Well it finally arrived  about a week ago, but with a weekend away between now and then I'm only just getting to grips with it.

Nicely packaged with the main unit and keyboard in separate boxes. The fabric sleeve for the main unit is bright blue. I rarely used the one with the StarLite II, but this one will be useful when the keyboard is not attached.

The keyboard has a back panel which the main unit sits on and connects to pins in a gutter at the bottom near the hinge. The top of the back folds to make a sort of stand. Some major flaws here:

  • Using the top of the back as a fold down stand for a unit of this size is a silly idea. When folded into stand position it makes it hard to pick up the combined unit without accidentally detaching it - not good if it is on your lap and you need to put it aside without shutting it
  • The magnet which holds the main unit down on the pins is much to weak so that is very easy to dislodge and detached the unit from the keyboard accidentally.
  • The hinge itself is just a strip of thin plastic joining the keyboard base to the back and is very floppy. This is a barely satisfactory arrangement on smaller tablets, but here it is a bit of a disaster if trying to use it as a laptop on your lap
  • The keyboard itself is very flimsy and flexes easily. Coupled with the poor hinge, weak connection, and the klunky stand arrangement, the unit is totally unsuitable for any use except on a table or firm surface.
  • Finally the pen is attached to the keyboard in an addon tube of plastic on the left hand side. Apart from being on the wrong side for the 90% of users who are right handed, it is one the wrong unit anyway - it needs to attach to the side of the screen, preferably with a good strong magnet like the pen on my Boox small monochrome tablet that I use as a Kindle and for sketching and handwritten note taking.

All in all a big disappointment before even turning it on. All of those criticisms are only reinforced by the first week of use - mostly spent configuring it. Where my previous StarLite (a mk II) felt like a quality bit of kit from the outset here this does not apply. I hope  am wrong but I fear neither the hinge nor the pen holder are robust enough to last much more than a year.

The first surprise came when turning it on, rather than Ubuntu 22.04 which was the default when ordered 9 months ago, it has come with 24.04. Yes this is the latest LTS, but it would have been nice to be asked. I would probably have said okay but that would have been before discovering the downsides:

  1. 24.04 has changed the default install to be a "minimal" version with all sorts of bits left out compared to 22,04 - yes you can reinstall them, but there seems to be no coherent list on t'internet as to what is missing, so you wont know what you need until something doesn't work.
    That's ok I thought: I'll simply reinstall Ubuntu with the full option - sadly a vanilla reinstall started by turning the screen upside down during the install process with no means of switching it back, and then crashwd and burned producing a black screen panic. Fortunately it recovered the original after a total shutdown and two reboots thank goodness. Must make a recovery disk and full backup after finishing this post.
  2. You need to be aware that 24.04 now uses Wayland for windowing by default. Xorg X11 is still available as an option on the login screen - you might need it if you are using Eclipse and some other applications as Wayland is still buggy
  3. 24.04 is only 3 months old and used Gnome 46. Many Gnome extensions have not yet released Gnome 46 versions. You'll come up against this when you try to get the touchscreen onscreen keyboard working with a pen and a better layout. You may also find some extensions that are getting sync'd across devices by your browser don't work

On these points it is worth remembering that unless you have good reason it is always worth waiting 6 months after release before upgrading to a new major version of anything that ain't brole, including operating systems,

Ok so I finally got it turned on and Ubuntu configured (the three dots to select more keyboard layouts was not visible for some reason, so I had to select a US layout and then add UK and delete US once it was up and running.

A couple more operational difficulties to note:

  1. The charge cable connects either USB port - these are both towards to top of the right hand side of the screen. For use in laptop mode you really don't want a wire dangling from the top of the side of the screen, for tablet mode it is ok. And also it would make more user sense if the ports were positioned one on each side of the screen so you could plug the charger in on either side depending what was more convenient at the moment. Since for tablet mode it matters less if the wire is connected at the top of the side or the bottom I would far rather see the two usb ports one on each side towards the bottom of the screen.
  2. The bezel at the side of the screen is two narrow to be able to pick up the tablet while the screen is live - you inevitably find your thumb has activated something - since most people have the dock along the left hand side this can be very annoying
  3. The pen doesn't work with the default onscreen keyboard - as soon as you approach the keyboard with the pen pointer it dismisses it. Fortunately after some digging I have found a solution for this - see below. This is a software issue, not StarLabs problem directly but it would be good if they shipped them with a working pen keyboard.
  4. Also a software or firmware issue - the touch screen remains active when the pen is in use - this makes it unusable in some circumstances as you want to rest your hand on the screen while using the pen. It ought to be simple to fix - conditionally disable touchscreen when pen is detected (as an option - because sometimes you might want both active) - but I've not found a solution yet. A few other people asking on t'internet with different laplets (do you see what I did there? Laptop/Tablet = Laplet)(or Tabtop I suppose). Is is certainly possible on Android as my paperwhite Boox tablet/sktchpad/kindle does it, and reportedly it is possible in Windows on the Windows Surface devices. We need an Linux solution.

So far I have got about halfway down installing my list of essential software - which has thrown up some quirks. 

One nice feature about Ubuntu 24.04 is that it includes native support for mouthing OneDrive drives and accessing them through Nautilus. This works fine but does mean that you have to be online to access the files, and they can be a little slow, and you can't symlink to them as they use a funny URI and you can access them in some applications (eg both Strawberry and Sanoyara music players will not access my music which is stored on OneDrive). So I will still be installing the OneDrive  sync client to have a local copy of some key files (and my entire music library thanks to the bigger SSD in this model).

See https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2024/04/set-up-onedrive-file-access-in-ubuntu for details of setting up OneDrive integration - and you will probably need the bug fix at the bottom of the page.

So finally here how to get the onscreen keyboard playing nicely with the pen:


You might find it easiest to install gnome-shell-integration and gnome-browser-connector in your browser first (also from extensions.gnome.org)

The layout is more useful than the default one as well, although I find the text on the keys a bit small and faint, and you can't position it on the screen by dragging it around which some of the others (which are not Gnome 46 compatible) will do 

In conclusion I'm afraid StarLabs have rather blown it with this one - largely the flaws with the detachable keyboard and design. If I had paid the current full price rather than the 9 month old pre-order price I would be pretty pissed off.  As it is I'll give it another week to see how I get along with it, I'll also be investigating ways of fixing the keyboard - possibly gluing an aluminium plate to the bottom of the keyboard and putting a proper hinge along the back to make the whole thing more robust and less like a cheap'n'nasty addon to a competent linux tablet. Maybe a bluetooth keyboard with a separate stand would work better... given that I needed to replace the StarLite II, I wish the StarLite IV had been still available.

Next post will be my personal software setup on it which includes a LAMP stack and some dev tools.


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