We’ve previously covered the Android SDK, a handy tool that allows you to emulate the Android environment on your desktop. It is also possible to turn your PC into a huge virtual smartphone with the Android Live CD, which provides a bootable-version of the mobile OS for use on any computer.
For developers, emulating the Android environment will allow new software to be tested without parting with any hard-earned money for the latest and greatest cellular device. For the consumer, the ability to “try before you buy” is enticing to any cautious buyer. Provided you have a CD burner and the ability to boot from a CD then you can take Google’s latest offering for a test-drive.
Download & Burn The Android Live CD
Android’s home on Google Code features several methods of acquiring the latest build. On the downloads page there is a torrent link for downloading the .ISO image, or if you’d prefer to download via the web then you’ll need to grab two files: liveandroidv0.3.iso.001 and liveandroidv0.3.iso.002.
Note that if you grab the weblinks, you’ll need to join the files once they’ve both completed downloading. Google recommends using a small freeware application called HJSplit, which you can download here. Simply download it, choose Join and select your two files. Those of you who download Android via the torrent will find a ready-to-burn .ISO file waiting for you.
Using your favourite image-burning software, write the .ISO file to a CD. As I’m a Windows user I’d recommend ImgBurn, as it’s completely free and gets the job done without any hassle. Linux users will have to use Wine in order to get ImgBurn working, whereas Mac users will be able to burn the image using the OS X Disk Utility.
If you do find that burning a CD is causing you hassle, then you can always write the image to a USB drive using an application called Universal Netboot Installer. It’s available for both Windows and Linux and is designed to provide users with bootable versions of their favourite Linux distributions on USB.
Launch the program once it’s downloaded, select Disk Image and locate your Android Live CD .ISO before choosing the USB device and clicking OK. Your image will be written to USB, and you will be prompted to restart once completed.
I managed to get version 0.3 of the Android Live CD to boot via USB, although Google do not explicitly state that this version is compatible with USB booting. If you do have issues with booting from USB, head back to the downloads page and grab yourself liveandroidv0.2usb.iso.001 and liveandroidv0.2usb.iso.002. This will provide you with version 0.2 of Android Live, and you’ll need to merge these with HJSplit before writing them to USB with the Universal Netboot Installer.
Once you’ve prepared your CD or USB stick – you’re ready to go!
Booting Into Android Live
With your newly burned CD or USB stick still in the drive, restart your computer. You’re going to need to set your primary boot device as the CD drive or Removable Device (depending on what you’re using), so that your computer looks for Android before it looks for your primary OS on the hard drive.
Enter setup as your PC boots, usually by pressing F2 or Del (but you’ll see it flash up, “Press x to Enter Setup”) and re-arrange your boot devices so that your chosen drive takes precedence. Save and exit (usually F10) so that your PC restarts again, and wait.
If all goes to plan, your PC will detect the Android operating system and you will be prompted to choose either 800×600 or 1024×768 as your screen resolution. If you are unable to load the Android operating system then it is possible that your PC isn’t compatible, so don’t forget the Android SDK if you’re experiencing this problem!
You’ll now be able to play around, test software and decide whether Google’s “iPhone killer” really packs the punch you’re after before you drop the cash on a new contract.
Have you tried the Android Live CD? Did you burn a CD or use a spare USB stick? Did it help you decide on your next smartphone? Let us know in the comments!