Sunday, October 12, 2008

Easy Debian moves to Extras

Finally, "Easy Debian" is no longer just a "circus trick"; you can use real laptop applications on your tablet at not-unreasonable speeds, thanks to a couple of "turbo charging" boosts we've gotten lately, and a lot of polish from the rapidly maturing Debian side.

I was overwhelmed by the huge positive reaction across the Internet when I released the first version of my Easy Debian project back in July on Internet Tablet Talk. But I was frustrated by the speed of the "image file" method I was using, and the Debian "armel" architecture was still missing a few key pieces to make it a stable, trustworthy distribution.

Several things have changed since July. First, the Debian armel architecture managed to pull things together in time for the Lenny "freeze" at the end of July. That means there will be a tablet-compatible version of Debian when Lenny becomes the next "stable" version later this year. It also means things like Java, and Firefox got some seriously good polishing in the last few months, and it really shows when you run them on the tablet. Also, the LXDE desktop environment came to my attention. It is a really nice, light environment that runs fast on the tablet, and is much more full-featured than the IceWM window manager I was using before.

Secondly, I was given the exciting privilege of Nokia sponsorship to the Maemo Summit in Berlin in September. This motivated me to prepare a new Debian file system with all of the enhancements that had been added in the previous months, as well as some tricks that I had learned since the first version.

Lastly, through the help of others, I found two really effective speed-up techniques that suddenly made the Easy Debian apps really usable! I got down on my virtual knees on the #maemo IRC channel and begged the elite tablet hackers there to help me figure out how to speed up access to the image file that was the basis of the Easy Debian project. Matan came through in a big way; he presented me with some kernel modules and some instructions that accelerated the whole project to almost the same speed as using a dedicated partition (around 2x-4x faster)! I then discovered the ability to set the tablets' processor to "Performance Mode," thanks to lcuk's liqbase project. What a difference that made for processor-hungry apps like OpenOffice and Iceweasel (Firefox)!

So, now that all these pieces are in place, and now that the whole project has "grown up," I felt I needed to push it into the official repositories. I was also getting some gentle pushes from several community members.

Even though the entire project is made from free components (except for one notable exception in the image file), I have released it to the non-free section of Extras-Devel. This is because it was too difficult to get all of the contributed binary bits into a form that could be compiled by the autobuilder that guards the gates of the "free" repository.

Screenshots: (click picture to see more info and larger sizes)

The Gimp editing a 4 megapixel digital photo:

OpenOffice Writer editing a document in OS2008, with Matchbox-Keyboard on top:

LXDE, (the Lightweight X Desktop Environment) running on top of OS2008:

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At Fri Oct 17, 05:21:00 am GMT-7, Blogger Cheng Soon said...

Hi Qole,

There is another great reason to install your easy debian -- that is for cjk (chinese etc input).

maemocjk under diablo got two issues: 1. it replaces hildon keyboard with matchbox-keyboard; 2. it has problem with microb browser (keyboard won't pop up). So what I do is to uninstall maemocjk, and install scim inside debian instead. I would run easy debian apps when I need to enter chinese. That solves all the problem with maemocjk :)

At Fri Oct 24, 11:22:00 am GMT-7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where I can download debian.img.ext2?

At Fri Oct 24, 01:41:00 pm GMT-7, Blogger Qole Pejorian said...

You can either use the "Debian Image Installer" icon to do the download for you, or you can grab the tar.bz2 from and put it on your SD card, then run the Debian Image Installer to unzip it.

At Fri Oct 24, 03:38:00 pm GMT-7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I don't find that

At Thu Oct 30, 09:57:00 am GMT-7, Blogger hptasins said...

Any chance of this working on N770 running OS2007?

At Thu Dec 18, 03:06:00 pm GMT-8, Blogger Andy said...

Have installed Easy-Debian- fantastic on my Nokia N810.
I made a mistake to change the desktop menu (click and hold) from the default one which was showing " New/Folder ..." to LXDE one which offers different options.
How can I get back the default one ????
Thank you for your help.

At Sat Dec 27, 07:18:00 am GMT-8, Blogger Digitalink said...

Hi Qole, this has got to be the singularly most important development ever on the Nokia Tablets so I am dismayed that I can't get it to install. I have tried installing from both links on and the repository. When running the install deb I either get a list of 404 not found repositories: Anderenende,
Vagalume, Last Fm.Client, Xarchiver Catalogue, Claws Mail for OS2008, Axique-1 or it hangs on a 3.01mb download. Any help you can give will be appreciated. I see from one of the answers on this blog it is possible to download an image, then transfer to an SD card. Where do I find the Debian Image Installer? Many thanks.

At Thu Jul 16, 06:31:00 pm GMT-7, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have tried to always first use the "native" programs in Maemo. Thank you a million times for making it possible to run a full Debian image on this device. I work as an IT professional in the telecommunication industry. I use it from day to day tasks. So much easier and faster than lugging around a laptop. TY TY TY TY times a million!

At Mon Aug 10, 08:20:00 am GMT-7, Blogger killwas said...

Hi Qole,

cheers, I'm impressed about the speed. And it is very handy how it works together with maemo.

One question I could not solve yet myself: How can I setup the N810 keyboard layout for Easy Debian for my German device?



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