Micro:bits and Node-Red

BBC Micro Bit, (micro:bit) is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK. The device is half the size of a credit card and has an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, accelerometer and magnetometer sensors, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a display consisting of 25 LEDs, and two programmable button.

Depending on where you purchase it the price ranges between $15-$20. So this is a very attractive module for the beginning programmer.

The micro:bit module has 2 buttons to interface to it and a small 5×5 LED screen. This is good for small tests but its a little limiting.

For the most part micro:bit is a standalone unit so in this blog I wanted to show how to put micro:bits information on to a Node-Red web dashboard that could be viewed from a smart phone, tablet or PC.


Micro:bits Setup

The micro:bits has a USB connection that can be used for communications to PCs or Raspberry Pi’s. For my setup I used a Raspberry Pi Zero W, with a microUSB-to-USB adapter to connect into the micro:bit.


The micro:bit can be programmed via a nice Web Interface, for details see: https://microbit.org/guide/quick/. For this application I programmed with blocks.

My logic had the temperature and light sensor values written out ever 10 seconds, in the format of: T=xxx, L=xxx, I used a comma separator between the data pieces. Button presses were sent as either A=1, or B=1, .



Node-Red Setup

Node-Red is pre-install on the Raspberry Pi image, if you want to use a PC instead see the Node-Red installation documentation.

A Node-Red has a Serial port component (https://flows.nodered.org/node/node-red-node-serialport) that can be loaded manually or via the Palette Manager.

The first step is to insert a serial input node and define the serial interface. Double-click on the serial input node and edit the serial connection. The interface will vary with your setup but node-red will show a list of possible USB ports. The default baud rate of the micro:bits USB port is 115200. I used a timeout of 200ms to get the messages, but you could also look for a terminating character (the comma “,” could be used).


The logic used 4 Javascript function nodes to parse the micro:bit message


“Get Temp Value” Function:

// Pull out the temperature
var themsg = msg.payload;

if (themsg.indexOf("T=") > -1) {

var msgitems = themsg.split(",");

var temp = msgitems[0];
temp = temp.substring(2,4)
msg.payload = temp;
return msg;

“Get Light Value” Function:

// Pull out the Light Sensor Value
var themsg = msg.payload;</pre>
if (themsg.indexOf("T=") &gt; -1) { var msgitems = themsg.split(","); var light = msgitems[1]; light = light.substring(2,5) msg.payload = light; return msg; } 

“Check Button A” Function:

// If the message is Button A pressed
// "A=1,"
if (msg.payload == "A=1,") {
msg.payload =  1;
return msg;

“Check Button B” Function:

// If the message is Button B pressed
// "B=1,"
if (msg.payload == "B=1,") {
msg.payload =  1;
return msg;

Chart nodes are used to show the results. (Note: you’ll need to create a dashboard name).

For the button presses a 1-0 transition is needed after a button press, otherwise the chart will always show a value of 1. The 0-1 transition is done using a trigger node.

The final web dashboard is available at: http://your_node_red_ip:1880/UI.


Final Comments

The next step will be to add the ability to have Node-Red write values to the micro:bit. This would be done with the Node-Red serial output node. Micro:bit’s have a serial read function that would then process the command.

InfluxDB with Node-Red

There are a lot of excellent databases out there. Almost all databases can support time tagged information and if you have regularly sampled data everything works well. However if you have irregularly sampled data things can get a little more challenging.

InfluxDB is an open-source time series database (TSDB). It is written in Go and optimized for fast, high-availability storage and retrieval of time series data in fields such as operations monitoring, application metrics, Internet of Things sensor data, and real-time analytics.

InfluxDB has a number of great features:

  • when data is added, a time stamp is automatically added if it’s already incluced.
  • InfluxDB manages aggregation of times (i.e. means over the hour)
  • Open Source Web Trending packages like Grafana and Chronograf will talk directly to InfluxDB
  • an SQL language with a time based syntax

In this blog I wanted to document my notes on:

  • How to add sampled data from Node-Red to Influx
  • How to view Influx historical data in a Node-Red chart

Why Use Node-Red with Influx

With the great Web trending interfaces like Grafana and Chronograf why use Node-Red?

  • I really like Grafana, but I didn’t find it to be 100% mobile friendly, whereas Node-Red is designed for mobile use.
  • if you’re inputting data or doing logic in Node-Red it makes sense to keep the interface logic there also.

The downside of using Node-Red is that you will have to make your own charting controls.

