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Building and running Node.js for Android

The good news is that Node.js does run on Android. The bad news is that at least at the time I’m writing this the build process requires a few extra steps. Nothing too scary though. See below for details.

1 Building Node.js for Android

  1. Go find a Linux machine or maybe a Mac.
    1. These instructions don’t currently work on Windows due to issues with the sh scripts being used. Yes, I did try the scripts in MINGW32 and no it didn’t work.
  2. Go download the Android NDK.
    1. Which NDK to download does take a bit of attention. Most Android devices today are 32 bit so I want the Platform (32-bit target). But my Linux OS (Elementary OS) is 64 bit so I want Linux 64-bit (x86) under Platform (32-bit target).
  3. After downloading the NDK unzip it.
    1. Let’s assume you put the NDK into ~/android-ndk-r10b.
  4. Go clone node.
    1. Let’s assume you put that into ~/node. I am running these instructions off master branch.
  5. Check that you have all of node’s dependencies as listed here
    1. I believe any modern Linux distro will have all of these already but just in case I decided to include the link.
  6. Go edit ~/node/android-configure and change ’arm-linux-androideabi-4.7’ to instead be ’arm-linux-androideabi-4.8.
    1. This is the pull request that added basic Android support to Node. It contains some instructions. The first instruction will set up the build environment for Android. But the set up script is designed for an older version of the Android NDK. So we need to update it. Specifically 4.7 is apparently not supported by NDK 10 so I switched it to 4.8 which is. I decided to leave platform=android-9 for no particularly good reason.
  7. Run from inside of ~/node directory the command “source ./android-configure ~/android-ndk-r10b”
  8. Now go to ~/node/android-toolchain/bin and issue the command “mv python2.7 oldpython2.7 && ln -s /usr/bin/python2.7 python2.7”
    1. The NDK appears to ship with its own version of Python 2.7 that doesn’t support a library (bz2) that is needed by files in the NDK. In any sane world this just means that the NDK is broken but I’m sure there is some logic here. This bug was reported to Node (since it breaks Node’s support of Android) but they responded that this is an NDK issue so Google should deal with it. But if we want to build we have to get connected to a version of Python that does support bz2. That’s what we did above. We linked the main version of Python (which any sane Linux distro will use) with the NDK so it will use that and hence support bz2.
  9. Now go to ~/node and issue ’make’
    1. The actual instructions from the checkin say to run ’make -j8’ which enables parallel capabilities in Make. Apparently the rule of thumb is to set the value after j to 2x the number of hardware threads available on the machine.
    2. On my Linux VM the build takes forever so now is a good time to get some fresh tea.

2 Using Node.js on Android via ADB

Eventually I’ll write up an AAR that just wraps all the Node stuff and provides a standard API for launching node and feeding it a script. But that isn’t my current priority so instead I need to just get node onto my device and play with it.
  1. Issue the command “adb push ~/node/out/Release /data/local/tmp/Release”
    1. There is a step I’m skipping here. I actually do my development on Windows. So I copy the Release folder from my Linux VM (via Virtualbox) and then use the linked drive to move it to my Windows box. So in fact my adb push command above isn’t from the Linux location but my Windows location.
    2. The out/Release folder contains all the build artifacts for Node. Of this mess I suspect only the node executable is actually needed. But for the moment I’m going to play it safe and just move everything over.
    3. The reason for putting the node materials into /data/local/tmp/Release is because /data/local/tmp is one of the few areas where we can execute the chmod command in the next step and make Node executable. But when we wrap this thing up in an AAR we can actually use the setExecutable function instead.
  2. Issue “adb shell”. Once in the shell issue “chmod 700 /data/local/tmp/Release/node”
  3. I then issued an ’adb push’ for a simple hello world node program I have that I put inside of /data/local/tmp
    1. I used “Hello HTTP” from http://howtonode.org/hello-node
  4. Then I went in via “adb shell” and ran “/data/local/tmp/Release/node helloworld.js”
    1. And yes, it worked! I even tested it by going to the browser on the phone and navigating to http://localhost:8000.
  5. To kill things I just ctrl-c which does kill the adb shell but also the node app. Good enough for now.

