Welcome, in this blog post we’re going to set Bodhi Linux up on a touchscreen device. Since the last post covered touchscreen calibration, I thought I would go one step beyond that by choosing and configuring a distribution to make the touchscreen easy to use (on-screen keyboard, finger scrolling, etc). This post won’t be an exhaustive run through of everything that you can do with Bodhi on a touchscreen system, but my hope is to give you a good start. Please feel free to talk about your own customizations and ways of doing things in the comment section. We’ll be focusing on desktop touchscreens and Intel based tablets here, but Bodhi also has an ARM version that’s currently in alpha. The ARM version of Bodhi will officially support Archos Gen 8 tablets initially, and then expand support out from there. I’m using Bodhi because it has a nice Enlightenment Tablet profile that I think makes using a touchscreen system fairly natural and intuitive. You of course could also use another distro like Ubuntu (Unity) or Fedora (Gnome Shell) with your touchscreen but, as I mentioned, I’m partial to Bodhi for this use.
For this post I installed Bodhi 1.2.0 (i386) and used
xinput-calibrator as the touchscreen calibration utility. I wrote a Tech Tip on
xinput-calibrator last month that you can find here. If your touchscreen doesn’t work correctly out of the box, I would suggest following the instructions in that blog post before moving on. If you’re new to Bodhi Linux, you might want to have a look at their wiki. I’ve also found Lead Bodhi Developer Jeff Hoogland’s blog to be very informative, especially when I was setting Bodhi up for this post. Jeff and the other users on the Bodhi forum are very nice and helpful if you want to ask questions too.
My test machine was an Intel based Lenovo T60 laptop with an attached Elo Touchsystems 1515L 15″ Desktop Touchmonitor. Even if you’re working with Bodhi Linux on an ARM device though, you’ll still be able to take a lot of tips away from this post.
I put a standard installation of Bodhi on the Lenovo T60 by simply following the on-screen instructions. Once I had it installed, I booted the system and ended up at the initial Profile selection screen.
The Bodhi Linux Profile Selection Screen
Since Bodhi uses Enlightenment for it’s desktop manager, this profile selection gives you an easy way to customize the Enlightenment UI for the way you’ll use it. In this case we’ll be interacting with Bodhi via a touchscreen, so we want to choose the Tablet profile. The next screen is theme selection, and for our purposes it doesn’t matter which theme you choose.
Once you’ve chosen a theme you should be presented with the Bodhi tablet desktop. The first thing that I notice on my machine is that the Y-axis of the touchscreen is inverted. When I touch the bottom of the screen the cursor jumps to the top, and vice versa. In order to fix that we need to get the machine on a network so that we can download and install the screen calibration utility. Bodhi’s network manager applet is easy to find on the right hand side of the taskbar. After clicking on that and setting up my local wireless network, I’m ready to download and install my preferred screen calibration utility – xinput-calibrator. As I mentioned, I wrote a blog post about
xinput-calibrator last month.
Now we can start on the customizations that will make our touchscreen system easier to use. The first thing that I did was install Firefox. If you’re running on a lower power device you might want to stick with Midori, which is Bodhi’s default browser. If you use Firefox, there’s a nice add-on called Grab and Drag that allows you to do drag and momentum scrolling. As you’ll see the first time you run it, Grab and Drag has quite a few settings and I think it’s worth the time to look through them. One other thing that I like to do with Firefox on a touchscreen device is hide the menu bar, but that’s just my personal preference.
If you’re going to run Midori, you’re not out of luck on touch and drag scrolling. You can add the environment variable declaration
export MIDORI_TOUCHSCREEN=1 somewhere like
~/.profile to enable touch scrolling. The drawback is that touch scrolling in Midori is not all that easy to use because it doesn’t distinguish between a touch to scroll, and a touch to drag an image or select text. I’ve also found that setting the MIDORI_TOUCHSCREEN variable on Bodhi 1.2.0 can be a little finicky, so if all else fails you can prepend
MIDORI_TOUCHSCREEN=1 to the command in the
Exec line of Midori’s .desktop file. In version 1.2.0, a search for
midori.desktop finds this file.
Xournal is an application that allows you to write notes and sketch directly on the touchscreen. If you want to take notes on your touchscreen device, this is an application that you’ll want to check out. If you want to see Xournal in action, you can watch the videos below that have sections showing Jeff Hoogland using Xournal and Bodhi’s Tablet profile. In the videos you’ll see that Jeff uses his finger which worked okay for me, but to get nicer looking notes on the 1515L I had to switch to a stylus. If you want to install Xournal, just look for references to the
xournal package in your package manager or download the latest version from the Xournal website.
