Controlling an Arduino connected to the PINE64 over I2C with C and C#

In a previous post, we connected an Arduino Mega to the PINE64 and wrote a sketch for the Mega for data communication. The data to be sent and received will follow the simple rules which were listed in the post. Next, we’re going to write a shared library with some C code to interface with I2C natively, and then a C# class which will call the shared library and bring everything together. Just a quick recap of the data rules:

  • Maximum length: 16 bytes.
  • First byte: Number of bytes sent/received.
  • Second byte: Control command. CMD_DIGITAL_WRITE (0x01 or 1), CMD_DIGITAL_READ (0x02 or 2) and CMD_ANALOG_WRITE (0x03 or 3).
  • Third byte: Pin number.
  • Fourth byte: Value of either 1 (for high) or 0 (for low) for CMD_DIGITAL_WRITE, or
  • Fourth to seventh bytes: Integer value for CMD_ANALOG_WRITE.

Linux has native I2C support which lets us communicate directly with any device connected to the bus. Since native communication is possible, we create a shared library with methods which can be invoked from our C# code. Since we can open the connection to a device on the I2C bus as a file descriptor, we will be making use of fcntl.h for the descriptor. Let’s take a look at the C library.

The first thing we do is include required headers and define a constant specifying the maximum number of bytes, which is 16. Then we create the nanite_i2c_open function try to open the specified device file (usually /dev/i2c-1). Next we call ioctl so that we will be able to control the device using a reference to the file descriptor, and the specified slave address. The file descriptor is returned for reference in other function calls. If any of the steps in the function fails, -1 is returned to indicate an error condition. Other functions in the library will handle the failure the same way.

The nanite_i2c_close function is fairly simple. It takes the file descriptor as an argument and checks if it is open in order to close it.

Next is the nanite_i2c_send function which takes the file descriptor and the data to be sent as arguments. The bytes are written to the open file descriptor, and the number of bytes written is verified. If it does not match the length defined in the first byte, -1 is returned to indicate an error condition.

The nanite_i2c_read function will be used to read data over I2C. The first byte is retrieved in order to determine how many more bytes to read. Then we validate the number of bytes that were received with the expected length. 0 is returned if the operation was successful.

The final function in the library is nanite_i2c_max_bytes() which returns MAX_BYTES. This gives us a complete library that we can use for I2C data communication. You can create the shared library using gcc -shared -o libnanitei2c.so -fPIC main.c. The full code listing for the library is available at https://gitlab.com/akinwale/nanitei2c/blob/master/main.c.

Using DllImport, we can call functions from the shared library in the C# code which we’re going to look at next. We create our class, define the supported commands as an enumeration and specify the private members. We also define a couple of constructors with the default constructor using the default I2C device file which is /dev/i2c-1 on the PINE.

The DllImport calls are defined within the class and are used to map the functions from the library to functions that we can call in the I2CExtendedIO class. For instance, to call the nanite_i2c_send in the class, we’ll make use of I2CSendBytes.

Here, we’ve defined our class dispose function which closes the file descriptor if it is open. We also have a bunch of simple helper functions which will be called within the class.

The Open function is simple as it delegates to the OpenI2C function with the specified device filename and the slave address, and assigns the returned file descriptor to a private member.

With DigitalWrite, we build the data to be sent based on the specified rules. Then we delegate to I2CSendBytes using the specified arguments, which calls the corresponding library function.

AnalogWrite is similar to DigitalWrite, except that we convert the integer value to 4 bytes instead of the single byte for low (0) or high (1). Valid values are between 0 and 255 inclusive.

To wrap it all up, we have the DigitalRead function which is a little different because we have to send data and then immediately receive a response. We obtain a mutual-exclusion lock so that the send and receive process completes before any subsequent operations are run. Then we validate the received data and return the value for the pin that was read.

You can obtain the full code listing for the C# class at https://gitlab.com/akinwale/NaniteIo/blob/master/Nanite/IO/I2CExtendedIO.cs.

We can put this all together and test with a simple interactive console application.

The console application accepts inputs like 13 on, 18 off or 9 analog 172 which makes it easy to test the Arduino pins. Although this is practically a complete solution for most requirements with respect to controlling an Arduino connected to the PINE (or Pi or any other SBC) over I2C using C#, you could choose to implement an additional command for analogRead. All you would have to do is follow the logic for digitalRead and add the necessary code to the sketch and the C# class.

Control GPIO pins on the PINE64 with C#

Similar to the Raspberry Pi, GPIO pins on the PINE64 can be controlled through sysfs. You can refer to my previous post which goes into the concept in detail, and the C# code remains the same for the PINE64. However, with the longsleep Ubuntu image, root access is required to control the GPIO pins. You will need to grant the necessary permissions in order to be able to control GPIO pins as a normal user.

Granting user permissions
We’ll assume that we want to be able to control the pins as the default ubuntu user. Follow these steps to grant the necessary permissions.

  1. Create a user group called gpio.
    groupadd gpio
  2. Add the ubuntu user to the gpio group.
    useradd -G gpio ubuntu
  3. Add a udev rule to run chown on the sysfs files. The chown command will set group ownership to the gpio group. Adding the udev rule will run the chown command automatically whenever you export a pin. Create a file called 99-com.rules in /etc/dev/rules.d and paste the following contents.

