Android for Surface RT - how difficult?

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Myriachan

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2013
117
174
What would be required to make Android for Surface RT? The exploit to get into kernel mode exists, so this is more about what is required to get Android running.

Surface RT has a Tegra3 with 2 GB RAM, but I don't know much more than that about the actual hardware. Does Android have drivers for such hardware already?

I'm more of a Windows person. I don't know Linux internals very well.
 
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netham45

Inactive Recognized Developer
Jun 24, 2009
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What would be required to make Android for Surface RT? The exploit to get into kernel mode exists, so this is more about what is required to get Android running.

Surface RT has a Tegra3 with 2 GB RAM, but I don't know much more than that about the actual hardware. Does Android have drivers for such hardware already?

I'm more of a Windows person. I don't know Linux internals very well.

The biggest challenge would be loading Linux and getting it not to panic immediately.

Other than that, there are tegra drivers available, but I seem to recall that the OEMs customize certain aspects, such as memory mappings, that we'd either have to reverse engineer from Windows or just straight up guess on.
 

Myriachan

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2013
117
174
The biggest challenge would be loading Linux and getting it not to panic immediately.

Other than that, there are tegra drivers available, but I seem to recall that the OEMs customize certain aspects, such as memory mappings, that we'd either have to reverse engineer from Windows or just straight up guess on.

I think another hard part would be implementing some sort of way to capture the output of Linux's console once the NT kernel is gone.

I don't think that getting the memory mappings would actually be too difficult, if we know the devices.
 

SixSixSevenSeven

Senior Member
Dec 26, 2012
1,617
317
What would be required to make Android for Surface RT? The exploit to get into kernel mode exists, so this is more about what is required to get Android running.

Surface RT has a Tegra3 with 2 GB RAM, but I don't know much more than that about the actual hardware. Does Android have drivers for such hardware already?

I'm more of a Windows person. I don't know Linux internals very well.

NVidia have a full linux for tegra project. They like OEMs to keep the devices similar to an extent I think. You can buy tegra dev boards as a consumer (although they have ridiculous prices).

Much of the surface hardware interfaces via i2c as per the microsoft windows 8 hardware guidelines. UART usage is not allowed so much in Windows 8 for internal devices but the tegra does have quite a few UARTS and I presume bare minimum 1 of them is accessible externally, question is how or where. Quite a few methods have been used on phones for adding external serial access, but who knows where it would be on the RT, would take some very intimate PCB tracing to work out where the hell it is if it is there. Common ones I have seen have been a specific resistor value used on the sense line for a USB-OTG adaptor to then trigger a pinmux to swap USB D+ and D- for a serial Tx and Rx, any other value would then trigger the USB host function as you would expect such a cable to do. Same has been done on the nexus 4 between the microphone and ground pins on the audio jack. iPhones and I think the galaxy tabs have them in their regular plug (well, all iOS devices with a 30 pin connector rather than lightning, galaxy tabs also have their own large pin count connector instead of a microUSB).
The RT, well the external keyboard connector is 6 pins. Keyboard, mouse and accelerometer all interface via the i2c bus which is 2 pins (SDA, SCL), all comms need a ground and a VCC connection of some sort is required. thats 4 pins accounted for. For some reason though 1 of the pins isn't connected within the tablet itself, so there are only actually 5 pins. Could the 5th be a sense line?



Android on RT, well, android is linux kernel based. So start with linux on RT and your probably most of the way there. Once your that far you might aswell get a "regular" linux distro on there, if you had full hardware support and were to run lets say ubuntu (for simplicities sake) you probably have a device far more useful than Windows RT now that you are free of the RT limitations

Oh, android kernel sources for several tegra devices are available too I think.





But I am guessing the biggest obstacle is getting the RT to even attempt to boot a linux kernel.

---------- Post added at 11:17 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:28 PM ----------

Oh, anyone really interested in whats under the hood of that chip: https://developer.nvidia.com/tegra-3-technical-reference-manual

Display might cause a slight issue. Tegra has both DSI and LDVS display support. Which one is the Surface using is unknown. If I had to hazard a guess, I would wager the surface uses DSI. Mostly because it has an HDMI output, the tegra does not support HDMI output natively, however converting a set of LDVS signals to HDMI (and vice versa) are relatively straight forward compared to DSI. You can get DSI screens in the RT's size, so I would guess they use DSI for the screen and LDVS with an adaptor for the HDMI, or if someone was testing the display output of the RT, you could just presume its LDVS for instance and simply connect the RT to a display as it boots linux and see whether the internal or external displays come on first I guess, or device manager in windows might shed some light (or it might not).

