Ubuntu on which android?
October 1, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Which Android device for sideloading Ubuntu?

As you can see here:

...you can run Ubuntu on Android now.
(more detail here: http://code.google.com/p/native-android-development/wiki/UbuntuForAndroidDevelopment )
However, I expect that access to most phone features are lost.

Which Android devices run Ubuntu best?

Can the sub $100 tablets on ebay run Ubuntu or are they underpowered for it? Example specs:

CPU VIA 8650( 800MHZ) RAM Hyunda 256MB DDR3 NAND FLASH Samsung 2GB(FAT Disc Format)
EXTERNAL FLASH TF card(Maximum 32GB) SCREEN 7" Multi-Touch Resistive Screen,
16:9/Resolution:800*480, 2-Point Pure Touching for Pictures,Zoom In/Out the pictures Via 2 points

What I'm looking for is a very portable device that is OpenSource (OpenPhone seems to be dead) or can dual boot into Ubuntu. I'd like to be able to dial up a VPN and make a VoIP call over WiFI and be able to see the source code, but something smaller and cheaper than a Netbook would be better. A cheap Android phone seems like a good idea, but I wonder how good driver support is.

I'm asking here because the question is broad and the Ubuntu forums are not like they used to be.
posted by jago25_98 to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
So drivers are the #1 issue precluding a complete open-source release of any mobile OS. AOSP is very close to working out of the box but still relies on binary blobs for key device drivers. I'm not sure why Ubuntu is going to be any better than any 3rd party Android ROMs built on a mix of AOSP and driver binaries.

That particular Ubuntu-on-Android page seems to merely be putting a Ubuntu filesystem w. libraries on top of the stock Android kernel. Given that gets around any real driver issues because it's not really a different kernel, any phone or tablet that can be rooted is fine and the more power the better. The tablet you describe will probably be OK, but will be sluggish. It will be akin to running desktop ubuntu w. 256 MB memory and a 2 GB drive. Which is to say, most apps will find it limiting.

I'd suggest getting a Nexus S and trying one of the AOSP-derived kernels on it. That as close as you're going to get to a fully Open Source mobile device at the moment.
posted by GuyZero at 3:47 PM on October 1, 2011

I don't have up-to-date knowledge, but I put Debian on a G1 a couple of years ago so I'm semi-qualified to answer this question. Android uses the Linux kernel with some new drivers. What you're doing is installing the Ubuntu user-mode applications on top of Android's Linux kernel. As I recall there's also some mucking about with the C library, as Android includes a stripped-down one. Android's userspace continues running perfectly normally alongside.

So: connecting to WiFi won't be a problem. Connecting to any VPN that Android normally supports won't be a problem. Sound input and output will be a problem, since Ubuntu's daemons are going to conflict with the Android equivalents. I doubt Ubuntu's sound daemons will run at all on Android's hacked-up Linux kernel -- phone sound hardware is considerably different from PC sound hardware, since audio can be routed either to the ARM chip or to the radio chip.

Finally, the only way to get Ubuntu's normal GUI to display on your phone is by running Xvnc and an Android VNC client, which is ridiculously slow. Hopefully you have a good command-line VOIP program.

The sub-$100 no-brand-name tablets may not give you root access to do all this. The hacking community probably hasn't bothered to figure out how to do this.

So I'd say it's a worthy goal, but it's going to involve a lot of low-level hacking and probably some new code to do the audio (an Android app that can send and receive audio to the Linux side is probably easiest). It would be worthwhile to investigate platforms that are more friendly to normal Linux apps before buying a device.
posted by miyabo at 3:53 PM on October 1, 2011


A similar question was posted on Slashdot since I asked this question:
posted by jago25_98 at 8:12 AM on December 12, 2011

Also, FWIW, AOSP will build and run on the Galaxy Nexus right out of the box. So you can rebuild you complete system from scratch and it has all the necessary driver binaries.
posted by GuyZero at 8:03 PM on December 16, 2011

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