The Remarkable Rise Of Android/Linux, The Distro of 2014

While Debian, Ubuntu and other GNU/Linux distros jockey for a meagre few percent of page-views according to StatCounter, Android/Linux has a dramatic ramp upward. There are many causes of this but chief among them are a low cost licence, $0. You can’t beat that. M$ is now trying but is years too late to market and it’s not a good business-plan for them. Google, on the other hand, wins every time someone gets online with a Free OS. Probably second to price is the fact that anyone who knows Java programming can develop software for Android. That’s a huge plus as Android/Linux can run new and old applications causing a huge ramp up in available apps. Put these features on small cheap computers and they sell just about everywhere.

See StatCounter, India – legacy PCs, tablet PC and smartphones.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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24 Responses to The Remarkable Rise Of Android/Linux, The Distro of 2014

  1. oiaohm says:

    http://source.android.com/compatibility/index.html
    The no modifying is completely disproved as soon as you read this page or read the paragraph before the one you are stupidly quoting Dr Loser.
    “Uncontrolled customization can, of course, lead to incompatible implementations. To prevent this, the Android Open Source Project also maintains the Android Compatibility Program, which spells out what it means to be “Android compatible” and what is required of device builders to achieve that status. Anyone can (and will!) use the Android source code for any purpose, and we welcome all legitimate uses. However, in order to take part in the shared ecosystem of applications we are building around Android, device builders must participate in the Android Compatibility Program.”
    Basically this is go for it.

    kurkosdr its not just Samsung that don’t to play along.

    DrLoser there are a lot of livecd distributions managed as a whole product. “holistic software product” claim kinda falls apart when you read compatibility sections and the fact they have used the words “Uncontrolled customization”. Yes google does expect android to be taken an customized with parts being replaced. The reason why Android core is under apache 2 license is so OEM can do exactly that and not have to release the source code.

    When you read the compadiblity page you find this Compatibility Test Suite (CTS). This is very much the same as the LSB test-suite.

    To be more correct due to Google not taking a central role what is called Android is a stack of different independently build distributions leading to upgrade hell.

    Are there cyanogenmod items that are certified androids yes there is. To make an Android device I am not in fact required to use AOSP as long as I use an AOSP relation that passes the CTS. So one of the Distributions based off AOSP is acceptable for google play access.

    The Uncontrolled customization paragraph is newish. The paragraph you are quoting DrLoser was on Android 1.0 source code the paragraph I am quoting is newer. You can also confirm this because that index.html is in the git repository of documentation for android.

    DrLoser if it walks like a duck and quarks like a duck its a duck. Android acts like many Live Linux Distributions. Android from google is not that much of a “binary distribution”. There are such things are source code only distributions in the Linux world. Android is without question a source code distribution in fact a tree of source code distributions.

    Why can you not claim that Android is not a binary distrobutions. Look what happened with the applications parts Google has closed they are updated by a central repository system called Google Play.

    Google is attempting to walk part way in-between a source distribution and a binary distribution. In other words pain. Google could save everyone a lot of pain if they would bite the big one and just make android a binary distribution with source distribution.

  2. kurkosdr says:

    “immense profitability, sustained over several years”

    Let’s assume (for a moment, ignoring lock-in) this is up to the free market gods to decide.

    What Apple has is control over their software product. Something MS also has with WP, even though they are multi-OEM. Instead, Google is trying to schieve some semblance of control over their software product with the closed-source Play Services and replacing AOSP apps like Camera, Music and Gallery with closed-source Google Apps while abandoning the AOSP apps. Of course, not everyone is playing along. Samsung took the code of the AOSP apps and develops them in parallel with Google’s apps. They ‘ll do the same with the launcher.

    Android was a coup between Google, OEMs and carriers, so OEMs and carriers could create a second version of their lame proprietary OSes, as long as said OSes are Android compatible and have Google as default.

    So, now Google must wrestle control of their software product back from carriers and OEMs, while keeping carriers and OEMs happy so they won’t jump ship… Hence tricks like Play Services…

  3. DrLoser says:

    Just to repeat Google’s most interesting assertion:

    Our intent is that device builders port Android to a device.

    What, no Reading? No Examining? No Modifying? No Re-distributing?

    Nope, none of that. Android is a bog-standard contract between the OS provider and the OEM builder. That’s all it is. That’s all it was ever intended to be, according to Google themselves.

    It’s dressed up in a bit of frilly FLOSS, because that makes the young guys working for Google happy.

    But it isn’t a Distro. It was never intended to be a Distro. It lacks almost all the features of a Distro (packaging, anyone)?