There is PCIe in there, wouldnt surprise me if they use it for networking. I dont see anything else suited to the task particularly (outside of special use cases, SPI is often used for an arduino for example, but at the same time it isnt streaming youtube in 1080p).
 

lambstone

Senior Member
Mar 27, 2008
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282
Huawei P20 Pro
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The issue here is there is too few devs on xda working on the RT. This is going to stay until more people get RT devices. Look at the HP Touchpad, the dev community was stagnant until the fire sales. After the fire sales, people started ports of android and now afaik, there are fully working ports.

I believe a similar thing must occur for the Surface RT, perhaps clearing stock at $300-$350 with keyboard. Get more people onboard and some serious dev work will begin. MS won't have fire sales, they are not going to close down the RT division anytime soon so chances are, it'll just be some sale to clear old stock.
 

eungholee2

Senior Member
Apr 9, 2011
70
2
Actually they are having a sale right now. In korea atleast. 310,000krw (approx US$277) for a 32gb surface and touch cover..

Sent from my MB860 using xda app-developers app
 

ScRePt

Member
Dec 24, 2009
36
3
Athens
This may sound dumb but, wouldn't it be simpler to drop linux from android and run android natively on windows? Just like normal software in fullscreen.
After all, android is a shell ontop of an OS.

These guys did it on x86 (Surface Pro): http://windroy.com/
 

SixSixSevenSeven

Senior Member
Dec 26, 2012
1,617
317
This may sound dumb but, wouldn't it be simpler to drop linux from android and run android natively on windows? Just like normal software in fullscreen.
After all, android is a shell ontop of an OS.

These guys did it on x86 (Surface Pro): http://windroy.com/

They are not first to do so. Bluestacks and JarOfBeans.

Android mostly consists of the dalvik virtual machine and a few libraries, its a complex project though and it does rely heavily on linux capabilities, I think Bluestacks uses cygwin extensively, which isnt available for RT and is very complex itself.

Its actually incredibly difficult to do what you propose. It might actually be simpler to get the linux kernel booting, besides, the linux kernel on an RT device would be more useful in the long term as it would open the door to running Ubuntu or something on the device.
 

ScRePt

Member
Dec 24, 2009
36
3
Athens
I referred windroy because I am quite amazed of it's speed.
I thought they just wrapped the linux calls to call the winapi and thus it seemed simpler than porting a whole OS
 

SixSixSevenSeven

Senior Member
Dec 26, 2012
1,617
317
@ threadstarter:
just buy a nexus tablet if you are in android THAT much.

Not sure if you realise who the thread starter was. One of the people who works on jailbreaking the RT and porting applications in the first place, not some random noob saying "herpa I want android derpa".

Its almost unwritten law that when a new device comes out, someone needs to get linux booting on it. Someone has even booted linux on an 8bit AVR microcontroller (AtMega328 specifically I think, although technically they cheated by wiring an actual RAM DIMM module to it and an SD card and then hand writing an ARM emulator which then loaded a linux for ARM port up, took a few hours to boot actually :p). Chumbys, DVD set top boxes, phones, watches, anything including the nexus tablet actually https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Nexus7/Installation. NEEDS LINUX.




Anyway. If you could boot linux on it then an RT tablet then to many people it would become instantly more usable, its actually the sort of thing that would make me interested in using my 10% off voucher for one.
 

brad1825

Senior Member
May 6, 2008
65
1
The issue here is there is too few devs on xda working on the RT. This is going to stay until more people get RT devices. Look at the HP Touchpad, the dev community was stagnant until the fire sales. After the fire sales, people started ports of android and now afaik, there are fully working ports.

I believe a similar thing must occur for the Surface RT, perhaps clearing stock at $300-$350 with keyboard. Get more people onboard and some serious dev work will begin. MS won't have fire sales, they are not going to close down the RT division anytime soon so chances are, it'll just be some sale to clear old stock.

Well, Microsoft just sold 10,000 RT devices on their "manufacturer_certified" eBay account at firesale prices.
about 7,500 Surface RT 32GB with touch cover sold for $199.
and 2,500 Surface RT 64GB sold at $199

I picked up one at this price, obviously a lot of others did as well.
 

lambstone

Senior Member
Mar 27, 2008
1,679
282
Huawei P20 Pro
Redmi K20 Pro
Well, Microsoft just sold 10,000 RT devices on their "manufacturer_certified" eBay account at firesale prices.
about 7,500 Surface RT 32GB with touch cover sold for $199.
and 2,500 Surface RT 64GB sold at $199

I picked up one at this price, obviously a lot of others did as well.

