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Posts Tagged ‘Visual Studio’

Teensy 3.1 and Visual Micro

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

September saw the end of an agonising few months (nearly a year in truth) working with a 32 x 32 LED matrix and smart LEDs (WS2811, Neopixels etc.). I’ve been trying to reliably control these LEDs with the STM32 Discovery board. It’s not that I cracked the problem with the STM32 but that I came across a cheap ready made solution to the problem, namely the Teensy 3.1. It has proved to be a painful reminder of something a software engineer should know, use libraries if you can. In the case of hardware prototyping the use of libraries also extends in part to the choice of hardware.

One of the main reasons I have resisted going down the route of using boards like the Teensy 3.1 is the Arduino IDE. I think that I have been spoiled by the richness of the Visual Studio IDE. Even IDES should as the IAR IDE for the STM8S leave something to be desired when you compare it to Visual Studio. This is the story of how I got the LEDs working and solved the IDE issue by using Visual Micro.

Problem Hardware

There are two pieces of hardware causing me problems at the moment:

  1. 32 x 32 LED Matrix
  2. 5mm Digital Addressable LEDs

These were purchased in the UK from Cool Components.

32 x 32 LED Matrix/Panel

The 32 x 32 LED matrix is often a component in larger displays.

LED Matrix

LED Matrix

The displays are easily chained together although the power requirements quickly increase. Each panel can consume up to 2A depending upon the number of LEDs illuminated as any time.

These boards are designed to be controlled by FPGAs allowing for high frame rates. Sparkfun and Adafruit have tutorials on running these boards and they have found that you can run a single panel at 16MHz (i.e. you can run it on an Arduino but only just). Running two or more panels requires more power, both RAM and processor speed.

Digitally Addressable LEDs

The LEDs in question use the WS2811 constant current IC to drive RGB LEDs. These controllers use their own one-wire protocol (not to be confused with the Dallas one-wire protocol) to determine the PWM characteristics of the red, green and blue components of the light output. Over the years these controllers have shown up in LED strings, LED strips and more recently as the Adafruit Neopixel and now as individual through hole LEDs.

The main problem I have found with these LEDs, or more specifically the controllers, is the one-wire protocol. This requires very precise timing and this is often difficult to obtain on the hobbyist microcontrollers without a lot of very precise control.

Solving the problem

I decided to solve this problem using the Teensy 3.1. The thing which makes the Teensy 3.1 very attractive for this type of project is the add-on board, the SmartMatrix Shield. This board allows you to connect a Teensy directly on to the IDC headers of the LED Matrix.

In addition to the hardware, the Teensy 3.1 library contains ports of the equivalent Arduino libraries for the 32 x 32 LED matrix as well as LEDs controlled by the WS2811.

Teensy 3.1

The Teensy has been through several iterations, the Teensy 3.1 being the latest at the time of writing. The board is small, only 35mm x 18mm, and I was not really prepared for how small it actually is!

TeensyAndRuler

Small does not mean low powered though, the board packs a Cortex-M4 processor, 256K flash and 64K RAM. The 72MHz processor can also be overclocked to over 90MHz. Other features include:

  • 34 Digital I/O (3.3V but 5V tolerant)
  • 21 analog inputs
  • 12 PWM
  • SPI, I2C, CAN bus
  • ARM DSP extension

The foot print of the board allows it to be easily added to a breadboard.

The Teensy 3.1 board is also supplied with it’s own libraries in the form of Teensyduino. This is an add-on for the Arduino IDE and is compatible with many of the Arduino libraries. The Arduino compatible libraries provide the ability to work with the LED matrix and the addressable LEDs mentioned above as well as a wide variety of other devices.

Software

As I have stated earlier, I am not really a fan of the Arduino IDE. Do not misinterpret me, it represents a great piece of work, however the amount of time and money Microsoft have poured into Visual Studio over the years means that Visual Studio really does take some beating. This is where Visual Micro comes in.

Visual Micro is a Visual Studio 2008-2013 add-in which allows the development of Arduino sketches within the Visual Studio framework. This gives you all the power of Visual Studio (code refactoring etc.) while still allowing the development of Arduino sketches. The add-in is free until the end of 2014 with the option to purchase the debugger support for a nominal fee.

The add-in supports a good number of boards out of the box including the Teensy 3.1.

Setup is simple and the documentation is really good. There are a few additional steps for the Teensy 3.1 but this is cover in the Tips for Teensy page.

