line up front, I am surprisingly pleased with this system. The HPs I have used in times past have been less than stellar and this machine is not at all anywhere close to the same experience. This machine is pretty great and far better than any HP I have ever used. openSUSE Tumbleweed runs fantastically well on this hardware. Setting it up was trivial and it has been a fantastic experience.
Specifications that Matter
This isn’t a loaded up unit and based on this site from HP, it is on the lower end of the spectrum. Comparing to what I am currently using as my main machine, it has half the RAM and 1/8th the storage space.
Intel Core i5-10310U Processor – This is not the fastest processor and there are faster options available for this machine. According to HP’s knowledge base on this machine, it can accept as much as a Intel Core i7-10810U. The actual difference between the two, according to CPUbenchmark.net, is about a 20% improvement. This is good news is, I can potentially make this laptop even more useful in the processing department… that is, assuming it isn’t soldered on.
8 GiB DDR4 with 7.5 GiB available for use. According to HP, this can take up to 64 GiB of RAM. I think that is incredibly spectacular. That definitely means I can grow into this machine over the long term. My reckless use of system resource causes me to chomp through the 7.5 GiB available pretty quickly. It’s a bit light for doing video editing and CAD work but still doable, so long as I don’t have a browser with 20+ tabs open.
Bottom line, this isn’t great now but could be very great for a rather small investment. Just by swapping out one of the SO-DIMMS with a 32 GiB module would make a huge difference.
This laptop comes equipped with an anti-glare, non-touch, 1920×1080 display. I am not sure exactly the characteristics of this specific display as there are a lot of options according to this listing. Whichever version this machine has, I am very pleased with it.
Ports and Interfaces
This computer isn’t what I would consider heavy on interfaces. I might go as far to say it is a bit light but it does have the ports that truly count. I am a bit disappointed it is missing an SD Card reader but lets focus on what it does have, not what it is missing.
The front and back of the computer are void of any interfaces. This works well for the back due to how the screen pivots. I have seen alternative designs for hinges that allow for access to the back but from a usability perspective, accessing ports on the back is an exercise in fiddling around blindly unless you decide to crane your head around the backside of the computer. Ultimately, I don’t care one way or the other on this one.
The left side of the computer has four interfaces interfaces:
(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 port (1 charging). I have used both of the USB slots though one tends to have a Logitech wireless mouse dongle in it. I have no complaints in this department.
(1) Headphone/microphone combo jack, or sometimes called a “courage port” and although I tend to use Bluetooth for “quiet listening” I do think a headphone jack is necessary on a computer and to not have one is terrible.
SmartCard slot, it is a vital necessity to have a SmartCard reader for a computer. Without one, I would have to plug in a USB external and that is, frankly, a less than ideal situation.
The unnamed opening on the side is for that Kensington Security Slot. That is for the purpose of locking your computer to the desk… which makes it like a desktop.
The right side of the computer contains five interfaces:
(2) USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt support. I have tested this, running openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop, the ports do recognize and enable dock stations as well as charge from them. I didn’t test the external display capability but that will come in the future.
(1) HDMI 1.4 port. This is standard fare for a laptop purchased in 2020. I am not sure if HDMI is preferred over DisplayPort but it is what I have.
(1) AC power input port. Since I am still quite uncertain as to the reliability of the USB-C port for the long term, I do appreciate having a barrel jack for power. I do think this will likely last longer than the USB-C port.
There is a blocked off SIM card slot on this computer, presumably due to the lack of WWAN. This is a factory install option, according to HP. That is unfortunate as that would have been a nice add on. I’m sure there is a way to hack it together, maybe.
Construction and Aesthetics
The laptop’s chassis is made of aluminum. According to the HP marketing information, it is made of machined-aluminum. I find that a bit hard to believe as I don’t see evidence of any machining marks and that seems incredibly cost prohibitive but I am not the expert here, nor have I seen the manufacturing plant. It very well could be true and this could be an incredibly well designed machine with spectacular manufacturing processes. It does look very nice. It has nice, sharp lines and just feels solid. The test a lot of tech enthusiasts give a machine is holding it by a corner with the screen lid open to see if it creaks or flexes. This computer does not do that.
The keyboard is claimed to be made of 50% recycled DVDs. The other 50% isn’t specified and why only DVDs and not CDs mentioned. They are both made from polycarbonate plastic. Perhaps people are done throwing out CDs? Also, who throws away DVDs? I have so many questions here. I absolutely prefer that all materials are recycled so I love seeing that HP is making it a point to utilize recycle materials in new machines.
The bezel of the computer is very thin, much thinner than I am used to seeing on a laptop. I am sure there are smaller but my biggest concern is, how do I take this apart without cracking it? The screen is visually of great quality and has a kind of indescribable clarity that I really appreciate.
