Mon, 17 Sep 2012

Cambot’s First Campaign

— SjG @ 10:30 pm

Cambot is a project based on the Teensy development board. Cambot creates an infra-red “trip beam” that triggers a pre-focused Nikon D90.

To create an IR beam and detector that work in direct sunlight, Cambot pulses the IR source every 10ms, and compares detected signal between the on and off states. If it’s greater than a threshold, it’s considered a valid signal. The sensor also has a vary small aperture which is additionally shielded with a filter to reduce the ambient IR. When powered on, Cambot goes into calibration mode, which lights up an LED when it detects a good signal. This is critical for lining up the IR sources and detector — once a good signal is sustained for 3 seconds, Cambot goes into “armed” mode. When armed, breaking the beam will turn off the IR source, half-press the camera’s shutter for 10ms so the camera can compute exposure, and then fires off a burst of pictures before re-arming itself.

While there’s nothing in Cambot that couldn’t have been implemented with, say, 555 timers, counters, and gates, having the ability to drive digital logic with C code makes things much more flexible. When trying to determine the proper threshold values for arming and triggering, the ability to output hex data over the USB connector to a host computer was invaluable.

Here’s Cambot’s first run, when the trip-beam was positioned over a tempting milkweed blossom in the back yard.

If there’s any interest, I’ll post a circuit diagram and source code.

Mon, 6 Aug 2012

Sneaky, sneaky SELinux

— SjG @ 4:38 pm

I was getting a web site up and running on Centos 6.3, and PHP was refusing to talk to the SMTP server on the same box. This, in and of itself, is not unusual. There’s a checklist:

  • Verify SMTP’s running
  • Check that the SMTP server is configured to accept connections from localhost
  • Check the firewall rules
  • Really check the firewall rules by generating an email using telnet localhost 25 or nc localhost 25 from the command line
  • Check that PHP is trying to talk to the SMTP server you think it is
  • Look in the system log for SELinux being a bully and preventing communication

In this case, all of the above checked out cleanly. I was perplexed. But it turns out that, in what is as shocking and surprising as my cat wanting to be fed,
SELinux was indeed the culprit. It just wasn’t logging the problem anywhere.

A quick
setsebool -P httpd_can_network_connect=1

as root solved the problem.

Moral(s) of the Story: The cat is always hungry. SELinux is always fuckin’ shit up.

Sun, 22 Jul 2012

Teensy board example code “usb_debug_only.c” and gcc > 4.6

— SjG @ 9:44 pm

Wow, now there’s a blog title that will have very limited appeal 🙂

I was trying to validate my toolchain worked for building Teensy/ATMEGA32u4 applications. I used the mac port avr-gcc, avr-bintools, avr-libc install, and it failed to build the sample “blinky.c” program. I tried using the recommended AVR CrossPack, just in case it had different versions of the tools, but I got the same results:

samuelg$ make
-------- begin --------
avr-gcc (GCC) 4.7.0
Copyright (C) 2012 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO
Compiling C: usb_debug_only.c
avr-gcc -c -mmcu=atmega32u4 -I. -gdwarf-2 -DF_CPU=16000000UL -Os -funsigned-char -funsigned-bitfields -ffunction-sections -fpack-struct -fshort-enums -Wall -Wstrict-prototypes -Wa,-adhlns=./usb_debug_only.lst -std=gnu99 -MMD -MP -MF .dep/usb_debug_only.o.d usb_debug_only.c -o usb_debug_only.o
usb_debug_only.c:96:24: error: variable ‘device_descriptor’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:113:24: error: variable ‘hid_report_descriptor’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:128:24: error: variable ‘config1_descriptor’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:175:52: error: variable ‘string0’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:180:52: error: variable ‘string1’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:185:52: error: variable ‘string2’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
usb_debug_only.c:198:11: error: variable ‘descriptor_list’ must be const in order to be put into read-only section by means of ‘__attribute__((progmem))’
make: *** [usb_debug_only.o] Error 1

Google didn’t immediately help me with this. Eventually, I actually went ahead and read the error messages, and then tried following directions, i.e., I looked at line 96, and changed

static uint8_t PROGMEM device_descriptor[] = {


static const uint8_t PROGMEM device_descriptor[] = {

That’s all it took to make gcc happy with that line. Repeat the process for all of the error lines, and it compiles and builds correctly.

