We have 2015 and Android is a very important platform for (mobile) applications and developers. — This somehow could also have been written a year ago, and actually it was stated then by several people. Those people also started porting some first applications from the KDE/Linux world to the Android platform. Yet, when looking at what happened the last year, as of now, we only have KAlgebra, GCompris and (since recent) Marble Maps that are available on Android.
The interesting question is, what holds back the many KDE applications that would also fit on an Android platform? During this year’s Randa sprint we took the opportunity and sat together to exchange what we learned during the last year. Looking at the different approaches of porting applications to Android, we learned that already setting up a build system is a by far non-trivial job and probably one of the main points that holds people back from playing around with Android. Still, also the availability of KDE Framework libraries was not really tested in details yet, and without having availability guarantees it raises an uncertainty about how easy a port to Android might be.
To overcome these problems, we start with some simple approaches:
- Provide a simple and easy to use build environment.
From the several existing toolchains for building Android applications, we started to reduce the number of different ones within the KDE projects to one. The new general toolchain (provided since some time via extra-cmake-modules) gained a new tutorial for how to use it. Further, by providing a build script for frameworks libraries, we make it easy to setup a whoel build environment that can directly be used for porting KDE applications that use KF5.
- Make development easy for new people.
Initial work was started to create a docker image as a simple to use SDK. The goal is: run one command and get a fully setup build environment. With this approach we follow the way as it was started for Plasma Mobile.
- Availability of KDE Frameworks 5.
We started to look into which frameworks currently can be built for Android. The list is already notably: kconfig, kcompletion, kitemmodelsm kitemviews, kcodecs, karchive, kguiaddons, kwidgetsaddons, attica, kdnssd, kapidox, kimageformats, and kplotting. For getting more frameworks build, the current two major blockers are building ki18n and kcoreaddons, which both need actual changes to the code to support the Android platform with its stripped down libc.
Looking at what was already achieved, the sprint itself was essential to get all people together to really work on this topic. As always, you can support this wok by donating for KDE’s sprints.
Though the work is not yet done, the basement is set to post some interesting news in the next weeks.