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27Feb/12Off

Android 4.0 running on x86 CPUs

This morning the android-x86 team has released a RC build of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It comes in a few flavours: Asus EEE-PC, Asus notebook and AMD Brazos to name a few. If you have a different netbook, fear not: the EEE PC build should run just fine.

I have installed the new build on my Acer Aspire One AOA110 (ZG5) and most features work out of the box:

  • Atheros WiFi card
  • Intel 945 graphics
  • Touchpad
  • Android Market
  • Fake SD card
  • Camera
  • Suspend - a bit buggy

Unfortunately, ethernet networking is still not supported (it's been this way since 3.2), so this build will not have connectivity when running in VMware or Virtualbox. The same applies to the ethernet adapter in netbook itself.

EDIT: The following ISO image supports Ethernet on Virtual Machines: http://www.buildroid.org/Download/android-x86-vm-20120307.iso.gz Please keep in mind that this build does not have Android Market/Google Play.

Remember not to install GRUB if you install Android alongside other operating systems - it will leave other systems unbootable!

To remedy this, I have added these lines to my /etc/grub.d/40_custom file:

menuentry "Android-x86 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich" {
insmod ext2
set root='(hd0,5)'
linux /android-4.0-RC1/kernel quiet root=/dev/ram0 androidboot.hardware=eeepc acpi_sleep=s3_bios,s3_mode SRC=/android-4.0-RC1 DATA=
initrd /android-4.0-RC1/initrd.img
}

UPDATE: First paid 3D game that works on Android x-86 is Fruit Ninja. Congratulations, Halfbrick!

And here you can have a look at some screenshots from this new build:

23Nov/11Off

Android Honeycomb 3.2 running on x86 CPUs

NEW: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich running on x86 PC/netbook: check this post


The Android-x86 project has recently released Android Honeycomb 3.2 compiled for x86 processors. It can easily run on a PC, laptop, netbook or even inside a virtual machine. Moreover, this version includes Android Market! Unfortunately, the current RC2 build does not have any Ethernet kernel modules compiled, so it is not possible to access the Internet if you install it on a VMware or Virtualbox virtual machine.

Is it just a toy for geeks or can it be actually useful? I vote for the latter, but not just yet. Developers need to notice and support the new platform first. We also have to know, that some netbooks have already been sold in dual boot Windows - Android configuration (look for Acer Aspire One D250). Android can be actually more useful for netbooks than Windows. This is due to short boot times and lots of useful widgets, which display information right on the desktop. I have successfully used Android 2.2 for a while on my Acer Aspire One for some time, and I was only missing the Android Market and a bit more stability regarding power management (problems with waking up from stand-by).

But as you recall, I have also mentioned the need for developer support. Why? Because Android running on x86 CPU will only run SDK based apps. It won't however work with more advanced games or apps written in NDK. Why? Because NDK apps are compiled for a specific CPU - ARM in this case. NDK based apps would have to be recompiled in order to run on x86 CPUs. So until x86 Android becomes a widely recognized platform, we will probably not be able to run most games and programs on this platform.

UPDATE: First paid 3D game that works on Android x-86 is Fruit Ninja. Congratulations, Halfbrick!


EDIT: I have just installed the Honeycomb 3.2 on bare metal - Acer Aspire One (AOA 110 / ZG5). The eeepc build works out of the box, with smooth accelerated graphics, working WiFi and Android Market.

Works out of the box:

  • WiFi
  • Sound
  • Touchpad
  • Browser
  • Android Market
  • Mail
  • Settings
  • Widgets

Does not work:

  • SD card emulation (storage works as USB instead)
  • Screen will sometimes rotate randomly
  • After one sleep/wake cycle it can't wake up.
  • Voice commands (Audio error)
  • Ethernet (there is no kernel module)

To install it alongside an existing linux distribution, about 3-4 GB of space is required. You can use GUI based GParted to shrink your exisiting linux partition, or console based e2fsresize. DO NOT LET THE ANDROID INSTALLER TO INSTALL GRUB - it is known to cause your previous linux unbootable. Instead, after performing the Android installation, edit your existing GRUB2 configuration (Ubuntu example for /dev/sda5 below)

sudo vi /etc/grub.d/40_custom

Add the following lines at the end of the file:

menuentry "Android-x86 Honeycomb" {
  insmod ext2
  set root='(hd0,5)'
  linux /android-2011-11-13/kernel quiet root=/dev/ram0 \
     androidboot_hardware=eeepc acpi_sleep=s3_bios,s3_mode \
     SRC=/android-2011-11-13 DATA= DPI=160
  initrd /android-2011-11-23/initrd.img
}

Save file, run update-grub

19Sep/11Off

Windows 8 Developer Preview likes netbooks

Important: On February 29th, 2012 Microsoft has released Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I have already tested it - check this post to read more about the new Windows 8 beta.


Information below is true for earlier Windows 8 Developer Preview

Last weekend I have installed the Windows Developer Preview 32-bit on my Acer Aspire One netbook.

Before I could install Win 8 on my Aspire One I had to replace the tiny and slow 8 GB SSD drive with a 60 gigs HDD from an old media player. I have then restored my Ubuntu from a ghost4linux backup onto the new drive. Then, booting from an Ubuntu live CD I have used GParted to resize the linux partition, and then created another empty ntfs partition in preparation for Windows 8.

