Monday Dec 31, 2012

Creating a Portable Java/JavaFX Rig using the Raspberry Pi

So you're a mobile/embedded Java developer who just can't get enough time with your devices? Need to get your JDK/JavaFX ARM fix on the go? It's easy and inexpensive to do just that with only a few essential parts:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Atrix Lapdock, which provides portable keyboard/video/mouse and power for the Raspberry Pi!
  • A few cables and adapters (shown in videos, described in linked article below)
  • SD card (8G or more, Class 6 or higher)
  • Edimax EW-7811Un wi-fi adapter

That's all the hardware you'll need to make some serious, very portable ARM Java magic. Total cost was under $120 when I started this adventure; YMMV.  :-)

There are a few differences between setting up the soft-float (SF) and hard-float (HF) versions of Raspbian, but this recent post covers the basics of getting an OS on the SD card for booting and configuring the Pi. The two key differences between SF and HF configuration to this point:

  1. Overclocking. HF Raspbian allows for easy overclocking from the raspi-config utility. A word of warning, though: The OS devs caution that the maximum overclocking setting has been known to corrupt SD cards, and I've found this to be the case several times. Stepping down one level to the next-to-fastest overclocking setting works a treat.
  2. Wi-fi configuration. SF Debian/Raspbian wi-fi configuration can be best accomplished using the instructions in the aforementioned post. Trying the same thing in HF Raspbian results in a message suggesting the use of the wi-fi graphical configuration tool...and it's even easier. With the Edimax, all I did was boot with both ethernet cable & Edimax connected, sudo su, startx, and run wpa_gui under the Internet menu (WiFi Config on the desktop if not root). Fill in your wi-fi details (I used WPA2/CCMP for my WAP) and then File|Save Configuration when finished. Quick, easy, and done.  :-)

Below are links to a couple of short video tours of my mobile Java/JavaFX "testing rig". I'd embed them directly if the Roller blog software supported it (if someone knows how, please let me know!). After the video links is a link to an article/video I used as a template when I originally made mine. Great stuff, fun, and extremely useful...for me, anyway. Hope you enjoy it!

Video 1: Intro to Raspberry Pi & Atrix Lapdock, Part 1 of 2
Video 2: Follow-on to Raspberry Pi & Atrix Lapdock, Part 2 of 2

Reference article/video

Happy hardware hacking,

Tuesday Dec 18, 2012

Developer Preview of JDK8, JavaFX8 *HARD-FLOAT ABI* for Linux/ARM Now Available!

Just a quick post to spread the good word: the Developer Preview of JDK8 and JavaFX8 for Linux on ARM processors - hard-float ABI - is now available here. Right here.

It's been tested on the Raspberry Pi, and many of us plan to (unofficially) test it on a variety of other ARM platforms. This could be the beginning of something big.

So...what are you still doing here? Go download it already! (Did I mention you could get it here?) :-D

All the best,

Sunday Nov 25, 2012

Prepping the Raspberry Pi for Java Excellence (part 1)

I've only recently been able to begin working seriously with my first Raspberry Pi, received months ago but hastily shelved in preparation for JavaOne. The Raspberry Pi and other diminutive computing platforms offer a glimpse of the potential of what is often referred to as the embedded space, the "Internet of Things" (IoT), or Machine to Machine (M2M) computing.

I have a few different configurations I want to use for multiple Raspberry Pis, but for each of them, I'll need to perform the following common steps to prepare them for their various tasks:

  • Load an OS onto an SD card
  • Get the Pi connected to the network
  • Load a JDK

I've been very happy to see good friend and JFXtras teammate Gerrit Grunwald document how to do these things on his blog (link to article here - check it out!), but I ran into some issues configuring wi-fi that caused me some needless grief. Not knowing if any of the pitfalls were caused by my slightly-older version of the Pi and not being able to find anything specific online to help me get past it, I kept chipping away at it until I broke through. The purpose of this post is to (hopefully) help someone else recognize the same issues if/when they encounter them and work past them quickly.