Getting Started with InfluxDB

The official installation document  lists the various options based on your OS. For a simple Raspberry Pi or Ubuntu installation I used:

sudo apt-get install influxdb

The influxdb configuration/setup is modified by:

sudo nano /etc/influxdb/influxdb.conf

After configuration changes Influx can be restarted by:

sudo service influx restart

The Influx command line  interface (CLI) is useful for getting started and checking queries. It is started by entering: influx (Note: it might be slow to initially come up).

Below I’ve opened the influx CLI and created a new database called nrdb.

~$ influx
Connected to http://localhost:8086 version 1.7.9
InfluxDB shell version: 1.7.9
> create database nrdb
> show databases
name: databases

Node-Red and Influx

Node-Red is pre-installed on Raspberry Pi. If you need to install Node-Red on a Window, MacOS or Linux node see the installation instructions.

For my testing I used the following definitions:

  1. nrdb – the InfluxDB database
  2. mytemps – the measurement variable for my temperatures
  3. Burlington, Hamilton – two locations for the temperatures
  4. temperatures – the actual temperatures

Two Node-Red libraries were installed:

These libraries can either be installed using npm or within Node-Red using the “Manage Pallet” option.


For this project I create two sets of logic. The first set used the BigTimer to write a new simulated input every minute (via the middle output pin of BigTimer), or manual push in a value. The second part of the logic used a selected time to query the data and present it to a chart and table.


The first step is to drop a InfluxDB outpt and then configure the Influx server, table and measurements.


A Javascript function node (“Simulate an Input”) is used to format the fields and values. The first passed item is the key item, and the second parameter is a tagged value. Note: there are a number of different ways to use this node.


The Big Timer middle output will send a value out every minute. I added an Inject Node (“Force Test”) so I could see more values.

To test that things are running, the influx cli can be used:

> use nrdb
Using database nrdb
> show measurements
name: measurements
> select * from mytemps
name: mytemps
time location temperature
---- -------- -----------
1580584703785817412 Burlington 17
1580584706364427345 Burlington 5
1580584761862704310 Burlington 8

Show Influx Data in a Node-Red Dashboard

For a simple Dashboard I wanted to use a dropdown node (as a time selector), a chart and a table.

The drop down node has a selection of different times.


The payload from the dropdown node would be something like: 1m, 5m, 15m. A Javascript function node (“New Time Scale”) used this payload and created an InfluxDB query.


This syntax can be tested in the influx cli:

> select time,temperature from mytemps where location='Burlington' and time > now() - 5m
name: mytemps
time temperature
---- -----------
1580588829859372644 12
1580588889896729245 6
1580588949931621672 17
1580589009972333308 8
1580589069980649689 12

The InfluxDB input node only has the InfluxDB server information. The query is passed in from the Javascript function node (“New Time Scale”) .

A Javascript function node (“Javascript function node (“Format Influx Results”) is used to put the msg.payload into a format that the chart node can use.

// Format the InfluxDB results to match the charts JSON format

var series = ["temp DegC"];
var labels = ["Data Values"];
var data = "[[";
var thetime;

for (var i=0; i < msg.payload.length; i++) {
    thetime = Number(msg.payload[i].time); // Some manipulation of the time may be required
    data += '{ "x":' + thetime + ', "y":' + msg.payload[i].temperature + '}';
    if (i < (msg.payload.length - 1)) {
        data += ","
    } else {
        data += "]]"
var jsondata = JSON.parse(data);
msg.payload = [{"series": series, "data": jsondata, "labels": labels}];
msg.playload = data;
return msg;

Once all the logic has been updated, click on the Deploy button. The Node-Red dashboard can be accessed at: http://node-red_ip:1880/ui. Below is an example:


Final Comments

This project was not 100% there are still some cleanup items to do, such as:

  • use real I/O
  • make the times a little cleaner in the table
  • a better time selections for the chart.

Also to better explain things I only used 1 location but multiple data points could be inserted, queried and charted.

Raspberry Pi with Lua LÖVE Graphics

In a couple previous blogs I looked at using Lua to read/write with Raspberry GPIO pin, and creating simple text based (ncurses) Lua interfaces.

The Lua LÖVE Graphic engine is very popular for 2D gaming.

In this blog I wanted to document how I used Lua LÖVE Graphics with Raspberry Pi data, specifically I’ll look at:

  • Writing Text with different colours and Font sizes
  • Use a timer to periodically update the screen with Raspberry Pi temperatures
  • User keys to toggle Pi GPIO
  • Use button images to toggle logic

Getting Started with LÖVE Graphics

Rather than LÖVE being a graphic library it’s a replacement Lua interpreter, so you run your code directly through LÖVE. To install LÖVE:

sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get install love

You can check that love is running by:

pi@raspberrypi:~/ $ love --version
LOVE 11.1 (Mysterious Mysteries)

There are a number of IDE’s that are available, however any text editor will work. I used leafpad on the Pi.

