Building for Android

Google’s phone/tablet operating system Android is based on a custom virtual machine on top of a Linux kernel. Even though Android isn’t strictly (or legally) speaking Java, you can build Android applications using Kawa.

Below is "Hello world" written in Kawa Scheme. A slightly more interesting example is in next section.

(require 'android-defs)
(activity hello
   (android.widget.TextView (this)
    text: "Hello, Android from Kawa Scheme!")))

The following instructions have been tested on GNU/Linux, specifically Fedora 17. This link may be helpful if you’re building on Windows.

Downloading and setting up the Android SDK

First download the Android SDK. Unzip in a suitable location, which we’ll refer to as ANDROID_HOME.

export ANDROID_HOME=/path/to/android-sdk-linux

Next you have to get the appropriate platform SDK:

$ android update sdk

You need to select an Android “platform”. Platform (API) 16 corresponds to Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean). Select that or whatever you prefer, and click Install. (You can install multiple platforms, but each project is built for a specific platform.)


Building Kawa for Android

Set JAVA_HOME to where your JDK tree is. You should use JDK 6; JDK 7 does not work at time of writing.

$ export JAVA_HOME=/opt/jdk1.6

First get the Kawa source code.

If using Ant (as is recommended on Windows):

$ ant -Denable-android=true

Alternatively, you can use configure and make:

$ KAWA_DIR=path_to_Kawa_sources
$ cd $KAWA_DIR
$ ./configure --with-android=$ANDROID_HOME/platforms/$ANDROID_PLATFORM/android.jar --disable-xquery --disable-jemacs
$ make

Creating the application

Next, we need to create a project or “activity”. This tutorial assumes you want to create the project in the target directory KawaHello, with the main activity being a class named hello in a package


To create the project use the following command:

$ android create project --target $ANDROID_PLATFORM --name $PROJECT_DIR --activity $PROJECT_CLASS --path ./$PROJECT_DIR --package $PROJECT_PACKAGE

Replace the skeleton by the Scheme code at the top of this note, placing in a file named hello.scm:

$ rm $
$ create $PROJECT_CLASS.scm

We need to copy/link the Kawa jar file so the Android SDK can find it:

$ ln -s $KAWA_DIR/kawa-3.1.1.jar libs/kawa.jar

Optionally, you can use kawart-3.1.1.jar, which is slightly smaller, but does not support eval, and does not get built by the Ant build:

$ ln -s $KAWA_DIR/kawart-3.1.1.jar libs/kawa.jar

Copy or link custom_rules.xml from the Kawa sources:

ln -s $KAWA_DIR/gnu/kawa/android/custom_rules.xml .

Finally to build the application just do:

$ ant debug

Running the application on the Android emulator

First you need to create an Android Virtual Device (avd). Start:


Then from menu Tools select Manage AVDs.... In the new window click New.... Pick a Name (we use avd16 in the following), a Target (to match $ANDROID_PLATFORM), and optionally change the other properties, before clicking Create AVD.

Now you can start up the Android emulator:

$ emulator -avd avd16 &

Wait until Android has finished booting (you will see the Android home screen), click the menu and home buttons. Now install our new application:

adb install bin/KawaHello-debug.apk

Running the application on your device

If the emulator is running, kill it:

$ kill %emulator

On your phone or other Android devude, enable USB debugging. (This is settable from the Settings application, under Applications / Development.)

Connect the phone to your computer with the USB cable. Verify that the phone is accessible to adb:

$ adb devices
List of devices attached 
0A3A560F0C015024	device

If you don’t see a device listed, it may be permission problem. You can figure out which device corresponds to the phone by doing:

$ ls -l /dev/bus/usb/*
total 0
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 189, 5 2010-10-18 16:52 006

The timestamp corresponds to when you connected the phone. Make the USB connection readable:

$ sudo chmod a+w /dev/bus/usb/001/006

Obviously if you spend time developing for an Androd phone you’ll want to automate this process; this link or this link may be helpful.

Anyway, once adb can talk to the phone, you install in the same way as before:

adb install bin/KawaHello-debug.apk

Some debugging notes

You will find a copy of the SDK documentation in $ANDROID_HOME/docs/index.html.

If the emulator complains that your application has stopped unexpectedly, do:

$ adb logcat

This shows log messages, stack traces, output from the Log.i logging method, and other useful information. (You can alternatively start ddms (Dalvik Debug Monitor Service), click on the line in the top-left sub-window to select it, then from the Device menu select Run logcat....).

To uninstall your application, do:

$ adb uninstall

Other resources

(A more interesting text-to-speech example app is on Santosh Rajan’s Android-Scheme blog.)