Tag Archives: homecamp

Prototyping – Arduino and Ubuntu

UNO

My Arduino Uno board, via instagr.am and iPhone, on Flickr

One of those things I’ve been meaning to getting around to doing for ages is to explore this exciting new world of prototyping and hacking my own hardware devices together. A lot of my fellow eightbars and of course many of the HomeCamp community are big fans of the Arduino platform. I’ve also been dying to have a go with the MQTT client for Arduino that Nick has created (although I’ve recently also come across another platform called mbed, and MQTT has been ported to it, of which more to come soon). In fact, I’ve had one of the lovely Arduino starter kits from ::oomlout:: sitting on my desk for a while now, tempting me with its gadgetry and neatly-arranged components in a funky partitioned box… but life has been so hectic that it has taken me until today to finally crack it open!

I’m not going to spend long talking about the Arduino today, except to mention that it was unexpectedly tricky to get working under my OS of choice, Ubuntu 10.10. I’d read on Anton’s blog recently that the new UNO board (which I have) needed a firmware update in order to avoid some weirdness on the serial port, so I thought I’d go ahead and fix that first – his instructions were very clear, and the device seemed to report something, well, expected as I ran the commands. All good, or so I thought!

Português: Logotipo Arduino Uno.

Português: Logotipo Arduino Uno. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I installed the Arduino IDE from the Ubuntu repository and attempted to start it from the new Electronics submenu. Nothing happened. At that point I decided to try running “arduino” from the command line, and got back a Java stack trace containing java.lang.UnsatisfiedLinkError: rxtxSerial indicating an issue with some of the libraries. At that point a quick DuckDuckGo search (yes, I’m not using Google much these days) led me to an Ubuntu PPA which contained a fixed version of the IDE.

I was then able to fire up the toolkit and excitedly started looking at the Basic samples. However, as soon as I tried to upload one to the board, I got an error avrdude: stk500_recv(): programmer is not responding which suggested that the board was not being “seen” by the IDE. The only interface the toolkit recognised was ttyS0 and I knew the Arduino wasn’t there… looking in /var/log/messages I could see that it created an interface /dev/ttyACM0 when I plugged it in, but the toolkit wasn’t seeing that. I then tried creating a symlink from /dev/ttyUSB0 (where the wikis and documentation were telling me to expect the Arduino) to /dev/ttyACM0 – and presto, it worked.

Creating static symbolic links in /dev is a bit hokey these days, of course, so I moved across to udev and created a new rule for the UNO in a file called /etc/udev/rules.d/80-arduino-uno.rule

KERNEL=="ttyACM*", ATTRS{product}=="Arduino*", SYMLINK+="ttyUSB%n"

dead simple: if a new device pops up in the kernel named ttyACMsomething, and it has a USB product ID string starting Arduino (which mine does, I checked using the command usb-devices), add another symlink to it at ttyUSBsomething, thanks. Result:

Dec 21 19:18:50 agrippa kernel: [21501.209012] usb 1-1.1: new full 
speed USB device using ehci_hcd and address 17
Dec 21 19:18:50 agrippa kernel: [21501.303198] cdc_acm 1-1.1:1.0: 
ttyACM0: USB ACM device
andyp@agrippa:/etc/udev/rules.d$ ls -l /dev/ttyU*
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 2010-12-21 19:18 /dev/ttyUSB0 -> ttyACM0

That all seems to have done the trick. I’m just waiting on a couple of shields for the board, not least something that will let me connect it to a network, and then the experiments will continue! Weather-permitting the next lot of electronics should appear in the next day or so. More to come, on both Arduino and mbed hackery…

Advertisements

Guest posting

Although this blog has been slightly quiet I’ve been posting content elsewhere lately as well:

  1. There’s a guest post on the SOMESSO blog about whether or not corporate blogs are still relevant in the world of more dispersed social media.
  2. I’ve contributed to the revived HomeCamp blog with some links to good sources of information.
  3. Talking of revivals, eightbar continues to attract some great content from my fellow Hursley folks, with more changes to come soon.