First Example with Text and Keypresses

The LÖVE expects a project to be in it’s own directory with a main.lua file.

My first example was to launch a window with some text and then catch keystrokes. A “q” key will exit the program.

-- My First App --

platform = {}
love.window.setTitle("Raspberry Pi Data")

function love.draw()
-- draw some text and a rectangle --
  love.graphics.setColor(1,0,0) -- rgb, use red
  love.graphics.print("Hit q to exit", 200, 200) 


function love.keypressed( key )
   if key == "q" then
      	print( "Quiting Now")

This program is call main.lua . An example of this program running with output:

pi@raspberrypi:~/lua1 $ love ./
Quiting Now


Add a Timer Loop

There are a number of timer loop options. I found that some of these options however would take a lot of background CPU resources. One solution that worked well for me was to add a cron function from : https://github.com/kikito/cron.lua

I downloaded this code (cron.lua) and put it into my working project directory.

For this example I wanted to show the Raspberry Pi’s  GPU temperatures. For the GPU temperature, a Pi command line utility exists:

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ /opt/vc/bin/vcgencmd measure_temp

This code example includes:

  • A reference to a cron file, and a timer variable is setup with a getGPU function
  • a shell to the command line : /opt/vc/bin/vcgencmd measure_temp , and then the output was read into a variable (GPU).
  • the love.draw function is refreshed with the love.update function.
-- Dynamically show the GPU temperature

platform = {}
love.window.setTitle("Raspberry Pi Data")

local cron = require 'cron'  -- this file is in the working dir

local msg = 0
local timer = cron.every(5, function() msg = getGPU()  end)

function getGPU() -- read the command line output
	f = assert (io.popen ("/opt/vc/bin/vcgencmd measure_temp"))
	for line in f:lines() do
	GPU = line
	return GPU 

function love.update(dt)

function love.draw()	
	love.graphics.print(msg, 200, 200)

	love.graphics.print("Hit q to quit", 10, 10)	

function love.keypressed( key )
   	if key == "q" then
		print( "Q - quit has been pressed!")

The output will look something like:


After I got the basic timer function working my next step will be to look at creating dynamic bars for Pi Sensors.


GPIO Reads and Writes

There are couple of choices for doing Lua connections to GPIO pins.

The lua-periphery library works well but it required sudo rights. For a command line program this isn’t a problem but by default the Raspberry Pi will not allow X-windows to run under super-user. A way to run X-Windows with sudo is:

sudo XAUTHORITY=$HOME/.Xauthority love /mypath_dir

Perhaps a simpler approach is to run the gpio command line program (this is pre-install on the PI’s). Below is some code that uses keystrokes to toggle a GPIO pin.

-- Toggle GPIO pins with keystrokes
function love.draw()
	love.graphics.print("Keys: 0 = off, 1 = on, q to quit", 10, 10)	
	f = assert (io.popen ("gpio read 7"))
	for line in f:lines() do
		pin7 = line
	love.graphics.print("Pin 7 : " .. pin7, 200, 200)


function love.keypressed( key )
	if key == "0" then
		os.execute("gpio write 7 0")
	if key == "1" then
		os.execute("gpio write 7 1")
   	if key == "q" then
		print( "Q - quit has been pressed!")

The output will be:


Buttons Toggles

Button images can be defined in the load function, then in the draw function they can be drawn based on some logic. Below is a example with two buttons (red/green), the mousepressed function will catch mouse clicks on the x-y sizing of the image. Then some logic was added to toggle between the two red/green buttons and text feedback.

-- Love 2 Button Example --

platform = {}
love.window.setTitle("Raspberry Pi Data")

local buttoncolor = "red"
function love.load()

	red = love.graphics.newImage("red.png")
	green = love.graphics.newImage("greenbutton.jpeg")
function love.update(dt)

function love.draw()
	love.graphics.setBackgroundColor( 1,1, 1)
	buttonx = 10
	buttony = 10
	if buttoncolor == "red" then
		r = 1
		g = 0
		r = 0
		g = 1
	love.graphics.print("Click button\n 'q' to quit", 350, 20)	
	love.graphics.print("Button State: " .. buttoncolor, 10, 350)

function love.mousepressed(mx, my, button)
   if button == 1
   and mx >= buttonx and mx < buttonx + red:getWidth()
   and my >= buttony and my < buttony + red:getHeight() then
		if buttoncolor == "red" then
			buttoncolor = "green"
			buttoncolor = "red"

function love.keypressed( key )
   if key == "q" then
     print( "q - quit has been pressed!")

