For several months, users who want to try a user experience similar to Android on a PC can choose to use Remix OS. This is an operating system (developed by Jide) based on Android, but designed to be easily installed (and used) on any PC. Initially released to work on ARM architectures, just like Android, is now a complete system, compatible with Intel and AMD 32 and 64 bit architectures, as well as able to support a good number of general purpose hardware.
Remix OS is not just a port of Android for PC (like Android-x86, so to speak), but includes several additions, including for example support for multi-window display, substantially absent in all major mobile operating systems.
In this article we will see how to install Remix OS on a USB pendrive, we will show the salient features, and we will use it to understand how to install an Android app using the Google Play Store (without prejudice to the possibility of installing a single .apk package, what very useful for Android developers, for testing and debugging purposes).
Installation on USB pendrive
Like almost all operating systems, Remix OS can be tested either through an installation on USB pendrive (perhaps using USB 3 technology to increase performance as much as possible) or by installing on virtual machine, using software such as VMWare or VirtualBox. Below we will refer to an installation on USB pendrives ( 8 GB ), to avoid some incompatibility problems that could prevent 3D acceleration (although it seems that the development team is resolving).
The first thing we need is to get the .zip archive with the installation files from the appropriate page of the official Remix OS website. We can choose the 32 or 64 bit version, with UEFI support or BIOS Legacy, and decide to download it all through Torrent, or using a direct link.
Inside the .zip archive, we will find the ISO file containing the image of the operating system, as well as a tool that allows us to install Remix OS on a USB pendrive without having to refer to external tools. This tool is available for Windows (so theoretically we will not need Rufus and the like). If we are working on Linux or MacOS environments, we will have to write the contents of the ISO file on the pendrive using a suitable tool (for example UNetbootin).
Then we start the file Remix_OS_for_PC_Installation_Tool-B2016071501.exe, we look for the file Remix_OS_for_PC_64_B2016071501.iso using the Browse button at the bottom right, then select from the drop-down menu the USB voice and the pendrive on which we want to install Remix OS. Click OK and the file copy process will start immediately, ending in a few minutes.
At the end of this process, we just have to start Remix OS.
Initial configuration and start of Remix OS
With the pendrive still inserted, let’s restart the PC and let the boot be made from USB. This setting is generally easily selectable from the BIOS, which can be accessed differently depending on the PC model you have. Once booted from USB, we will be shown a screen of the bootloader of Remix OS, where we can choose between two boot modes:
- Resident Mode: if we want to use Remix OS as a complete operating system, ie able to use the available space on the pendrive for file storage as it happens for traditional installations of PC operating systems, we will have to choose this option;
- Guest Mode: this option is more suitable in case you simply want to try the system, in a similar way to what happens in the so-called “live” distributions.
In our test, we chose Resident Mode, then pressing the Enter key to confirm the selection and start Remix OS.
After the boot of Remix OS, we will have access to the screens that will allow us to choose our initial configuration: we will simply have to select the language, accept the conditions of use and select the WiFi network for internet access. In the end, we will be shown the following screen:
By clicking on the Start button, finally the Remix OS desktop will be displayed, and we will be ready to use this operating system.
Features of Remix OS
When you start Remix OS, once the desktop is displayed, we will immediately notice some key components of the typical user experience of this operating system. First of all the taskbar, located at the bottom of the screen, through which you can use some quick launchers for the most used apps. Next, we will note the support for interaction via mouse and keyboard, a detail not at all trivial if you think that Remix OS 3 (to date the latest version of this operating system) is based on Android Marshmallow, coming from the world of devices equipped of the touchscreen.
The most significant feature of this operating system, which probably makes it the most suitable port in Android for the desktop world, is multi-window support, that is the ability to run multiple applications that run simultaneously on the same desktop. On Android, this is not possible, but on desktop environments turns out to be a sometimes indispensable feature. Consider, for example, the writing of a newspaper article, which often requires the use of (at least) a browser, a text editor and an image viewer: on an Android smartphone, continuously change the display of an app with that of another it can be much more frustrating than the use of multiple windows visible at the same time.
Another very useful feature of Remix OS is the integrated file manager, definitely inspired by the main desktop solutions currently available. Also included in the operating system is an advanced tool for making screenshots (which can be very useful if you think of Remix OS as a test-bed for Android apps under development). Finally, the development team of Jide contributes to a large number of updates, which make this system always in line with the latest news, inheriting all the basic features from the latest versions of Android.
In the next section of this article, we will see how you can install an Android app on Remix OS, either using the Google Play Store or using a .apk file in our possession (an opportunity useful for testing and debugging purposes).
In this second part, we will see how it is possible to install an app for Android on Remix OS, using practically the same techniques seen on Android.
Installing a .apk package
As it derives from Google’s famous mobile operating system, Remix OS is often used as a test bench for developers of mobile apps for Android, being able to run apps natively. Once the .apk package (the acronym stands for Android Package) is generated, it is possible to install it directly on the system, like a normal software application. Virtually all the features of the app, at this point, will be easily reproducible on our operating system, but it will not be emulated but will work natively (with a significant increase in performance compared to the most popular emulators).
So we try to download the .apk file of the famous app Pokemon Go (for example from this link ). For our tests, of course, we can use any other sample .apk package. However, once the file is obtained, let’s copy it to a USB pendrive, and connect it to the PC running Remix OS. As soon as the USB device is recognized, the File Manager of Remix OS will open automatically, showing its contents. If this does not happen, we can still open the File Manager (through the appropriate link on the desktop), then click on the USB item, displayed on the left under the Storage category.
Then double clicking on the .apk file inside the pendrive, we will see that Remix OS will ask us immediately if we want to install or not our app. To confirm, click on the Install item.
After a few seconds, subject to unforeseen circumstances, we will be notified of the correct installation of the app.
All that remains is to start the application by clicking on the icon that Remix OS has just added to the desktop (or, alternatively, looking for the installed app, through the menu accessible by clicking on the icon on the bottom left, on the bottom panel).
Use the Google Play Store
In fact, for a good number of applications, installing the .apk may not be sufficient for a correct execution: it is necessary to make sure that the Google Play Store is installed and, more in general, the services attached to it (which they are pre-installed on almost all Android devices). Fortunately, the latest version of Remix OS already include the Play Store and related services, allowing users to enable this feature already during the first system startup, as seen in the following screen:
Enabled this option, we can use the Play Store just like on Android. We will obviously need a Google account, which we will be required to use the first time you start the Play Store.
At the end of the Play Store wizard, we will finally get access to the apps for Android. From here we can then perform rapid research among the vast range of software solutions available, select the ones we prefer and install them with the same ease that you are used to using a smartphone or a tablet.