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Linux on Dex (linuxondex.com)
376 points by MikusR on Nov 8, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments

I have pretty much given up on the prospect of running a full fledged FOSS OS on devices that don’t give access to the bootloader’s root of trust, or give you a userland that works with a kernel you can’t control (eg Crouton). It all sounds great until you start trying to do actuall work. As soon as you need anything that’s not provided by the manufacturer software image you start to notice all the foundational things you’re not allowed to do with your system.

Need a kernel option or module not provided? Nope, can’t build/sign it. Remember, not all modules are for new hardware (no VMs for you!). Current version of OS? Distro security updates for kernel? Um maybe if they get around to it lol.

It kind of reminds me of Doctorow’s thing about war on general purpose computing.* Like how is it in the interest of handset manufacturers to let you have a general purpose computer that could run unsigned (by them) code?

To have a real linux distro, you would have to be able to run unsigned privileged code, but that would make it possible to do all sorts of naughty things like unauthorized disk encryption, subverting DRM, mucking around with the radios, etc. You can’t really have have one without the other.

* http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/coming-war-general-com...


I'm on the lookout for a solid system that can boot a vanilla Linux kernel (something like an x86 laptop or ARM laptop, sub 10 inches preferably) that can make phone calls, receive SMS, and has a built in 4G modem.

Does such a thing exist? I'd rather have a crap phone attached to a powerful computer, than a powerful phone that locks itself down so much that it's a crap computer.

Seems like what you describe is Purism's upcoming phone, the Librem 5.

That project makes me happy.

Also just looked at their computers that are beginning to resemble an actual alternative.

I remember another "libre" project some years ago which was very expensive and extremely clunky, probably because they wanted to use pre ME intel chips, which it seems they have compromised on now.

Anyway it's good to se alternatives catching up. I am so ready to ditch the big-data/fashion companies and i think many people are too, if just the design and eco-system catches up.

Personally i think we are less than 10 years from total dystopia if we don't create an "alternative" internet, which is actually just the standard internet without walled gardens, without tracking and with out corporate and state controlled ID systems that will end up imprisoning us all very soon with no escape.

I am from Scandinavia and here the state already tracks and cross references all kinds of data on you from health to taxes to criminal record, just as private big-data does in the US. Everyone has a state provisioned login card with serious sec flaws.

We are no doubt headed for china-like rating systems and pre-crime drone fuelled nightmares.

A large organisation that pushed both free hardware and software for the masses fast is sorely needed to avoid the ultimate tech nightmare that only the coming climate/resource collapse can otherwise save us from.

All hail either free private computing or a deus ex machina Carrington Event.

Let's be honest, it's either socialism or barbarism.

The closest thing to what you're describing seems to be the Librem 5[1]. It's a bit of an investment to get into now, but if you believe that such a product is worthwhile, I think it's worth backing even at this stage, just to show that the market is there.

1 - https://shop.puri.sm/shop/librem-5

Looks like a lot of people are mentioning this one, so buyer beware that it's in the kickstarter stages & it's not currently possible to buy outside of kickstarter

Yes but they actually ship hardware right now (laptops), just raised a round of funding, and post regular updates on tangible progress. A safer bet than most, I'd say.

Maybe something like the Cosmo Communicator [1]? It's a 'reboot' of the Psion PDA form factor by the same people who created the Gemini PDA.

[1] https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cosmo-communicator/

Not likely. Both the Cosmo and Gemini use Mediatek SoCs. You're unlikely to ever see a mainline kernel go anywhere near those things, let alone one supporting the majority of the hardware.

Odds are high you'll even be stuck with a 3.10 (or maybe 4.4 if you're lucky) fork of the kernel.

As much as I love the formfactor, it's way more likely that we'll see a mainline kernel running on one of the various Snapdragon 845 devices before the Gemini or Cosmos.

What's the difficulty with Mediatek? Lack of documentation? (Serious question.)

nokia n900 - I have a few kicking around but they unfortunately are 3G. https://wiki.maemo.org/Nokia_N900

Maybe Sailfish OS?

The Pyra handheld might be of interest to you: https://pyra-handheld.com/

Though it's not yet shipped, and software/drivers seems to be mostly a community effort.

Honestly I do not see real FOSS-usable mobile radio devices, nor GSM, 3G, 4G, 5G or anything else. No OEM (and perhaps states also) want real free communication devices...

Some laptops with a built in SIM module can actually text. I don't know about calls, but have a look around. I know for a fact that the Fibocom modems don't support sms, maybe the Huawei ones do.

Older thinkpads have empty minipcie bays for cell modems. I think my x201 does but I haven’t checked.

My old T430s came with Ericsson 3G minipcie card installed. The bay can be used for many things, not just modems and not just minipcie; msata drives work there too.

UBports is pretty close: https://ubports.com/

It uses libhybris, so they're limited to the original kernel or something close to it because of proprietary drivers. But it's a community project since Canonical stopped Ubuntu Touch development, and it's had a desktop mode like this for years!

The PostmarketOS project is similar, with an explicit goal of mainline support where possible: https://postmarketos.org/

But yes, I would be much happier if devices had support in the mainline kernel and could run any distro you wanted right out of the box. (And some devices just straight up lock you out - I try to avoid those whenever possible.)

