Asus "Transformer" TF101

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Some time ago I bought an Asus TF101, together with its keyboard dock. It's a nice gadget: recent Android, updated often, fast, good screen, and the keyboard (which includes an additional battery) allows to use it like a laptop (mostly).

Of course, I had to modify it my way :)

The operating system

I installed the alternative image PRIME, that looks to me to be well supported, and has minimal changes w.r.t. the stock Asus one. It obviously provides root access.

The keyboard

It could not be one of my computers without a Dvorak keyboard. Searching the 'net it's easy to discover that the files that describe the physical keyboard layout are /system/usr/keychars/asusec.kcm and /system/usr/keylayout/asusec.kl. The format of these files is quite easy to understand, although I still have some questions. Sadly, not having the source code for Android 3, we are left to guess. My changes are simple enough.

Note

Mine is a UK model. It's possible that TF101 sold outside the UK have different keyboards; I'm pretty sure that the US one has one fewer key. Don't use my modifications without checking first!

Since the keys are of different sizes / shapes, I couldn't just move the keycaps around. So, I wrote a LaTeX file to print key labels, I printed it on adhesive labels (Avery L7165, 8 on an A4 sheet), I painted the sheet with transparent spray, I cut the key labels, and attached them on the keys. It works. (The "esc" key is below the "back" key, on the left of "1").

ConnectBot and the physical keyboard

Most Android applications have no problems with the physical keyboard, ma some get confused by complicated keys like "control" or "escape". In particular, ConnectBot completely ignores them. Since in a terminal emulator such keys are very useful, I looked around for a version that supported them. I found a couple of them on GitHub, but they were a bit behind w.r.t. to the main ConnectBot development, so I forked "my own" version. If you want, you can get it from GitHub.

Note

There's very little of mine: I took two branches other people had written, merged them, and updated the project files. If it works, it's thanks to the original authors; if it breaks, it's my fault.

The battery

The internal battery in the tablet lasts several hours of continuous use; with the light use I make of it, I only have to charge it every couple of days.

There was, though, a rather strange problem: the battery inside the dock was not charging. This became particularly obvious with the latest version of PRIME, which includes a charge indicator for both batteries. On the 'net you can find quite a few threads about charging problems, but I was very intrigued when reading a tear-down: there's a battery disconnection switch!

I opened the dock, flipped the switch, closed everything up again, and now the battery charges perfectly. No, I don't know if they sold it to me that way, or if it magically flipped itself.

The cable is short

The cable that Asus sells in the box, to connect the power supply to the tablet, is very short. A normal USB extension does not seem to work: you need a USB 3.0 extension, because some the 5 additional wires is used to carry the higher voltage needed to charge the battery.

DatesCreated: 2011-07-15 17:54:21 Last modification: 2011-07-16 21:32:46