If you're serious about playing around with Android I urge you to check out my article on how you can convert a $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reader into a full Android tablet! I just did it and it's turning out to be one of the coolest gadgets I've had!
Tonight I wanted to play around with the Google Android OS for mobile devices, but having neither an Android tablet or phone I was forced to investigate how I could run it on my computer. I found the answer I was looking for and succeeded in running it on my PC. And here is my super quick guide on how you can do it, too.
You will need the virtual machine software VMware Player or VMware Workstation. If you don't have either, you can download and install VMware Player for free.
Grab the Android Live ISO, the one to use is the Asus Eee PC version. (I tried the generic version and it wouldn't even boot under VMware.) You can navigate to the latest version here or just use this direct link for the 2.2 version.
Configure the VMware Player or VMware Workstation options for this VM. You want to choose:
- CD/DVD pointed at the ISO file you just downloaded for Android
- 512 MB memory
- Any network setting should work (BUT, you will need to follow the instructions in step 3)
- Sound card should be changed to "SB X-Fi Audio"
- 2 GB IDE hard disk (optional)
With the VM powered off, modify the .vmx file that VMware created using a text editor. You MUST change the existing line to now read:
ethernet0.virtualDev = "vlance"
If you don't make this change you will have no network access in Android!
Power on the Android VM and from the bootloader screen choose the first option and everything should work!
Making it Permanent
The above works great for getting a feel for Android, but because this is a "live" version of Android using a ram disk for temporary storage, all your changes will be lost when you shutdown or reboot. To make your environment permanent it's actually very easy:
- Reboot the virtual machine (Power > Reset in VMware)
- Choose the "Install to hard disk" option from the bootloader
- Create a single primary partition in the partition editor, using all available space. Make the partition bootable. Quit the partition editor.
- Allow it to install the OS to the selected partition, using ext3.
- Allow the installer to use Grub as your boot loader.
- Do not attempt to create a virtual SD card (I didn't investigate how this works, so when I tried it it appeared to overwrite the OS I just wrote to disk. So don't do this unless you know what you're doing.)
- Choose to Run Android x86 when asked.
And now you've got a permanent Android x86 virtual machine!
Certain features are not supported by Android x86, primarily those applications which require devices missing from the virtual machine (e.g., the camera). Other applications such as the YouTube application appear to work except that it does not seem to play videos; I suspect this may have to do with specific hardware acceleration missing from the virtualization. Also, see the many debugging and virtualization related options in the app list; you can do things like spoof geolocation. While limited in some respects, this is an excellent tool for testing and debugging your web and mobile apps on Android.
Have fun playing around with it!