Modding A NuVision TM800W560L Tablet
SEPTEMBER 24, 2017
So a friend gave me a NuVision TN800W560L tablet running Windows 10. He had no use for it. I think after all my playing with it, I have no use for it too.
Honestly. I tried to use it, but it was a joke. If you don't want to hear about it, skip the "A Short Rant" part. I have another one coming about Windows and an Acer Spin.
I did an update on Thanksgiving 2020. If you haven't check out "Or Is It?" yet, you can see recent attempts and how to get Windows 10 back on the device. Anyways, on to one of my adventures…
A Short Rant
I know this device is old, but I don't think Google or Apple ever released a device that was so lacking and prone to being broken. By Microsoft and NuVision. That is why I do not like the device. Here is a list, some is Microsoft, some NuVision. Yes, even NuVision, they could do better in working around Microsoft's inadequacies.
Why does WiFi require uppercase alpha characters? Every other Linux, Android, Mac OS X or iOS device works with lower case.
Why does the on-screen keyboard consistently cover where I'm typing and not move what I'm viewing so I can see it. Yeah, some websites do that on Android and iOS, but in Microsoft's own apps?
Why does the device not recognize a keyboard and mouse if you plug it in after booting?
Why does the device start in 1080 resolution on a 8" screen. At least start with doubling the DPI so anyone without perfect vision can read things easily.
Why does a driver update break the touch screen when the device requires special hardware to get a keyboard/mouse connected? Wait, even without special hardware, touch is supposed to be the primary interaction. DO NOT BREAK IT!
Why does a driver update turn off the Hi-DPI settings? This might be some of Intel too. But as an end-user, who cares. The touch and screen resolution are broken!
Final bit about driver updates. Where do you go to uninstall them? How about Security & Updates -> Windows Update -> View update history -> Uninstall an update? Nope. How about Driver Updates? Nope. A bit of Googling (not Bing!) and try Device Manager? Where is it? Don't bother trying to find it. Good luck finding the right drivers. Well, I guess Recovery is the only place to go. Make sure you've charged it fully first!
And last but not least, why the incredibly poor battery life? After using it for less then 2 hours, I have to plug it in. This was true when I first got it, and it's worse now.
Enough said, Windows had to come off. Though sadly, (spoilers) you don’t always get what you want.
Knowing the little I do about OSes and stuff, I first wanted to see the state of “Secure Boot”. Secure Boot, what an amazingly stupid idea. It sounds good, but is it? In these type of choices, it’s most often a matter of what is important to you. So make informed decisions when you can. It seems to me that Microsoft takes every opportunity to take away your choices and force you to use and do things you might not otherwise want. The same can be said of other companies, but think about to what extent.
Okay, okay, rant-mode off… How do I check? Well, to summarize, its a pain. Microsoft has pushed a poor-excuse of a tablet OS on vendors who really don’t think too far in advance of working on the tablet. At least with ease and for people who aren’t just consumption payment machines. Sorry, ranting again….
This is probably the case for anyone who uses a x86 (non-arm) based tablet. You will most likely need a keyboard. Check the steps below, but for this NuVision tablet, I needed a USB OTG adapter, and (powered) USB hub and then the keyboard / mouse. BTW, in case you’re a newbie, bluetooth doesn’t work in the BIOS.
First, get into
the sad excuse of what Microsoft provides for recovery for a tablet. It’s deeply buried; I had to go to Settings -> Updates & Security -> Recovery -> Advanced Setup -> Restart Now.
Now of course the initial screens work with touch. I’m not “Troubleshooting”, but that is where I had to go. So it’s Troubleshooting -> Advanced Options -> UEFI Firmware Settings, which is another restart. And this finally puts you into the BIOS. Here is where you need the keyboard, because unlike Android, no nice volume keys and power for navigation. And the BIOS does not expect anyone to use screen expects touch, on a touch-based device? :-/
Once in the BIOS, go to Security -> Secure Boot menu -> Secure Boot -> make sure it’s set to [Disabled]. Mine actually was already. While you’re at it, might as well turn off quick boot to give you F2/ESC at the boot screen. So its easy to get back into the BIOS. Also enable boot from USB if not already set.
BTW, none of this is really touching UEFI. Just saying…
Now, About Android?
Now there are three versions of Android that are made for x86 (32-bit) or x86_64 processors. Well, maybe more, but three that I’ve found. The Intel Atom processor in the TM800W560L tablet is such a processor (64-Bit). The Android distros are:
PhoenixOS (I did this before Jide said they were no longer working in the consumer market)
I tried PhoenixOS first; and I did that simply because I’ve not seen it and it had a nice Windows Installer. Their screen shots also showed a bit of change in the UI (user interface) depending on the form factor. Since they mention a “OS Switch” feature to move between PhoenixOS UI and more traditional Android UI, I figured it was a good thing to check out.
