Linux on Android smartphones: Project Halium wants your handset to run Ubuntu, Sailfish

Developers hope to create a common Android base to fix Linux mobile fragmentation.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

This is the system stack that Project Halium is proposing.

Image: Project Halium

A group of developers hope to unite several Linux-based mobile distributions with a common Android base that will make it easier for them to run on Android hardware.

The developers are aiming to create a better way for non-Android GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS, Plasma Mobile, and others to make progress in the context of porting an OS to Android hardware.

As the developers behind Project Halium point out, a common link between each of these projects is that to get this particular job done they all use a 'libhybris', or Hybris, a compatibility layer that enables Android driver support.

It was created by a Mer developer, used in Sailfish OS, and later adopted by Ubuntu Touch and others.

However, as Project Halium argues, each project has laboured on its own implementation, which may have been unnecessary given the common goal of getting up and running on an Android device.

To end this fragmentation, Project Halium proposes a common base that includes the Linux kernel, Android Hardware Abstraction Layer or HAL, and libhybris.

"Project Halium also aims to standardize the middlewares used to interact with the hardware of the device. By having these parts shared, we believe that it will reduce the fragmentation we have currently," the developers write.

The developers note that the project is only at the draft document stage, and that they hope to begin work on a proof of concept using a Nexus 5, Oneplus one, and Nexus 5X as the reference devices.

They also clarify that they don't want to replace the actual mobile OS distributions, but become part of them as a common platform.

However, Sailfish OS developers have already raised potential obstacles to Project Halium's goals when they were shared with Sailfish OS and Mer developers at a recent meeting.

Jolla Community manager James Noori, known as Jaymzz, pointed out that whether the concept works is really contingent on support from original device manufacturers (ODMs).

"We need to remember here one important thing, what works with the ODMs? It does not really matter what we think is the best if it doesn't work with the ODMs," Noori said.

"Also things like merging to the same codebase things like kernel or drivers or using same caf tag is basically going back to MeeGo times and the issues that were already existing there that we have been working on."

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