Using pi3d with Android devices

  1. Although building applications to run on Android devices may seem a really neat thing to do it is not plain sailing. The development process is significantly more time consuming and debugging is hard. pi3d has only just been ported to Android so there are likely to be lots of bugs and limitations. These are the prerequisites:

    1. linux. either on its own, dual boot or as a virtual machine. This is because..

    2. kivy and python-for-android have to run from linux (they do have a ready-made virtual machine image you can use on windows)

    2.a several dependencies such as cython, android sdk, ndk itemised on the python-for-android website (and included in the virtual machine image, also packaged in easy to use format as ‘buildozer’)

    3. android studio, not completely essential but very handy for running on virtual devices etc.

    4. to get pi3d to run you have to hack three of the standard files in the python-for-android standard download. This is because pi3d opted to use the python ctypes mechanism for running the OpenGL ES2 libraries rather than requiring stuff to be compiled. And python-for- android had opted not to use ctypes at all.

    5. It probably only works on recent versions of android. When testing I have used android API-14 (aka Android 4.0 aka Ice-cream-sandwich) but only tested on a phone running KitKat.

  2. Because pi3d uses kivy to get touch input (and, potentially other android functionality) it has to fit in with kivy’s event callback structure. This is like pygame, tk, qt etc etc and means that the standard ‘simple’ while DISPLAY.loop_running(): system used in most of the pi3d demos, has to be converted to a function that can be passed to the kivy clock. So there has to be a way of maintaining the state of the app, for instance with global variables or having the function as a method of an instance of a class.

  3. So if you’re sure you want to continue, this is a list of the steps. I will not cover setting up linux, there is plenty of info on the internet. It takes a little while but generally isn’t too difficult.

    3.1 Follow the instructions here including the links to the documentation pages. Basically you need to install various applications and clone the python-for-android repository onto your computer. I had used the kivy suggestion, previously, to install buildozer and already had most of the required applications installed but I was missing ant. When you start to try to use it you will get error messages telling you which components are missing, if any.

    3.2 Add a recipe for pi3d. You need to create the file in this location whereveryouput/python-for-android/recipes/pi3d/ with contents:

    DEPS_pi3d=(pil kivy numpy android)
    BUILD_pi3d=$BUILD_PATH/pi3d/$(get_directory $URL_pi3d)
    function prebuild_pi3d() {
    function shouldbuild_pi3d() {
      if [ -d "$SITEPACKAGES_PATH/pi3d" ]; then
    function build_pi3d() {
      cd $BUILD_pi3d
      export LDSHARED="$LIBLINK"
      # fake try to be able to cythonize generated files
      $HOSTPYTHON build_ext
      try find . -iname '*.pyx' -exec $CYTHON {} \;
      try $HOSTPYTHON build_ext -v
      #try find build/lib.* -name "*.o" -exec $STRIP {} \;
      try $HOSTPYTHON install -O2
      try rm -rf $BUILD_PATH/python-install/lib/python*/site-packages/pi3d/tools
      unset LDSHARED
    function postbuild_pi3d() {

    Merged the android-capable version of pi3d into master as it seems stable (and no-negative feedback!) 5th February 2015.

    3.3 See posts here: To get python-for-android to be able to use ctypes you need to edit whereveritis/android/platform/android-ndk-r9c/platforms/android-14/arch-arm/usr/include/malloc.h and change:

    //extern size_t malloc_usable_size(const void*); //this
    extern size_t malloc_usable_size(void*); //to this

    You also need to edit whereveryouput/python-for-android/ and comment out the lines:

    # try rm -rf ctypes
    # try rm -rf lib-dynload/

    whereveryouput/python-for-android/recipes/python/patches/disable-modules.patch and take ctypes out of the line:

    +disabled_module_list = ['spwd','bz2','ossaudiodev',...

