A1 not currently useful

I paid money for an A1 and here is my experience with it and Jingling.

  1. I wrote a response to the topic “the next gen of Jing” linking to the “Osbourne Effect” on Wikipedia… Osborne effect - Wikipedia … this should be well known in the industry that it is very dangerous to promote next gen products (the thread is from October) before even shipping the current gen (my device arrived yesterday in mid-Nov). The post was hidden as “off-topic”… this is not the right way to deal with paying customer feedback, that is very much on-topic, it is going to make people angry and destroy trust. Let’s see what you do with this post.

  2. The shipping software is based on Focal, everything in the repos is old. Firefox is ten versions behind current and no way to use newer packages since Jingling is the only source. Inkscape is also years old… it works, which is an achievement, but it is unusable due to age.

  3. Only Focal repos seem to exist, and everything in there is built by Jingling. Why should I trust those builds, or Jingling? I want to use firmware built directly from trusted sources.

  4. Looking at ps ax, the OS is a mashup between Ubuntu and Android pieces coexisting. But there is no way to install Android apps as it is (not that I am anxious to). There is no way to use anything except single-app foreground either. So it has managed to get the worst of both worlds so far.

  5. There are supposed to be other images flashable on it, but threads here about when information will be available to facilitate that are evasive and fell silent. I could not find any links to mainstream images.

  6. The GPU is underpowered, scrolling in Firefox or Chromium is choppy and annoying. The same sites on an old Galaxy Tab S3 with Android Firefox or Chrome are smooth and pleasing.

  7. The wifi was slow (500KB/s) even when 2m away from the router.

  8. It’s doing quite well as a Linux tablet on the basics. But it is hard to tell how much of that is the Android pieces underneath and how much a true Linux implementation. The physical build quality is also good. The keyboard and touchpad accessory, and the stylus just worked. But if I can’t scroll sites I spend most time on cleanly, where I can on a 4 year old Android tablet, it’s not much use.

  9. The initial OOB setup static screen is really confusing. It just sits there immobile and looks like it has crashed until you realize you have to interact with the static text to move on. It doesn’t say “Next” or anything else to indicate that you should.

  10. Similarly when you answer the “Can I store your details” question at the end of the OOB setup, it immediately reboots without any further indication. Again it looks like it crashed.

  11. The 6-digit PIN for a password that is the default is actively dangerous when that same 6 digits can be used with sudo su - in the terminal to get root. You can choose a normal textual password in the setup instead, but that should be default.

  12. The on-screen keyboard is not properly integrated with cues from the browser, either Chromium or FFOX… this may partly be to do with the age of the Focal versions of these. It means for example, it is impossible to sign up for Jingling’s forum from the device itself, the OSK covers the unmoveable modal signup div. This shouldn’t be hard to solve, but it makes the device unusable and frankly, it is embarrassing. The same goes, eg, for online crosswords, the keyboard does not appear when it does on any other Chromium / FFOX on Android or Linux desktop. Again, it is literally unusable.

  13. The key gesture for using the desktop is swipe up from the bottom. But I had to discover it by brute force. There should be initial help showing that, and that to kill an existing gui process it is also swipe up.

  14. The thing shipped to the UK with US-style 2-pin charger. This won’t be tolerated by mass-market users and is annoying to early adopters.

Some of these things can be improved over time, we will see. In the meanwhile, my A1 is going in my junk drawer and I will look again in 2022.

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The GPU is underpowered, scrolling in Firefox or Chromium is choppy and annoying. The same sites on an old Galaxy Tab S3 with Android Firefox or Chrome are smooth and pleasing.

I suspect default Linux applications are not using the GPU, they are probably falling back toward software rendering. Video performance is rather choppy as well. The custom built media player performs much much better than Linux version of Chrome, Firefox, and VLC.

glxgears (from mesa-utils) performs bad for extremely basic flat shaded graphics. blender performs really bad.

If I use Linux Chrome to look at webgl demos, they are extremely choppy, but if I use Android Dolphin Zero browser webgl performs much much faster. Just as the Android games that work perform really well.

