Ubuntu on a UMPC; I miss the touchscreen!

Ubuntu_1Well, we talked about this during a recent podcast so I had to take the Linux plunge. I took an "out of character" approach though; I didn’t install Linux on the Samsung Q1, I took the safer approach of testing Ubuntu via a live-CD option. You can run Ubuntu right off of a bootable CD, which allows you to safely try the OS without actually installing. You’ll need to burn an ISO image to make this happen, but hey, we have just the tool for you.

I’ll also apologize for the poor quality pics: I had to take them with a camera even though Ubuntu has a "Take Screenshot" application. There was no file system to save the images since I was running from the CD; additionally, both of my Q1 USB ports were used up: one for a USB keyboard/mouse combo and one for the CD drive that was running Ubuntu. I didn’t want to get into any networking fiascos on home LAN as well.

The first thing I realized upon booting up was just how much I missed the touchscreen functionality. I’m so used to using the Samsung Q1 directly via touch, that I kept finding myself touching the screen and waiting for…well…nothing. Other folks smarter than me and with actual Linux experience have gotten touchscreens to work; if any of them are feeling charitable and want to help me out, I’ll continue the little Ubuntu UMPC project.

I also found that Ubuntu put the Q1 in 640 x 480 mode and there were no options to change that in the "Screen Resolution" settings. Of course, the Samsung software won’t run on Linux, so that hardware button was effectively out of commission as well.


Once I got past those two issues and actually used Ubuntu, I was pleasantly surprised. Applications weren’t all that snappy, but I think that’s due in part to running the environment off of a CD. If I partition Sammy’s insides and fully install Ubuntu on the drive, I’ll check back in and report application response. Overall, the apps ran solidly as expected. In fact, let’s give a run-down of what apps are included in Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, aka: Dapper Drake.

From an Office productivity suite, the OpenOffice 2.0 suite is included with:

  • Word Processor
  • Spreadsheet
  • Presentation
  • Database

Additionally, Evolution is included as a PIM and e-mail client. OpenOffice is nothing short of extraordinary as it has most of the functionality you’d find in Microsoft Office. You can also save your files in Microsoft-compatible and a multitude of other formats, even Adobe PDF. I didn’t configure Evolution for mail during this test run, but again, if I take the full plunge, I’ll give it a try.


From an Internet browser standpoint, the open source Firefox application is included as expected. I browsed for a while and the experience was no different than Firefox on Windows XP on Sammy.


I also installed Skype for Linux and used my Plantronics USB headset to make a call with no issue. There are plenty of other apps, but most of what I used was the OpenOffice suite and Firefox. Some other key applications I noticed:

  • CD/DVD Creator
  • Calculator (there are four "versions" of this, i.e. Scientific, Advanced, etc…)
  • Dictionary
  • 16 different games
  • GIMP Image Editor
  • XSane Image Scanner
  • Several audio players, creators, and extractors

I almost forgot something Ubuntu provides out the box, but Windows XP requires a PowerToy solution: multiple or virtual desktops. There are four desktop icons in the tray and each one of them can have different applications running on them to help your productivity.

If I could get a few tweaks in on Ubuntu, I’d likely keep it on a partition of the Samsung Q1. First and foremost, I’d want my touchscreen back, but of course I’d still need a character recognition / TIP-like program to take full advantage of it. Bluetooth drivers and a way to use an EV-DO signal would also be necessary for me. For other UMPC owners, these requirements might not be "must haves"; to each his or her own.

If nothing else, I highly recommend downloading and burning an ISO image of Ubuntu. It’s always great to see what else is going on in the computing world; we get so focused on Microsoft that we often overlook viable options!



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