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Old 03-12-2021, 07:22 AM   #1
NiMa
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Arrow InkBox: a new open-source OS and eBook reader based on Qt5

InkBox OS is a GPLv3-licensed eBook reader for Kobo devices, based on Qt 5.15.2 (with this) and Alpine Linux. It can run on four officially supported devices:
  • Kobo Touch N905B
  • Kobo Touch N905C
  • Kobo Mini N705
  • Kobo Glo N613
It completely replaces the stock OS and consists of a full-featured secure and complete system. It has the following features:
  • ePUB and plain text support
  • Versatile configuration options for reading
  • muPDF rendering engine for ePUB (and soon PDFs)
  • Wi-Fi support (only N873 & N905B) and web browser
  • X11 apps seamless integration (KoBox)
  • Fast dictionary search
  • Dark mode
  • Strict security policy that ensures only signed software can be run on the device (this, however, can be adapted to your needs by recompiling the kernel)
  • Full factory reset option if needed
  • Seamless update process
  • VNC viewer app
  • Search function
  • 9 built-in fonts
  • Auto-suspend
  • Lock screen/passcode
  • User-friendly experience
  • PDF support (coming in 1.8)
  • Encrypted storage (coming in 1.8)

InkBox is currently considered stable and is at version 1.7.
Downloadable SD card images are available here: http://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundles/inkbox/native/
And source code is there: https://github.com/Kobo-InkBox/
Here is a video if you want to see how it looks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaBj7acHRHk
Donations are welcome, as I've spent nearly 2000 hours working on this:
PayPal: nicomailloux@icloud.com
LiberaPay: https://liberapay.com/tux-linux/

Old post archived below.
Spoiler:

Hi

So these last weeks I've been developing some Qt app that is now a working eBook reader. I called it InkBox, and it has been tested by very few people here (only @Elektron if I'm not mistaken). It's based on Qt 5.15.2, thanks to the Kobo Platform Plugin by @OfficerAction, which allows you to develop pretty much anything you want on Qt for a Kobo.

There are two options, basically:
1. As an entire OS
2. As a standard /mnt/onboard/.adds/ addon

The OS is the most interesting one, because it's open-source everywhere and it's completely integrated with InkBox. It's an install of bare-metal Alpine Linux with some squashfs containers with Qt, Python and InkBox. Since Alpine is musl-based, I built some root filesystem with Buildroot, and I put InkBox in it. It boots flawlessly into the GUI and it's fast.
It also includes a "Diagnostics" mode where you can do things like roll back to a previous firmware version, "factory" reset the device, enable USBNetwork or check some basic info about the device.

Testing
This project is currently in Beta state.
You can try it out with books from Project Gutenberg, just download them in .txt, and that should work. If the label "eats" the display, try removing places where there are lots of line breaks (e.g. chapters list) and that should do.

Features (OS-specific features are marked with a hash)
- Reads TXT book format, or anything that's plain text (e.g. shell scripts)
- FAST! Dictionary search (takes less than 1 second);
- Options to change font, size and alignment;
- Brightness control and battery level indicator;
- Option to save a word you searched in the dictionary;
- Option to change number of words per page (you'll understand later why);
- UI scaling
- (Kind of) Calendar app
- Save words
#- Diagnostics mode (second partition) where you can reset, restore, update, etc.
#- Sleep mode (well, kind of, it SIGSTOPs InkBox and SIGCONTs it when the power button is pressed again, but it should save battery nevertheless);
#- Seamless update process, a bit like Kobo's one;
#- USBMS mode (powered by g_file_storage);
#- GUI option to run dhclient after you've set up a network bridge on your PC.
#- Dark mode (that should be ported to non-InkBox-native users soon)
#- Advanced security policy that prevents from rooting the device without a factory reset
#- New OOBE setup (that will be ported to non-InkBox-native users)

Current OS images for the Kobo Mini are available here: http://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundles/inkbox/native/
You can then flash it to the microSD card with this command:
Code:
xzcat inkbox.img.xz | dd of=/dev/mmcblk0
Etcher or alternatives should work too, but I haven't tested those.

Addons pack is available here: https://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundle...x/nickel/base/
Extract it in the root of the KoboeReader partition and be sure to properly eject it. After that, you should have NickelMenu and KFMon installed (thanks to their authors) and a new InkBox entry. Just click on it, and it should start up.

