I now have Linux installed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S.

A fact which I had lamented about, was that my Samsung Galaxy Tab S, First Generation – Android tablet – had essentially crashed. Its behavior had gotten so unstable as to make it unusable.

What this also did – given that I have a working Pixel C – was make the software / firmware -installation on the Tab S expendable, which meant that as soon as I was over the loss, I found myself willing to experiment with it.

So I did a factory reset, which made it stable again, at the expense of deleting all my user-data and separately-installed apps from Google Play. Essentially, the tablet had crashed while I was doing a routine update of apps, for which reason the FS corruption was limited to the ‘/sdcard’ partition, where user-installed apps are stored, as well as perhaps, to the ‘/data’ partition, where application data is stored. The factory reset empties those, and, because no system software update was taking place at the time of the crash, the ‘/system’ and ‘/boot’ partitions probably did not suffer from any corruption.

Then, I installed Linux on that tablet, using the Google Play store app named “GNURoot“, as well as using the Google Play store app named “XSDL“. When we install Linux on Android-capable hardware, we need to have a working Android system on that as well, because only the Android software can really provide the display drivers, and the I/O.

XSDL is an Android app which emulates a Linux X-server, which Linux sessions could connect to, as long as the Linux sessions can be persuaded not to try launching their own X-server instance, which their packages tend to depend on.

GNURoot is an app for Android 6+ that allows Debian / Jessie packages to be installed directly to the Android File System, and which runs those packages as though it was Linux. Remarkably, it does not require the device be rooted. It also uses the Android kernel. With the correct packages installed, it’s possible to get a proper desktop-session going between ‘GNURoot’ and ‘XSDL’. But the process is not user-friendly.

At first I had tried to install a system of ~400 packages, that provide ‘XFCE’, only to find that this desktop-manager could not connect to the ‘XSDL’, X-server, at least in any way I could get working. But then I tried uninstalling ‘GNURoot’, reinstalling ‘GNURoot’, and then installing the packages for ‘LXDE’, which is a lightweight, yet better desktop manager than the older XFCE would have been. This time, doing so required I patiently install ~600 packages.

Apparently, LXDE could be told to connect to an ‘XSDL’ instance quite well, and I obtained a working desktop-session. I also installed “GIMP” and “Blender”, which both ran fine – even on my Android tablet !

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There was one caveat to using this configuration however, which is that I absolutely needed to connect an external, Bluetooth mouse, as well as an external Keyboard. Apparently, the ability of ‘XSDL’ to provide virtual replacements for those, just wasn’t up to snuff.

(Updated 10/04/2017 : )

Continue reading I now have Linux installed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S.