Saturday, June 28, 2014

Android Netbook

Yes, you read that right. Android, on a netbook.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

To be more specific, Android 4.4 on my old, beat up, hand-me-down, "here, take this because it doesn't work any more," Acer Aspire One ZG5 netbook. From 2008. Take a look at the specs if you want, but rest assured, it's old, slow, but has a lot more storage than a typical phone or tablet.

There are ports of Android versions from 2 all the way up to 4.4 available from the Android x86 site. I've tried 2.4, 4.0.4 and now 4.4, which is currently running well on my netbook. The really nice thing about this (and most versions of anything Linux-based, including Chromium) is that you can run this directly off a USB key without installing it to the hard drive. This is useful for test-driving it before you take the plunge and fully install it.
Image: Maple Electronics

There have been a few quirks I've run into.


One is that the screen sometimes rotates on its own, or when told to by an app, and you need to use a key command to get it to go back to regular orientation. Control-F9 (or F10 or F11 or F12) are the commands to tell the screen what orientation to use.

Another issue is that live wallpapers don't seem to work. I get a long period of a static image (no, not static like an old TV, static as in not dynamic), followed by a sudden image change. Not a problem, but something to be aware of.

The power button is used to lock and unlock the screen. Depending on the model of netbook, it may also support powering off the device. However, on mine, I needed to do the following to shut it down:

  1. Press the key command Alt-F1
  2. At the text prompt, you type reboot -p
  3. Press enter, and watch as the device rapidly powers off.
  4. Bask in glory. (optional)


The last issue was a bit more tricky to troubleshoot. I was unable to get the installation to work on either ex2 or ex3 partitions. I used an NTFS file system, and everything seemed to work properly. There is a limit on the size of the partition that you can create of 2GB, which is pretty small. I believe there is a way to expand this, but I still need to investigate and experiment further. EDIT: Since the first writing of this post, I have solved the problem. I used a USB with GParted installed (created using the LinuxLive USB creator tool) to reformat the entire hard drive as ext3. I then reinstalled Android, and used the Android installer to format as ex3. The installation worked, and now it shows 110GB of free space (by far the most free space I have on any of my Android devices).

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