The button image and the “Button State” text will toggle each time the button is clicked.


Final Comments

I found that I was able to do all the things that I needed for my Raspberry Pi project, however I struggled with the documentation and examples.

For me this was a chance to learn Love, but I would pick Python over Lua/Love for Raspberry Pi projects. I found that Python with Tkinter was considerably faster with a lot more examples.

Pi Rover using a Bottle Web Framework

There are a lot of Python web library choices, with each of the libraries offering different features and functions.

For simple Raspberry Pi Web application I was really impressed by the Python Bottle library. In this blog I’d like to document a Raspberry Pi rover project that I did using bottle.

Getting Started

To install the Python bottle library:

pip install bottle

There are some good tutorials for bottle. Probably the most important item is defining a decorator for a URL, and then linking the decorator to a function:

@route('/') # define a decorator for the start page
def my_homefuntion() # call a function for the start page
   return static_file("startpage.htm", root='') # call the start page

@route('/otherpage') # define a decorator for another page 
def my_otherpage_function() # call a function for the start page
   # do some stuff...

For the RaspPi rover I used a low cost car chassis (~$15).

It is not recommended to connect motors directly to Rasp Pi pin, for a few reasons:

  • larger motors require more power that a Pi GPIO pin can supply
  • power surges on motors can damage the Pi hardware
  • forward/backward motor directions require extra hardware
  • GPIO pins will only do ON/OFF, no variable speed settings.

There are a number of Raspberry Pi motor shield that can be used. For this project I used the Pimoroni Explorerhat Pro ($23). The Explorerhat has an excellent Python library that allows you to easily control the motor’s direction and speed.

Web Page

The goal for the web page (bottle1.htm) was to have 5 buttons for the controls and use AJAX to send the action request and then return the action code and display it on the page. The returned action would appear above the buttons ( in the lastcmd  paragraph tag).


For this example the button push was sent in the header as a GET request. So a forward button push would be a myaction: forward header item. In previous projects I’ve used POST request with parameters, however I found that header items can make things a little simpler.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Python Bottle Rover</title> 
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
<link rel="icon" href="data:,"> 
  html{font-family: Helvetica; display:inline-block; margin: 0px auto; text-align: center;}
  h1{color: #0F3376; padding: 2vh;}p{font-size: 1.5rem;}
  .button{display: inline-block; background-color: #4286f4; 
  border-radius: 4px; color: white; font-size: 30px; width:100%; height: 75px}
  .button2{background-color: green ;width:31%}
  .stop{background-color: red; width:33%}
function sendcmd(thecmd) {
  // send the action as a header item 
  var xhttp = new XMLHttpRequest();
  xhttp.open("GET","/action" , true);
  xhttp.setRequestHeader("myaction", thecmd);
  xhttp.onreadystatechange = function() {
	// Get the response and put on it the screen
	if (this.readyState == 4 ) {	
		document.getElementById("lastcmd").innerHTML = "Last Command:<b>" +xhttp.responseText;
<h2>Python Bottle Rover</h2> 
<p id='lastcmd'></p>
<button onclick="sendcmd('forward')" class="button">FORWARD</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('left')" class="button button2">LEFT</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('stop')" class="button stop">STOP</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('right')" class="button button2" >RIGHT</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('backward')" class="button button">BACKWARD</button>


Bottle Rover App

For the rover app, there are two URL endpoints. The root (/) which would display the bottle1.htm page, and an action (/action) URL which would only be called from AJAX script when a button was pushed.

For this project the Raspberry Pi ip address was hardcoded into the code, for future projects dynamically getting the ip would be recommend. Also a web port of 8000 was used so as to not conflict with a dedicated web server (like Apache) that could be running on the Pi.

# Bottle2rover.py - web control for a RaspPi rover<span id="mce_SELREST_start" style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0;"></span>
from bottle import route, run, static_file, request

# Define RaspPi I/O pins
import explorerhat

# Send Action to Control Rover
def rover(action):
  if action == "forward":
  if action == "left":
  if action == "right":
  if action == "stop":
  if action == "backward":

# use decorators to link the function to a url
def server_static():
  return static_file("bottle1.htm", root='')
# Process an AJAX GET request, pass the action to the rocket launcher code
def get_action():
  action = request.headers.get('myaction')
  print("Requested action: " + action)
  return request.headers.get('myaction')

# Adjust to your required IP and port number
run(host = '', port=8000, debug=False)

Final Comments

I was happily surprised how easy it was to get a Python bottle web app running. The bottle documentation was straightforward and I found that the code was quite lean.

