How to turn a semi-lousy Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite to a Linux beast

How to turn a semi-lousy Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite to a Linux beast

No doubt that the title of this post is more similar to Soviet-Union or North Korean propaganda rather than a serious tech related post. But there is no doubt that Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite is a lousy tablet at best, if it is not a total garbage. However, in this post, I cover how to turn a semi-lousy Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite to a Linux beast.

Why Galaxy Tab 3 Lite is a poor device

Below I listed reasons on why Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite is such a poor device even at its release time.

Bloated pre-installed apps

To be honest the hardware specs (RAM, CPU) are quite ok, at least for me for doing routine tasks. Its software, on the other hand, lacks in many areas. One obvious down point is the lack of OS update. The factory Android is 4.2.2) with bunch pre-installed Samsung garbage apps, which most of them are not functional anymore. The pre-installed apps basically turns the tablet to slowloris, like a server under DDOS attack.

OTG is a mystery

While, I could deal with the aforementioned problems by installing a custom ROM, the most important issue is lack of OTG support. Samsung’s fault on this matter is unforgivable because they have lied to me and other consumers who bought Galaxy Tab 3 Lite (SM-T111). In original specs, it’s mentioned OTG is supported but in reality none of SM-T111 so far supports OTG even with custom ROMs.

How to fix Galaxy Tab 3 Lite for better

Enough complaining, now let’s talk about what is possible to do with a SM-T111 (AKA sucker) which I own one sadly ?

Allow me to separate myself from normal mobile consumers. I am not an average Joe who plays Candy Crush Saga or checks his Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat statuses or at most reading books with his tablet. Although, there are some overlapping in usage, I like to play around with the tablet in terms of being curious, not getting killed of course, and able to play around with the OS but not low level [Lack of knowledge]. Maybe that’s a reason I had my Motorola A1200 from 2006 to 2014, such a sweet memory with my Ming.

Basically, what I wanted was a -full-blown- Linux distro on top of Android. I must admit many flavors of Linux have been ported to Android, just search on Google Play, but almost none of them, to the best of my knowledge, was what I wanted. Almost all of the Linux related apps require VNC which is painfully slow to load a GUI. But in terms of commandline pretty powerful. But again guess what? Galaxy Tab 3 Lite does not support OTG means no external physical keyboard, or mouse.

Hence, typing Linux commands on touch screen is more painful than VNC server experience especially when you are on the move, like train. Don’t get me wrong, I am a keyboard, green terminal guy but I rather to use GUI when it comes to typing on touch screens, just doesn’t feel intuitive to me.

Debian noroot to rescue!

I was quite upset that I couldn’t do anything with my tablet except reading some books and doing some note taking, until I have found an app called Debian noroot which simply just amazed me.

To be honest before I used it, I did not believe it but once I managed to load GUI (Xfce) without VNC and so smoothly, I have realized this app is different from others that I had tried before. What I can say, Debian noroot is perfect fit for me. I can configure screen, font size, mouse clicking behavior as well as keyboard and many more.

In addition to that I have access to apt-get command means bunch of awesome software (free as in freedom of course :-D). So the first thing I did was to adjust the font. I set the font size to 1 and also increased the cursor size to 30 via Xfce configuration for easy clicking.

My experience with Debian noroot

Then I installed bunch of lightweight applications including links2, netsurf (for the Internet browsing), xpdf (pdf reader), mpv (audio, video player) and youtube-dl and mpsyt (listening to Youtube while screen is off or downloading Youtube videos). Of course I didn’t forget about Python, GCC/G++, Git, and bunch of other programming languages AND most importantly vim. Surprisingly, sound is working like a charm so Youtube option came on the table after a while.

Video playing is not super fast but is ok. I believe one of the reason of lagging  videos is due to low specs of SM-T111, nothing much related to drivers. In the Youtube video of Debian noroot everything seems so far ok, even Mozilla and Libreoffice, and Gimp that are quite resource intensive apps running smoothly (see the Youtube video).

As I said typing commands on touch screen is painful and I have found the main reason is because of lack of special keys (Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Tab, etc.). Default Android keyboards do not have special keys. So I searched on Google Play and found another awesome app called Hacker’s Keyboard that has all real keyboard keys when tablet is in landscape position. That is great because in portrait mode none of the special keys are shown. Hence, it does not make typing difficult by occupying space for special keys which anyhow has limited usage in that position.

Last but not least, I have installed another App, set of compilers, called AIDE. It is a handy app for me that makes me able to run some test codes while reading a book on Android environment without need of switching to Debian noroot. However, my first preference is to use Debian noroot for almost everything, even for some very basic test coding or reading pdf, but not calling.

After a long story told, does the title still looks like propaganda-ish.


I neither encourage nor discourage to use or avoid consuming the apps, product named in this post.

Additionally, I don’t take any forms of responsibility to any harm/damage caused in any forms using the apps/product mentioned in the article.

I don’t receive any intensive or money or benefit in any matter from the apps owners or Samsung competitors. What stated in this article was solely a reflection of the writer’s opinion toward apps/product mixed with some sense of humor and sarcasm, nothing else.