I am gradually weaning myself off Apple’s products. I’ve switched from a MacBook Pro to a Microsoft Surface Pro running Debian (which I really like), and I’ve moved from an iPhone and Apple Watch to a OnePlus 6T running /e/ (which is okay; I’d prefer Linux to Android but I’m not there yet) and a PineTime watch (which has impressed me no end).
The next item on my list was my iPad, and that was proving tricky, as I didn’t want an Android-based tablet.
That said, my tablet usage is pretty limited:
- reading my RSS feeds
- Twitter and mastodon
- web browsing
- watching videos (via Jellyfin)
- occasionally reading, but rarely replying to, email, and instant messages (I prefer to use my computer, or my phone at a push)
And, well, that’s it. I don’t read books on it (I prefer my Kobo Clara HD eReader for that (in conjunction with the excellent
calibre eBook management tool)), or use it for anything unduly demanding.
Surely I could find a replacement?
The pine64 PineTab: a Linux-based replacement for my iPad?
I’ve had a fun time experimenting with some of pine64’s range of devices. I love the PineTime, rather like the PinePhone but find it a bit slow (so I am looking forward to the PinePhone Pro), and didn’t get on too well with the PineBook Pro (which has been rehomed). So the PineTab was an obvious contender, if only I could get hold of one.
I bought one secondhand but in really rather good condition, bar from a slightly annoying ding on the screen, from a kind chap who lives not too far away from me. A smooth transaction and a couple of days later, I had a PineTab with keyboard in my hands. But I had no time to tinker with it, beyond opening the box, until yesterday.
Setting up the PineTab with Mobian
Since I wanted full disk encryption, I set it up using Mobian’s latest weekly installer, following the same process as the PinePhone.
It worked fine, and was completed within about 10 minutes.
I am not a huge fan of the Phosh desktop environment. (At least, I think it is a desktop environment.)
I get why it exists, and it works pretty well on the PinePhone, but I wanted to try “normal” GNOME on my tablet.
This might be a mistake, but it’s easy enough to do and easy enough to remedy if it is a mistake.
Once I had Mobian up and running, I checked for, and installed, software updates:
sudo apt update && sudo apt update -y
I then installed
sudo apt install tasksel -y
I used that to install GNOME. I was expecting GNOME 3, but I got GNOME 4, which is fine:
sudo tasksel install desktop gnome-desktop
I then removed Phosh:
sudo apt remove phosh -y
I was left (perhaps not surprisingly) with a blank screen, so I powered the PineTab off then on again, and logged back in. GNOME. Excellent.
I removed the GNOME games metapackage:
sudo apt remove gnome-games -y
And, finally, I removed the remaining Phosh components and the games themselves:
sudo apt autoremove -y
mobian user password
By default, when you set up Mobian, you are prompted for a digit-based passcode. I’d prefer something a bit more secure, at the cost of convenience, so I changed it.
I could not do it using the GNOME GUI (in Settings), so I just used
passwd at the terminal. Sorted.
I’ve not really finished setting it up, as I have things like
wireguard, and setting up ssh keys, still to go, along with various security-related bits and pieces. But I think I have done most of it.
The PineTab is not particularly snappy (at least, not the way I have set it up) and I wanted to keep the software load relatively light.
Reading my RSS feeds
At the moment, I’m just using the freshrss web interface, via Firefox.
Twitter and mastodon
I like the
cawbird client for Twitter, and
snap, sadly) for mastodon.
Firefox, and Tor Browser.
Each is sluggish.
Watching videos (via Jellyfin)
I installed the jellyfin client, but it was quite chunky (around 500MB), given the 350MB KDE platform dependency.
It also did not work: I could not get it to play a video.
Since the jellyfin web interface is rather nice, I will probably use that instead.
Email, and instant messages
I have installed Evolution, so I can do PGP’d email.
I have not bothered with element or Signal, since I have them on my phone and on my computer.
I’m impressed, but…
I’m impressed with it. Very impressed with it. For ~£100, I have a capable, if sluggish / one-main-task-at-a-time, mini-laptop.
And that might be where I have gone wrong, as I don’t want a mini-laptop. I want a iPad-replacement tablet.
I want a device which doesn’t need to do much, but I want it to do it quickly and conveniently. Firefox takes 30 seconds to open, which is about 25 more than I’d be willing to accept. For example.
I will see what I can do, but it may be that my approach has been all wrong. And that’s fine; this is a learning exercise as much as anything.