How much power do you really need?

Posted on February 10, 2024 by Tylor Kobierski
The Tablet

One of the things I brought on my journey to Boston was a 2017 Fire HD 10 (codename “suez”). It’s the only tablet I own, and it’s horribly out of date. With only 2GB of RAM and a stock ROM being an Amazon-built knockoff of Android lollipop, it’s actually a bit of a challenge to get it to run many pieces of modern software at this point.

But in a way, it’s really not all that bad. Or at the very least, it really shouldn’t be all that bad. 2GB of RAM is small, but that should be more than enough to browse the web and watch some videos on the 1080p screen. And plenty of games could be emulated on such a platform, though you’ll be limited to using controllers/keyboards that can connect through the ancient bluetooth interface that this thing has. And besides that, I know I was productive doing things on machines far weaker than this one! I could write documents, program, draw, and play Apple ][GS games plenty on one of my childhood machines that had a mere 256 MB and a Pentium 3.

I rarely used this tablet for a lot of its life; I much preferred being at my desktop if possible, and if not that I would use my laptop. But I don’t have my desktop with me. And my laptop has a bit of a problem: it’s not very nice to use in bed, because it gets quite hot, and I don’t necessarily have a nice place to relax outside of my bed, as my only desk at this furnished apartmennt has been a work desk. This tablet doesn’t get meaningfully hot and doesn’t need to be tethered to do a lot of tasks - I can happily let it sit without charging it for a day or two. The case comes with a little magnetic keyboard, and I have a hub that I can attach to get a wireless mouse dongle to connect a wireless mouse to this thing (none of the mice I currently have can connect to the outdated version of bluetooth).

To make it a little more palatable I rooted it, and flashed a new LineageOS ROM on it.The last stable version is on Nougat, but it does upgrade it just enough to unlock a little more capability than it had before. Sadly someone will need to pick up the torch of development to get something more modern on this thing, but for now this is working fine. In addition to Firefox and NewPipe (who could work even with the decrepit stock ROM) I can get Element, Husky, and Protonmail’s suite of things working alright. The one major casualty is the camera, which I can curse proprietary drivers for causing it to be a difficult task for others to get it working. It’s also a relatively minor one for my use cases.

Semi-recently, there was a port of Emacs released for Android. You can optionally also install tweaked version of Termux that allows the native Emacs port access useful terminal programs. This gives me more than enough power to do plenty, including write this post, commit it to git, and push my posts to the server.

And with that final piece, almost anything I’d want to do on a computer aside from running an IDE or playing a newer video game is pretty much reasonably possible. Though some fancier webapps can still make this machine cry unfortunately, though I will not exactly mourn their loss. Anything more complex than that is really an invitation to make this another machine of idling and procrastination.

Let’s see it publish this post!