Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)


The below items also deserve special mention, and although they're not quite as widely known, accepted and/or supported across the Android community yet, each has some nice features that are worth a look.

  • Ubuntu One: Canonical's entry into the cloud storage and Web services game, it has the benefit of a commercial supporter of the Linux client. In addition, Ubuntu One goes beyond simple file synchronization and will have the ability in the future to keep some of your more data-centric applications (such as contacts and notes) up to date as well as stream music. The support is a little patchy (for example, it will synchronize contacts, but not calendar or task data, and only on Ubuntu at present), but Ubuntu One's promise of a "personal cloud" is certainly enticing.

  • Spideroak: if you're nervous about entrusting all your sensitive data to a service provider's BOFH's for all you know, Spideroak may be right up your alley. The service's biggest selling point is "zero-knowledge" encryption on all your data—that is, even though the company hosts it, even it can't break into your files. It also maintains a version history on files, a feature typically only for premium customers of other services. Finally, in addition to mobile (iOS, Android and Nokia N900), the company has comprehensive Linux support, providing clients in DEB (Ubuntu/Debian), RPM (Fedora/OpenSUSE/RHEL/CentOS) and even TGZ format for Slackware users.

On the Local Network

For the paranoid among us, there are concerns about leaving all your sensitive data in the hands of corporate overlords. Fortunately, there's options for even the most anti-corporate shell jockey to connect Android and Linux over a local network.

The "Linux" Way: SSHDroid

One option is to synchronize from the Linux side, meaning there needs to be a mechanism for your Linux box to see and manipulate the files on the Android device. SSHDroid ( provides a full SSH server for your device. As shown in Figure 9, starting this app displays a screen telling you everything you need to know, including your current IP address, the URL to connect to (it uses the SFTP protocol and defaults to port 2222) and the status of the server.

Figure 9. SSHDroid Main Screen

Having used this quite a bit to edit files directly over SFTP (one reason why I love kioslaves), I can say this is probably my favorite way to use my Linux and Android machines, for a couple reasons. One, it takes the least amount of setup: you install SSHDroid, start it up and go to a URL from the Linux machine. And, Bob's your uncle. Second, it's secure. Third, while I generally use it to edit files directly over SFTP, once you're connected, you can use an application like Unison or Krusader to synchronize files. And last, the performance for large transfers is not too shabby on my Prime.

That said, this method is best suited for those who use the Android device as a mobile extension of their desktop machine—that is, those for whom the Linux box is the boss. For those of us who do more and more computing on tablet and other mobile devices, it never hurts to have SSHDroid installed (it's free and takes up less than 1MB, rare nowadays). A more Android-centric solution is described below.

The "Android" Way: FolderSync (S/FTP, Samba, WebDAVS)

For those of us who are enjoying the freedom of browsing the Interwebs or writing from a hammock in the back yard (which, if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend) but still want to practice good backup procedures, FolderSync ( is an excellent solution. It isn't open source, or even free, but at $2.29 for the Pro version, it's practically a no-brainer once you figure out what it can do for you.

And what is that? It will keep one folder on your device synced up with a folder on your Linux box over SFTP. You can opt to start the sync jobs manually, or schedule them, with useful options, such as limiting certain jobs (called Folderpairs, as shown in Figure 10) to certain wireless networks, only synchronizing when the power is plugged in, and whether files should be updated one-way or bi-directionally.

Figure 10. Configuration Options for Foldersync

Figure 11. FolderSync-Supported Protocols

But the great thing about FolderSync is all the different protocols it supports (a part of that selection list is shown in Figure 11). Have a file server at work that exports a Samba share? FolderSync will link up to that, no problem. Want to do some updates to a site on your Web server? Get WebDAV(S) running on Apache, and you're set. Oh, and remember all those cloud services we talked about? Dropbox, Box and Google Drive? FolderSync does that one, that one and that one too.

The "Lite" version will allow you to sync up with one other folder on one device, so if that's all you need, you can avoid having to pony up any cash. But the Pro version will allow you to set up your Android device as a central hub for anywhere you stash files. Now if only they started making devices with 1TB Flash drives....



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I am not

Android Phone Online Store's picture

I am not using Linux as an OS for my laptop and even to my smartphone because not all applications are compatible with it, and I am not familiar with the Linux.

Android User

Len S's picture

I do like my android phone, especially plugging it into my computer usb port, and easy access to material saved on my phone. I really enjoyed this article, thank you.

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Using Debian 7.0 and

lyemium's picture

Using Debian 7.0 and installing mtpfs and mtp-tools from the package manager gives a nice plug and play capability when connecting Android 4.1 devices.

