Currently, Swift on Raspberry Pi3

I’ve taken recent interest in working on the Raspberry Pi now that Swift is open source. Given the amount of products built specifically for the Pi, there’s a huge potential for new, fun projects. DIY electronics have been gaining momentum over the last few years and there’s a lot of information to help you get started. Depending on how things go in the coming months, I may be able to start pitching physical computing devices for client projects.

At the time of this writing (April 2016), there’s not much to be said about getting Swift working properly on devices like the Raspberry Pi. While a few individuals have made great headway into making swift compile for linux arm7, the work isn’t complete and a few critical pieces are missing. Even now, not a lot of progress has been made since January, when it all started to work.

To put it simply this is what does and does not work. Set your expectations accordingly.

  • A build of Swift 2.2 “works” – you can compile and link to Foundation + Glibc
  • That build is from February, 2016
  • The Swift REPL doesn’t work – crashes with a memory bug
  • Full set of Swift3 tools don’t compile (yet)

Getting Started

I’m using a Raspberry Pi3 running the latest Raspbian Jessie. Head over to Joe Bell’s instructions for the Raspberry Pi and follow them exactly. This will give you a workable Swift 2.2 install via apt-get. I’m sorry there aren’t more exciting instructions here, but that’s really the crux of our predicament – that seems to be the only reliable way to get swift running on the Pi for now.

Once you have Swift properly installed, give some examples a try (scroll down) – using Foundation and Glibc. It feels good to see Swift running on something other than an iPhone or Mac.

Next Steps

I’m currently working with (I use that word loosely – I don’t have the knowledge to be a productive contributor) with Joe Bell, Will Dillon, and Morris Cornell-Morgan to see if we can figure out what how we can get builds working for the Pi and other armv7 devices.

I had the most success attempting to compile Swift on the Pi in over a month last night – this happened to be within just a day or so of the main Swift repo switching over to swift-3.0 development. Most of the tools appeared to compile fine, but package manager failed, and there were some issues with linking (this could be a build config issue). I remain hopeful.

I’ll continue to post progress as it comes. In the meantime, I’m preparing a talk on this subject at the All Things Swift meetup in May.

EDIT April 27, 2016: Joe is putting together a concerted effort to get Swift3 on the Pi.He’s also provided a Jenkins build workflow to test integrations.

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