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jollaDesk - a phone as a desktop computer/game?

asked 2014-10-19 15:20:56 +0200

vattuvarg gravatar image

updated 2017-03-24 20:47:20 +0200

A smartphone of today is pretty much a quite capable computer. The multiple cores and graphics coprocessors are fast. There is plenty of memory to run the software. The phone is small enough to carry in a pocket and the touchscreen (and the virtual keyboard) makes the system easy to use. And the networking is fast enough for file transfers too.

But compared to stationary computers there are some things to wish for. The display could be bigger. Typing is slower than with a hardware keyboard. And where do I save all those films and music?

Most smartphones are connected to a USB charger of some sort when arriving to work or coming back home.

Now imagine that USB cable connected to a powered USB hub. Connected to the same hub is a 2.5" external hard disc, a small keyboard and a display. This is what a JollaDesk might look like. The phone isn't connected to a computer. The phone is the computer.

Connecting the cable activates the bigger display and the phone display turns into a touchpad with notifications. If someone sends you a message you will know it instantly. A special gesture minimizes the touchpad app and you have full phone functionality, ready for a call.

The bigger display gets the image through the USB cable. The user experience is fluid and sharp. A computer display that supports HDMI is all what it takes, but it could be used with huge TV screens and projectors too.

The keyboard could be tiny. It could be cordless. It could be your old and loud mechanical one connected with a PS/2 adapter. The feel of a personal favourite is hard to replace.

The last piece of the puzzle is the external hard disc but explaining the good things about having lots of storage is pretty unnecessary...

It is all pretty easy to imagine, isn't it? Would it be hard to create?

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Actually what is missing to have this is: USB-OTG, Video out and a GUI to make it user friendly. All the other pieces are there i think. You can have something like an systemd-nspawn container with your favorite distro.

ApB ( 2014-10-19 15:34:14 +0200 )edit

from a hardware perspective the current jolla phone isnt capable of USB Host Mode for the external HDD or keyboard, and doesn't have the hardware for MHL.

r0kk3rz ( 2014-10-19 15:43:07 +0200 )edit

I think Intel(?) had a working prototype similar to this some 4-5 years ago. I can't remember the project name. Their idea had the phone dock into a case which had the electronics for the drive, the monitor etc.

Sanjay Mehta ( 2014-10-19 16:54:44 +0200 )edit

What's the point of an external HDD? Just pop in a 64GB µSD-card. For the rest, there's NAS. Keyboard and mouse simply use bluetooth. The only hardware really missing on the Jolla is a display interface. I'm not saying a USB interface wouldn't be nice, it's just not a hard requirement for this.

Other than that, the idea is far from new. I hope Jolla picks up on this, but they seem not very keen on it. They might be beaten to it by Ubuntu.

Fuzzillogic ( 2014-10-19 18:11:10 +0200 )edit

9 Answers

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answered 2014-10-20 13:41:37 +0200

dthierbach gravatar image

Nearly all the bits are there, the most work is to figure out the software side, first on the system level, and then you'd have to write GUIs to make it comfortable to use. A lot of work.

The chipset supports USB-OTG and it's enabled in the kernel, so the phone can act as USB host, but you probably have to fight that part of Sailfish OS that wants to use it as a client. But I'm not sure if the phone can power itself over USB if it itself acts as host.

There's already a keyboard ToH project, so integrating another USB keyboard should work somehow, or just use Bluetooth in the first place.

HDD or other USB storage devices are pretty standard in the kernel.

The hardest part would be the display. The bandwidth over USB 2.0 isn't that great, and I don't think MHL is supported. The chipset has an HDMI output, but the Jolla hardware doesn't make use of it. So you'd need a new hardware version of the current phone that has an HDMI connector.