Video performance is rather choppy as well

Even in Linux-world, sometimes video in the Linux browsers was 30fps, like in the reddit.com RPAN preview on the front page it was fine. But click on it to the main RPAN page, all of the videos, even the same video source shown well on the front page, are a few frames a second then.

I assumed it must be using the gpu for the linux pieces somewhat, since it can smoothly render the main UI transitions when dragging up, and under some unknown conditions handle video well. Maybe it’s some limitation on the number of layers that can be composed by the gpu or something… without a clear explanation it’s hard to judge if it can be expected to improve.

Presumably if that’s the state of the art for the default OS, any other OSes are going to be relying on the same backends and not able act any better. Not using a mainline kernel, it’s not going to be able to improve by itself (and distros like Fedora will not have anything to do with it while it needs a non-mainline kernel).

It’s never going to even come close to a desktop!!

https://webglsamples.org/aquarium/aquarium.html

works pretty well with 100 fish, 500 is acceptable.

My computer with a GTX 1070
Firefox 15000 fish above 30fps

JingPad A1
Firefox (Android) 1000 fish 34 fps,
Chrome (Android) 1000 fish 31 fps,
Dolphin Zero (Android) 1000 fish 30 fps,
Firefox (Linux) 100 fish 8 fps
Chrome (Linux) 100 fish 3 fps

Firefox (Android) has glitches when scrolling web pages.
Chrome (Android) crashes overtime, video playback is smoothest (720p60fps).
Dolphin Zero (Android) is the most stable of Android browsers.

I have been using Android tablets since they first started coming out, what would satisfy me is this “Linux tablet” being usable even to 2014 Android standards, which is when the quite similar to the A1 (>2K OLED) Galaxy Tab S came out. Gpu scrolling in the Linux browser at ~30Hz like that would mean I could actually use it.

A1 falls far short of this, it is an overpriced midrange generic Chinese Android tablet with an Android kernel and some half-baked Linux bits in the firmware that are not wired up to the gpu properly, if at all. To give it its due, it can successfully run a canned selection of older Linux apps, but anything graphical runs like it’s on an asthmatic 486.

Firefox (Android) 1000 fish 34 fps,
Firefox (Linux) 100 fish 8 fps

Yeah. If I wanted an Android tablet, I already have one. This thing calls itself a “Linux tablet”, it is a bit of a joke as it is.

I think for some people it is going to be overpriced for what it is and what their expectations are.

I actually like the AMOLED display a lot, although I wish it was like 120hz instead of 50hz, but for me the display is worth the extra. The stylus and finger print reader, are also good but I could survive without.

I’m personally looking for a web browsing / media playing device and trying to move away from a Windows tablet I have before I get forced into Windows 11 (Microsoft is getting more annoying and aggressive, taking more control away), and I want to be able to look at something lower level that I could take more control of and customize and secure. I’ve used Linux a lot for work, even doing kernel driver programming, so I’d rather be using Android apps in a GNU Linux environment than GNU Linux in an Android environment. I had also been looking at Chromebook tablets but they require a google account.

So at least for my purpose, graphics hardware acceleration only for Android apps is fine (if they can stabilize it and improve integration). But if they want to sell this tablet to a broader audience, they should expose hardware acceleration to GNU Linux applications, or figure out how to wrap them so they don’t fall back on software rendering.

I’ve been thinking this might even be good for doing android development in one device, but they would need to have a windowed environment I think.

There is hardware acceleration of some Linux applications. A lot of the applications they are building/customizing themselves are smooth scrolling (file explorer, etc), but those applications I believe are Qt/QML. So maybe they support hardware acceleration of those kinds of applications. This may be an issue with kde-plasma and anything that is not based upon Qt.

I would like to give you my thoughts and explain why you should keep hope.
The first point is that the ARM world is complicated. There is no standard equivalent to UEFI/bios on the ARM platform. OSs needs to be adapted for each device,the is why android updates on 3rd party vendors take that long to release. Because the kernel is provided by the SoC manufacturer, and is meant to run android,it is quite old. Old and mature systems are easier to use as a base, so JingOs is not based on a recent Ubuntu version.

The lack of software is due to the fact that this architecture is not very common.

If you want software built from trusted sources, you can compile it yourself.

I found an up to date Firefox Deb that works, it’s possible,but I understand that you are disappointed that you didn’t find it in the repos.