Pan-Tilt-Shoot Webcam

PTZ or Pan-tilt-zoom cameras are off the shelf and reasonably low cost. This project is a home made pan-tilt camera that shoots nerf rockets.

I got the rocket launcher in a bargain bin, but they can be found online starting around $15.

For this project there were 3 main steps:

  • getting the Python code talking to the rocket launcher
  • loading some USB webcam software
  • loading a Python web framework (bottle).

The hardware could be a PC (preferably running Linux) or a Raspberry Pi. On this project I used a Pi clone (an Orange Pi Lite). The faster your hardware the better the streaming video performance that you’ll get.


Getting the Rocket Launcher Working

There are a number of Python libraries that need to loaded:

pip install setuptools
pip install usb

To control the rocket launcher Python can connect to the USB device using the vendor id (0x2123) and product id (0x1010). Rocket launcher commands are issued as USB transfer codes.

A command line test program (rocket1.py) would be:

 import usb  
 import sys  
 import time  
 device = usb.core.find(idVendor=0x2123, idProduct=0x1010)  
 # On Linux we need to detach usb HID first  
 # except Exception, e:  
 except Exception:  
   pass # already unregistered  
 endpoint = device[0][(0,0)][0]  
 down = 1 # down  
 up = 2 # up  
 left = 4 # rotate left  
 right = 8 # rotate right  
 fire = 16 # fire  
 stop = 32 # stop  
 #device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0x0200, 0, [signal])  
 while True:  
   print('r = right, l = left, u = up, d = down, f = fire ')  
   key = raw_input ('enter key:')  
   if (key == 'l'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, left, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (key == 'u'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, up, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (key == 'r'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, right, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (key == 'd'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, down, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (key == 'f'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, fire, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, stop, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  

By default the USB port requires superuser rights, so run the program using sudo:

$ sudo python rocket1.py
r = right, l = left, u = up, d = down, f = fire
enter key:r
r = right, l = left, u = up, d = down, f = fire
enter key:

Getting the Web Cam working

A standard USB Web Cam can be connected to a Linux  PC or Raspberry Pi using the  motion package. Motion is super easy to setup and it’s got lots of added features if you want to look at enhancing things later. To install motion:

sudo apt-get install motion

Once you have motion installed you’ll need to tweek some of it’s parameters by:

sudo nano /etc/motion/motion.conf

The /etc/motion/motion.conf file contains a lot of  parameters, some of the more important ones are:

# Image width (pixels). Valid range: Camera dependent, default: 352
width 800

# Image height (pixels). Valid range: Camera dependent, default: 288
height 600

# Maximum number of frames to be captured per second.
framerate 1

# Maximum framerate for stream streams (default: 1)
stream_maxrate 1

# Restrict stream connections to localhost only (default: on)
stream_localhost off

The speed of your hardware and network will determine how many frames per second you can use.

To run the video server enter:

sudo motion &

The motion package has a built in web server that is accessed by: http://your_ip:8081


Getting the Bottle Web Server Running

There are a lot of web programming options that are available. In my case I wanted to run the project as a simple standalone app on an Orange Pi (a Raspberry Pi clone). To install bottle:

sudo apt-get install python-bottle

The Pan-Tilt-Shoot Web page (ptscam.html) was designed with 5 buttons and the Web Cam video below. When a button is clicked a javascript function called sendcmd passes a command as a header item in a AJAX request.  The motion web server camweb video is included using the html img tag, with the source being the web link.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Pan-Tilt-Shoot Webcam</title> 
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
<link rel="icon" href="data:,"> 
  html{font-family: Helvetica; display:inline-block; margin: 0px auto; text-align: center;}
  h1{color: #0F3376; padding: 2vh;}p{font-size: 1.5rem;}
  .button{display: inline-block; background-color: #4286f4; border: none; 
  border-radius: 4px; color: white; text-decoration: none; font-size: 30px; width:100%}
  .button2{background-color: green ;width:31%}
  .button3{background-color: red; width:33%}
function sendcmd(thecmd) {
  // send the action as a header item 
  var xhttp = new XMLHttpRequest();
  xhttp.open("GET","/action" , true);
  xhttp.setRequestHeader("myaction", thecmd);
<h2>Pan-Tilt-Shoot Webcam</h2> 
<button onclick="sendcmd('up')" class="button">UP</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('left')" class="button button2">LEFT</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('fire')" class="button button3">FIRE</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('right')" class="button button2" >RIGHT</button>
<button onclick="sendcmd('down')" class="button button">DOWN</button>
<p><img src=''></p>

The Python web server application sends the web page at startup, and then it processes AJAX requests and passed the requested action (as a header item) to the rocket launcher USB device.

