Session Report - Java on the Raspberry Pi

On mid-day Wednesday, the always colorful Oracle Evangelist Simon Ritter demonstrated Java on the Raspberry Pi at his session, “Do You Like Coffee with Your Dessert?”. The Raspberry Pi (www.raspberrypi.org) consists of a credit card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK with the intention of stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools. “I don't think there is a single feature that makes the Raspberry Pi significant,” observed Ritter, “but a combination of things really makes it stand out. First, it's $35 for what is effectively a completely usable computer. You do have to add a power supply, SD card for storage and maybe a screen, keyboard and mouse, but this is still way cheaper than a typical PC. The choice of an ARM (Advanced RISC Machine and Acorn RISC Machine) processor is noteworthy, because it avoids problems like cooling (no heat sink or fan) and can use a USB power brick. When you add in the enormous community support, it offers a great platform for teaching everyone about computing.”


Some 200 enthusiastic attendees were present at the session which had the feel of Simon Ritter sharing a fun toy with friends. The main point of the session was to show what Oracle was doing to support Java on the Raspberry Pi in a way that is entertaining and fun.


Ritter pointed out that, in addition to being great for teaching, it’s an excellent introduction to the ARM architecture, and runs well with Java and will get better once it has official hard float support. The possibilities are vast.


Ritter explained that the Raspberry Pi Project started in 2006 with the goal of devising a computer to inspire children; it drew inspiration from the BBC Micro literacy project of 1981 that produced a series of microcomputers created by the Acorn Computer company. It was officially launched on February 29, 2012, with a first production of 10,000 boards. There were 100,000 pre-orders in one day; currently about 4,000 boards are produced a day.


Ritter described the specification as follows:


  • CPU: ARM 11 core running at 700MHz

Broadcom SoC package

Can now be overclocked to 1GHz (without breaking the warranty!)

  • Memory: 256Mb
  • I/O:

HDMI and composite video

2 x USB ports (Model B only)

Ethernet (Model B only)

Header pins for GPIO, UART, SPI and I2C


He next presented a history of the ARM architecture, explained its key features and showed how it functioned with Java. He turned to JavaFX on the Raspberry Pi, which will soon be released as a technology preview. Once the JavaFX implementation is completed, he explained, there will be little of concern for Java developers – it will all be a matter of Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA).


He then summarized his key points, “The Raspberry Pi is a very cool (and cheap) computer that is great for teaching, a great introduction to ARM that works very well with Java and will work better in the future,” remarked Ritter. “The opportunities are limitless.”


Finally, Ritter tried out several demos, some of which worked better than others, but all of which were greeted with considerable enthusiasm.


For further info, check out, Raspberry Pi User Guide by Eben Upton and Gareth Halfacree.



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