    You guys have seriously been sold a pig in a poke by a multi-billion dollar corporation.

    Hey, whatever. As long as it makes y’all happy.

  4. DrLoser says:

    What advantage does Apple have in the market now?

    Well, immense profitability, sustained over several years, I would imagine. Do feel free to explain how I’ve missed the point there. Looks like the sort of advantage that almost anybody would want.

    Tell me again how many phone manufacturers are making a profit out of the race to the bottom with Android? I count three. (Acer isn’t one of them, btw.) What’s your count?

    Yes. Kernel is GPLv2. Dalvik is ASL and Google ships the source code.

    Did I ask about the Linux kernel? No, I did not.

    Downloading Dalvik is suspiciously difficult. Not suspicious as in “you can’t do that.” Just suspicious as in “why would anybody want to?” It’s just a virtual byte-code engine, after all.

    No, Robert, that is not what a FOSS version of Android would look like. There’s a huge ecosystem out there. How much of it does Google let you see?

    I refer specifically to the Android Open Source Platform. (And if Android was truly Open Source, why would Google need to make this distinction?)

    Like many other Google 20% Friday Afternoon projects, it’s dying on its feet. You can certainly download it, if you want. And, interestingly, 50% of Android phones worldwide (the very cheap end) are built off it.

    But it isn’t a Distro at all, is it? Once again, to quote Google:

    Although Android consists of multiple subprojects, this is strictly a project management technique. We view and manage Android as a single, holistic software product, not a “distribution”, specification, or collection of replaceable parts. Our intent is that device builders port Android to a device; they don’t implement a specification or curate a distribution.

    If you can’t curate a distribution, then it isn’t a distribution, is it?

    You’re all being sold a pig in a poke here, aren’t you?

  5. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson the word is preference. Debian users have a preference to open source. But when it comes down to getting job done closed source will be used. This is how it was in 1996 when the non-free repo started and its how it is today. Closed source can win it way into debian system by offering missing features. Adobe reader on Linux is not a populate as the open source solutions have got better.

    My system is a lot heavier on non-free due to Nvidia driver usage. But I do need the Nvidia performance to get stuff done.

    Debian people are practical so live in the shades of grey. Its rare to find a Debian system that is zero non-free. 2 packages is on the light side. My system is over 20 non- free and over 20 from contrib(I have a mix install between testing, stable and sid). But compared to the number of items I have installed it still less than 1%.

    Lot of my contrib is speech synthesis so I can just have computer read stuff.

  6. DrLoser wrote, “you would be able to examine each and every part of the kernel and the underlying Dalvik virtual machine?”

    Yes. Kernel is GPLv2. Dalvik is ASL and Google ships the source code.

  7. DrLoser wrote, “why does Google choose to license what random bits of Android are publicly available under an Apache license?”

    That is the preference of the particular people at Google who worked on Android. They felt that ASL was better for them and the OEMs. That’s a pretty weak argument. They should be considering what is best for the end users, those billions of human being who want stuff that works for them. It isn’t much of a commercial advantage for an OEM to be able to ship without source code and requires extra work. After all, what one OEM can do another can copy in a few months out in the market and perhaps improve upon without source code. See Apple… What advantage does Apple have in the market now? What’s their share today, 20% or so? What was it when the iPhone first shipped, 90%?

  8. oiaohm wrote, “Debian users don’t have a issue using non-free”.

    I don’t know any Debian user would would not prefer Free Software only. On my system:

    “2 non-free packages, 0.1% of 3350 installed packages.
    2 contrib packages, 0.1% of 3350 installed packages.”

    The fact is that it is not practical for Debian or any other distro to “support” dealing with source-code for dozens of firmwares for a bunch of controllers out there on the bus any more than we need to know all the circuitry of every piece of hardware (debatable now that NSA is out of the bag) and that other OS and “partners” are busy promoting all kinds of non-Free protocols/standards/applications. We are very close to living in a completely Free Software world but we’re not quite there yet. It’s the right way to do IT but there are still only a few PCs that are totally Free.

  9. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser android-x86 downloads the raw ASOP core and it does build on x86 for x86 without modification including the Dalvik virtual machine. Every bit of the Dalvik virtual machine is open source. Issue is Dalvik virtual machine has a few kernel feature requirements that prevent it from running on a stock kernel.

    DrLoser you think bits are way off.

    Google Play/Services parts of Android is closed source and Some drivers are closed source(hardware vendors) and some hardware vendors interface tweaks are closed source and everything else in a ROM is open source including the virtual machine.