 # Python Bottle   
 import os, socket  
 from bottle import route, run, static_file, request  
 import usb  
 import sys  
 import time  
 # Send an action to the rocket launcher  
 def do_action(theaction):  
   print("Action : " + theaction)  
   down = 1 # down  
   up = 2 # up  
   left = 4 # rotate left  
   right = 8 # rotate right  
   fire = 16 # fire  
   stop = 32 # stop  
   if (theaction == 'left'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, left, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (theaction == 'up'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, up, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (theaction == 'right'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, right, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (theaction == 'down'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, down, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   if (theaction == 'fire'):  
     device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, fire, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  
   device.ctrl_transfer(0x21, 0x09, 0, 0, [0x02, stop, 0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00,0x00])  

# Send the starting page   
 def server_static():  
   return static_file("ptscam.html", root='')  
# Process an AJAX GET request, pass the action to the rocket launcher code   
 def get_action():  
   print("Requested action: " + request.headers.get('myaction'))  
 # On Linux we need to detach usb HID first  
 device = usb.core.find(idVendor=0x2123, idProduct=0x1010)  
 except Exception:  
   pass # already unregistered  
 # Start the bottle web server  
 run(host="" , port=8000, debug=False)  

Because of the USB connection the Python application need to be run under sudo. When the program is running some diagnostics will show connections and actions.

$ sudo python ptscam.py
Bottle v0.12.13 server starting up (using WSGIRefServer())...
Listening on
Hit Ctrl-C to quit. - - [23/Nov/2019 19:26:24] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 1251 - - [23/Nov/2019 19:26:24] "GET /:8081 HTTP/1.1" 404 736 - - [23/Nov/2019 19:26:53] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 1271
Requested action: up
Action : up

The web page is accessed by : http://your_ip:8000


Final Comments

The next step will be to mount the rocket launcher with the USB web cam on a little rover.

Control Rasp Pi’s with Simple Lua GUIs

I was struggling to find a simple Lua graphic library. Love2D appears to be well regarded, but I wanted to find something that I could get up and running fast.

An old 1980’s graphic technology called curses has been available for years in most languages and I was familiar with it from C and Python.

In this blog I wanted to shared an example of using the Lua curses library to read and write Raspberry Pi general purpose I/O (GPIO).

Installing Lua

To install Lua on a Raspberry Pi:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lua5.1
sudo apt-get install liblua5.1-0-dev -- development files, need by LuaRocks
sudo apt-get install lua-socket
sudo apt-get install luarocks -- package manager for Lua modules

sudo luarocks install luasocket

Lua has a package manager called luarocks, (this is similar to pip on Python), where you can install custom libraries or packages on the Pi.

There are a number of choices on how Lua can access Pi GPIO pin. I found that the lua-periphery library to be a reliable option. The Lua version of curses is not 100% compatible to the C version but it’s close.

To install these libraries enter:

sudo luarocks install lua-periphery
sudo luarocks install curses

Raspberry Pi Hardware

I used a Pimoroni Explorer Hat because it has some built in colored LEDs, but you could easily use some LEDs and resistors and wire your own equivalent setup.


For some details on how to use the Lua Raspberry Pi GPIO library see: https://funprojects.blog/2019/04/20/lua-and-raspberry-pi/

The Lua Curses App

My goal was to create a simple GUI with a title and a footer with the key commands, then show the values on the screen.


To use colored text there are a few steps that are required:

  • enable color (curses.start_color())
  • define some color pairs (curses.init_pair)
  • create an attribute variable that is defined by a color pair(a_red = curses.color_pair(4))

Then use the attribute “ON” function to set the color  (stdscr:attron(a_red)).

The mvaddstr function is used to write text to position on the screen  object. (stdscr:mvaddstr(2, 5,”SET RASPBERRY PI LEDS” )).

Below is my code to setup 4 LED outputs, and use the keys 1,2,3 and 4 to write to these outputs. The “q” key is used to exit the code.

