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How To Install KDE Plasma Active On Nexus 7

KDE, as I always believe, is ahead of it’s time. It’s ready for every form factor – from desktop (without having to make any compromises) to tablets and smatphones.

Some KDE developers have succeeded in running KDE Plasma Active on Google’s extremely popular Nexus 7 device. I installed it on my Nexus 7 and found it extremely fast, responsive and promising. There is a very nice guide on Mer Wiki, but I had to struggle to gather some pieces together to get it to work, so I decided to write a quick guide which will help you in unlocking your Nexus 7, installing Plasma Active and going back to Android if you want. There are instructions on how to dual boot as well, but I have not tried it yet. If I do a dual boot I will update this article.

This guide is for 16 GB Nexus 7 (wifi model) and please note that this may brick your Nexus 7; it will surely void your warranty, so try it if you are willing to risk that.

Note: Please remove every other USB-connected storage device before using this use.

Download the latest moslo-nexus7 and plasma-active-nexus7-testing-mer-latest images from this site and extract the moslo-nexus7 in a directory.

You need will fastboot on your system, which is available in official repos of privacy respecting distributions such as openSUSE, Kubuntu, Arch Linux, etc. In order to install Plasma Active you will have to unlock your Nexus 7. Connect your tablet to the PC and put it in the fastboot mode (power it off, and then power again by holding the power and volume down button, this will boot your tablet in the fastboot mode).

Check if the PC detects your tablet by running this command:

$ sudo fastboot devices

If the tablet is detected, you should get something like this

1234567891234567        fastboot

Now run this command to unlock it:

$ sudo fastboot oem unlock

It will open a prompt on the tablet asking if you want to unlock it (remember that unlocking will void the warantee). Use the volume and power button to select Yes.

Reboot the bootloader by running this command:

$ sudo fastboot reboot-bootloader

Your tablet is unlocked.

Install KDE Plasma Active
Keep the tablet connected in the fastboot mode and then run these two commands:

$ sudo fastboot erase boot
$ sudo fastboot erase userdata

Now you need to flash your device to MOSLO

$ sudo fastboot -c "ro console=tty1 rootwait rootfstype=ext4" flash:raw boot path_to_/moslo-nexus7/zImage-moslo /path_to_/moslo-nexus7/initrd-moslo

Now you need to reboot your device. Keep the device plugged in to your PC and either hit the power button or run this command:

$ sudo fastboot reboot

Your device will reboot and boot into MOSLO. Check the mount point so you can proceed with the next step (it should be sdX). Be very careful at this stage as you might format the wrong device and lose data.

Run the following commands to format the entire file system of Nexus 7 to ext4:

$ mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdX

It will ask if you want to format the entire drive, select yes.

Now mount the device:

$ mount /dev/sdX /mnt/
$ cd /mnt/

Extract the mer images to your Nexus 7 by running this command

$ tar xvf /path_to_/plasma-active-nexus7-testing-mer-latest-2013-01-07.tar.bz
$ sync
$ cd -
$ umount /mnt

Once done unplug your device and it should automatically reboot into MOSLO and then into Plasma Active.

Here is a video of KDE Plasma Active running on Nexus 7


If you face any issues and not boot into Plasma (as I did not) put your device in fast boot and run this command:

$ sudo fastboot -c "root=/dev/mmcblk0p9 ro console=tty1 rootwait rootfstype=ext4" flash:raw boot path_to_/moslo-nexus7/zImage-moslo

[9 is for wifi tablet]

Now reboot your Nexus 7 and you should be booting into Plasma Active.

How to update system
You can easily update your system by becoming root:

$ su

(password is mer)

And then run zypper to do what ever you want to do. You can install applications available in the repos by running zypper install <application name>

How to go back to Android?
Download the latest Nexus 7 images form this page and then extract the images by running this command:

$ tar zxvf nakasi-jop40d-factory-6ac58a1a.tgz

Connect your Nexus 7 to the PC and boot into the Fastboot more (shutdown and then the power+volume down button). Check if the device is connected

$ sudo fastboot devices

Now cd to the folder where you extracted Nexus 7 images which should be

$ cd nakasi-jop40d/

And now run this command to flash Android on the tablet:

$ sudo ./flash-all.sh

Once the process is finished and you return to bast, reboot the system.

If you want you can lock the device by running this command:

$ sudo fastboot oem lock

First impression of KDE Plasma Active

I have used Ubuntu on this tablet and despite the hype, I found Unity to be far from ready for the touch-based interface. On the contrary KDE Plasma Active is meant for touch-based devices and it performs really well on Nexus 7. It’s actually faster and more responsive than Ubuntu Unity. Pinch to zoon, animation and entire UI is quite intuitive and impressive. While I never used Ubuntu on this tablet, I have kept KDE Plasma Active as I see a lot of potential here.

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Not for prime time
I must admit that these are not final images and it’s not yet ready for ‘prime time’. It is going through heavy development so things may not work as expected. There are some rough edges. But I am aware that the developers are already working on ironging out those wrinkles and add more features to it. I am more interested in KDE Plasma Active than Ubuntu Tablet, because this one is community driven project and you can make it better. That’s where you come in picture. If you like KDE and own a Nexus 7 tablet, you should try it out and send feedback to developers. You can follow the development and help developers by connecting with them through mailing list or IRC channel (#plasma); you can also join the Plasma Active Google+ community.

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.


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