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Open source Linux tablet showcases KDE Plasma Active technology

Jan 30, 2012 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

[Updated: Feb. 2] — Members of the KDE Plasma Active community announced an open source tablet platform that runs the mobile-oriented version of KDE's Plasma UI layer on a MeeGo Linux-based “Mer” operating system. The seven-inch “Spark” tablet features a 1GHz AMLogic ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a Mali-400 GPU, offers 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, an SD slot, and a projected price of about 200 Euros ($262).

The Spark was announced with fairly minimal detail by KDE Plasma Active team member Aaron Seigo — who has been on loan from the newly open source Qt Development Framework project to work on KDE Plasma Active. The latter is the KDE community's touch-friendly, mobile device version of the KDE desktop environment. (Long the leading competitor to GNOME on Linux desktops, KDE was upgraded last week version 4.8.)

Spark tablet

Like Michael Arrington's ill-fated CrunchPad, — eventually reborn as Fusion Garage's commercial JooJoo tablet, the forerunner of the Grid-10 — the Spark is billed as an entirely independent, open source Linux tablet platform. In his blog announcement, Seigo notes that "There's no walled garden to get locked into or which can be taken away."

This is an apparent reference to, which has been earning the ire of the open source community over its locked-down version of Android within the Kindle Fire tablet. (Flurry just released a report claiming the Fire has already eclipsed the entire installed base of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.)

Like the Kindle Fire, the Spark is a seven-inch capacitive tablet running on a Cortex-A9 processor. However, instead of a dual-core processor, the Spark offers Amlogic's single-core AML8726-M. The 1GHz system on chip (SoC) includes a Mali-400 graphics processing unit (GPU) and full 1080p video decoding, as detailed on this Amlogic AML8726-M product page.

Additional Spark features include 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, and microSD expansion, according to Seigo. In addition, the image shown above appears to indicate an HDMI port and dual mini-USB host ports. No manufacturer for the device was listed.

KDE Plasma Active 2

The hardware is secondary, however, to Spark's main focus: showcasing KDE Plasma Active. Intended as a fast embedded UX (user experience) platform with minimal memory requirements, KDE Plasma Active is designed for tablets, smartphones, and other touch-enabled devices such as set-top boxes, smart TVs, home automation equipment, or in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), says the project.

KDE Plasma Active 2
(Click to enlarge)

The stack is notable for featuring an interface that adapts as users change KDE Activities, says the project. Additional features are said to include: a Peek&Launch bar to select applications or switch between them; touch-enabled apps and widgets; and a "Share-Like-Connect" function that "molds your computer to your preferences."

The KDE Plasma Active project is a collaboration between the KDE community, as well as development firm Basyskom and Open-slx GmbH. As noted, Qt, whose development framework underlies the Spark platform, is also a contributor to the Spark tablet effort.

MeeGo spin-off Mer involved in Spark project

Also collaborating on the Spark project is the Mer project — a fork of the fading MeeGo project that was announced in October as an alternative to the MeeGo-based, Samsung-backed Tizen project. KDE Plasma Active runs on a foundation of either Mer, MeeGo, or Open-slx' Balsam Linux Professional 12.1.

Compared to Tizen, which Samsung says it plans to eventually merge with its Bada operating system, Mer appears to be a more independent, community-driven effort. Like Tizen, Mer adds a strong HTML5 component, but unlike Tizen, also retains the Qt framework. The Mer project says it plans to collaborate and share code with the Tizen project.

Seigo also notes that the Spark project is establishing partnerships with the KDE-backed OwnCloud hosting services, as well as two other KDE-related groupware efforts that will assist in "deployment support": Kolab and Kontact Touch. Seigo goes on to note there will be "exciting Qt/QML add-on apps for download," referring to the Javascript-based QML (Qt Meta-Object-Language), which is also incorporated in Mer.

In addition, the Spark tablet will offer "Free Culture artifacts," including digital books from Project Gutenberg, as well as contents and apps for purchase, writes Seigo.


The Spark tablet will ship soon for about 200 Euros (as of this moment, about $262), says Seigo, but more is expected to be revealed Jan. 31 on the same Aseigo blog where the Spark was announced.

Eric Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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