I am incredibly impressed that HP made this computer so easy to access the innards. The bottom is held in place by five screws. There are clips towards the front of the case so it needs to be swung open towards the front of the machine.
Very surprisingly, they used captive screws so you don’t have to set them in a magnetic bowl or end up brushing them off your workbench and spend hours looking on your cluttered floor to find them.
Inside reveals easy access to the memory, SSD or in this case NVME. I didn’t take the CPU fan and heat piping out to see if the CPU was easily replaced like my Latitudes. Another time, perhaps. I think the big take away here is, this thing is easily serviceable and upgraded. With very little effort, I can swap out the storage and add RAM to this thing, truly making this a machine that I can use for many years.
I will be interested in seeing how long the battery on this thing lasts. It is only rated at 53Watt/hours but it does appear to be adequate at this time, based on how I have been using it.
Installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed
I gave Windows 10 a try on this machine. I got through the installation procedure, registered the computer with HP, read through the rather frightening EULA and was presented with a fairly standard Windows 10 desktop albeit with a few extra HP sprinklings. This computer had none of the “bloatware” that is common on PCs… at least… has once been common. After about 45 seconds, I decided i was done playing with Windows and it was time for openSUSE.
I have installed openSUSE on a few other new computers and there have been hangups or difficulties to work through, mostly with Nvidia. I was expecting for there to be a bit of a battle but because I have chosen Tumbleweed, I know that I will have the latest available hardware drivers and judging by the mailing list feed. I was glad to know that this Comet Lake Intel architecture is supported.
In order to boot from the USB, I had to change the boot order. For my own personal future reference, here are what the different F-keys do on POST:
F1 – System Information F2 – System Diagnostics F3 – 3rd Party Option ROM F9 – Boot menu F10 – BIOS Menu F11 – System Restore F12 – Network PXE Boot
In this case, you really only have to make the change in the boot menu to boot from USB. Since openSUSE is Secure Boot capable, there are no problems there. If you are like me, you want to dig into the BIOS menu and see what goodies are accessible within. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty standard stuff.
For the installation process itself, I didn’t do anything custom. I just let the installer do what it wanted and it very nicely read my mind to just wipe and install openSUSE with a single BTRFS partition. The only tweaks I made was to activate the SSH Service and open the port in the firewall. The rest was left as is. Thanks openSUSE! The installation process took all of 9 minutes and it was complete. For details on my installation process you can take a trip here.
Upon booting up the system for the first time, the only issue I had was a lack of sound. Going into YaST, I selected the sound module which informed me that the kernel module for snd-sof-pci had not been loaded.
This wasn’t an extra step I wanted to do, but I am grateful that the YaST sound module was able to walk me through correcting the issue. The positive takeaway here is, I haven’t ever actually messed with this before since it hasn’t ever come up, but now that I see how this module works, further play is necessary. Not for this machine but something that I am building.
Just three packages needed to be installed and the sound automatically configured itself properly and hasn’t been an issue since. What I find interesting here is that Plasma now has devices like HDMI left in an inactive state so you have to how the inactive devices when you don’t have something plugged in. This really clears up a lot of the previous irritation with how Plasma / PulseAudio handled the sound devices. The changes here are fantastic.
After using this machine for a few days, I decided that I really loved it. I’m impressed by how solid yet light the chassis feels. That meant, I had to make this computer my own. I, of course, started by using my openSUSE Breeze Dark theme then I replaced the default system notifications with my preferred Star Trek: The Next Generation variety that I have cut up and mixed. It feels better that way.
My only issue that I have not yet worked out is that my brightness control for the screen just seems to trigger the mute toggle. My understanding is that there is a firmware fix from HP on this and this problem is not exclusive to Linux. More on this in the future.
The installation and first run of openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma has been simply fantastic. It has been over 10 years since I purchased brand new hardware to run Linux and have since stayed just a bit behind to reduce my frustrations. There are no serious frustrations with this machine, sure, a little issue with the brightness control and I had to take an extra step to get the sound working, but that is it. The battery life on this machine is extraordinary. I don’t have to think about having a power supply handy. I just take this laptop and go places. I can’t say I have ever experience such laptop computing freedom before. Truly, a tremendous openSUSE Tumbleweed laptop experience.
What I Like
The touchpad on this particular computer has a glass surface. I love how it feels and how easy it is to clean. Why is it that in 2020 I first experience this? Why hasn’t this been the standard in touchpads? It isn’t a full mouse replacement as it doesn’t have physical buttons at the bottom of the touchpad but if you press down on it, there is an audible click. By pressing in the standard respective locations, you do have all three mouse buttons.
