Wednesday, 15 October 2014

If Android was like an ordinary Linux distribution.

When Android was initially developed, it was design to work in devices with little processing capabilities; not much memory, slow processors, very low power consumption. So, the developing team of android took Linux, removed all the not so necessary features and Android became light and not very demanding; more like an embedded system.
Nowadays, Android enabled devices are equipped with a lot of memory big screens and multicore processors which make them powerful enough to carry complicated and demanding tasks. Still, the philosophy and architecture of android hasn’t changed much. Although I like Android very much, I can’t stop wondering how would it be if android was like an ordinary Linux distribution?

If Android could handle multiple user accounts like Linux 


While Linux is a real multiuser system, Android is mainly designed to handle Google accounts rather multiple user accounts. If Android was a multiuser OS like Linux each user would have his own desktop, home directory and settings. Each user would be able to do anything in his home directory like running a script or change permissions in a file, while the rest of the system would be protected. Currently, if you want to do these things you have to Root your device exposing the whole system. Also, each user could have installed his own private applications. To put it in a simple way, when children are coming to my house I could just log in to my tablet as a guest user and give it to them to play without worrying that they will mess up my e-mail application.

Android could have a fully featured console

There are many terminal emulators you may install in android. But if you do so, you find out that most of Unix commands do not work as they are either not installed or they require administrator user rights. As there is no home directory for you this situation affects the whole system; there is no directory in which you can do whatever you want. If you are an advanced user and you want to carry out more advanced procedures you have to install Busy Box a collection of Unix applications compiled for Android but you still need administrators rights; administrator accounts are not accessible. So you buy a high-tech device and you have to hack it so as to get the most of it. How sensible can this be?

Network transparency and remote system administration

With Linux things are simple. Using the console of your computer you can log in to some distant system and operate it like if it is right next to you. This feature is quite useful when you want to administrate some distant system without physical access to its hardware.  This is a very advance feature of Unix. You don’t just get the control of the desktop of the distant system, as it happens with most distant administration applications of Windows. In Unix you actually log in to the system itself.
If such a feature was easily accessible in Android, then we could talk about the support of distant system administration on the move. You could be in an island in the middle of the ocean and check the network traffic of you server in New York. Currently, if you care to do this it is necessary to install an application in your server and a corresponding one in your tablet and then set up a connection and you will probably end up being in control only of the desktop of your server ...... boring.
It is my belief that Android should gradually adopt the traditional features of Linux that are now hidden or ignored. Such an approach would benefit advanced users a lot.