There is a great resource page here that covers several ways to get the OS on an SD card, but here is what I did (on a Mac):

  • Plug SD card into reader on/in Mac
  • Format it (FAT32)
  • Unmount it (diskutil unmountDisk diskn, where n is the disk number representing the SD card)
  • Transfer the disk image for Debian to the SD card (dd if=2012-08-08-wheezy-armel.img of=/dev/diskn bs=1m)
  • Eject the card from the Mac (diskutil eject diskn)

There are other ways, but this is fairly quick and painless, especially after you do it several times. Yes, I had to do that dance repeatedly (minus formatting) due to the wi-fi issues, as it kept killing the ability of the Pi to boot. You should be able to dramatically reduce the number of OS loads you do, though, if you do a few things with regard to your wi-fi.

Firstly, I strongly recommend you purchase the Edimax EW-7811Un wi-fi adapter. This adapter/chipset has been proven with the Raspberry Pi, it's tiny, and it's cheap. Avoid unnecessary aggravation and buy this one!

Secondly, visit this page for a script and instructions regarding how to configure your new wi-fi adapter with your Pi. Here is the rub, though: there is a missing step. At least there was for my combination of Pi version, OS version, and uncanny gift of timing and luck. :-)

Here is the sequence of steps I used to make the magic happen:

  • Plug your newly-minted SD card (with OS) into your Pi and connect a network cable (for internet connectivity)
  • Boot your Pi. On the first boot, do the following things:
    • Opt to have it use all space on the SD card (will require a reboot eventually)
    • Disable overscan
    • Set your timezone
    • Enable the ssh server
    • Update raspi-config
  • Reboot your Pi. This will reconfigure the SD to use all space (see above).
  • After you log in (UID: pi, password: raspberry), upgrade your OS. This was the missing step for me that put a merciful end to the repeated SD card re-imaging and made the wi-fi configuration trivial. To do so, just type sudo apt-get upgrade and give it several minutes to complete. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and congratulate yourself on the time you've just saved.  ;-)
  • With the OS upgrade finished, now you can follow Mr. Engman's directions (to the letter, please see link above), download his script, and let it work its magic. One aside: I plugged the little power-sipping Edimax directly into the Pi and it worked perfectly. No powered hub needed, at least in my configuration.

To recap, that OS upgrade (at least at this point, with this combination of OS/drivers/Pi version) is absolutely essential for a smooth experience. Miss that step, and you're in for hours of "fun". Save yourself!

I'll pick up next time with more of the Java side of the RasPi configuration, but as they say, you have to cross the moat to get into the castle. Hopefully, this will help you do just that. Until next time!

All the best,

Saturday Nov 10, 2012

Polishing the MonologFX API

Earlier this week, I released "into the wild" a new JavaFX 2.x dialog library, MonologFX, that incorporated some elements of DialogFX and new features I'd been working on over time. While I did try to get the API to a point of reasonable completion (nothing is ever truly "finished", of course!), there was one bit of functionality that I'd included without providing any real "polish": that of the button icons.

Good friend and fellow JFXtras teammate José Pereda Llamas suggested I fix that oversight and provide an update (thanks much, José!), thus this post. If you'd like to take a peek at the new streamlined syntax, I've updated the earlier post; please click here if you'd like to review it. If you want to give MonologFX a try, just point your browser to GitHub to download the updated code and/or .jar.

All the best,

Wednesday Nov 07, 2012

MonologFX: FLOSS JavaFX Dialogs for the Taking

(UPDATED Nov 10 with simpler button icon API) 

Some time back, I was searching for basic dialog functionality within JavaFX and came up empty. After finding a decent open-source offering on GitHub that almost fit the bill, I began using it...and immediately began thinking of ways to "do it differently."  :-)  Having a weekend to kill, I ended up creating DialogFX and releasing it on GitHub (hecklerm/DialogFX) for anyone who might find it useful. Shortly thereafter, it was incorporated into JFXtras ( as well.

