Using App Markets with Linaro Android builds

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Software distribution on modern smartphones tends to be centralised in markets. Just as iPhone has iTunes, Android has the Android Market, but also allows other markets such as F-Droid.

The Android Market application is not Free Software, and is only available for hardware that passes compatibility testing and whose manufacturer agrees a licence with Google[1]. Since Linaro has done neither, Linaro builds are in the same boat as Cyanogenmod[2] when it comes to installing Google apps.

One app market we can use though is F-Droid[3], but installing it revealed an interesting bug[4]: Google’s latest hardware requirements require devices to have a touchscreen and Android causes all apps to implicitly require it. There’s a reasonable argument for doing so, but since development boards don’t have any built-in screen, it means most apps are marked as incompatible. Fortunately, Linaro images are typically installed to an µSD card, and it’s simple enough to edit the permissions files on the device

cp frameworks/base/data/etc/* /media/system/etc/permissions

On next boot the device reports up all permissions to F-Droid and we’re able to install everything.

[1] Android Market licensing http://source.android.com/faqs.html#if-i-am-not-a-manufacturer-how-can-i-get-android-market
[2] Cyanogenmod http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/wiki/Latest_Version
[3] F-Droid http://f-droid.org/
[4] Bug #881469: “Declare android hardware features” https://bugs.launchpad.net/linaro-android/+bug/881469

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