DKMS is out there for a long time, but it might be useless with closed bootloader.

You and the author of parent comment should read about Librem 5 (it is supported by UBports as well as GNOME and KDE).

You forget there's also the security twonks in the mix. Those people in favor of forced updates and signing everything too. "Oh my god", they say "what if the user ran something bad!?".

This is absolutely the way to go for 99% of devices.

Yes, you should be able to do some kind of override to say "yes I know what I'm doing and I accept the risks".

And... security twonks?

Permission granted to the user is also granted to malware.

Okay, so give it an off switch.

Gate it behind a long 20-step procedure. Put a video of a guy repeatedly telling the user "hey, hey, this is bad, don't do this unless you're a developer and know why you're doing it, it's a bad!".

I mean really you don't even have to go that far.

Just give it an off switch.

Maybe something like Android's developer mode, where you have to tap something (build version iirc?) In the about phone like 10 times. Won't find it unless you look.

Nobody is arguing against sandboxing.

The problem is sandboxing schemes that put the device manufacturers' needs ahead of the device owners' needs.

Traditionally when device owners bork the device they show up at the shop and have no idea how it happened, or it was the neighbor's kid. /s

> Like how is it in the interest of handset manufacturers to let you have a general purpose computer that could run unsigned (by them) code?

Perhaps naïvely, I imagine that selling me hardware is in their interest. Is control of what runs on the hardware they manufacture really worth more than selling that hardware more widely? Granted, there aren’t a whole lot of us who want to run our own OSes, but we do exist. How much money do the manufacturers make by maintaining control?

Or do they keep it because of contracts (perhaps like HDMI or other copyright-monopoly-enforcing standards) requiring them to prevent users from owning their hardware?

While I agree with you for a primary device, this is still a major step up to be able to have a nice-ish environment available when you for whatever reason don't have another device with you.

Everyone knows what Microsoft did to the PC market in the 1980s. Everyone knows what the Unix Arts & Crafts movement wants to do to computers today.

Open up the bootloader and computers become commodities (modulo some special cases). The makers of those commodities become hostage to whatever platform becomes most popular on those computers.

Instead of thinking in terms of "freedom," one should think of this situation in terms of power.

They liberated it.

If it wasn't for IBM's mistakes, all computers would be like Apple and the mobile platforms.

Ecosystem silos where everyone would be throwing away their ST, 500, Acorn, Apple, etc every time it was time to upgrade.

For those of us who don't have a supported device, there's an android app called [Termux](https://termux.com/) which provides a surprisingly linux-y experience. I sometimes code on my 10" tablet with a small (60%) keyboard.

I do lots of work on my phone thanks to Termux and a 60% bluetooth mechanical keyboard. It's one of my most essential apps on Android. Either using it directly or using it to SSH into servers, raspberry pis, etc.

I'd really appreciate knowing which keyboard you're using!

I use an RK61 one from Amazon[0]. Haven't had any problems with it. I use it quite regularly for my phone and some RasPis. I made a little bracket to hold my phone at the top of the keyboard so I can sit with it on my lap or a table and type for extended periods quite happily.

I use my phone as my primary mobile computer (I don't own a laptop anymore) and am very happy with this setup.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Multi-Device-Mechanical-Rech...

Oh wow, that's a really good price as well.

And the buttons are in the right place (!)

Thank you.

I have a NIZ Plum 84 with bluetooth that works well. There's a number of sizes: https://www.nizkeyboard.com/product/hot-selling-bluetooth-us...

He probably meant hardware keyboard. <strike>I don’t think anyone makes Bluetooth mechanical keyboards.</strike> Ok I’m apparently totally wrong about that last thing and possibly the first as well.

Actually there are many. I've been using this one [0] for around 2 years, with blue switches. Despite some bad reviews, I don't have any issue with it. It can be paired with up to 3 devices + wired USB, so I can swap from phone to desktop to media center with 2 keypresses.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/DREVO-Wireless-Bluetooth-Mechanical-S...

HHKB's supporting Bluetooth (and USB): PD-KB600B, PD-KB600BN, PD-KB620B. I own one of these. Expensive, but high quality.

Termux is incredible. You can even run Arch on it https://github.com/sdrausty/termux-archlinux

PRoot's overhead is very significant though. Especially the moment you have more than one thread running..

I really envy this from the iOS side: the 2018 iPad is amazing with pencil but there is no way to get something like Termux without having to ssh.

Tasker can be combined with Termux, to allow scripts to be run in response to events like battery charging etc. The combo is very powerful.

This + emacs + org-mode + a heavily customized doom emacs means I can track money using ledger, generate workouts using a python script outputting org tables and a lot more. Even worked out how to sync my folder to Dropbox, called from an emacs shortcut.

With a free/standard mobile device (that actually do not exists) you can do whatever you want without limit. Unfortunately OEMs do not want that. And "this" is another Trojan horse to let people think the can run free software hiding the details that their software run in a proprietary jail. With enough time and marketing we will have a new generation of people who find pretty natural download GNU/Linux from an OEM store, forgotten another piece of IT freedom we have till now.

I'll be curious to compare my flow with yours...

BTW: dropbox is lame until you can use encfs over it ;)

This is really cool.

I've been looking for such thing for a long time now.

