Getting Started

This document covers the steps needed to install DUCK and start using the compiler for the Serpentine language. If you are reading this document online, you will need to download the respository containing it to your workstation. This is covered in the Installation section below.


Since DUCK is a set of modules and tools written in the Python language, you will need to install a Python interpreter. Specifically, you will need to install the latest release of Python 2.7. You will also need to install the corresponding PyCrypto package for the version of Python you have installed and the Python Imaging Library (or the Pillow fork of PIL).

If you have not yet downloaded the DUCK repository, you will need to install Mercurial since that is what we will use to obtain the repository.

You need to install ImageMagick and librsvg2 - these are used to generate icons for applications from SVG files. If ImageMagick is provided as a set of packages for your system you will also need the extras package that includes the SVG plugin.

The documentation generator relies on Markdown and Pygments.

You will also need to install OpenSSL because the openssl tool is used to create and manage keys and certificates used for signing packages.

Additionally, if you want to be able to install packages via a USB cable to an attached device, you need to install the adb tool.

If you are using Debian GNU/Linux you can install these dependencies with the following command:

sudo apt-get install python mercurial python-crypto imagemagick \
                     libmagickcore-extra openssl android-tools-adb \
                     python-markdown python-pygments

Other GNU/Linux distributions and Unix-like systems should have packages that correspond to these.


If you haven't already done so, you need to download the repository containing this document. First, open a console and change into a directory where the repository will be placed, then use Mercurial to clone the repository using the following command:

hg clone DUCK

There should now be a directory called DUCK in the current directory. Currently, there is no way of installing the modules and tools to a system-wide location. To allow Python scripts to access the modules, and to run the compiler for Serpentine, you need to add the directory to the PYTHONPATH environment variable. On GNU/Linux and other Unix-like systems, you can do this by typing the following in the console (running a bash shell):


To test the installation, run Python from the console in the following way:

python -c 'import Dalvik'

This should run without error messages.

Creating a Key and Certificate

The following information is given in the Creating Keys and Certificates document. You can create a key to use for signing packages and a corresponding certificate using OpenSSL with the following commands:

openssl genpkey -algorithm RSA -out key.pem -pkeyopt rsa_keygen_bits:2048 -pkeyopt rsa_keygen_pubexp:3
openssl req -new -x509 -days 365 -sha1 -key key.pem -out cert.pem

The key.pem and cert.pem files are used to sign packages. The Android documentation contains the Implementing Security document which gives advice about handling signing keys.

Building Packages

The DUCK repository contains some simple application examples and some regression tests. These are described in the Examples README.html and Tests README.html files respectively.

To quickly check that package building works, type the following command in the console, remembering to set the PYTHONPATH as described above:

DUCK/Examples/Serpentine/Hello/ key.pem cert.pem Hello.apk

This should run without errors. If the Hello.apk package is created in the current directory, you can install it with the following command:

adb install Hello.apk

If successful, some information about the installation process and the word Success should be printed to the console. Otherwise, you may find it useful to inspect the debug log for the device by running the following command:

adb logcat

You will need to terminate this process with Ctrl-C when you have finished examining the debugging output.

Writing Applications

Applications are written in the Serpentine language, which has a syntax based on that of the Python language. Although source code written in this language is compiled, there isn't a front-end for the compiler. Instead, it is invoked using a build script written in Python. The examples in the Examples/Serpentine directory are stored in self-contained directories, each with their own script.

The Introduction to Serpentine document gives an overview of the language, providing code examples, and discusses aspects of it where its semantics differ from those of the Python language.