Today I'm sharing a different, more flexible and capable JavaFX dialog called MonologFX that I've been developing and refining over the past few months. The summary of its progression thus far is pretty well captured in the file I posted with the project on GitHub:

After creating the DialogFX library for JavaFX, I received several suggestions and requests for additional or different functionality, some of which ran counter to the interfaces and/or intent of the DialogFX "way of doing things". Great ideas, but not completely compatible with the existing functionality. Wanting to incorporate these capabilities, I started over...incorporating some parts of DialogFX into the new MonologFX, as I called it, but taking it in a different direction when it seemed sensible to do so.

In the meantime, the OpenJFX team has released dialog code that will be refined and eventually incorporated into JavaFX and OpenJFX. Rather than just scrap the MonologFX code or hoard it, I'm releasing it here on GitHub with the hope that someone may find it useful, interesting, or entertaining. You may never need it, but regardless, MonologFX is there for the taking.

Things of Note

So, what are some features of MonologFX?

  • Four kinds of dialog boxes: ACCEPT (check mark icon), ERROR (red 'x'), INFO (blue "i"), and QUESTION (blue question mark)
  • Button alignment configurable by developer: LEFT, RIGHT, or CENTER
  • Skins/stylesheets support
  • Shortcut key/mnemonics support (Alt-<key>)
  • Ability to designate default (RETURN-key) and cancel (ESCAPE-key) buttons
  • Built-in button types and labels for OK, CANCEL, ABORT, RETRY, IGNORE, YES, and NO
  • Custom button types: CUSTOM1, CUSTOM2, CUSTOM3
  • Internationalization (i18n) built in. Currently, files are provided for English/US and Spanish/Spain locales; please share others and I'll add them!
  • Icon support for your buttons, with or without text labels
  • Fully Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS), with latest source code & .jar always available at GitHub

Quick Usage Overview

Having an intense distaste for rough edges and gears flying when things break (!), I've tried to provide defaults for everything and "fail-safes" to avoid messy outcomes if some property isn't specified, etc. This also feeds the goal of making MonologFX as easy to use as possible, while retaining the library's full flexibility. Or at least that's the plan.  :-)

You can hand-assemble your buttons and dialogs, but I've also included Builder classes to help move that along as well. Here are a couple examples:

        MonologFXButton mlb = MonologFXButtonBuilder.create()

        MonologFXButton mlb2 = MonologFXButtonBuilder.create()

        MonologFX mono = MonologFXBuilder.create()
                .message("Welcome to MonologFX! Please feel free to try it out and share your thoughts.")
                .titleText("Important Announcement")

        MonologFXButton.Type retval = mono.showDialog();

MonologFXButton mlb = MonologFXButtonBuilder.create()


MonologFXButton mlb2 = MonologFXButtonBuilder.create()


MonologFX mono = MonologFXBuilder.create()
        .message("Welcome to MonologFX! Does this look like it might be useful?")
        .titleText("Important Announcement")


MonologFXButton.Type retval = mono.showDialog();


Extra Credit

Thanks to everyone who offered ideas for improvement and/or extension to the functionality contained within DialogFX. The JFXtras team welcomed it into the fold, and while I doubt there will be a need to include MonologFX in JFXtras, team members Gerrit Grunwald & Jose Pereda Llamas volunteered templates and i18n expertise to make MonologFX what it is. Thanks for the push, guys!

Where to Get (Git!) It

If you'd like to check it out, point your browser to the MonologFX repository on GitHub. Full source code is there, along with the current .jar file. Please give it a try and share your thoughts! I'd love to hear from you.

All the best,


The Java Jungle addresses all things Java (of course!) and any other useful and interesting tools & platforms that help us GET IT DONE. "Artists ship," after all. :)

Your Java Jungle guide is Mark Heckler, a Software Architect/ Engineer and Oracle Developer Evangelist with development experience in numerous environments. Mark's current pursuits and passions all revolve around Java, the Cloud, & the IoT, and leave little time to blog or tweet - but somehow, he finds time to do both anyway.

Mark lives with his very understanding wife in the St. Louis, MO area.

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