Reviving my Asus Transformer TF700T with the KatKiss ROM

Buying the TF700T had been a mistake. It was ahead of its time and not powerful enough for the tablet it wanted to be. I hadn’t given myself enough time to try it out during the return period, so I was stuck with it. I tried reflashing it with other ROMs like CROMBi-kk, but the lack of responsiveness still drove me crazy. I put the tablet in our old electronics bin and moved on. It survived a number of e-recycling purges through the years partly because it looked in such good condition that it would be a shame to throw away, and partly because it was too frustrating a machine to inflict on anyone else.

Now we find ourselves with a toddler who wants to type. W- fixed up his old X220 tablet PC to boot to console mode with 640×480 resolution so that the text is easy to see, but it’s heavy and has poor battery life. A- declared the Sony Vaio U1 to be too small for her, so we dusted off the TF700T and W- found the charger. It was still frustratingly slow. We want computing to be pleasant. I didn’t want to give up hope, though, especially since I’d found surprisingly recent Reddit threads about people using the TF700T.

Formatting the tablet took longer than I thought it would, but fortunately the forum posts reassured me that I didn’t mess it up. After that, I reflashed it to KatKiss Nougatella following the instructions for reflashing the TF700, it actually became somewhat usable. I installed a text editor and an SSH client, docked it into the keyboard, and let A- play.

A-‘s okay with using the TF700, although she misses using F1 to bring up the help screen in Vim. (W-‘s influence! Maybe I can sneak in some Emacs if I remap Emacs’ F1 to bring up something like view-hello-file…) We’re still leaning towards the X220 since it’s more configurable, but the TF700 can be good for guided exploration too.

We don’t care about making sure A- learns how to type so early, and she’s got plenty of time to do other non-computer things. But sometimes she sees W- working on his laptop and she wants to do it too, so she might as well do something useful. I kinda like how her interface is pretty basic. No whizbang animations enticing her to play, just the feedback of seeing text appear on the screen as she presses buttons. She can toggle Caps Lock to make uppercase and lowercase letters, and she knows how to make “?” by pressing Shift with another key. She can spell her name if we tell her which letters to look for. If she happens to type 1 and 0 in the process of banging on the keyboard, she reads it out as “ten.” We’ll let her explore when that’s what she’s curious about, and we’ll also draw her away from it with lots of other activities and by keeping it out of sight as needed.

We have another under-utilized Android tablet. The TF700T’s special because it has a docking keyboard and therefore passes A-‘s “Is this a laptop?” test, while the tablet + Bluetooth keyboard combination does not. I wonder what we’ll end up doing with it. Who knows, if the battery life isn’t dismal, I might even end up using it for writing once A- is old enough for drop-off classes.

Hooray for people working on making old tech more usable!