Linux Format

Running the Linux desktop on Android

Over the past couple of issues we’ve seen how Linux and Android get along. In the first part, we explored the ‘under the bonnet’ Linux that makes up the foundation of Android (LXF253). Then we installed Termux to set up a capable, if small, Linux shell environment. This enabled us to install some additional software, and offered a great selection of tools.

But this was still only a subset of what a real Linux distribution would provide. So in this article we’re going for the full monty: installing a fully featured Linux environment, complete with graphical desktop, onto your Android device.

As with Termux, one of the key technologies many of these systems employ is pRoot (https://proot-me. github.io ). In case you missed the previous instalment in this series, pRoot is an implementation of the chroot utility that’s popular in the desktop/server Linux world. But chroot requires root privileges, which aren’t available by default on Android. So pRoot provides most of the benefits of chroot by doing some clever directory binding.

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Unlike Termux, however, not all of these Linux-on-Android systems use BusyBox (https://busybox.net). The reason is because the whole purpose of these systems is to provide a ‘full’ installation, whereas BusyBox is designed to wrap up a number of common utilities into a single binary. Instead, these systems install a typical Linux bootstrap containing the full-strength versions of programs like ls, cp and mkdir.

There is one bit of additional technology for these systems that wasn’t required for , however. We’ll be installing a full-strength Linux distro, which brings with it the expectation of a GUI desktop. We will get one of these, but in order to do so we’ll need to make an important decision regarding the graphics system.

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