Ubuntu on the $59 WinBook TW700 Windows 8.1 Tablet – Step 2

PLEASE NOTE: This is an attempt to explore the feasibility of running Ubuntu on a Bay Trail tablet. It will not be uncommon to experience kernel panics and unexpected behavior at this point in time with Linux and Intel’s Bay Trail hardware. The tablet can run a little hot during the initial parts of the installation, so if you hit a barrier, turn it off, take a break, and let it cool down. Please proceed at your own risk, and make sure you have your Windows recovery drive!

In the previous post, http://infosoda.com/ubuntu-tw700-1/ we performed a basic install of Ubuntu 14.10 on the WinBook TW700. In this post, we will update the kernel, enable the built in wireless, and enable the touch screen (goodix support for this screen is built into the new kernel). We will also repair GRUB, so we are not dependent upon the bootia32.efi bootloader on the installation USB when booting. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have borrowed content and direction from John Wells with his post linked at: http://www.jfwhome.com/2014/03/07/perfect-ubuntu-or-other-linux-on-the-asus-transformer-book-t100/ , making changes and corrections as needed for us to proceed on this WinBook.

I prefer to work smart, and prefer to work on the tablet via an ssh session. This will also make it easier to cut and paste the terminal commands in this article. If you do not have a computer with ssh or putty, you can skip this step. Join your tablet to your wireless (using a linux compatible wifi dongle). Open your terminal (the keyboard shortcut is control+alt+t) and type in:

sudo apt-get update
sudo-apt get install openssh-server

Now from your workstation you can ssh into the tablet using the IP address the command provided, with the following format:

ssh username@10.10.10.xx (or whatever your tablet’s IP is)

Now continuing from a terminal session:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install git bison libopts25 libselinux1-dev autogen m4 help2man libopts25-dev flex libfont-freetype-perl automake autotools-dev libfreetype6-dev texinfo lib32z1 lib32ncurses5 lib32bz2-1.0 autoconf build-essential gnome-common systemd libgudev-1.0-dev

This will install the packages required to build our drivers and GRUB efi file. Now we will update the kernel. In this example, I am downloading the generic 3.19.0 kernel for Ubuntu (which will detect the touchscreen!).

cd /tmp/
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.19-vivid/linux-headers-3.19.0-031900-generic_3.19.0-031900.201502091451_amd64.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.19-vivid/linux-headers-3.19.0-031900_3.19.0-031900.201502091451_all.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.19-vivid/linux-image-3.19.0-031900-generic_3.19.0-031900.201502091451_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.19.0-*.deb linux-image-3.19.0-*.deb
sudo reboot

Once we reboot, we still need to use GRUB on our installation USB drive. Once you see GRUB, hit the ‘c’ key to enter the command line

linux (hd1,gpt2)/boot/vmlinuz

Then hit “tab” to autocomplete. You should now see a new entry – the packaged kernel (vmlinuz) with the upgraded version. Use this new version. PLEASE note, we will addend “nomodeset” with an additional parameter – “reboot=pci,force”.

Using the kernel from above, you should then have the following in your GRUB commands:

linux (hd1,gpt2)/boot/vmlinuz-3.19.0-031900-generic root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 nomodeset reboot=pci,force
initrd (hd1,gpt2)/boot/initrd.img-3.19.0-031900-generic

The new kernel should recognize your touch interface, and we will address this is more detail at the end of the article. In the meantime, to update your wireless, open your terminal and type:

cd /tmp/
git clone https://github.com/hadess/rtl8723bs.git
cd rtl8723bs/
sudo make install
sudo depmod -a
sudo reboot

The wireless will be detected after the reboot. Unfortunately, the wireless at this point is not very reliable. I would recommend to keep utilizing the wireless on your USB dongle, especially through the remainder of this guide! Remember to use the command line at the GRUB menu (we are still using the USB’s GRUB) to point at the correct vmlinuz and initrd paths when re-booting.

