RFM12 – kernel patches

Since I got asked several times about the pin mappings and wirings between the rfm12 modules and GPIOs of the devices providing them (in my case the Netgear WGT634U router / the Qi NanoNote) I’d like to try making some things clearer:

In Linux the use of buses is tried to get as abstracted as possible – the idea is that the actual boards (or call it whatever you like as devices, platforms etc) define and expose the capability of buses and its properties.

In our case the rfm12 kernel module requires the availability of an SPI bus – it doesn’t matter how it is implemented (native SPI bus, SPI over GPIOs or any other way of implementation). The client module – the kernel module implementing an driver for the actual rfm12 hardware – simply doesn’t care and doesn’t need to know about that.

That’s the reason why the actual rfm12 code doesn’t contain any GPIO <-> rfm12 hardware mappings – the rfm12 code is just using an existing and otherwise exposed SPI bus.

The actual wiring / mapping and setup of the SPI bus is done within the platform / board / device code, which is located below arch/${ARCH}/${BOARD} – a common place for code like that is arch/${ARCH}/${BOARD}/setup.c.

This project however seemed to have raised some interest and I got asked quite a few times about the board specific changes I made – so here they are now:
the kernel patches which provide SPI buses on both boards, including GPIO mappings.

Since both targets I used the rfm12 module and driver on are running OpenWrt, I created both patches against the Linux vanilla tree having OpenWrt specific kernel patches already applied.

Changes however are small and clear, so they should be easy to understand and adapt.

The wiring I used to get the rfm12 module working on the NanoNote working by the way is the following:

GPIO | PIN on SD port | PIN on module | purpose / description
108  | D12 (1)        | MISO / SDO    | SPI: master input slave output
109  | D13 (2)        | nIRQ          | interrupt
104  | D08 (3)        | (unused)      | (unused)
X    | VDD (4)        | VDD           | power
105  | D09 (5)        | MOSI / SDI    | SPI: master output slave input
X    | VSS (6)        | GND (1+2)     | ground
106  | D10 (7)        | SCK           | SPI: clock
107  | D11 (8)        | nSEL          | SPI: chip select

There needs to be a resistor (10-100kOhm) between pin FSK (if used) of
the rfm12 module and VDD as pullup – however when just using ASK it isn’t needed anyway.

Ben NanoNote able to control radio power sockets

The Ben NanoNote is now able to switch radio controlled power sockets, too!

The rfm12 433MHz module, produced by HopeRF,  is attached to the microSD port of the Ben NanoNote, which pins are exposed via an microSD card dummy adapter.

rfm12 module attached to a microSD dummy

The System-on-a-chip used inside the Ben NanoNote (ingenic JZ47XX) allows us to put the microSD pins into GPIO mode, so we can (as already done for the first device, the Netgear WGT634u router, I connected an rfm12-module to) create and export an SPI bus on top of them to be able communicating with the module.

That way there’s no need of opening the device and/or soldering anything anywhere – the module is attached directly to the microSD dummy which gets simply inserted into microSD slot of the NanoNote.

rfm12 module attached to NanoNote running ncurses UI for switching power sockets

I wrote a basic but fully working ncurses frontend using the rfm12 library listing configured devices waiting for getting switched.

There’s also a ready-to-use XMLRPC daemon available which exposes all configured devices and provides functions for controlling them, so UIs for controlling devices are not limited to run on the same system the rfm12 module is installed on.

ncurses UI for switching configured radio controlled power sockets on the Ben NanoNote

I’ve also written a little GUI in python using the qt4 toolkit, connecting to the master via XML-RPC:

switching radio controlled power via a GUI using pyqt4

Several other frontends are work-in-progress as e.g. a GUI for the Android platform, as well as one based on qt4/QML being able to run e.g. on phones running Meego/Maemo as operating system – both using the XML-RPC interface.

So all major parts of the project are mostly finished now and the API is more or less fix.

