Redefining “user unfriendliness”: Linux is ported to the iPhone… for some reason - Macenstein

Redefining “user unfriendliness”: Linux is ported to the iPhone… for some reason

I’ve never been a fan of how user-friendly the iPhone’s OS is. Sure, it’s OK, but it’s always bothered me that I did not need a USB client, computer and keyboard hooked to it to display a text-navigated kernel, and instead I was forced to use that beautiful graphical interface and intuitive touch screen to navigate my visually stunning and well-designed apps and games.

Well, luckily for me, my days of easily getting things done on the iPhone may be numbered, as Linux, the operating system that seems to exist solely for the purpose of seeing which devices that were not meant to run it can be forced to run it, can add another notch on its belt – the iPhone. The iPhone Dev Team has successfully booted Linux on the iPhone, and like most “successful” Linux ports, this one is missing half the features and nearly all the functionality you would think a successful iPhone port would have, yet still Linux geeks are calling it a success.

So what’s missing? Well, how about a little thing like support for the touchscreen. What do you do, shake the iPhone to enter text or navigate? Oh wait, no, there is no accelerometer support either. Hmmm.. well it’s probably all voice activated then. What? No sound either? Hmm… Well, good thing I always carry a USB cable, computer and keyboard with me!

Check out the video below to see just how amazingly useful this months-long effort to redefine “user unfriendliness” is.

iPhone Linux Demonstration Video from planetbeing on Vimeo. Above: What could be simpler?

Wow, I am positively drooling. I already have Linux running on my Roomba and my electric toothbrush, so this will really make things easier for me at home. Sure, it takes me an extra hour or so to brush my teeth, but it’s totally worth it. After all, it’s running Linux! And nothing is cooler than running Linux.

35 Responses to “Redefining “user unfriendliness”: Linux is ported to the iPhone… for some reason”
  1. Lukas says:

    This is probably one of the most pathetic full of shit posts in history.

  2. I know it’s not cool to diss Linux, especially on a blog full of tech readers, but hey, nobody ever said I was cool.

    -The Doc

  3. Clouda says:

    Nice 🙂 I totally agree with Dr. Macenstein. What’s the point, to put Linux everywhere? After so many years, it’s still not working on big computers, so why are they trying?
    Nothing against Linux, it’s ok on servers and so on… But why iPhone?

  4. I think it is pretty amazing that iPhone is now supported by linux kernel.

    2-3 years ago, linux is hard to use os but right now it is the best choice. More visual, more user friendly and free to use, free to modify 🙂

    Who knows, maybe 1 year later compiz with multitouch support ported to iPhone linux.

  5. Jerry says:

    Here’s irony: the article about accomplishing something relatively useless contains a video that can’t be viewed on the iPhone.

  6. 0x3333 says:

    I really like Macenstein, but this post sucks… Some day you will understand why…

    You are really just a user….

  7. jonro says:

    It’s an interesting proof-of-concept of their technical chops and I congratulate them. Since OS X is actually Unix, it’s not surprising that the iPhone can run a Unix variant like Linux. When you think about it, it’s pretty cool because Unix used to be a mainframe operating system. No one thought that it would be able to run on a desktop computer, let alone a pocket computer. I can’t wait until the day I can wear an iWatch.

  8. darrell says:

    come on now, this is the year of linux. or was that last year? i can’t remember anymore.

  9. mrmikey says:

    I’m with Dr. Macenstein. Who friggin’ cares about Linux except for the 0.000001% of computer users who like to dick with their systems? Sure, I’m just a user, but I have been one for 25 years, and nothing, and I mean nothing I’ve seen comes close to OSX in terms of usefulness and goodliness.

    Yah, you Linux propeller heads will be all orgasmic about your OS running on an iPhone, and in three or five years, you might make it useful enough to actually use in real life, but in that time, I’ll get real work done on OSX and get laid many several times.

    Jeebus Christos, sometimes I think that the Linux geeks really need to get out of the basement and view the thermonuclear furnace that burns in the sky every day.

  10. Impaler says:

    Has this person ever been out of his parent’s basement? Hey, Linux iPhone dude! There are women out there!

  11. dasein says:

    I agree with jonro…what’s the point other than a ‘look-ma’? Linux is a poor man’s UNIX which forever shows promise, but nothing market worth outside of servers. A good advance would be a better MacOS X SDK allowing even more versatility with what’s already there. What’s there on the Linux side…another promise? Outside of a very select few who like to tinker (and do that very well), it’ll go nowhere.

  12. acidscan says:

    Do you really have a clue what this could mean ? It’s like saying why create Linux if we already have some OS…

    The iPhone/ipodTouch is a really good hardware platform, with a really open OS the possibilities are unlimited.

  13. Dave says:

    I think you are missing several points.

    1) This guy is merely demonstrating how far he’s got, not suggesting it was a fully usable device in this state.

    2) It shows just how frickin’ flexible Linux is.

    3) You mock the Linux users, yet you’re sitting inside writing blog posts mocking people who are probably having lots of fun.