What did I find out….? First thing after rebooting (they say reboot & choose PhoenixOS) was that it went straight to Windows 10. So back into the BIOS to change the boot order and put Phoenix OS first. No good; Windows Boot Manager was put first “auto magically”. Try and disable all but Phoenix OS? Same thing. Go to “Boot Override” and choose Phoenix OS? Well that started, but did it ever fully load? After detecting and finding it, I got just a blank screen for 15 minutes. So I went to play ultimate for a few hours, came back and found the same thing.
My next effort was to make a bootable USB. Not good for the long run as I want a full tablet, no keyboard/mouse. But just to see Phoenix OS. When I’ve tested Android-X86, I’ve “burned” the ISO on linux. That did not work here, but I can’t tell if it’s NuVision or PhoenixOS. I also used their tool to make a “U-disk” and I could manually do the boot override to start the process. But again, nothing after a few hours.
On to Remix OS I guess. So I removed PhoenixOS and downloaded Remix OS’s installer. It ran without issue, and asked me to reboot. This time I got a prompt for what OS to run; and it’s a good thing I had a keyboard because that was the only way I could select Remix OS. At first I got some errors (and should have jotted them down). I continued anyway, got another error and then the Android-x86 logo (the two groups partner now), an EFI error, then some firmware errors and finally formatting the data partition.
This took a while, let’s say ~10 minutes. Then some text scrolled by, but I couldn’t get it all down. And finally a blank screen for quite a while; it was more than 20 minutes, but I can’t say how long. I went to read off a real Android tablet and then go to bed.
I did unplug the hub and plug the tablet into a power adapter. So the screen was glowing (I assume for a good portion of the night). When I woke up …. it was still glowing. And after 8 hours, I don’t think it was worth waiting longer.
That means attempting to boot off of USB. And if that works, install directly and get rid of Windows 10. I actually don’t own a USB 3.0 flash drive. But I do own a nifty USB 3.0 to SATA cable and a powered USB hub. Sadly, the same thing. Wait forever and then nothing.
My last ditch effort for Android is Android-x86. I rebooted the tablet, selected the freshly made USB with Android-x86 as the boot override and into the install program without a glitch. I formatted the local “drive”; which came up as an sd-card (mmcblk0). Then did the install and rebooted without the USB mess hooked up. I got the boot screen, and even the message about the drive being okay. So I left it on the glowing blank screen for a while, and nothing. :-(
On the off chance it was a 32-bit vs. 64-bit thing I tried the 32-bit version of Android-x86. Again booting the USB and the installation process seemed to go off without a hitch. But the reboot left a blank screen for far too long.
The next thing to try was some boot options. I changed the boot parameters for the kernel to remove “quiet” and add “nomodeset”. That got me to the screen with big “android” logo that changes the shading. Time to let that run for while… overnight… and… Never gets past the logo screen. :-( I also tried the “xforcevesa”, but same deal.
Regular Ol’ Linux
I’m not usually one to give up easy; as you may have noticed. So now it’s trying to find the right Linux distro to use on a tablet. Normally I would Google around and search for things. But I remembered that Purism has been working on a 2-in-1 tablet. They use PureOS on their devices, but I am pretty sure they don’t support UEFI. I’ve read a few posts making me think they don’t.
A sorta linux is ChromeOS. I know it’s more of a laptop/desktop OS, but it does support touch, and I really love CloudReady on my Lenovo T410. Another download, burn and …. well the install never started up. Same blank glowing screen…
I’ve been loving Manjaro, so I tried the i3 install media; both the 32-bit and 64-bit media. I could see them in the BIOS, but selecting them in the boot override menu just flashed the screen and back to BIOS.
Another thought was back to 32-Bit vs. 64-Bit. The only place I’ve seen mention of 32-Bit EFI and 64-Bit processor is on Matt Gadient’s website. But I figured why not, if it works… I downloaded Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Elementary OS and Linux Mint. None seemed to boot.
Googling around a bit, there was the suggestion to use the ISO I wanted, but to use rufus in Windows. So, I’m sorta glad I swapped out the hard drive on that Lenovo T410 before installing CloudReady. And I’m sorta glad I did the free upgrade to Windows 10 before it went away (and came back and went away and, well, whatever). But alas, still just the flash of the BIOS screen when doing the boot override.
Perhaps More Research
At this point any normal person might have given up. I never liked being normal. :-) Time to look through the BIOS and learn some more information. Meaning, if I see something I don’t know what it is and how it works, then time to look it up. My first stop, purely on “instinct” was the “OS/BOM Configuration” options. At the top of configurable options was “ISP PCI Device Selection”, and choices were Disabled, ISP PCI Devce as B0D2F0 or ISP Devce as B0D3F0. The description said choose B0D3F0 for linux, but the D0D2F0 was selected? Was this my problem all along!?!?!?!?