    DrLoser AOSP is build-able into installable roms. The SDK include the tools to rebuild the AOSP.

    If you had ever used Google SDK you would know there is a system image and a google api image. A system image android in the SDK does not contain any google closed source parts. You build and test against the system image if you APK is for stores outside google play.

    Richard Stallman option does not apply to Debian users. Debian users obey Debian policy. In the past Richard Stallman has forked Debian.

  10. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser the core of Android is AOSP. AOSP does have a bugzilla. https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/list

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APK_%28file_format%29
    What is android package format. APK of course. CyanogenMod and Ommi exist because Android Open Source Project allows forking. The closed source parts of Android are provided as APK packages for the forks.
    DrLoser Android has a Package Manager and a Package format. Both open source and documented this is why OMNI and CyanogenMod have their own extended versions. Also in the past CyanogenMod has used a reverse packager to extract closed source parts from Android ROMs.

    DrLoser android is not a Linux Standard Base distribution. Not every distribution is. NixOS for example does not follow FHS standard or really support rpm or deb is not Linux Standard Base distribution. NixOS is a GNU/Linux style OS.

    Jamie Zawinski does not even own or develop for Android. DrLoser if everything you say is based on Jamie Zawinski says you are either wrong or out of date. Android 1.0 lacked a package manager and a package format. Android 1.0 also had no third party applications either. Android has changed a lot over time.

    DrLoser the true limitations are the follow.
    1) You cannot but the Android trademark on a ROM that is not validated by Google. Fairly much the same as forking Ubuntu or Debian with their trademarks.
    2) You cannot ship a ROM preindustrial with Google closed source parts unless its Validated. How ever you can ship the APK packages containing the closed source parts independent to ROM so the ROM can access Google play and use all Google Play applications with Google blessing. The reality the last bit would not be possible if Android by design was not heavily packaged.

    DrLoser you don’t understand debian users.
    https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-archive#s-non-free
    Yes Debian writes all these complex freedom rules like GNU then goes Ok if that cannot be conformed with we have a non-free.

    Android roms are like Debian with non-free enabled. To enter a package into the debian repository system you don’t have to release the source code as long as you put it in non-free. Only condition is that you will provide maintained package with updates against security flaws.

    Since when were closed-source commercial binaries acceptable to the users of Debian?
    DrLoser since version 1.1 of Debian for a year 1996. The stable release of Debian was the also the establishment of the non-free repository.

    DrLoser you have presumed the Linux world is all like GNU the truth is we are not. Debian users don’t have a issue using non-free they want to know what the limitations are. Lot of key things come from non-free on debian include Nvidia and AMD closed sourced video drivers, adobe flash, adobe acrobat reader…. Closed source parts on debian installs is not strange.

  11. DrLoser says:

    The preferred license for the Android Open Source Project is the Apache Software License, Version 2.0 (“Apache 2.0”), and the majority of the Android software is licensed with Apache 2.0.

    You’re a man of the world, Robert. I’m sure you’ve read enough weasel licenses. I’m sure you know what “the majority” means.

    But just in case: it doesn’t mean all, does it?

    And just out of interest, if the Linux kernel is licensed under GPLv2, why does Google choose to license what random bits of Android are publicly available under an Apache license?

    Could they be hiding away from the Four Freedoms?

    What would Richard Stallman say?

  12. DrLoser says:

    And that would compile and run on an i80x86 platform, Robert? And you would be able to examine each and every part of the kernel and the underlying Dalvik virtual machine?

    I think not.

  13. DrLoser wrote, ” You cannot see the source code. You cannot examine it. You cannot modify it. And as far as I am aware, you cannot even distribute it.”

    Source Code: repo init -u https://android.googlesource.com/platform/manifest;repo sync

    Modifying Source Code: The preferred license for the Android Open Source Project is the Apache Software License, Version 2.0 ("Apache 2.0"), and the majority of the Android software is licensed with Apache 2.0.

    The basic pattern of interacting with the repositories is as follows:

    Use repo start to start a new topic branch.

    Edit the files.

    Use git add to stage changes.

    Use git commit to commit changes.

    Use repo upload to upload changes to the review server.

  14. DrLoser says:

    Much as I’d like to address oiaohm’s incontinent blather. … no, actually, I have no desire to do that.

    Here’s your most recent claim, Robert:

    What’s this then? What’s this (derived from that) then? It is a distro.

    “This” and “this” may well be Distros, even in the classical sense. I didn’t bother to view-source and check the links.