Source code is available as well at the same URL. Also, there's a Git repo at https://alpinekobox.ddns.net/InkBox/inkbox

Tips so that you like InkBox and InkBox likes you:
Most important one: don't open the Options menu before pressing "Next" once. There's some strange bug that I don't know how to fix.
Also, if you're on the Mini and are using either the addon pack or OS image, don't enable "Show quote", because the picture will clip outside of the display and you won't be able to access Settings after that, unless you reflash the SD or you do some tweaking in /opt/config with the microSD out and plugged in a Linux system

Please ask any questions you have about it, and I'll create a FAQ with the relevant ones. I joined some screenshots here.
Also, a video if you want to see it "live": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ6z_-jO5UY

Enjoy!

CREDITS:
@OfficerAction, for the KoboPlatformPlugin and Qt compilation guide, and also for answering the dumbest questions I had to ask
@Elektron, for testing and providing feedback
@NiLuJe, not directly, but for FBInk that is used for Powered Off/Rebooting/Sleeping screens, as well as for the Update/Restore animation
Feathericons for the icons, mainly
All the Kobo Nightmode guys for the screen inversion that InkBox uses: https://github.com/gtalusan/kobo-nightmode

Disclaimer: I'm not responsible, nor any Kobo developers, of any damage done to your device by using InkBox. You are its sole owner. You have been warned.

Sidenote:
Yes, KoBox is still alive, we're thinking of making an unified Qt launcher that would launch InkBox and X apps in a touchscreen-minded experience.
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Last edited by NiMa; Yesterday at 08:19 AM.
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Old 03-12-2021, 09:06 AM   #2
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I can confirm that flashing with balenaEtcher worked.
Edit: Some pictures of InkBox running, as well as the update screen.


Please ignore the lights
Also if any moderators think these images are too large, please feel free to resize them. I have no idea how.

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Old 03-14-2021, 01:22 PM   #3
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Released v0.1.1

This version introduces a new "Recent books" feature, which permits you to access the last books you opened quickier than going in the Open dialog box.
To use this feature, you'll have to check the "Disable authors quote" option in Settings.

Link: https://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundle.../update/0.1.1/
Source code links were updated as well, they're now in their respective Update bundles.

I'm working on the .adds packages, they should be there soon.

For Mini users: I also got a new kernel with a minimal initrd working, so I'm going to start designing a new recovery/diags partition which would be booted into if the user pressed the power button in the first 3 seconds of boot.
From there, you could do a complete wipe of the SD, reset to defaults or restore the "factory" state of InkBox.

Last edited by NiMa; 03-14-2021 at 04:03 PM.
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Old 03-14-2021, 10:37 PM   #4
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Released addon package

Ok, so here it is: https://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundle...x/nickel/base/
These are "base" packages, they'll get periodically updated if critical changes have to occur. Otherwise, each new update will be in the updates folder (https://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundle.../nickel/update) and will only replace things that have to be replaced.

This does *not* apply to native InkBox/Alpine users.

I hope you all enjoy it and can give some feedback if you want, it would be really nice!

Last edited by NiMa; 03-14-2021 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 03-24-2021, 10:55 PM   #5
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Released 1.0

Here it is. New recovery partition, reset features, security enforcement policy, etc.
Here is a (long, sorry) video: https://youtu.be/fZ6z_-jO5UY

You can take a look at the changelog for more details:
Code:
- Improved general security
- Switched to g_mass_storage for USB storage
- Added diagnostics mode
- Added icons
- Better handling of early splash screen printing
- Better USB handling
- Added new Noto Mono and Libertinus Serif fonts in Reader framework
- Added OOBE setup
- Added calendar app
- Added battery status icon

(C) Nicolas Mailloux, 2021. Licensed under GPL v3.
Native OS packages have been released for the Mini and I'll post the source code soon.
I'll be working on porting this to the Glo HD, maybe the Glo too.

Last edited by NiMa; 03-25-2021 at 07:18 AM.
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Old 03-28-2021, 06:17 PM   #6
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Released 1.1

http://pkgs.kobox.fermino.me/bundles...ve/update/1.1/
I'll let the changelog speak for myself:

Code:
- ePUB initial support
- Improved general UI/UX
- Always show menubar option
- Drastic improvement on page turn speeds for larger books

(C) Nicolas Mailloux, 2021. Licensed under GPL v3.
Source code is available at https://alpinekobox.ddns.net/InkBox/inkbox

Last edited by NiMa; 03-28-2021 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 04-02-2021, 12:35 AM   #7
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Released 1.2

I've released v1.2.
I also set up a GitHub mirror if you find Gitea too slow: https://github.com/Kobo-InkBox/inkbox

I still don't get why (almost) no one even posted a thought about this in this thread, but anyways...

There goes the changelog:
Code:
- Added "Reset" option in Settings
- Improved general UI/UX
- Improved page turns
- Added new Crimson Pro font
- Added brightness controls in Home
- Added battery state indicator in Home
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Old 04-02-2021, 12:55 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by NiMa View Post

I still don't get why (almost) no one even posted a thought about this in this thread, but anyways...