 -- A Lua curses example with some Raspberry Pi Data  
 -- Define Rasp Pi variables  
 local GPIO = require('periphery').GPIO  
 local gpio_in = GPIO(10, "in")  
 local led1 = GPIO(4,"out")  
 local led2 = GPIO(17,"out")  
 local led3 = GPIO(27,"out")  
 local led4 = GPIO(5,"out")  
 -- Define curses  
 local curses = require 'curses'  
 curses.echo(false) -- not noecho !  
 local stdscr = curses.stdscr() -- the screen object  
 -- setup color pairs and attribute variables  
 curses.init_pair(1, curses.COLOR_RED, curses.COLOR_WHITE)  
 curses.init_pair(2, curses.COLOR_WHITE, curses.COLOR_BLACK)  
 curses.init_pair(3, curses.COLOR_BLUE, curses.COLOR_BLACK)  
 curses.init_pair(4, curses.COLOR_YELLOW, curses.COLOR_BLACK)  
 curses.init_pair(5, curses.COLOR_RED, curses.COLOR_BLACK)  
 curses.init_pair(6, curses.COLOR_GREEN, curses.COLOR_BLACK)  
 a_rw = curses.color_pair(1)  
 a_white = curses.color_pair(2)  
 a_blue = curses.color_pair(3)  
 a_yellow = curses.color_pair(4)  
 a_red = curses.color_pair(5)  
 a_green = curses.color_pair(6)  
 -- Create a background  
 ncols = curses.cols()  
 nrows = curses.lines()  
 -- Create a top and bottom color strip  
 stdscr:attron(a_rw) -- set the fore/background colors  
 for i=0, (ncols - 1), 1 do -- write a top and bottom strip  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(0,i, " ")  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(nrows -1,i, " ")  
 stdscr:mvaddstr(0,0, " Curses Lua Dynamic Text Example")  
 stdscr:mvaddstr((nrows -1), 0, " Key Commands: q - to quit, 1,2,3,4 - to toggle LED")  
 -- Add the main screen static text  
 stdscr:attron(a_white) -- set the fore/background colors  
 stdscr:mvaddstr(2, 5,"SET RASPBERRY PI LEDS" )  
 for i=1,4,1 do   
      stdscr:mvaddstr(4+ i, 5, "LED " .. tostring(i) .. " : " )  
 local c = stdscr:getch ()  
 while c ~= 113 do -- 113 = q ,quit  
      if c == 49 then led1:write(not led1:read()) end  
      if c == 50 then led2:write(not led2:read()) end  
      if c == 51 then led3:write(not led3:read()) end  
      if c == 52 then led4:write(not led4:read()) end  
      -- show the inputs  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(5, 15, tostring(led1:read() ) .. " " )  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(6, 15, tostring(led2:read() ) .. " " )  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(7, 15, tostring(led3:read() ) .. " " )  
      stdscr:mvaddstr(8, 15, tostring(led4:read() ) .. " " )  
      c = stdscr:getch ()  

Some Final Comments

Unfortunately I found the Lua curses documentation to be quite weak and there were very few examples.

My only major stumbling block was to find a stdscr.nodelay() function that allows the code to continue without waiting for a key stroke. This feature exists in the Python and C libraries.

Raspberry Pi Internet Radio

Node-Red is graphical programming interface that allows logic to be created using nodes that are wired together. Node-Red has been pre-installed in the Raspian OS since 2015 and it has a very easy learning curve.

In this blog I wanted to show an example of Node-Red being used with a five button LCD faceplate to play Internet radio stations.

For this project I used a basic USB powered speaker, a Rasp Pi and a Pi 5-button LCD faceplate. The cost of the faceplates start at about $10.


Getting Started with Internet Radio

There are a good number of Internet radio resources, https://www.internet-radio.com has a good selection of stations to choose from.

To find a URL of a radio station, look through the stations until you find what you like and then right click on the .pls link, and “Save Link as…”. Save this link as a file and then open the file in a text editor to get the URL.



MPD – Music Player Daemon

MPD is a Linux based music service that supports the playing of both music files and internet based radio stations. For command line operations that is also a MPD client application called mpc. To install both the service and client:

sudo apt-get install mpd mpc

Before I started building the node-red application I played with the mpc commands to ensure that I understood the basics.

Internet radio stations are added like a song list:

mpc add 'http://uk2.internet-radio.com:8062'
mpc add 'http://live.leanstream.co/CKNXFM'
mpc add ''

Some key mpc control commands are:

mpc play  # play the current station
mpc play 3 # play radio station 3
mpc pause  # pause the music
mpc next  # play the next radio station
mpc prev  # play the previous radio station 

mpc volume 90 # set the volume to 90%
mpc volume +5 # increase the volume 5%
mpc volume -5 # decrease the volume 5%

The mpc status command will show the volume, what is playing along with the current station number and total number of stations:

$ mpc status
Comedy104 - A Star104.net Station: Doug Stanhope - To Tell You the Truth
[playing] #2/4 1:45/0:00 (0%)
volume: 75% repeat: off random: off single: off consume: off

Node-Red Logic

Node-Red can be started from the Raspberry Pi menus, or from the command line:

node-red-start &

To access the Node-Red web page, enter the Raspberry Pi ip address with port 1880, for example :

For this project two extra Node-Red components are needed, and they are for the LCD faceplate and the MPD music player. To add components use the “Palette Manager” option.