3 What about NPM?

In theory one should be able to use NPM on the Linux box and then just move the whole thing over to Android and run it there. But this only works if none of the dependencies use an add-on. An add-on requires compiling C code into a form Android can handle. It looks like NPM wants to support making this happen but so far I haven’t found the right voodoo. So I’m still investigating.

19 Responses to Building and running Node.js for Android

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  3. carlos says:

    quisiera utlizar node.is end mi tablet con android.

    • Administrator says:

      If Bing Translate is handling things correctly then you want to use node.js with an Android tablet. The instructions I posted should work just fine with an Android tablet. But at this point I would take a look at JXCore. They run node just fine on Android and are more mature than the instructions I provided.

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  5. Ismael Olea says:

    Great great post.

    FYI: I’ve realised this method doesn’t work in Android 5.* due a broken ABI, so I had to research how to solve it. I finally got it running. This is written here: http://olea.org/diario/archive/2015/Abr.-11-1.html

    Thanks!

    • Administrator says:

      Yup, I wrote these instructions using KitKat so I’m not surprised that the PIE fun broke things on 5.0. Thanks for documenting the fix. Right now we are mostly focusing on just using JXCore and letting them figure it all out for us. :)

  6. Ismael Olea says:

    BTW, any experience on populating npm dependencies for running node.js apps in Android? I’m getting a little bit mad with this.

    • Administrator says:

      It depends on the dependencies. If you are using pure Javascript dependencies (which as I’ve previously explored is most of them) then you can just run NPM on the parent OS and copy the node_module sub-directory into /data/local/tmp. If you are running node.js from there then it should just work (for non-native add-ons).

      But seriously, give JXCore a try. They have solved a bunch of these issues and are completely open source.

  7. Khotso says:

    Has there been a solution for Building and running Node.js for Android using Windows?

    1. Go find a Linux machine or maybe a Mac.
    These instructions don’t currently work on Windows due to issues with the sh scripts being used. Yes, I did try the scripts in MINGW32 and no it didn’t work.

    • Administrator says:

      I have to admit that since discovering JXCore I haven’t really followed up on this approach. I’d rather they deal with it. :)

  8. Ritesh Kumar says:

    Hi
    I am trying to create and run node.js app in android and following the steps as discussed by you in this post but i am facing the issue “Node.js configure error: No acceptable C compiler found!
    Please make sure you have a C compiler installed on your system and/or
    consider adjusting the CC environment variable if you installed
    it in a non-standard prefix.”
    when i am trying to run this command “source ./android-configure ~/android-ndk-r10b”.
    I installed all the required software :-
    * GCC 4.2 or newer
    * G++ 4.2 or newer
    * Python 2.6 or 2.7
    * GNU Make 3.81 or newer
    * libexecinfo (FreeBSD and OpenBSD only)

    Please let me know what can be the issue for this.Thanks in advance.

    • Administrator says:

      I vaguely remember running into this as well. I think node.js wanted a very specific version of C. What OS are running on? You listed libexecinfo so are you on FreeBSD or OpenBSD?

  9. Ori says:

    Have you succeeded initializing the JXcore engine in 1 thread but then calling a JS funciton from another? I’m having difficulties accomplish this and they are not answering…

  10. Cristian says:

    Hi! I’m wondering if it’s any chance to have this native library compiled in Android for node:
    https://github.com/voodootikigod/node-serialport

    • Administrator says:

      I never could figure out how to get node-gyp to compile to Android. I eventually gave up when we moved completely to JXCore. If node-serialport will compile with JXCore on the desktop (make sure that pre-build is off or you will get the wrong binary) then you have some hope of getting it to work with JXCore on Android. No guarantees, it depends on if the C libraries it is using are supported on Android.

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