I am wondering, whether a platform with these specifications exists:

  • Hacking-friendly from open boot-loader up (support for re-locking?)
  • Linux mainline kernel (blob-free?) boot support with SMP.
  • Free/Open device-drivers/firmware for all (built-in) radios/chips.
  • Implementation in tablet form factor available in the market 2016Q3.
  • USB-OTG multi-device support device-side
  • Normal USB-Ports too. USB3 only possible with non-open firmware?
  • Better than simpleFB graphics support.
  • External graphics-out, available while Charging/OTG-ing
  • I would expect a platform with the above specs to run Android too.

To the best of my knowledge, the above automatically excludes all phablets, because there are no (non-ancient) GSM/xG modems with open/updateable firmware. Though I would very much like to be proven wrong on this.

Also, unfortunately, this also seems to exclude all Intel/AMD Gear from the last plenty of years, because they all run a bunch of closed-source operating systems on the various mainboard chips.

I have been following this topic loosely over some time now, and have not found something like the above. Whenever I read about full support for a SOC, it seems to be about a platform not really available commercially anymore.

AFAICT some chipsets come close, but then fall short in important ways. Like the Debian support for Allwinner.

The things I would like to do on/with this device:

  • Run a standard Linux distro on it (pref. Debian)
  • Run my personal WM, tmux-, emacs-, browser-state-sessions
  • Configure to auto-connect to some BT-HIDs, WIFIs, MiraCast sinks, etc.
  • Connect USB devices like SDR, 3/4G, TTY, ETH, WIFI/BT, HID, V4L, etc.
  • "full-stack" hardware/software firmware/OS/userspace development/tests.
  • Use as (basically) a "PDA" on steroids, instead of a laptop
  • Ideally transmit the (second, big) screen (= the desktop) over HDMI, or USB-ETH-RDP

To me, this use-case -though not quite mainstream yet- does not seem that far-fetched, so I'm wondering, which keyword/project/chipset/etc has been escaping my google-fu so far.


2 Answers 2


For the best open tablets you will have to look at Replicant OS devices page.

These are the most open devices that exist, however neither of the two tablets meet your requirements.

You have two compelling alternatives however. One option, probably the fastest and most open, would be the Thinkpad X60 Tablet running Libreboot. It has a keyboard so it is rather large. The other alternative is an SOC like the BeagleBoard Black with a touchscreen addition (only seen this on a Raspberry PI), but those are small and awkward.

TL;DR: Your main options are the Galaxy Tab 2 with Replicant OS (FSF endorsed), the Libreboot Thinkpad X60 Tablet (Also FSF endorsed), or the BeagleBoard Black (not sure if this would work).


Too long for a comment:

Free/Open device-drivers/firmware for all (built-in) radios/chips.

Very unlikley - the software driving baseband processors is part of certifications (see e.g. this SE post), which (depending on requirements) may be either virtually impossible with open-source, prohibitively expensive or just not viable because of the business model (a baseband producer using open-source and putting it into shape for certification would bear most of the costs for anyone else reusing it later in their own devices).

If you drop that requirement and substitute "isolate the proprietary blobs", it would be more possible (again the same SE answer).

  • i specifically mentioned "(built-in)", so that devices without a Cellular modem could still be mentioned in an answer, if all other conditions are fulfilled. Thanks for taking the time to answer with the interesting link, +1 Jan 7, 2020 at 17:53

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