The the whole project now consists of (a rough overview):

  1. the kernel module which communicates with the actual hardware (so the rfm12 module) and exposes a character device to userspace
  2. the rfm12 library which
    • connects to the kernel module
    • contains the device type specific data and code to modulate signals which control the actual power sockets
    • provides functions for reading / writing configuration files and controlling / switching devices
  3. applications using the library and its functions for actual controlling of devices, which could be / already are:
    • UI applications linked directly against librfm12 (an ncurses frontend (shown above) is available yet)
    • daemons providing network interfaces (a daemon exporting functionality via XMLRPC is available yet , one doing the same but using JSON-RPC as underlying rpc method is going to be implemented soon)
  4. UIs running on different machines, using these RPC services  (e.g. above pyqt4  frontend; android- and qml-frontends are work-in-progress)

Devices are getting configured via configuration files, describing the product type of the device, a name and the actual code which is used to identify devices of a certain product type group.

The config used by the applications shown on the photos / screenshots above just looks this:

label = “one”
product = “P801B”
code = “1111110000”
label = “two”
product = “2272”
code = “1111110000”
label = “three”
product = “2272”
code = “1111101000”

One of the tasks I’m working on right now, is state sharing. While the list of configured devices and it’s states (on/off) is already shared among all XML-RPC clients (so having switched a unit in one client, others will fetch the changed state next time they poll/refresh), the state is not yet shared between several processes invoking the librfm12.

Issue is: Every process linked against librfm12 creates its own list of devices, including states – so every process has its own copy. Changes done in one process are not shared among others. This could be solved using IPC (System V shared memory, sockets every instance connects to, etc.).

That’s it – feedback and/or participation is highly appreciated!

Ben NanoNote having an rfm12 module attached via microSD-port and several types of radio controlled power sockets

Source Code is still available on github: https://github.com/mirko/rfm12-ASK-for-linux 🙂

RFM12 under Linux and remote controlled power sockets

Currently I’m working on a project communicating and transmitting signals over the air with an 433 MHz radio module called “rfm12“, produced by HopeRF, soldered onto devices capable of running OpenWrt and having at least 3 accessible GPIO’s.

Short story long:

These radio modules are capable of sending / receiving over the ISM frequency band, as e.g. 433 MHz or 868 MHz and just cost about 5 Euros.

RFM12 module

RFM12 module soldered onto eval board

The idea was to get the module working on several embedded boards running Linux, e.g. routers, microcomputers such as the NanoNote, etc. via a generic software interface.

The rfm12 module is controlled via the 4-wire protocol SPI which basically is based on toggling pins between the machine’s logic-levels (high/low) at an individual non-specified clock-speed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Peripheral_Interface_Bus).

Since most of mentioned boards do not own a native SPI bus, but several GPIO’s (most LED’s are connected via GPIO’s on such devices), SPI can be “emulated” by toggling these GPIO’s in a specific way (also called “bitbanging“).

That way there’s no need for any other electronic peripherals such as microcontrollers, semiconductors, resistors, etc. – the chip is directly connected with the board – everything is done in software.

Inspired by the project “ethersex” – a project programming and maintaining a software for Atmel AVR micro-controllers used for home- / building automation – and an approach of soldering the module onto a specific router, communicating via SPI over GPIO’s (however used code is rather old, unmaintained and board-specific)  – the idea came up to write a generic linux kernel module to support the module from within linux directly.

Based on the ideas realised with the ethersex project, I decided to aim my project on being able to switch remote controlled power sockets of which I own several (to each other incompatible) modules.

Because the rfm12 module is (only) capable of doing FM (modulating payload data on top of the frequency), but lot’s of devices are controlled via AM (most remote controlled power sockets included), we emulate AM by simply turning the module on and off in a specific sequence.

Since this operation is timing critical and needs to be atomic, we need to do basic stuff in the kernel space rather than from userspace.

The whole project is going to consist of 4 major parts:

My testing device is an old Netgear WGT634U I had in spare which has a broadcom 47xx SoC working in and 4 unused GPIO’s available.

RFM12 module directly connected to a Netgear WGT634U router

Implemented yet is support for the most common radio controlled sockets sold – the ones which have a 2272/2262 IC built in (including these Chinese versions which get on fire – http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/dyna/rapex/create_rapex.cfm?rx_id=142 #25) and the ones using an P801B chip.

radio controlled power sockets: 2272, P801B, 2262

I also have a set of radio controlled dimmers which protocol I’m going to implement soon…

For now the source code is hosted on github: https://github.com/mirko/rfm12-ASK-for-linux – there’s no project site yet but will be created if the project is growing / interest is getting raised 🙂

UPDATE: In case you’re willing to participate, you’re more than welcome! Just drop me an email… There’s lot’s of stuff I’d like to see implemented, especially usable (G)UI’s… but for sure it’s not just about me: patches, feedback, enhancements and feature-requests (in a certain extent) are highly appreciated!

comments, twitter…

I recognized just a few hours ago, there were comments written, which needed to be approved…

Did so now and tried to respond to them – sorry for the delay and thanks a lot for your input/contributions!

