Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cylon.js - an amazing robot and IoT framework

A few days ago on a blog I follow I noticed an article about the release of Cylon.js 1.0. Never before heard about Cylon.js but the article sounded very interesting, mentioning robots and IoT, javascript and also support for 35 platforms so I decided to check it out. I am really happy I did, I have to say from the start that it is an amazing framework with a great design and tons of supported platforms and drivers, to make it really useful for tons of things: not just robots as the name implies but basically anything related to physical computing and the Internet of Things. It makes it incredibly easy to command robots and devices, and the API plugins it already comes with (http, mqtt and make it really easy to connect and interact with these devices online. Really great!

Like I said, there are tons of platforms supported (basically anything I can think of is already supported) but since I happened to have a Digispark with an RGB LED shield handy since I last played with it and node-red, I decided to give it a try. It would have been easier probably to start with an Arduino to avoid a few hiccups but in the end I am very happy I gave it a try because it worked really well.

The Digispark documentation is really good but since I ran in a couple stumbling blocks on my Linux Mint machine (quickly clarified on the IRC chat by a very helpful user) I decided to quickly document the steps here, maybe they'll help somebody some day.

As mentioned in the Ubuntu section of the Digispark docs, first thing to do is install the cylon-digispark npm module. Next commands use "gort" and while this may not be an issue for anybody else, it was for me; I am not familiar with it and apt-get didn't find it so I stumbled a bit with the next step. However, when I asked about it on the chat channel I got a reply right away, saying I need to download it from here. Same user also mentioned that after I install it, I should run

gort digispark set-udev-rules

which was a great pointer because the docs where not very clear about what to run next (this one or upload) so this helped me a lot. Next command in the docs though is

gort digispark upload

which didn't work for me no matter what I tried. In the end I looked at the output of the command and decided to try instead

gort digispark install

and this worked right away. Then cd to the examples dir in the cylon-digispark module and first example I tried, blink, worked like a breeze. After trying most of the examples all I can say is that Cylon.js is indeed awesome and in the end pretty easy with just a couple stopping points, mostly due to my lack of Linux experience, I'm sure.

A big thank you to the Hybrid Group team behind this great project!

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