Another customization that I make is to set the file manager up to respond to single clicks. Bodhi 1.2.0 uses PCManFM 0.9.9 as its default file manager, so to do this open it and click Edit -> Preferences in the menu. On the General tab make sure that the Open files with single click box is checked. Alternatively, you can use the less complete but more touch friendly EFM (Enlightenment File Manager). To use EFM, you’ll need to load the EFM (Starter) module under Modules -> Files. Once you’ve loaded the module, you can launch it by touching the Bodhi menu on the left hand side of the taskbar and then Files -> Home. The first time you use EFM you’ll need to add the navigation controls by right clicking on the toolbar, clicking toolbar -> Set Toolbar Contents, and then clicking on EFM Navigation followed by a click of the Add Gadget button. Please keep in mind that EFM is a work in progress, so it’s not feature-complete.
The Enlightenment File Manager (EFM)
I’ve got PDF copies of two of the Linux magazines I normally read, so another addition I make is to install Acrobat Reader or an open source PDF reader. It’s best if you choose a reader with drag to scroll capability like Adobe Reader. If you do use Adobe Reader, make sure that you have the Hand tool selected and use a continuous page view for the easiest scrolling.
If you’re going to view images on your touchscreen system, you may want to install Ephoto which is a simple image viewer for Enlightenment. On a Bodhi/Ubuntu/Debian based system a search for the
ephoto package should find what you need to install.
The Ephoto Image Viewer For Enlightenment
Below are a few tips for when you’re using your newly set up touchscreen system. So that you can see what’s possible when running Bodhi’s Tablet profile, I’ve included the two embedded videos below from Jeff Hoogland.
- There is an applications menu button on the right side of the quick launch bar (bottom of the screen). Clicking this button will bring up a set of Applications along with Enlightenment Widgets, and Bodhi 1.2.0 seems to have a placeholder for a Config subset. There is also a more traditional applications menu button on the left end of the taskbar.
- You can touch and hold down on an icon (launcher) in the applications menu until it lets you drag it. You can then drag the launcher to the desktop or the quick launch bar.
- If you touch and hold the desktop, it’s icons and the icons in the quick launch bar will start to swing and will have red X’s beside them. If you click on one of the red X’s you’ll remove that launcher. Click on the big red X in the lower right-hand corner of the screen to exit this mode.
- To change to another workspace, simply drag your finger from right to left across the screen. There is a set of dots just above the quick launch bar that shows you which workspace you’re in. Each of the workspace desktops can be customized with their own set of icons, but the taskbar and quick launch bar stay the same.
- You can touch the Scale windows button on the left of the task bar to get a composited window list. Once you have this list, you can close windows simply by touching and dragging them off the screen.
The Scale Windows Button On The Tablet Profile Taskbar
Bodhi Linux Tablet Usage Videos
Jeff Hoogland Showing Bodhi Linux On A Dell Duo
Jeff Hoogland Demonstrating Bodhi Linux On An ARM Device
Below is a list of things that might cause you some trouble and/or confusion.
- In my experience when the GUI asked for an administrator password, I couldn’t enter it because the dialog was modal and didn’t allow me to get to the on-screen keyboard button. A good example of this happens when I try to launch the Synaptic Package Manager.
- If you have trouble closing a window with the Bodhi close button (far right side of the taskbar), try touching the window first to make sure it’s in focus.
- The on-screen keyboard is not context sensitive and does not do auto-completion. I wasn’t personally bothered by this, but some avid users of other tablet and smartphone platforms might be.
- Support for screen rotation (from portrait to landscape) will be hit and miss, and depends almost exclusively on community support. Unfortunately, many devices have closed specs so reverse engineering becomes the only solution.
That concludes this quick Project. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Before signing off, I’d like to thank Jeff Hoogland for being so helpful in answering my questions while I was writing this post. A great community has gathered around Bodhi, and I’m looking forward to see where Jeff and his team take the distro in the future. If you haven’t tried Bodhi yet, I highly encourage you to head over to their website and have a look. Also, have a look at innovationsts.com for other projects, tips, how-tos, and service offerings available from Innovations Technology Solutions. Thanks for reading.