Please provide source code for kernel and bootloader

Hello there Onyx,

As a heavy academic Boox Max 2 user, first I would like to thank you for creating such a large ereader.
Wrt its physical properties I am pretty satisified.

Second, unfortunately, I am very disappointed in the software. Android is quite slow, the interface looks ugly (just compare with kindle UI). The Android OS was never designed to run on Eink devices, and no matter what optimizations you put there, you will loose to competition on software field which is providing custom OS for their products (such as remarkable).

Since I know it is not possible for you to start from scratch, as evidently you have decided to switch all your operations to pure android, I have a request:

Please provide kernel source code, bootloader source and some simple instructions so that open source community can figure that for you and provide alternatives to those who want to run other software.

If you want to see what will happen, see Remarkable whose tablet already got open source ecosystem and people writing custom apps for it.

Otherwise, I am sorry to say but Max 2 will be probably last product I buy for Onyx. I paid 1000$ for a product with UI so bad, the only redeeming quality is its large screen.

Hopefully that you won’t fall into the trap of bygone companies who are very “secretive” about the (open source) software they put into their product. You won’t gain competetive advantage by keeping the kernel and bootloader closed (they are open source anyway).

Thanks for your considerations.


Also, the idea that we have to submit android apps to you so that they might work slightly better is laughable. Will you be providing security updates to 1000s of android applications on a weekly basis?

The android UI looks entirely horrible on eink. I can’t understand why you have chosen to do so, as 99% of apps out there are unusable. It is good you want to try to turn ereaders into a viable computing platform, but slapping android is not the way, open sourcing it and letting community write software on top of framework build for epaper is.


Also, by modifying 3rd party apps and not providing updates for them as their appear in google play is a huge security risk.

You can’t just grab apk and then require onyx users to use this particular version. As it stands now, a onyx ereader with 3rd party apk can hardly be connected to the internet safely.

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I agree that a more open approach would be good for both Onyx and users.
The are a lot of smart developers in the community that could come out with good ideas.
Onyx could keep the control of the source code changes. For example, Github has a very good process that allows open source publisher to evaluate changes (pull-requests) from other developers.

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I both agree and disagree with the post. I agree that the mangled version of the Android UI hampers the Max2 badly along with the removal of core functions such a baseline security with passwords, blocking apps starting on boot etc…

However, the statement that 99% of apps are unusable is utter nonsense. To date there are, in my experience, exactly three categories of app that are functionally useless

  1. Games and aps with a heavy video or colour component with frequent screen changes
  2. Apps with a color interface that whilst rendering well on a full colour screen merge or wash out in grey scale.
  3. Apps with high latency with the stylus, the core, for me, being OneNote

There is vey little that can be done with issue 1 EXCEPT implementing HDMI out so the Max2 can drive an external colour monitor.

With issue two, implementing a skinning overlay that would automatically convert the inbound colours to play nicer with greyscale.

With issue three, access to the code MAY allow for workarounds and patching

There is already a knowledgeable and active small community over at MobileReads that has put together functionality to allow touch interaction when the Max2 is used as a secondary monitor, as well as documented tweaking to allow Raspberry Pi’s to drive this monitor functionality.

Having access to the kernel and bootloader would certainly expand the devices functionality. Just having the ability to run a clean Android UI would improve the experience notably

The 1. Case you listed is not applicable really. We all know eink is not made for gaming.

That said 2,3 are exactly the issue of majority of android Apps, and this is not because of Eink, but but because of Android. Android toolkit is not designed for eink.

This is why companies like remarkable design their own software and open sourced their product so that users can write their own.

2,3 are non-existent on Remarkable because they do not used flawed software model such as Android, which is why I think onyx needs to step up its game, at least with regard to openness.

There is much potential with eink, and it is all hindered by the that we have been closed in the android environment. Give us the access to the source code, and I guarantee community will make Onyx the best eink platform that there is.

Otherwise, sadly, I will still use my onyx max 2, but at the same time I will be eagerly expecting the release of large remarkable (which is bound to happen). Spending 1000$ on such a horrible software experience is not an experience I would repeat.

The hard truth is that onyx products from 6 years ago were better: I still use my old onyx boox m92, and its UI is simply better - because it was designed for eink.

To further elaborate on this: One Note. How is it possible this apps lags on a 4-core 2GB RAM system in 2018? There is no such thing as “high latency” in this case, it is just a consequence of slapping a software framework not designed for eink screens, and trying to use the software that was not designed for this, and never will, unless you wish to opt-in for Onyx hacks which will render your android security vulnerable.

And by “unusable” I did not mean that you can not just use them. I meant that these apps look ugly and have degraded functionality. Yes, you can start them. So what? From a 1000$ device I expect top-notch designed UI. If Onyx is unable to provide that, or at least provide us with source so that we can design our own UIs while they concentrate on hardware, then I will be parting ways with them.

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Yes, most of the third party apps are almost unusable. When I got max 2, my expectation at beginning is that I would like to use it as what most tablets can do, but it takes much of the time for me to wait for the running of apps and it is not very user friendly in most of the third party apps. I almost returned it next day, but I still keep it as I need to spend lots of time reading and surfing the websites. Also, Onyx’s Neoreader and web browser are not bad, so max 2 still provides much value to me. If Onyx uses third party e-reader software and didn’t develop their own stuff, I would definitely return it. I hope Onyx can think of the alternatives like this open source platform designed specific for e-ink. To be honest, I haven’t seen any of my friends try to switch their tablets to e-ink. Only the ones who starts having eye pains in intensive reading will buy it. To cross this boundary of tablet market, you need to compete not only with other e-ink companies, but also with other top-branded tablet companies.


i totally agree this idea.
onyx max2 is very perfect e-book machine, but software is
to much ugly.