As most people reading my blog do know already anyway and I no longer feel ashamed of using it…

My twitter username: foobarbablub – respectively the twitter page: http://twitter.com/foobarblablub

Polluting the twitter cloud with statements / impressions I don’t think they’re worth a whole blog post… most tweets are not related to technical / computer stuff by the way – used language is mostly English…

trip trip – hurra!

Long time no news…

some things happened which weren’t worth a particular post (or I was just too lazy), so I’ll try to summarize of a few things which happen(ed):

== tech stuff

OpenWrt is still my focus – the qt4 package now got libX11 support (besides DirectFB / linuxfb, both accessed by the QWS-part) – thanks a lot to Michael Büsch at this point!

I’m also very interested in the new features of qt4.7 – especially the declarative UI part of qt4.7 called QML – an approach of designing UIs in a declarative way, means, from the UI’s point of view (more in the mentioned links above).

I’m curious about how/whether it can/will be used/accepted by “native” designers to write fully functional GUI applications.

It’s approach is looking quite promising to me – the language style as well as the implementation – really curious about how it’ll do on embedded devices without graphics acceleration. After some talks to qt developers GL support is not required; a number of animations, effects and transitions were optimized for software processing and should be even smoother than rendered via GL.

First usecase is going to be a picture frame, which has the same SoC built in (Ingenic JZ4740) as the NanoNote and therewith is pretty well supported.

The picture-frame is an ID800WT manufactured by Sungale.

Before somebody is going to think, whether I want to promote/support/recommend this brand/product:

From the board layout’s point of view it is the worst product sold in Germany I’ve ever seen! And it’s too expensive! And the company violates the GPL!

Take a look at the board by yourself:

Sungale pictureframe ID800WT board

Sungale pictureframe ID800WT board

The USB Wifi-stick got hot-glued onto the board, it seems they even unsoldered the USB-socket manually (because it looks really charred all around) and connected it with some random wires to a SMD-chip which in fact is an USB-hub. Around there’s hot-glue all around, partially charred, partially way too much. This is really the worst in Germany sold product ever!

However it serves the purpose – has supported wifi (atheros), an 800×600-display, a touchscreen, USB-host, etc.

After my holidays I’ll try to evaluate and play around with qt4.7-features on that device on top of OpenWrt.

== trips

After almost one week spent in Croatia, Split, participating at the “nothing will happen” conference – which was really amazing and organized by very nice people – I’m going to travel to Bali for one month, leaving in two days.

Actually I wanted to go to Burma (Myanmar), however I mixed them up and booked my flight to Bali, Indonesia… anyway – more beach and sea this time…

This is going to be my third trip to Asia and I’m really looking forward to it – this time for holiday, backpacking without any fixed plans.

Actually I also didn’t want to take a computer with me – still I bought an EeePC 1015. Resolution is disappointing, however price, weight, battery life (about 8 fucking hours!) and site serve the purpose of just having a terminal perfectly.

See you there 🙂

QT/KDE on OpenWrt

As you may know OpenWrt’s collection of ported packages is continuesly growing.

Many graphical stuff gets ported, as well as graphical desktops and toolkits (lxde, xfce, gnome based on GTK2 – e17 based on the enlightenment foundation libraries – etc.).

However there was no approach yet to port the last missing Desktop “KDE” and underlying Toolkit “QT”.

That’s why I went to “Tokamak 4” this weekend, a meeting organized and founded by the KDE foundation, intended to communicate and hack together related to several KDE software projects.

We were about 25 people from all over the world and I really enjoyed the stay and nice, friendly and mixed party – surprisingly I was the only one not using KDE (however not for a special reason – just got used to my current environment) :).

