Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cloud9,, Cylon.js - all coming together

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am really happy I discovered Cylon.js and was able to make basic stuff working. This is all cool but I wanted to be able to interact with my robot over the net so I thought it's time to try the API plugins the framework offers. To make things more fun and learn more in the process, I decided to use for deployment: this way I can update the code and test changes without being close to my Raspberry Pi all the time. I know it is possible but never tried to have a git project with multiple remotes; this is the perfect time for me to learn how this works since works by pushing code to the resin remote but I also want to be able to push changes to github. And because I don't want to be tied to my local machine, I decided to use Cloud9 for this project and push the code from there directly to both resin and github - which works great as you'll see below. By the way, Cloud9 is similar with Codenvy but the support for node.js is better (at least from what I know at this time) and having access to the entire VM and the command line makes it awesome; it is like working on a local machine but a lot better since it is in the cloud and accessible via a browser from anywhere.

This post is not really about the code itself: it is a work in progress that can be seen in my repo; instead, this post is about all of the tools coming together with a special nod to

To start I read a lot of the Cylon.js docs and was able to put together a test robot without an actual device (using loopback instead) to which I plan to send commands using one of the API examples on the site; as a side note, the robot code only has generic commands like cmd1, cmd2 and so on instead of having commands like toggle and turnOn because this setup will let me change the actual code a command is executing while a client may never need to change. Going back to the API idea, I decided to start with the simplest API plugin (HTTP) even if there are no examples for it on the site. Unfortunately because I want to access my RasPi from outside my network, I don't know the IP (which will be assigned dynamically by resin) and the HTTP API needs to be configured with an IP; I am pretty sure there are solutions for this but instead of digging more, I decided to try the MQTT API which is tied only to a broker and doesn't need a definite IP. The client code is also very simple at this time but I hope it will evolve as I find some time; in the end though, I plan to issue the API commands via node-red which integrates very easily with MQTT.

It was very easy to start with Cloud9: I connected it to my github account, then created a new node.js workspace, there are plenty of docs on the site. And since Cloud9 gives access to the underlying OS, it was also easy to install libusb-dev (needed for Digispark as mentioned in my previous post) and also install all the node modules I need to start with; here are the commands for reference (last module is only needed for the client and I used the --save option so all the modules are registered automatically in package.json):

sudo apt-get install libusb-dev
npm install cylon cylon-digispark cylon-api-mqtt mqtt --save

Next thing was to add as a secondary remote which was pretty easy:

git remote add resin

Then all works as normal, git add/commit/push. The only special thing I needed to do was figure out how to install libusb-dev in the resin image. After some search on the web, I found out I can add a "preinstall" script to package.json. This was easy but it took me quite a while to figure out how to install this library because the only one found by apt-get was libusb-0.1-4 and not libusb-dev which I needed. After a lot of fiddling, I asked in the forum and the answer was quite simple: add apt-get update before the apt-get libusb-dev, as seen in the current package.json. A new push to the resin remote built the image without errors this time. Great!

The coolest thing is that when I built this image my Pi was offline but as soon as I plugged it in hours later, the new image was updated automatically - I know this is documented but it was so neat to see it working. This is so awesome! The team really thought of everything and I can't say how happy I am to be using their service. The small complaints I had in my original post are really minor, is really a great way to update your Pi code remotely. Again, big thanks to the entire team!

Hopefully now that all pieces are in place, I will find some time to write a robot that actually does something, and command it via MQTT from node-red. Soon...

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