 Now we will repair GRUB, and forego pressing “c” at the GRUB menu to load our Ubuntu installation. This process will take a few minutes to compile on this little tablet, so please be patient. Open the terminal and “get” the GRUB source:

cd /tmp/
git clone git://git.savannah.gnu.org/grub.git
cd grub/
sudo ./configure --with-platform=efi --target=i386 --program-prefix=""
sudo make
cd grub-core/
sudo ../grub-install -d . --efi-directory /boot/efi/ --target=i386
cd /boot/efi/EFI
sudo cp grub/grubia32.efi ubuntu/grubx64.efi

After replacing the installed 64 bit EFI boot loader with our compiled 32 bit version, we will now update GRUB with your preferred editor:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Change the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT line with the parameter “nomodeset reboot=pci,force”

Editing the grub file
Editing the grub file

This is a great opportunity to customize grub to your preferences – you can alter timers, disable the display of the UUID, et cetera.

Save the new setting with Control+O, exit via CONTROL+X.

Now update GRUB at the command line:

sudo update-grub
sudo grub-install /dev/mmcblk0

sudo reboot

The last command will shut down the tablet; you may now remove the installation USB.

Unfortunately, the reboot process is possessed with various errors – you will want to have a USB keyboard connected, and may prefer to boot in recovery mode (advanced options -> Ubuntu 3.19 recovery mode).

I would recommend playing with the Florence virtual keyboard; you can access the built in Ubuntu “onboard” keyboard also.

To install florence:

sudo apt-get -f install
sudo apt-get install florence

For more info on Florence, please take a look at the following link: http://xmodulo.com/onscreen-virtual-keyboard-linux.html

That site can assist in setting up the defaults, auto-launch, etc.

 There are still multiple issues to be addressed, including the audio and bluetooth. I will attempt to create a third post if I am able to dedicate some time to address these issues. I would also like to re-address the wifi instability, and this fix may be directly related to the bluetooth fix (they both use the Realtek rtl8723bs). Most of these issues are works in progress, and I will keep an eye on GitHub and other sources for the development of any Linux drivers that my assist in the usability of this tablet.

3 thoughts on “Ubuntu on the $59 WinBook TW700 Windows 8.1 Tablet – Step 2

  1. Jeff Russell Reply

    Hey thanks for a great start! I’m looking forward to trying this. Any updates on the Audio and Wi-Fi instability?

  2. CalcProgrammer1 Reply

    Have you gotten graphics acceleration to work? I installed Debian on mine using a different ISO (Debian has a test ISO with X32 EFI support built in) to a USB drive but the display blanks as soon as the Intel DRM kicks in. I filed a bug report here:


    Post a “Me too” of sorts with your info if you have the same issue, maybe we can get more attention on the issue. Anyways, I figured out a workaround for the graphics for now, but it requires downgrading to a 3.13 kernel (from Ubuntu’s kernel PPA, which works on Debian just fine as well). Boot with the video=VGA-1:800x1280e command line option and you’ll be able to start an X server, though you’ll have to SSH in and change its mode (or preconfigure a modeline in xorg.conf) as it defaults to 1024×768 which is distorted. In this configuration the Intel DRM is active and so you get working 3D acceleration, tested with a bunch of OpenGL demos.

    I haven’t tried setting up WiFi/sound/Bluetooth yet but plan to follow your guide. Note that on 3.13 the touchscreen doesn’t work, so you’ll have to use a keyboard and mouse. Also the external SD doesn’t seem to work on kernels <= 3.16 (works on 3.19 and 4.0-rc).

  3. Jim Carpenter Reply

    I look forward to the remaining fixes. I too bought one of these small tablets and I’m trying to get my distro on it. My goal is to try to offer a tablet, a netbook, a notebook and a desktop with Peach OSI. I started with this one because I read this article even before I purchased the TW700. I figured if I could get Peach on this little Microsoft gadget that I could probably get it on anything… So far I’ve had no luck …

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