Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

Summary: More details are coming about Spark, the free-software Linux tablet, but enthusiasts will have to wait until May before they can get their hands on one.

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Say hi to Spark, the first free software, Linux tablet.

Spark, the first free software, Linux tablet is due to arrive in May 2012.

Aaron Seigo, one of the KDE's lead developers, and a leader of the Spark free-software Linux tablet development effort, has reveled more about the Spark, including, alas, that the Spark won't be available until May 2012.

Seigo explains, "We have a lot of pieces to coordinate, and not just technical issues like the OS image and the content add-on store, but things like packaging design, manufacturing, shipping, import, retail channel coordination. So far we're on track, but I don't want to offer a more precise date than 'May' until we pull the trigger on production."

When it does roll down the production line, Seigo says, "the Spark will be available for order online worldwide. We will be focusing primarily on Europe first, but we will be able ship worldwide from day one. We are looking for retail partners elsewhere in the world: USA and Canada, South America, Australia, etc. to make it easier to procure." Pricing will be around $260 or 200 Euros.

As had been speculated, the Spark will be built around the Zenithink C71. This is an inexpensive tablet with a 1GHz AMLogic ARM processor, Mali-400 GPU, 512 MB RAM, 4GB internal storage plus SD card slot, a 7? capacitive (16x9) multi-touch screen with 800 x 480 resolution, For connectivity it uses 802.11b/g Wi-Fi connectivity. It also has a 1.3 MPixels front camera, built-in microphone and stereo speakers. In addition, the tablet will come with 2 USB ports, a microSD slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

It will not, have in the first production run, 3G or GPS. Both will be supported by the system's Linux operating system.

The Spark will run Mer, the community continuation of MeeGo, an embedded Linux. On top of Mer, the Spark will use KDE Plasma Active for its user interface (UI). Plasma Active runs on the traditional Linux desktop stack, including the Linux kernel, Qt, and KDE's Plasma Framework. The UI uses Plasma Quick, a declarative markup language. This, in turn, is based on Qt Quick, an easy to use interface software development kit and framework.

If you're a developer and you want to write for Spark, Seigo recommends QtQuick for applications targeting the Spark. There are also KDE libraries, including the Plasma framework, on the device. However, Spark is happy to support non-Qt apps. I play Battle for Wesnoth [a popular fantasy strategy game] on mine. ;) Developers will have access to the add-ons store as well, so getting your apps to Spark users will be dead simple."

You will not be able to run Android applications on Spark though. Seigo notes though that "It is theoretically possible to package a Dalvik [Android's Java virtual machine] runtime for Plasma Active and make it available on the Spark. No one has attempted this yet, but it would make for a killer project."

Programs for the Spark will be available, said Seigo on "the standard Mer repositories as well as the Open Build Service. However, that's not overly person friendly (unless that person happens to be technically adept and familiar with Linux), so we are providing an add-on store from which people can easily download and install books, applications, desktop widgets and services ... with more to be added with time." Developers will be able to sell their programs to end-users on the Spark application store.

If you want to run the Spark operating system on other platforms, you can do that as well, but that's not the Spark's team goal. Seigo explains, "There are images for Intel based tablets as well as nVidia Tegra 2 and other ARM tablets available, and you can help by getting involved with the amazing Mer project. It is our hope that Spark will ignite interest in other vendors as well who will pick up the opportunity to increase the diversity of options. Yes, we're looking to grow what would traditionally called competitors. We see them as co-conspirators. ;) Welcome to the world of Open."

I'm a little disappointed that we won't see the Spark until May, but I'm still hopeful for the project. Seigo hopes that his next blog posting on Spark will be to announce the pre-order Web site. I hope so too.

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Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

    Kudos to Seigo and the Project team.
    daikon
    • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

      @daikon

      But Android is already Linux !
      bojanwojan
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @bojanwojan We have to have Android, so we can pay for apps instead of getting them for free. Because paid stuff is always better, right Loverock?
        james.vandamme
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @bojanwojan Android is "based" on Linux. It users the Linux kernel, but that's about it. This tablet users GNU Linux software that Android doesn't use, ie; X Windows, KDE, etc.

        Because its Linux doesn't mean you can't buy software for it. There's plenty of comercial software out there for Linux. Most of it is for the enterprise, but more and more consumer level software is making its way to Linux. The Humble Indie Bundles are a prime example of quality "paid" software for Linux. Linux users typically, and consistently, pay more for the Humble Indie Bundles than both Mac and Windows users. Windows users pay the least, not surprising.
        thezorch
    • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

      @daikon Agreed, wouldn't be surprised to see a Dalvik port within weeks of it's European release. There already is a over half finished pure Java based Dalvik VM download at code.google.com, and at a mere 1.2Mb, how big a job could the port be?
      anothercanuck
      • How hard can it be?

        @anothercanuck

        Well if it is that easy, why don't you run out and do it?