    (Incidentally, did JD come through with his promise of help? No? How surprising. I recommend you try my div/span hack on the comment template. It works!)

    If I may remind you, your original assertion was that Google/Android (spice with Gnu as seems fit) was:

    … certainly the distro of 2014 with likely ~1g installations happening.

    Which isn’t at all true, is it? In fact, you are completely misrepresenting reality here.

    You cannot download that “1 Gig Distro.” You cannot see the source code. You cannot examine it. You cannot modify it. And as far as I am aware, you cannot even distribute it.

    Those are pretty minimal requirements for a Distro, wouldn’t you agree?

    Perhaps not. Well, how about an upstream-downstream? How about a bug/problem database/ (Not that it would do any good. See Jamie Zawinski for details on that.) How about a packaging system — rpm, deb, whichever, take your pick>

    The Android “Distro” doesn’t have a single small smidgeon of any of that, does it, Robert?

    And you should feel ashamed of yourself for traducing Freedom and claiming that it does.

    Oh yes, one small last thing:

    One can build an image of the file-system and copy to the hard drive of a PC.

    Us everyday ignorant folk call that bit-blatting, Robert. Or, otherwise, Closed-Source Commercial Binaries.

    Since when were closed-source commercial binaries acceptable to the users of Debian?

  15. oiaohm says:

    CyanogenMod since CM10 has implemented upgrade in its package manager and the first android fork todo it was Omni that is basically a rolling release version.

    DrLoser like it or not under the hood Android is fairly much a stock standard distribution broken in many of the same ways ChromeOS is. That third party forks of Android have been able to pull off in place upgrades without having to flash by minor-ally extending the package manager is even more annoying that main line Android cannot.

    Yes we do have a reason to yell at Google DrLoser and its not the reasons you are listing.
    1) Google down right implement upgrade in the package manager.
    2) Google please provide a central package repository for core files.

    Ok even doing this we still might need to dock our phone/tablet to a computer to update version but at lease we would be able to only download the apk files that had changed not complete images.

    Android roms are build by telling a stack of apk files to install into a particular directory then you make a rom from that. Android roms are livecd snapshot model. Ok this was required on for some early Android phones where the OS was stored in rom not flash.

  16. oiaohm says:

    https://01.org/android-ia/downloads
    http://developer.android.com/tools/help/adb.html#pm
    You have official downloads for particular intel boards. But forget having amd or nvidia graphics cards work well. Note the official from Intel does include google play.

    DrLoser intel images come as part of the sdk as well these days the official Google SDK installer.

    Please note Google does not build the x86 versions in the Android SDK they are hosted on intel servers and built by intel. Now does Google forbid AMD from also building there own Android versions the answer is no.

    So the idea that Google builds everything is wrong. Intel is fully in charge of the official x86 offering of Android. But if you want to run on generic hardware you will be using third party build and install your own gapps..

    To be correct over time Android is becoming more and more a segmented packaged distrobution instead of a livecd style distrobution.

    Google play and the rest of the Google closed source parts installs by independent apk files. The first versions of Android these parts were not apk packages. Over time Google is breaking Android into more and more apk packages. Mostly due to the direct problem how do you update parts that are not packaged effectively.

    Android package manager name is “PackageManager” or with the executable name pm. Interesting enough PackageManager in android is open source.

    DrLoser Knoppix is officially classed as a Distribution. That screws the idea about being able to break it up into pieces.

    DrLoser google is making it more and more possible to replace parts. Any new android device you can choose to uninstall google play and google services from the package manager program on the device. But google has placed it in the hardest place possible to access. To run android package manager directly you need to plug device into a computer and use the adb shell. Yes from there you can print out a list of installed packages and see that Android is in fact a pack of individual packages that you can individually replace.

    The Android Package Mangers program name is “pm”
    1) “adb shell pm install ” to install 2) “adb shell pm uninstall ” to unstall.
    3) “adb shell ‘pm list packages -f’ ” list all packages.

    What key operation that all major GNU/LInux distribution package managers have that Android package manager is short. Upgrade. Yes the special handling you need when you are upgrading and replacing something like the package manager in android lacks restricting in place upgrading big time.

    To be correct the SDK uses the adb shell to install a lot of closed source parts into aosp images. Items installed by the adb shell pm may be only uninstallable by the adb shell pm command and only list by the adb shell pm command (this is useful when installing tracking applications that you don’t want users knowing about). It is it required to be in the system its how come applications can work across many versions with version changes so well.

  17. DrLoser wrote, “Google is not providing a Distro”.

    What’s this then? What’s this (derived from that) then? It is a distro. One can build an image of the file-system and copy to the hard drive of a PC.

