New indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer

by: Gary SimsDecember 17, 2013

linux-on-androidZac Powell, the lead developer of the Complete Linux Installer app which allows you to install Linux alongside Android on your smartphone or tablet, has launched a new indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer. The current Complete Linux Installer allows users to install popular distributions like Ubuntu, Debian and Fedora on an Android phone and then boot Linux as an app. Once Linux is booted you can connect to the desktop using VNC or by switching away from the Linux window and starting a VNC Android app. The main prerequisite too all this fun is that your device needs to be rooted.

The new Linux on Android indiegogo project aims to further the convergence between desktop and mobile by improving the Complete Linux Installer to support the Linux desktop over HDMI or on the device screen as well as allowing both operating systems to access the storage of the other. Other integration features will be the ability to play audio from Linux via the device’s speakers and view the Android notifications from within Linux. Further Zac wants to make it possible to send emails and text messages from within Linux via accounts setup in Android.

This level of convergence is similar to what Canonical are attempting with Ubuntu for phones, but the approach is very different in that you actually keep Android on your device, you don’t need to switch completely over to Linux. To do all this Powell will create a custom Android ROM with the right hooks to allow the Linux guest operating system to access things like the notifications and the device’s audio subsystem.


The initial funding goal is very reasonable at just £1500 which is about $2500 USD. For that Zac will create an open source Android ROM with Nexus 4 support and all the integration features listed. The next levels of funding at £2000, £3000, £5000 will basically add support for different devices starting with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z and then the Nexus 5, 7 and 10.

Powell is confident that once the money is raised he can deliver the goods as the Linux on Android project has been running for almost  two years and currently has 60,000 active installs via the Complete Linux Installer app. This isn’t a new project with an unproven track record, the indiegogo project aims to improve something that already works and make it even better.

Donation levels are very reasonable. For £2 (around $3) and you get a donation key to unlock the extra features in the current app (which removes ads and allows Linux to boot on startup). For £10 you will get early access to the next version and for £40 (around  $65) you get a swag bag plus a donation key and early access to the next version.

What do you think? Will you donate?

  • MattHail

    No.. The framedrop is ridiculous, not perfectly optimised yet.

    • Dimitar Gospodinov

      If it was ready it wouldn’t make much sense to take money for developement…

      • MattHail

        You must pay for your food cost to make a good food before your customer pay you. You cant simply make a terrible food and say its because you dont have the capital to hire a good chef yet. Its all about business. Also, what they showed in the demo should be the final outcome, collecting fund is just to make it available on more devices and people who donate will get extra features thats all.

        • Dimitar Gospodinov

          if your food goes thrue beta testing and it is being funded on websites you need to change what you are eating. This has nothing to do with food the analogy is just wrong!
          You have been living under a rock if you havent seen all the other campains like this. Do you remember the Peble? Was that ready before? Is the Ubuntu Edge ready? As there is a prototype in cars, phones and other stuff the same goes for programs and apps (you know nightlyes? or alpha builds, then beta…). The developers of this program are not full time defelopers and they want money so they can sit down and do this for a living. Alot of things are being funded like this and I don’t see why not.
          It is alway better if we can choose what to use than to have only one product. I love Ubuntu but I don;t think it should be the only one offering this.

          • MattHail

            Tbh there is nothing wrong with the analogy. Im a student in ecommerce and marketing, every business has the same marketing concept, so yea..
            Btw, lets go back to the topic. I would say Ubuntu Edge was an entire different story, the intro presentation video for the Edge shows that Ubuntu is ready for the production, the capital is the only problem. But look at this demo above, like what i mentioned, the framedrop was just so bad. If the developers really want to convince people to support them, at least they should put in full effort in optimizing the software for the device they wanna use for the demo, in this case is the nexus 4. From the vid above, do you think they are reliable? What if they cant give us what they promised after received the funds, what if i donated but the software is not perfectly optimized for my phone model? i would say this is the worst ever test version that i ve ever seen. I wont say your statement is wrong but this is not for me, for you maybe yes. Just different opinion.

  • venorme

    I like Ubuntu idea way more. Really pity Ubuntu edge wasn`t launched.

    • NeedName

      Ubuntu seems to be a better approach IMO. I really don’t want two operating systems on my limited storage, and I don’t want to have two different sets of apps that most likely won’t communicate very well with each other.

      Convergence is the future, IMO, and it will happen with our smartphones being able to “dock” when necessary, and that may or may not require a different gui, but I don’t see why it requires a completely different OS on the same device.

  • A Googler

    possibly would work for a tablet device but i cannot see the benefit of this for me personally as my desktop machines run Kubuntu which play nicely with my s4

  • Adam Outler

    Seems pretty silly to me. He is basically doing what Ubuntu has done. It will require porting to each device, just like Ubuntu’s version. I don’t see the benefeit in giving the guy money.

    • Mike Reid

      At least he’s not asking for much money.

      I don’t know much about him, or his project beyond this article, BUT…

      …when we are talking about such modest amounts of money, I think it can be worth it to experiment with projects that might even have success rates lower than 20% or so.

      Many things that have become very successful started out as something small, and were derided by the “experts” of the time who “knew better”.