    whereveryouput/python-for-android/recipes/python/ and replace the lines that look like:

    try ./configure --host=arm-eabi OPT=$OFLAG --prefix="$BUILD_PATH/python-install" --enable-shared ...
    echo ./configure --host=arm-eabi  OPT=$OFLAG --prefix="$BUILD_PATH/python-install" --enable-shared ...

    with the following:

    export HOSTARCH=arm-eabi
    export BUILDARCH=x86_64-linux-gnu
    try ./configure --host=$HOSTARCH --build=$BUILDARCH --prefix="$BUILD_PATH/python-install" --enable-shared ...
    echo ./configure --host=$HOSTARCH --build=$BUILDARCH --prefix="$BUILD_PATH/python-install" --enable-shared ...

    3.4 (Total “recipe” for the steps I use on my setup at the bottom of this page.) Now you should be able to generate the distribution framework of support files that will allow pi3d packages to be exported to android. This takes quite a while to run as it downloads and compiles a whole hierarchy of dependencies. On my bottom-of-the-range but 2014 laptop it takes 25 minutes. Once this has been done successfully it shouldn’t need to be re-done until there are modifications in the support packages (that you want to include):

    $ cd whereveryouput/python-for-android
    $ ./ -m "pi3d"

    If you need to force it to recompile something (i.e. you alter something in the pi3d library or there was a typo in one of the mods above) then you need to put in an additional -f also if you have problems it might be useful to see the output, you can direct this to a file by adding > path/to/file.txt 2>&1 on the end. Note that the question asking for you to press any key will stop the script indefinitely so do several ‘Enters’ after starting it running.

    To make re-download the source code from the remote repository you seem to have to delete the files in whereveryouput/python-for-android/.packages/pi3d/

    3.5 Set up test project before launching into anything too complicated: Create a directory in your home directory with an appropriate name create a subdirectory called textures and copy into it the image file from pi3d_demos (you can use whatever you want but change the program appropriately):

    $ mkdir ~/pi3d_android
    $ mkdir ~/pi3d_android/pi3dtest/
    $ mkdir ~/pi3d_android/pi3dtest/textures/
    $ cp ~/pi3d_demos/textures/PATRN.PNG ~/pi3d_android/pi3dtest/textures/

    Now create a minimal demo file in ~/pi3d_android/pi3dtest/ (in this example) called and fill it with:

    from __future__ import absolute_import, division, print_function, unicode_literals
    import math
    import pi3d
    DISPLAY = pi3d.Display.create(depth=16) # NB need to set here, see below
    tex = pi3d.Texture('textures/PATRN.PNG')
    ball = pi3d.Sphere(z=5.0)
    shader = pi3d.Shader('uv_light')
    ball.set_draw_details(shader, [tex])
    t = 0.0
    rotate = False
    def pi3dloop(dt):
      global DISPLAY, ball, t, rotate
      t += 0.01
      ball.positionY(math.sin(t * 03.13))
      ball.positionZ(4.0 + math.sin(t * 0.53))
      if rotate:
        ball.translateX( * 0.01) = False
        rotate = not rotate = False

    There is also a more professional layout of the ForestWalk demo in the develop (as at 16 Jan 15) branch of in a directory called android. This shows how the project can be constructed as a class with a method containing the main loop. That example should run unaltered on Raspberry Pi, unix or android.

    3.6 Running ./ (in step 3.4) should have generated a default distribution in whereveryouput/python-for-android/dist/default/ this needs to have a file with a minimum single line target=android-14 (as per default version created in the directory. I have to recreate this file each time I run From this directory run:

    $ ./ --dir ~/pi3d_android/pi3dtest --package org.demo.pi3dtest --name "pi3dtest" --meta-data surface.depth=16 --version 1.0.0 debug

    Which shouldn’t take too long and will put the android apk package file into the bin subdirectory. The script will complain if the four export commands (see python-for-android instructions) haven’t been run.

