Checking In On The Damn Linux Tablet One

Tablets, slates, phones, and fablets, there are no shortage of electronics that take the Star-Trek-ish form factor of a handheld rectangle of glass that connects you to everything. This is the world we live in, but unfortunately it’s not currently a world with many Linux options, and certainly not one that includes modular design concepts. This is what motivated [Timon] to design the Damn Linux Table one, a “Proper Linux Tablet” built around the Nvidia Jetson Nano board.

The design really took off, because who isn’t interested in the ability to upgrade and customize a tablet? During last year’s Hackaday Supercon we caught up with [Timon] for an interview the morning after he won the Best Design prize for DLT one. Check out that video below, then join us after the break for an update on the latest from the project.

There’s only one week left to get your project entered in the 2020 Hackaday Prize. We won’t know this year’s winners until the Hackaday Remoticon rolls around this November. The Call for Proposals for that virtual conference is still open!

[Timon] is realistic about the limits of modular design. He readily admits you’re not going to upgrade a graphics card on a mobile device, but when it comes to the peripherals, why not? You might want to choose between micro-USB, USB-C, barrel-jack, or do something completely custom. One hacker’s NFC equipment might be replaced by another’s SDR or LoRa. This tablet design sees a world where connecting PCIe components to your mobile devices is completely doable. The point is to make a base model that works great, but has the potential to be what each different user wants their device to be.

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The Finest Linux Tablet You Can Build

For the last few years now, we’ve all had access to tiny, affordable Systems on a Module. These wunderchips are complete Linux systems with WiFi, a halfway decent GPU, and enough memory to run a real system. This is the perfect platform to base a tablet build on, the only problem is that someone has to actually do it. The DLT One is the ‘Damn Linux Tablet’ from [Prof. Fartsparkle]. It’s the answer to the question of when someone is going to build a tablet computer around one of these cheap Systems on a Chip that are floating around.

With many modules to choose from, the first task is actually choosing one of these Linux modules. [Fartsparkle] ended up with the Nvidia Jetson Nano, an impressive little board that has one distinct advantage: it’s drop-in compatable with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, the Raspberry Pi-on-an-SODIMM. Given a single chassis, [Prof. Fartsparkle] can simply upgrade his tablet by getting a newer version of the Jetson Nano (or the Compute Module).

The current state of the board is basically an SODIMM socket on a board, with breakouts for Ethernet, a power jack, USB, and HDMI. That’s all there is to it, and design on the tablet chassis is ongoing.

Future updates for this tablet build will include USB-C PD, an mPCI-E connector that would allow for M.2 storage, LTE in some form or another and a dock that would allow you to turn this into a Surface-like laptop. It’s an amazing build, and one of the best entries we’ve seen in this year’s Hackaday Prize.