They showed lot’s of interest in the UCI-System (Unified Configuration Interface) OpenWrt is using.
It’s a simple, human-readable, easy-to-parse configuration file format and library OpenWrt uses for services to make it easy writing Administration Interfaces for them (e.g. the webinterface “LuCI”).
We were spinning around about KDE Plasma applets which will list available OpenWrt-devices ready to get administrated right through native applications.

Key deal for me however was to get in touch with people who know the QT/KDE architecture very well, for sure promoting a bit OpenWrt, qi-hardware and it’s concept of open hardware and why I think having QT/KDE support within OpenWrt is opening lot’s of opportunities for both projects.

Since QT is able to use DirectFB (a very powerful but light abstraction for the linux framebuffer) – and therefore does not require a X11 system necessarily – it would be also great for limited hardware such as the Ben NanoNote (32MB of RAM) where I got GTK2-based apps running on top of DirectFB quite some time ago.

I expected to get basic support for QT within OpenWrt done this weekend, however I underestimated the size and complexity of QT – never touched QT-code before.
I realized QT is not just a toolkit as GTK2 is, but a whole framework which tries to abstract as much as possible from the underlying system. It features own backends for multimedia, sound, graphics, even networking – to achieve a stable API and platform compatibility without the need of code modifications, no matter which backends or systems are used below.

In which way the typical issues of such a abstraction-concept – such as getting bloated, having performance issues, being feature-limited as you’re usually just able to support the least common denominator of all supported backends, etc. – I’ve no idea yet – maybe they found a way, will find that out sooner or later.

They also use “qmake” as build-system which is structured quite different than e.g. GNU make, so this got another temporary road blocker as I used qmake never before and had to dig in first.

Back to the port of QT to OpenWrt: I’m having promise to see the first basic QT based application running on a OpenWrt supported device within the next days.

Will let you know 🙂

GTK2 running on top of DirectFB on OpenWrt!

OpenWrt is now able to run applications based on toolkit GTK+ on top of DirectFB!

Using DirectFB avoids having a full blown X11-server (most times Xorg) running, but having the possibiliy of getting nice GTK2 widgets onto your display without altering applications which are using the toolkit.

I was quite happy I got that working, because unfortunately DirectFB-support on part of gtk2 is quite broken in most versions.

Due its incredible slowness of GTK2 on the Openmoko Freerunner (400 MHz ARM, 128 MB RAM) I didn’t expect much of gtk2 on top of DirectFB.

Surprisingly, a simple gtk2 app runs quite well and responsive on my Ben NanoNote by qi-hardware (366 MHz mips, 32 MB RAM).

I was curious and started some benchmarking with the gtk2 performance testing tool “gtkperf”. However I had to patch gtkperf that it’ll be usable with the qvga-resolution on the Ben NanoNote (otherwise parts of the app were hidden and the benchmark will get falsified because not the whole gets redrawed).

Do not compare your results of an original version of gtkperf with mine – varieties may be caused due to mentioned changes! (Patch: http://nanl.de/files/patches/gtkperf/gtkperf-adjust-layout.patch)

What got tested?

gtkperf using GTK2 on:

  1. Openmoko Freerunner with DirectFB
  2. Openmoko Freerunner with Xorg and glamo driver
  3. Openmoko Freerunner with Xorg and fbdev driver
  4. qi-hardware Ben NanoNote with DirectFB
  5. qi-hardware Ben NanoNote with Xorg and fbdev driver (not yet done)
1 2
GtkEntry – time: 0.91
GtkComboBox – time: 16.01
GtkComboBoxEntry – time: 10.18
GtkSpinButton – time: 2.37
GtkProgressBar – time: 1.04
GtkToggleButton – time: 2.54
GtkCheckButton – time: 1.72
GtkRadioButton – time: 4.16
GtkTextView – Add text – time: 9.47
GtkEntry – time: 2.08
GtkComboBox – time: 30.40
GtkComboBoxEntry – time: 21.65
GtkSpinButton – time: 3.54
GtkProgressBar – time: 2.55
GtkToggleButton – time: 4.66
GtkCheckButton – time: 2.71
GtkRadioButton – time: 6.64
GtkTextView – Add text – time: 26.06
3 4
GtkEntry – time: 1.73
GtkComboBox – time: 22.70
GtkComboBoxEntry – time: 16.52
GtkSpinButton – time: 2.60
GtkProgressBar – time: 1.93
GtkToggleButton – time: 3.60
GtkCheckButton – time: 2.28
GtkRadioButton – time: 5.73
GtkTextView – Add text – time: 18.81
GtkEntry – time: 1.07
GtkComboBox – time: 18.61
GtkComboBoxEntry – time: 10.98
GtkSpinButton – time: 2.81
GtkProgressBar – time: 1.51
GtkToggleButton – time: 4.31
GtkCheckButton – time: 2.60
GtkRadioButton – time: 7.42
GtkTextView – Add text – time: 12.48


