Earlier this month, Jide.com released an early alpha version of its new Remix OS. In essence, it’s a multi-window desktop operating system built on Android. It’s an interesting concept, but what makes it truly intriguing is that you can run it off a regular, fast USB 3.0 flash drive on a Windows PC or Mac. I took it for a spin on Mac to see what the initial version is like to use…

First off, if you want to try it for yourself but don’t know how to start, there are a couple of methods I found worked really well, and can be done by anyone, regardless of your technical ability or knowledge. If you have a Windows PC, the initial guide won’t be of any use to you, in which case, skip down to the video to see the overview.

GUIDE

Before you start, you need to ensure you have a fast USB 3.0 flash drive with at least 8GB capacity, and a speed of at least 20MB/s. I tried a couple of USB 3.0 sticks and found this $12 100MB/s Sandisk Ultra stick offered a pretty smooth experience. You’ll also need to make sure you’re using an Intel based Mac. As a side-note: I found my all-flash MacBook Air was much faster than my Fusion Drive equipped iMac too.

Once you have your USB stick, and you’ve downloaded the operating system from Jide.com, you need to move the ISO file to your desktop and rename it RemixISO.iso. Once you’ve done that, launch Terminal and type the following exactly as you see it, spaces and all:

hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o Desktop/RemixISO.img Desktop/RemixISO.iso

This turns the Windows-friendly ISO file in to a more Mac-friendly IMG file. You’ll notice you now have RemixISO.img.dmg on your desktop. Delete the ‘.dmg‘ part.

The next thing you might want/need to do is format your USB flash drive. You may not need to, but I found it solved some boot error issues I experienced early on. Open Disk Utility on Mac while you have the USB drive plugged in, select the drive, hit ‘erase’ and choose MS-DOS (Fat) from the list of format options.

After that, I was ready to load the software on to the USB stick. I downloaded a program called UNetbootin from GitHub and used it with the following steps:

  • Click DiskImage
  • Click the dropdown menu and select ISO
  • Click on the “…” button.
  • Find “RemixISO.img” on your desktop and select it.

You might find the program changes your initial selection from ISO to Floppy, in which case, you need to change it back to ISO. Once you have it all set up, it should look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 20.46.14

Once you’ve hit ‘OK’, it’ll run through its process, which takes a few minutes, and you should have Remix OS 2.0 ready to use on your USB stick.

It will more than likely give you a warning that it won’t work on Mac, ignore it. Following this process ensured that my Remix-powered USB drive has worked every time I’ve tried booting it up on either of my two Macs.

My first few attempts at installation failed. I got ‘boot error’ a lot, and sometimes my USB stick wasn’t even detected as a boot option, until I followed the process above. Parts of this guide from Liliputing and this from DroidMen helped a lot.

OVERVIEW

When starting up your Mac, press and hold the option/alt key just as it starts booting up when you hear the Mac startup sound, then select the ‘Windows’ option from the two drives on screen.

The first time you do it, it’ll take a few minutes to install, then you’ll get to the set-up window. Now you can boot it up in guest mode or resident mode. In resident mode, it saves all your apps, history and information on the USB stick. So you can take it with you wherever you go, plug it in to any Mac, and never lose anything.

All the apps are placed in the pop-up menu which shows up when you click in the bottom left corner. The bottom bar shows all running apps. Because there’s no Google Play Services or Play Store installed, you need to install apps by downloading APK files directly. I grabbed a bunch of my most-used apps from APK Mirror.com. I discovered afterwards, there is a method for getting Google Play Services and the Play Store on to Remix OS manually.

Most apps load in their normal portrait mobile screen ratio format, and you can adjust their size and rearrange them on screen as you like. Or, you can make them full screen. Surprisingly, they’re not terrible. Chrome tends to load the mobile versions of web pages as default, but you can force desktop pages to show instead.

The Notification window is accessed by pressing the list icon in the bottom right corner. Once open, you’ll see any notifications you have, as well as gain access to options like the ‘settings’ menu or the ‘screenshot’ function. This lets you manually select an area on display to screenshot, or just snap the entire screen.

There are a couple of hints that this is Android you’re working with, apart from the obvious mobile apps experience. Firstly, there’s the app history Window, which you can access by pressing F4. Secondly, there’s the Android Lollipop Easter Egg, Google’s own version of Flappy Bird which you access by going to Settings>About and then repeatedly clicking the software version until a lollipop fills the screen.

A couple of things I noticed before you go and try it. Firstly, this is a very early alpha release. There are bugs, you will experience lag, and multiple app crashes. Secondly, I noticed that it runs really slowly on my iMac, but quickly on my MacBook Air, suggesting if you want anything close to fast performance from it, you need to use a solid-state based computer. Thirdly, you need a fast USB 3.0 flash drive, or you’ll have a terrible experience.

As I’ve said, this is clearly an early developer OS. There are lots of bugs. I’ve had a number of apps crash, or just stop loading. Undoubtedly, the developers will improve it as time goes on. But, it’s certainly promising. Although I doubt it’ll ever be a fully-fledged PC OS, Remix OS is certainly a useful alternative.

 

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