Last month I went through somewhat of an exam marathon. By my side: My trusty Remarkable 2 tablet. A song of praise.
I do not want to get too much into the controversy around this device (huge hype, bad customer support) and would like to point you to Reddit to read up on that if you are interested. This is rather a description of how I set up my device and turned it into my daily companion for all things written.
The Remarkable 2 is an oddball device in a sense. On the one hand, the company behind is doing a pretty good job at coming across as an uncommunicative, customer-unfriendly bunch. On the other hand, they decided not to go with some kind of Android closed-down operating system, but put the Remarkable software on top of a GNU/Linux-based OS. And they even give you root access.
So the first thing I did was going into the device’s settings, hit Help, and write down the root password for the device displayed at the bottom of the page. After an initial ssh connection, copying my public key onto the Remarkable, and creating a host entry in my computer’s ssh config, my Remarkable is now only an
ssh remarkable away. This opens the doors to clever developers and hackers and allows everyone to install custom software on their device.
For the occasional one-off upload of lecture notes and other PDFs I connect my Remarkable to my computer via USB and go to the web interface at
10.11.99.1. (Make sure to enable this feature in the Wi-Fi settings of the Remarkable.) The web interface is a very primitive tool and does not allow much more than drag and drop upload and single-file download. But I don’t have to use it too often and it allows me to not give a damn about Remarkable’s cloud sync feature. Privacy all the way!
I am currently running on Remarkable’s software Version 184.108.40.206-patch_17.2.07-0-g0782dc9. I know about the new 2.6 update and what wonders it brings (most notably pinch-to-zoom and PDF links), but I also heard about some bugs around it and do not need any of those new features—because of custom software.
I additionally installed:
- KOReader, a fantastic e-reader app that definitely trumps Remarkable’s built-in reader software in every aspect
- ddvk’s remarkable-hacks, a binary patch that adds some much-needed additional functionality to the Remarkable
The Remarkable tablet with its vanilla software is a stellar note-taking device but falls short of being a good study companion. ddvk’s hacks changed that and I would like to highlight some of the features I have used the most:
- Swipe down in the middle of the page to toggle the side menu
- Two-finger swipe down to switch to previous document
- What a game changer! Makes switching between exercise and lecture PDF a breeze!
- Two-finger swipe up to get a list of recent files (shown per default when entering Remarkable’s main menu)
- Swipe down in the top menu corner to switch between last two pens
- It doesn’t sound like much, but when you have to switch between ballpoint pen and highlighter constantly you really appreciate this feature.
- Swipe left/right top-center to undo/redo
- And last but definitely not least: BOOKMARKS! 😍
Those features—combined with the out-of-the-box advantages of the Remarkable tablet: form factor, distraction-free interface, gorgeous e-ink screen—completed the device for me.
While I use Remarkable’s (ddvk-enhanced) vanilla software to read PDFs, the e-reading experience with epubs and the like is… subpar. Luckily, KOReader is an amazing alternative that not only offers swift layout and font changes, but also an absolute killer feature: OPDS catalogs.
I manage all my ebooks with Calibre and have my Calibre library stored on my in-house NAS. A while ago I installed the COPS server on top which gives me a nice OPDS-compliant feed of all my ebooks. KOReader now allows me to add this feed as an external OPDS source. That means I can download my ebooks straight out of the KOReader app onto the Remarkable—just like my own little Kindle eShop—without USB connection or Remarkable cloud.
It. Is. Fantastic!
The Remarkable 2 has a hefty price tag (400€ + marker) and the company behind has yet to prove whether they want to create something useful for their fans and customers or only please their investors.
But damn I’ll say it: I love this little tablet!
I use it daily: For bulletjournaling, scribbling down random ideas, the occasional doodle or urban sketch, as my e-reader, and of course as my study buddy for university. A huge Thank You to all the hackers and tinkerers out there who have proven that top notch hardware with sloppy software can indeed be fixed.