Using Android as development machine

There had been many scenarios where I wished if mobile phone could be used as a development machine. Scenarios such as quick SSHing to servers or pushing a hotfix to Github while on the roads, testing out a snippet which just popped in mind while jogging, etc.

I tried to make Nexus 5 as a pocket development machine. I was able to set it up, but with some limitations. Here is what all I did:

Part A [optional]*: Full system access with Lineage OS & root user

* This is required only if you need root access to your phone, otherwise proceed to part B.

TWRP Installation
  1. Connect phone to laptop via USB. Verify by listing connected devices:
     adb devices
    
  2. Reboot phone to bootloader screen:
     adb reboot bootloader
    
  3. Flash TWRP image for Nexus 5:
     fastboot devices
     fastboot oem unlock
     fastboot flash recovery twrp-3.2.3-0-hammerhead.img
    
  4. Now, from bootloader screen, reboot in recovery mode. This would load TWRP app.
Lineage OS

Sideload Lineage OS & gapps files:

(Optionally you can wipe existing data from TWRP’s Wipe option.)

adb sideload lineage-15.1-20180923-UNOFFICIAL-hammerhead.zip
adb sideload open_gapps-arm-8.1-pico-20190312.zip

Then reboot the system. You’ll have to go through OS initial setup process.

SU Addon for root access
  1. Download su addon arm 15.1 and copy to phone.
     adb push addonsu-15.1-arm-signed.zip /sdcard
    
  2. Reboot in recovery mode to go to TWRP app, Install > select addonsu-15.1-arm-signed.zip

After that reboot the system. Lineage OS with root access is ready now!


Part B: Development Setup

There are many terminal apps available in Google Playstore. I chose Termux, which has powerful terminal emulation with essential Linux package collection.

The default location of Termux’s bash is /data/data/com.termux/files/home.

Few basic commands:

pkg search <term>
pkg show <packages>

pkg list-all
pkg list-installed

pkg install <packages>
pkg reinstall <packages>
pkg uninstall <packages>

apt list --upgradable
pkg upgrade

pkg help

1. Text Editor

pkg search editor can help you to get a glimpse of available editors in termux package repo.

vim, nano, emacs are few choices.

pkg install -y vim

2. Git

Install git:

pkg install -y git
Github setup:

Add public key to your Github account.

pkg install -y hub
git config --global user.email "<email>"
git config --global user.name "<username>"

3. zsh

  1. Installation:
     pkg install -y zsh
    
  2. oh-my-zsh:
     git clone git://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh.git $HOME/.oh-my-zsh --depth 1
     cp $HOME/.oh-my-zsh/templates/zshrc.zsh-template $HOME/.zshrc
    

    Create $HOME/.termux folder & add the following files for theme customization:

    $HOME/.termux/colors.properties - example

    $HOME/.termux/font.ttf example


  3. Restart Termux to make zsh as default shell.
     chsh -s zsh
     exit
    

4. SSH

pkg install -y openssh
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "<email>"
Connect to remote servers from phone:
ssh user@example.com
SSH into phone:
  1. Start SSH server daemon in phone:

     sshd
    
  2. Password SSHing is difficult, add your public key to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file.

  3. Then, from any other device:
     ssh -p 8022 <phone's IP address>
    
  4. Stop SSH daemon:

     pkill sshd
    

5. Programming languages

Language packages such as clang, python, nodejs, ruby, golang, rust, erlang, lua, perl, etc. are available.



Termux
Termux

Now we can clone any repo, edit in vim & commit to Github, SSH to a remote server and do a quick snippet compilation. Pretty much what all I needed 🎉


Limitations:

  • Since Termux has access to only /data/data/com.termux, we can’t create our projects/ folder outside of that location.
  • Since project files are in app specific location, we can’t use any code editor apps such as DroidEdit which is running outside of that user scope.
  • su root shell can’t run termux packages directly.

    A workaround for using termux packages in root shell is to export LD_LIBRARY_PATH pointing to termux’s /usr/lib/ and execute package binaries by specifying path:

    # export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/data/data/com.termux/files/usr/lib/
    
    # /data/data/com.termux/files/usr/bin/python --version
    # /data/data/com.termux/files/usr/bin/vim test.txt
    

If there is a way to solve these limitations, please let me know in comments.

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