For those unaware, Continuous Integration is a way to improve your code by following the “fail fast” concept. If any bug or problem crops up in your application, you want to find them as early as possible. By building and testing your application frequently, you can do just that. By finding the bug quickly, it will be easier to fix the problem, as the code was written recently.
What CI really does for you is two things:
- Compiles the application when any new changes are checked in
- Runs automated tests every time we recompile
So CI is really only helpful if you are growing your Unit Tests as well as your application. Without the tests to support your application, Continuous Integration quickly loses its usefulness.
Jenkins is really an automated build server for a number of different types of applications. Jenkins itself is written in Java, so it’s only natural for it to support Java projects at its core, which works out great for Android.
One of the really awesome things about Jenkins is it’s plugin capability. Jenkins alone can pull your software (from SVN) and build it, if you’re a Java project, but that’s really it. By adding a few plugins, you can add some more interesting and useful features. Without a handful of plugins, using Jenkins as a CI server wouldn’t be possible.
For Android, these two Jenkins plugins are incredibly useful:
- Android Emulator
- Allows automated unit testing using the emulator
- Improves the basic jUnit support of Jenkins
When using Jenkins, some basic knowledge of Ant is also necessary. If you’re building Android projects with Eclipse, you likely don’t ever deal with the configuration that is required to build your application. With Jenkins, you have to do a bit of work to get it building properly by creating an Ant script for your app.
I won’t go into the details of actually creating an Ant script. You can find more info. on Ant from the above link, and this blog post helps immensely when generating the script from scratch.
Robodium is a framework that beefs up Android Unit Test capabilities. It allows much easier testing of UI elements within Android. If you are looking to write unit tests for your application, you should really check it out.
I hope this article helps you get the basics of what’s really needed for an Android CI server using Jenkins. To get into the details to truly set the server up, check out this blog article:
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