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Convert Windows Surface tablet to full Linux ?


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#1 jargos

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Posted 12 March 2016 - 10:27 PM

Hi all.

 

Offa my 16 year old, I've just snaffled .. emmm .. inherited, a Windows Surface tablet.

 

It's about 18 moths old, and the hardware is beautiful - like new.

 

The software, however, is another story. It is Win 8 .. or 8.1 .. or something, and y'all know my extreme, emm,  dislike of anything past W7. It is just the most rubbish, unintuitive, frustrating, time wasting piece of crap that I've ever come across.

 

Particularly after many happy recent months of revelling in my Linux Mint desktop.

 

So, the obvious solution for me, is to convert it to Linux. Is this possible ?

 

I'm not talking about a dual boot mamby pamby thing, I'm talkinng about a complete full Linux Mint Cinammon 17.3 conversion, like I done my desktop months ago. I would be quite happy, elated in fact, to lose this anathema called Win 8 in the process.

 

I've tried to read the hardware casing for details, and here is all I can find ..

 

Windows RT Surface 00559812**** 64 GB

(Four numbers in asterisk just in case they are an identifying serial number)

 

Any advice welcome.

 

Ta, JA

 

 

 


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#2 MadmanRB

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Posted 12 March 2016 - 11:17 PM

Could be tricky, and please do give us the full model number.

We cant help you without knowing the model number, dont worry we wont be hacking into your computer and giving you porn and stealing your credit card info, one cannot do that with the model number of the computer anyhow.

The worst thing is the touchscreen, linux and touchscreens is beta at best and you may be better off trying windows 10 on this.


Edited by MadmanRB, 12 March 2016 - 11:18 PM.

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#3 jargos

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 05:36 AM

LOL .. OK, as I said I wasn't sure whether it was a model number or an identifying serial number.

Model number - right - it is 005598124952

 

Yes, the touch screen issue seems like a hurdle.


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#4 Agouti

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 07:44 AM

I may be wrong, but I don't think it's possible to install Linux on a Surface RT.



#5 mremski

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 09:20 AM

At work, we've but Linux (CentOS) on a number of different tablets, some ruggedized some not.  Yes touch screen is a little pain, but a bit of google can help muddle one through.

 

I do not know if we've done that specific model, so my comments are more "in general, it should work".  I thought "Windows RT" referred more to the version of windows (a less than full or hobbled version of Windows 8)?


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#6 pcpunk

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Posted 13 March 2016 - 01:03 PM

Hey Jargos, this is what I found for ya but it don't look good:

 

Windows RT is an operating system for mobile devices developed by Microsoft. It is essentially an edition of Windows 8.x built for the 32-bit ARM architecture (ARMv7).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_RT

 

Here is a good article

http://www.dailytech.com/Microsoft+Bans+LinuxAndroid+DualBooting+on+Windows+8+ARM+Devices/article23785.htm

 

Here is the Ubuntu ARM site

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ARM


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#7 jargos

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Posted 14 March 2016 - 07:38 PM

OK, all that related to dual boot.

 

Not interested in dual boot - would prefer a clean Linux install and to overwrite whatever Windows crap is on there.

 

Possible ?

 

Doable ?

 

If so, how ?


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#8 cat1092

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 03:47 AM

 

 

Windows RT Surface

 

jargos, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the Windows RT tablets won't even upgrade to 10, let alone a Linux install. It's designed & built to Microsoft standards, and many who paid a fortune for one of these regretted doing so just months later. It's the 'RT' that in the name that's key, I know that it runs on an ARM CPU, don't know exactly how much storage it has, but does has one of those lower grade eMMC SSD's, just barely faster than a decent USB stick & similar to the iSSD's manufactured by SanDisk for OEM's. Most of these has a 8 to 32GiB capacity & cannot be formatted to run a Linux install on, because it's not a bootable device. 

 

http://www.howtogeek.com/196541/emmc-vs.-ssd-not-all-solid-state-storage-is-equal/

 

You can horse around & see what you can do, and I hope that you can run Linux on it. But w/out some type of hardware modification that's not worth the cost of the tablet, I just don't see it happening. 

