Bonum Certa Men Certa

Android Devices Open the Door to GNU/Linux

Summary: The new reality of Android domination and how this affects the race for GNU/Linux domination

Android may not be a very freedom-respecting system (the "apps" in particular) and by default it is quite privacy-hostile; sure, there are Android derivatives or forks (if not branches) which can be installed, but being a derivative of something privacy-hostile is unlikely to be the right recipe (or best starting point). So, in a way, many people have been hoping that once Android conquers the market (of smartphones and tablets at the very least) it should become easier to install GNU/Linux on billions of devices, having paid nothing at all for Android (the Android 'tax' is $0). Google is not Microsoft, so rarely will it go to great lengths to prevent GNU/Linux from being fitted onto devices; Google is, after all, itself somewhat of a GNU/Linux vendor.



There was interesting news earlier this month about a "[n]ew indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer" [1]. Remember that some GNU/Linux vendors already eye these opportunities [2] and some explore dual-booting as an entry ramp [3] (Microsoft is trying that too, with very little success). Let us hope that in years to come Microsoft will fail to bundle Windows as a second operating system (even if Windows get rented to OEMs free of charge) and many Android devices will come with a desktop option (like Ubuntu Edge) by default. Android already has some decent GNU/Linux integration [4]. Almost nobody complains about Android being Windows-centric on the desktop side, e.g. development and synchronisation, unlike some other portable Linux-powered devices and operating systems (Palm's WebOS comes to mind and it's not alone). In fact, developing for Android on Android [5] is possible if one does not mind proprietary software (which has gotten hard to trust on Android [6]).

In 2014 we are going to see Android pre-installed on almost every device; the Apple stores around Manchester have been rather empty during December (noticeably under-occupied whenever I pass near them) and all the Apple-faithful can do is rely on Android revisionism [7], ignoring that fact that Samsung is already overtaking Apple and creating its own retail stores [8]. Android devices are self-upgrading and self-improving [9,10] (remote update without users' consent is a problem though), which makes them distinctly better than anything Apple has to offer. Android's founder and former boss is meanwhile taking Linux forward to land on robotics [11], not just devices like Google's CCTV Glass.

Now that Android has become one of the most popular platforms (if not the most popular platform) for proprietary software developers (new examples in [12-15]) we just know that Windows has lost its inertia and for GNU/Linux ('true' distros) to become popular it's important to find new ways to fit them on devices with Android, essentially liberating them with Free/libre software.

Related/contextual items from the news:



  1. New indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer


  2. Five reasons why the Ubuntu tablet could shock naysayers in 2014
    With a recent proclamation by Mark Shuttleworth that an “interesting set of household brands' are looking at putting Ubuntu Touch on their own phones and tablets,” the mobile landscape has become quite interesting. Prior to this, it seemed like the Ubuntu Phone was having serious issues gaining any traction with major brands. However, with Ubuntu 14.04 placing a major focus on honing the Ubuntu tablet experience, things are going to get interesting.


  3. Canonical Shows Off New Dual Boot Feature For Ubuntu In Latest Developer Preview
    Canonical today unveiled their latest work on their underdog Ubuntu mobile operating system. If you can remember, it was only October when Canonical announced Ubuntu 13.10 for smartphones, with a fully featured system attempting to rival Android. Today, in a somewhat odd move, the company has announced the availability of a developer preview of a new dual boot feature allowing supported Nexus devices to switch quickly between an Android-based OS and Ubuntu.


  4. How to get Android notifications on your Linux desktop
    Stop reaching into your pocket and wondering about every vibration with this clever Android/Linux mirroring tool.


  5. AIDE—Developing for Android on Android
    Android, as a platform, is one of the fastest growing on the planet. It is available on smartphones and a series of different tablet sizes. Most devices also include a full spectrum of sensors that are available to programs you install, so it's a very inviting platform for development. The usual workflow involves installing a development environment on some other machine, either a Windows or Linux desktop or laptop. You then do all of your code writing, compiling and debugging there before you actually copy it and install it onto your Android device.


  6. Google in hot water over removed Android permissions app
    App Ops Launcher was introduced to Android 4.4 Kitkat and allowed users to install apps and then decide how much information they wanted each app to have access to, such as location data, contact details and so on.


  7. Android 'started over' the day the iPhone was announced
    Already in intensive development for two years by 2007, Android was Google's vision for a mobile operating system of the future. Still, in spite of all the work that had already gone into it, the Mountain View company was sure it couldn't carry on along the trajectory it'd been following — the earliest Android devices looked very much like Googlified BlackBerrys — and had to alter its plans to compete with the iPhone's new touch-centric interface. A book excerpt in The Atlantic cites Andy Rubin, who led the early development of Android, as saying "I guess we’re not going to ship that phone," in reference to the Sooner project Google was initially planning to reveal to the world.


  8. Samsung Galaxy stores could be the next big thing in tech retail


  9. Benchmarking the ODroid XU: A Fast-Clocked Quad A15 ARM Machine
    The ODroid-XU contains 8 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration where four of the cores are active at any time. The Single Board Computer comes with 2Gb of RAM, USB 3, a microHDMI connector able to output 1080p, 10/100 network connectivity, a microSD slot, and the ability to connect up to 64Gb of eMMC flash memory to the system.


  10. Android 4.3 flavors Sony Xperia Z1, Xperia Z Ultra
    Owners of Sony's Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra should now start to see Android 4.3 pop up on their phones.

    Sony spilled the beans about the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra on Monday but cautioned that the actual arrival time of the Android update will vary by market and carrier. Android 4.3 offers several enhancements and tweaks for Xperia phones.


  11. Google's robotics program has legs, but where is it going?
    Now that all the foundational research has been done by startups and universities, often with military funding, Google is swooping in. The effort is being led by former Android operating system chief Andy Rubin, a known robotics buff. Rubin is a big-picture thinker, and he’s been obsessed with robots for decades. Angle recalls selling Rubin an iRobot B24 — a 2-foot-diameter research robot with three wheels and sonar sensors — in 1989 or 1990. "This is something that an individual would never buy," he says. "The only people who would buy it would be research universities and Andy Rubin."


  12. Circle social media app for Android keeps you in touch with your local community


  13. Monopoly Slots brings a free slot machine to your Android device


  14. Startup Manager Renews Shine on Android's Boot
    I tested Imoblife's Startup Manager Full Version on a newish Samsung Galaxy Young and an aging Motorola Photon 4G. By disabling all startup user apps -- the ones I had installed myself -- I was able to obtain a system boot time of 1 minute, 11 seconds on the Y. That's a 6-second speedup over boot without Startup Manager. I obtained similarly powerful testing results on the Photon 4G.


  15. Free DU Speed Booster app for Android


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