For most of us, Google I/O is probably beginning to feel like a distant memory—perhaps less so for those lucky enough to be browsing on your shiny new Chromebook Pixels. We’re all aware by now of the big stories from this years conference, but among all that was something that was of great interest to us here on the Portal, which you might not have noticed.
One of the sessions put on by Google was titled Voiding Your Warranty: Hacking Glass, the purpose of which was to show those in the Glass Explorer program how to root the device and run their own applications. During the session, the capabilities of Glass were demoed by showing not only how to gain root access but how to run a full desktop operating system, in this case Ubuntu. One of the tools used to achieve this was an application called The Complete Linux Installer that we featured here on the Portal just under a year ago. Considering that the application was written by our very own Recognized Developer and Forum Moderator zacthespack, we decided to track him down and get his opinion on the use of his application to help hack Glass and a few other things as well.
Well Zac, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
“Hello, I’m Zachary Powell (zacthespack on XDA) and I am a second year BcS Computer Games student at the University of Essex (UK). I have been on XDA since 2009, becoming a Recognised Developer in 2012 and a Forum Moderator earlier this year. My passion for both Android and FOSS has encouraged me to work on multiple projects, including Slap OS on Android, my newest joint-venture: XML Games, and of course; LinuxonAndroid. My other interest include computer games and computer game design. Virtual Worlds are a particular interest of mine because I enjoy seeing what a community can create within them.”
It must have been a bit of a shock to see your app being used by Googlers at IO. What was your initial reaction?
“Yes, it was quite a shock. It had never crossed my mind that the employees of Google could be using my app, never mind it being featured at their biggest event. I see it as a serious milestone in the project’s life to be included amongst Google’s work.”
Do you think that running a full desktop OS on a device such as Glass will become commonplace, or will users prefer to stick with a lightweight and minimal interface?
“I think that both have their places. Clearly for day-to-day use a desktop operating system isn’t practical, but it does have it’s uses – particularly when you are talking about using a command line and command line tools. Clearly, with the limited size of the glass’ screen, the use of a desktop GUI is prevented; it’s certainly not going to be able to run a web browser. However, when resolutions improve, this could become more possible. As it is, the screen is large enough for a command line and I like the idea of being able to develop and compile code from a HUD on the move.
I do feel that in general it won’t become commonplace for the average user to run a full desktop OS on the glass because for most people, a desktop operating system is a word processor and an web browser. There is no general need for them to have access to developmental tools. The minimal, easy to use system is preferred by the average user.
However for advance users and developers who want to tinker with their glass and unlock the full power of the device, running a desktop OS on the glass would make a big difference.”
What are your thoughts on Glass in general?
“I believe that the Glass is a fantastic product, and is something that I am itching to get my hands on. Obviously the idea of a HUD is nothing new, but I think that Google have taken the idea in such a way that the result is second-to-none. There is no other device like this and although there is still a lot of room for improvement, by the time Google release to the general public I think it will be a well polished and usable device. The fact it runs Android is great because you are able to run a far better range of apps, including my own. This also makes the process of ensuring apps are Glass compatible much easier. I am looking forward to getting my own Glass and discovering it’s full potential.”
What originally motivated you to begin the Linux On Android Project and is the project still going?
“The project originated from a desire to get Linux running on my HTC Desire S. The idea and method used in the project is nothing new, but we seek to make it a universally accessible platform (as long as you are rooted). After developing the project and creating a tutorial in XDA, there was a clear demand for the project as people started asking me to help them get it running on their devices. It was at this point that we started creating the universal method, and from there the project really took off.
Yes, we are very much still going. We are working on new improvements constantly, including new Linux Distros and making the app more universally accessible in terms of the languages it has been translated in to and the number of devices it can now run on.”
Considering our recent focus on helping those new to app development, could you tell us a little bit about your methodology, process, and perhaps any tips you might have for aspiring developers?
“Trial and error is definitely the key here. There is a great range of Open Source apps available which you can study the source code for and learn from. This is something I strongly recommend anyone to do. Although the phrase is “don’t fix something that isn’t broken”, I can’t help myself but to continue improving the app and adding new features.
My biggest tip would be to never stop learning. Always look to better your knowledge. The Android platform is always changing, and you have to change with it.”
Tell us a little more about the new projects you mentioned earlier.
“SlapOS on Android is a branch of LinuxonAndroid using our Ubuntu install as a base to then install the SlapOS software, allowing your android device to integrate with your SlapOS cloud, with this every Android device can become a cloud node!
XML games is a new project A friend of mine and myself have just set up and launched on kickstarter. XML Games aims to allow the players themselves to easily and quickly create new game levels using a predefined set of XML tags. Coupled with an XML web platform, players can view and share each other’s levels online, unlocking the possibility of endless new and unique gameplay!
Using XML to design levels allows for us as the developers to make the levels and games completely cross platform. This opens players to an ever growing range of different levels all of which can be designed by anyone on any platform.
Once you have made your levels, they can be shared on the XML Games website community. Allowing anyone to browse and download to play. The hope here is that users can head onto their PC, code their own levels with the help of our handy guide, and then head onto their phone, and download their own level!
We plan to start out on Android creating a few open source games, but with enough funding hope to expand onto other platforms and more games!”
Given the Linux theme here I have to ask, what is your personal distro of choice?
“Primarily I use Ubuntu for work as I like its stability, however I do enjoy playing with Arch Linux because of its customisability.”
If you’d like to follow up on anything mentioned by Zac, check out the links below.