Evidently, the change to gcc happened between 4.5.3 and 4.6, and, once I knew what to look for, I found numerous discussions of why and wherefore (although these discussions were quite frankly beyond my comprehension). I was, however, happy to find the simple solution detailed above.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012

Building Direct IO library for PHP with Mac Ports

— SjG @ 11:47 am

Say you’re developing on a Mac, and want to test some PHP code that has calls to the direct IO library. You may not actually have a physical serial port, but your unit tests will fail in the wrong way if the library isn’t present. You want the unit tests to fail in the right way!

If you do the expected thing, you’ll find that dio is currently beta:

root# pecl install dio
Failed to download pecl/dio within preferred state "stable", latest release is version 0.0.5, stability "beta", use "channel://" to install
install failed

So you have to try to do it the hard way:

samuel:~ root# pecl install channel://
downloading dio-0.0.5.tgz ...

Easy-peasy, eh? Not so fast!

/private/tmp/pear/temp/dio/dio.c: In function 'zif_dio_fdopen':
/private/tmp/pear/temp/dio/dio.c:138: error: 'EBADFD' undeclared (first use in this function)
/private/tmp/pear/temp/dio/dio.c:138: error: (Each undeclared identifier is reported only once
/private/tmp/pear/temp/dio/dio.c:138: error: for each function it appears in.)
make: *** [dio.lo] Error 1
ERROR: `make' failed

Fortunately, via this bug report, we can see what to do:

# pecl download channel://
# tar xzvf dio-0.0.5.tgz
# cd dio-0.0.5
# phpize
# ./configure

Then edit dio.c, and change line 138 to:

if ((fcntl(fd, F_GETFL, 0) == -1) && (errno == EBADF)) {

Then, finish up:

# make
# make install

Then, create a file called “dio.ini” in /opt/local/var/db/php5/ containing:

Now you can run your tests!

Tue, 12 Jun 2012

Spelling Suggestions from Solr using Yii-solr

— SjG @ 7:48 pm

So a Yii app wants to query Solr using the Yii-solr extension, and wants to provide spelling suggestions for the provided search term. We need the suggestions to be unique, i.e., no repeated suggesttions, and we don’t want negative suggestions, i.e., if the user’s search wanted to exclude “foo”, we don’t want to suggest “foo” as a possible correction. There’s probably a better way to do all this, but I couldn’t figure it out. Here’s what I did instead (as always, forgive the code style/formatting):

I created a subclass of ASolrConnection that switches to using the “spell” Solr servlet:

class SolrSpellingConnection extends ASolrConnection {
public $servlet_type;
public $servlet_path;
public function resetClient()
if (isset($this->servlet_type) && isset($this->servlet_path))

This is instantiated in the app’s config file:

'solr' => array(

Then, my Solr query data-provider looks something like:

$criteria = new ASolrCriteria;
$criteria->query = $queryterm;
$dataprovider = new ASolrDataProvider(ASolrDocument::model(),array('criteria'=>$criteria,'pagination'=>$pages));
return $dataprovider;

In my controller, I add some code to process the suggestions:

public function buildSuggestionList($dataprovider, $originalQueryString)
$suggestions = array();
$terms = array();
if ($dataprovider != null)
$facets = $dataprovider->getQueryFacets();
$resp = $dataprovider->getSolrQueryResponse()->getSolrObject();
if (isset($resp['spellcheck']))
if (isset($resp['spellcheck']['suggestions']))
foreach ($resp['spellcheck']['suggestions'] as $thisSuggest)
if (is_object($thisSuggest) && get_class($thisSuggest) == 'SolrObject')
if (isset($thisSuggest['suggestion']) && is_array($thisSuggest['suggestion']))
foreach($thisSuggest['suggestion'] as $thisTerm)
foreach($terms as $termKey=>$val)
// Solr adds negated or added terms to suggestions if they don't match case
if (!preg_match('/\b'.$termKey.'\b/i',$originalQueryString))
$suggestions[] = CHtml::link($termKey,'/index.php/mysearchcontroller?q='.urlencode($termKey));
return $suggestions;

I can then display the main collection of results using a CWidget. For displaying suggestions, however, a bit of specific code is required:

$suggestions = $this->buildSuggestionList($dataprovider, $originalQueryString);
if (count($suggestions) > 0)
echo '<p>Did you mean '.implode(' or ',$suggestions).'?</p>';

When this is all in place, you should get decent suggestions from Solr. Of course, you will need to have Solr build a spelling index! The easiest way to do that is simply connect to Solr’s web interface and tell it to build the index: