DIGImend makes low-budget graphic tablets just work on Linux

DIGImend makes low-budget graphic tablets just work on Linux

There are quite a few graphic tablet vendors living in the shade of Wacom. Their devices never had a great support on Linux, if any. But it's about to change.

The project called DIGImend (digitizer mending) was started by Nick (Nikolai) Kondrashov around 2008 to improve the sorry state of affairs with drivers for, er, more affordable graphic tablets such as the ones by Genius, Aiptek etc.

Much like the Linux Wacom project, DIGImend has been seeing a growth of activity lately, even though Nick used to be combating the issue singlehandedly until David "Favux" Foley joined him fairly recently.

Nick, what's up with the project? Are we going to see any sort of breakthrough in Linux 3.4 with regards to graphic tablets?

Lately we've been improving our interaction with the world, so we replaced the old page with a wiki where we now publish up-to-date information on supported devices, drafts of HOWTOs on xf86-input-evdev and xf86-input-wacom configuration and suchlike. We also started a blog.

As for the v3.4 of the Linux kernel, it's going to support the following new devices:

  • Genius EasyPen i405X and M610X;
  • Genius MousePen i608X;
  • Aiptek HyperPen Mini, NGS Flexi Style, VisTablet PenPad, iVistaTablet Q Flex Pad, Bravod Q-PD65-S, Trust Flex Design Tablet;
  • Genius G-Pen F509, Manhattan 177405.

You can actually download the patches and backport them for earlier versions of the kernel. We just haven't published the patches separately. You can have a look at our wiki if you want the links to the relevant commits.

Around February I also sent a patch to Jiri Kosina. The patch makes it possible to load out-of-tree HID drivers. In other words, you'd be able to build and install drivers for graphic tablets without recompiling the whole kernel.

This would also make it possible to make a DKMS bundle of drivers that won't require manual build at all, just installation via your package manager. Jiri hasn't approved that patch yet, though.

What do you work on currently?

Right now I'm busy programming a driver for Waltop Sirius Battery Free Tablet (VisTablet Muse, Princeton PTB-S1BK) which will probably also make it to Linux 3.4.

Waltop Sirius Battery Free Tablet

Waltop Sirius Battery Free Tablet

By the way, it's the first tablet of non-Wacom origin that measures and reports stylus tilt; and the stylus doesn't need a battery. I guess it just uses the very same technology that Wacom does.

Edit: as of publishing the interview patches that add support for Waltop Sirius Battery Free Tablet have already been applied to upstream Linux kernel.

What can you say about the existing Hanvon drivers for Linux? Do you think they could be merged?

Well, all I know is that someone already took care of Hanvon, so I didn't really bother to investigate much beyond that.

Hanvon Artmaster 0806

Hanvon Artmaster 0806

Maybe it'd make sense to get in touch with the person who wrote those drivers, but I'm not yet sure if either of us would benefit from a collaboration. I'll think about it.

What about configuration of the tablets that your project cares about?

All the tablets that we support should work just fine with xf86-input-evdev. However xf86-input-evdev doesn't really provide a lot of configurable options. For instance it doesn't allow configuring response curves which, as far as I can tell, is the most anticipated feature. At least it's #1 priority among other configurable options for me to implement.

However I haven't yet made up my mind what would be the best way to solve the issue. I could patch xf86-input-wacom or xf86-input-evdev or both.

Some of the tablets by Waltop can use the xf86-input-wacom driver, even though I haven't tested that myself yet. Actually, X will try to use xf86-input-wacom for Waltop tablets by default, so if it doesn't work, you can either fix the configuration or just remove the driver. Our HOWTO covers that use case in more details.

We have some plans regarding support for more “simple” graphic tablets in the xf86-input-wacom and we are thinking about introducing more configurable settings to the xf86-input-evdev driver. I just can't tell at the moment when that is likely to happen.

So you prefer to finish drivers first and create configuration tools later?

Lately I've been leaning towards the idea of doing both at the same time. New models hit the shelves all the time, and I catch myself thinking “Oh, that'd be the last kernel driver I do for now, and then I could switch to programming drivers for X.org”.

