Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Developing Cordova/PhoneGap & other Android apps from the shell

The Homebrew package manager makes it much easier for OSX developers to install the Android SDK tools they need to develop and test Android apps from the command line. Unfortunately, while efforts had been made to port Homebrew to Linux, the benefits of Homebrew for the Android SDK tools have not yet been extended to the Linux platform.

Background: OSX with Homebrew

Here are the steps for using Homebrew to develop Android apps on the command line:

  • install the Apple OSX Command Line Tools from Xcode or by downloading the package from Apple;
  • install Homebrew as described on its homepage;
  • $ brew install android-sdk
  • $ android to open the GUI, install toolkits & desired API versions, and create & run an AVD (Anrdroid Virtual Device)
  • $ adb devices to list the device(s), simulated or real, that are up & running
  • $ android list to get the list of available API targets
  • android create project --package com.example.helloandroid --activity HelloAndroid --target <target-id> --path HelloAndroid where <target-id> is a valid id from android list
  • $ ant debug install to install on the simulator
  • To try the Cordova/PhoneGap Android example: in the project do $ android update project --path $(pwd) --target <target-id> then $ ant debug install

Using the Android SDK with Linux: Ubuntu

Get the Linux version of the Android SDK from the or use a command like the following:

Extract using a command like
tar xzvf android-sdk_r21-linux.tgz

Add to .bashrc:

and refresh with a command like: $ . .bashrc

IMPORTANT: The Android SDK has its dependencies on 32-bit (i686) libraries. For a 64-bit system you will need to do something like:
sudo apt-get install ia32-libs (for more details see this article)

To install JRE, JDK, and ant:

sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jre
$ sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jdk
$ sudo apt-get install ant

NOTE: while these are clearly linked by dependencies, it is best to install them one-by-one to make sure the correct versions of all components are installed. I first tried using ant to install all JRE/JDK components and got a Headless AWT exception.

To run the Android GUI:
$ android

Select & get the SDK platform tools, a recent version of the SDK platform, and an ARM system image from a recent SDK platform. Unfortunately the GUI does not seem to download very quickly so only start with the components you really need.

Once a recent version of the SDK platform & system image are downloaded and installed, open the Tools menu & select Manage AVDs. Create a new AVD with some reasonable values and try to start one.

If it does not start, here are some things to check:

  • verify that there is a valid JRE with a real GUI;
  • double-check that the correct PATH has been set & refreshed;
  • make sure the installation of the SDK & platform tools is ok.

List the valid API target IDs:
$ android list

Create a test project from the command line:
android create project --package com.example.helloandroid --activity HelloAndroid --target <target-id> --path HelloAndroid where <target-id> is a valid ID from $ android list

In the project directory, try to build & install:
$ ant debug install

If the installation goes well, the app should display a welcome message when you open it.

To watch the log events: $ adb logcat

To try a Cordova/PhoneGap project, in the example from lib/android:
android update project --path $(pwd) --target 1
and then try $ ant debug install

Notes for using the Android SDK with Fedora Core

The procedure to install and use the Android SDK is very similar between Ubuntu & Fedora Core. The major differences lie in the system dependencies.

The JRE, JDK, and ant should be installed with a different procedure than for Ubuntu. From this article the JRE & JDK can be installed with a command like:
yum install java-*-openjdk java-*-openjdk-plugin

For a 64-bit system, please make sure the following i686 packages are installed: glibc.i686libstdc++.i686ncurses-libs.i686zcore.i686, and zlib.i686.

In the future, I would like to download, install, and update the Android SDK & tools using Homebrew on Linux as well.


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  3. This is very inspiring, as getting from the start & Having no real background in programming (aside from making some adventures on ZX-81 and MSX), this does sound like I could get started on developing something for my own Android based eBook reader and android app development training even this online course seems to be interesting Has anyone tried any online courses so far. Please do provide a light on this also.

    Thankyou for all the info also.