Smartphones, a.k.a. phones because the vast majority produced are of the smart variety, have taken over as the de facto device people use as a daily computer. For a large portion of the people on this planet it is their only computer. So, why not try and do things with it that we normally save for larger desktop computers?
Cell phones, I’m sorry I mean phones, have advanced greatly in a short amount of time. I personally did not get my first phone until around 2014. At the time I didn’t have a legitimate reason for owning one. Actually I think I bought one because I wanted the experience of owning one. We can discuss another time if the overall experience has been worth it, but that was the reason I bought my first phone. Even if we look at the past 6 years phones have dramatically advanced. Let’s take a look at some specs from the “best” phone of 2014 (iPhone 6 Plus) and my current phone (Motorola One Action).
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
- Display: 5.5-inch LED with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 pixels-per-inch)
- RAM: 1GB
- Internal storage: 64 GB (16 GB and 128 GB available)
- Cameras: 8-megapixel rear with optical image stabilization (OIS), and 1.2 megapixel front facing
- Sensors: Touch ID fingerprint scanner, barometer, 3-axis gyroscope, proximity, ambient light
- Battery capacity: 2,915 mAh
Motorola One Action
- Display: 6.3-inch LCD with 1080 x 2520 pixels (432 pixels-per-inch)
- RAM: 4GB
- Internal storage: 128 GB
- Triple Camera Back: 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8", 1.25µm, PDAF
16 MP, f/2.2, 14mm (ultrawide), dedicated video camera (1080p)
5 MP, f/2.2, (depth)
- Selfie Camera: 12 MP, f/2.0, 26mm (wide)
- Sensors: Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
- Battery capacity: Li-Po 3500 mAh
The iPhone went for up near $900 and the Action was around $350 when they were released. There are a lot of bells and whistles that come with your fancy computer that can fit in most pockets. The Action is a mid-range phone and what you get for that price for a portable computer is pretty good. So, again, why not try and use this computer to its full potential? Do you really need a desktop/laptop computer?
As you saw from the specifications above we can do a lot with our phones. We can take fantastic pictures and videos with them. We can do some editing of said pictures and videos. We can listen to music, watch TV shows and Movies, play video games, and create and edit podcasts. Entertainment-wise we can do a great deal with out phones, but can we code and do sysadmin work on them? I think we can.
A year or so ago I saw an app on the F-droid (also available on the Playstore) called Termux. It’s a small terminal emulator that doesn’t require root access. This app looked interesting to me because I was mining different cryptocurrencies with my GPUs and CPUs and being able to SSH into them while I was away from home was a big plus. This app also let me do normal SSH things like doing updates, backing up files, downloading packages etc.
Some of the regular use cases for Termux include : data processing with Python, running an SSH client, synchronizing and backing up files, running a web server, and learning the Linux command line. There are hundreds of packages in the Termux repository and if you can’t find what you’re looking for you can compile your own. You can compile for C, C++, Go, Rust, Node JS, Python, and Ruby.
On My Phone Though?
It does seem a little weird to do actual sysadmin-type work using one’s phone, but as it is becoming a vital part of other areas of our lives why can’t it be that way for programming or sysadmin work? If you do not like typing lots of words on a little screen there are plenty of Bluetooth keyboard options available to buy. Some are no bigger than a phone so you can easily do some serious work with it and fit everything into your pockets.
Maybe we can start to use our phones as a tool instead of only as a personal pocket TV. We now have another app we can use to create with instead of another one we use to consume with. Termux can open up greater possibilities for creating and expanding the use case for phones. You should go download it and start to tinker with it. Pick up a new skill using Termux. Let me know what you’re using it for in the comments below.