The keyboard does have a TrackPoint where the G, H and B keys meet. This is something I have grown very accustomed to using my Dell Latitudes. I really don’t like being without but the downside is, with out that third button, I am not able to scroll like I do on my Dell Latitude E6440 so the usability of this component isn’t as useful as I would like. I am quite sure I can figure a workaround on this shortcoming.
Very importantly, the keyboard is of very good quality, I have written this entire post on this EliteBook and I am very happy with how the keyboard feels. This is nothing like the Zbook I have previously used where you had to hammer down on the keys to get the letters to type. These keys require just enough pressure to activate and since the chassis that it sits in is as rigid as it is, there is not a bit of flex in the keyboard.
On the incredibly rare occasion I tax this system, I am impressed by how quite the fan runs. There are two impressive aspects here. One, how little the fan actually runs and when it does run, how quite it is and how short it ends up running as it seemed to spin down when the CPU usage dropped down as well.
This computer has USB-C with Thunderbolt. I have nothing that takes advantage of this capability but now that I do, I just may look at getting something for that purpose. I do appreciate the fact that I can charge my computer from the USB-C port. This opens up a lot of power options for this computer. More on that at another time. It should also be noted that the Thunderbolt module in the Plasma Settings is very informative and I am sure that I will use this as my peripherals start to go towards this Thunderbolt interface.
Something that is incredibly important to me on a laptop is how easy it is to service the thing and what my options are when I open the thing up. The innards are incredibly easy to access so memory and storage upgrades are easy. There isn’t any memory soldered on to the board and since I have the option to stuff 64 GiB of RAM in this thing, that makes this laptop very forward leaning.
Amazingly, this computer has a built in SmartCard reader. This is huge for me as I need one regularly and using a USB device is not convenient. There weren’t any issues getting the device drivers and middleware set up in openSUSE. The wiki on that subject is well written and results are easily repeatable.
What I Don’t Like
The arrow keys on the keyboard are a little crammed. I am sure I’ll get used to it but I would say this is the weak point of the keyboard. I don’t have a suggestion as how to correct this whilst also maintaining the clean aesthetic. I think the layout of the keyboard is more about aesthetics than it is about functionality but it is in balance.
There is a little bit of squirrelly behavior of the Fn key for display brightness controls. After a little research this is not exclusively a Linux issue but is more common in Linux. There is a BIOS update to fix this problem, I just have to take the time to work through that solution with a non-Windows system.
As far as slots and ports go on this machine, there is a sore lacking of and SD Card slot. I do wonder why this feature was omitted from the design, especially over having a SIM Card slot that I can’t use without serious modification to the computer.
There is no Ethernet port on this computer. I guess they took a queue from Apple and omitted this too. This is one of those issues that can be easily fixed with a dongle or dock station. Thinking about it. I rarely use an Ethernet port on a laptop unless I am docked. I just happen to like having an Ethernet port and expect them on computers. I call this a nice to have, not a requirement.
Peculiar position for the Power button and airplane mode. I suspect this is to support the overall design aesthetic of the keyboard, having the nice clean lines and deck around the keyboard. The irritation with the airplane mode is that being on F11, I have triggered the airplane mode more often than I would like to admit. The media function keys utilize the F-row and by default are active. The only media keys I use often are the volume up and down keys so I have to determine if it is more important to have the F-keys, which I use very frequently, or the media keys as the default press.
Overall, very happy with this machine. It was a parting gift from my previous employer and about the time I completely forgot they were going to send it, the system arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I see myself using this machine for many years. Regardless of the lacking of SD Card reader, it does have the more important SmartCard reader. The arrow keys are a bit crunched but that seems to be a lot more common these days, which is incredibly unfortunate and the media keys are currently a bit squirrelly but there should be a fix for that in the near future. I really can’t complain at all as this is a fine machine and a very welcome gift.
Going forward, I plan to make this my on-the-go machine and will probably leave my Latitude at home more. This means, I will have to do some upgrades to this machine if I plan to make it my main, mobile machine. The 237 GiB drive is a bit small for all that I do with a computer and the 8 GiB of RAM seems to get filled up very quickly with my poor browser habits.
The HP EliteBook 840 G7 is a fantastic Linux machine. If this were offered with Linux pre-installed, I would consider this to be a prime, flagship, Linux experience. I haven’t tested any other distributions but I imagine they would be much the same. I really appreciate the work HP has done on this machine and the seeming forethought they had with ensuring Linux compatibility.
I have reached the end of the road with this machine. We have been together for about three years and before sending it off to the ether, I wanted to try out openSUSE Tumbleweed on it. It was something of a question I have been asking myself since I was first assigned the piece of hardware. Windows 7 worked fine on it but how would it spin with the Plasma desktop.