I am watching this thread, but in both personality and software preference, I'm very much a beta male, not an alpha.
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Old 04-04-2021, 11:35 AM   #9
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I've repurposed my old and broken Glo HD by installing MediaWiki on it, so now InkBox/KoBox have their own wiki! The Glo HD is natively running Alpine 3.13.4, and although it is somewhat slow, it's usable.
It's live there: http://alpinekobox.ddns.net:40/mediawiki
Please be patient for the loading times, I'll look into enabling OPCache but it will probably still suffer from the hardware it is running from.
Also, please don't brute-force it or anything, I don't know if this thing can catch fire but I hope not
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Old 04-05-2021, 03:30 PM   #10
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I downloaded the addons bundle and took a peek. I have a few questions: Is it possible to install InkBox without having to install KFMon too? I prefer to use NickelMenu to launch things, so I really have no use for it. Finally, how much of it is absolutely needed to be copied over along with the InkBox folder? Would just the InkBox folder be good enough? What's the absolute minimum for the program to work alongside nickel? I ask mainly because of storage considerations. Thanks and good work on figuring out how to install a proper distro on these things!

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Old 04-05-2021, 04:53 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by rtiangha View Post
I downloaded the addons bundle and took a peek. I have a few questions: Is it possible to install InkBox without having to install KFMon too? I prefer to use NickelMenu to launch things, so I really have no use for it. Finally, how much of it is absolutely needed to be copied over along with the InkBox folder? Would just the InkBox folder be good enough? What's the absolute minimum for the program to work alongside nickel? I ask mainly because of storage considerations. Thanks and good work on figuring out how to install a proper distro on these things!
Hmm, you could create a NickelMenu entry for it, though some reported that it was not launching properly. I used KFMon as I'm more familiar with it than NickelMenu, but it's yours to choose (though, KFMon won't eat your space, the bare bundle is about 1.5MB). Except that, all that's there is necessary, particularly Qt because otherwise InkBox won't launch. If you have Python3 installed with NiLuJe's stuff, I guess you could delete the Python folder, but there may be problems.
I'm about to release v1.3 on both OS and add-on form, so stay tuned for that if you like it!
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Old 04-05-2021, 05:31 PM   #12
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I still don't get why (almost) no one even posted a thought about this in this thread, but anyways...
As both a Kobo and open-source enthusiast, this project is very exciting!

But I'm also pretty happy with how my stock Kobo works at the moment, and too cowardly to install a BETA operating system on it until some other people have given it a try and weighed in.
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Old 04-05-2021, 06:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Cactus Chef View Post
As both a Kobo and open-source enthusiast, this project is very exciting!

But I'm also pretty happy with how my stock Kobo works at the moment, and too cowardly to install a BETA operating system on it until some other people have given it a try and weighed in.
Well, v1.3 will get it out of its beta state, mainly because it's usable now and there's no security/data/destructive bugs (to my knowledge ) that could render a device with a microSD card unusable. The Reader framework is not the best but I do my best to improve it as much as i can
If at some point you are wiling to test with your Clara HD, it would be awesome. I'd like to port InkBox OS to as much devices as possible.
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Old 04-05-2021, 08:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by NiMa View Post
Well, v1.3 will get it out of its beta state, mainly because it's usable now and there's no security/data/destructive bugs (to my knowledge ) that could render a device with a microSD card unusable. The Reader framework is not the best but I do my best to improve it as much as i can
If at some point you are wiling to test with your Clara HD, it would be awesome. I'd like to port InkBox OS to as much devices as possible.
I'm thinking about installing this on my Libra if, as seems likely, I get whatever new shiny Kobo puts out later this year. By that time I'm sure this OS will be not merely beta, but a positively gamma ray of sunshine
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Old 04-05-2021, 08:13 PM   #15
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Device: Kobo Libra, Glo HD, Aura, Touch N905C/B, Mini, Glo, Kindle PW3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Robin View Post
I'm thinking about installing this on my Libra if, as seems likely, I get whatever new shiny Kobo puts out later this year. By that time I'm sure this OS will be not merely beta, but a positively gamma ray of sunshine
I have it on my Libra it works very well (like, no danger of the Kobo being rendered unusable)
Actually I use it for quick testing as the InkBox OS uses squashfs bundles that are not trivial to modify unless I repack the whole update into a new package.
If you have to wait, I suggest you wait until 1.3 is released, as there will be a *big* leap forward from 0.1.1 to 1.3 in the add-on packages.
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