A behaviour of Android that should be understood.

Again, on the subject of The Linux Guest System, installed on my Google Pixel C Tablet

A standard behaviour which Android has, is to serve the request by apps to “Share” documents with other apps, but in a way that non-computing experts may not understand. When the user of an Android app taps on ‘Share’, a list of other apps normally displays, that are registered as being able to open the type of document that’s to be shared. From there, the user can select an app to share it with.

What is usually done behind the scenes is, that the app from which the document is to be shared creates a copy of the document which will be accessible to other apps, and then sends a URI to the app that the document is finally to be shared with. This URI tells the targeted app, which document is to be shared.

In certain cases, these URIs consist of URLs, but in such a way that Android can distinguish between different categories of URLs.

If what is to be shared is a VNC session, again, it’s a URI that specifies the local IP address (127.0.0.1), as well as the port number to connect to.

What I do not know is, when there is only one installed Android app, registered to be able to open a certain category of URI, whether Android nevertheless displays a list of available apps – which in this case would contain only one – so that the user can select the one available app. And this applied to VNC Viewers. What ‘UserLAnd’ was doing, was creating a VNC Session via Linux software, and then allowing a VNC Viewer to connect to that session, but not displaying the fact to me, that it was handing over the Android screen – not the VNC Session – to another app. Two possible things could have been happening:

  1. UserLAnd may just prefer the VNC Viewer that I had installed. It was the recommended viewer. Or,
  2. That VNC Viewer could simply be the only Android app I have installed, that can act as a VNC Viewer, for which reason the dialogue would be redundant, from Android, to ask me which VNC Viewer to use.

Either way, the transfer of the tablet’s screen was seamless, and led me directly into the VNC Session – that is, after I had entered my password for doing so.

Dirk

 

I now have Linux installed on my Google Pixel C tablet.

As the title of this posting suggests.

I used the Android app “UserLAnd“, which does not require root. The most recent versions of this app offer a VNC Server, which emulates an X-Server within the Linux system. And the implementation of VNC is ‘TightVNC’. Plus, the latest versions of this app offer a built-in VNC Viewer, that I find makes the most, out of the tiny icons that display on the high-res screen, as well as out of the fact that often, users will want to operate the GUI with their fingers, along with the physical keyboard that my Pixel C pairs with (:7) …

Screenshot_20190831-163643

The setup of this Linux Guest System is much easier than my earlier experience was because the basic Linux distribution, the desktop manager, and certain apps can all be installed just by tapping on a few icons. And then, using the ‘sudo apt-get’ command-line, additional Debian packages can be installed.

There is an interesting side effect to this project: When I give the command:

$ cat /etc/debian_version

I obtain the result ‘10.0‘. This would mean that the Linux version which I’m getting, is the new Debian / Buster, which none of my PCs nor my Laptop are even running. However, the repositories that I’m subscribed to are labelled ‘stable’. The CPU is an ‘arm64′. And the desktop manager I chose was ‘LXDE’. I installed a full productivity suite, including LaTeX. But, I found that three Linux applications did not run:

  • LyX – The graphical, WYSIWYM LaTeX Editor (:2).
  • Synaptic – A GUI for apt-get that makes it particularly easy to browse package-repositories, before selecting which packages to install.
  • Latexdraw‘ (:1) (:6).

Everything else I tried seems to work, including “LibreOffice”, “GIMP”, “InkScape”, “Firefox ESR”. On my own, without the aid of simple GUI-buttons, I was also able to install and run “Texmaker”, “Dia”, “Xfig”, “OpenClipArt”, “Maxima” and “wxMaxima”, the Computer Algebra System and its Graphics Front-End. Getting that last item to work properly actually required that I install the package ‘fonts-jsmath’.

The Linux Guest System is currently taking up 5.37GB of my internal storage, and I finally also found out how to share files between the Guest System and the Host System. Within the Guest System, if on the Host System the root of the user folders is ‘/root/<sdcard>’, then this Host System root is mounted at ‘/host-rootfs/<sdcard>’ (within the Guest System). This means that I can open a path directly to this folder in the file-manager ‘PCManFM’, and bookmark it. (:3)

(Updated 9/07/2019, 17h40 … )

Continue reading I now have Linux installed on my Google Pixel C tablet.

Understanding why some e-Readers fall short of performing as Android tablets (Setting, Hidden Benefits).

There is a fact about modern graphics chips which some people may not be aware of – especially some Linux users – but which I was recently reminded of because I have bought an e-Reader that has the Android O/S, but that features the energy-saving benefits of “e-Ink” – an innovative technology that has a surface somewhat resembling paper, the brightness of which can vary between white and black, but that mainly uses available light, although back-lit and front-lit versions of e-Ink now exist, and that consumes very little current, so that it’s frequently possible to read an entire book on one battery-charge. With an average Android tablet that merely has an LCD, the battery-life can impede enjoying an e-Book.

An LCD still has in common with the old CRTs, being refreshed at a fixed frequency by something called a “raster” – a pattern that scans a region of memory and feeds pixel-values to the display sequentially, but maybe 60 times per second, thus refreshing the display that often. e-Ink pixels are sent a signal once, to change brightness, and then stay at the assigned brightness level until they receive another signal, to change again. What this means is that, at the hardware-level, e-Ink is less powerful than ‘frame-buffer devices’ once were.

But any PC, Mac or Android graphics card or graphics chip manufactured later than in the 1990s has a non-trivial GPU – a ‘Graphics Processing Unit’ – that acts as a co-processor, working in parallel with the computer’s main CPU, to take much of the workload off the CPU, associated with rendering graphics to the screen. Much of what a modern GPU does consists of taking as input, pixels which software running on the CPU wrote either to a region of dedicated graphics memory, or, in the case of an Android device, to a region of memory shared between the GPU and the CPU, but part of the device’s RAM. And the GPU then typically ‘transforms’ the image of these pixels, to the way they will appear on the screen, finally. This ends up modifying a ‘Frame-Buffer’, the contents of which are controlled by the GPU and not the CPU, but which the raster scans, resulting in output to the actual screen.

Transforming an image can take place in a strictly 2D sense, or can take place in a sense that preserves 3D perspective, but that results in 2D screen-output. And it gets applied to desktop graphics as much as to application content. In the case of desktop graphics, the result is called ‘Compositing’, while in the case of application content, the result is either fancier output, or faster execution of the application, on the CPU. And on many Android devices, compositing results in multiple Home-Screens that can be scrolled, and the glitz of which is proven by how smoothly they scroll.

Either way, a modern GPU is much more versatile than a frame-buffer device was. And its benefits can contribute in unexpected places, such as when an application outputs text to the screen, but when the text is merely expected to scroll. Typically, the rasterization of fonts still takes place on the CPU, but results in pixel-values being written to shared memory, that correspond to text to be displayed. But the actual scrolling of the text can be performed by the GPU, where more than one page of text, with a fixed position in the drawing surface the CPU drew it to, is transformed by the GPU to advancing screen-positions, without the CPU having to redraw any pixels. (:1) This effect is often made more convincing, by the fact that at the end of a sequence, a transformed image is sometimes replaced by a fixed image, in a transition of the output, but between two graphics that are completely identical. These two graphics would reside in separate regions of RAM, even though the GPU can render a transition between them.

(Updated 4/20/2019, 12h45 … )

Continue reading Understanding why some e-Readers fall short of performing as Android tablets (Setting, Hidden Benefits).