Since I had received my ‘new’ computer and transferred everything over, I decided now was the time. I felt it important to wipe the SSD on it anyway before shipping it out so trying out somethings seemed like a good idea. In order to boot from the USB drive, I had to change the boot order. I went into the BIOS to access the boot option. To go into theBIOS I pressed F10 on the POST Splash screen.
Using the fantastic openSUSE installer, I set up the machine very easily. I realize, that at this point, this installer is like second nature to me so making it more “user friendly” would likely not be to my liking.
I did note that the default drive arrangement now is to have a single BTRFS partition with a Swap partition. That isn’t my preference but I went with it.
After setting up all the bits, it took about 6 minutes to install the standard KDE Plasma desktop. Fir reference, I am using snapshot 20200612 which includes Plasma version 5.19.
The initial boot took 32 seconds to get to the login screen. Not sure if that is “fast” enough for most people but I was happy about that. After logging in, it took another 7 seconds to a settled desktop… which is not to my dark-theme liking but easily remedied.
I have my color preference stored here but I really should put it out there as a downloadable theme… someday, perhaps.
Specifications (the ones that matter to me)
Using my favorite system info tool, neofetch, I installed that first.
sudo zypper install neofetch
and ran the thing to get the output of those little things that matter to me about the system
This basically told me what I wanted / needed to know
CPU: Intel i7-4810MQ, 8 thread at 3.80Ghz 4th Generation Core
Screen: 1920×1080 matte finish screen
GPU: Nvidia Quadro K2100M
Memory: 32 GiB
Storage: 477GiB SSD (no idea the brand, didn’t care)
This is by no means a new machine but it did do its job very effectively as a CAD machine.
Setup and Configuration
Since the secondary monitor was to the left, I had to use the screen selection hotkey Fn+F4 to get to the onscreen switcher, arrow over and done. Plasma is beautiful in the way it works like that. Sicne the dark theme was added as previously described, I had to install the Multimedia Codecs from here. It’s also good to check to make sure that my instructions are still valid. They are!
The next thing to fix was this single-click nonsense. Not a fan of this out of the gate but I understand that openSUSE likes to stay close to the upstream. Not my preference but thankfully that is an easy fix by going to System Settings > General Behavior and changing the Click behavior to “Double-click to open files and folders.
The other thing I wanted to do was to set the window decoration to have the “Keep below” and “Keep above” buttons on it. These are buttons I use quite often. Mostly the “Keep Above” and to not have it makes my titlebar feel… inadequate.
Next was to install the Nvidia packages to take advantage of this GPU. The easy way can be found here on the openSUSE Wiki.
I used YasST to do the installation as I was thought, why not.
There is more than one way to get to managing the Repositories. I did it through the Software Management tool under Configuration > Repositories…
Next, I selected “Add” in the lower-left corner of the window then Community Repositories. On the next screen, I added the nVidia Graphics Drivers.
When it begins the process of adding the repository, you are asked if you want to Import an Untrusted GnuPG Key. I of course will trust this because, this is the openSUSE community!
After the import was complete, I searched and selected the nvidia-glG05* drivers which triggered the other required dependencies.
I selected the final Accept and the installation began.
Everything seemingly installed properly but I couldn’t use my secondary monitor after my reboot. No idea why. I event tried the older drivers but nothing. I chalk that up to Nvidia being what Nvidia is… painful to deal with. Maybe another distro would have recognized it better but I wasn’t interested as my time was incredibly limited with this machine.
Since that worked out fantastically well, I thought I would do the other basic tests that I would need to do like visiting my favorite YouTube channels and made sure I could watch Netflix on Firefox. It all went well and really, I wasn’t disappointed.
I did end up removing the proprietary Nvidia drivers and going with the open source option so I could use the secondary monitor. Not a huge deal, a bit of a disappointment but at this stage I just wanted the secondary monitor.
This machine feels super snappy. Fast boot times, used very little memory when settled. Seemingly things work fine, for regular user usage. Though, this machine was specifically set up from HP as a CAD focused machine. Having 32 GiB of RAM, and 8 threads is pretty great. I didn’t get the opportunity to really test the hardware out as I would have liked but what little I did do, was pretty great.
The Touchpad is of a nice size and I like that there are buttons above and below the pad along with the Trackpoint between the G, H and B.
The keyboard on this machine is just miserable. I am not sure what HP was thinking with this but the key-press is not consistent across the keyboard and they just don’t have a good feel to it. I feel like I have to use unnecessary forceful key presses to get the keys to recognize.
The arrow keys are of a silly layout and I often stumble a bit on it. Either hitting the up and down together or up and shift. It wasn’t meant for my long gangling fingers.
Nvidia didn’t play real well. It worked but not like I would have preferred. I wanted this to be a hugely bragging story about openSUSE and working well with Nvidia. I am sure that had I dug into it a bit, I could have ironed it out but I was less than happy. I have had other great success stories with Nvidia an openSUSE but this was not one of them.