The results are really interesting!

On the Openmoko GTA02 (Freerunner) GTK on DirectFB seems to be almost twice as fast as GTK on top of Xorg!

Even though the Hardware of the Ben NanoNote is quite limited compared to the GTA02, the benchmark looks quite promising and GTK2-applications seem to be – unline I expected – really usable on that kind of limited hardware.

What’s really confusing to me: running gtkperf on top of the accelerated Xorg-glamo driver for the glamo graphics chip is slower than using the not accelerated Xorg-fbdev driver. However this myth should not be part of this article; I’ll get in touch with Lars – the author of Xorg-glamo – regarding this issue.

UPDATE: Lars told me this is related to the glamo-overhead. Data transferred to the framebuffer via fbdev only consists of pure pixmap-data. Data transferred via the glamo-driver consists of data AND special glamo-related commands (telling the chip what to accelerate) which results in more data to be transferred. Normally this shouldn’t cause such a discrepancy, however the glamo memory-onnection is a bottleneck and only capable of tansferring around 4 MB / second which slows down unacceleraed content. The glamo chip provides the interface for the SD-card, so the whole bus is shared by graphics- and SD-carc-traffic. That’s the reason why e.g. playing videos (unaccelerated) stored on SD-card is that damn slow!

Further tests, benchmarks, evaluation coming soon…


gtkperf: 0.40 (with patch: http://nanl.de/files/patches/gtkperf/gtkperf-adjust-layout.patch)
DirectFB: 1.4
GTK+: 2.17.0
cairo: 1.8.6
freetype: 2.3.9
glib: 2.22.2
atk: 1.22.0
pixman: 0.14.0
Xorg X11 server: X11R7.4-1.5.1
xorg-driver-glamo: b45d78c927715b8814404fc2a34ae0aa1d003c29

OpenWrt on the Ben NanoNote!

The Ben NanoNote I got a few weeks ago by qi-hardware is now running OpenWrt!

The patch, published by the manufacturer ingenic itself, which provides linux support for their SoC’s (System-on-a-Chip’s), is roughly cleaned up, unneeded stuff is cleared out and it’s levelled up to (originally the patch refers to and – running!

That’s the good news…

…now the bad ones:

What’s next?

I was in Hamburg this weekend meeting Lars for a hack-session on the Ben NanoNote. He’s also part of the OpenWrt-team and now another proud owner of such a device 🙂

Besides his ongoing contributions to the Openmoko-project, hopefully he will also help us* spending some of his time on the NanoNote – thank’s a lot at this point for your great work and efforts!

*i’m happy to announce that last week I “became an official developer of the [qi-]core team” with “focus
on the OpenWrt integration” – let’s see what will happen 🙂


qi-hardware is a startup (announced 20th of July on linux.com) which set itself the target of manufacturing and deploying  hardware under the idea of “Open Source Hardware” (for details you might want to read the mentioned article on linux.com or on qi-hardware.com itself).

This idea might call some analogies to Openmoko and – indeed – not just the ideas, also the people are almost the same 🙂

Same idea? Same targets? Same people? Let’s face it: same mistakes? At least qi is saying: “no!” as described in their post “Lessons learned

Based on the saying “back to the roots” aka “the more basics the fewer problems” they announced their first device:

the “Ben NanoNote”, which (at least for now) comes with no RF-hardware at all.

Nevertheless the project looks very interesting and promising – even more when I was told that OpenWrt is going to be used as default operating system.

Shortly after I was asked whether I’m interested in helping getting OpenWrt running on it – I agreed, got one and am now hacking on it 🙂

Let’s see how things will do…