Why the Linux guest-system, on my Linux-tablet, is only a shell.

According to some of my own postings, I possess an old Android-based tablet, which is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S, first generation, onto which I installed a Linux guest-system, using the Android apps “GNURoot (Debian)” and “XSDL”, both available from Google Play. The latter of these apps emulates a simple X-server, which Linux-programs running under the first app can make use of.

The desktop-manager which I chose to use for my Linux guest-system is LXDE, precisely because that desktop-manager does not strictly require that Linux-based daemons be running.

But there are certain standard, LXDE-features which will not even work on that setup:

  • The Trash Bin
  • The LXDE-Settings Panel
  • (etc.)

The LXDE Trash Bin requires the package ‘gvfs’, and the Settings Panel requires the package ‘lxde-settings-daemon’. Both these dependencies launch daemons – i.e., programs that run in the background, and that make up part of a real Linux-session.

The ability to run daemons, essentially, requires that the user have a rooted tablet. Because I never rooted my tablet, I am without any daemons, that would normally belong to any Linux guest-system.

Further, in spite of its name. ‘GNURoot’ does not use root, but provides a p-rooted file system – essentially, a kind of sandbox, or jail, for Linux to run in, within which user-processes can become convinced, that they’re running as root.

I’m aware that it’s very possible to get a full Linux-session to work, if we root our devices first. We can even get Plasma 5 or KDE to work. But those are desktop-managers, which need to run lots of daemons. But if I did that, I’d actually be facing more practical issues, such as needing to terminate my Linux daemons when I’m done with them, while as it stands, I can just access specific Linux-applications, without having to clean up the session afterward.


 

If there is interest in running Debian on an Android device, but not as a guest system – as the real O/S, then this is a separate issue, and my questions so far would be, ‘How would power-users get the real X-server, which has just been cross-compiled in the repositories for the armhf architecture, to run, and to recognize the Android graphics hardware? And, if I was to root my tablet in such a way, that I’m dependent on the ported X-server launching, so that my tablet won’t also be bricked, how much of a risk is that?’

I think that ‘Raspbian’ is a Linux-version which has been hacked in this way. But then, this Linux-variant would also have countless compatibility issues, with the standard, full Debian repositories, and would fail as far as I know, actually to get hardware-graphics acceleration to work (‘OpenGL-ES’), because that system only uses the display as a frame-buffer. And most Debian packages that use H/W-acceleration, depend on ‘OpenGL’, not ‘OpenGLES’.

Personally, I’m quite satisfied to be running my Linux desktop as a shell, from an existing Android installation, and to know it’s not bricked.

Dirk

 

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