    I found that some phones needed to have the bits set for the depth buffer so if the app needs to be deployed generally you need to include this in the build meta-data. You will need to set the same value when you run Display.create(), see above.

    The quickest way to run this on my computer is to download it to a phone (you will need to enable PC connection and Security/Unknown sources from settings. Quite a hack on some phones (eg samsung connection software for non-linux only!) but possible, google details). However if it doesn’t work you will have no information as to why. For proper development and debugging you will need to install an emulator.

    3.7 I used google’s Android Studio which is big and powerful, but lots of other people have used it and had the same problems you will so it’s possible to find answers relatively easily and most components can be run independently from the command line. My steps were

    3.7.1 Install Android Studio then actually set up a new project - even though it’s not really going to be used. You won’t get the window with menu options otherwise.

    3.7.1 Set up a device to emulate. Tools->android->AVD_manager->new You will need to select a system image to download and use. I tried 14 (icecream) but it didn’t run so did 19 (kitkat) which seemed to run (and the phone was running kitkat). You will need to Show Advanced Settings to see what the device id is (probably just replaced spaces with underlines) if you are going to run the emulator from command line.

    3.7.2 Enable logcat. Run->Edit_Configurations->Android->app->Logcat uncheck the option to Filter only for this application.

    3.7.3 If you’re using linux you can now close Android Studio which will free a lot of resources. You can start the emulator:

    $ cd whereveritis/Android/Sdk/tools
    $ ./emulator -avd Nexus_One_API_19

    To start logcat (from a different terminal):

    $ cd whereveritis/Android/Sdk/platform-tools
    $ ./adb logcat

    To install new versions of your android package onto the emulator:

    $ ./adb install -r whereveryouput/python-for-android/dist/default/bin/pi3dtest-0.0.1-debug.apk
  4. For info on changing the icon or loading image, building to enable other features read the docs on the python-for-android website. For publishing on you will need to register as a developer and sign the apk see

  5. At the moment I am aware of the following deficiencies or incompatible modules when running pi3d on android:

    Font (However Pngfont *does* work and pi3d_demos/fonts/Arial.png has been tidied)

Recipe - you will almost certainly need to modify details of this for running on your system (obviously the /home/paddy/ parts of the paths):

# notes for compiling and distributing
export ANDROIDNDK=/home/paddy/.buildozer/android/platform/android-ndk-r9c
export ANDROIDSDK=/home/paddy/.buildozer/android/platform/android-sdk-21
export ANDROIDAPI=14
# build distribution # if pi3d has change NB must be in github develop branch
cd ~/python-for-android/.packages/pi3d/
rm *
cd ~/python-for-android/
./ -f -m "pi3d" > distcompile.log.txt 2>&1
# build for export (end of line 'debug' or 'release')
cd ~/python-for-android/dist/default/
./ --dir ~/kivy/transcendental-fruit --package org.demo.meteorizefree --name "meteorizefree" --meta-data surface.depth=16 --blacklist ~/kivy/transcendental-fruit/exclude_files.txt --presplash ~/kivy/transcendental-fruit/loading.jpg --icon ~/kivy/transcendental-fruit/icon.png --version 1.0.4 release
# jarsigner - previously set passwd
cd ~/Android/Sdk/tools
jarsigner -verbose -sigalg SHA1withRSA -digestalg SHA1 -keystore pi3dfwalk_key.keystore /home/paddy/python-for-android/dist/default/bin/meteorizefree-1.0.4-release-unsigned.apk pi3dfwalkkey
jarsigner -verify -verbose -certs /home/paddy/python-for-android/dist/default/bin/meteorizefree-1.0.4-release-unsigned.apk
# zipalign
/home/paddy/.buildozer/android/platform/android-sdk-21/build-tools/19.1.0/zipalign -v 4 /home/paddy/python-for-android/dist/default/bin/meteorizefree-1.0.4-release-unsigned.apk /home/paddy/python-for-android/dist/default/bin/meteorizefree-1.0.4.apk