Friday, 30 January 2015

Jolla Tablet microSD support - What really happened?

microSD, SDHC, SDXC, FAT32, exFAT, ext4, What?

A mess around Jolla Tablet's microSD support is a sum of mistakes, expectations, disagreements, misunderstandings and the sound of the Jolla community.

Let's go through the facts and see where this all might take us in the end.

Jolla Tablet microSD support - What really happened?

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The facts


November 19, 2014: Jolla introduces the world's first crowdsourced Linux tablet, supporting 32GB microSDHC memory cards. The campaign takes place on Indiegogo.

SDHC is patented trademark of SD-3C, LLC founded by Panasonic, Sandisk and Toshiba. Licences for memory card manufacturers (e.g. microSDHC card) and adapter manufactureres (e.g. reader installed in a tablet) are available via an independent member organization SDA. The current executive members includes Microsoft corporation.

November 27, 2014: Jolla added new campaign goals, including "MicroSDHC memory card extension up to 128GB"

Jolla's mistake here was that there is no such thing as 128GB MicroSDHC memory card. The specs of SDHC trademark allows no more than 32GB, and all these SDHC cards are preformatted to FAT32 file format. However, this file format isn't mandatory.

The goal of $1.5M was soon reached, and people started to talk about the larger file format. After realizing that it would require a new licence for SDXC, the funders (customers) strongly disagreed. More than 700 votes were given against this on Reddit, and more than 300 on TJC

SDXC is another trademark of SD-3C, LLC, additionally including exFAT file format (property of Microsoft Corporation) as a mandatory file system. Officially supporting SDXC is more expensive, and a larger share of the licence goes into hands of Microsoft. SDXC supports SD cards with up to 2TB of storage space.

January 29, 2015: Jolla reopens the tablet campaign, and informs that the tablet will not support SDXC with the following words: "We’ve decided to move forward with an open source memory card solution. This enables the use of memory cards up to 128GB on the Jolla Tablet for backups and additional storage, but due to Microsoft’s licensing limitation, cards over 32GB that are formatted in Jolla Tablet will not be readable with Windows computers or devices that advertise microSDXC support (cameras/phones/tablets). We apologise for the lack of full Windows support here, but we feel that this suits best with our community's wishes and the Jolla values."

To expand this, the decided card support causes issues with Mac / Apple systems as well. In practice, Jolla's decision means that any memory cards with more than 32GB, used on Jolla Tablet, are only supported in Linux systems. There are some workarounds for accessing the saved data: Using MTP (not supported by Mac), using SSH over WLAN (quite tricky for common users), using 3rd party software (privacy issues).


The conclusion


The community have had their word and Jolla listened to them. Jolla has informed us about this, but the outcome in practice includes more than this:

1. When you go to a store and buy a bigger (more than 32GB) memory card, you usually find "SDXC" printed on the card. Already by purchacing this card you are (via the manufacturer) paying money to Microsoft. In this case you are buying a memory card preformatted to their exFAT filesystem.

2. To enable the full capacity for the card on Jolla Tablet, you need to manually format the card, giving up the exFAT, to another format using a Linux computer. Popular formats supported by Linux are, for example, ext2, ext3, ext4

3. You can now use the card in your Jolla Tablet, and in any Linux powered computer/laptop/other device with a memory card reader. But in any other systems, if the memory card reader includes the trademark "SDXC", it will probably not read the data saved in the card - these card readers are expecting to find a FAT formatted card.

The solution


The easiest way for common customers: Go with two separate memory cards.

  • One 32GB SDHC card, used in transferring data between the tablet and any SDHC/SDXC supported devices
  • Another 128GB memory card (maybe bought without the SDXC trademark from an Open Source hardware manufacturer), used for bigger files on Jolla Tablet and Linux systems.
At the same time, this is a company statement: Jolla is fighting against the main stream here, a closed source file system of Microsoft. And they are doing this on purpose - they need to stand up on this to be a real alternative, and to hold on to their own values, transparency, aim towards Open Source.

No, this is not nice for all the end customers. All we can do is to advice the customers who find this a dealbreaker:  Go with the mainstream, be like all the rest, accept Microsoft monopoly and so on. You decide.

Is this the end?


Tablet facts are due to change - Jolla is still listening to their customers. Now that we know, what should we do? In the end, Jolla will probably do exaclty what the most of us wants on this - but this isn't easy for us, nor it's easy for them. Please remember to value the opposite opinions as well, and share your opinions in a way which is nice to listen to.

What is actually nice, at least, is the fact that this issue brings the community into a discussion, maybe bringing us closer together and helping us realize what we want together. Keep up the DIT sailors!


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Published: January 30, 2015 03:05 UTC
Updated: January 30, 2015 15:16 UTC
Cover image: Christopher, flickr, CCBY2.0
Sources: Jolla, SD-3C LLC, SDA, Wikipedia

12 comments:

  1. Great post, nice how you collected the information into one easy to understand text.
    Would you mind if I took your post and translated it for jollanl.org? With links and credits to your site of course

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please feel free to do so - the more the word is spread out there, the better. And thanks for your opinion!

      Delete
  2. There are ext2/ext3/ext4 file system readers which work on Windows. A 128GB sdxc card formatted as ext2 would be readable on Windows via a card reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An external reader is a possible solutions, yes. Also, installing FUSE plugin on the tablet enables using exFat file system. There are nice solutions, but most of the people want SD cards to just work out of the box in cross platforms...

      Delete
  3. I rarely take out memory card in any of my phones so the memory card format is not an issue. I think the way to go would be to use the effort to make cross-platform syncing solution between laptops, desktops and Jolla phones. Now even more than a year after the launch there still is no better solution to sync stuff from Mac to Jolla than enabling developer mode and start playing with SSH or rsync. :P

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  4. I don't think you have to worry too much. There are simple workarounds that can be used on Winx platforms if needed and for the Linux users well it will just be another reasons to giggle at Microsoft braindead policies.

    Thanks for sharing the thought process though and don't worry guys we have your back, we just want the tablet so we can show you how much we love it :)

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  5. November 19, 2014: Jolla introduces the world's first crowdsourced Linux tablet

    Didn't the Pengpod come out before the Jolla tablet?

    ReplyDelete
  6. II think Jolla is getting to much caught up with these hard-core, anti-MS guys. If they don't facilitate easy coexistance with mainstream stuff there is not much future for their products outside of the geeky fringe.

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  7. Jolla has also a USB OTG. Is is possible to access metroyhtiön card via that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At current state, I'd say no... Read here (TJC link) for more

      Delete
  8. It's o'k to be independent, rad and free but there are times when going mainstream facilitates and expedites. Not everyone has the tools to go it alone and my preference is to play both sides, independent but collaborative. My Jolla tab will be limited if I can't sync with my Surface and Win computing machines.

    ReplyDelete