Once configured it was a simple task to create a new Teensy 3.1 project using the Neopixel sketch template. A little code reformatting gives the following code:

#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h>

//
//	Parameter 1 = number of pixels in strip
//	Parameter 2 = pin number (most are valid)
//	Parameter 3 = pixel type flags, add together as needed:
//		NEO_RGB     Pixels are wired for RGB bitstream
//		NEO_GRB     Pixels are wired for GRB bitstream
//		NEO_KHZ400  400 KHz bitstream (e.g. FLORA pixels)
//		NEO_KHZ800  800 KHz bitstream (e.g. High Density LED strip)
//
Adafruit_NeoPixel strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(60, 6, NEO_RGB + NEO_KHZ800);

//
//	Input a value 0 to 255 to get a color value.
//	The colours are a transition r - g - b - back to r.
//
uint32_t Wheel(byte WheelPos)
{
	if (WheelPos < 85)
	{
		return strip.Color(WheelPos * 3, 255 - WheelPos * 3, 0);
	}
	else if (WheelPos < 170)
	{
		WheelPos -= 85;
		return strip.Color(255 - WheelPos * 3, 0, WheelPos * 3);
	}
	else
	{
		WheelPos -= 170;
		return strip.Color(0, WheelPos * 3, 255 - WheelPos * 3);
	}
}

//
//	Fill the dots one after the other with a colour
//
void colorWipe(uint32_t c, uint8_t wait)
{
	for (uint16_t i = 0; i < strip.numPixels(); i++)
	{
		strip.setPixelColor(i, c);
		strip.show();
		delay(wait);
	}
}

//
//  Set all LEDs to the same colour.
//
void rainbow(uint8_t wait)
{
	uint16_t i, j;

	for (j = 0; j < 256; j++)
	{
		for (i = 0; i < strip.numPixels(); i++)
		{
			strip.setPixelColor(i, Wheel((i + j) &amp; 255));
		}
		strip.show();
		delay(wait);
	}
}

//
//	Slightly different, this makes the rainbow equally distributed throughout
//
void rainbowCycle(uint8_t wait)
{
	uint16_t i, j;

	for (j = 0; j < 256 * 5; j++)
	{ // 5 cycles of all colors on wheel
		for (i = 0; i < strip.numPixels(); i++)
		{
			strip.setPixelColor(i, Wheel(((i * 256 / strip.numPixels()) + j) &amp; 255));
		}
		strip.show();
		delay(wait);
	}
}

//
//	Executed once at startup to set up the board.
//
void setup()
{
	strip.begin();
	strip.show(); // Initialize all pixels to 'off'
}

//
//	The actual main program loop.
//
void loop()
{
	rainbow(20);
	rainbowCycle(20);
}

This code creates an Adafruit_NeoPixel object with the pixels connected to pin 6 of the Teensy 3.1.

Connecting some LEDs top the Teensy and uploading the above code results in the following:

Modifying the code to add a counter will allow testing of the debugging features. The loop code is changed to have a counter variable to test the conditional breakpoint feature:

int count = 0;

//
//	The actual main program loop.
//
void loop()
{
	count++;
	digitalWrite(LED_PIN, HIGH);
	delay(500);
	digitalWrite(LED_PIN, LOW);
	delay(500);
	// Some example procedures showing how to display to the pixels:
	rainbow(20);
	rainbowCycle(20);
}

Adding a breakpoint after the counter increment and making the breakpoint conditional results in the following display:

Sample code

Sample Code With Breakpoint

Nothing too strange here, pretty much standard for Visual Studio. The breakpoint window shows the breakpoint and the condition:

Debugger Breakpoint Window

Debugger Breakpoint Window

Running the code brings up the debugger expression window:

Debugger Expression Window

Debugger Expression Window

The one thing which experienced users of Visual Studio will find unfamiliar is the way in which single stepping works. Unlike say Win32 development where single stepping takes you to the next line of code and then waits, with Visual Micro, single stepping runs the code to the next breakpoint.

Conclusion

Visual Studio is without doubt one of the best software development environments available. The addition of Visual Micro brings the power of Visual Studio to the Arduino world. Whilst the debugging features (single stepping) may a little unfamiliar to Visual Studio users they are not so strange as to be unusable.

Both the Teensy 3.1 and Visual Micro are a welcome addition to the development tools and it is highly likely that they will appear in future posts.

Netduino, iPhone and Low Energy Bluetooth

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

A while ago I wrote a small library for the RN-42 Bluetooth module. This small module acted as a serial port when connected to the Netduino. Times have moved on with Bluetooth 4.0 being available on the iPhone I thought I would take another look at Bluetooth.

