Debian on Samsung Galaxy S

It is possible to put Debian on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S:

  • Find a friendly Android distro that supports your device, install it with fastboot or heimdall and play around.
  • Be sad that the proprietary bootloader doesn't support dual boot.
  • Reformat the "sdcard" as ext3 and install Debian in a chroot on it.
  • "Tether" your device via USB using the Android settings menu & add a default route with adb: adb shell ip add route default via 192.168.XXX.XXX. Then use one or other USB network script on your PC.
  • Install OpenSSH, copy some commands from the usb.rc to /etc/rc.local so that you will have a way to access your Debian system over USB.
  • Hack up the initramfs to mount the sdcard partition and then run the Debian init in the chroot instead of the Replicant init.
  • Install some sort of graphical environment such as Enlightenment and nodm.
  • Realise that the touchscreen driver is buggy, which means that udev and thus Xorg do not recognise it as an input device. Find out that the same device seems to also be supported by a different driver that is in Linux mainline. Boggle.
  • Work around the buggy touchscreen driver by using x2x (orphaned) to send your laptop input devices over SSH to Xorg running on the phone.
  • Click through the Enlightenment startup wizard, work around desktop-base not supporting E17 and install a touchscreen-friendly app like intone.
  • Marvel at the speed and flashyness of Enlightenment even though it does not use OpenGL because there are no open drivers for PowerVR devices.
  • Take a photo and blog about it to create some bzzt.
  • Get depressed about the rediculousness of all that and proceed to drinking over 9000 litres of beer.
  • Think about just using Replicant plus f-droid.

Linux mainline doesn't run on any of the mobile devices I have. It probably doesn't run on any of the mobile devices you have either. There has been some effort by the OpenMoko community to merge the gta02 kernel patches but it is not yet complete. I doubt Samsung will spend money on merging support for old devices obsoleted by more recent devices. There is Linaro but they are focused on things the hardware vendors pay them for and probably would not have the resources anyway. Therefore I would guess the timeframe for supporting the OpenMoko FreeRunner and the Samsung Galaxy S in Linux mainline is between many years and never. For better or worse, the Debian Linux kernel maintainers prefer not to include non-mainline stuff and Debian as a whole generally prefers to include one copy of each package instead of 9. The procedures I documented above are not a great way to support mobile devices at all and could break at any moment anyway. So everyone, please become a kernel developer and help merge all of the many many versions of Android Linux into Linux mainline so that you can have your favourite distribution on your devices.

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