The CPU isn’t underpowered,but the hardware acceleration is not working yet.

On mobile OSs the virtual keyboard is part of the core features of the system, so apps are adapted to this input method. But on desktop it is not the case. This is the price to pay to have a fully fledged browser on your tablet and not a ripped of version like the one you find on a traditional mobile OS.

You can’t complain about things that can only be achieved when a mainstream when you choose to buy a device with a niche OS on a niche architecture.

explain why you should keep hope.

Well, thanks for trying to explain that.

However I spent a couple of years working with Openmoko in Taiwan back in the day, before Android even came out, as the kernel maintainer for what must have been one of the first few attempts at a Linux mobile device. And when this A1 entered my junk drawer, it did so sitting on top of a Librem 5 dev board. So I am painfully aware of the background, especially the state of Android kernels. On the one hand I have sympathy for the difficulty of the task, and willing to be patient if it can come right, on the other hand, I paid for a “Linux tablet” and am a customer.

The CPU isn’t underpowered,but the hardware acceleration is not working yet.

As others pointed out on this thread, it seems to have a functional gpu stack in Android-world that has a confusing relationship with the Linux-world. Using the Linux-world “desktop” makes it look like there is gpu acceleration, but using either vendor browser is very bad for scrolling eg, pages of graphics to the point is seems to have no acceleration at all, which is why I initially thought the gpu was “underpowered”. I guess it means vendor plasma is wired up to the Android gpu driver backend somehow, but the other vendor packages inherited from Ubuntu, not. Why do I have to guess, where is the vendor bringing clarity to this confusion?

If you want software built from trusted sources, you can compile it yourself.

There’s a single magic, aging, kernel version from the SoC vendor… but it is sold as a “Linux tablet”. Looking at other midrange Chinese no-name tablets, their kernels (and the rest of their stack) don’t get security updates in a reasonable way compared to, eg, Samsung. And even if you replace the provided OS, you will be stuck running the SoC vendor kernel basis with whatever vulns that has baked in. So I think there’s no hope about that, it is just what it is.

If you are prepared to eat that, is there actually a commitment from the vendor for gpu acceleration bridging on the A1 by some date for the Linux pieces? The busiest thread here being about what to do better on the next hardware does not indicate to me A1-specific work is a priority. Again, where is the vendor clarifying the situation?

I didn’t buy this in order to build and maintain everything personally, I expected trusted distro builds to be forthcoming as on, eg, Pine, indeed it is featured on the vendor site that at least one is coming. I would imagine it’s a bit slow forthcoming, because when those guys get the experience on this of no gpu acceleration in Linux world, they also feel that is not showing their work in a good light. Distros I really trust like Fedora will not even look at devices with SoC vendor kernels in the first place.

You can’t complain about things that can only be achieved when a mainstream when you choose to buy a device with a niche OS on a niche architecture.

I think you will find I can very well complain about what I received when I paid money for a “Linux tablet”.

Some of the problems with ffox in particular I recognize from trying it a few years ago on a convertible laptop on Gnome. But on Wayland, some of those things got sorted out via libinput updates, the gpu bridging will also need new pieces, so it’s not a matter of cherrypick an aarch64 build of ffox from somewhere else, and remember to update that manually, or this dismissive “go build it yourself”… it needs to rebase on a more modern OS basis and the gpu bridging work needs doing by the vendor.

may i add, that to further the confusion, a lot of work goes into a “black box” (instead of investing into waydroid) to run android apps, with lots of enthusiastic comments that one or the other android app runs on the tablet, and far better than the native(?) linux apps which goes, IMHO, into the wrong direction:
i want a functioning linux tablet one and foremost, with a decently recent kernel support of the ususal system tools (try to run loadkeys and wonder why such a basic system tool doesn’t do anything) and graphics acceleration on par with at least what a raspi can do, at least shipped with a FOSS compatible openGL implementation…
if i wanted an android tablet, there are tons out there, and way cheaper…
so my frustration too is building severely up…
my next hope is to see what the alternative ubuntu touch is able to do with that hardware, since, as said, i don’t need android stuff on that tablet, but linux stuff, with openGL support…

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