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afaik the issue with USB-OTG is that the Jolla isnt set to output power over the USB port, which might not be such a big deal using a powered USB hub

r0kk3rz ( 2014-10-20 14:04:20 +0200 )edit

So a powered hub would enable usbOTG on the J1? ...if so then the nastOH (network attached storage tOH) would be possible.

vattuvarg ( 2014-10-20 14:47:42 +0200 )edit

@vattuvarg: I've never actually tried USB OTG in host mode. The chipset supports it, the kernel supports it, Sailfish OS doesn't support it. So the easiest way to find out is to attach a self-powered USB device using the correct cable, have a shell open and see what happens. Files in /sys/kernel/debug/msm_otg/ allow to check the OTG mode. A hub might cause additional complications. ToH is connected via an I2C bus to the J1, so I'm not sure what you mean by "NAS ToH". You can already use the J1 as NAS by exporting e.g. the SD card via WLAN using appropriate Linux software. Another SD card in ToH won't make sense.

dthierbach ( 2014-10-20 17:18:39 +0200 )edit

@dthierbach - The nastOH idea is just a strange idea bouncing around in my head.

As you say there is absolutely no need for it as the phone could probably do everything a NAS does without it. But when I buy a J2 then my J1 will be left on a shelf, more or less. If I could have a nice bracket-shaped OtherHalf to mount the phone in and then attach to a box where I have USB hard discs (and a big SD card too) then the result would be cleaner than just the cables. Most of the communication inside the box would of course be going through the USB2 socket but the i2c-bus could add some nice things. With a nastOH the phone would be the interface, showing important facts and allowing for easy administration. ...instead of just being left behind.

Yes I know it is a strange idea. But I didn't start the talk about NAS. My head just jumped on the same train. :)

vattuvarg ( 2014-10-20 17:39:25 +0200 )edit

Found the answer that describes the USB OTG problems. That's why I really don't like this Q&A forum for reference, a Wiki would be so much better.

dthierbach ( 2014-10-20 17:41:35 +0200 )edit

answered 2015-10-16 13:16:05 +0200

vattuvarg gravatar image

Finnish Solu machines seem to be visiting TJC occasionally. They get most of the ideas right, but only almost.

A good computer is self-sufficient. That cloud storage with your data probably gets sold to another company later on. ...or crippled by changes in the communication APIs.

The square format has been tried and rejected by most manufacturers.

But now Solu has given a good look at what a desktop phone like the jollaDesk might look like. Kiitos!

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Solu is pretty much pointless. With a bit of integration work and a video out you can do the same with a smartphone and on your personal cloud. Not on someone elses computer.

ApB ( 2015-10-16 13:23:14 +0200 )edit

They did say in the Kickstarter comments that: "SoluOS is cloud agnostic. You can keep your documents in whatever cloud you want to, even in your own private cloud."

So for me it doesn't sound that bad. I like the concept and also the monetizing concept. My wife immediately wanted to have one actually, because she saw the mind map picture and realized that that is how she would really like to have her stuff organized. She really hates folders and all various (not well synchronized) cloud storages that I have set up for us... Those work for me, but not for her. So, let's see how this one goes.

soloist ( 2015-10-16 15:30:33 +0200 )edit

Its not about storage. In essence with Solu you are using someone else's computer from a device they provide.

ApB ( 2015-10-16 15:42:32 +0200 )edit

Sure. It's not for everyone. That's what many applications and service are now days. Take for example Spotify, with which you are listening someone else's music. Or your mobile service provider. I also tend to trust Finland based "someone else's computers" more than US based.

soloist ( 2015-10-16 15:56:31 +0200 )edit

Moneymaking is more or less the same either in the US, Fin or Japan and Nicaragua. At the end of the day the only one you can trust is your self.

ApB ( 2015-10-16 16:06:33 +0200 )edit

answered 2017-08-05 10:39:11 +0200

vattuvarg gravatar image

Typing this on a Sony Xperia X destined to become a Sailfish OS device soon. It has support for miracast which could help the jollaDesk idea become a reality.

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The wireless connection would allow the keyboard and phone to be moved further away from the display. A larger screen could thus be used.

vattuvarg ( 2017-08-05 10:48:24 +0200 )edit

Sailfish X has replaced Jolla C as my main phone now so I come back to the JollaDesk concept once again.

vattuvarg ( 2017-10-19 19:22:29 +0200 )edit

answered 2019-01-25 10:44:27 +0200

jsommer gravatar image

My company is working on this use case with a compination of appropriate hardware and software customisation.

