The ZaTab from @ZaReason – a fully open source Android (or whatever you want to load) tablet (UPDATED)

ZaReason are a US company who only make Linux based computers and have recently been tweeting about building a completely open source tablet device, shipping with Android but unlocked so you can install whatever you would wish on it. They have even been working with the Software Freedom Conservancy to ensure that it passes muster as an open source device.

ZaReason ZaTab

However, other than some photos of it on Twitter details have been a little lacking, but now the ZaReason CEO (who is in New Zealand working on setting up a store there) tweeted the URL for pre-orders which includes the details about it:

  • Pure Android
  • Allwinner A10 SoC
  • 9.7″ IPS 1024×768 display
  • 5 point capacitive touchscreen
  • 16 GB internal storage + microSD for additional storage
  • 1 GB ram
  • b/g/n WiFi
  • Front and Back cameras
  • Sturdy metal back
  • High-capacity 8000 mAh battery
  • Ultra-light 630 grams

Ports:

  • Headphone
  • microSD card slot
  • mini-HDMI video out
  • 2x micro-USB ports

The device is shipping with CyanogenMod 9 (so based on Google’s Android Open Source Programme – AOSP – Ice Cream Sandwich release) and yes, it has root access available (CyanogenMod 9 doesn’t enable it by default, but it is just a configuration option). I would suspect this means it won’t ship with the Google Apps package which are not open source and so you won’t have access to the Google Play Store (formerly the Android Market), but you could still access the F-Droid open source application repository from it and should you feel the need for the proprietary Google Apps then you could reflash CyanogenMod9 with the Google Apps package available from their site. Most importantly it ships with all the source code.

The Socket on a Chip (SoC) is the Allwinner A10 which has a 1GHz ARM Coretex A8 and a MALI 400 MP1 GPU. Whilst the GPU manufacturer releases GPL driver code you apparently need a proprietary DDK to be able to produce a functional driver and so the Lima project has been born to create a fully open driver. Quite how the ZaReason people are dealing with this is unclear, if they are really shipping a fully open tablet then perhaps the Lima driver is a lot more stable than their project website claims. 🙂 (Clarified below in the update)

They’ve also promised the boot loader is unlocked so you can put whatever software you should wish to try out on it, on Twitter they said that they intend to try and get KDE going on it (presumably the KDE Plasma Active project, possibly using Mer as the supporting distribution). There’s even been a tongue-in-cheek reference to Gentoo.. 🙂

Update:

Two updates on the ZaTab:

  • firstly that the pre-orders they are taking are limited to FOSS people, they want you to contact them via email as part of the process (they have concerns about fraud).
  • Secondly on the openness and GPU driver, they have confirmed that “Initially there may be some binary blobs. Lima isn’t far enough along at this time, but we have high hopes for it”.

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