Bluetooth Module

The Bluetooth module we will be using is the RedBear Bluetooth Mini. This little module is a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (BLE) module. In it’s simplest form it offers the ability to act as a serial port for your project. This is how we will be using this module for this project.

Bluetooth Device

To test this a BLE compatible device is required. Enter the iPhone 5 and the BLE Arduino application which RedBear have thoughtfully provided. The application may be written for Arduino but it is sending simple serial commands to the Arduino. Let’s see what it is doing and if we can use this application.

Serial Port Settings

First job is to figure out the serial port settings. Scanning the source code for the Arduino I came across the following line in the setup method:

BleFirmata.begin(57600);

My guess is that this is setting up the Arduino serial port to run at 57,600 baud using standard data bits, parity and top bit settings. Time to break out the logic analyser.

Connections between the Netduino and the RedBear module is simple:

Netduino Pin Redbear BLE Module Pin
D0 (Rx) Tx
D1 (Tx) Rx
3.3V Vin
GND GND

Additionally, the logic analyser is connected to the Rx and Tx pins of the Netduino. An Async Serial analyser was added to the two pins through the Saleae software. This analyser has an Autobaud feature. Turn this on just in case we get the baud rate incorrect.

Next step is to install the BLE Arduino application on the iPhone 5. Start the application:

ReadBear BLE Software Opening Screen

ReadBear BLE Software Opening Screen

Press the Click button to connect to the ReadBear module.

Select Arduino Board

Select Arduino Board

Select the Arduino to connect to. The Arduino Uno has a similar pin out so select the Uno option.

Change a Pin Output Using BLE Software

Change a Pin Output Using BLE Software

So far there has been no output on the logic analyser. Change the state of an output pin (pressing H or L). This generates serial data:

Serial Data On the Logic Analyser

Serial Data On the Logic Analyser

A quick check in the Async Serial analysers properties shows that the data logic analyser thinks that the data is being sent at 60,000 baud, pretty close to the 57,600 which was found in the code earlier.

Netduino Code


The next step is to try to connect some code on the Netduino to the iPhone application. The simplest application we can use simply captures the incoming data on the serial port and displays the bytes received in the debug window of Visual Studio. The following should do the trick:

public class Program
{
    const int BUFFER_SIZE = 1024;

    public static void Main()
    {
        SerialPort sp = new SerialPort("COM1", 57600, Parity.None, 8, StopBits.One);
        sp.DataReceived += sp_DataReceived;
        sp.Open();
        Thread.Sleep(Timeout.Infinite);
    }

    static void sp_DataReceived(object sender, SerialDataReceivedEventArgs e)
    {
        string str;
        str = "";
        if (e.EventType == SerialData.Chars)
        {
            int amount;
            byte[] buffer;

            buffer = new byte[BUFFER_SIZE];
            amount = ((SerialPort) sender).Read(buffer, 0, BUFFER_SIZE);
            if (amount > 0)
            {
                for (int index = 0; index < amount; index++)
                {
                    str += buffer[index].ToString();
                    str += " ";
                }
                Debug.Print("Data: " + str);
            }
        }
    }
}

Deploying the above code to my Netduino Plus 2 and running the application gives the following output:


Data: 144 4 0
Data: 144
Data: 12 0
Data: 144
Data: 4 0

Pressing the H at the side of Pin 2 in the application generates the sequence 144 4 0. Following this up by pressing the H at the side of Pin 3 results in the sequence 144 12 0. Checking the Arduino code shows that the digital commands are prefixed by 0x90, i.e. 144.

The iPhone Application

Now that we know the iPhone and the Netduino can communicate (at least from the phone to the Netduino) let’s have a look at creating our own iPhone application. The simplest application would entail toggling a digital pin, so let’s do that. We’ll turn an LED on and off.

Starting XCode we will create a new project (Single View Application) for the iPhone and set the application be targeted at the iPhone only and to use Automatic Reference Counting (ARC):

New iPhone Project Options

New iPhone Project Options

Next we need to add the CoreBluetooth.Framework references to the application. So scroll down the frameworks and click on the + button under the Linked Frameworks section. Type bluetooth in order to search the installed frameworks.

Next, we need to add the RedBear BLE framework. I downloaded this and put it in my stored libraries. This was then added by right clicking on the Frameworks folder of the project, selecting Add Files to… and then browsing to the folder which contained the files.