Virtual Home Camp

homecamp_001_sml

As one of the organisers of Home Camp, I dropped in to see how Virtual Home Camp is shaping up. There are already some really interesting toys and gadgets in there – had a brief chat about how to feed weather data in, looked at the virtual version of Chris’ ducks, and was generally really impressed to see the progress that has been made. Thanks to the folks from ReactionGrid for hosting us. If you can’t come to the real event on April 25th in London, I think this could be a great way of participating.

On being part of a tribal movement

Looking back over the past few years, I find that I’ve somehow become part of a tribe: eightbar.

What is eightbar, again?

We’re a group of techie/creative people working in and around IBM’s Hursley Park Lab in the UK. We have regular technical community meetings, well more like a cup of tea and a chat really, about all kinds of cool stuff. One of the things we talked about is that although there are lots of cool people and projects going on in Hursley, we never really let anyone know about them. So, we decided to try and record some of the stuff that goes on here in an unofficial blog, EightBar.

This hasn’t been part of “a grand plan”. All that happened was that before I was even “officially” a “Hursley person”, I got to know a bunch of people with whom I share attitudes and interests, and started to explore some new spaces with them – virtual worlds like Second Life, enterprise social computing, bleeding edge technologies, collaboration that extends outside of enterprise, geographic and social boundaries.

I am very fortunate to become good friends with some inspiring people such as Ian Hughes (epredator), Roo Reynolds, Rob Smart, Darren Shaw and Andy Stanford-Clark – among many, many others – and found myself being asked to talk about some of these new areas with IBM customers and other groups. Without even realising it, I started to be viewed as an authority on many of these topics. I’m immensely grateful that people like Ian and Roo recognised my passion to communicate and gave me these opportunities to break out of my day-to-day role.

Ian has a great presentation and a blog post on how all of this has come about, by the way.

I’ve been standing on the shoulders of giants for the past couple of years and I completely recognise that. It’s awesome that this little group, loose band, motley assortment, whatever we are – this body of interested techies and thinkers has been identified by top analyst James Governor as his Team of the Year.

This idea of grassroots movements at work is summed up in a great soundbite from the Don Tapscott interview with Net@Night this past week (listen out for this one, about 41 minutes into the discussion)

… social networks are the new operating systems of business…

He’s so very, very right. I owe my successes in the past 2-3 years to my social networks – and to eightbar.

(this is Captain Slow, signing off…)

The inaugural HomeCamp

As I previously mentioned, on Saturday I went along to HomeCamp 08 in London, organised by Chris Dalby and Dale Lane, and sponsored by Current Cost and Redmonk.

Low power gadgets

I was pretty actively commenting from the event and taking part in the live uStream channel… others have written up some of their experiences and thoughts, so I don’t propose to say much here. My main contribution was to make a (shaky!) video of Andy Stanford-Clark’s talk towards the start of the morning – a half hour overview of his home automation projects. I’ve posted it on Viddler, and if you are interested you are very welcome to comment on it, embed it in your own sites, or add annotations on the video timeline.

The nice part about Viddler over, say, YouTube is that it let me post the whole thing as a single video rather than having to chop it up into 10 minute chunks. I’ll try to post some notes on how I went about producing the video at some stage soon.

Some very general comments on the day:

  • Well-organised, well-run, great venue, nice to have wireless access – thanks to everyone involved in the logistics!
  • A brilliant, exciting array of skills, talents and interests. It was kind of funny to realise just how many of the folks I knew of as we were doing introductions at the start, and great to find that it wasn’t only a bunch of IBM hackers – this movement is really building momentum.
  • A lot of fun… I only wish my hacking skills were greater – but I’m looking forward to contributing and generating ideas in this community.

That’s it from me. Really looking forward to HomeCamp 09!