Hm. Any link to show where you got the figures?

If they indeed sold 10k RT devices, this could bring a boost to the RT dev environment.
 

Rakeesh_j

Senior Member
Jan 13, 2010
526
88
This thing is practically doing a touchpad style firesale for black friday. The hardware is nice for the $200 price point, but I won't bother getting one unless there's a decent chance of an Android port (RT is useless.)

Any work towards that end since this thread died off?
 

ph87

Senior Member
Apr 30, 2012
217
99
This thing is practically doing a touchpad style firesale for black friday. The hardware is nice for the $200 price point, but I won't bother getting one unless there's a decent chance of an Android port (RT is useless.)

Any work towards that end since this thread died off?

Sorry for that, but in my opinion Android on a tablet is useless...! Except of the case you want many useless apps and games on your tablet...;)
On RT you have much more opportunities e.g. full USB support full working Office and much more!!!

Gesendet von meinem GT-I9100
 

MisterKrispy

Senior Member
Jul 16, 2009
181
7
The issue here is there is too few devs on xda working on the RT. This is going to stay until more people get RT devices. Look at the HP Touchpad, the dev community was stagnant until the fire sales. After the fire sales, people started ports of android and now afaik, there are fully working ports.

I believe a similar thing must occur for the Surface RT, perhaps clearing stock at $300-$350 with keyboard. Get more people onboard and some serious dev work will begin. MS won't have fire sales, they are not going to close down the RT division anytime soon so chances are, it'll just be some sale to clear old stock.

Fire sales have begun! Hoping to pick mine up on Black Friday!

http://www.microcenter.com/product/412706/Surface_RT_32GB_with_Black_Touch_Cover
 

coldbloc

Senior Member
Nov 25, 2013
60
8
MS won't have fire sales, they are not going to close down the RT division anytime soon so chances are, it'll just be some sale to clear old stock.

Don't be so sure about that.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/26/microsoft-kill-windows-rt-larson-green

http://www.geek.com/microsoft/windo...according-to-microsofts-devices-lead-1578243/


$179.99 seems about right for standing out in the cold.

The issue here is there is too few devs on xda working on the RT.

Not for long.
 
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  • 7
    Hi Everyone,
    I did a little thread cleaning. Please remember to follow xda rule 2.3: Flaming / Lack of respect: XDA is about sharing which does not involve virtual yelling (flaming) or rudeness. Flaming or posting with a lack of respect is not acceptable. Treat new members the way you would like to have been treated when you were a new member. When dealing with any member, provide them with guidance, advice and instruction when you can, showing respect and courtesy. Never post in a demanding, argumentative, disrespectful or self-righteous manner.

    Thanks!
    6
    @ threadstarter:
    just buy a nexus tablet if you are in android THAT much.

    Not sure if you realise who the thread starter was. One of the people who works on jailbreaking the RT and porting applications in the first place, not some random noob saying "herpa I want android derpa".

    Its almost unwritten law that when a new device comes out, someone needs to get linux booting on it. Someone has even booted linux on an 8bit AVR microcontroller (AtMega328 specifically I think, although technically they cheated by wiring an actual RAM DIMM module to it and an SD card and then hand writing an ARM emulator which then loaded a linux for ARM port up, took a few hours to boot actually :p). Chumbys, DVD set top boxes, phones, watches, anything including the nexus tablet actually https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Nexus7/Installation. NEEDS LINUX.




    Anyway. If you could boot linux on it then an RT tablet then to many people it would become instantly more usable, its actually the sort of thing that would make me interested in using my 10% off voucher for one.
    4
    They arent haswell powered....

    Nor are they in the least bit on topic.
    3
    my surface is perfect, no hacking needed. does 99% of wat a tablet should do. perfectly

    Good for you, you really needed to post that? This thread is here for those where the tablet does not do what it should do for some users...
    2
    What would be required to make Android for Surface RT? The exploit to get into kernel mode exists, so this is more about what is required to get Android running.

    Surface RT has a Tegra3 with 2 GB RAM, but I don't know much more than that about the actual hardware. Does Android have drivers for such hardware already?

    I'm more of a Windows person. I don't know Linux internals very well.