  14. Nathan says:

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t OS X just as customizable as Linux if you know coding and how to masterfully use X11 and terminal? I’ve been under that impression, but I don’t really know.

  15. huy says:

    I don’t understand the big deal. Macenstein is writing from a normal end user view point and it is a totally valid view point. Linux is not even ready for prime time yet on normal home computers.

    the iphone is advertised for ease of use and many great features. linux can’t even deliver that on a home pc yet (unless you count command line and searching endlessly for drivers ease of use). So maybe it would be a little more exciting if there was a chance we could get iphone like functionality and ease of use out of a linux iphone… but seeing as that hasn’t even happened on a pc yet, fat chance on an iphone.

    So yes, for most of us normal users this is not exciting news.

  16. David says:

    You lost me. This is one full of bs post that comes from a user that praises so much a free-BSD system with a nice GUI (yes that’s OS X).

  17. caleb says:

    I have to say this post is very short sited. This achievement is about the possibilities that it opens up.

  18. Slog says:

    *Reads other comments* Okay show of hands: how many people actually took this post seriously? I have the strange feeling that there are a lot of you who forget this is a humor blog first and a technology blog second. Although Doc’s sarcasm is ever so subtle, I guess it was easy to miss.

    Please for the sake of your blood pressure lighten up… all of you.

  19. Sean says:

    Oh no, the Linux trolls have been angered.

    @ 0x3333
    “You are really just a user….”
    Who the [expletive deleted] do you think the [profanity excised] iPhone is for?

    “It’s like saying why create Linux if we already have some OS…”
    Exactly like saying: Why create and release an OS that actually makes an existing product worse and harder to use? ‘Choice’ is not a value in itself, the choices must offer real benefits to mere users. Or we will mock you. Again.

    I really like and respect those working hard to make Linux better. I wish Linux every success as a Windows replacement. A sense of humor and an appreciation for users will go a long way to achieving that goal.

  20. John Davis says:

    Years ago, when I lived in England, I had a succession of British bikes. Most of them would run for a couple of days and then you’d have to whip out a tool kit and adjust the tappets, clean the spark plug(s) and so on. Then came the Japanese invasion. Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis were everywhere. They seemed never to need any attention. All you had to do was keep them topped up with petrol (gas), they just ran.

    Tens of years later, and some people still ride the old BSAs, AJSs, Triumphs. I guess there are some people who just like to tinker. In the computer world, these are Linux users. The Macs I use, like the Yamaha Cygnus I ride nowadays, need the bare minimum of maintenance.

    If tinkering is someone’s purpose, let him tinker. If this is what you are into, getting Linux to run on an iPhone IS an achievement. Ridiculing this is, in my opinion, childish and totally misses the point. I’m sure they don’t intend for anyone to have to plug in the Linux running iPhone to a laptop and punch in arcane code every time they want to make a phone call.

    For me, I love the iTouch interface and the Mac OSX GUI. I can get on with what I want to do with my iTouch or my Mac. My purpose is not tinkering. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the appeal.

    Doc, please try to see things from different points of view.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Davis

  21. Linuxer says:

    Did you hear, Ubuntu was finally ported to openSUSE? Or was it Fedora? Yeah, maybe it was Debian or Mandriva? President elect Obama is supposed to make a statement on that next Tuesday.

  22. Vadim P. says:

    Try using Ubuntu or something before gloating over some bootup text.

  23. jlnr says:

    Vadim: I wish I could, but it seems I’d need a Linux-compatible, non-Bluetooth keyboard first.

    But really, what can it do that a jailbroken phone can’t, which is a Unix system too? What is this nebulous big picture that all the Linux advocates are speaking about? Or is it a secret and you won’t let us “users” in until it’s too late for us? I think I know the answer :<

  24. Dev Null says:

    I’ve had this site as a favorite which I loaded fairly frequently over the last year or so.. But to be honest the garbage that you’ve posted in the last few months.. Either your a moron, have no geek skills what so ever or your just writing shit like this in a weak attempt to drive traffic (smells like a Digg story to me)..

    hmm I wonder, Does Shift Command Backspace for Firefox bookmarks?

    Posted from my Mac.. but fuk.. now I have to delete this bookmark from my Mac Pro, Mac Mini, Win Server 2008 (using as a workstation & it rox), Blackberry & my Linux laptop.. Nah I’ll just sync it… =}

  25. Rowlings says:

    “Caleb wrote: I have to say this post is very short sited. This achievement is about the possibilities that it opens up.”

    Um, isn’t the possibility it opens up running Linux on a very small screen and a 533 MHz processor? How is that useful?

  26. Nick says:

    Yes, a funny post and “Redefining “user unfriendliness” is a very funny headline.

    Bottom line is: who in his right mind cares *what* kernel it’s running?

    As I understand it, the point about the iPhone – what makes it what it is – is not so much the kernel as the touch version of the Cocoa Frameworks. This is what allows such attractive apps and such fast app development. Most other phones have some crappy Java environment.