If you have a corporate Job like consulting or something equivalent it's very likely you are packing an awful laptop with you everywhere you go, a DELL or a Lenovo or something like that.

DEX opens a door for next generation Mobile Desktop , where you SmartPhone is also your Desktop Computer.

I really hope Apple does something similar in this area , the new iPad can be connected to a screen, but the real deal would be using the iPhone with as a laptop...

Also consider Chromebooks. You get the desktop version of Chrome (ie whatever extensions you want), windowed interface, runs Android apps, and via the rapidly maturing Crostini project you can also run Linux apps. Heck on Intel based Chromebooks you can run Steam and use Proton/SteamPlay to run Windows games (and other Windows apps).

The nicest thing about the Chromebooks is that the software is identical, but the hardware varies from $200 cheapo devices all the way up to almost $2,000. This means you are far more likely to find your own sweet spot of price, size, memory & cpu, storage etc.

Some also have LTE so can be used as an alternative to a phone.

> Also consider Chromebooks.

Because of their dependence on Google servers, Chromebooks (or using any cloud-based service) make it very hard to satisfy confidentiality requirements that are imposed by clients for consulting jobs.

> DEX opens a door for next generation Mobile Desktop , where you SmartPhone is also your Desktop Computer.

Remember, Microsoft tried this with Continuum for Windows 8/10 and Windows Mobile, it failed. No-one actually wanted the core of their desktop inside their phones. People have partitioned off different use-cases for their PC and smartphones, and the overlap is smaller than designers think.

You can't discount the confused product strategy re: old software in this failure.

People want desktops to run desktop software. Not WinRT/universal/modern/UWP. They did not understand this. So for multiple iterations, they shipped tablets, phones, etc., under the "Windows" brand that could not do what people think of when they hear "Windows".

They should have shipped a device circa 2012 that let you recompile desktop Windows apps for arm. They had the technology.

Just like with the Ubuntu Phone: we just wanted a regular X11 on the phone, not a copy of Android app space on Android base.

Nokia N900 had regular X and a forked Gtk+. I liked that thing. They didn't really support it well. Then Elop came.

We should not forget the weight of the board on his decisions.

It's not that Continuum failed. It's that Windows Mobile failed as a platform (for other unrelated reasons), so we didn't even get to the point where Continuum was even a realistic consideration.

The Lumia 950/XL were the last hurrah for the platform, so one can hardly blame Continuum for the demise of Windows on phones.

we still need the pc revolution on mobile devices.

we are still in the mainframe/timeshare stage.

> we still need the pc revolution on mobile devices.

The PC revolution happened because of very open hardware specifications and a non-monopoly on the firmware (the IBM BIOS was reverse-engineered by Compaq).

That revolution was due to a mistake on IBM's part.

"Microsoft tried this with Continuum for Windows 8/10 and Windows Mobile, it failed."

There are plenty of reasons for that, chief among them being the staggeringly-uphill battle of Windows regaining any significant marketshare in the mobile space and (presumably) the lack of software compatible with Windows on ARM.

Meanwhile, Android (and Samsung's phones in particular) are quite popular, and the vast majority (to my knowledge) of Linux desktop programs work on ARM just as well as they do on x86(-64).

It wasn't that no one wanted them - they just weren't powerful or portable enough.

Snapdragon's 835 changed that. So will the A12X from Apple.

I think you’re underestimating Apple’s chip performance. Going by https://browser.geekbench.com/ the best performing Android devices(Samsung’s special thing for single-core, Snapdragon 845 in a OnePlus for multi-core) appear around even with an A10 for single-core and an A10X with multi-core. If this/last year’s Android chips were enough to make Dex viable, you’d expect last generation’s iPad Pro and the iPhone 7 to be capable of running Apple’s solution.

Oh not at all. Apple chips are beasts and surpass anything out there.

But it's likely a greater chance to see a snapdragon head into a convertible desktop format than an iPhone or iPad, neither even allow a mouse. Still have hope for an A12X powering a MacBook tho.

The Snapdragon 835 is not the enabler here. A mid-range 5-year-old phone has 4 cores at 2+ GHz, more powerful than a 10-year-old computer. Even back then this was powerful enough to run plenty of desktop workloads. The thing that's enabling usage of phones as desktops is USB Type-C which is fast enough and versatile enough to carry video output and a USB singal while powering the phone.

Absolutely. The power of the 835 was not the processing power alone, but pairing the 835 with greater than 3 gb of RAM. This helps push it into a desktop capable experience.

I bought a Sentio Superbook, and my pixel is the only non-apple device I have so I can try to use it in this manner.

The whole point on Dex is that you can connect a phone to a big screen and a big keyboard. Well, maybe your clients will provide you with a decent screen and a decent keyboard. (If I were a consultant, I'd pack my own. At this point lugging a laptop starts to make sense.)

Bluetooth keyboard/mouse plus a USB-C to HDMI dongle would enable you to work in any conference room with a display available.

oh yeah, I'd hate to be stuck on a Thinkpad or and XPS machine, the 2 best laptops on the market.

> oh yeah, I'd hate to be stuck on a Thinkpad or and XPS machine, the 2 best laptops on the market.

Even when Excel , Chrome , Gmail take 30-50 seconds to open up ? And your laptop freezes when you are dealing with more than 10000 rows ?

