Transforming the ViewPad 10Pro into a usable tablet

Brad Bird started his ViewSonic ViewPad 10Pro tablet transformation process by purchasing accessories, installing a larger SSD hard disk, and upgrading to Android 2.2.

Last year, I was awarded a ViewSonic ViewPad 10Pro tablet where I work at Cistel Inc in Ottawa. The ViewPad 10Pro is very cool. It dual boots between Windows 7 32-bit and Android OS x86, version 1.6. However, I hadn't been using the tablet very much for a couple of reasons:

  • The tablet comes with a 30GB SSD drive, which is insufficient to really do anything with Windows 7. I can't even install SP1, because there isn't enough room to extract all of the files during the install process.
  • The apps available for the Android OS 1.6 are limited, mostly because there are more current versions of Android OS, and not all apps are being developed or maintained for the older OS versions. Fortunately, ViewSonic does provide a software update from Android 1.6 to Android 2.2.

Due to these limitations, I decided that it was time to get my geek on and transform my tablet! Please provide feedback if you have experience with the steps I outline below, because I don't have a ton of experience around Android OS and would love to make more use of it.

To begin, I'll go over the plan and part of the execution.

Here was my initial plan:

  1. Acquire portable and cool accessories suitable for tablet use
  2. Acquire a larger SSD hard disk
  3. Upgrade Android OS 2.2
  4. Image the hard disk (all at once)
  5. Upgrade HDD and restore image to the larger drive

I have further plans as well, which I'll share if I don't blow this thing up. So, let's get to it!

Acquire portable and cool accessories suitable for tablet use

Portable mouse and stylus

I purchased a USB mouse from a Microsoft store in Seattle, and I found a stylus on eBay (10 pack for $1).

Cool Bluetooth wireless flexible keyboard

Also on eBay, I found this nifty flexible keyboard from a vendor in Hong Kong, at a price of $26 (shipping included).

Cool case

This cool tablet sleeve/case on eBay was just over $30, shipped by a UK vendor.

Acquire a larger SSD hard disk

A visit to my local Computers Canada got me this 120GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD on sale for $50. So far, buying parts and accessories has been a cakewalk and easy on the budget!

Upgrade Android OS 2.2

As I mentioned above, Viewsonic provides a software update from Android 1.6 to Android 2.2. There are three downloads available. The first one is just a PDF file with instructions (and surprise, surprise  -- no known issues).

There are two parts to the upgrade: the ISO image and the tool to create the bootable upgrade media.

The ViewPad has two USB ports, so the upgrade must be done via a USB stick. I ran into issues creating the USB stick using the tool from a Windows 7 laptop with 64-bit Windows 7, so I created the bootable stick from the tablet itself after downloading the files.

You need to connect a keyboard and the USB stick to both USB ports to perform the upgrade. An F11 key press is required during startup to select the USB key as a boot device. The BIOS cannot be altered to simply have the tablet check if there is a USB device before the HDD (the option simply isn't there in this modified Phoenix BIOS).

I also ran into issues with the UNETBOOTIN tool. On the ViewSonic web site, you can download version 549, but this kept resulting in a "No boot media" error when I started my tablet from the flash drive. I did some research and found that UNETBOOTIN is a downloadable open source tool.

The current version of UNETBOOTIN is 575, so I downloaded it and ran through the same steps. This time, I got a different error -- "Operating System not found." I looked at the USB key to determine that it was formatted with an NTFS filesystem. I reformatted the USB key as FAT32 and then reran UNETBOOTIN to recreate the bootable USB key. It was a success!

I now have my tablet working fine, dual booting with Windows 7 and Android 2.2. Stay tuned for further details as I image the tablet and crack it open to perform some upgrades. I have other plans for later as well.

Have you transformed your tablet to make it faster, more powerful, and/or easier to use? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

By Brad Bird

Brad Bird is a lead technical consultant and MCT certified trainer based in Ottawa, ON. He works with large organizations, helping them architect, implement, configure, and customize System Center technologies, integrating them into their business pr...