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Well, my employer uses two Microsoft Surface machines. One for development and another as showcase. Our administrator recently installed the first service pack on one of those and the whole thing went down crashing and burning. Oh, well... He's a Big Boy and will solve it. No worries.

It's just that he started to complain about it and I decided to tease him by suggesting to just install Linux on that system. Well, just for the fun of it, of course... It will probably freeze in Hell when we will ever switch to Linux since the CEO and share-holders are extremely Microsoft-minded.

However, now the funny remark started to haunt me... Has anyone tried to install Linux on a Microsoft Surface machine? Was it successful? Did it work as well as Surface? Any good or bad experiences?

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Go on, put an ubuntu live cd / usb in and boot from it to see what happens :-) – Col Aug 27 '09 at 13:42
If it was my system, I'd done that immediately. :-) But my Boss won't appreciate such initiatives on the company machine. I've considered buying one myself. If I save $1000 per month, I can buy one next year... – Wim ten Brink Aug 27 '09 at 13:58
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, but pointless!

I got Ubuntu on to one, but I could only get the screen to work as a standard mouse and not multi touch.

It is just a regular (but good) PC with drivers for the additional components. - everything "special" and "cool" about the surface is done through software.

Anyway, it will work, but would be one of the most expensive Linux "home" machines (e.g. non server) that you can buy!

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Still, it would be a very cool coffee table. :-) – Wim ten Brink Aug 27 '09 at 14:34
Well, if I had the money spare, I wouldn't say no! – William Hilsum Aug 27 '09 at 15:46

Although I have not looked into it that much, it does not look like putting Linux onto the Surface is possible. The hardware is too specialized and expensive, so there would be a complete lack of drivers for it.

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I think this is a rare case where Microsoft made the hardware as well or at least that it was designed for them, so Surface Linux drivers would be non-existent until it get's widerspread. – Ivo Flipse Aug 27 '09 at 13:50
Won't rate down, but it isn't true. see my post - The surface is a standard (high specification) computer with a high resolution screen and the multi touch surface. See this article for example -… . I personally installed Ubuntu on to it and with a bit of "hacking" I got the multi touch to work as standard touch. Surface is to Vista, what XP tablet edition to XP... Same basic thing with a bit of additional software to support new hardware. – William Hilsum Aug 27 '09 at 20:18

X does support multitouch, so input may work, but I dont know about the rest of the hardware.

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If you can get the multi-touch driver to work, you could run something like PyMT on it, which will run on Linux.

PyMT will give you a nice multi-touch user interface and there are quite a few apps created for it with a multi-touch interface.

Have a look at the demo videos here:

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Straight from their Surface site:

Microsoft Surface represents a new category of computing. With capabilities like direct interaction, multi-touch, multi-user, and object recognition, Microsoft Surface computing is a unique and cutting edge platform for application development.

The Microsoft Surface platform goes beyond the capabilities of its core operating system foundation running Windows Vista SP1, yet it keeps the development process simple. The Microsoft Surface SDK 1.0 SP1 provides all the controls a developer needs to create innovative experiences on Microsoft Surface. And with the new capabilities that come with Service Pack 1, application development is easier than ever with new WPF controls and API enhancements that give developers more control, flexibility, and efficiency in creating applications.

I think it would be saver for some experienced developer to mess with the Surface SDK than trying to make a Linux version out of this... Plus I don't expect Microsoft to simply let the Linux community copy-paste their technology. They invested quite a bit of money into developing the platform, so I reckon they want to get some of those investments back before opening up their tools (and rightly so).

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