Android

UserLAnd – Run Linux Distros and Apps on Android Easily

UserLAnd – Run Linux Distros on Android
Written by Martins D. Okoi

In my article on What is the Difference Between Android and Linux,  I (commenters too) pointed out that a major difference between Linux distros and Android is that Android can’t run Linux applications; at least not without painstaking hacks.

Today, I introduce you to a cool tool that is worth writing home about and it goes by the name of UserLAnd.

UserLAnd is a free, open-source tool that enables you to install and manage Linux applications on your Android device like you would a native app and to also run full Linux distributions e.g. Ubuntu, Kali Linux, Debian, etc. – all the need to root your device. It has an inbuilt terminal for connecting to shells and you can connect it to VNC sessions if you want a graphical experience.

UserLAnd is made possible by the same team behind GNURoot Debian and it was created as a replacement for the original GNURoot Debian app with the aim to enable developers to experiment with Linux and its common software from the convenience of their palms.

You will go through a series of prompts when you launch UserLAnd for the first time after which it will download its dependencies based on the setup choices you made and it is smooth sailing thereafter.

  How to Install and Run a GNU/Linux OS on Your Android Device

Features in UserLAnd

  • Open-source with source code available on GitHub.
  • Exclusive to Android devices.
  • Run full Linux distros on Android.
  • Install and run Linux apps on Android like a regular app.
  • No root required.
  • Can connect to VNC sessions for a graphical UX.
  • Contains an inbuilt terminal with SSH support.
  • Available for free on Google Play Store and F-Droid.

How to Use UserLAnd

You can use UserLAnd in either of 2 ways, single-click apps, and user-defined custom sessions. Here are the steps involved:

Single-click apps:

  1. Click an app.
  2. Enter the required information.

That’s all!

User-defined custom sessions:

  1. Define a session – A session is what describes the filesystem you will use and the service (SSH or VNC) that you will use to connect to it.
  2. Define a filesystem – A filesystem describes the Linux distro that you want to install.
  3. Start the session.

Managing Packages

Debian, Ubuntu, and Kali:

#Update packages:
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

#Install packages:
$ sudo apt-get install <package name>

#Remove Packages:
sudo apt-get remove <package name>

Archlinux

#Update:
$ sudo pacman -Syu

#Install packages:
$ sudo pacman -S <package name>

#Remove Packages:
$ sudo pacman -R <package name>

Installing a Desktop

Debian, Ubuntu, and Kali:

Install Lxde with the command:

$ sudo apt-get install lxde

Install X Server Client from Google Play store.

  F-Droid - A Collection of Free Android App Repository

Launch XSDL and in UserLAnd, enter the command:

export DISPLAY=:0 PULSE_SERVER=tcp:127.0.0.1:<PORT NUMBER>

Next, enter

startlxde

Go back to XSDL and the desktop will show.

Archlinux

For Arch Linux, only the first step is different as the command is

$ sudo pacman -S lxde

Download UserLAnd from Google Play

Download UserLAnd from F-Droid

Today is the first time I’m covering an app that lets you run Linux on Android. Perhaps, you want to do the reverse and run Android apps on your Linux distro instead, the most convenient way exists in the form of Anbox.

UserLAnd’s tagline is “Empowering with Linux” – do you feel empowered when you use it? Drop your two cents in the comments section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.