Last year I presented at Securi-Tay on using the (then) new Surface RT tablet as a platform for testing. The substance behind it was that the iPad and Android tablets were fine to be used for consumption of content by end users – but were not too great as testing platforms because they just couldn’t run the tools we need as testers.
My conclusion at the time was that the Windows RT Surface went some way towards a ‘tablet that tests’ but couldn’t really hack it because even when jail broken – the number of apps which could run on it was restricted to things which could be recompiled for ARM and using only those libraries exposed to the RT runtime.
So before I go any further with this – I have to say that I love the Surface RT as a concept – and I approve of a lot of the security measures built in to it – but just last week I have seen the device that will kill RT off. It isn’t Android or iOS – ironically it is Windows 8.1 (the full fat version).
So these are my requirements in a testing device (I mostly test applications but also do infrastructure tests). I use lots of other software and tools but these are the absolute must haves…
Nessus (client end so just a web browser)
Burp (so Java required)
Word – for report writing
Aside from this – an absolute requirement for a tester’s machine is the ability to unrestrictedly install software, modify system settings etc.
RT couldn’t supply most of those requirements but I just bought a tablet that could for less than £100. The KingSing W8 tablet has these specs
Intel Atom Bay Trail processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage,1280 x 800 pixel IPS display with 5-point multitouch support, a 4500mAh battery, stereo speakers, a microSD card reader, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 The Windows license is free on this type of small device – so it has a full fat version of Windows 8.1 on it.
I have to say I love this little tablet – in general the build quality is good, the screen is responsive, and although it doesn’t have a lot of local storage, I put a 32G SD card into it and tripled its capacity with no issues. It runs nmap, gives me access to my Nessus server and has a proper Java environment so I can run Burp. I’ve also installed MS Office with no problems. It amazes me that something that weighs less that 500g can deliver this kind of access to software. You can plug it in to a full sized monitor, attach a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you have a proper PC. There are no fans, it runs very cool and the battery life seems pretty reasonable (more than eight hours anyway).
I suppose the obvious question is can Linux (not talking Android – but a full on OS with access to professional applications) be delivered on a similar spec of tablet at a similar price? I’ll say ‘no’ at this stage because my experience of installing it on the Surface Pro was not a positive one – (see my earlier review). Also no Word for Linux although the online version could be usable dependent on the complexity of the template and any requirement for automation (I like my VBA for automation of reports).
Anyway this particular tablet is not without its disadvantages – 1G RAM is very light for Windows 8 and I wouldn’t want to work with that on a daily basis (or try Visual Studio on it). Doubling the RAM would greatly improve it in that respect. But for something which doesn’t weigh much more than my phone to be able to run all the programs a tester needs on a daily basis is quite remarkable. I would happily stick this in my bag and go out for the day with the confidence that if I need to access my scans or answer a customer query I would be able to do this.
So congratulations to KingSing on having achieved this – and a somewhat backhanded compliment to Microsoft on having made an OS that delivers it. I suspect that in the future Windows tablets will take a huge proportion of the marketplace because of their obvious advantages over Android and iOS – but I can’t see that those tablets will be running RT.