I finally got around to installing Ubuntu (Hardy Heron) on the X61T, something I’ve been intending to do since Fiesty Faun was released, but – like many other things – got shelved away to the back on my mind, largely because I wasn’t ready to migrate a complete tablet-based workflow to a system in which tablet functionality is still considered rudimentary. I still think that development efforts related to tablet computing apps in the Limux realm are still relatively basic and fragmented. The X61 comes preinstalled with Vista, which I hate for various reasons that would best be outlined in another post. However, my need for a tablet-based workflow for note-taking, annotation and research overrode my dislike for Vista, and since last fall I have developed a system for note taking, archival and annotation that I was adequately comfortable with and inclined not to change until better options were available. A few things came about that presented a potentially better alternaive:
- Xorg support for pen input
- Good Linux apps for handwriting recognition and pen-based note-taking.
- Realizing that the only reason I was using Vista was my need for tablet functionality, coupled with my growing dislike for Vista.
So a couple days ago I installed Ubuntu 8.04 on the X61T (in a dual boot configuration with Vista, just in case). I knew I was in for some (or a lot of) tweaking and minor hackery to get everything tablet-related to function properly, and I wasn’t expecting much variety in terms of tablet-specific apps as is the case in the Windows world, but who needs variety when you’ve already got what works, right? So here is what did work for me:
1- Setting up pen input was a matter of adding a few lines to xorg.conf. Multitouch is not supported yet, but that’s not really a deal killer for me.
- Handwriting recognition: CellWriter works great. It could be improved by adding a few usability enhancers, such as auto-detect of text input fields.
- Note-taking: Xournal (I did like OneNote, but Xournal is very good and does the job. It also has PDF annotation functionality, which is very important for me)
- Drawing/Vector graphics: Inkscape
...and here is what does not work (yet).
- Screen rotation: It is supposed to work and there are a few good guides for this but for some reason I could not get it working. Couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with it for too long right now since I prefer working in landscape mode most of the time anyway.
- Multitouch: Not supported yet, but for me it is in the “nice-to-have-but-not-required” category.
- Tablet button mapping: The directional buttons and escape button work, but the the screen rotation and the one next to it (which called up the Lenovo tools menu in Windows) don’t (at least not by default). Oh, and that blue ThinkVantage button is useless now.
Overall, I love Ubuntu on the X61. I have the functionality in need in a fully open source environment that worked mostly out of the box. I need to iron out a few things and it should be near perfect and ready for my “travel season”. I could only expect that the better is yet to come with respect to tablet pc support in future releases of Ubuntu.