That's your opinion i guess.

I won't hope that a phone would handle 10000 rows much better.

But that "Excel" thing might be an answer: the laptop must be running Windows, and Windows users often run an antivirus, and some Windows antivirus software is known to be terrible. (The MS-provided basic antivirus was always fine in this regard, though.)

Indeed one of the biggest drains on corporate productivity are unaccountable bully IT departments. I recently quit a job because I wasn't allowed to escape aggressive antivirus software that made compilation insufferable.

> I recently quit a job because I wasn't allowed to escape aggressive antivirus software that made compilation insufferable.

This seems a drastic response.

Cortana (well, search indexing) also really hurts performance. They're both disk I/O heavy services and make the whole machine sluggish imo

Turn Cortana off.

I've tried disabling the Search Index Service a few times only to find that it's restarted itself.

>I won't hope that a phone would handle 10000 rows much better.

Galaxy S9 has 2 X 4 Core @ 2GHZ , my corporate laptop has an i5 from 2015 with 2 @ 2GHZ.

I'll go with the Galaxy.

Yet that i5 will be way faster than whatever ARM is in Galaxy. It will also have much faster SSD than the eMMC in phones, and will be paired with faster RAM to boot.

All these things take way more energy, so your laptop will also have much bigger battery.

The phone with 4G will not be subjected to stupid corporate firewall rules preventing access to, say, StackOverflow.

Unless your phone was issued by your employer, is managed by MDM and runs all the traffic through your employers firewall anyway.

On the other hand, there are laptops, that have cellular radios. My old Thinkpad surely does.

Some exception cases: the phone needs to run a Mobile device management agent that installs and launches an antivirus, or the mobile happens to connect to a corporate VPN that routes all traffic and then inspects it via some appliance.

I'd just activate the hotspot on the phone to use the laptop.

I guess they like hiring more devs to do less work.

Frankly, 10k rows is something that an IBM PC from 1985 should have handled adequately, using SuperCalc.

Depends on what you're doing with these 10k rows, though.

FYI GHZ isn't a good indicator of performance difference between 2 different types, models, and architecture;

it's like comparing the revs of your cars, it's just the cycle rate, not the Instruction rate

x86 GHz != ARM GHz

Well, GHz is GigaHerzs or 10^9 cycles/second.

So Ghz is Ghz regardless of x86 or ARM as thisvis just the clock speed.

Another discussion is how much work is done each cycle. For that you might use GigaFLOPS or TeraFLOPS (10^9 or 10^12 dloating operations per second) or another absolute measure of performance.

What did they do to that poor computer? On my 3 year old Thinkpad Chrome/Firefox take < 1sec to start and Gmail takes a couple seconds to load. Can't talk Excel as I don't use it.

The recipe is quite simple:

1. Take a nice shiny new laptop

2. Install Windows onto it.

3. Throw a large bucket of badly written monitoring apps, security apps, encryption apps, in-house apps, and pointless business notification apps.

4. Lock down the OS so the end-user can't remove or stop any of the added chaff.

5. Watch the nice shiny new laptop slow to crawl under the weight of all that crapware.

This is speaking from experience - I have 10+ years of designing and deploying corporate Windows based Desktop/Laptop builds. It all starts fine, until some clueless internal committee decide that they want to install everything and the kitchen sink onto your nicely designed platform...

If Chrome takes 30-50 seconds to open and your computer was made in the past ten years, you should probably reformat

Why would running these things on your phone be faster?

DeX open the (back)door to (a big cucumber, sorry for being vulgar) port free software to proprietary jail and let users think they are free.

A jail's a jail, no matter how big, decorated and comfortable seems to be.

I love this idea. With insane mobile processors, terabyte storage on phones, external GPUs, and USB-C docking, we're tantalizingly close to "I do my computing on this device. It's in my pocket with a phone interface right now. But once I plug it in at my desk with the GPU dock, it's my computer. And later, I'll throw it in the tablet and use it on my couch."

Backups will need to be good and easy if your main computing device can fall out of your pocket on the subway, and an OS which is happy doing this will need to exist. But for many people, this could be a beautiful world.

I want a laptop with a hole where the mouse pad should be.

I want to be able to put my phone into that slot, dock it, and use the screen of my phone as the mouse pad for the laptop.

I want my phone to do all the processing and work. I want the laptop dock to be an extension of my phone, running something like DEX to make the laptop experience work. The only thing I want this laptop dock to do is give me a screen, a keyboard, and maybe extra battery and ports.

Please, someone make this happen. I could use my phone for all computing at that point.

Something like Project Linda then? https://www.razer.com/projectlinda

It is still a concept, but Razer's two phones have been the same size, so it remains a possibility.

That's very cool as a concept. I'd like to see Apple get all over something like this as well.

Is it just me or would something like that sell like wild?

I very much doubt it. It doesn't run Windows stuff, so it's more of a competitor to Chromebooks, and those haven't sold like wild (less than 5% of new sales in 2016). Coupled with the fact that it restricts you in the choice of phone, and I think it's basically DOA.

I figure that’s a good opening for accessory sales (from a product design perspective). It wouldn’t have to lock you into a phone if the connector was universal (ie, the switch to USB C) and adapters to fit snugly into the slot—they could even be cases. Also has the advantage of modularizing the machine.

