For my future projects, I plan to do a combination of Arduino and RPi development. The development of the Arduino code will be on my MS Windows PC and the RPi solution will be developed naively within the RPi Linux environment Given this distributed environment (and my ability to bungle things), I can foresee potential problems maintain good source code control. To deal with this, the combination of git and gethub seems the right way to proceed …. after all it has worked for the distributed Linux development community.
Git on MS Windows
The first thing I did was to set up git within my MS Windows PC. Given that I installed Cygwin when setting up the RPi, that is where I returned to install git. Therefore, I plan to use git within the Cygwin environment on my PC and not within MS Windows per say. This could be done, but my approach allows me to learn git commands once since, Cygwin is a Linux-like environment, everything should look and operate the same.
To accomplish this I follow the instructions outline in Installing Git on Cygwin. These instructions are very straight forward. The challenge was in initializing git for my first project, at least it was a challenge for me since git is new tool for me and Cygwin didn’t always cooperate. I had to address this the old fashion way …. read the documentation and trouble logs (vs. doing a web search for someones web post with instructions). All the important secrets of git can be found widely dispersed and buried deep withing these web sites: Git Documentation and Git Reference. Source information from trouble logs will be listed below.
So how did I do it? It’s easy once you successively done it once. First let me state the context; for the exercise I’m doing, I’m attempting to place my
.bashrc, .profile, .vimrc, and a few other configuration files under gits control. The basic sequence of operation is to initialize the git environment, configure some parameters, and then add the files. It goes like this (I’ll let you research the git documentation, just like I did, to understand the command. Trust me, this is good for you!):
git config --global user.name "jeffskinnerbox"
git config --global user.email email@example.com
git config --global core.editor vim
git config --global merge.tool vimdiff
git add .bashrc .profile .vimrc .bash_profile .minttyrc .inputrc .gitconfig .gitignore
To see what you got, use the
git status command. This will tell you the files got staged but not committed. The commit will come later. First we need to set up our communal repository within github.
Setting Up Github
You may be asking, What Exactly Is GitHub Anyway? Well, in a few words, github is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use git. The next step is to go to github, set up your free login, and then set up a repository. In my case, I set up a github repository called Cygwin-Configuration-Files to store my configuration files established earlier under git control. It will be empty at this point, and that’s all for now, loading it with files comes later.
I didn’t say much about how to set up github, but trust me, it is as simple as outlined above. It’s via git that all the real work takes place. Github is all about giving you an off-site, web-access-able, complete version controlled historical record of your code that can be shared with others.
Back to Git within Cygwin
Now that we have established github and initialized, configured, and added files to the Cygwin environment we can associated the PC and github environments. It wasn’t clear to me, from the git documentation, how to best do this association. Using
git clone isn’t intuitive to me, but it seems to work. This is how I did it:
git clone https://github.com/jeffskinnerbox/Cygwin-Configuration-Files.git
Warning … You may, as I did, get the following error:
Cloning into 'Cygwin-Configuration-Files'...
error: error setting certificate verify locations:
CApath: none while accessing https://github.com/jeffskinnerbox/Cygwin-Configuration-Files.git/info/refs
fatal: HTTP request failed
The next step is to commit your files to the git local repository within the PC under Cygwin. To do this, execute the following command:
You will be put into vim to provide a comment that will be posted with the git version. Why vim? Because you executed the command
git config --global core.editor vim earlier. If you don’t want to use vim for adding comments under git, supply another editor when you do the configuration step.
The next step, which strictly isn’t required but a nice to have, is to associate a descriptive identifier with the github repository. The descriptor I used is “Cygwin-Configuration-Files”. The command I used is:
git remote add Cygwin-Configuration-Files https://github.com/jeffskinnerbox/Cygwin-Configuration-Files.git
The final step is to push your local files to the github repository,
git push Cygwin-Configuration-Files
Warning … It was during the
git push that I ran into another problem, but it could happen nearly any time. I discovered that sometimes, after multiple Cygwin updating or installing packages, you’ll start to get strange errors related to “fork()” or .dll loading. After some research, I discoved these errors are usually solved by rebasing your packages. While rebasing, which is executed using the Cygwin
rebaseall command, is is a bit of a mystery, it does appear to work
Before you can run the
rebaseall command, you’ll need to make sure no Cygwin-based services are running. To do this, you need to run two cygwin command, cygrunsrc and rebaseall, under the ash command in MS Windows command prompt, not in a Cygwin Terminal window. The sequence of activity is as follows:
- Exit the Cygwin Terminal
- Run as administrator the MS Windows Command Prompt window
- Execute ash via
- Now under ash, see if any Cygwin processes are running via
- Stop any of the running processes via
/usr/bin/cygrunsrc --stop <process's>
- Now do the rebase via
For an example the steps above performed within the Command Prompt under ash, see below:
Git on the Raspberry Pi
Admittedly, getting git setup under MS Windows / Cygwin isn’t a walk in the park. It appears to work fine once set up, but the setup process can be painful.
