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I'm working on using my Raspberry Pi (Raspbian) to upload sketches. However, I'm not sure which package is appropriate for command line usage (like described here on Github).

It seems like sudo apt-get install arduino would install the whole IDE, not just the command line. It seems like arduino-core would be more fitted for this purpose. However, the repository has a note online to use a package called arduino-mk for a CLI, which is what I want. However, this concerns me in the repository's page:

This package will install a Makefile to allow for CLI programming of the Arduino platform.

(Emphasis mine)

What exactly does this mean? What are the differences between the three packages available?

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I have not actually interacted with the debian packages, but If I'm reading this right, this how they are organized:

arduino: The whole java IDE and avr code libraries

arduino-core: the libraries and code that comes with arduino to be compiled for avr

arduino-mk: a makefile for compiling arduino code without the IDE (but no code)

The normal arduino package has a command line interface, but the code for this is (currently) very closely tied to the java GUI code and cannot be used without the whole thing being installed. To make using the raw atmel avr tools easier, the makefile is available; However, the makefile does not include all of the cpp libraries that come packaged with the arduino installation that a normal arduino sketch would reference (Arduino.h, Servo, SPI, etc). The arduino-core package exists to bring in all this supporting code.

I imagine it is done with these three packages so if you already have arduino installed, the makefile will not bring a second copy of all the libraries with it.

The makefile is a configuration for the gnu make software. There is some information on the specific usage of the arduino makefile on its github page here

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Previous versions of arduino-mk had a dependency on arduino, which was everything, but with the split out of arduino-core, which both of the other packages now depend, arduino only includes the ide, everything else is in core so that you do not need the ide to develop, compile and load standard projects to your Arduino. I have only used the ide for less than 15 minutes And do all my work using vi and the command line. the makefile allows you to compile ino files with a make just by linking it into your project directory, it also has options for uploading using make.

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