It’s been a while since I posted my previous post. Tax filing time, you know. And snow shoveling. Because here in Ontario, Canada, we have had our most brutal winter in 17 years.
But last week I came across an article and a remarkable operating system development.
You all know there is a system called Android. And surely you know that Android is a Linux operating system. All be it that it has not always been as open source as the real Linux advocates would have liked. That seems to have changed for the better though.
You may even have an Android device. That would be a mobile device, yes? And its processor would be ARM based. And although the iWhatevers are ARM based, you surely are not running Android on one of them.
Well guess what, you can run Android on a desktop or laptop running aan Intel or AMD processor, thanks to a remarkable project which now makes an ISO image available for doing exactly that.
Here are two links about this project:
The first one takes you to the project page,
the second to the sourceforge.net page which allows you to download the ISO file containing the operating system.
No doubt you could burn this image file to CD (it’s only 294MB) and install it as the operating system on any Intel or AMD based computer. You could also install it as the second operating system as part of a dual boot system. It will install GRUB as a bootloader, which has quite a good reputation for dual boot systems. I have two dual boot systems (Kubuntu Linux and Microsoft Windows 7) which installed easily and run well with the Grub 2 bootloader.
But none of that is what I did with it.
I used VirtualBox instead. VirtualBox is a virtualization system freely made available by Oracle. Versions exist for Linux, Mac OS X, MS Windows and Solaris. What virtualization does, is allow you to simulate another separate computer from within the operating system you are running. The simulated computer ‘lives’ inside a single file which is what we refer to as a virtual disk. On that virtual machine you can install an operating system of your choice, either from a CD or DVD, but also directly from an ISO file image, such as the Android one we mentioned earlier.
And that is exactly what we did. We used one of the dual boot machines we mentioned earlier, started up in Kubuntu 13.10 Linux, ran VirtualBox, created a new machine in it and installed Android 4.4 in it from the downloaded android-x86-4.4-RC1.iso file. If you are familiar with development, you may realize because of the RC1 in the file name, that we are using a so called Release Candidate file. This means that this is not a finished version yet, but a trial version. However it worked quite well in our system. The only issue we had, was that in some cases when we used the mouse inside the virtual machine window we could not easily break out of that window with the mouse cursor again. It pays to experiment with VirtualBox to figure out mouse integration, USB integration… and how to set up a new virtual machine in general. And yes, you read that right, this Android does not require a touch screen, because you can use the mouse instead. And if you have a Google account you can use it to download and run software from the Google Play app store.
I have taken a snapshot of the Kubuntu screen in which you also see part of the VirtualBox screen and the window with Android open on top of it. All the app icons you see on this screenshot are indeed apps downloaded and installed from the Google app store.
FYI: In the VirtualBox window you can also see that there are two other virtual machines defined: Linux Mint 16 and Manjaro (misspelled with double o, sorry) Linux. Linux Mint is a Linux distribution developed as an alternative to Ubuntu, based on Ubuntu, but with the Unity window manager replaced by a choice between the Mate and the Cinnamon window managers. Both of these window managers stay closer to what people were used to from Gnome and some other window managers. Mint to some extent took over the leading position which Ubuntu held for so long before it switched to Unity. Manjaro is based on Arch Linux. What sets Arch apart from most other distros is the fact it has a rolling release distribution system. Which means that you do not need to install a new version every now and again, but that you can just keep up to date through regular updates of system files as well as program files. It is however not considered as the best choice for the faint of heart, because it does not have the graphical user friendly install program common to many other distros and is really in the first place a CLI (command line interface) system. Meaning that it does not include a window manager as part of the initial install. Manjaro is based on Arch, but has a graphical installer and installs a window manager. These are just examples. On another system I also have an MS Windows XP virtual machine. That is because I use two older scanners (a slide scanner and a handheld line scanner) for which I could not find Linux drivers. On the virtual machine I was able to install drivers and software from the original CDs which came with the devices. They work and the scan files are also accessible from the host operating system, Kubuntu 13.10.