Git under the Raspberry Pi’s Linux installs flawlessly, as you would expect, given git origins. First you install git via
sudo apt-get install git. Then, just as was done above, do the initialization of the git environment, configure some parameters, add the files, setup the github, clone, and push.
In my case, I setup a separate a github repository called
RPI-Configuration-Files to store my RPi configuration files. I could have used the same repository as was setup for the PC environment but that didn’t make sense for my present needs.
So that’s it! Its a long post for what is really a simple to use tool, but setting it up the first time could be a challenge.
Once I got the RPi up and running headless on my local network, its time to build the software foundation that I’ll need to make it an effective development environment. These are the packages that I loaded to get myself up and running.
Do Your House Cleaning First
I’m loading software via the Linux
apt-get utility and you need to make sure its database is up to date. First thing to do is to update apt-get’s local database with server’s pkglist’s files. Then checks for outdated packages in the system and automatically upgrades them. Execute the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Search for Package or Package Description
Some times you don’t know package name but aware of some keywords to search the package. To search for packages, use the following:
apt-cache search "text-to-search"
apt-cache search "text-to-search" | grep "more-search-text"
Synaptic is a graphical package management program for Linux software. It provides the same features as the
apt-get command line utility with a X Windows GUI front-end. While I will not be using X Windows at this moment, in the future I will and
synaptic is a very nice alternative to apt-get when in in X Windows.
sudo apt-get install synaptic
Vim is a highly configurable text editor and widely available for many different platforms. Emacs also has a large following, but I think everyone needs to be prepared to use
vim if your serious about Linux. The RPi Linux distribution appears to have
vi loaded but
vim is a superior tool.
sudo apt-get install vim
sudo apt-get install vim-gtk
PyRoom is a a fullscreen editor without buttons, widgets, formatting options, menus and with only the minimum of required dialog windows, it doesn’t have any distractions and lets you focus on writing and only writing. It is the polar opposite of Vim, and as such, is a good editor for the novice or casual user, but requires X Windows and Python.
sudo apt-get install pyroom
Given that I plan to hack some to-be-determined applications using the RPi, I should consider establish some tools for source code management. The last time I did serious software development in Linux (really Unix), I was using Source Code Control System (SCCS). The tools are much improved now and
git is hands down the way to go.
sudo apt-get install git
We all have a favorite browser and I choose
chromium for my RPi. Chromium serves as a base for Google Chrome, which is Chromium re-branded (name and logo) with very few additions.
sudo apt-get install chromium
The Raspberry Pi is a small, barebones computer developed by The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK nonprofit, with the intention of providing low-cost computers and free software to students. Their ultimate goal is to foster computer science education and they hope that this small, affordable computer will be a tool that enables that.
What has sparked my interest in the RPi is the fact that it a full functioning linux board, requires minimal peripheral to operate, engineered to support hardware hacking, and cost only $35 (only $25 if your willing to drop the Ethernet port and reduce the memory).
I’m posting here some links to specs for the RPi hardware for latter reference:
As I have been exploring the Arduino hardware platforms for my TBD project, I find myself forgetting the memory options available. I’m recording here my findings so I can reference it later.
- SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) is where the sketch creates and manipulates variables when it runs.
- EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) is memory space that programmers can use to store long-term information.
- Flash memory is where the Arduino sketch is stored (program space). The bootloader takes about 2 KB of flash memory and remaining space is for the sketch.
The Arduino IDE will tell you exactly how much Flash is being used after each compile/upload. EEPROM is an older, more reliable technology. It is somewhat slower than Flash. In Flash, a large block is erased all at once, much faster than the EEPROM method of going cell-by-cell.