 

In fact, don't know if it's happened yet, Microsoft stated that they'd work out some type of update/upgrade for the RT models, but wouldn't be Windows 10. If that's not possible, the future is dim for the tablet as far as any other OS goes. That's why even if I wanted a new tablet, wouldn't consider touching the Surface Pro with a 10 foot pole, Secure Boot is likely baked in, and chances are these will run only Windows Tablet OS's. 

 

May not be what you want to hear, yet I'd not like to see you get your hopes up high & crash hard. :)

 

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#9 jargos

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Posted 15 March 2016 - 06:39 PM

Hi cat, thanks for that.

 

Yes, I thought as much.

 

built to Microsoft standards, and many who paid a fortune for one of these regretted doing so just months later.

 

LOL .. the irony. Microsoft is advertising these abominations as 'the most useful tool on the planet' .. or something.

 

I reckon the most useful tool  on the planet is really the buyer / user.

 

Cheers.


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#10 jonasjancarik

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Posted 08 August 2016 - 12:46 PM

LOL .. the irony. Microsoft is advertising these abominations as 'the most useful tool on the planet' .. or something.

 

All of the Surface Pro tables have been pretty good (especially the two last versions, 3 and 4). The non-pro Surface 3 is less powerful, but still runs on a 'real' CPU (Atom). The upcoming Linux Kernel will fully support it.

 

Unfortunately the RT branch was a bit of a dead end. I have a Surface 2 RT and the best I can come up with in terms of Linux support is that there are several seemingly good SSH clients available from the store (some even free). I couldn't get them working with my Linux server, but I think it should be possible to fix (wrong config).

 

Even the 1st gen Surface RT should have a full-sized USB port and HDMI out - I use mine for films and TV streaming mostly now.



#11 cat1092

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Posted 09 August 2016 - 03:54 AM

jonasjancarik,  :welcome: to the Linux Community of Bleeping Computer Forums! :)

 

We're glad to have you here & hope that you'll learn & discover new things, and if familiar with Linux yourself, can provide assistance to others. There's no shortage of Topics around here, someone is always looking for an answer to an issue. 

 

 

 

The upcoming Linux Kernel will fully support it.

 

Yes, that's in large part due to the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, which I have upgraded one of my W10 OS's to (had to do so manually with ISO). This new W10 has a Linux shell built in with the Pro/Enterprise versions for developers to work with, so it was a no brainer for the upcoming Linux kernel to support this. 

 

I haven't got around to playing with whatever the Ubuntu Shell offers, because for starters, it's not installed by default. One must follow the instructions on several sites to have it installed, which involves the use of cmd. This is why it was intended for Pro/Enterprise users, because most Home users only knows the 'cure all' cmd command in 'sfc /scannow', which is supposed to be a 'fix all' tool for everything, and that's the biggest joke I've seen. Only rarely have I see it fix anything, and often if it weren't for me, their computer wouldn't be fixed, because most doesn't have install media for when needed to replace missing Windows files. 

 

Secondly, I've has some medical issues to address, and haven't been on the forum as much as I'd like to be the last few days & it's not over. Hopefully by Thursday, these issues will have been taken care of, and I can go about my normal life, which is playing with my Linux installs, though I have to maintain Windows to assist others, and why I hopped on the Anniversary train fast. Most will never see it on Windows Update on W10, have to click onto the link 'Learn More' to see they're not running the latest W10 edition, which for many, will provide the Ubuntu Shell. 

 

I'm interested in trying it just to see what it offers. If a Web browser, that's sandboxed from W10, that would be fantastic. Even coders needs access to a browser now & then, so it would make sense to include one in this special edition of W10. 

 

Enjoy the Forum, and remember one thing, there's no such thing as a 'dumb' question around here. None of us knows it all, nor do we expect others to, we work together to solve issues. :)

 

Cat


Performing full disc images weekly and keeping important data off of the 'C' drive as generated can be the best defence against Malware/Ransomware attacks, as well as a wide range of other issues. 


