Android developer Danny Lin (also known as kdrag0n), has introduced a new app called Nestbox that makes it easy to run Linux virtual machines on Google’s latest Pixel phones.
In a nutshell, this lets you run Linux tools and apps on an Android phone without the need to reboot. While this isn’t the first app that lets you do that, there are a few things that make kdrag0n’s Nestbox stand out.
First, it makes use of the new Android Virtualization Framework in Android 13. Second, it also makes use of the pKVM feature (protected kernel virtualization) in Pixel 6 and later devices.
The result is a utility designed to make running Linux apps on Android phones as easy as it is to run them on Windows 11 or ChromeOS devices, because it relies on a similar method: you install a Linux operating system in a container that can communicate with the host operating system.
Among other things, that means that you have access to features like shared folders: Linux apps can access documents, images, and other files from your Android filesystem, and vice versa. So you could snap a photo using your Android camera app and then edit the image using a Linux app. Or you could download a document using an Android web browser and then use a Linux text or document editor to open and modify it.
Kdrag0n says Nestbox is also very light on system resources. It has very little impact on battery life when idle, and disk space is allocated dynamically: you don’t have to set aside a set amount of space for a Linux distribution.
Users can install a number of different Linux distributions including AlmaLinux, Alpine, Amazon Linux, Apertis, Arch, CentOS, Debian, Devuan, Fedora, Gentoo, Kali, openSUSE, Oracle Linux, Rocky Linux, Ubuntu, and Void.
A public beta of Nestbox is available as a free download. It’s designed to work with Google Pixel 6 or Pixel 7 series phones, but kdrag0n notes that Pixel 6 users needs root access (at least for now, because pKVM isn’t enabled by default on Pixel 6 devices). Root isn’t required to use Nestbox on a Pixel 7.
Whichever phone you have though, kdrag0n notes that it’s still considered an “early preview build, so expect bugs!”
Early preview of my simplified Linux VM app for Pixel 6 and newer is now on Patreon: https://t.co/ikfLYEdKxr
– No root needed on Pixel 7
– Shared folders
– Easy to use, everything is set up behind the scenes
– Terminal based on Termux, w/ UX improvements pic.twitter.com/NotGJy11sk
— Danny Lin (@kdrag0n) November 7, 2022