A couple of days about someone at work posted an email asking about Ubuntu Installer and if anyone has tried installing Ubuntu on their android tablet using this software (Sorry I can’t remember your name but am too lazy to log on to the office network to find it in my mailbox). I volunteered to try it out because it sounded interesting and cool to have. This application allows you to install Ubuntu on your Android device on top of android so you basically run Ubuntu as a virtual machine in Android in a fairly easy and painless way. From the FAQ on the developer’s website:
This projects aim is to bring a range of linux distros to your android device through a method known as ‘chroot’, see it has running a linux distro within a virtual machine on your phone. You can access this virtual machine and run it on your phone without causing any damage to your device, or having to overwrite anything. Why might you want this? well my apps are designed to make the install and set up process as easy as possible (more so in the paid apps) while still giving you some flexibility. Once you have the distro up and running then you can pretty much run and install any linux software you like (so long as there is a arm port or it is not architecturaly depenedent), sure there a very few big benefits over what android itself can do but it is still pretty dam cool. (and with the free ubuntu version, hey its free does it matter how useful you find it?)
Excluding the time it took to download the image, the entire process took me about 15 mins to complete so that shows you how easy & painless the entire process was. The app install takes only a couple of mins to complete and that just installs an application that gives you a user guide that explains the install process and buttons to make the process faster/easier. The process is pretty self explanatory and if you can read and understand English and are good at following directions you should have no issues installing. I would really suggest downloading the images over WiFi because downloading 1.5GB over 3G/GPRS would be too expensive.
There are two Ubuntu images available: small (450 MB) & large which is 1.5 GB, The large image requires 3.5GB of free space on your SD card and the small image requires 2.5GB of free space. If you have enough free space then you should go for the larger image as that has the Gnome desktop plus a ton of applications pre-installed the small one doesn’t have too many applications preinstalled and uses LXDE instead of GNOME. I first downloaded the small image to try it out and liked it enough to download the large image.
The install itself was mostly painless. I did hit an issue initially when unzip’ing the small image file (the download is a zip file) with AndroZip as it was unable to handle the large file size and kept dying on me. Using Astro’s built in extractor resolved this and I was then able to extract the file without issues. Learning from this I downloaded the large image on my computer and copied it over after extracting it there (plus I didn’t have enough space to download the file and then extract it on the tablet itself).
After you download the images, the instructions tell you to install the VNCViewer app and the Terminal app. It wasn’t clear from the instructions that VNC was required to see the actual desktop itself so I didn’t install it at first thinking that it was so that you could connect to your laptop/desktop from the tablet. I later realized that it was needed to see the Gnome desktop so installed it and was good to go.
The process to start Ubuntu is a bit cumbersome and requires you to type a few commands on the Terminal but once you start the image and select the desktop size you are good to go and all you have to do then is connect to the Ubuntu desktop using VNC. The desktop is fairly responsive and you can zoom in for more fine grained control. The large image installs the Gnome desktop and not Unity but still it was pretty good. Would have liked to get the option to try Unity as it was designed for tablets but I guess that is a project for another day.
Below is an photo of the tablet with the Gnome desktop running on it (Taking a photo of a tablet at night is a pain because the flash reflects off the screen and without the flash the photo is too dark):
Ubuntu on Samsung Galaxy Tab
Over all a cool and geeky thing to have, but not really that useful in the long run unless you have programs that you want to be able to work on when not at your desktop and don’t have net access.