OpenTom, run Linux on your TomTom GPS

This article was originally written in English. However, an automatically translated version can be found here.

Nowadays, the use of dedicated GPS devices has been relegated to a second place, as almost everyone has a smartphone with a built-in GPS to calculate the needed routes. However, lots of people still have one of those devices lying around, that they can give a second life to (or at least to tinker with).

About OpenTom

Among the different GPS brands that were popular in the past, TomTom devices are very interesting to explore, as their software is based on Linux and the brand made most of it open-source. Some years ago, in 2006, a mainly German developer team released a lightweight Linux distribution for those devices, called OpenTom.

The distribution featured a basic but functional graphical interface, drivers for the majority of the components of the different devices, and many preinstalled services (such as an FTP, SSH and Telnet server) and applications (utilities, games, audio players…). It even included support for two different GPS applications: Navit and TomTom’s original software.

Nevertheless, at that time GPS devices were still being used for its main purpose, so the community did not show much interest on the project and the official website went down in 2014. Shortly after, a French developer known as Clément Gerardin collected all the available information that he could find, and created an unofficial wiki and repository, so that the development could continue.

Fixing the compilation script

The last commit for that repository was published on January 2017, which is much more recent, but since then several dependency sources have stopped working, and the system cannot be directly compiled following the indicated steps. A few weeks ago, I was looking for alternative uses for my TomTom XXL IQ Routes that I no longer use, and I found this project.

Figure 1. TomTom XXL IQ Routes running OpenTom

When I noticed that I could not directly compile the system, and that the link for a precompiled version was no longer available, I decided to try to fix the missing dependencies and errors, so that I could compile it.

After adding some missing dependencies (that were not specified in the documentation) and looking for updated links for many of them, the base system was able to compile. The extra applications that can be installed come on a separate script, that also needed some tweaks (and to remove some applications which I could not find a working link for).

Finally, I could compile the whole system and most of the applications, and the source code with all of those fixes is now available as a fork of the original repository here. I used a clean installation of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to test it and it worked perfectly, following the detailed steps.

Compatibility issues

Despite the age of the project, a detailed list of all the GPS models that this distribution supports is not available. The only information that can be found is the report of some community members that have successfully tested it on their devices.

In any case, after reviewing the boot and install scripts during the task of updating them, it can be seen that several parts of the code take into account different internal hardware and software combinations, trying to support as many models as possible.

The devices that are confirmed to be supported by OpenTom (either by the developers or by the community) are:

  • TomTom One XL
  • TomTom One (v2)
  • TomTom Go 730

In my case, all features related with Bluetooth did not work, as my device does not feature a Bluetooth antenna.

Final remarks

This project is a really interesting way to give a new lease of life to a disused kind of devices, and also as a starting point for further development related with them.

I would like to emphasise that the full credit for the development of OpenTom must be given to its original creators, but also to the community that gathered all the available resources when the original ones were not available. My contribution to it was only to (re)gather some resources and to update them so that this software could still be used.

In case of any doubt or issue about the OpenTom distribution, feel free to contact me, but preferably contact its developers, that will have a deeper knowledge about its operation.