Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Node discovery

In Software on Mar 1, 2010 at 00:01

This post isn’t about GUIs, but about the dynamic behavior behind them.

And about wireless. Let’s take the voltmeter setup I described recently, and make it send its readings over the air – it’s a JeeNode after all, so it has wireless connectivity built in.

I extended the original sketch to send readings out roughly once per second:

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 15.57.03.png

Extending the host side to also work from received packets is trivial:

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 16.49.26.png

The problem now, is that this node will start sending out packets, but JeeMon has no idea what to do with them. One day, automatic node type registration would be great to add, but for now I’ll just use the configuration file to associate nodes with sketches. Here’s an extract of my current “config.txt” file:

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 16.00.30.png

For this example, I added the “3/ { type analogPlug }” line to the “868:5/” entry (i.e. 868 MHz, netgroup 5). And sure enough, JeeMon will now launch the GUI for this node, displaying results coming in over the air in real-time:

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 16.03.00.png

Here’s the relevant part of the log output:

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 16.04.34.png

The fun part is that a timeout mechanism has also been implemented. If no packets come in from the analog node for 5 seconds, the connection is torn down and the window is closed again. The timeout value is sketch-specific and is included in the above configuration info.

In other words: node is ON => window appears, node is OFF => window goes away. Look ma, no hands!

Note: it’s not good UI practice to open and close windows like this. In a more refined setup, these windows would be panels in a larger window, or they could just be grayed-out to signal their disconnected state, for example.

The analog node is surprisingly convenient this way. I can use it anywhere, turn it on, look on the screen, and turn it off when I’m done. It wouldn’t be hard to add another wireless node to show the results on an LCD screen, btw. If this is extended with a way to assign node IDs ad-hoc, and a way for a sketch to identify itself over the air, then a whole family of wireless “instruments” could be created – using nothing but a JeeNode and some plugs.

This illustrates a guiding principle in JeeMon: don’t ask, just do it! – JeeMon tries to be as dynamic as possible, adapting to changes in status and configuration by adjusting everything it does accordingly. In the case of nodes, new ones are discovered and stale ones are weeded out, in real-time. With objects getting created and destroyed automatically. What these objects do, as side-effect, is up to each one of them,

Right now, this dynamism in JeeMon is still fairly messy. There’s too much state in too many places which needs to be managed carefully. But with a bit of luck, this can eventually be simplified further to create a very consistent and predictable behavior.

  1. this would be perfect i think :)

    • Thx – yes, I’ve seen SNAP. It seems to me that the RF12 driver already does most of that … with less byte overhead (up to about 7500 nodes: 30 id’s x 250 groups).

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