… insert shrug emoji…
Outside of the Nvidia issue, which I may have eventually worked out if I had the time or the inclination, openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma desktop was a nice experience. At least, far nicer than the Windows 7 experience and now that I am thinking of it. The graphics drivers on Windows were wonkey too. I often had to reboot the machine to clear things up. So, it is possible there may be something not quite right with the hardware. It is also possible the keyboard may have been abused before I obtained it so that might account for the poor keyboard performance too.
If I had more time, I would have probably tried a few more distros on it. Leap being one and Pop_!OS being the other. Just to see if the Nvidia issue was a hardware thing. Would I ever buy this machine for myself? Nope. Lots of little things I don’t like about it, really. I would call it an “almost” machine. Everything about it is almost great but just happens to fall short in a lot of areas.
Earlier this year, I repaired and updated my HP TouchPad with the latest firmware I could find. I have used it regularly since for numerous tasks and even tried to shoe horn it into other tasks to see if it would improve my workflow. Was all that effort worth it? Did I really need to take the time to fix and update a device long past it’s end of life date? Here is what I can tell you about its usage.
Issues with the HP TouchPad
It’s old and a bit slow, really but it has a fantastic screen, especially since it is 7 years old. My expectations are not real high for its reliability but overall, it has surprised me. Every so often, the thing will lock up and shut down but I haven’t been able to determine the cause, just random fluke.
Updating The HP TouchPad
Unfortunately this process isn’t automatic but, it isn’t exactly difficult. Really, if you have done this much to your HP TouchPad, this shouldn’t be that much of an issue. The latest firmware can be downloaded from here, which is the same source for firmware I used earlier this year. To install the update, it required a reboot into the bootloader and install it from there. There were no issues installing the update.
Unfortunately, this is an older version, LineageOS 11 which is still Android version 4.4.4. It doesn’t appear to be a problem for the applications I am using.
There are several basic applications I use on a regular basis. They work great and I use them reliably on a near daily basis. Outside of the vanilla LineageOS applications, these are what I have installed to enhance the capabilities of this Tablet.
For the media player controls over my main machine. I use this often to start and stop media I use for helping in Home Education as well as a remote control over the living room computer so I can stop the Netflix. Great for those Saturday mornings when the kids need to take a break from relaxing and knock out some chores. Also, very conveniently, copying text to the clipboard on the computer or the tablet will allow me to share its contents back and forth. So, I can copy a URL from the computer and paste it into the browser, sit and read the page on the couch as if I were curled up with a good book.
Only synchronizing the “Default Folder” as I don’t take pictures with this so the “Camera” folder which I don’t use on this common share. The primary purpose is to quickly share something with the tablet, like a PDF or a screenshot from my Linux machine for convenient portability.
My new favorite file manager on Android. It is reminiscent of the “Midnight Commander” file manager from times
Fennec F-Droid Web Browser
This is a build of Firefox for Android that works very nicely
A fine little application to view PDFs. Probably the most used application on this tablet as I do reference a lot of PDFs
For viewing “office documents” that are not PDFs. I have used it for the open formats as well as the proprietary office formats of which we are all so familiar.
To so much for writing messages as reading messages. I don’t really enjoy the touch screen keyboard as compared to the real thing but I’ll use it in a pinch.
All of these applications are available through F-Droid. Updates are convenient enough but you will have to approve the permissions of the updates of each application individually.
I primarily use this tablet as a document viewing device: PDFs, Office Documents and images. I also use it for casual web browsing, as a second screen for displaying a reference when I am away from my Cubicle. I have a very convenient inductive charger for the tablet called the HP Touchstone Charger that allows me to just set the tablet in it, with the case and it will just charge. No fiddling with the Micro USB cable to get the thing to charge. It is an incredibly convenient accessory for this tablet. I can’t help but wonder if there are other tablets so nicely designed. It really is as if HP really thought through the design of this tablet very well.
This 7 year old tablet is still a fantastic piece of hardware. I still think that if this machine were to be running a full fledged Linux Desktop, it would be much more useful and possibly run more efficiently. I am a bit concerned that I cannot find a well functioning, more modern version of Android which is why I am increasingly more interested in a more open Linux OS for it.
For as long as this device lasts, I will continue to get squeeze every penny of use out of it. When it does finally give up, I will miss it as it has been an incredibly useful tool that has made daily life just a bit easier.
After working with Plasma Mobile on the Nexus 5X and although it is not quite ready for prime time, it is nearly there. It is so close, I can taste it and I am very ready to see Plasma Mobile as all I see on my mobile. I am also continually seeing interest on the aging HP Touchpad. It too is a fine piece of hardware that is still very capable and now, I can’t help but wonder how much work it would be to port Plasma Mobile to that hardware. I see that there has already been work with the Halium Project for the HP Touchpad. Unfortunately, my understanding at what goes on at the base hardware level is EXTREMELY limited.
