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3. Applications

3.1 Alternative markets

In case you don't know: Android applications are distributed as .apk (Android application package) files, which are simple zip-compressed archives. Apk is the standard Android package format, and it serves the same purpose as .rpm or .deb archives in Linux distributions. As you probably know, programs are not downloaded as .apks from Google Play; they're pushed to your device.

If you don't want to use the Google Play repository, or if you can't, there are alternative markets that provide Android FOSS:

In fact, many Android programs have their own web page, from which you can download the .apk and, in some cases, the program sources, documentation and so on.

3.2 Useful tools

Advanced Android users will want to install a file manager and a decent keyboard. Several FOSS programs are available, and my suggestions are:

There are many other free file managers, but I feel that Ghost Commander is the most complete. Of course, feel free to install another if you prefer.

In addition to the tools above, you may want to turn your Andbox into something similar to a real Linux machine. You really want a terminal emulator and BusyBox, The latter is a single executable that provides the functionality of several commands that you normally expect to find in any self-respecting Unix box, but that are missing in Android. cp and tar are the first that spring to mind.

In Section Terminal Emulators and Shells some terminal emulators will be briefly described; they also include BusyBox. The terminal emulator will let you run countless command-line programs that you can port to Android yourself!

3.3 Installing/uninstalling programs from Linux

You may find it convenient to download and store .apks in your Linux machine, possibly to install them on several Andboxes.

Let's suppose you downloaded an application, foo123.apk, and want to install it in your Andboxes. The simplest solution is to use the adb install command:

Linux:~$ ls *apk
884K foo123.apk
Linux:~$ adb install foo123.apk
3658 KB/s (898144 bytes in 0.239s)
        pkg: /data/local/tmp/foo123.apk
Linux:~$ _

You might be surprised to find out that an application's real name does not correspond to the name of its apk! For example, the real name of foo123 could be something similar to This naming method is based on Java package conventions, which are described at this page:

You must know a program's real name if you want to uninstall it using adb. To find out a program's real name, you can use Ghost Commander. Select ``Home'', ``Applications'', and carefully read the list of installed .apks; under each entry, the program's real name is printed in smaller characters.

Now you have all the necessary information to uninstall foo123 using adb uninstall:

Linux:~$ adb uninstall foo123
Linux:~$ adb uninstall
Linux:~$ _

3.4 Installing APKs via another Andbox

An Andbox can easily share its installed programs with another device, provided that the Android versions are compatible. All you need is Ghost Commander. In the next paragraph, you can see how to send a file to Alice using Bob's Andbox.

From the ``Home'' position, select ``Applications'' to get a list of installed .apks ; click on the one you want and copy it to a standard folder (say, /mnt/sdcard.) From this location, long press on the program .apk and select ``Send To...''. Now select Bluetooth, which is probably the easiest way to send the APK to Alice; or choose another method from Section Copying Files below. If your device refuses to send a .apk file via Bluetooth, just rename or zip it before sending it, then unpack it or rename it back on the new device.

From within the Ghost Commander, tap on the .apk file to install the program. When done, you can delete the .apk.

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