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Toshiba AC100

Hi Everyone,

As many of you will know the Toshiba AC100 is a netbook based on an Nvidia Tegra ARM processor that ships with Android. I've been waiting a long time for hardware like this to become available; I've just bought one, and it is excellent. It's light, cool, and great quality. On the other hand, the shipped software is not going to please anyone; the decision to go with Android just seems bizarre.

Of course it didn't take long for someone to hack it. It seems that it's sufficiently close to Nvidia's reference design that it's quite easy to boot an alternative OS. The best resource at present seems to be here: http://ac100.gudinna.com/README . As with a lot of projects of this sort, the people involved seem to be rather spread out and can be found at Toshiba's own forums (http://forums.computers.toshiba-europe.com/forums/) (which I would avoid because posts seem to get edited by Toshiba if you say the wrong thing) and at this site: http://tosh-ac100.wetpaint.com/ (which I've not registered with because it wanted to know my age and gender!). The author of the gudinna.com page doesn't seem to want to identify him/herself for some reason.

The procedure is basically as follows: you get an Nvidia x86 binary, whose license says that it can only be used with their development hardware, and use it over USB to replace one partition of the internal flash. After this modification the device will scan the SD card during boot. So this is a fairly non-intrusive change that lets you continue to boot Android. However, the SD card is (presumably) slower than the internal flash. You then install your OS of choice on the SD card and off you go. An Ubuntu image is available from http://ac100.gudinna.com/ (you need to use --numeric-owner when untaring on a Debian system else it will fail to work in some nasty subtle way). This naturally has some wrinkles at the moment but I guess they will be smoothed out soon.

Sooo..... who is interested in getting Debian to work on this machine? I guess there are a few issues:

1. Specific to this machine, there are issues related to installation. Those are being resolved already by others, so we can copy that. One potential issue is the legal one with the Nvidia tool; it may be that it's simple to reverse-engineer the protocol it uses over USB, or something.

2. Presumably there will also be machine-specific driver issues, but most things seem to be working in Ubuntu so that might not be too hard. I'm not sure how many binary blobs are involved.

3. Then there's the whole ARM architecture version thing. Each time I look at this I realise it's more complicated that I had hoped, for example I have read that the Tegra processor in this machine doesn't have NEON. Debian obviously doesn't want to have 42 different ARM architecture variants. My guess is that in the case of the FP variants there are only relatively few packages that are really fp-intensive, so a scheme that allows them to have optimised versions distributed separately might be best, and have the core architecture just cover the "ARMv7" aspect.

I hope there are others out there interested in this machine, the first of its kind.

Cheers,  Phil.

(BTW I'm in Cambridge, and if anyone would like to play with it you're welcome.)

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