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.
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:
- Click an app.
- Enter the required information.
User-defined custom sessions:
- 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.
- Define a filesystem – A filesystem describes the Linux distro that you want to install.
- Start the session.
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>
#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.
Launch XSDL and in UserLAnd, enter the command:
export DISPLAY=:0 PULSE_SERVER=tcp:127.0.0.1:<PORT NUMBER>
Go back to XSDL and the desktop will show.
For Arch Linux, only the first step is different as the command is
$ sudo pacman -S lxde
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.