Plasma Mobile Experience
The look and feel of Plasma Mobile is pretty great. Like all things Plasma, it is highly customizable. What that means to me, I can make my Mobile experience exactly the way I want, not something dictated by a corporation as to how they intend for me to use my technology.
So then I thought, I know Plasma Mobile is still in early stages, many things are still being taken from Plasma Desktop but that really should only require some adjustments. Over time, Plasma Mobile, much like the Desktop Counterpart could very well end up being the nicest, cleanest and yet most customiziable interface ever.
The HP Touchpad
The Touchpad, by today’s standards is not spectacular, but it isn’t terrible either. Its CPU is a dual core Scorpion clocked at 1200 MHz. It has 1 GiB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GiB of storage. It is certainly adequate for many tasks. I can’t help but think how fantastic this Touchpad would be with proper Linux, access to the breadth of open source software.
The good news is, the possibility of having a working Plasma Mobile interface on the HP Touchpad may be closer to reality than not. According to the Halium Project on GitHub, three have already been tests completed successfully. This is, unfortunately far outside my skill sets so there isn’t much I can offer here but I am watching the project with great interest.
How Useful Could It Be?
I know multimedia is the thing… streaming Netflix, watching YouTube and GPU intensive games is the common usage for tablets but that is not what I am interested in doing with it. There are far more interesting and productive activities. Using the Touchpad as my window into my digital recipe collection, reference technical documents, access to Kontact, the KDE Personal Information Manager, or at least parts of it for time and task management.
HP Touchpad with Plasma Mobile and openSUSE
Then I did some more thinking. I have only begun dabbling in the fantastic Open Build Service, but what if that system could be used to build an openSUSE Tumbleweed distribution specific to the HP Touchpad, tested by the openSUSE openQA and released in a similar rolling snapshot to the regular openSUSE Tumbleweed. Even with a fraction of the stability, reliability of upgrades and the breadth of software, this would be a fantastic improvement as compared to what is available today. It would be a gigantic library of goodness with many the most useful tools readily available.
Even though the HP Touchpad is far past its end of life, I continue to use it on a daily basis. I am very interested in seeing the HP Touchpad get a more genuine Linux upgrade and would like to toy with it now but I have to personally determine, do I want to take my HP Touchpad out of service? Would I even have the time test and experiment on it or do I continue to use it as it is? It is very usable today and works mostly well but a project like this might give it enough life for perhaps several more years and be more useful than it is now. For now, I will keep tabs on it but maybe in the very near future I will be able tip my toes in this arena.
I make no bones about the fact I am a Linux geek and try to make myself available to anyone with tech questions, but I typically will shy away from putting hands on to fix any Windows issues. I just don’t have the time or patience to mess with it. I was approached by a lady in my church with a brand new laptop telling me she wants me to install Linux on it. We talked about what software she uses and the only application I don’t have a solution for (outside of using a VM) is iTunes. Though, it looks like this may be a non-issue as she only uses it on her phone.
The computer is an HP Pavilion 15-cs0034cl with very nice specifications. Much nicer than most of the hardware I own.
To start out, it is necessary to Access the BIOS: F10
Upon entering the BIOS, was a bit underwhelmed by the interface. It has that early 2000s look to it; mostly blue and gray. It also doesn’t have the breadth of options you would see on a Dell Latitude series of machines. Even one from 10 plus years ago.
In order to access the boot options, arrow over to Boot System Configuration and press enter, then arrow down to Boot Options and press enter.
Ensure the following to get the system to boot from the USB Drive:
USB Boot is Enabled
Secure Boot is Enabled
UEFI Boot Order, moved USB Diskette on Key/USB Hard Drive to the top of the list
Save and Exit, and began the installation process.
The install was without issue. In order to make this work, I removed the largest partition and, formatted the EFI partition but left the Microsoft Reserved Partition and Diagnostic Partition intact.
260.00 MiB for /boot/efi
12.00 GiB Swap
I left this at 12 GiB so that should the owner of this machine require suspending to disk, the space is available. Many distros do not ship with this feature turned on but openSUSE does and it seemingly works fine on this machine.
25.00 GiB / (root)
0.86 TiB /home
To install the Nvidia drivers, taking advantage of the hybrid Intel / Nvidia technolgy, I used the openSUSE Wiki as a reference. It is very nicely laid out, step-by-step.
The Nvidia drivers certainly are an exercise in frustration. Maybe other distributions have the hybrid setups more dialed in but it is installed and usable. Realistically, this machine is not ever going to have to use the Nvidia graphics but it’s nice to know it’s there.
