Apple can’t touch this

Meet DukePad, the DIY JavaFX tablet

Elliot Bentley

Raspberry Pi-powered touchscreen gadget shown off at JavaOne technical keynote, but you won’t find it in stores.

JavaFX has been trotted out at every recent JavaOne as one of the platform’s big new features, but the dev team have often struggled to come up with a convincing tech demo to communicate its appeal.

However, at this year’s technical keynote Oracle devs Jasper Potts and Richard Bair presented a demo that got heads turning: a JavaFX-powered touchscreen tablet called the DukePad.

Don’t get too excited – you’re highly unlikely to find this gadget on sale in your local Best Buy anytime soon. In contrast to other tablets like the locked-down iPad and not-quite-open Nexus 7, the DukePad is an open source hardware design that uses off-the-shelf parts and is entirely powered by OSS.

Alongside the detailed build instructions, the team write that they hope it will provide “a way for kids to learn how computers work and to fire their imaginations for those things that are not yet built, but desperately need a builder to dream them up and make them happen!”

Part of the laser cutter template for the DukePad body.

At its core is a Raspberry Pi, which Java now runs natively on thanks to Oracle’s work on Java for ARM. The DukePad’s ‘Apps’, meanwhile, are simply JavaFX OSGi Modules running on Java SE 8 Embedded.

The hardware parts cost around $400 in total, with the most expensive component being a 10″ touchscreen ($135). Considerable DIY skills are needed too, such as laser cutting the acrylic body of the DukePad, although pre-built kits are apparently planned.

Last year’s JavaOne was the first time JavaFX had been shown running on the ARM-powered Raspberry Pi and, perhaps spurred on by its popularity, the team has latched on to the Pi as a vehicle for their struggling platform. The centerpiece of Oracle evangelist Stephen Chin’s NightHacking tour was a JavaFX demo which ran identically on both his laptop and a Pi.

The open hardware running a unified codebase also ties in loosely with the message from the strategy keynote at this year’s JavaOne, which outlined a vision of “billions” of interconnected devices, all – if Oracle has its way – running a single, unified version of Java.

If the idea of building your own DukePad appeals, you can find build instructions on the OJDK wiki.
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