Android

Linux Computing on an Android

UserLAnd’s quest to ensure our mobile experiences are identical to our desktop

No one can question the growth of mobile phones and their importance in today’s age. It is evident the second you step into a café, walk onto a bus, or just wander the streets. Smart phones definitely drive a lot of activities in our daily lives today. To give a perspective on this, research has been conducted on mobile vs. desktop usage based on website visits (1). In 2020, mobile made up 68% of all website visits compared with 29% on desktop globally. With over 6 billion smartphones in use as of the end of 2020 (this is 3 times the number of PCs), it is no wonder that mobile phones have become the primary computing device for many (2).

Portability, ease of app installation and download, internet connectivity, and cost are all driving factors as to why phones have become so popular as a computing tool. In addition, the evolution of mobile phone technology has definitely resulted in phones becoming more powerful than many PCs.

For us Linux users though, the options are far and few in terms of having a mobile device with an environment or applications we are familiar with (outside of PinePhone and Librem). The support for many of our favorite Linux applications are limited when you search the iOS or Play Store which can be quite frustrating. Even if there is support, some of the applications have limitations in functionality and control. So, if the world is going to keep moving towards mobile, how do we ensure that we don’t sacrifice our productivity and overall experience?

Enter Userland Technologies.

Userland Tech’s first jump into the Linux mobile world was with their Android application, UserLAnd, which is open source. The app gives the easiest and quickest way to run an entire Linux distribution on your phone. It does not require root to your device, and it operates from a chroot environment. So if you want to install packages, compile executables, or just play text based games, this is all possible with UserLAnd.

Fortunately, the UserLAnd platform has allowed them to take another step and develop Linux applications for your mobile phone which don’t sacrifice functionality as you are using the actual desktop application that we would all know and love. The first of these applications was FoxBox which provides the desktop version of the Mozilla Firefox browser. FoxBox allows you to install plugins and make other changes to configuration which would not be possible with the current Firefox mobile application.

The most recent addition to the Userland Tech library of applications is GNU Image Manipulation Program or as we all know as GIMP. Userland Tech just recently launched their GIMP application on Android, and it definitely does not make any sacrifices in functionality as it is the desktop environment of GIMP 2.10. Userland Tech has worked hard to positively integrate “touch” controls or you can Bluetooth a mouse or touchpad into your mobile device to have even better control. The launch of this application is definitely a sigh of relief for many lovers of GIMP as the only options available in the Play Store have significant flaws as noted by the poor reviews.

Corbin Champion, who developed UserLAnd, mentioned that he will continue to roll out additional Linux applications for Android including Inkscape and Octave. There is no reason that our mobile and desktop experiences should be any different, and UserLAnd and its Linux applications are ensuring that to be the case.

References

(1) https://www.perficient.com/insights/research-hub/mobile-vs-desktop-usage
(2) https://insights.samsung.com/2021/08/19/your-phone-is-now-more-powerful-than-your-pc-3/

About the author

Linux Wolfman

Linux Wolfman is interested in Operating Systems, File Systems, Databases and Analytics and always watching for new technologies and trends. Reach me by tweeting to @linuxhint and ask for the Wolfman.