      • Adam Outler

        That’s fine. Being the oddball crackpot is a good thing if you’re the only one doing it. This guy’s efforts would be better put into contributing to the real Ubuntu, rather than a fork.
        Ubuntu is actively developed. Its shipping on devices soon. Anything this project does will be worthless because it depends upon the actual development of ubuntu. The difference here is that rather than developing something for everyone, he is distracting from the actual goal and asking for money to do it. The goal is to get Ubuntu running on devices.. Guess what, it already does. There are open source guys contributing to Ubuntu, Canonical is merging the source, manufacturers are adapting it, and this guy is off playing with code and askinf for money to do it.
        Choice in open source is a good thing. But, the problem here is what he is trying to do is already being done and currently and has massive support from the community. Why would you pay him to come up with his own system when Canonical, the company who makes Ubuntu, already does this for free?

        • Travis N

          I think you are missing the point of what he is doing… I don’t think he is trying to fork ubuntu, but modify android to allow it to play sound from ubuntu (& hopefully any linux on ARM). Many of the features he describes are already working in the paid version, just not sound, notifications, and HDMI (..although I bet HDMI will probably work if your device, android version, and android VNC client support it.) I have been using this app to open, modify, and print Open/Libre office documents from my note 2 for quite a while (google voice input works great for dictating).
          Having said that, I am pretty sure there are already solutions available that could solve the notification / sound integreation. KDE Connect on android/linux works well with android 4.3+ for notifications, clipboard sync, file access, and media player control. It is designed for use over a wifi network, but don’t see why it couldn’t run over localhost in a Kubuntu chroot on android. I’m sure it can’t be that hard to create some sort of sound server/client app to get sound over HDMI / 3.5 mm from a LInux chroot on android. .
          You are right though, this shouldn’t depend on a custom android ROM or ubuntu fork.

  • RaviChandarana

    I think some people have missed the point here.

    This combination of Linux and Android has huge potential on the desktop and convertibles. Desktop Linux users can take advantage of the large number of apps for Android which may fill a gap in the current Linux app portfolio.

    Convertibles running both Android and Linux become as competitive as Windows 8, which offers both touch and desktop apps.

    Seeing as many people downloaded Bluestacks to their Windows computers which uses Gingerbread which is pretty ancient just to run Android apps, this makes sense to me.

    • Arturo Raygoza

      that’s not what they are talking about here. what they are trying to do is have to completely different OS’s side by side u either use one or the other but not both at the same time

  • Android Developer

    isn’t VNC just mean remote control of a linux OS that is located on a PC anyway?

    • Mark H. Harris

      No. Virtual Network Computing is a way to view the linux desktop (on the android device) from remote (as a client on the PC, or another tablet, &c).

      VNC, SSH, and Telnet are the primary interfaces into a *nix computer… this includes gnu/linux. Telent is not secure… SSH is, and VNC runs over SSH.


      • Android Developer

        what you’ve written after the “no” actually says what i’ve written – that the app just lets you remote control another device which has the linux OS…

        if not, please explain , as from what i know, there are many PC apps that have the “VNC” in their names, all allow to remote control other machines.

        • Dmytro

          The Linux is running on the same device, it’s just unable to directly render the Xorg stuff to the device’s display for some reason (would be interesting to find it out). Now, one can use VNC client of the main OS (Android), which has direct access to the screen, and then connect it to the linux OS running chrooted on localhost, to deliver its desktop to the actual screen.

          • Android Developer

            i see, but wouldn’t it be an overkill (or at least less efficient) to use VNC for this task?

          • Dmytro

            Yeah, the VNC approach has many downsides, but apparently it’s not that
            easy to implement direct rendering from linux. I believe that’s the
            reason they want to build a custom ROM – to be able to implement native
            audio and video (that’s actually what they mention on their indiegogo

          • Android Developer

            cool. so the VNC acts more like a pipe/middle-man between the 2 OSs.
            i wonder if it would be possible to avoid it, as both android and ubuntu are based on linux.

            also wonder if there will come a time where i would be able to run Eclipse in order to create android apps within an android device, so that eclipse would be on the large screen and the app would be on the device’s screen.
            this will mark a huge milestone of convergence between the OSs.

        • Dmytro

          Yeah, the VNC approach has many downsides, but apparently it’s not that easy to implement direct rendering from linux. I believe that’s the reason they want to build a custom ROM – to be able to implement native audio and video (that’s actually what they mention on their indiegogo page).

  • Conor Rynne

    Ubuntu for Android project anyone?

  • bjrosen

    I want to see Android on Linux not Linux on Android. If I could run the full range of Android apps on my Fedora desktop that would be great. Running Fedora on a 5″ phone, that’s not useful at all. On a 10″ tablet, that could almost work but it would never be satisfactory because the screen isn’t large enough to do any work on. Running desktop Linux plus Android on Chromebook hardware would be a great product, much more useful than a Chriomebook at exactly the same cost (assuming you use a rotating disk which is found in some Chromebooks, a little pricier if you use a bigger SSD).

  • Local VNC on the device is not great. It’s laggy. Didn’t Ubuntu come up with a video driver for Android hardware?

  • kosiara

    Hell, I donated! I don’t see Ubuntu doing anything in UbuntuForAndroid area! I wish it was included in the new XPeria, Nexus or Galaxy S. But we do not hear anything…. It’s such a pity….
    Zac Powell has my 2 quids…

  • Kalle