Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Rescuing a ViewSonic Tablet from the junkpile by installing SuSE 9.0.
Post-Installation Configuration

A few more items needed to be addressed before this tablet really was usable for the ISP. The first issue was the PCMCIA wireless LAN card. As it is a fairly popular PCMCIA device, I expected it could be plugged into a running system and be detected. Reality turned out not to be quite that easy. When I plugged the card in, no messages appeared in /var/log/messages and it was not seen by the system. Perhaps a setting could be tweaked somewhere, but I thought I first would try having the card inserted into the machine for a warm-reboot. That seemed to work just fine. Incidentally, the system correctly would handle ejecting the card, but not its reinsertion. But as long as it was present at boot, there were no problems with it.

Mutual Data Service's software requests were quite simple. All they really needed (so far) were Ethereal, the graphical network traffic analyzer; kismet, an 802.11 wireless network traffic sniffer; and xmms, the extensible media player. Xmms and Ethereal were installed with the basic install, and kismet was installed from DVD by using YaST.

Creating System Profiles

The last task is making it quick and simple to change network profiles, a task that SuSE makes easy. The System Configuration Profile Management (SCPM) module, accessed through YaST, allows the system administrator to change the network location of the system with a few mouse clicks.

To use SCPM you first need to start YaST, which requires the root password. Select Profile Manager from the System group to open a new window for SCPM (Figure 5). SCPM is not enabled when it first is installed. Figure 6 shows our final configuration, in which you can see the General Setup section and the Options... button. Selecting the Options... button brings up the SCPM options window (Figure 7). SCPM can be activated by selecting the Enabled button near the top of the screen and then the OK button in the lower right.

Figure 5. A Window for SCPM

Figure 6. Final Configuration

Figure 7. SCPM Options Window

To use SCPM, you must configure the network settings and then save them into a profile. New profiles can be created simply by changing settings and storing them in that profile.

This is the process I used to create our set of profiles:

  • 1. Open the YaST SCPM module on one desktop and the YaST Network cards configuration window on another (Figure 8).

    Figure 8. Windows for YaST SCPM and Network Cards

  • 2. Select the Add button on the SCPM screen to open the dialog for creating a new profile (Figure 9). Make the profile from the current system configuration and check the make the new configuration active box. Select the OK button.

    Figure 9. Creating a New Profile

  • 3. The Special profile settings screen should appear (Figure 10), where you can enter a name for the new profile and a short description. This screen also allows specifying pre- and post-start and stop scripts, which provide amazing flexibility when changing profiles. I was doing basic network settings changes, so these scripts are not needed.

    Figure 10. Special Profile Settings

  • 4. Going back to the YaST Network cards configuration screen, I made the changes I wanted in this profile. In this case, I disabled the RJ-45 network connection and configured the SMC wlan0 device. Select Finish on network changes to close that window. I now have the system configured the way I want the current profile to be stored, but the profile is not yet stored.

  • 5. Now go back to the main SCPM page and Add a new profile. (It might seem like a step is missing here, but it is not.) When the new profile dialog comes up, it can be created either from the current system configuration or from another profile. If created from the current system configuration, do not make it the active profile. Select the OK button, enter a name and description for the new profile and commit the changes.

  • 6. Back at the main SCPM window, select the newly created profile and click the Switch to... button. The changes to the network configuration made in step 4 are be seen by SCPM as modified from the current profile (not the one created in step 5), so I was asked if I wanted to save those changes to the current profile before unloading it (Figure 11). The default is to save the changes (note the X next to the network resource group), so I chose OK and the changes were saved to the current profile, the affected subsystems were stopped (networking in our case), the new profile from step 5 was made active/current and the stopped subsystems were restarted.

    Figure 11. Saving the Current Profile

  • 7. The system now has the newly created profile active. I now needed to go back to step 4 and make changes to the current profile before creating another new one and saving the current.

As an added ease-of-use feature, I set root's KDE environment to have two desktops, one for SCPM and one for everything else. As long as YaST is running on the SCPM desktop when root logs out, YaST automatically starts up and goes to the correct desktop at the next login.

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Also works wonderfully with SUSE 9.3

Eric Baenen's picture

My sys admin group recently received one of these Viewpad 1000 systems as a turn-in - and it was destined for the trash - it was running Win2K and the admin password had been lost. Based on this article I rescued the system, dug up a usb floppy and installed SUSE 9.3 on it. It is now working extremely well as a linux tablet -- though I'm still having a little difficulty changing the screen orientation - not a show stopper but it would be nice. Everything seems to be working including the touch screen - though I haven't tried the camera yet. All in all - a very successful quick experiment - with the result, a quite useable system.

Getting the built in camera working under SUSE 9.3

Eric Baenen's picture

Here is what you need to get the built in camera working under SUSE 9.3

http://mxhaard.free.fr/download.html

Everything else was recognized and configured right out of the box.

If you go into the SaX2 properties for the video card you can change screen orientation - though the screen on the ViewPad looks like it has a polarization that makes it look best in landscape mode (my personal opinion only).

What about the built-in camera?

Anonymous's picture

Is the internal camera usable under Linux?

I have an EARLY ViewPad 1000 running a version of Win2K hacked with early "Tablet PC" support. The internal camera is usable only via the MS Imaging utility. Supposedly, it is a USB device, though it doesn't show up in the Attached Devices list.

-BobC

Re: What about the built-in camera?