For the LCD faceplate, search for Adafruit, and select the i2c-lcd-adafruit-sainsmart component.


Similarly search for mpd and add the node-red-contrib-mpd component.

mpd_palette To create logic select a node from the left node panel and drag it onto the center flow palette, and then “wire” the nodes together.

For the Internet music example I used four function nodes, and the two i2cLED and the two MPD nodes. (Comment nodes are only used to explain the logic).


The first step is to double click on the MPD nodes and add an MPD server.

Select Button Logic

I used the select button to turn on and off the music player.

A context variable is created to save the current state of the player. Note: a context variable is only accessible for the node where it is defined..

The ic2_LCD_Input node message has a msg.button_name and msg.button_state item that is used to determine which button is pushed.

For the select button logic a group of messages was used to add the different radio stations.

// create an "is setup" variable
var issetup = context.get('issetup')||0;

if ((msg.button_name == "SELECT") && (msg.button_state == "pressed" )){
// if the setup hasn't been run, add a radio station playlist
if (issetup === 0) {
var msg0 = { payload:"clear"};
var msg1 = { payload:"add" }; // 1.FM Trance
var msg2 = { payload:"add" }; // Comedy 104
var msg3 = { payload:"add http://live.leanstream.co/CKNXFM"}; // The One - Wingham
var msg4 = { payload:"add" }; // Baroque
var msg5 = { payload:"play" };
return [ [ msg0, msg1, msg2, msg3, msg4, msg5] ];
} else {
msg0 = { payload:"pause"};
return msg0;

Up/Down Button Logic

The UP button will issue an MPD command equivalent to :

mpc volume +5

This will up the volume by 5%. The total volume will max at 100%.

The DOWN button will issue an MPD command equivalent to :

mpc volume -5

// Raise/Lower the volume
var msg1;
var thevolume = 5; //volume % increment to change

if ((msg.button_name == "UP") && (msg.button_state == "pressed" )){
// if the setup hasn't been run, add a radio station playlist
msg1 = { payload:"volume +" + thevolume };
return msg1;
if ((msg.button_name == "DOWN") && (msg.button_state == "pressed" )){
// if the setup hasn't been run, add a radio station playlist
msg1 = { payload:"volume -" + thevolume};
return msg1;

Current and Max Radio Station Logic

The ‘Current and Max Radio Stations’ node is updated from the MPD in node when there are any changes to the volume or when a new song or station is played.

This logic creates two flow variables (stnmax, stncnt) that are available in any node in this flow.  The station max (stnmax) and current radio station (stncnt) variables are used in the LEFT/RIGHT button logic to determine which station to change to.

// Get the max number of radio stations and the current radio statio
// Make context variables that can be used in other node, like the LEFT/RIGHT button

var msg1 = msg.payload.status ; //create a simplier message
var stnmax = msg1.playlistlength;
var stncur = msg1.nextsong;
if (isNaN(stncur)) {stncur = stnmax;} // ensure a valid station


return msg1; // only needed for possible debugging

While the code is running it is possible to view the context date.


UP/DOWN Button Logic

The UP / DOWN logic changes between the radio stations using the mpc commands:

mpc next
mpc prev

It is important to not move past the range of the radio stations or MPD will hang. The stnmax and stncur variables are used to determine if the next or previous commands are to be allowed.

// Move left and right in radion stations
var stnmax = flow.get('stnmax');
var stncur = flow.get('stncur');
if ((msg.button_name == "LEFT") && (msg.button_state == "pressed" )){
// if the setup hasn't been run, add a radio station playlist
if (stncur > 1) {
var msg0 = {payload:"previous"};
return msg0;
if ((msg.button_name == "RIGHT") && (msg.button_state == "pressed" )){
// if the setup hasn't been run, add a radio station playlist
if (stncur < stnmax)
var msg1 = {payload:"next"};
return msg1;


Final Comments

The Pi LCD faceplate is an excellent hardware add-on for any Raspberry Pi project. However it important to know that clone hardware may work as expected. For my hardware I was not able to easily turn off the extra LED.

A future enhancement would be to add a Web interface so that you could change the volume or stations without using the 5 button Pi faceplate.