Next we head over to the Storyboard and add a few controls to our interface:

iPhone Application in XCode

iPhone Application in XCode

Control Description
btnConnectToNetduino Button to connect/disconnect to/from the Netduino.
lblStatus Label to indicate the status of the application.
lblLEDStatus Label containing the text LED Status
swLED Switch which is used to turn the LED on/off.
aiBusy Indicator which shows when the application is trying to detect the Bluetooth module.

First thing to do is to connect the controls to the code in the header file for the view controller:

#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>
#import "BLE.h"

//
//  Define the various modes for the state machine.
//
#define MODE_DISCONNECTED       0
#define MODE_CONNECTING         1
#define MODE_CONNECTED          2
#define MODE_DISCONNECTING      3

//
//  Timeout values.
//
#define TIMEOUT_BLE_TIMEOUT         2
#define TIMEOUT_BUSY_CONNECTING     3.0

@interface SNCViewController : UIViewController <BLEDelegate>
{
    IBOutlet UILabel *lblStatusMessage;
    IBOutlet UILabel *lblLEDStatus;
    IBOutlet UISwitch *swLED;
}

- (IBAction) btnConnect_TouchUpInside:(UIButton *) sender;
- (IBAction) swLED_Changed:(UISwitch *)sender;

@property (strong, nonatomic) BLE *ble;
@property (strong, nonatomic) UIActivityIndicatorView *aiBusy;
@property (strong, nonatomic) IBOutlet UIButton *btnConnectToNetduino;

@end

Now we have the controls defined in the header file we can start to work on the methods.

Definitions

We need some simple definitions at the head of our implementation file:

#import "SNCViewController.h"
#import "BLE.h"

@interface SNCViewController ()

@end

@implementation SNCViewController

@synthesize ble;
@synthesize btnConnectToNetduino;

//
//  Private local variables.
//
int mode = MODE_DISCONNECTED;

These definitions create the Bluetooth object and he variables required for state control.

Supporting Methods

The Connected and Disconnected methods change the interface and state variables when we have successfully connected or disconnected to/from the Bluetooth module:

//
//  Set up the interface to show that the Bluetooth module is connected
//
- (void) Connected
{
    [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Connected"];
    lblLEDStatus.hidden = false;
    swLED.hidden = false;
    [btnConnectToNetduino setTitle:@"Disconnect from Netduino" forState:UIControlStateNormal];
    btnConnectToNetduino.enabled = true;
    [self.aiBusy stopAnimating];
    mode = MODE_CONNECTED;
}

//
//  Set up the interface to show that the Bluetooth module is disconnected
//
- (void) Disconnected
{
    [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Disconnected"];
    lblLEDStatus.hidden = true;
    swLED.hidden = true;
    [btnConnectToNetduino setTitle:@"Connect to Netduino" forState:UIControlStateNormal];
    btnConnectToNetduino.enabled = true;
    [self.aiBusy stopAnimating];
    mode = MODE_DISCONNECTED;
}

Standard Methods (viewDidLoad and didReceiveMemoryWarning)

These methods are generated by default when the application is first created. For viewDidLoad we will set up the application for initial use. We will not be modifying the didReceiveMemoryWarning method in this application.

//
//  Setup the view.
//
- (void) viewDidLoad
{
    [super viewDidLoad];
    //
    //  Setup the display.
    //
    lblLEDStatus.hidden = true;
    [swLED setOn:NO];
    swLED.hidden = true;
    [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Ready"];
    self.aiBusy.hidesWhenStopped = true;
    //
    //  Create the Bluetooth objects.
    //
    ble = [[BLE alloc] init];
    [ble controlSetup:1];
    ble.delegate = self;
    //
    //  Setp the simple properties.
    //
    mode = MODE_DISCONNECTED;
}

//
//  Process the memory warning event.
//
- (void) didReceiveMemoryWarning
{
    [super didReceiveMemoryWarning];
}

The main point to note in the viewDidLoad method is that the Bluetooth object is initialised.

Button Press Event

The btnConnect_TouchUpInside event initiates the connection/disconnection of the application to/from the Bluetooth module.

