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Real Computers

Filed under: Computing

I'm wriring this post (as all the other posts on this page have been written) on my Samsung Galaxy s5e tablet (Well, some may have been written on my s10e phone). Conventional wisdom is that this is silly, this is work for a "real computer". To some extent thats true, but its not a matter of hardware. Both of my devices have processors fast enough to emulate a PS2 at full speed, and GPU capability better than the laptop I used 8 years ago. All of this while using a fraction of the power of those older machines. So the software then?

This is the heart of the problem, there is a divide between devices meant for consumption and devices meant for creation. While you can do some work on a tablet, the design goal was getting Netflix into your face. If its just a matter of software, though, couldn't we just write software to do the creative things we want? This is where it sucks to be in the Apple world. For iOS the answer is "only if Apple allows it", and for the kind of creating I want to do they most certainly do not allow it. Android is a different story.

This starts with Termux, a command line environment for Android. Termux has been around for quite some time, and has a quite complete set of packages available for it. Being limited to just terminal applications isn't enough though, to really be a full time creative computer for me I also need some graphical applications as well. This is where Termux-X11 comes in. It emulates a wayland display and uses XWayland to present an X Windows environment. I've moved my i3 setup to this, and its been working well for the past month or so. I can run KiCad, Firefox, OpenSCAD, and slic3r in. OpenGL acceleration is a work in progress, but I find this doesn't slow me down much.

Some of those applications, like KiCad, don't have termux ports. For those there is proot. Proot is a usermode alternative to fakeroot, allowing the installation of other linux environments inside of Termux. its not hard to run a graphical application in the proot container and have it show up on the parent X display, its a matter of setting a few environment variables.

With this setup I finally get to check off an item thats been on my wishlist since I was a kid, a "main computer" that I can carry around in my pocket. It really shines a light on how fast and capable these machines are, and how the limitations we ascribe to them are entirely semantic. I plan to make some posts soon to describe in detail how I got this setup working, so look for that.

Author: Lady Errant
Published on: Jul 13, 2023, 12:00 PM GMT

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