And most phones swing above chromebooks for price and power, no? This would be an improvement on the format if you ask me. Especially if it could eventually deliver a proper Linux distro or Mac OS.

"less than 5% of new sales in 2016"

Given how saturated the laptop market is, that's actually not terrible.

How so? It's new sales, not marketshare.

Why would you want to delegate all your computing needs to the point of complete and utter dependency to the closed-source, restrictive hardware/software ecosystem that is the modern smartphone? You can't even disable the baseband on any flagship model, so just there you're enthusiastically advocating for 24/7 cellular tracking as a feature.

In a world where most people can do almost all of their computing activity on a tablet or ultrabook, not too many people are worried about that.

> I want to be able to put my phone into that slot, dock it, and use the screen of my phone as the mouse pad for the laptop.

Minus the hole, that is one of the many features of kdeconnect: Use your android device as a wireless touchpad and keyboard.

yeah but kdeconnect cannot become your desktop from your phone. Thats just not the same kind of use here.


Basically, connect screen to get debian.

Given the variability in phone dimensions, it seems like you'd have to buy a phone specifically designed for your laptop, or vice versa.

Attempts have been made before, like the Asus Padfone line, but it never really caught on.[0]


The Atrix Lapdock was frequently used in Raspberry Pi projects at some point: https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Raspberry-Pi-Lapdock-Co...

Something like https://www.sentio.com/?

An HP Elite Lapdock and a Note 9 will get you 90% of the setup you want. I have that setup, it doesn't dock into a slot, it hangs on the side with a USB C cable, but the rest is just as you describe.

$300AUD+ used! Ouch. I've also been looking at https://www.asus.com/au/Monitors/MB169C-plus/ but it's not clear if I can charge my phone at the same time.

I use this as an external monitor for my Chromebook Pixel which I use when I travel. Asus provides a USB A adapter for the USB C cable. I can plug the monitor's USB C cable into a USB C hub's A port, and do power passthrough and run a keyboard and mouse off the other A ports. Assuming your C hub does power passthrough it should charge fine.

USB C hubs with power passthrough, 3 USB A ports, and an HDMI port exist too, so you could run the USB display, HDMI, and a keyboard and mouse all from a single USB C port.

It will depend on their port configuration and display link integration though. The HDMI port might try to claim the USB display bus or whatever, and I'm not sure if you can put multiple USB displays on a single port like that. One will definitely work though.

Same, although i'd rather the phone replaced the number pad than the touch pad.

With all the ugliness of Android-first computing, I percieve it as a good thing that major brands are waking up for the public request of native GNU/Linux UX on mobile computing devices.

> Samsung DeX is supported on Galaxy S8/S8+, Note8, S9/S9+, Note9, and Tab S4.

> * Phones should be connected to an external display to use Samsung DeX.

> * Selected Samsung HDMI adapter/cable is recommended to use Samsung DeX.

> * Samsung DeX using a HDMI adapter or cable is only available on Note9 and Tab S4.

------ So really, DeX only works well (with HDMI cable) on Note9 and Tab S4?

Older phones require the Dex Dock or Pad (which adds HDMI and other ports). With the Note9, you can plug a USB-C to HDMI cable right into it.

There was/is a "C-Force" branded hub that was smaller and (slightly) cheaper than the DeX dock that put the S8/+ into DeX mode just fine.

Hm. I can already plug a USB-C to HDMI cable into my Note8.

Does it work if you do that + use Bluetooth peripherals?

It works well on the other devices too, you just need the dex station.

I wonder what container technology they use.

Also whether there'll be GPU acceleration or just framebuffer.

Can we play a 4k YouTube video out of the box in Firefox?

Also there's two SoCs. In most of the world there's a Samsung Exynos and in USA there's a Snapdragon.

There's surely going to be differences here. Especially GPU-wise.

Since the partner is Canonical, I would speculate it's LXC based. Also since they are looking to put a whole OS experience in a container it probably wouldn't be a good fit for Docker which really wants to push single process containers with no init systems.

Linux on DeX currently supports one customized Ubuntu image (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS version provided by Canonical) which only operates on selected Samsung devices. (Note9 and Tab S4). :(

It also says just before that:

"Only use authorized images provided directly through Linux on DeX. Other versions or unauthorized images may not operate properly."

Seems to imply, to me, that it is not impossible to run other images in this container.

UserLAnd is doing the same as open source and on any device. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tech.ula

Did anybody compare the performance of this and UserLAnd? The latter is not a speed demon, for obvious reasons.

It's a very cool project, unfortunately for now running sudo apt install inkscape on a S8 takes forever.

Depending on how well this works it could single handedly convince me to buy a Note 9. I've been wanting something like this for years.

As this project (then called Linux on Galaxy) was first shown on Note 8, but now turns out Note 8 is not supported, I'd wait for them to officially release it and then get a device that explicitly supports it.

Be sure to look up Purism's Librem 5 phone, coming out next year.

> Linux on DeX currently supports one customized Ubuntu image (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS version provided by Canonical) which only operates on selected Samsung devices. (Note9 and Tab S4).

A crappy distro on a couple of old devices? No thanks. I'll just wait for the Librem 5 [0]

0) https://shop.puri.sm/shop/librem-5/

Edit: Misread "Note9" as "Note7" (don't ask). Ooops. My conclusion still stands.