    If there’s some lunatic out there who actually cares what *kernel* he’s running and thinks, for some reason, that it must be cooler to have a Linux kernel than a BSD/Mach kernel, even if he has to have a crap user-environment with it, then he’d do better to buy a Linux phone in the first place. But I suppose there are just people out there who like making things difficult for themselves, and maybe the guy already built a model of the Eiffel Tower with matchsticks and needed something else to do.

  27. Imagine Engine says:

    It’s a proof of concept which is cool for those that like to tinker with their gadgets. Though there’s an old saying I believe applies here and that is “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. Over the my many years of computer experience I’ve used all variations of OS for both PC and Mac. I always felt Linux distros had potential but due to lacking sufficient interest from major corporations and several key developers it left me feeling it was missing something. I’m not knocking down Linux as I believe it suits some users and has it’s place in some areas such as for servers. It’s just that when compared to OS X it’s viewed as the poor man’s OS. Anyway, I would prefer Apple to be more flexible with allowing developers access to the mobile OS X API to benefit iPhone users who will have access to applications currently not available unless one jailbreaks. If I were to choose which OS to run as an alternative to OS X on the iPhone then it would be Google’s Android. Unfortunately Google has only released the SDK for developing apps, not the OS. As for the comments towards Doc I do believe the article is newsworthy for MacEnstein readers since it involves Apple’s iPhone. Thanks Doc for posting this news 🙂

  28. Arthur says:

    While I can appreciate the talent and time required to do this, I wonder about the overall value. Talent and effort are usually applied to fix something that is broken

    How was or is the iPhone platform broken? Wouldn’t a Linux installation on a Windows Mobile phone be a better application of all this talent?

    I see the appeal of Linux vs. Windows, as Windows has had issues, and I wish the Linux desktop would gain more critical mass.

  29. Xeno says:

    ok point for everyone. As a Linux user, I will say I probably won’t use this but that this is neat in case I do need a kernel at my fingertips. Still this kills the usefulness of the iPhone.

    As for saying it takes an hour to boot Linux on a ‘toothbrush’, I seriously doubt that when Linux runs on a friggin chip the size of your thumbnail and can run on the energy of a potato (no shit, see the spud server project). Considering it’s used to ‘speed boot’ OSs now, you need to get you facts straight.

    So point for both teams, this isn’t a very useful of a hack but the Linux bashing is completely uninformed and ignorant. So let’s play fair guys as we’re all UNIX based after all.

  30. ERIC says:

    Ha! I don’t think I’ve ever read this many comments on a post on this site before. I come here for humor first, tech-related second. If you don’t, then get lost. Doc is totally right. I’ve been reading about linux on everything but the toaster in the last few years, but who cares – other than those doing it? Linux running on the iPhone is crap and worthless at this point. That’s the simple fact.

  31. krko says:

    The reason you have this blog in first place is because you’re running it on a Linux server…

    The reason you’re using the excellent wordpress publishing platform for this blog is much due to Linux and open source community…

    The reason there’s active and strong open source community worldwide is also much due to Linux and Linux related stuff…

    The reason mysql, php and other “stuff” powering the web exist is tightly connected to the Linux community…

    The reason you have Firefox is due to the open source community which, well has much to do with Linux in first place…

    I’m sure there were many that laughed at all of these some time ago and I’m sure you’re not one of them, so your sarcasm is appreciated, not this time.

  32. odin says:

    Wait so I might have a uPhone (ubuntu) or maybe this might be one step closer to my all time wanted mod, the xpPhone!!!

  33. V.i.k.t.o.r says:


    I think the reason for the guys putting/trying Linux out on the iPhone 3g was just like in the case of iPod Touch which still not being able running Linux so far (maybe this achievement could bring some goals on that platform as well) to try to cover all the missing / wished functions not giving by apple firmware…

    To make it clear, I would be happy to run linux on my iPod Touch to be able to listen FLAC,Wawpack, and other formats I have music in on my iPod but it is not allowed by Apple&iTunes….or synchronize my player other then iTunes…

    Dont make me wrong, I love Apple Stuffs, and with all the respect, if thats to only way to cover the lack of support on some cases, then I am open to use it later on when its gonna be user friendly enough…

    I love to listen music on the iPod but I would like to do it as I want on my own way & with my favourite formats, etc etc


  34. JoshFerencz says:

    your article makes you look like a jealous nerd who truly feels like he’s a major shareholder just because you own the product. no offense.

    The demo video is only showing the progress, it is by no means being released without accelerometer or touch screen support, no one has said it is.

    Its an open-source movement, that makes linux appeal to people.

  35. ASTERIXlix says:

    ERIC says: “…about linux on everything but the toaster…” oh I thought that had been done, lucky for me my toaster actually has a chip in it (serious it’s Tefal Avanti Elite, great toaster). Time for me to go look up the chip reference manuals, create a Sourcforge project, hit IRC and start porting 😉

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