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It is really up to Onyx - if they choose to be more open and allow us to install alternative software on our devices.

I would like to only note, that if they choose not too, they will probably buckle under pressure and we will have to abandon their plaftorm. As it stands now:

  • Even the stock apps are very buggy - randomly disappearing notes and other problems

  • In addition, Onyx will have to continually update hundreds of 3rd party apps which the user over time request

If they think they will cope with this, despite even being unable to fix their own software for weeks, or provide timely updates for 3rd party apks, what will happen in the future is that we will be abandoned by them, as they just don’t have resources to mantain entire android distribution complete with their own apps.

If in the coming months Onyx won’t make some wise decisions, I will just hop on the remarkable, and oh well, just print my papers on paper. Not a big deal. I just don’t want to be made fool of by paying one thousand dollars for a platform so buggy.

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Dear customers
We will consider all suggestions seriously .
Actually,we have opened sample project of SDKs from Onyx-Intl, including onyxsdk-base, onyxsdk-scribble, onyxsdk-pen
onyx appreciate everybody’s patience and help very much.

For alternative UI, I use ReLaunchX for Boox Note,, works very well, it’s also available in F-droid. For me the experience of Android 6 on Boox Note is decent, I can use Kiwix for reading offline Wikipedia, can play Go with GnuGo by Gobandroid, I found quite some bugs, but not very disturbing and will simply wait for reports from other customers and bug fix.

As it stands now, a onyx ereader with 3rd party apk can hardly be connected to the internet safely.

Agree with this. I’m concerned a lot about privacy and currently I simply keep my Boox Note offline. For me it’s unacceptable for sending my reading activities to someone’s computer. Hope Onyx Int. takes user/customer privacy seriously and provides better experience for future update. And thanks for creating such a great device and reading my comment!


We surely appreciate open sourcing the android parts of your codebase - but most interest in this thread is for the kind request to allow us flash custom OS to our boox and opensourcing kernel + bootloader.

This least gives us alternative in the future for more privacy minded users - as it is not possible to really use android without a google account, while not really burdening Onyx with anything. In addition, Android seems to have very large latency on eink screens. The solution to that is allowing community to design their own apps on top of generic linux - as remarkable is doing with great success.

I believe Onyx hardware has much more potential, which is now hindered by the fact that we can’t really modify it. Perhaps someone will eventually reverse engineer their way into booxes, but it will be a wasted effort. For some reason Onyx was providing kernel and bootloader as well instructions how to access the device for your old series - hope you can foster this kind of openness into the future.

I have a M92 since 2012. On MobileRead, many discussions are present about the software. The M92 is a pure Linux device and the improvements were very important compared to the first version of the firmware - thanks to Booxtor/ (Mobilearead) and Onyx developers. This device is done to ‘read’, as attended for an ‘e-reader’. It is missing few days of work on the software to make the M92 a perfect reader. I would like to have the full code for the M92.

But many users complain about the lack of applications available on Android and push Onyx to use Android.
An e-ink device could not be a tablet, a small computer to type a thesis in a WYSIWYG mode, a display for all type of videos, etc.

The HDMI port is a good thing, even if I prefer a SD-Card port to an HDMI port.

I’m waiting to received my ordered Max2.

A better access to the code could give at the community the possibility to work and improve some part of the software. The modifications could be integrated by Onyx’s developers.

For me, it’s important for Onyx to keep concentrate on the main functions of an e-reader :

  • read : read all formats, crop functions, improve to the maximum the speed when the page are turned, the changing of page, have many opened files open simultaneously even if they haven’t the same format, etc.
  • annotate, export correctly the annotations.

On a side note, I’m an hobbyst android developer myself, and tried developing a small app yestrday to test the response of the Max2 device, noticing the fact most apps I installed from the play store were effectively unusable. Well, the app (a simple “draw stroke” test) runs surpringly well, beside screen refresh latency of course, but no abysmal loading times (it’s a very simple app, but loads instantly), no crashes, solid 50fps, pretty useable overall.
Interestingly, it starts losing on framerate when too much “black” to “refresh” is on screen (which makes me think it’s something related to e-ink? white has no “refresh cost”, black has? just wondering) and probably just refreshing smaller portions of screen -say, only where you are drawing- would limit the issue (and I’ll probably test in the future if I have some more time),
All this just to say most apps available around are heavily burdening the system unnecessarly, and of course don’t think at e-ink screens nuances, if one keeps the app sleek and crafts with care, even complex devices with large screens, and e-ink screens, can be tackled a bit more successfully through Android. Of course, this is something most devs don’t really take into account when making their apps…
hope a more widespread use of these awesome devices will bring better optimization practices, softer apps… and more powerful, less “picky” e-ink hardwares :slight_smile:

Sorry, but a 1000$ device with GPU, 2GB RAM and 4 core processor is not “just an e-reader”.

It is fine if minimalism works for you, but most of us would like to take the full advantage of this hardware, not tip-toe because Onyx graced us with buggy and unfinished apps (which hopefully will soon change) :slight_smile:

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It is good to keep in mind that android software stack has almost decade of optimization for LED screens. It was never conceived someone would run it on a eink-screen.

Hence the poor performance, bugs, horrible battery life and so on.

At this point I am not even sure if to blame onyx, or blame android itself. Not using correct tool for the job backfires horribly.

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Is the source code for the PDF & EPUB readers and Notes app for the Max2 available? If not, would you consider release the source code for these? That would be very helpful for the community.

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Yes please make it open source. It will be to your competitive advantage!

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I disagree with the OP though: Building on top of android is the way to go. The UI is good enough and having full android power is just fantastic. Alternative: build on top of Ubuntu, but they have not so many good apps and are not optimized for tablets … at all!

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