Nope. I admit I may not be normal, but I’m going to try everything again. So I tried Android X86, regular i3 Manjaro, Kubuntu and Matt Gadient’s debian ISO. None of them worked with any of the three settings.
So more BIOS settings:
RPMB Provision = Disabled
Various graphics settings in North Bridge = I set these so graphics was at its max. I figured this might help with Android X86, but did not help any of the issues.
Security -> Secure Boot Mode = Standard; I know I’m stretching, especially since “Secure Boot” = “Disabled”. Still no help.
I really think the boot process in addition to the touch drivers on this device are so non-standard.
I’m surprised you made it this far. Did you actually like reading this? Well, I do know when to call it quites. I’m not such a low-level geek type to really get into kernel debugging, finding firmware blobs, etc. etc. So alas I’ve given up. Now the tough decision to throw the tablet away, put it in a drawer or try to put Windows back on it….?
Or Is It?
Over the 2020 Thanksgiving break I decided to give it another try. The summary is nothing but Windows panned out. But I did get Windows 10 reinstalled. Oh, and the battery life on the tablet is too short to actually make an updated recover USB. If that is not a nail in the idea of me liking Windows...
Anyways, on to what I surprisingly call a fun activity...
The laterst CloudReady (85.4.0) installed beautifully. I used it for a bit and most things were fine. Lack of screen rotation was no big deal to me. I changed the DPI because the screen is 1080 on 8". But after I did updates, it would not boot up anymore. The entries in UEFI disappeared. I've read that about oddball unsupported devices in Neverware's forums. And that's something I'd rather not deal with regularly.....
How about some other open-source mobile OSes? Well I like Android x86 and Plasma Mobile, at least on other devices. For this NuVision tablet, the latest Android X86 9 did not boot. Plasma Mobile worked off the USB. I could not get the install program running with the correct permissions. Which I could have worked around, but... After a bit the touch just stopped working. Neither issue is the NuVision tablet's fault. But again, not something I want to deal with.....
On to Linux distros ..... elementary OS also installed, updated, etc. pretty well. Touch worked pretty consistently. A minor issue was weird screen rotation; I could have fixed it after learning with Android X86. I would have loved using elementary OS on this device if not for the onscreen keyboard. The odd behavior and difficulty in getting others to work was, well, too much futzing. So, can't really use a tablet with no working on-screen keyboard. I tried other various Linux distros. The USB installer would not come up for most of them. Those that did were always a combination of the above issues. I.e. none of them were what I wanted (to spend my free time beyond this weekend).
Finally I went back to putting Windows 10 on it. I had to reset the BIOS to defaults, and enable Secure Boot. At least to get the generic Windows USB installer to work. Well, the 64-bit install never came up, as expected. The 32-bit installer started, completed and Windows 10 updated. But most of the drivers are not included. The WiFi did work, so I tried to find drivers; through "Optional Updates" or other drivers available for other models. Even attempting to extract them from the install.wim file on NuVision's Win10 file. That did not work.
So the thing that got it all working was this post. The steps are specific, and various issues arise if you don't do them. This may also be your only recovery, as the battery died each time I tried to use Window's "Create Recover USB". In case that site goes away, find the linked file and here are the basics:
Re-enable Secure Boot on the Nusivion tablet if you've turned it off.
Plug in the tablet to get a full charge.
Get an 8GB USB drive & format it FAT32.
Download & extract the full install compressed file.
Use xcopy *.* d:\ /e /h /f from inside the extracted folder (where d: is the USB drive).
Change to the \boot\ directory inside the extracted folder.
Use bootsect.exe /nt60 d: to make the USB bootable.
Rename the USB Drive to "Winpe". The article above says to edit the script. That may not consistently work because the code later changes the value of the "disk" variable based on some USB identification logic. And who knows what Microsoft will do with enumerating USB devices by the time you read this. ;-) The script will install on the first block device not named "Winpe", which is basically the eMMC.
Get your keyboard/mouse/usb drive setup, uh, setup & connected to the tablet with the OTG adapter.
Turn on the NuVision and hit DEL or ESC or F7 so that you can choose to boot from the USB (either in menu or BIOS).
Patiently wait through all the installation gyrations.
Get your reading specs, you will be asked for your "experience". I left OEM and rebooted.
Finally, you'll get the welcome screen. I still find it amazing that the whole install/setup/config/first-login process for Windows take soooooo long.
BTW, if you're like me, easily distracted, I'd charge the tablet before doing updates, etc.
Last tidbit is that I've read it can be hit or miss for the NuVision sites to host the OS file or drivers. In fact, their link for the drivers for this tablet does not work. So I've put the OS file and a file with the extracted drivers on Drive in case anyone needs it. I may try to extract the Touch Drivers and other drivers from the running machine, but I'm running out of time this weekend.