[Replicant] Anbox

Michael von Glasow michael at vonglasow.com
Sat Jun 19 13:04:31 UTC 2021

Hi Wojtek,

This may be somewhat off-topic for the Replicant list, but anyways: The
core of the Android OS is open-source (mostly under the Apache license).
Typical Android devices sold on the market, however, run a mix of FOSS
and non-free software. Non-free components include:

* The Google apps, i.e. Play, Gmail etc.
* Possibly other non-free apps which device vendors decide to bundle
* Possibly OS tweaks and components added by the vendor
* Hardware drivers
* Possibly firmware for some hardware components

As for the first three, you can get rid of them by running pretty much
any community build of Android (some may still come with GApps due to
popular demand, so look out for that).

Hardware drivers and firmware are needed to support certain hardware
components. These days it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a
handset which does not require proprietary drivers. Therefore, even the
community distributions of Android usually come with proprietary drivers
for the handsets they support. Same goes for firmware, where required.

For PC hardware, things look a bit better: laptops from the major
vendors mostly include components for which free drivers are available
(though that is not guaranteed in every case, check the hardware
compatibility lists of the major Linux distros to find out more. Since
Android is built on top of a modified Linux kernel, it can benefit from
that as well.

There is an Android port to the x86 architecture [1], albeit a few
versions behind (latest being 9.0). They have multiple flavors, some
based on CyanogenMod (which was also the basis for the respective
Replicant versions), some directly off AOSP. If you are looking to run a
de-bloated Android distro right off x86 hardware, I would say this is
the most promising option.

As for Anbox, that project took a different approach: rather than boot
an x86 PC into a full Android OS, it provides an Android environment on
top of Linux. While I have not done a code audit, drivers should not be
an issue here (it would rely on the OS for that rather than bring its
own); also, it does not include any bloatware apps. However, it does
come with a few glitches (I have repeatedly had network issues), and it
is based on Android 7. If you want to run Linux and Android apps
side-by-side, or you want a quick way to test out Android apps without
needing a device or the full overhead of a VM, then this option might
work for you. You would not need an Android image, as Anbox already
comes with the full Android stack to run on top of your existing Linux

At that point, I wonder why Replicant is not offering an x86 port. It’s
a different processor architecture, but most devs would already have
hardware for testing, and obtaining free hardware drivers should be much
easier than for most handheld devices...


[1] https://www.android-x86.org/

On 18/06/2021 22:50, W. Kosior wrote:
> Hello,
> I don't possess any Android device but I would like to be able to
> develop and test (maybe even use daily) Android apps nevertheless. I am
> pretty sure I could achieve that with Anbox[1] but there's one tiny
> problem: it requires me to provide an Android image to start with.
> Obviously, I want to use a fully deblobbed version of Android (i.e.
> 100% free software). I asked here[2] and there[3] and
> eventually learned there do exist updated versions of Replicant[4] that
> would perhaps be suitable for the task.
> So my question is: does anyone know if a Replicant image can work with
> Anbox? Has anyone tried doing this? Does anyone know any "for" and
> "against"?
> Another issue with images is architecture support. I am currently on
> aarch64, so most Android images out there should work but just to be
> future-proof I would like to know about possibilities of building
> a deblobbed Android for other architectures (mainly x86_64).
> Just to make things clear - I only need the userspace of the Android
> image to be 100% free. Kernel and firmware are not to be run at all.
> Wojtek
> [1] https://anbox.io/
> [2] https://trisquel.info/en/forum/deblobbed-android
> [3] android at lists.fsfe.org
> [4]
> https://redmine.replicant.us/projects/replicant/wiki/PortingToAndroid11
> _______________________________________________
> Replicant mailing list
> Replicant at osuosl.org
> https://lists.osuosl.org/mailman/listinfo/replicant

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