I finally found time to produce a QEMU image of Raspbian armhf that I hope others will find useful. The disk image can be found at the following link:
There is a .rar file for Windows users and a .tar.bz2 file for Linux users. Warning, it expands to 8GB is size when unpacked.
As I use Windows 7 for my desktop environment, the instructions in the README file are for getting this image running under the Windows version of QEMU 1.0.1. Hopefully it won"t be too difficult for people running a Linux desktop to figure the settings out for their environment. The tricky part is getting QEMU working with a virtual network adapter, which I leave as an exercise for the end user.
Note that QEMU is emulating ARMv6+VFP hardware by specifying the arm1136 chip and the versatilepb hardware. This configuration isn"t supported by actual hardware and the regular Debian kernel for versatilepb hardware won"t work and freezes with an ARMv6 CPU. Included with the image is a handbuilt kernel with the .config modifications required to support ARMv6+VFP hardware.
More information on using this image can be found here:
With this QEMU image you can use apt-get to install the "devscripts" and "dpkg-dev" packages and attempt to compile any Debian package just as plugwash and I are doing on real ARM hardware. My hope is that this QEMU image will allow more people to examine packages that may not be cooperating with us on the autobuilder side of things.
As my time to work with QEMU is limited, it would be terrific if someone wanted to take ownership of maintaining this QEMU image as Raspbian evolves and we have more packages making it more useful to work with. I'll coordinate with you to get any updates back onto the Raspbian repository servers. Because the Raspberry Pi hardware is a bit limited in terms of memory and disk performance, even after Pi hardware is widely available, maintaining a Raspbian QEMU image will still be very useful. Developers will be able to build Debian packages and other software in an environment where the memory and disk capacity can be greatly expanded beyond what the Pi will ever support in real hardware. The emulated CPU isn't the fastest, but not too shabby on decent desktop hardware.
Good luck and let me know if you found this useful. Now, what else was on my todo list?