Note 9 is an old device? What world are you living in? Note 9 will probably be years ahead of that Librem smartphone

Oops, for some strange reason I read that as "Note 7".

In any case, in terms of what you are capable of doing to your device (e.g. running Linux distros, controlling radios, etc), the Librem smartphone is years ahead of anything else in the market.

This is not about running Linux distros on your phone.

This is about your phone doubling up as a Linux PC and being able to use your phone as a PC seamlessly when required by simply connecting it to a monitor. This can be super useful for a lot of users.

Current 8 core SOCs with 4 to 8 GB RAM should be more than usable and its great Samsung has been trying to make this happen. And there is nothing 'crappy' about Ubuntu 16.04 especially given all distros are the same underneath. Why this name calling against Ubuntu?

> This is about your phone doubling up as a Linux PC and being able to use your phone as a PC seamlessly when required by simply connecting it to a monitor. This can be super useful for a lot of users.

Something a phone that supports running arbitrary Linux distros will naturally do without having to depend on random projects like this one which try to give similar functionality by shoehorning a Linux distro on top of a mobile OS. You're also at the whim of mobile OS 'manufacturers', who may make changes to the OS which then break the shoehorning effort.

> And there is nothing 'crappy' about Ubuntu 16.04 especially given all distros are the same underneath.

This isn't even remotely true. Here's a few ways distros differentiate from other distros: custom kernel patches (or not), custom patches (or not) for applications they distribute, package management (!!!), response time to security issues, support they offer (official, community, etc), upgrade model (rolling release vs big crap dump of updates every X months).

> Why this name calling against Ubuntu?

Ubuntu does a lot of the above differentiation stuff wrong, IMHO.

It's really odd to bash a flagship phone with great reviews, only to say you're waiting for a phone that nobody will buy or support.

> that nobody will buy

Quite a few people already have bought it.

> or support

Quite a few applications will run on it. Linux on ARM has been a thing for years... it's not like this is some walled garden bullshit 'ecosystem' that has to be painstakingly grown from nothing.

It's really odd to support manufacturers who create walled gardens in order to lock in customers and prevent users from actually owning the device they purchased.

2011 is back! Meet the Motorola Atrix + Lapdock


Didn’t that and the Samsung Ativ Q get destroyed by some patent?

I'm pretty sure that 90% of computer usage could be handled by the computers in our pockets.

...Except for the tiny screen and barely-usable keyboard.

Desktops and even laptops make sense exactly where phones don't: large screens, large keyboards, a lot of CPU and battery. This can't fit in a pocket.

This is why Samsung created the DeX docks. You connect your phone to the DeX device and then connect all the peripherals to the DeX pad: monitor (via HDMI), and mouse + kb.

it means you need to have your monitor and keyboard ready in several locations. at some point if you work on the go it does not make sense anymore.

I expect corporate HR departments to love this, actually. Give everyone identical cubicles with docking station and accessories. People can be shuffled around, and they can easily take their devices with their work with them. Send someone to headquarters for training or whatever, and they just have to bring along a pocket device and find a station to plug into when they arrive.

You could connect to a TV, as well. Honestly, for actual IT/programming persons, such a set up is unlikely to be be exceptionally useful, but I could see using Ubuntu Linux on the phone in more modest ways. You could play a native Linux game (perhaps one you coded yourself), while using a Bluetooth controller. I'm kind of grasping for straws here, actually, but I'd say that the dex pad is pretty cool more broadly speaking. For example, you could use your phone's unlimited data to play back netflix or YouTube videos while connected to a TV. You could use the Samsung dex mode (which predates this Ubuntu mode by several years), while relying on only the touch screen to launch the playback of said video. For me this seems uniquely useful because my mobile carrier, T-mobile, limits tethering to several GBs (and bypassing it hasn't worked in the last few years) and it would be unwise to spend them quickly just to provide a data connection to the smart TV or another intermediary device.

If you have an android phone try installing an X server with support for relative mouse mode. I’ve personally found most desktop apps are more usable on android this way than their native android versions (even when the android version has all the features I want which is rare.)

The battery life like this is horrible though. I’m not sure if it’s X11 or if it’s that using android’s graphics from C wastes a lot of cpu time or what.

Happy to see more efforts to make your phone a PC!

Another option is Maru:

https://maruos.com https://github.com/maruos/maruos

Maru is an open-source project and has been well-tested for nearly three years now. We've also been featured on HN quite a few times actually.

Speaking of Samsung, Maru already has early builds available for the Samsung S9: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/maru-os-dev/YVkUiwuKMRQ/fOQY...

I'm the creator btw.

Would you like to know what I'm not doing?

I'm not spending $700 on a locked-down linux tablet with 4GB RAM. Unfortunately I don't think I will ever be at a point where a tablet is worth more to me than 440 double cheeseburgers.

DeX, WSL, Crostini, all experiments for a simple purpose: steal users freedom and offer FOSS code in a proprietary jail to avoid direct competition against FOSS.

IOW be prepared to find in the next 5/8 years PCs with Windows kernel and basic userland as a UEFI fw and "Linux" (GNU actually) software available and offered via Microsoft store. Also be prepared to find mobile devices dockable with the same offer from Samsung etc. The end of freedom.