#12 DodoIso

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 11:17 PM

Jargo, since your tablet seems to be an ARM processor, can you try booting an ARM version of their bootable CD?  Is that even possible?  The .ISO of these can be burned into a USB key or a memory card compatible with your tablet, and see how it goes?

 

If not, nothing is impossible but you'll have to get your hands REALLY dirty.  Like building an ARM kernel according to your memory map and available drivers for your specific peripherals, and flash it using Microsoft's own firmware upgrade feature, or using a few wires to selected strategic pins hooked up to a specialized flash programmer (thus saying goodbye to your warranty).  Easy breezy as they say!


Edited by DodoIso, 11 August 2016 - 11:43 PM.


#13 jonasjancarik

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 03:29 AM

Now that Secure Boot has been unlocked (see news here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/10/microsoft_secure_boot_ms16_100/) we may see some other OS for the Surface RT soon. There is nothing yet (although at least it should allow you to install ported Desktop apps http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2092348 - after you self-sign them, which I am not yet sure exactly how to do), but there is a possibility of having an ARM Linux distro soon.


Edited by jonasjancarik, 12 August 2016 - 03:30 AM.


#14 rp88

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 03:45 PM

I suspect it would be tricky, but in light of the fact that recent windows updates have "fixed" things which could allow secureboot to be bypassed I think it would be possible to put linux onto such a tablet, with one huge BUT. The but being that there might not be any of the necessary drivers available for linux to allow linux to work with certain features and functions of the hardware, or maybe even the whole hardware. Given that the device has RT on it (which can only run apps not proper programs) there is a definite reason to consider trying to put linux on it, but you may have to wait a while for drivers and compatibility to be available before trying. Also given that the device uses RT, I suspect it won't be all that powerful processor wise, now linux can definitely work well on fairly low performance systems, it isn't too demanding to run, but you might not be able to get big and complex programs and processes to work quickly on the device if it has a low performance processor. Maybe a linux tablet could be a nice and somewhat useful thing to have around even if the processor isn't particularly powerful.
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#15 cat1092

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 05:14 AM

Now that Secure Boot has been unlocked (see news here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/10/microsoft_secure_boot_ms16_100/) we may see some other OS for the Surface RT soon. There is nothing yet (although at least it should allow you to install ported Desktop apps http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2092348 - after you self-sign them, which I am not yet sure exactly how to do), but there is a possibility of having an ARM Linux distro soon.

 

jonasjancarik, there's already Linux on ARM devices, the Intel Compute Stick that's plugged into the USB port of many Smart TV's & select monitors. 

 

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/204048-the-intel-compute-stick-is-the-right-idea-but-not-the-right-execution

 

One of the problems are that Linux users gets the short end of the stick with an 8GiB eMMC SSD & 1GB RAM, while the Windows version has 32GB eMMC storage & 2GB RAM. Think about that, this a joke, a slap or spit in the face towards Linux users. 8GB is not going to hold a lot, there's some Swap space, and then the OS uses some space of it's own. So that leaves most users of the Ubuntu Compute Stick with less than half of their storage, plus the system will have to be updated, a 2nd browser installed, any custom software, and then to keep the stick from premature wear, 10% (or 800MiB) of over-provisioning space has to be allowed, which is unformatted space at the right end of the partition. Otherwise, the already SSD designed mainly for smartphones & tablets will wear faster than normal. 

 

Though to put it straight, the over-provisioning applies to any SSD, regardless of OS installed, most OEM's recommend 10% & if using their software on Windows to setup the drive, it'll perform the over-provisioning for the user with one click. That is, unless the SSD has blocks already built in that cannot be accessed (premium dollar SSD's), and won't be necessary, though still the user needs to watch how much the partitions are filling, above 70% is a danger sign for SSD life, especially low grade eMMC storage. 

 

Cat


Performing full disc images weekly and keeping important data off of the 'C' drive as generated can be the best defence against Malware/Ransomware attacks, as well as a wide range of other issues. 





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