As some posts mentioned, there are some solutions for Android:

  • Sendio, that requires USB-OTG and additional drivers.
  • Miraxess, that required USB-C with a full stack implementation of the specification.

Hosting a guest OS like MaruOS could be a first step to support productivity. But the vision should be a seamingless integrated convergence user experience. Currently we are testing different hardware ans software solutions.

My company thinks about hosting a hackathon for the conversion use case in spring with a money price. I will post the time and location in this forum. You support is wellcome.

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Why not work to add a desktop to Sailfish OS instead of a separate OS? Ideally, a full screen app would run as now while a non-full-screen one would run in the desktop, which is turn full-screen. Whether full-screen is the built-in display or the external display would not matter from a software point of view.

I would love to see this, especially with devices like Gemini PDA and Cosmo Communicator. These can output HDMI signals already through an adapter cable. For devices like Xperia, probably some USB Display adapter could be used.

In theory XWayland could be used as basis and then the applications would run using the X compatibility layer. It would be nicer to have a Wayland based desktop, though. I doubt that XWayland could become a real practical solution.

(for XWayland under Sailfish OS se )

Dietmar ( 2019-01-25 19:30:28 +0200 )edit

@Dietmar I agree, a seaming less integrated convergence use case should be the final goal. Sailfish 3 includes hidden improvements, that will help us to go in this direction.

The suggestion of a parallel system like MaruOS is just an intermediate step, because the implementation of the full vision needs significant investment and and therefore a roadmap.

Thank you for your reference to Wayland. This is indeed an option. However it requires a revision of the apps for a custom build. If you like, we can have a video talk about your ideas.

jsommer ( 2019-01-26 12:38:22 +0200 )edit

answered 2017-03-24 20:35:24 +0200

vattuvarg gravatar image

Apple's idea of a laptop powered by a phone

The notion of using a phone to power a computer isn't new -- we've seen companies like HP and Motorola try, and ultimately fail, to make it a reality for years. But that's not stopping Apple from considering the idea. The USPTO issued a patent filing this morning detailing how an iPhone, or an iPad, could be used to power an ultraportable laptop, AppleInsider reports. As usual, the patent idea likely won't end up turning into full-fledged product (it was originally filed last September). But it gives us an idea of how Apple is looking at the future of mobile devices and ultraportables.

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Apple controls the hardware so the laptop version would be easy for them to create. A similar solution for any other OS needs to let go of the idea that there should be a slot for the phone. Connecting the units with cables makes more sense, imho. That way the size of the phone wouldn't matter for the functionality of the system.

vattuvarg ( 2017-03-24 20:40:42 +0200 )edit

answered 2017-03-25 10:05:09 +0200

shiro kitsune gravatar image

updated 2017-03-25 10:06:28 +0200

Good Morning!

Some of you may have heard of the Superbook by Sentio (formerly known as Andromium). This is imho exactly the idea some of us are probably looking for, at least on the hardware side. The disadvantage of working exclusively with Android 5.0 and above and the minimum hardware requirements (1.5GB RAM) are obviously the downside, but with the hardware available maybe some skilled hackers in the community are interested to take on this problem (I do not have the skills to do so and never done something like this before). With support for the Sony Open Devices Program we will have more powerful and more diverse mobiles available and as Sentio is a small startup maybe they are willing to cooperate with Jolla and the community if they are asked to help, even if not officially.

People with experience in hardware hacking: likelihood of being able to modify the superbook for working on Sailfish OS?

I wish everyone a nice and sunny Saturday

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answered 2017-03-27 12:49:16 +0200

djamigo gravatar image

Have a look at MaruOS..........

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Two operating system in one?

vattuvarg ( 2017-03-27 13:11:25 +0200 )edit

@vattuvarg ahah i imagine your big eyes on looking at this...
that was for me the same... "2 os!!!!!"
Wait a little bit, maybe comes a 3th one for bringing the last experience of webserver based system...
sorry djamigo, i don't laugh on you, but that's really a creative idea from the maruos people.
For me seriously, 2 os, means 2 parts to maintain. And each one has its inconvenient. not really double problems, but near of it... (If you understand what i mean...)
Android will be supported a long time (no problem), but the other one... Is a pure debian? or an adapted one? i'm scared about the solution...

cemoi71 ( 2017-03-28 00:59:39 +0200 )edit

@cemoi71 - The benefit of a tiny linux such as Sailfish OS is security. There's simply fewer lines of code which in turn hides less malicious stuff and is easier to clean up. Having two systems means that the worries double.

vattuvarg ( 2017-03-28 10:11:27 +0200 )edit

...and I'm not hoping for anything fancy, just a bigger display, a proper keyboard and better speakers. A "desktop light" or maybe a "jumbo phone".