Installation went smoothly and without any issues. Windows Installer has matured over they years and the amount of information requested from user is minimal. I could not tell any difference from Windows 7 installer, so I assume this is one and the same. Please mind that this Developer Preview does not run on VMware, and that the Windows 7 bootloader will not boot Windows 8. It is however possible the other way around. Linux GRUB can also be used for multiboot purposes.

Notes:

  • When you click "Start", Metro UI shows up (it's the one from Windows Phone 7 and Windows Media Center),
  • Metro Apps require at least 1024 x 768 resolution. Metro Apps will not start on a 1024 x 600 netbook!
  • Windows 8 can use cloud authentication - you can use your Live ID to log on to the system,
  • Developer Preview is unstable enough to let you see the new BSOD with the large ":(" symbol,
  • System takes about 9 gigabytes on the hard drive after installation.
  • All hardware is supported out of the box. The only driver I had to install was for Intel GMA945 (I have used driver package for 32-bit Windows 7)

The new OS runs quite smoothly on my netbook. This is how it looks on an Acer Aspire One:

PS. Unfortunately EVE Online requires SM 3.0 card now, so I couldn't test how it runs on this hardware. The game did start, but just after going fullscreen it dropped back to the desktop with the "Shader Model 3.0 required" message.

5Sep/11Off

Ubuntu 11.10 coming this October

On 1st of September Beta 1 of the new Ubuntu was released on the Ubuntu releases website. This build is a big leap forward since the last time I tested the new Ubuntu.

Unity & Unity-2D

  • Unity Greeter is now the default login screen.
  • Dash has been improved a lot since 11.04. A mechanism similar to Windows 7 Libraries is now in place and is calles Lenses (Application Lens, Files Lens, Music Lens). The Dash button has been moved from the top ribbon to the to of the Unity launcher, which provides more streamlined experience.
  • Windows controls (min, max, close) are now hidden by default and are only displayed on mouse-over. This reminds of the EVE Online GUI, which also had this feature introduced at around 2008.
  • Alt-Tab switcher made it back (there has been a great alt-tab switcher in Compiz, which has been missing since introduction of Unity) and now displays previews of windows contents, even those minimized.
  • The rightmost shutdown icon has been changed to include a small gear, so it suggests there is "settings" menu hidden under it.
  • Messaging and login buttons have been merged to "Messaging menu" which now includes all messaging applications, social websites, mail and status updates.

By default, if 3D acceleration is not available, Ubuntu 11.10 will now fall back to Unity-2D (instead of GNOME in 11.04). Unity-2D also contains most of the upgrades of its 3D-enabled counterpart, including Lenses and new Dash. If you don't like Unity at all, it is still possible to install GNOME 3.1.4 from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Software

By default, the new Ubuntu delivers the following software:

  • Kernel 3.0.0-9.15
  • Firefox 7.0 beta 3
  • Thunderbird 7.0 beta 1
  • Nautilus 3.1.4
  • LibreOffice 3.4.2
  • Gedit 3.1.4
  • Totem 3.0.1
  • Banshee 2.1.3
  • Empathy 3.1.5.1
  • Shotwell 0.11
  • Gwibber 3.1.6
  • Transmission 2.33
  • Deja Dup 19.90

The next milestones for Oneiric are as follows:

September 22nd - Beta 2 Release
October 6th - Release Candidate
October 13th - final Ubuntu 11.10

PS. If you already have Ubuntu 11.04 and would like to upgrade your exisiting system to the current beta release, run this command:

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

Please mind that this is still a Beta, so it can be unstable. I am not responsible for any damage this causes to your system.

PS. II Development branch is currently very unstable, some processes die for no reason; there are multiple bug reports on launchpad, so think twice before installing the current build on a production system.

28Apr/11Off

Ubuntu 11.04: Natty Narwhal released

Today is a very good day for Ubuntu Linux fans, because Canonical has just released the brand new Natty Narwhal (11.04) version of its very popular Ubuntu distribution.

New Ubuntu introduces a common desktop environment for both desktop and netbook computers called Unity. It replaces the Gnome desktop and is very functional on limited netbook screens. It also provides very good-looking program menu, which reminds Android and iOS - it is useful, but requires some getting used to.

  • Move your cursor to the left side of the screen to show the launcher ribbon.
  • Click on the Ubuntu logo to display menu with apps, programs, documents and games.
  • Type in the text box on the top to find the program or file you are looking for.

Classic GNOME desktop is still available, if your graphics card does not offer hardware acceleration (this might be the case in some virtual environments, like VMware server).

The new version can be downloaded from the official ubuntu website.

 

21Mar/11Off

Android 2.2 running on x86 netbooks

NEW: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich running on x86 PC/netbook: check this post


The Android x86 project has recently built Froyo images for most popular netbooks (and of course a generic image for other computers).  This means you can easily run Android on your ultra mobile computers the same you would on a mobile phone.

Supported netbooks:

  • ASUS laptops/tablets
  • ASUS EEE PC
  • Dell Inspiron Mini Duo
  • Viewsonic Viewpad 10
20Mar/11Off

Never teach your laptop how to fly

or else be prepared for unpleasant consequences

My Acer Aspire One had an accident last week: it was learning how to fly. The 120cm flight was rather harmless; I can't say if my netbook was happy with this experience or not. I am however quite sure that it didn't like the landing part. It didn't like it at all.