It has been more than a year since Samsung first teased the possibility of running a fully-supported full Linux (Ubuntu really) desktop on a Galaxy smartphone. Considering Samsung’s almost Google-like tendencies, it was perhaps considered DOA. At SDC this year, however, the company is making some noise to prove that Linux on DeX is very much alive and, in fact, will start its beta testing phase next week. But before us Linux geeks all get giddy, here is the fine print of what this upcoming power user feature will entail.
The most important requirement, which will probably immediately exclude a large majority of interested users, is a Galaxy Note 9 or at least a Galaxy Tab S4 tablet. Linux on DeX, as the name suggests, only works in DeX (with one caveat) but only those two devices are actually supported. Despite the fact that the Galaxy S8/S8+, Galaxy Note 8, and Galaxy S9/S9+ all have DeX too.
The feature also only works in DeX mode, which means, at least for the Galaxy Note 9, hooking up the device to an external display. The one exception is that the “Terminal mode” can be used outside of DeX, presumably like a regular Android app. This would be perfect for quickly typing out commands on the go. On a virtual keyboard, of course.
Now that that’s out of the way, what is Linux on DeX anyway? You basically download a Linux image, specifically the now outdated Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and create a container for it that runs full screen when in DeX mode. This practically gives you the semblance of having a full Linux desktop environment on your phone. Samsung is positioning this more for developers to maintain and write software in C, C++, or Java and even make apps for both Android and even desktops, with the caveat that only ARM 64-bit is supported.
While the teaser last year was just that, this time Samsung is giving out a specific date. Interested users who meet the hardware requirements can now sign up for the beta, which goes live on November 12. Provided you have a Gmail (@gmail.com required) account. Considering the high requirements, it’s going to leave a lot of Linux fans and users out in the cold. Those might want to try out the newly-released open source UserLAnd app instead.