I installed my Basic Application List of the multimedia codecs and the Google Chrome browser. I don’t have a lack of faith in Firefox but I know this particular user is more accustomed to Google Chrome.
This is a nice solid system that feels quality. I think I like the touch screen but at the same time just seems like a novel feature. The system is fast, thin and light weight. The keyboard isn’t bad and quite possibly one of the HP keyboards I have ever used.
The screen has a unique pivot point that tilts the laptop just a bit when it is opened.
Conveniently, this machine has an Intel Wireless NIC so there wasn’t any effort needed to get it operational. Outside of the Nvidia GPU, there wasn’t any fiddling required on this machine to get everything working.
The screen is really sharp and crisp looking. Based on the screen and keyboard alone, I could certainly use this as a daily driver.
What Don’t Like
I would prefer to have an AMD GPU as it is easier to use for the hybrid function. AMD has also open sourced their drivers so there is nothing that has to be done to get the needed performance out of your system. I still like having an optical media drive, tho admittedly, I am not using one as often as I used to but I still prefer having one built in.
I also don’t like people touching my screen…
I wasn’t able to test the USB-C port as I don’t have anything that to plug into it. Everything for this machine works right out of the gate. I would recommend this machine for most people as it will do what most people need. I only tested Tux Racer on this machine and it ran smashingly well, without any screen tearing or glitching.
I will be likely supporting this machine for quite a while but I don’t mind helping others get off of the proprietary software wagon. I am a big believer in owning your own hardware, having something that is more secure on a platform you can trust.
Here is to hoping this conversion to Linux goes well!
openSUSE is a very polished, commercial-feeling distribution of Linux. The architects of the distribution have a much larger scope in mind of its usage than what I generally do. One such area is Samba, SMB or often referred to as Windows Network File and Printer Sharing Protocol. I only use this for one device on my network, my All-in-One, Printer-Scanner-Copier, The HP OfficeJet 8600. It is a fine machine that does what I need it to do very well, but for scanning to a network folder, I must use Samba.
This process used to be much simpler, many years ago, before the discovery of security issues within Samba. She short story of why there is the separation was some sort of vulnerability in the underlying system. I am sure there is a fairly simple or straight forward way to make it all work but my intent was to successfully set up Samba with as little effort as possible.
I had a resource out on the web someplace that told me how to do this simply but I couldn’t find the bookmark nor was there a link in my digital notebook so I took a few sites, what I know about openSUSE and created an easy step-by-step guide for getting Samba file sharing up and running. I have broken down the process into six easy to follow steps for a minimal setup. I use this to quickly and easily set up and use Samba with openSUSE Linux.
Minimum number of packages required to install the Samba Server
System Services that need to be activated and installed
Allow access to the server through the firewall
YaST Samba Setup
Basic configuration using openSUSE’s system configuration tool.
Adding Samba Users
Through the terminal, setting the username and password
Testing it all out
Making sure it actually works.
Samba is pretty easy to set up for a minimal usage. For something more involved and complex, there are certainly better ways of accomplishing it. Finally, if HP decided to put SFTP on their future All-in-One devices, this entire write up, to me, would be useless but until then, this is what is required.
I purchased two HP TouchPads a few years ago when they were fairly inexpensive. I wanted a larger tablet that wasn’t built cheaply. They worked great for a while but started to act up. I used them less and less until they just stopped working all together. I put them on a shelf and forgot about the for quite a while.
A buddy of mine who is still seemingly a huge fan of the HP TouchPad diagnosed that one had a main board and battery failure while the other just a battery failure. I put them back on the shelf and that is where they sat, once again. He followed up with me wondering if I bought a battery yet (keeping me accountable) to which I did not. He told me he had an extra battery and dropped it off along with the needed tools to disassemble and make the repair.
The guide I looked at made it seem like it would be easy to take the tablet apart, just work your way along the sides, as described and carefully separate the two halves. What seemed to be missing from the article was that you have to shim the screen from the backing to keep it from clipping itself back shut again.
Once the tablet was apart, I disconnected the halves and started the process of removing more pieces until I could get the battery out. I only ended up taking out 3 of the internal components.
Upon removing the USB board, I noticed that one of the wires for the little vibrator motor had somehow broken free from the board. A fine explanation for why this unit didn’t have haptic feedback. Thankfully, my soldiering skills were adequate enough to correct the issue.
There were only 4 screws retained the battery and it should be noted that once the screws have been removed, the battery will not come out easily as it is also adhered to the device. Very careful and slow removal of the battery was warranted as I learned my lesson about removing a lithium polymer battery years ago on another project. I didn’t want to rupture the sells and have a little fire or at least lots of heat and smoke.
