What is Linux on DeX and how to Install it

Linux on DeX
 Linux on DeX

Samsung recently brought support for Linux support to its DeX platform as a way of expanding the capability and viability of the platform to appeal to Linux users and developers. DeX is an expansion of Samsungs Android operating system to a full-screen desktop experience without the need of a standalone computer. However, it was not an actual desktop. Samsung is changing that by bringing Linux support which will allow users to use a full-blown Linux operating system.

Samsung has brought Linux support with almost all the features you will need to get started with Linux. With Linux on DeX, you will be able to carry your whole computer in your pocket. Whether you are a developer or just a user who prefers Linux OS, this is great news In this article, we are going to show you how you can install Linux on Dex on supported devices so that you can live the future right now.

What is Linux on Dex

Linux on Dex is an app for the Note 9 which gives you a Linux container in which you can access as a full desktop Linux environment on DeX. You can also access a terminal only version on the phone. Linux on DeX is quite performant because it’s not running in a virtual machine, it’s a container which takes advantage of the device’s resources. Since its running on the Galaxy note 9 which usis an ARM processor, software for it needs to be made for the device’s ARM architecture. Linux for ARM devices is widely used because of the popularity of Linux powered SoC ARM devices such as the raspberry pi. As a result, there is a lot of linux software compiled for ARM architecture ready to install using APT.

Linux on Dex, what you need

  • Sinces its a Dex platform, the first thing you need is a supported Samasung Galaxy device such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Galaxy Tab S4 (Amazon link). At present, only these two devices have support for Linux on DeX.
  • Monitor with Type-C to HDMI connector. It’s recommended to use Samsung’s own connector for better performance but any USB-C dongle with HDMI, USB and Charging will work such as this one.
  • If you want full desktop experience, you would have to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse or you can just use the Note 9’s display as mouse and keyboard.

Installing Linux on Dex

1. Download the latest version of Linux on DeX Beta app (Free) from APKmirror. For some reason, the Play Store link is broken right now and it’s not working. Nonetheless, you can side-load the app from APKmirror, it’s completely safe to use.

2. Install Linux on DeX Beta app and open it. Tap on the plus button at the bottom and select Download from Server. Now scroll down and tap on the “Download” button. The app will start downloading the required Linux image. It’s a huge file of around 4GB, so make sure you are connected to WiFi.

3. You can also download it on your PC, extract the zip file and import the .img file into the LoD folder on your phone. Now, open Linux on DeX app, tap on the plus button and select Browse.

4. Here, you will see the .img file, tap on it and provide a name to the container. Now tap on “Create”. The Linux container is now ready to be used on DeX.

Configuring Linux on Dex

  1. Before using Linux on Dex you would probably want to configure the Linux desktop to your liking. you can use command line tools such as zsh and tmux. You can just copy your configuration for these from you personal laptop to the phone and they would work out the box.
  2. You can easily copy them using a memory card or flash drive. Plug it into the phone and move them into the “Internal storage/LoD_Share/” folder to make it available on Linux on DeX.
  3. zsh is a terminal shell, like bash, which provides nice features for autocompletion. You can use oh-my-zsh with the powerlevel9k theme to make it really useful.
  4. tmux is a tool which lets you tile terminal layouts and have them in different “windows” so you can run multiple processes from one terminal and easily switch between them.

Linux on DeX uses Gnome 2 out the box. Unfortunately, Gnome Tweak Tools doesn’t work on Linux on DeX right now. Gnome Desktop also appears to have some issues wrt changing windows.

Using Linux o
n DeX

  1. Now connect the smartphone using Type-C to HDMI connector to your monitor. Samsung DeX will automatically start on the monitor. If you don’t have a wireless mouse and keyboard, you can use Samsung’s display to navigate DeX. Open the app drawer on DeX and click on Linux on DeX Beta app.
  2. After that, click on the container that you have named earlier and then click on the RUN button. If you want to go back to DeX, just hover your mouse at the bottom of the screen for 2-3 seconds, you will get the dock and from there you can close Linux and switch to DeX.
Note: the default user name is “desktop” and the password is “secret”.

Linux on Dex: User experience

The responsiveness and performance of Linux on DeX are surprising. It’s quite fluidy to use. It realy brings into perspective the power of the Note 9.

The fact that Linux is running in a container and not a virtual machine makes it even more so, and easy to use. There are so many layers, yet it performed decently well. There was intermittent lag, but overall applications ran quickly without much latency.

Linux Terminal

Its a good alternative for students or developers who want to get started with Linux. To make it clear, it runs Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Android Security Policy baked in. If you are a beginner in software development, then you can explore plenty of things. For starters, you have access to Terminal. if you are into Android development, there is IntelliJ pre-installed. This version also comes with Geany text editor and Visual Studio Code which is amazing. Alternatively, you can install Vim or any other text editor of your choice. There is a lot of flexibility for developers.

If you are not a developer, you will find most of the basic apps here. There is Chromium and Firefox for browsing the internet which works pretty great. YouTube worked really well with minor frame drops. Note that the sound will come out of Note 9’s speaker but you can connect and use external speakers if you want to. Users can use the terminal to install packages they want. However, you might find compatibility issues with software. We tried installing VLC using the terminal, and it did install, but couldn’t run because it’s not ARM compiled. Samsung has already stated that only 64-bit ARM built applications will run.

The ability to use normal Android apps while running Dex makes the experience even better. Basically, it’s a complete package and I am not sure why Samsung isn’t marketing this feature heavily. You can have a PC-like experience with absolutely great performance. It definitely looks like the future. Well done, Samsung!

Liking Linux on DeX?

Samsung has done a great job of packing a whole desktop opreating system on its smartphone and we suspect update will only make it better. its come a long way from when DeX was initially launched in 2017 as the performance was choppy and it didn’t exactly feel like a desktop experience.

However, with few revisions, DeX has become a viable and exciting product to use. Powerful processors, high-speed storage, and wider adoption to ARM will make Linux on DeX a great alternative to use in the future. Let us know if you would be trying it out in the comment section below.