While it seems as if there should be no shortage of devices on which to run Android—particularly as Android apps are installable on many Chromebooks—running Android in a VM is perhaps not the most confidence-inspiring activity, given recent concerns about the Andy OS emulator bundling a cryptocurrency miner that consumes power and computing resources.
Despite that incident, there are trustworthy options for running Android on standard computers. The Android-x86 project has been active since 2009, and has just announced the first release candidate for the Android Oreo derived version.
While other solutions, such as Andy OS or BlueStacks provide virtualization layers to run inside a different operating system, Android-x86 is built for installation on bare metal, though it readily supports installation inside a third-party virtualization program. Given this focus, it includes a "text-based GUI installer," as well as support for booting from UEFI and installing to UEFI disks, and adding theme support to GRUB-EFI, according to the release notes. Additionally, it can also be installed to a USB drive as a more portable solution.
SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)
There is also an alternative version packaged as an RPM, for users of existing Linux devices to easily install the software on a seperate ext4 partition, as noted in the release files. This works as normal for RPM-based distributions, such as Fedora, Red Hat, CentOS, and SUSE, though the project officially supports using Alien to convert the package into a DEB file for use on Debian, Ubuntu, and other derivatives such as Linux Mint.
Of note, Android-x86 bundles the Google Play Store and services by default.
Despite what the name implies, Android-x86 supports both 32 and 64 Bit kernel and userspace environments. Additionally, it supports OpenGL ES 3.x hardware acceleration on Intel, AMD, and Nvidia graphics hardware, as well as within VMware and QEMU virtualization solutions.
For unsupported GPUs, it falls back to OpenGL ES 2.0 software rendering via SwiftShader, as the release notes point out. It also supports multi-touch, and other common features including audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera, sensor support, and Ethernet, though only DHCP—this limitation should not pose a problem for most users.
The new release also supports auto-mounting external USB drives and SD cards, as well as bundles the open-source launcher Taskbar, which is designed for use with a keyboard and mouse. For ease of use, it also supports freeform window mode by default, and enables ForceDefaultOrientation for devices without known sensors, making it possible to run portrait apps on a landscape-oriented device without rotating the screen. Similarly, the release notes indicate that it can support ARM-compiled apps via Oreo's native app bridge.
Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
- The Android-x86 project just announced the first release candidate for the Android Oreo derived version.
- Android-x86 is built for installation on bare metal, though it readily supports installation inside a third-party virtualization program.
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James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, in addition to security, cloud computing, open source, mobile and satellite communications, and the impact of globalization on the tech industry, with a focus on Asia.