Anonymous's picture

Whoops: Left out some key items:

The built-in camera is a ViewQuest M318B, and it does show up under the Win2K "Installed Hardware" list. Despite being easily removable, it does not show up in the "Unplug or Eject Hardware" dialog.

-BobC

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm...not sure I see how this made a better tablet. I'm kind of tired of reading the "put Linux on everything to save the world from M$ even if it doesn't make sense" viewpoint. I think I would have fixed Windows.

I am also not sure why you had Windows 98 on it considering it is a tablet. Mine came with a tablet version of XP which works pretty well actually.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

After upgrading mine to XP tablet edition, I've found that the touchscreen is only being handled as mouse emulation, and not as an actual pen device from XPs perspective. Would you be willing to share the input driver that allows XP to see the touchscreen input as a pen? I haven't seen anything from Viewsonic about this. That aside, it is a fairly slow machine running XP.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

There is much more about Linux on Tablet PCs at TuxMobil. And there is a dedicated chapter in the Linux-Mobile-Guide.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

You should let Viewsonic know they should be supplying SuSE Linux 9 as standard instead of Windows.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

I am somewhat surprised by the "Tablet PC" nomenclature. For a laptop to be called so, It has to use Windows XP tablet PC edition, which (regardless of your feelings towards MS) works much better than Windows 98.

Computer + XPTablet != TabletPC

Greyson's picture

Just to keep the air clear here, the term "Tablet PC" does not refer to the operating system, but to the fusion of (wacom related) tabet hardware with an LCD screen.

In other news, Linux also runs quite well on the NEC Versa Lite.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

rglenfld's picture

About 6 months before Tablet PCs were shipped, Viewsonic was also selling a 'tablet' that converted a desktop running M$ XP Pro into a host, supporting a 'portable' screen.

And the 'tablet' may have only been running Win CE.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

Interesting, but what about the touchscreen? I would have thought that the major issue with moving from the manufacturer-installed OS to Linux would be how to get the touchscreen working. Isn't that the main idea of tablet PCs?

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

In the article it said that the touchscreen worked with no additional configuration.

Touch Screen Configuration

Anonymous's picture

I got one of these, put Ubuntu on it, and the touchscreen was not automatically configured for me. It sees it as a touch PAD...which doesn't work so nicely...

Any chance anyone knows what kind of touchscreen it is? There's a /dev/input/ts0 file there, but I don't know what driver to use in my xorg.conf file...

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

yeah... but how about handwriting recognition? does linux have anything better that windows?

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

you fool. use Xscribble. There are plenty of other handwriting recongnizers available for linux that were made fo r linux pda's. Do a little research and you'll find what you need.

Re: Making the ViewSonic Tablet PC Run Linux

Anonymous's picture

I'm pretty sure there's a pcmcia config option to fix the card-insertion problem you had - basically polling for new cards instead of assuming an interrupt will show up. _Mark_

ps. Thanks for the article - if one of these shows up on eBay it is now much more interesting, knowing that it isn't "all locked up"...

Suse 10.0 or 9.3 on a Viewsonic V1100

C.Paulsen's picture

High,
I did the following steps:
1.Tried to install Opensuse 10.0 on the V1100. Everythink runs but the pen did'n.t!
2.I tried the same with Suse 9.3 and afterwards I tried to configure the WACOM with the same attributes I found in some googled documents for the V1000: wacom,Absolute,/dev/ttyS0,Bottomx 30000,GRAFIRE/INTUOS Stylus(SERIAL). But I had no success. Has anybody similar expieriences or even better ones?

RE: Suse 10.0 on a Viewsonic V1100

D.Roe's picture

Hi,
I also installed OpenSUSE 10.0 on the V1100 tablet pc.
I would like to get the pen working too. If you cat /dev/ttyS0 you can watch the pen being moved around. Adding a pen (with default config) to the configuration doesn't work. If no one else has a fix or a workaround, I might be able to kludge something together, but I won't have time for a while. If anyone else out there has anything, please tell us about it.

(None of my other Win PCs liked collecting viruses and spyware so much. Nor were they as adept at circumventing McAfee. Boot up time was finally in excess of half an hour before I pulled the plug on that OS's sorry life. Viewsonic never provided install disks, so even if I wanted to, I can't go back to XP Tablet. And that's fine with me.)

Linux on Viewsonic V1100

Abram's picture

I just bought one of these guys on Ebay, and I'll probably end up installing Debian linux on it. Any tips you had would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to write some tablet oriented software too, if I have the time.

-Abram

RE: Suse 10.0 on a Viewsonic V1100

flens's picture

Hi,
I edited my xorg.conf like this.

....
Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "cursor"
Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
Option "ButtomX" "30000"
Option "Mode" "Absolute"
Option "Type" "cursor"
Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "stylus"
Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
Option "ButtomX" "30000"
Option "Mode" "Absolute"
Option "Type" "stylus"
Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "eraser"
Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
Option "Type" "eraser"
Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
EndSection
....
Section "ServerLayout"
Identifier "Layout[all]"
InputDevice "cursor" "SendCoreEvents"
InputDevice "stylus" "SendCoreEvents"
InputDevice "eraser" "SendCoreEvents"
InputDevice "Keyboard[0]" "CoreKeyboard"
InputDevice "Mouse[1]" "CorePointer"
Option "Clone" "off"
Option "Xinerama" "off"
Screen "Screen[0]"
EndSection
....

It solved my problems with the pen.
flens

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