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Developing Android Apps with NetBeans, Maven, and VirtualBox

· Mobile Zone

I am an experienced Java developer who has used various IDEs and prefer NetBeans IDE over all others by a long shot. I am also very fond of Maven as the tool to simplify and automate nearly every aspect of the development of my Java project throughout its lifecycle.

Recently, I started developing Android applications and naturally I looked for a Maven plugin that would manage my Android projects. Luckily I found the maven-android-plugin which worked like a charm and allowed me to use Maven for developing my Android projects.

The Android Emulator from the Android SDK seemed unusably slow. Lucklily, I found a way to use an Android Virtual Machine for VirtualBox that worked nearly as fast as my native computer! This page documents my experiences.

Tested Environment

  • Dev machine: Ubuntu 11.04 Linux
  • IDE: NetBeans
  • VirtualBox: 4.0.8 r71778
  • Android SDK Revision 11, Add on XML Schema #1, Repository XML Schema #3 (from About in SDK and AVD Manager)
  • Android Version: 2.2

Overview of Steps

  1. Download and install the Android SDK on your dev machine
  2. Attach an Android Device to dev machine
  3. Configure and load your device for development and other use
  4. Create an initial Android maven project
  5. Connect Android Device to Android SDK
  6. Debug Android app using NetBeans Graphical Debuger

Download and Install Android SDK

  • Download and install the Android SDK on your dev machine as described here.
  • Make sure to set the following in dev machine ~/.bashrc file:
    export ANDROID_HOME=$HOME/android-sdk-linux_x86 #Change as needed
    export PATH="$ANDROID_HOME/tools:$ANDROID_HOME/platform-tools:$PATH"

Attaching an Android Device to Dev Machine

If you have an actual device that is usually always best. If not, you must use a virtual Android device which usually has various limitations (e.g. no GPS, Camera etc.). The Android SDK makes it easy to create a new Virtual Device but the resulting device is painfully slow in my experience and not usable. Do not bother with this. Instead, create a virtual Android device using VirtualBox as described in the following steps:

Configuring your Android Device

This section describes various things I did to setup a dev environment for my Android device:

Creating Initial Android Maven Application

Connecting Android VM Device to Android SDK

In order for your code to be deployed from NetBeans IDE to Android Device and in order for you to monitor your deployed app from the Dalvik Debug Monitor (ddms) you need to connect your android VM device to the android sdk over TCP as described in the following steps.

  • On Android Device open the Terminal Emulator
  • Type su to become root (your device must be rooted for this
  • Type following commands in root shell:
    setprop service.adb.tcp.port 5555
    stop adbd
    start adbd

  • Type the following commands on dev machine shell. TODO: Note that IP address below is whatever is the ip address associated with the device (see ifconfig on linux for device vboxnet0)
    adb tcpip 5555
    adb connect

For details on above steps see:


Now for the acid test whether you can deploy your app to the device from NetBeans IDE!

  • Right-click / Custom / Goal to show Run Maven dialog.
  • Enter android:deploy in Goals field.
  • Select Remember As button and enter android:deploy for its text field.

If all is well, the app will deploy to the device and will show up in its "Applications" screen.

Debugging Android App Using NetBeans Graphical Debugger

Once you can build and deploy your app to the real or virtual Android device, here are the steps to debug the app using NetBeans debugger:

  • On Device: Start the app (TODO: determine how to start app on device with JVM options so it can wait for debugger connection. This should be easy)
  • On Dev Machine run Dalvik Debug Monitor (ddms) in background: $ANDROID_HOME/tools/ddms &
  • Lookup your app in ddms and get its debug port. This is described here but does not address NetBeans specifically
  • In NetBeans do: Debug / Attach Debugger and specify the port looked up in ddms in previous step. You may leave rest of the fields with defaults. Click OK



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