Enabling I2C on Raspbian

This is a quick guide to enabling I2C support on the Raspberry PI operating system Raspbian. This may work on the other Linux based distros available for the Pi but I have not checked.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install python-smbus

Next we need to enable the kernel drivers for  I2C, by default the drivers are blacklisted so we must un-comment the lines that include “i2c-bcm2708”

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/raspi-blacklist.conf

Then add the kernel module “i2c-dev” to /etc/modules

sudo nano /etc/modules

Then finally reboot the Pi

sudo reboot

Using the I2C Command Line Tools

The i2c-tools package provide a number tools for operating on the I2C bus using the command line. The first is i2cdetect which scans the bus for devices and then prints an address map.

i2cdetect -y 1

The next is i2cset, this is a tool that allows you to set register values on an I2C device. The first argument after the bus is the chip address, then the register address and finally the value to write. All of the arguments are in decimal.

i2cset -y 1 <chip> <addr> <value>

The opposite to the set command is i2cget, this reads a register on an I2C device.

i2cget -y 1 <chip> <addr>

Another tool is i2cdump which reads out all of the registers of a I2C device.

i2cdump -y 1 <chip>

Creating a Virtual Serial Port in Linux

When developing software that uses a serial port for communication with the outside world it is really helpful to be able to use a virtual serial port and write test code to aid in debugging. Well it turns out there is a program that does that in Linux, it’s called socat. Using this utility you can create a pair of virtual serial ports and connect them together. To install it in Ubuntu run the following commands.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install socat

Once you have the socat program installed you just need to run the following command to create a pair of virtual tty devices. When you run the program it will print out which ports you need to use.

socat -d -d PTY,b57600 PTY,link=ttyVS1,b57600

This is an example of the output that socat produces. The two ports it has created are /dev/pts/5 and /dev/pts/6. These can vary from time to time so keep an eye on that.

2013/11/15 07:47:13 socat[2970] N PTY is /dev/pts/5
2013/11/15 07:47:13 socat[2970] N PTY is /dev/pts/6
2013/11/15 07:47:13 socat[2970] N starting data transfer loop with FDs [3,3] and [5,5]

Building RTLSDR and GNURadio

I recently brought a USB DVB-T dongle that is based on the Realtek RTL2832U chip which, with RTLSDR, can be used as a really low cost SDR. This is because it can be setup to return the raw I/Q samples to the host PC.  Once you have the samples they can then be processed, I tend to use GNURadio for the processing.

There is a script available that downloads and installs everything, RTLSDR, GNURadio, and more. I recomend you try it first. I think there is also a new project from the GNURadio people that will automate building and installing. I had had some issues with building gr-audio when I wrote this so I use the manual method of building the code for now.

First of all make sure you have all of the dependencies GNURadio has, see http://gnuradio.org/doc/doxygen/build_guide.html for a list of them.

Once you have made sure you have all of the libraries that GNURadio needs you can build the code.

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ../
make && make test

sudo make install

This whole process can take a while to complete. On my work machine it took nearly 40mins! I had an issue building the gr-audio on my laptop that I still haven’t been able to resolve.

Next I built downloaded and extracted the RTLSDR source code. As with GNURadio we need to create a build directory and run cmake.

mkdir build
cmake ../

Then I ran a few commands to check that the code and the dongle worked correctly. The first tests to make sure samples are being returned at the correct rate and the second will receive and demodulate a WBFM station.

rtl_fm -f 97.1e6 -W -s 1000000 -r 48000 – | aplay -r 48k -f S16_LE

And that’s it! Now I’m going to play around with GRC and sound card I/O.


Contolling the CPU Governor in Linux

Recently I wondered how you control CPU throttling in GNU/Linux systems so after doing a little research this script is what I’ve come up with. It’s based on some others that I’ve come across. All it does is set the CPU throttling mode to “performance” then displays the current CPU frequency setting, which should be full speed.

for CPUGOV in /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_governor
    echo -n performance > $CPUGOV;
# Display Stats about new settings
grep -E '^model name' /proc/cpuinfo | head -n 1
for CPUFREQ in /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_cur_freq
    cat  $CPUFREQ | awk '{ print $1 / 1e6 "GHz"; }'
exit 0

Playing Around with dwm

I use i3 as my main window manager but I like to play around with others so I know what’s out there. One of the window managers that I find very interesting is dwm. It is a very small window manager, about 2k lines of code and you configure it my changing a header file and re-compiling. Definitely not beginner-friendly!

To make playing easier I wanted to run dwm inside i3, that way I don’t have to keep logging in and out. I could have used a VM but the same problem would exist. Below is the shell script I use to do this. I found out how to do this from LinuxExchange.

xhost +local:<USER>
Xephyr -screen 800x600 -reset -terminate -extension GLX 2>/dev/null :1 &
export DISPLAY=:1

For some reason I need to run dwm twice before it works, the first time it says “dwm: cannot open display”. Anyone know why this is happening? Below is a screenshot of dwm running emacs, it is the bottom right panel. The panel to the left is emacs editing the config.h file.

So far I have modified the background colour of the status bar and set the status message. To set the status message all you need to do is set the WM_NAME property of the root window. Most systems have a utility that lets you do this in the command line.

xsetroot -name “Hello World”

You can also use this utility to change the background colour, I did a similar thing for i3.

xsetroot -solid “#222222″



Finding a File Descriptor Leak

My current project is a control system that runs on a small embedded PC running a Linux OS. I had a problem during development where I had to open/close two serial ports alternatively because they shared an interrupt. Doing this suddenly caused the software to crash after running for a few minutes. The problem turned out to be that I was leaking file descriptors!

I wrote a simple shell script that prints the the total file descriptors open on the serial ports. This helped me make sure my bug fix worked correctly.

while [ 1 -eq 1 ]; do
    lsof | awk '''
BEGIN { ttyS0 = ttyS1 = ttyS3 = ttyS4 = 0; }
/\/dev\/ttyS4/ { ttyS4++; }
/\/dev\/ttyS3/ { ttyS3++; }
/\/dev\/ttyS0/ { ttyS0++; }
/\/dev\/ttyS1/ { ttyS1++; }
    print " Descriptor    Counter ";
    print " ttyS4       " ttyS4;
    print " ttyS3       " ttyS3;
    print " ttyS1       " ttyS1;
    print " ttyS0       " ttyS0;
    sleep $TIME

In the end I manually control the serial port using the sys module instead of using pySerial. I still have no idea why pyserial started leaking resources.