Monday, May 27, 2013

My progress on installing Ubuntu/Linux on Asus Vivotab Smart ME400C

Update 21/03/2014: I sold the it, so unfortunately there will be no further updates here.

I wanted to share my progress on the XDA-Developers forum, but since I don't have ten posts I can't reply there. Bummer, since I think not many people got this far and could help other people complete this.

I bought this tablet because it was Atom-based, so I could use Ubuntu if I didn't like W8.
Too my surprise I liked it pretty much. But... I do like to hack stuff more, so tried installing Linux anyway.

A lot of people say that it has "Secure Boot" and hence it is impossible to try and install anything else than Windows 8. Luckily, you can turn this off.

By turning this off, it enabled me to install the rEFInd Boot Manager which allowed me to boot an Debian EFI test CD. Since this tablet contains an Intel Atom Z2760 that does not have an 64-bit instruction set, you will need 32-bit (IA32) EFI binaries (which are very rare).

Only the Debian EFI test CD and an Fedora (experimental) image which I can't find anymore are the  ones having those.

Having an Micro-USB to USB Female OTG adapter allowed me to connect a (powered) USB-hub and connect an USB keyboard, mouse and Ethernet-adapter. Selecting an boot-item in rEFInd is possible with the physical buttons, but for editing boot-line options you really want to use at least an keyboard.

I will post some photo's and detailed instructions later.

UPDATE 23/06/2013: 

If you found this page to find out if this is at all possible. As of 23/06/2013 not yet. I
like Windows 8 a lot better on a tablet, but it still hangs a lot and sometimes even completely reboots for no reason at all. Also battery drains very quickly.
My advice is to not buy this tablet if you are in doubt and get an Android-based tablet or if you are using Mac OS X, an iPad instead. A lot cheaper and x86 instead of ARM will not gain you anything. Using regular desktop applications which are available for Windows x86, are mostly really not made for touch-usage or tablets in general and will frustrate you.

Things that went wrong:
The Ubuntu WUBI installer, this gets you an extra boot entry but won't boot. I think because it is loaded by an Microsoft EFI bootloader. Don't panic if you tried this and are afraid you can never boot to Windows again since it does not respond to button-presses, just do a hard reboot by holding them for like 10 seconds and select Windows instead of Ubuntu. It will automatically boot the last option after a timeout.

How to get rEFInd running and run ISO :

The instruction on the rEFInd website for Windows are very clear, but might be a little hard if you don't work with a command prompt very often.

Note that you will need the 32-bit version of rEFInd, so do not remove refind_ia32.efi. as described in step 7. To help you getting it done on the VivoTab, these are the (modified and supplemented) instructies I copied on 23/06/2013.

  1. Locate Command Prompt in the Start menu, right-click it, and select Run as Administrator. This action opens a Command Prompt window with administrative privileges. If you do not have a mouse, by default touch-and-holding does the same as right-clicking.
  2. Type mountvol S: /S in the Administrator Command Prompt window. This makes the ESP accessible as drive S:from that window. (You can use a drive identifier other than S: if you like.)
  3. Change into the main rEFInd package directory, so that the refind subdirectory is visible when you type dir.
  4. Type xcopy /E refind S:\EFI\refind\ to copy the refind directory tree to the ESP's EFI directory. If you omit the trailing backslash from this command, xcopy will ask if you want to create the refind directory. Tell it to do so.
  5. Type S: to change to the ESP.
  6. Type cd EFI\refind to change into the refind subdirectory
  7. Type del refind_ia32.efi to delete the unused 32-bit version of rEFInd. (Windows only supports EFI boots on 64-bit EFI implementations and in 64-bit versions of Windows.)  Don't do this, since this tablet has an x86 Intel Atom processor, you need the 32-bit binary
  8. Optionally type rd /s drivers_ia32 to delete the drivers_ia32 directory and its contents. You may also want to selectively delete some of the drivers in the drivers_x64 directory, depending on your needs. Unnecessary drivers may slow the rEFInd start process. See the page on drivers for more on this topic. Same story as above, you can delete the 64-bit drivers. I kept them because they don't use a lot of space.
  9. Type rename refind.conf-sample refind.conf to rename rEFInd's configuration file.
  10. Type bcdedit /set {bootmgr} path \EFI\refind\refind_ia32.efi to set rEFInd as the default EFI boot program. Note that {bootmgr} is entered as such; that's not a notation for a variable. I changed the 64-bit to 32-bit for your convenience. 
  11. If you like, type bcdedit /set {bootmgr} description "rEFInd description" to set a description (change rEFInd description as you see fit).
(I would like to emphasize that I do not claim copyright on this text, the original instructions are written by Roderick W. Smith, the writer of rEFInd. Please consider donating him, because he did a great job :) )

The following you need to do is configure rEFInd. There are drivers which let you boot an ISO-image. I haven't got that to work yet. I managed to resize the Windows 8 partition and create some smaller 700 MB partitions where I copied several installation CD's. Especially the "scanfor" option in rEFInd helps in that. Unfortunately, I didn't get any further than getting GRUB 2 and selecting one of Debians installation modes, both graphic and text gave me a black screen.

Good Google Web Font alternatives to commercial font faces

Helvetica/Arial, see:

Century Gothic: Questrial

Bradley Hand ITC: not found yet..