If you don’t need to modify the strings or data while your sketch is running, you can store them in Flash (program) memory instead of SRAM; to do this, use the PROGMEM keyword.
Part of my interest in the Arduino’s memory is my concern about how much memory a sketch uses. Here are some sites that provide insight and algorithms for calculating the memory:
Electronic design automation (EDA or ECAD) is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as printed circuit boards. In my professional life, I have been work apart from this domain, and only now because of renewed interest in electronics, I have come back to do some research. I was pleasantly amazed by what I found.
Schematic and PCB Layout Editors
EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) is a very popular (and free) solution for PCB design, including Schematic Capture, Board Layout and Autorouter.
Other tools are specifically focused on the Arduino that allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a PCB layout for professional manufacturing.
Arduino Platform Simulation
PCB Board Creation
You can crate printed circuit board (PCB) with the aid of some web sites. You submit your PCB design; they add your design to the batch of orders. When the batch is big enough, the batch is set off to be manufactured.
SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis) is a general-purpose, open source analog electronic circuit simulator
On Friday, September 7th, my Raspberry Pi arrived! A $35 hackable Linux box … not a bad deal! I got it from Newark/element14, one of the few place where you can order a Raspberry Pi and not wait for many weeks.
I immediately proceeded to set it up, and after over coming the typical barriers (e.g. my PC’s SD Card reader wouldn’t cooperate), things came together very nicely. Here is how I did it.
What Raspberry Pi software distribution should I use?
Given that my objectives are to do some hardware hacking using the Pi, I quickly concluded that the distribution being offered by Adafruit was for me. Adafruit offers a distribution called Occidentalis. Unlike the typical Raspberry Pi software distributions, it comes equipped with access to SPI, I2C, one wire, and WiFi preconfigured. It also has some things to make overall use easier, such as sshd on start-up and Bonjour (so you can simply do
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org from my PC when I place the Pi on my local network). And it appears that Adafruit will continue to support and enhance the software as things evolve with the Pi.
I followed the instructions given by Adafruit and had no problems. I suggest when you do the first boot up, hook up the Pi with a monitor and keyboard to do the initial configuration. Once that is accomplished, you can leverage the installed Avahi (zeroconf or zero configuration networking) daemon (i.e. Bonjour-like service), as I do below.
How can I access the Raspberry Pi via my PC through my local network?
I have seen this called “running headless”. For me, this is the way to go. The last thing I need is another monitor and keyboard to peck at. Key to this will be getting a terminal emulator and a X terminal running on my PC. I choose Cygwin/X to get this job done. Cygwin/X comes with all the Cygwin utilities, but for me, that is a good thing.
How do you get shh working on the PC?
This proves to be very easy despite the potential complexities. Follow the procedures in “How To Get SSH Command-Line Access to Windows 7 Using Cygwin“.
How do you connect from the PC to the Raspberry Pi?
Fire up Cygwin Terminal on your PC, and at the prompt, enter
You’ll then be asked for the password for the pi login, enter it, and your should be in the Raspberry Pi via terminal emulation. Note that this is all being done without the assistance of a X Server on the PC. Your not running in X Windows … that comes next (Make sure to exit the Pi and return back to the Cygwin Terminal for the next step).
How do you run X Windows on the Raspberry Pi and use the PC as your X Terminal?
If you want to run X Windows on the Raspberry Pi with your PC being the X Server display, you need to provide a Display Name and the start the X Server. This is done within following command in the Cygwin Terminal:
Now you should start an X Terminal (Cygwin/X has a light weight version called mintty). So type in the following into the Cygwin Terminal.
Within the mintty window, log into the Raspberry PI:
ssh -Y email@example.com
An once in the Raspberry Pi, startup the LXDE Desktop Client using the command:
You should now be in the Pi running X Windows! No need for an extra keyboard, mouse, or monitor!
Some fine tuning will be necessary so you don’t have to do the
export DISPLAY=:0.0 every time you login and other things, but that is all that what is needed to get going.
As I have been doing for the Arduino, I have been doing some research on the Raspberry Pi. This post will help get you going.
What is a Raspberry Pi?
