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Controlling and Viewing the Raspberry Pi GPIO via PC Browser

I discovered a post that concerned controlling the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO via a browser. This idea of controlling my Raspberry Pi (RPi), and the things its networked with, via an internet browser is at the heart of what I would like to do with the assortment of Arduino and Xbee devices I’m assembling.  To explore how best to do this, I’m considering using WebIOPi, which is a web application used to control your RPi’s GPIO.  I believe it could be useful as a test tool, but more importantly, I suspect that I could learn how to engineer my application by studying its design.

Install WebIOPi

When installing WebIOPi on my RPi, I followed the installation instructions for the Apache version.  I choose this version since  I’ll be using the Apache web server for other features as my project evolves. Note that there is a small error on the instructions if you use a symbolic link to the webiopi directory.  Create this link using

sudo ln -s /home/pi/webiopi /var/www/webiopi

Immediately after installation,  you can test to see if you can render a web page.  Assuming that your  Raspberry Pi is connected to your network  and its named raspberrypi, you can open a browser to http://raspberrypi/webiopi/ with your network PC.  It might work but your likely to get a error, something like “…Could not reliably determine the server’s fully qualified domain name…” and the solution is to give your web server a name.

To do this,  create this Apache config file:

sudo vi /etc/apache2/conf.d/fqdn

Enter ServerName raspberrypi into this file and restart Apache using

sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Installing GPIO Utilities

While checking on the status of of the Python based GPIO package on the RPI using the command dpkg -l | grep gpio, I concluded that the  Occidentalis distribution I’m using doesn’t have any Python libraries for GPIO.

Picking up some tips from Raspberry Pi E-mail Notifier Using LEDs.  I determined that I need to install several python packages first.  I did this via

sudo apt-get install python
sudo apt-get install python-dev
sudo apt-get install python-pip

With this done, now its time to install the required Python libraries but first, update the Python distribution by running

sudo easy_install -U distribute

Finally you can install the Raspberry Pi GPIO (General Purpose Input/Ouput) library:

sudo pip install RPi.GPIO

What did I find

WebIOPi  supports binary GPIOs, in both input and output.  That is, you can set a GPIO output pin high/low via a browser pick.  Also, you can see the state of a GPIO pin.  Equally important to me is that WebIOPi auto-refreshes, via WebAPI, REST, JSON and AJAX I assume.  Therefore, when the GPIO pins change state, the browser automatically is updated with the new status.  And this happens for all browsers displaying WebIOPi.  You can demonstrate this by opening two browsers pointing at WebIOPi.  Action performed in one browser will also appear in the other.

Test Script

I used this code to generate some random activity on the GPIO pins and test WebIOPi.

#!/usr/bin/env python

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO, time

BLINK_FREQ = 3                  # refresh GPIO pins every 3 seconds

GPIO.setup(0, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(1, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(4, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(17, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(21, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(22, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(10, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(9, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(11, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(18, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(23, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(24, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(25, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(8, GPIO.OUT)
GPIO.setup(7, GPIO.OUT)

i = 0
while True:
                if i == 0:
                                GPIO.output(0, True)
                                GPIO.output(1, False)
                                GPIO.output(4, False)
                                GPIO.output(17, True)
                                i = i + 1
                elif i == 2:
                                GPIO.output(0, False)
                                GPIO.output(1, True)
                                GPIO.output(4, True)
                                GPIO.output(17, False)
                                i = i + 1
                elif i == 1:
                                GPIO.output(7, False)
                                GPIO.output(8, True)
                                GPIO.output(25, True)
                                GPIO.output(23, False)
                                i = i + 1
                elif i == 3:
                                GPIO.output(7, True)
                                GPIO.output(8, False)
                                GPIO.output(25, False)
                                GPIO.output(23, True)
                                i = i + 1
                elif i == 4:
                                GPIO.output(21, True)
                                GPIO.output(22, False)
                                GPIO.output(10, False)
                                GPIO.output(9, True)
                                GPIO.output(11, True)
                                GPIO.output(18, True)
                                i = i + 1
                elif i == 5:
                                GPIO.output(21, False)
                                GPIO.output(22, True)
                                GPIO.output(10, True)
                                GPIO.output(9, False)
                                GPIO.output(11, False)
                                GPIO.output(18, False)
                                i = i + 1
                                i = 0

Alternative Approaches

The use of a Web page to control the RPi seems useful enough but what if the target environment for launching control messages is a cell phone?  Maybe a phone app would be a better approach.  Check out the post  Raspberry Pi + iPhone: Control a RPi with an iPhone in 2 Minutes.


  1. […] – Controlling via browser with WebIOPi […]

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