That's is a clear demonstration of the need of mandate by law free software and open hardware: having free software is not enough if we do not have hw to run it directly.

Honestly, if this works well I might migrate to this. I've always thought the laptop is an ergonomical nightmare; moving the central processing bit to the phone always makes sense yet not always possible. There has been mentions of Project Linda here, but I'd be far more interested in having a portable, ergonomic, computing solution. I have not found it. The closest one is having a laptop on a roost stand (which still needs an extra mouse and keyboard). I think modern smartphones are powerful enough, what they need is a sensible display.

Hah - I thought this was originally going to run on the S8/S8+ but they've bumped the requirements up to the Note 9/Tab S4.

What is the reason this works on the note 9, and not the S9/S9+? The S9 seems to have Dex support as well, can anyone explain?

Might be that S9s just have older version of Dex right now - they still need the special Dex dock while Note 9 works with any USB-C dongle.

I'm guessing they'll get the support with Android Pie where Samsung also promises that Dex will be usable without their special dock.

So does the S8/S8+.

But that's a different generation of hardware, I can understand why the project currently focuses on current gen hardware. The S9+ and note9 share the same processor and amount of RAM, so that's why I asked.

I find the terminology used by all these similar projects (linux on chromeos too) amusing. Both, Android and ChromeOS run the linux kernel. So it's like that Yo Dawg meme. On the other hand, MS is even more creative. What could be a legitimate use of "linux on windows" is called windows subsystem for linux. Marketing these days.

You might find the whole business of VMs and containers amusing also, as they are often running aLinux kernel and up (VMs) or a Linux app in a sandboxed Linux environment (containers) on top of ... Linux. So the names are pretty much true.

As other people here mentioned, something like this for iOS would be nice: an Apple app that ran Linux in a secure sandbox. I find using Prompt for multiple SSH shells to remote servers, Raskell (Haskell) and Pythonista (Python) IDEs to be very cool and somewhat useful - but, having an option for a sandboxed Linux would be better.

Unless they allow the same kind of control a user can get with normal x86 machines or better, I can't see this being taken seriously by developers. I can't see developers jumping on a closed, locked-down platform other than apple's (and even those folks are starting to get tired).

I just use an external SSD and take that with me.

It's rare that I'll find a monitor and keyboard, but no PC.

I do look forward to the day when we all have phones that we can dock into terminals, but until that day comes my portable drive does the job pretty well.

I hope eventually Apple produces something of this sort, atleast on the surface it seems they are onto something with Marzipan. Someone should solve this problem completely.

I just want a tab like the S4 with that keyboard and mouse to ship with a proper linux distro, customized and optimized to it. Would buy it in a flash

Something like the Google Pixel Slate, which can run Linux apps?

As someone who's been looking for a first-class Linux experience on a mobile tablet for a while and been very underwhelmed by everything on offer, I'm pretty excited about this and am very curious how it compares with running Linux on the upcoming Slate. That said, the S4 is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the Slate and more what I'm in the market for though I expect the Snapdragon to be quite a bit slower than the x86 in Google's product.

That's a Chrome OS device.

So what is preventing OEMs from releasing a Chrome OS phone which runs both Android apps and desktop Linux apps out of the box without this Dex/Canonical vendor-specific solution?

As far as I know, the compatibility layer for running Android apps on Chrome OS is closed-source, which means that any OEM wanting to do this would need Google’s blessing and access to their source code. However, if there were a phone that did this, I’d buy it for sure.

I was hoping this would allow me to ssh into my phone to make/take calls and send/receive texts. Does anyone knows if that's possible?

I suspect that the VM gets suspended when you undock the phone. I wouldn't count on being able to use it for persistent background services.

This seems to suggest that at least the audio can't be relayed. Sad. https://www.samsung.com/hk_en/support/mobile-devices/how-can...

Texts are probably possible. (I use Pushbullet, but Android Messages would also work).

Only Apple seems to have got the control over the stack to get calls through iPad/macOS. I was hoping that Dell Connect would be an option but it's not clear that voice is pushed through there.

> Only Apple seems to have got the control over the stack to get calls through iPad/macOS.

If you're on Google Fi, you can make (and take) phone calls on your desktop via Hangouts.

On Android, Termux lets you read and write texts using the Termux API, and set up an SSH server.

cool! that's a start

Termux:API[1] is close, but doesn't appear to support phone calls. You can record from the mic and send SMS though.

[1] - https://wiki.termux.com/wiki/Termux:API

that's a start. thanks!

"I was hoping this would allow me to ssh into my phone to make/take calls and send/receive texts. Does anyone knows if that's possible?"

I send SMS from the command line by curl'ing twilio ...

  curl -X POST -d "Body=Hi" -d "From=3032221111" -d "To=4151112222" "https://api.twilio.com/2010-04-01/Accounts/${account_sid}/Messages" -u "${account_sid}:${auth_token}"
I do at least half of my testing this way, from inside my terminal that I am already working in (I wrote a little sms script in /bin/sh).

Of course this means that your phone number has to be at twilio (either source the number from them or port it to them).

Yeah I'm aware of this, but my use case is different. I'm often abroad, but I also often need to contact numbers from my home country, so I wanted to have a phone I could ssh into from abroad and serve as a gateway

Google voice does this perfectly. No use in doing something like ssh that may or may not work.