        DOA, yet again
        Cynical99
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @anothercanuck Updating my Andriod and ARM cross-compiler devel trees as I write this.
        anothercanuck
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @anothercanuck Now downloading mer and have 2 QEMU based ARM VMs ready to go. Work to do, cu.
        anothercanuck
      • Yes, and

        @anothercanuck
        I suppose every user out there will just love installing a VM on their tablet to run Android applications that run native on how many other devices?

        Good luck with the VM, I suspect a handful of people may use it, but Spark is still DOA.
        Cynical99
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @Cynical99

        As a long time Ubuntu user, you're comments tell me that you have had absolutely no experience with Linux at all. You're comments are based entirely on what you may have heard from others. This is because I hear those same comments expressed quite often by those who've admitted to having had no experience with Linux.

        If you've had "recent" experience with Linux, not 10 years ago, then you'd know that Linux has drastically evolved. Compiling software to install it has become extinct, unless your using something really exotic that most consumers would never use. Getting software has gotten really easy also. Nearly all distros now have software repositories with browsers that let users download and install new programs with just a click or two. In Ubuntu's Software Center you can even BUY software. Driver support for Linux has never been better than is now. You can go to the local Best Buy, get a Logitech webcam, plug it in, and it will work without needing to download drivers. Many distros including Ubuntu use CUPS for its printing system, so if you have a printer all you need to do is plug it in and you can start printing without downloading drivers. Wi-Fi was once the last great frontier of sketchy hardware support in Linux, but that's a fading memory now. These days, if your hardware doesn't work in Linux its rather shocking since it has gotten so good lately. The same thing goes for 3D graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD.

        Before forming an opinion on something you should at least have some knowledge with the subject first. Otherwise, you make yourself sound like a buffoon and loose all credibility at the same time.
        thezorch
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @Cynical99 Your complete lack of development knowledge is showing. <br>The QEMU VMs are to emulate an Andriod and a Spark device for DEVELOPMENT purposes only. Since I cannot get a Spark yet, a VM will do, and it's quicker and easier to 'flash' a VM than a real device. That concludes our devel lessons for today.<br><br>P.S. Since you have not provided any examples of inventions copied by open source, I will consider that myth debunked.
        anothercanuck
      • Complete lack of development knowledge?

        @anothercanuck
        Well, no I'm not a developer any more. First 10 years of my career was in development, but I got out to improve myself.

        I do understand the consumer though. Your comments indicate a complete lack of understanding of the end consumer of the product.

        As such, go back to installing VM to run Android applications (theoretically possible) just won't cut it for the mass market. A few Linux faithful will buy this pig, but the rest of the Linux crowd will buy a native android device. If you haven't learned anything from Linux it's that yes, Linux had 30K or so applications, but, few if any want those applications

        Android has millions of applications, running on native android devices.

        Tell me what the average technoflunkie wants? VM or point and shoot?

        Something tells me the VM loses big time.
        Cynical99
  • What software does it run? Not Android?

    Well, DOA, what more need I say.

    Trying to recreate the massive libraries that already exist is a recipe for stupidity
    Cynical99
    • What software does it run? Not Android? Well, DOA, what more need I say.

      @Cynical99

      Like how windows 8 is DOA on ARM?
      guzz46
      • Sad

        @guzz46
        Can't defend a Linux product he's so proud of, so goes after Windows instead. Funny, Windows wasn't part of the conversation.

        Spark, DOA, no applications. Funny how that works.
        Cynical99
      • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

        @Cynical99

        Who said I'm attacking windows? all I'm doing is applying your logic to windows on ARM, its called being fair, something you would know nothing about, if you think this is DOA because it has no applications then that means windows 8 is DOA on ARM.

        If you don't like that then you only have yourself to blame.
        guzz46
      • Logic?

        @guzz46
        No, not logic, distraction. Windows 8 on ARM has no place in this conversation and no relationship to the Spark tablet.

        If I missed something, please provide the logical links to a neophyte can see the links 'cause they sure are invisible to me.

        Can't defend Linux so attacks Windows. Classic distraction move.
        Cynical99
      • distraction. Windows 8 on ARM has no place in this conversation

        @Cynical99

        Only for you it doesn't, because you know that you're essentially saying windows 8 on ARM is DOA.
        So when Zdnet does their next windows 8 on ARM article I will look forward to your comments on how its DOA... unless of course you have double standards?

        Oh and by the way I don't need to defend Linux, in case you forgot (or didn't read) this has an unlocked boot loader, so you can install Debian Linux and have access to over 30,000 packages.

        So there you go, going by your own standards its no longer DOA, but windows 8 on ARM is, because there are no apps for it, and they are locking down secure boot, thats too bad.
        guzz46
    • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

      @Cynical99
      "The pot calling the kettle black"

      Cynical99 Spark article Feb 1st: Linux had a few programs while Windows had millions.

      Do As I Say (Not As I Do)
      daikon
    • RE: Spark, free-software Linux tablet, to ship in May

      @Cynical99
      Are you hinting that Windows 8 will run a lot of Android programs / libraries ?
      Please give some indications, as I have not heard [b] very [/b] much to support such suggestions.
      hkommedal