I wanna see if I can use my phone as my primary device. That means it has to work as a desktop when it’s plugged into a monitor and keyboard. There are three obvious options:
- Microsoft Continuum
- Ubuntu Convergence (more of a code name than a product)
- Maru Mobile
Continuum is only available on Microsoft phones and I’m skeeved out by Microsoft’s approach to Windows 10 anyway. Maru has a free install for the Nexus 5. Ubuntu has free installs for several devices, including the Nexus 4. Of the two Nexusus (Nexi? Nexen?), a used 4 ($50) is half the price of a used 5 ($100+), so I’m trying out Ubuntu on a Nexus 4. It looks like this:
Here are some videos I followed along with. You can do the same. Or not. Your choice.
- budget some time to download Ubuntu 16.10 because it’s 1.5GB
- stick an old USB drive into the computer
- download Universal USB Installer
- run the installer’s *.exe file
- select the Ubuntu *.iso and the USB drive and allow the installer to do its thing
- follow these instructions to dual boot Ubuntu and recent versions of Windows
- boot computer into Ubuntu
- follow these instructions to update the right software and load it on the phone
- there was a step for me where the phone (not the computer) asked me about root permissions at the very end of the install and I had to use the volume buttons to select an option and the power button to click on it
I actually ran into a big problem because the Nexus 4 I bought came from the seller with a custom ROM. It turned out the particular build (April 2016) of the particular ROM (Pure Nexus) had a bug that prevented the phone from authorizing the computer’s ADB connection. No authorization means no installing Ubuntu. Eventually I tracked down a more recent build (July 2016) and flashed it onto the phone. There still wasn’t a dialog on the phone asking for ADB authorization, but it authorized anyway and I was able to continue following Ubuntu’s instructions.
After 24 hours of intensive research (I didn’t start out knowing what anything in the previous paragraph meant) I almost didn’t believe it when the phone booted into Ubuntu and everything worked. By coincidence, the cable for charging while connecting the phone to an external monitor (this Cable Matters SlimPort-to-HDMI-plus-microUSB on Amazon) happened to arrive at the same time.
So within a half hour of booting into Ubuntu I was replying to emails in Gmail and within an hour I was doing the same thing on a big screen TV where the the apps on the phone were changed into desktop windows.
Even though Ubuntu Touch is clunky and rough, it STILL felt like the future! I mean, it’s so much “smarter” for the phone to recognize that it’s got a bigger, better screen attached and take advantage of the new real estate to stretch out.
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