You used to be able to do this with chan_bluetooth on Asterisk, but I would not recommend it.

Why not?

Kdeconnect comes to mind. It is more aimed at working on wifi, but you can probably make it work with ssh tunnels or vpn.

Owning the Note 1, 2 and 4, I ultimately left because Samsung is very poor at updating phones regularly with current patch levels. I was forced to get a Pixel 2 which, minus the stylus I've been happy with. It still wouldn't hold a candle to a Note with bare Android.

If Samsung could adopt native android installation, like some LG devices are, this is an exciting possibility.

Why not just put bare Android on a Note then?

I'm pretty sure a QFuse gets blown when you OEM-unlock a recent Samsung. Also, I don't think "bare Android" (AOSP or Lineage) supports the S-Pen.

I was about to get rid of my superbook by sentio and this may have changed my mind.

Having owned the note 1, 2, 4 and now a pixel 2, I left because of the poor history of timely and current updates by Samsung.

If Samsung could provide the option of running native Android like LG is, this would be a compelling option.

"4GB RAM is required in your device for downloading a Linux image". This remind me the requirements when I was student: 4MB RAM were required for Linux kernel compilation from command line, 8MB if X server was running. My PC had 120MB of hard disk. Other times ...

The galaxy note, and other "note" phones have a "touch" layer ontop the screen, which make it possible to use a high precision stylus. And the screen has a lot of pixels already, so you could already use it as a PC. Typing with a stylus is pretty fast.

I would love for the time to arrive where I can just walk to work with my phone in my pocket, dock it and run everything I need to in one place on one device - unfortunately as someone said above the restrictions manufacturers put on the devices are too hardcore.

I'm curious as to how well ARM64 Chrome/VS Code/Node.js will perform on this

I'm excited by this if I can do basic dev work from just my phone with a couple of accessories. It might mean for example, I don't need to bring my laptop home from work, in case of an urgent issue.

Full disclosure though - I am party of the incredibly small population who have the compatible phone. I really hope the amount of device support increases significantly if this works out.

I'd love to use this, but my 8 month old Note 8 is apparently unsupported.

Has anyone tried it? Does it work anyway, but just "unsupported"? Or do you get gated at the registration step?

I was able to register but haven't received an email (yet). Hopefully it works on the Note 8 as well, but given that it is mentioned a grand total of 0 times on that website - I'm not holding my breath.

I have a s9+ and want the same. I signed up - have yet to get any more info.

Reminds me of Nirvana phone:


Looks cool essentially but...

> Linux on DeX currently supports one customized Ubuntu image (Ubuntu 16.04 LTS version provided by Canonical) which only operates on selected Samsung devices. (Note9 and Tab S4).

What a waste. Hardware vendors can never produce a really good piece of software. If something as humble as RaspberryPi can run fully up-to-date unmodified Arch I'm pretty sure my Note3 has all the hardware power to run it too yet they require a super-duper-recent device produced exclusively by themselves and would only let us run an almost 3-yr-old distro they have modified.

I wish they partnered with Canonical to continue their work on Unity8. Would be great if they could adopt the project and build on top of it.

I'm confused--is this really running a VM on your device, or is it somehow cloud run or cloud accelerated?

It's on the device. I assume there must be some overhead, but devices like the S9 are several times more powerful than the RasPi, which can already handle software pretty decently.

Has anyone been able to test it on his/her own devices ? I only touched it in a showcase...

Is it running on the hardware with upstream drivers, or it's libhybris based?

It's a container using the same non-upstream kernel and proprietary drivers from the Android OS.

Too bad then.

It's a chroot. (I think)

they didn't even bother set up a GTK+2 theme for geany in their screenshot :p

I wonder how long it would take intellij to index my 1GB project on my phone...

What is Dex? I've read a lot on that page but still don't get it.

When you plug a hdmi cable into a Samsung phone you can either use screen mirroring or go into a desktop mode thats designed for keyboard and mouse.

Specific samsung phones, with special docks (I tried it )

I guess I'm missing something here but I'm failing to understand why would anyone want to set up work environment using their phone? As I understand you would also need a monitor, keyboard and a mouse? Isn't it easier to just use your laptop?

Why Ubuntu 16.04 when 18.04 LTS is already out for a while

Don't we have foldable monitors and keyboard yet?

that's cool, but no way I'm giving up the projector on my indestructible Moto Force for this particular phone.

This (and the internet in general) is pretty anemic on details.

Is this a VM on top of dalvik? I assumed DEX was deprecated in favour of ART https://source.android.com/devices/tech/dalvik/gc-debug.html I mean it is still compatible bytecode (i think) but who knows anything about android roadmap anymore?

DeX is Samsung's brand for connecting their phones to a monitor and having a desktop mode.

It's not related to dex/art of Dalvik.

Apparently it has no connection, even though they're both technologies for running things on Android.

Presumably someone in branding at Samsung thinks this makes sense. They might not even be wrong considering this is end user focused whereas .dex files are something only developers see.

And also dex is the bytecode format, which is still be used by ART(for compatibility reason I guess)


Will Samsung have access to my data?

Does this have a SaaS cost model?

Will I have root access?

Can I apt-get install any package, or only selected packages?

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