The state of Linux on the iPad in March 2020

KevDoy
KevDoy
Mar 21 · 2 min read

The iPad has become a category of its own. But, like any other piece of technology, the iPad also ages. The difference between this and a traditional computer is that you can’t simply plug in a flash drive and wipe the OEM operating system and repurpose it. I started ipadlinux.org in 2019 to spread awareness of this issue and track projects that are trying to change this.

Current Solutions

iSH–The Linux Shell on iPad. The great thing about iSH is that anyone can install it without Jailbreak as long as you’re on iPadOS 13 or over. You will have to request to be a beta tester on Testflight, but it’s as simple as requesting it on the iSH Website. iSH give you access to a virtualized Linux shell right on your iPad that happens to also have Files access.

UTM–Run Virtual Machines on iPadOS. Right off the bat, this one is a bit more difficult to run. I, personally, have not found UTM on any signing services so you’ll have to sign it yourself and install it. UTM let’s you emulate x86 processors and install operating systems such as Windows and common Linux distributions. It’s not very practical at this time but the proof-of-concept is promising. UTM information and installation instructions can be found on their website.

In Development

Project Sandcastle–Getting Linux and Android to run on iPhone 7 and iPad 2018/2019. This project is in relatively early stages, but shows a lot of promise with progress being made daily. Project Sandcastle is a continuation of previous projects with similar ambitions and is made possible by the recent developments of the checkra1n and checkm8 exploits. These exploits target the bootrom of Apple mobile devices and project leaders claim these exploits can not be be patched which is promising for repurposing all iDevices on the market today.

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While iPads aren’t officially listed, shared hardware allows Project Sandcastle to run on iPads.

Conclusion

We’re in early stages of running Linux on iPad, but it’s a start. I hope to continue to spread awareness with iPadLinux.org and hope that any of you with tips and updates will continue to contact me to keep the site up to date.

Thank you for reading.

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