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Android is based on Linux and has a Linux kernel underneath. Is there any way I can use shell commands and interact directly with the Linux system? E.g. A shell app that has access to the Linux system?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes there is,

Check out the application Better Terminal or Android Terminal Emulator both are support from 1.5

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Don't forget that as TheCottonSilk noted in their answer that you'll need busybox in order to access most of the usual Linux commands! – Logos Dec 15 '11 at 4:09

Recently I had similar requirement, and I found 'busybox' utility. The terminal emulator apps are useful however those support very few commands. However 'busybox' gave me access to most of the generally used Linux commands.

Here is how I used it.

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Even if you used busybox, you still need a terminal emulator to actually run busybox on. They're complementary. – Lie Ryan Dec 21 '10 at 2:15
Yes, very true..I agree. – TheCottonSilk Dec 21 '10 at 9:21

If you have a wireless network set up I can recommend to connect via SSH. It allows you to access and fully manage your Android in a few minutes. For Linux or Putty users there is no difference to a standard terminal using SSH besides some specific Android commands. Moreover, some file managers such as Nautilus support the SSH protocol so you will have the flexibility of a shell and additionally the comfort for file operations using a graphical file manager. I liked SSH so much that I have written a small how-to for Android (in German). I know, it might not fully apply to your question but can be considered while working with an additional computer and an Android phone.

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An easy to use SSH server is SSH Droid, available in the Google market.

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Do you mean set up an SSH server on the phone? That may be more trouble than it is worth. – Zhehao Mao Jun 29 '11 at 13:31
I installed SSHDroid in no time and it is definately less complicated than setting up the Android SDK / ADB shell (check my tut). If you are experienced with SSH you will appreciate it for accessing the phone. – n3rd Jun 30 '11 at 0:03
Huh, I had no idea. I would read your tutorial, but I don't know German :-). – Zhehao Mao Jun 30 '11 at 0:14
I am going to add an English translation in the near future. – n3rd Jun 30 '11 at 9:36
How exactly does it work? Does the SSH connection go over the USB cable? – Zhehao Mao Jun 30 '11 at 13:10

The Scripting Layer for Android also includes a shell.

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