Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio, Penny had a computer book and I have a smartphone.

Emacs with ESS running an R script Dick Tracy with his two-way wrist radio Penny Gadget with her computerbook my Android phone

Debian on my Android Phone

It occurred to me that the computer that I used to write my dissertation only had a fraction of the power that I now have in my pocket, so I wanted to see if I could use my telephone as a computer.

my telephone as a desktop computer

The idea is certainly not new. In November 2008 (less than a month after the first commercial release of an Android phone), a doctoral student in computer science installed Debian on his telephone and wrote:

"I think it is a crying shame to be carrying around a high-speed ARM CPU running a modern OS with a reasonably large screen and numerous input methods to just be a sub-par cell phone. ... What we really need is a much more complete Unix userland. This device is powerful enough that we should be able to even develop directly on it."
-- Jay Freeman, Debian & Android Together on G1 (2008)

It may seem a bit odd to think of your telephone as a desktop computer, so I created this page to demonstrate that it is possible. (Here's the recipe).

Let's get down to work!

LXDE desktop

Let's type a sample document.

typing in LibreOffice typing in QuickOffice

Because LibreOffice is running in a desktop environment, I can use a Bluetooth mouse to browse menus and select text. By contrast, QuickOffice (an Android application) has fewer options in its menus and it requires me to use my fingertips to select text. (The mouse is useless in QuickOffice).

Gnumeric spreadsheet

And if we do not want to work on the small screen, we can work on the big screen. Here, my phone is "docked" to another computer via a USB connection.

phone docked to computer

Because we are working with a real computer operating system, we can do much more than create and edit documents and spreadsheets. We can also download a wxMaxima notebook from my website ...

my website

... and run it in wxMaxima.


We can also edit the file and save the output to my telephone's external storage card.


I saved the files that I created to my telephone's external storage card.

Android file system

shape of a saddle OLS scatterplot

As an economist, I use Emacs with ESS to write and execute R scripts.

Emacs with ESS running an R script

Emacs with ESS running an R script

I would like to thank Sven-Ola Tuecke for his Debian Kit.

thanks to Sven-Ola Tuecke

Copyright © 2014-2024 Eryk Wdowiak