//
//  User has pressed the Connect button so try to connect/disconnect from the Netduino.
//
- (IBAction) btnConnect_TouchUpInside:(UIButton *) sender
{
    if (ble.activePeripheral)
    {
        if (ble.activePeripheral.isConnected)
        {
            [[ble CM] cancelPeripheralConnection:[ble activePeripheral]];
        }
    }
    ble.peripherals = nil;
    switch (mode)
    {
        case MODE_DISCONNECTED:
            [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Connecting..."];
            [NSTimer scheduledTimerWithTimeInterval:(float) TIMEOUT_BUSY_CONNECTING target:self selector:@selector(connectionTimer:) userInfo:nil repeats:NO];
            [ble findBLEPeripherals:TIMEOUT_BLE_TIMEOUT];
            [self.aiBusy startAnimating];
            mode = MODE_CONNECTING;
            break;
        case MODE_CONNECTED:
            [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Disconnecting..."];
            [self.aiBusy startAnimating];
            mode = MODE_DISCONNECTING;
            break;
        default:
            break;
    }
    btnConnectToNetduino.enabled = false;
}

Timer

The btnConnect_TouchUpInside event starts a timer when it is trying to connect to a Bluetooth module. This timer prevents the application from locking when searching for a Bluetooth module which does not exist. The timer callback stops the search process after 3 seconds:

//
//  The timer started by the Connect button has triggered.  See if we have any
//  Bluetooth modules nearby.  If we have then connect to the first one in the
//  list.
//
-(void) connectionTimer:(NSTimer *) timer
{
    if (ble.peripherals.count > 0)
    {
        [ble connectPeripheral:[ble.peripherals objectAtIndex:0]];
    }
    else
    {
        [lblStatusMessage setText:@"Cannot find Netduino"];
        mode = MODE_DISCONNECTED;
    }
    [self.aiBusy stopAnimating];
}

Switching the LED on/off

The application assumes only one LED is connected to the Netduino. The data packet sent to the Netduino therefore contains a 1 or 0 to indicate the status of the LED:

//
//  User has changed the value of the LED.
//
- (IBAction) swLED_Changed:(UISwitch *) sender
{
    UInt8 buffer[1];
    buffer[0] = sender.isOn == YES ? 1 : 0;
    NSData *data = [[NSData alloc] initWithBytes:buffer length:1];
    [ble write:data];
}

Bluetooth Module Events

The final two events are generated by the Bluetooth library. These are fired when the module connects/disconnects to/from the module:

//
//  Connected to a Bluetooth module successfully.
//
-(void) bleDidConnect
{
    [self Connected];
}

//
//  Application has disconnected from a Bluetooth module.
//
- (void) bleDidDisconnect
{
    [self Disconnected];
}

//
//  RSSI has been updated.
//
- (void) bleDidDisconnect:(NSNumber *) rssi
{
}

Netduino Application

The final task is to modify the Netduino Application to process the data. An OutputPort is added to the application and this is connected to a digital IO pin. This pin is then turned on/off when serial data is received from the Bluetooth module:

public class Program
{
    const int BUFFER_SIZE = 1024;
    private static OutputPort led = new OutputPort(Pins.GPIO_PIN_D8, false);

    public static void Main()
    {
        SerialPort sp = new SerialPort("COM1", 57600, Parity.None, 8, StopBits.One);
        sp.DataReceived += sp_DataReceived;
        sp.Open();
        Thread.Sleep(Timeout.Infinite);
    }

    static void sp_DataReceived(object sender, SerialDataReceivedEventArgs e)
    {
        string str;
        str = "";
        if (e.EventType == SerialData.Chars)
        {
            int amount;
            byte[] buffer;

            buffer = new byte[BUFFER_SIZE];
            amount = ((SerialPort) sender).Read(buffer, 0, BUFFER_SIZE);
            if (amount > 0)
            {
                for (int index = 0; index < amount; index++)
                {
                    str += buffer[index].ToString();
                    str += "";
                }
                if (buffer[0] == 1)
                {
                    led.Write(true);
                }
                else
                {
                    led.Write(false);
                }
                Debug.Print("Data: " + str);
            }
        }
    }
}

Does it Work?

Well of course it does and here’s the video to prove it:

First we connect to the module. Once connected we can start to turn the LED on and off using the iPhone.

Conclusion

The library provided by RedBear is a great starting point for using the iPhone to communicate with a BLE module. It is simple and easy to use for this type of application. This whole experiment only took a few hours to put together an execute.

Let’s see where this takes us :)

Silverlight 5 Released

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Just read that Silverlight 5 has just been released. Off to the downloads page and some replanning of this weekends activities.

For more information visit the Silverlight home page.

Visual Studio 2010 Released

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

OK, so I’m a day late on this one but then I have had my hands full uninstalling the release candidate and updating to the full version.  A fairly comprehensive overview with links can be found on Scott Gutherie’s blog.

The Express editions can be downloaded from the Microsoft Express Website.