Wacom configuration tool from GNOME 3.4

Wacom configuration tool from GNOME 3.4

It makes a lot of sense, because otherwise using such a graphic tablet would be next to impossible. Yet extending the core feature set is a must, and it's not as if I had a lot of spare time.

So I think I'll finish this Waltop Sirius driver and then start working on features. Actually, I might do it even earlier, since the tablet is a bugger to write drivers for, and it's likely to take longer than I expected anyway.

What kind of relationships do you have with vendors?

In January I tried contacting KYE (Genius), Waltop and UC-Logic to ask them for either hardware or specs (or both). But, you see, I used the formal Contacts form on their websites which is never a good idea :)

Nevertheless Waltop replied and already sent me Media Tablet 10.6" and Sirius Battery Free Tablet. That really helped, I'm grateful for that. I'll keep trying to contact KYE and UC-Logic.

How can we help you?

We need more users to be aware of the project and send us information about devices they have that don't work on Linux. You can mail me privately at spbnick@gmail.com.

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17 Comments

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  1. Thanks Alexandre for the coverage. Thanks to DIGImend project for supporting our generic tablets!. I’ll be waiting for these graphical configuration tools. I will also find out how to do evdev driver work with Qt applications.

  2. As author of Tux Paint, I applaud the effort to get more (especially inexpensive) tablets working with Linux! :)

  3. Alexandre Prokoudine 04 April 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Glad to see you here, Bill :) Do you think you could pass the info to your community? Perhaps some people still have problems and could provide useful data?

  4. YES!!! Finally my Sirius tablet will be supported :) It’s nice to see Favux is working on this. He helped me a lot in trying to get my different tablets working over the past few years.

  5. I’d be interested in these devices actual working capabilities. I tried some of those similar pads and they were not responsive at all. More to say, I was quite disappointed, but that was like 2 years ago, so probably these batches are better by now.

  6. @Nigel, Yes some of the cheap tablets are terrible. However, the Sirius tablet is amazing, and in some cases has higher resolution sensors than wacom tablets.  And, it’s a fraction of the cost of an intuos.

    Although I haven’t actually used a wacom tablet to compare it to the Sirius, I have no frustrations with the drawing abilities.

  7. I look forward to being able to configure this driver and using it properly.
    I recently picked up a monoprice 12x9 tablet.
    It’s fantastic… with MyPaint. Unfortunately the pressure isn’t recognized by either Krita or GIMP.
    But it’s great so far with MyPaint and it only cost me about $150 CDN after delivery.

  8. Anthony Tadayoshi 08 July 2012 at 9:08 pm

    My Wacom bamboo tablet doesn’t work on any acceptable version of Linux, it only works on live CD versions and Artistx which has all of it’s text boxes permanently unreadable. I’m really glad that there is something more sensible out there that works well with Linux.

  9. Alexandre Prokoudine 08 July 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Hmmm, do you by any chance refer to pressure sensitivity issues?

  10. I’ve found that it all works out of the box, except with krita. But I have noticed that if I tamper with configuration files too much, things stop working smoothly. So now I have 2 Linux installs on my machine. One for fun, with lots of unstable ppas and games and such. And also an install purely meant for work, with mostly a vanilla install, and on this machine I no longer experience problems.

  11. I bought a $5 pen input device, which of course doesn’t work with Linux.  However the USB data is very easy to decode, so I’m working on a driver for it.

    I’ve been talking with Nikolai on the digimend-devel mailing list, and not only is he super-friendly, but also a really nice guy.  He’s a shining light in how to engage users in an open source project.  Thanks Nikolai!

  12. Where can I buy this?

  13. Alexandre Prokoudine 21 July 2012 at 9:43 am

    Karli, what “this” are you referring to exactly?

  14. nice, but i still prefer a wacom. Although i have not tried it, I think anyone who is serious about their design should get a wacom

  15. Having bought a 2 tablets for my younger sister. All I can say is that some manufacture need to improve not just the tablet itself but also the accessory that come along with it. Starting with the stylus pen.

  16. Keep up the good work!  Linux really needs all the help it can get with regards to widening its range of driver support for as many devices as possible!  :)

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