Once I freed the battery from the case, I noticed that I could take a shortcut and remove the battery without disassembling all of the components as outlined in the guide. I freed the battery from it’s compartment, set it aside, took the new battery and using a flat tipped screwdriver, was able to insert the connector of the new battery into the board and fasten it to the tablet body. I effectively skipped the last 15 steps of the guide I used and reassembled it.
Success… but it didn’t turn on.
I figured that the thing needed to be charged so I let it charge overnight. It still didn’t turn on and I felt obligated to let my buddy know that this TouchPad is dead and asked if he wanted the battery back. Then, he asked if I did the hard reboot, hold power and volume down for 30 seconds.
I did just that and immediately it went to the ClockworkMod boot loader menu. I selected the CyanogenMod image already installed on this TouchPad and I was very pleased to see that it was fully functional.
Since I wasn’t going to leave this with a 2 year old version of Android on it, I began my search for an updated ROM. There are several options out there and some of the newer versions of Android seem to have Bluetooth or camera issues. I didn’t want to have any hardware issues so I ended up going with this version here. Everything works but it is an older version of Android with security patch updates.
Another requirement I made is that I wanted to ensure that there were no Google Services on this tablet as I didn’t want to weigh it down with all the data scraping and mining services. All I want from this tablet is to do causal web browsing, reading ebook and PDF documents so there is no need to install the Gapps package. I also wanted to see how useful a simple de-Googled tablet would be.
Since I did want to have access to applications on this device, I installed F-Droid. F-Droid is similar to the Play Store, an available catalog of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Android applications. Most of the applications I want to run are available there and anything else it is possible for me to sideload or install using Yalp.
The applications I installed:
Fennec F-Droid, a Mozilla based web browser
Yalp, allows you to download apps directly from Google Play Store as apk files.
Installed Using Yalp:
ASTRO File Manager
Modifications to improve my usage experience
I turned off the KDE Connect Telegram Notification. Not because I don’t like Telegram but because I don’t want multiple notifications on my Desktop Linux machine for the same message.
To do so, withing the KDE Connect Application on the paired device Menu > Plugin settings > Notification sync configure button, scrolled down to Telegram and uncheck it.
Next, I made the KDE Connect Keyboard an input option by going into System Settings > Language & Input and checked KDE Connect Remote Keyboard
I set up a folder on the Tablet called Sync and using Syncthing have it tied to two of my openSUSE desktop Linux machines. It is an easy and efficient drag and drop method of putting files on the tablet instead of using KDE Connect. I figure, more options are better than fewer options for sharing data.
Using Dolphin in KDE Plasma to drag and drop files right on the HP TouchPad file system is such a fantastic feature. This, combined with having a folder that I can use to sync between all my systems and a shared clipboard gives me the truly practical form of desktop/mobile convergence.
What I like
The size of this tablet is perfect for how I intend on using it. I can check things, look up things, and use it for accessing references in either PDF, ebook or my favorite resource, the openSUSE Wiki. To copy and paste from the tablet is made super easy, thanks to KDE Conenct. Copy on the tablet, paste on the Desktop. This tablet has such a nice weight and feel about and the protective folio-style case is great. I have all the functions and features I need to do what I set out with this 2011 built tablet. Sure, it is old and well past a tablet end of life but it is fast, very snappy and responsive.
What I Don’t Like
I have an outdated version of Android but with the security patches back-ported though, I do like the dark look of the older Android UI, so lets call this point a wash. The downside is, it doesn’t allow for certain newer KDE Connect features as noted here by one of the developers.
I also may have done something to disconnect the internal speakers as I don’t hear sound unless I plug into the headphone jack or Bluetooth speaker. I am not really using this for multimedia and the workaround is satisfactory.
I am not a fan of the rear facing only camera on the tablet. It also distorts the image during the “live view” but the picture itself has the proper aspect ratio. Unless if I want too take some awkward selfies, I don’t see this as a terrible issue.
I am very glad to have a working HP TouchPad once again. Is it indeed limited but I am not using it like a brand new tablet, I am using it closer to how a tablet was used 7 years ago. I am also not using this tablet like I would a proper computer as that would require a keyboard and mouse and once I have added those items, I may as well use a laptop. This fantastic little device does just what I want it to do, superbly.
Using KDE Connect and Syncthing, I can have the proper mobile/desktop convergence with my openSUSE Linux desktops in a highly practical manner anywhere I go, without the need for a third party service.
I am not sure what I will do with the other tablet now. This one is just so great, I might have to get the other one working just to keep in my cubicle. Would I recommend this tablet to someone else? For most people, probably not, unless they like to noodle around with technology. Was it worth taking the time to fix it? Also, probably not but the satisfaction for me out of making this older yet perfectly usable hardware functional once again makes it more than worth the time and effort.