Android in a virtual machine

Very often, I’ve found that it is an advantage to have Android running in a virtual machine (say on a desktop or a laptop) and use the Android applications.

Welcome to android-x86

Android runs on x86 based machines thanks to the android-x86 project. I download images from here. What follows is a simple, step-by-step How-To to get Android running on your x86 based computer with VMWare. I assume that much the same thing can be done with some other emulator (like VirtualBox).

Install android-x86

The screenshots below show the steps involved in installing android-x86 on a Mac.

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Choose “Create a custom virtual machine”

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Choose “FreeBSD 64-bit”

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I used the default size (for now; I’ll increase the size later).

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For starters, we can get going with this.

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I was installing android v8.1 RC1

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Increased #cores and memory as above.

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Resized the drive to 40GB.

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And with that, began the installation.

Options during installation.

The options and choices are self explanatory. Screenshots show the options that are chosen (selected).

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One final thing – enable 3D graphics acceleration

Before booting, you should enable 3D graphics acceleration. I’ve found that without this, you end up in a text screen at a shell prompt.

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And finally, a reboot!

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That’s all there is to it, you end up in the standard android “first boot” process.

The Application Marketplace: Android’s worst enemy?

I recently got an Android (Motorola A855, aka droid) phone. I had been using a Windows based device (have been since about 2003). I was concerned about the bad reviews of poor battery life and the fact that Bluetooth Voice Dialing was not present. I figured that the latter was a software thing and could be added later. So, with some doubt, I started using my phone.

On the first day, with a battery charged overnight,  I proceeded to surf the Marketplace and download a few applications. I got a Google Voice Dialer (not the one from Google), and a couple of other “marketplace” applications. I used the maps with the GPS for a short while and in about 8 hours the yellow sign of “low battery” came on. I had Google (GMAIL) synchronization set to the default (sync enabled).

Pretty crappy, I thought. My Samsung went for two days without a problem. I had activesync with server (Exchange) or GMail refresh every 5 minutes for years!

The Google Voice dialer I downloaded had some bugs (it messed up the call log pretty badly) and I got bored of the other applications I had downloaded.

Time for a hard reset and restart for the phone (just to be sure I got rid of all the gremlins. After all, I was a Windows phone user, this was a weekly ritual).

I got the update to Google Maps, set synch to continuous, downloaded the “sky map” application and charged the phone up fully. That was on Wednesday afternoon (17th). Today is the 20th and the battery is still all green on the home page.

The robustness of downloaded Android Apps

One of the things that makes the android phone so attractive (the application marketplace) is certainly a big problem. The robustness and stability of the downloaded applications cannot be guaranteed. We all realize that “your mileage may vary”. But, a quick look at the “Best Practices” on the android SDK site indicate that a badly written application can keep the CPU too busy and burn through your battery.

Maybe Android phones (and the battery life in particular) is more an issue of poorly written applications.

Apple (with the Macintosh) had a tight grip on the applications that could be released on the Mac. This helped them ensure that buggy software didn’t give the Mac a bad name. I’m sure Windows users can relate to this.

They seem to have the same control on the iPhone App Store. Maybe that’s why I don’t hear so much about crappy applications on the iPhone that crash or suck the battery dry!

Should Google take some control over the crap on the marketplace or will it all straighten itself out over time?