  18. DrLoser says:

    So then, Robert. Ignoring your blatant disregard for the Four Freedoms (want to build an Android app in the store from scratch? Hey hey, you’ve got the SDK! But, sorry, computer says no), we’re left with your original comment, summarised as follows:

    Android is a Distro.

    Followed by my summarised comment:

    No, it isn’t, Robert.

    Followed by Google’s summarised admission:

    Android is not a Distro.

    Or, to put it in the words of your cite:

    We view and manage Android as a single, holistic software product, not a “distribution”, specification, or collection of replaceable parts.

    As two asides:

    1) Apparently Google doesn’t like you “replacing parts.” I’m sure RMS would adore this concept. Not.
    2) By these words, Android isn’t even a specification. Let alone a reference model based on a specification.

    Does anybody here actually pay attention to what their favourite company du jour says? Because clearly Google is not providing a Distro. It’s not providing a specification. It’s not even providing a set of tools through which you, me, everyman can assemble a Distro.

    In short, Robert, Google are pulling the wool over your eyes. Stop being a sheep.

  19. DrLoser wrote, “It’s a sealed commercial package available only to OEMs, and that’s what it was intended to be, and that’s all it will ever be.”

    Hmmm… That makes no sense given the source code. It can be unsealed with a download.

    DrLoser shares the view of Google, “We view and manage Android as a single, holistic software product, not a “distribution”, specification, or collection of replaceable parts. Our intent is that device builders port Android to a device; they don’t implement a specification or curate a distribution.” That’s to promote standardization but Google, itself, does curate a distribution, “The Android philosophy is pragmatic, first and foremost. The objective is a shared product that each contributor can tailor and customize.”

  20. DrLoser says:

    Oiaohm offers this link.

    Follow that link, and you will find the following title:
    Android-x86 – Porting Android to x86.

    It’s an experiment, isn’t it? Not, in conventional terms, a Distro. Can you name the package manager? Can you accurately describe the upstream chain to any individual package?

    Can you rebuild it from source code?

    You can’t. It’s not a Distro.

    Robert offers the following:

    I installed an SDK a couple of years back and played with it. It wasn’t much fun because it would not let me install apps from the store… Otherwise, it was just fine.

    I’d say that was a massive category error right there, Robert. You downloaded an SDK (which isn’t a Distro) and you played with it (which you can do with Distros, or, indeed, with a Newton’s Cradle) and it didn’t let you install apps?

    Let alone play with the source code. I’m given to believe that playing with the source code is the basic premise behind the Four Freedoms and, hence, Distros. (Linux or otherwise.)

    It certainly is the distro of 2014 with likely ~1g installations happening.

    I admire your optimism, Robert, if not your terminological exactitude.

    I’d start an on-site counter to commemorate this remarkable climb towards 1,000,000,000 users of the “Android Distro” if I were you. But it still won’t convince old-school Linux fans like me that the thing is a Distro.

    Because it isn’t. It’s a sealed commercial package available only to OEMs, and that’s what it was intended to be, and that’s all it will ever be.

    Anybody who pretends that there is some Gnu Purity in there, somehow, is just a sucker.

  21. dougman says:

    What will be supremely remarkable is when ChromeOS and Android merge.

  22. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser there is android-x86 that is designed for netbooks and the like with Intel video cards.

    http://www.android-x86.org/documents/how-to-boot-the-android-x86-live-cd-when-you-have-problems-with-your-graphiccard

    So any pure intel server motherboard runs android quite well. Yes you can have google play access but you application choice is limited due to the lack of arm application support. Android has keyboard, mouse and mouse pad support for reasons.

  23. DrLoser wrote, “Have you tried installing “the distro of 2014″ on Beast, Robert?
    If not, is there any obvious reason to define it as a Linux distro, rather than as a phone OS?”

    Yes, to the first. I installed an SDK a couple of years back and played with it. It wasn’t much fun because it would not let me install apps from the store… Otherwise, it was just fine. It certainly is the distro of 2014 with likely ~1g installations happening.

    distro: “1. A software source tree packaged for distribution; but see {kit}. Since about 1996 unqualified use of this term often implies `{Linux} distribution’. The short form {distro} is often used for this sense.”

    It’s definitely applicable here as there is a source tree and it’s based on Linux.

  24. DrLoser says:

    Have you tried installing “the distro of 2014” on Beast, Robert?

    If not, is there any obvious reason to define it as a Linux distro, rather than as a phone OS?

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