First things first – Just what is an Raspberry Pi? Check out the following links for a brief introduction:
Now let’s go a bit deeper to understand the Raspberry Pi hardware and capabilities:
One of the key things the Raspberry Pi team has pushed is that this is a tool for education.
Raspberry Pi Setup
To help with the setup of the Raspberry Pi Linux environment, consider the following:
Some tutorials and other things
Arduino Specific Program Languages
Using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional
The Arduino Playground web site provides some advice and instructions on Using Microsoft Visual Studio 10 and a plugin called Visual Micro to provide a full Arduino development platform. For more information, check out:
To install the Microsoft Visual Studio 10, Visual Micro, and set it up for Arduino development, follow these steps:
- Download and install Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional (For a free copy of Visual Studio, check out http://www.visualmicro.com/page/Offer-Visual-Studio-Professional-Free-For-3-Years.aspx).
- Download and install Visual Micro from http://www.visualmicro.com/.
- The above reference has a series of links that will take you through setting-up and testing the installation, configuring it, etc. All well worth reviewing.
- There are a few things you need to do that were not included in the above reference:
- Make sure “Upload Using Programmer” is uncheck within Tool > Arduino
- To make sure you can “include” “.h” files within your source directory, add “$(ProjectDir)” in Properties > Configuration Properties > VC++ Directories > Include Directories.
All of this is much easier than setting up and using Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Express!
Atmel AVR Studio 5
This is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for developing and debugging embedded Atmel AVR applications write, build, and debug using C/C++ and assembler code.
Processing and Arduino
Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions. Arduino comes with some basic examples for communicating with Processing (in Examples > Communication). These are useful for when you want to write both Arduino and Processing programs and have them talk to each other.
Arduino and openFrameworks
On the surface, openFrameworks seems very similar to Processing. openFrameworks is much better at creating projects that use a lot of 3D Graphics, computer vision libraries like OpenCV or projects that involve the real-time manipulation of video. Also, while Processing requires a Java backend, openFrameworks is simply a set of C++ libraries, meaning that developers comfortable with C++ will be right at home.
C and Arduino
The Arduino language is simply just a small refinement of C, in an effort to make the Arduino easier to code. Moving to C or C++ is very natural step up.
Scratch for Arduino
Scratch is a programming language learning environment enabling beginners to get results without having to learn syntactically correct writing first.
Scratch is evolving into a more powerful platform.
What is an Arduino?
First things first – Just what is an Arduino? Check out the following links for a brief introduction:
For a lighter look at the Arduino, check out the comic book by Jody Culkin.
To go a bit deeper to understand the Arduino hardware variants and the Arduino’s Interactive Development Environment (IDE):
Arduino also comes in multiple hardware variations to support different types of applications.
What you Need to Purchase
For less than $100, Adafruit Industries offers an excellent starter package, Adafruit ARDX. This package not only includes an Arduino Uno but also all the electronic pieces needed to complete 11 different circuits, along with a experimenter’s guide booklet & breadboard layout sheets.
Installing the IDE
This is the program used to write code for the Arduino. Install the software for you operating system and type of Arduino. I’m assuming Vista and Arduino Uno R3.
- Download the Arduino IED Software
- How to connect your Arduino board to the computer (Windows PC) and upload your first sketch
- Note: Within Device Manager, you may have to go to Action > Add Legacy Hardware to see the Arduino and get the driver installed.
Start Your Education
Using the experiments guide that comes with the Arduino kit, Arduino Experimenter’s Guide (ARDX), and your off and running! Other sites to check out include:
- ARDX Kit Tutorials
- Ladyada’s Arduino Tutorial
- Official Arduino Example Tutorials
- Instructables’ Arduino Section
- Make Magazine’s Arduino Section
- Adafruit Industries
- Sparkfun Electronics
- Education at SparkFun Electronics
- Arduino Tutorials
- Arduino 101: Timers and Interrupts
- Arduino Tutorials
- Machine Science
- Official Forums
Purchasing Arduino Hardware and Supporting Electronics
There are several online retail stores that sell the bits and pieces to make electronics projects possible. Some of the best are:
Robotics is a popular topic for Arduino and these sites specialize in components and kits especially suited for robots:
There are many shields available for the Arduino to accommodate many needs and Arduino Shield List keeps a running list of them.