A bit like a phablet is inbetween phone and tablet...

vattuvarg ( 2017-03-28 10:18:30 +0200 )edit


...Having two systems means that the worries double...


cemoi71 ( 2017-03-28 12:51:52 +0200 )edit

answered 2017-03-29 19:39:08 +0200

vattuvarg gravatar image

Samsung presented their version of the concept tonight.

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Docks make it useless.

ApB ( 2017-03-29 21:40:52 +0200 )edit

@ApB come on! give it a chance. with it round form, more aerodynamic it's optimal for making a flight.;-)

More seriously on the first, the handling of the os seems to be quite nice.
Otherwise, what's happened on the 2:47? seems to be the metro app from windows.
What does it means? will be sell with 2 os? well it is described virtualized with vmware, amazon 6 citrix...
didn't knew that amazon works on virtualization...

cemoi71 ( 2017-03-29 22:44:28 +0200 )edit

Funny that they (Samsung) picked a name so close to my own suggestion. Samsung Dex... :)

vattuvarg ( 2017-04-03 12:58:38 +0200 )edit


Samsung has announced it will soon become possible to run actual proper Linux on its Note8, Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones – and even Linux desktops.

vattuvarg ( 2017-10-19 19:24:06 +0200 )edit

It would be nice to have the opportunity to transform Samsung hardware with Sailfish OS.

vattuvarg ( 2017-10-19 19:26:23 +0200 )edit

answered 2019-01-24 11:56:03 +0200

TinLethax gravatar image

updated 2019-01-24 11:56:48 +0200

I think it's possible to use phone as the computer.We just need the REAL x86 cpu like intel atom and the specific made sailfish os for intel x86 .because most of program run on as least i386 architecture.Also wine port would be cool.

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Why the hell do you want a x86-compatible CPU ?!?

Most of the key desktop linux applications are opensource (see and can (and have actually been) recompiled for ARM platforms (see Armbian (the full Desktop not the Light) and Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi s for an extremely popular example).

The only apps relying on x86 would be a couple of proprietary closed-source things that cannot get recompiled and which haven't been ported to Linux yet. (And those might even be usable with usermode qemu - been there done that).

Wine works already on ARM Linux, for Windows RT .EXE compiled for ARM (and can be wrestled to work over usermode qemu).

DrYak ( 2019-01-24 12:40:04 +0200 )edit

intel x86 is about 40 years old now.The reason to use x86 architecture is to run the windows .exe like MS office 365 , IDA pro or Abelton live .These programs are (mostly) not oepnsource. No such a way to port.but qemu is quite interesting.I also had seen someone talking about Xwayland (If I'm not wrong).

TinLethax ( 2019-01-24 16:16:33 +0200 )edit

Typing on a Microsoft Lumia 950 I just like to mention that my phone (more than 3 years old) was able to do that from day one, even with the Microsoft Display Dock. There were several times I just connected the phone to my TV via HDMI, and it worked. (And it's a pity that Microsoft cancelled Windows 10 Mobile). But back to Sailfish: I also own a Xperia XA2 which I just flashed to Sailfish last week. Und Android it could be connected to my TV wireless. So there's no need for 486 CPU. What Sailfish OS really needs is a High End Device, at least with a good camera (and a good camera software)...

Cryx ( 2019-01-24 16:44:15 +0200 )edit

Just use x86 architecture to run the windows .exe (MS office 365 , IDA pro or Abelton live, etc) geometry dash

geoffrey ( 2019-01-25 04:31:57 +0200 )edit
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Asked: 2014-10-19 15:20:56 +0200

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Last updated: Jan 25