All that is needed is to connect the device and use the thunar file to take care of all the drag and drop functionality, no complaints so far.

Like Android

Online Website Tutorials's picture

I lke linux and android, I hope this is also suppport my gadget

Samba server app

Anonymous's picture

you can make use of Samba server app for Local connection ;)

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For KDE install kio-mtp

Anonymous's picture

At least in the Fedora repos the package kio-mtp is available for the KDE desktop.

Android device is automatically detected when plugged into usb connector. Pop-Up options include view folders in Dolphin or Krusader.

Read / write access is as fast as usb will go - tested with Nexus 7.

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Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation

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Linux and the several *nix systems have wonderful, LAN and NET based tools for inter-connection and inter-operation -- especially where file sharing and related operations are involved. This dates back to UUCP when modems were $1,000, were leased from telco, and were periodically connected because leased lines were extremely expensive.

I'm astonished that these tools have not become available for connecting
Android systems with Linux systems.

~~~ 8d;-Dan

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Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB

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I run openSUSE on my laptop and Android 4.0 on the HTC Amaze. I discovered a number of USB tools that allows the browsing of USB storage devices. By installing USBView and USBprog, it allows the HTC Amaze to be seen as an USB storage device. It also works with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.1. The transfer speeds are the same as any other USB device - transfer 1 GB in minutes. The entire Android file system is accessible from the Linux laptop.

git-annex assistant

Shock's picture

you should check out git annex assistant. open source, runs on linux and has android app. it also supports sync via

direct cable connection

Daniel Barlow unregistered's picture

It may not be the most user-friendly option in a GUI sense, but I've found that the simplest way to get files onto the device over a USB cable is to use "adb push"

play with linux? i think you mean work-around linux

er0ck's picture

the vast majority of the article is about platform agnostic solutions. this is great. was just surprised. :-)
i too am dismayed at how poor MTP operates under linux. it seems to work great from macOSX.
i use sshdroid (still a bit finicky including no way when i checked to upload entire folders) and sftp (isn't this root only?) as well. linux cron jobs notice when my phone is on my network and initiates some rsync stuff for mostly pics/clips, but also my evernote stuff.

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Where is Epistle?

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I keep hearing about this great note taking app Epistle, but whenever I follow the links or search in the google play store I'm told that the page isn't there and don't find any search results.

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Anonymous's picture

I used Epistle but it is no longer supported, but an app called Denote is a great substitute that does the same thing. I use it to sync notes to my Ubuntu desktop with a program called PS Notes.

You forgot OwnCloud

Paraplegic Racehorse's picture

Android (OwnCloud - and [many] linux distros include native OwnCloud clients. Several online archive/backup/share service providers have switched to OwnCloud to ease their internal administration issues. You can, in theory, have your cake and eat it too.

The problem is 3rd-party app support of OwnCloud on Android. There are lots of apps that talk back and forth with DropBox and Box but very very few, if any, that talk to an OwnCloud server, so if you need this, those files should be kept at those hosting sites. On the upside, your DropBox folder can be mirrored on your OwnCloud server so you don't need to worry overmuch about losing your files should DropBox ever fail for you. :)


John M Cooper's picture


I have found go-mtpfs to be a really fast and stable way to access my MTP android. You have to do a bit of leg work to get it installed but after that it works great. Lets hope somebody packages soon.


Missed one

Kevin Seise's picture

You missed the Android side client for SSH mounting. SSHFSAndroid allows you to create mount points for your linux hosted files and treat them like sshfs mounts. Rooting is required to insert the fuse module, but it works really well on my tablets and phone. Great article by the way!.

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Useful apps

Robin's picture

Two apps help greatly with the transfer of data from mobile to linux, which should also get mentioned. AirDroid permits a connection by WLAN to any computer capable of running a browser, copying files to and fro is one of the main features, though not the only one; and Bump permits the transfer of data to other mobile devices literally by bumping them against each other, and here, too, any computer running a browser and having a keyboard can be the target. You bump the space key.

Agreed on AirDroid. With my

Anonymous's picture

Agreed on AirDroid. With my Motorola Electrify M running Jelly Bean 4.1.2, plugging it into the computer results in a USB mass storage device being made available which contains the Motorola driver downloader for MS Windows. Once that driver is installed on a Windows machine the driver manages to disable the USB mass storage device and provides MTP access. This does not seem to be possible on Linux as of yet. I tried the go-mtpfs program above, but it cannot find an MTP device (it's one of several such programs I've tried.

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