Alternative operating systems
Several alternative operating systems using the Linux kernel have been ported to the tablets. They are derived from Debian, OpenEmbedded or Fedora; Android is a clear exception. All of these alternatives can be booted on the tablets. Because they all use the Linux kernel, most can also be used in a chroot, allowing users to use applications from the alternatives without leaving Maemo.
 Not Covered Here
These alternatives are not covered here because the operating systems do not run natively on the tablets (Virtual Machines) or they are not operating systems (Alternate Desktops).
 Virtual Machines
Main article: Emulators
There have been several emulators or virtual machines ported to the tablets that can run alternative operating systems. The best known operating system emulators are the Garnet VM (Palm OS), Basilisk II (Macintosh OS up to 8.1) and DosBox/RubyBox (MS-DOS and Windows 3.1). Emulation often introduces a large amount of overhead, so emulators tend to be limited to older operating systems that were designed to run on old, limited hardware.
 Alternate Desktops
Main article: Alternative desktop environments
Alternative desktop environments and window managers have also been ported to the tablets, most notably penguinbait's KDE, but they are not full operating systems; they are intended to replace the Hildon desktop only, they don't require a reboot, and they use varying amounts of the Maemo infrastructure underneath the alternative desktop.
Main article: Debian
Several users managed to get Debian to boot on the tablets. The project that became known as Deblet created a robust installer to automate the process, making it much more accessible to end users. Deblet uses proprietary closed-source binaries, downloaded from Nokia's repositories, to achieve some functionality.
Gentoo is mostly functional on N8x0 tablets. Setup instructions can be found here. For assistance or binary packages, including Qt and KDE (which cannot be built natively on the N8x0 due to memory shortage), ask around in #Gentoo-Embedded (FreeNode).
The Nokia-sponsored Handhelds Mojo project began porting Ubuntu to the armel architecture in 2007. It's interesting for its compilation entirely on native ARM hardware.
In late 2008, Canonical announced an official armel port of its Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty" release. As with the rest of the Ubuntu distribution, the armel port leveraged the work already done by the Debian team to produce a very workable port, and the repositories rapidly filled up with a large percentage of the apps available to other architectures. As with Debian armel, there were several reports of successfully booting Ubuntu on the tablets, but the most well known bootable version of "vanilla" Ubuntu Jaunty was the port by b-man.
It appears that a more recent version has been worked on by user:Mohammad7410. See User:Mohammad7410/Ubuntu for instructions on loading Ubuntu 9.10.
Main article: Mer
Mer is a new Linux operating system, built upon a thin base of Ubuntu Jaunty combined with the best open-source elements of Nokia's Maemo platform, such as the Hildon desktop.
Mer began as an idea that, due to Nokia's push to make most of Maemo open source, it should be possible to "reconstruct" Maemo using only open source elements. The "Maemo Reconstructed" proof of concept developed into Mer as it became clear to the developers that this was a viable environment for both developers and end-users.
Unlike its predecessor, Deblet, Mer avoids using proprietary closed-source binaries to achieve functionality. Consequently, there are still some missing pieces (such as drivers) to achieve full functionality on a pure Mer system.
Development status: There was no release since October 2009.
Mamona is an embedded Linux distribution for armel, based on Open Embedded. The main goal of the Mamona Project is to offer a completely open source alternative/experimental platform for Maemo using only free and open source components.
Mamona is still fairly immature at this point, and their last release, 0.2, was in September 2008. There's more information available and you may be interested in getting involved on their Trac page.
 Poky Linux
Poky Linux is a handheld-targeted distribution, also based on Open Embedded, that provides an open environment, a build platform (much like the Maemo SDK and the Mamona SDK), and a finger-friendly desktop environment known as "Sato".
While still immature on the tablets, and without an official release in over a year, Poky is still an interesting project, and their Pimlico PIM suite, in particular, may interest some users. You can get it from their website.
 Red Hat Fedora
There is an Arm version of Fedora 8, 10 and 12. A bug in Yum specific to the N8x0 tablets' processor (armv6l), and a very small selection of applications in the Fedora repositories, among other things, made this distribution slow to gain traction in the tablet community.
With the introduction of the N900, some interest in Fedora has re-emerged.
Android is a new operating system by Google and the Open Handset Alliance, based on the Linux kernel, but using custom Java libraries to run all applications.
There have been several successful attempts to boot Android on the tablets, starting with the earliest Android SDK, which was booted from a chroot. When the Android source code became available in late 2008, several teams, working in parallel, managed to get Android booting.
The NITdroid project is a kernel and userspace port from scratch, and it is currently the most advanced port.
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