Google wants to bring Android’s ADB to Fuchsia devices

Google’s Fuchsia team has launched a new effort that would allow Fuchsia devices to be managed with the ADB tool, just like an Android phone.

On Android today, developers and enthusiasts can access some of the core components of their phones and tablets from their PCs using ADB. Short for “Android Debug Bridge”, ADB is an essential tool that, as the name suggests, is able to “tie” your two devices together.

Developers will use ADB to remotely install the latest in-development version of their app on a physical device or even an Android emulator. Even if they never use ADB commands directly, developers benefit from ADB’s deep integration into other tools like Android Studio.

Meanwhile, Android enthusiasts and power users are using ADB to access their phone’s command prompt, perhaps to activate a community-discovered mod. You can also use ADB to access your phone’s real-time logs, to help diagnose problems or just learn more about its inner workings.

More importantly, ADB is able to run smoothly on all major desktop platforms – Windows, macOS and Linux (and by extension ChromeOS) – and this is something Google’s Fuchsia team is very interested in.

This week, the Fuchsia team shared a new proposal titled “ADB on Fuchsia” which shares the team’s intention to support ADB to control devices and the reasoning behind wanting to do so.

Currently, the main “fx” and “ffx” tools used to control Fuchsia devices are only compatible with Linux and macOS computers. And while there’s an effort to get ffx working on Windows, it’s not expected to be complete until late 2022.

Also, even when ffx is supported on all platforms, Fuchsia supporting ADB would continue to be useful in the near future as ADB is a ubiquitous tool. Over the years, ADB has been integrated with many different workflows and automation tools, many of which could instantly start supporting Fuchsia devices with no changes required.

So what would Fuchsia look like to support connecting via ADB? One thing that is important to note is that this does not want to say you will be able to connect your favorite Fuchsia device, such as your NestHub Where Nest Hub Max — to your computer via USB. Google explicitly noted that the Fuchsia version of ADB “will not be available in user or production builds,” a decision that was made with security in mind.

Instead, ADB on Fuchsia is only intended to work with devices while they’re in early development, making some of those early stages of development and testing – Google cites “setting up, l engineering, etc.” – possible from Windows devices.

Another notable limitation is that Team Fuchsia currently only intends to “support a subset” of what ADB can do. Specifically, there are only blueprints for four particular ADB commands:

  • adb case
  • logcat adb
  • AfDB push
  • adb pull

As we mentioned earlier, ADB’s “shell” command is used to access the internal command prompt of a device (normally Android). When used with a Fuchsia device, you can run the same commands you normally access through an ffx shell or by logging into the device via SSH. Next is “logcat” which, just like on Android, would be able to output all logs from a Fuchsia device.

The most interesting ADB commands included are “push” and “pull”, which are used to send and retrieve files between your two devices. The proposal doesn’t share exactly how it would work on a Fuchsia device, but it would surely be helpful in testing.

Internally, all of these ADB commands will actually route to their Fuchsia equivalent, as somewhat illustrated in an included graphic. In that sense, this ADB support simply acts as a compatibility layer.

Overall, it’s fascinating to see Google connecting its various projects in a direct, albeit subtle, way. While it’s unlikely most of us will need to connect to a Fuchsia device via ADB in the foreseeable future, the addition is still pretty cool.

In some ways, ADB support for Fuchsia also prompts Google to try to make Fuchsia device development easier for the company’s partners – or really anyone who wants to build a Fuchsia-powered device – using the tools including they probably already have it.

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