Serial

Evan Boldt's picture

Tkinter with Serial

Introduction

A short Python script to display text from serial (for example, an Arduino) to a TkInter window widget while overcoming the issue of pySerials default blocking behaviorTo use Python as a graphical interface for an Arduino powered robot, programmatically read the USB with the pySerial library. However, waiting for input from pySerial's Serial object is blocking, which means that it will prevent your GUI from being responsive. The process cannot update buttons or react to input because it is busy waiting for the serial to say something.

The first key is to use the root.after(milliseconds) method to run a non-blocking version of read in the tkinter main loop. Keep in mind that when TkInter gets to the root.mainloop() method, it is running its own while loop. It needs the things in there to run every now and then in order to make the interface respond to interactions. If you are running your own infinite loop anywhere in the code, the GUI will freeze up. Alternatively, you could write your own infinite loop, and call root.update() yourself occasionally. Both methods achieve basically the same goal of updating the GUI.

However, the real issue is making sure that reading from serial is non-blocking. Normally, the Serial.read() and Serial.readline() will hold up the whole program until it has enough information to give. For example, a Serial.readline() won't print anything until there is a whole line to return, which in some cases might be never! Even using the after() and update() methods will still not allow the UI to be updated in this case, since the function never ends. This problem can be avoided with the timeout=0 option when enitializing the Serial object, which will cause it to return nothing unless something is already waiting in the Serial object's buffer.

Evan Boldt's picture

Reading Numbers From Serial

Introduction

Reading numbers from serial on an Arduino is needed surprisingly commonly. Exactly what is happening might be kind of hard to figure out.

Serial

Serial communication is digital, which means all data is transmitted in 1's and 0's. Typically, serial communication is done using ASCII letters. This means that, to send a number to the Arduino, the data sent is not the binary version of the number in base 2 (as an integer), but instead a sequence of characters for each digit in base 10 (which is human-readable). It is not an efficient use of bandwidth, but bandwidth is not usually a problem with Arduinos connect by USB.

Evan Boldt's picture

Python Web UI with Tornado

Introduction

So, you want a GUI for your robot. Sure, you could make a nice GUI in Python with Tkinter, but there are some really good reasons to try it as a website instead:

  • A web GUI can be accessed from almost any location
  • A well-designed web GUI can be used on almost any device like a tablet or a phone
  • HTML, CSS, and Javascript are well documented, powerful, and very flexible
  • HTML can be easily made to look very nice

There are some drawbacks to implementing your GUI as a website though:

  • It is only able to start communication one-way (browser to server, server responds)
    • Great for buttons and other input
    • Requres continuous polling or a commet to get data to be pushed to the browser
  • It adds another "layer" of complexity to your code
    • Several different languages (C++ on Arduino, Python Server, and HTML+CSS+Javascript in browser)
    • The server has to relay information from the browser to the robot

Jenn Case's picture

Arduino to Arduino Serial Communication

Introduction

It is possible to chain Arduinos together in such a way as to get communication between the two. Having Arduino-Arduino communication can be useful for many projects, such as having one Arduino to run motors and having another sense the surroundings and then relay commands to the other Arduino. This can be done in several methods, using I2C and Serial, to list a few.

This tutorial will focus on Arduino-Arduino communication through the serial ports (RX and TX).

Topics: 
Evan Boldt's picture

Serial Commands

Introduction

Serial communication through USB can be used to communicate between a host computer (like a laptop, or Raspberry Pi), and an Arduino. Doing so allows:
  • Use of the faster hardware of the host computer for calculations
  • Synchronization of multiple Arduinos
  • Use of other information provided by the host computer, like internet connections or larger data files
  • Creation of a graphical interface using the host's display or web server
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