    Physical pin to GPIO number mapping
    I took some time to test the physical pins on the PINEĀ in order to determine the sysfs gpio numbers and came up with this table. As an example, physical pin 22 on the Pi 2 pinout corresponds to /sys/class/gpio/gpio79.

    Pin #GPIO #
    Pi 2 pinout
    3227
    5226
    832
    1033
    1171
    1272
    13233
    1576
    1677
    1878
    1964
    2165
    2279
    2366
    2467
    26231
    27361
    28360
    29229
    31230
    3268
    3369
    3573
    3670
    3780
    3874
    4075
    Euler pinout
    7363
    10232
    1135
    1236
    1337
    1538
    1639
    18100
    1998
    2199
    22101
    2397
    2496
    26102
    2734
    28103
    2940
    3041
    Exp pinout
    2359
    740
    841

How to control GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi 3 using C#

GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi can be controlled using the sysfs interface, which is a virtual filesystem that the Linux kernel provides. In this guide, we will write a basic C# class to control available pins on the Pi through sysfs.

Understanding the sysfs interface
sysfs provides access to the GPIO pins at the path /sys/class/gpio. You can cd into this path and ls to list files in the directory. There are two special files here which are export and unexport. You write to the export file to activate a particular pin, while writing to unexport deactivates the pin. The following example activates GPIO pin 18.

You can verify that the pin is activated by listing the files in the /sys/class/gpio directory. You should see a gpio18 folder in the directory listing. After the pin has been activated, you should specify whether the pin should be an input or output pin before you can read or write values. You do this for input like so:

Or for output:

If the pin is specified as an output pin, you can write a value of either 0 (low) or 1 (high) for the pin. If a LED is connected to the pin for this example, a value of 0 will turn the LED off, while a value of 1 will turn the LED on. To specify the pin value, you can do this:

Once you are done with the pin, you can deactivate it using:

Writing the C# class
Now that we have an idea of how sysfs works, we can create a class to implement the necessary steps. The sysfs approach basically requires writing values to the file, so we can use simple file I/O operations to achieve the desired result. The full listing for the GPIO class can be found at https://gitlab.com/akinwale/NaniteIo/blob/master/Nanite/IO/GPIO.cs.

The first thing we’ll do is add the using statements for the namespaces. System.IO is required for FileStream, StreamReader and StreamWriter which are used for file I/O. System.Threading is required for the Thread class, while Nanite.Exceptions contains the custom exceptions defined for our project. We’ll also define enumerations for the GPIO direction and value, and a few constants for strings like the GPIO path and other special files. The class will be defined as static, because we do not need to create an instance of the class.

Pretty straightforward so far. The first method we’re going to define is the PinMode method, which will take the pin number and direction as parameters. This method will activate the pin and then set the direction to either in or out depending on the specified parameter value.

We build the pinPath string making use of Path.Combine(GPIOPath, string.Format("gpio{0}", pin));. If the value specified for the pin parameter is 18, pinPath will contain the string, "/sys/class/gpio/gpio18". The ClosePin method call is optional, but the idea behind this is that the pin should be deactivated first before activating. We also check if the gpio pin directory exists using if (!Directory.Exists(pinPath)) before activating to make sure we are not activating a pin that has already been activated.

After the request for pin activation, there may be a small delay which is why we have a while loop which waits until the corresponding gpio pin directory has been created before we set the pin direction. Thread.Sleep(500) makes the program wait 500 milliseconds before proceeding to the next statement. Note that this while loop is completely optional, but it acts as a safeguard against setting the pin direction before the gpio pin directory has been created by the system. One thing to take note of is if the gpio pin directory never gets created (for instance, if the pin is invalid), the loop may end up running forever. To fix this, we can set a maximum number of times the loop should run before ending the loop.

The next method is the ClosePin method which takes the pin number as a parameter. This method checks if the pin directory exists before it writes the pin number to the /sys/class/gpio/unexport file.

We create the Write method to write a value to a pin. It takes two parameters, the pin number and the value which is of the Value enumerator type with possible values Value.Low or Value.High. In this method, we make use Path.Combine to create the full path to the value file in the gpio pin directory. For pin 18, this will be "/sys/class/gpio/gpio18/value". If value for the value parameter is Value.Low, we write 0 to the file, otherwise if it’s Value.High, we write 1 to the file.

Finally, we have our Read method to read a value from a pin. It will return either Value.Low or Value.High depending on what the pin has been set to. The question mark at the end of the method return type indicates that we can return null for the method if the value retrieved is invalid.

To determine if the retrieved value is valid, we add a couple of checks in the method. The first is the int.TryParse method, which returns false if the retrieved value is not a valid integer. Then verify that the value is either 0 or 1 using if (pinValue != 0 && pinValue != 1). If it’s neither 0 nor 1, null is returned. Otherwise, the corresponding enumeration value is returned by casting the integer to GPIO.Value.

Finally, we can put this all together in a sample program. If a LED is connected to pin 18, the LED will light up when the value is set to High and turn off when the value is set to Low.

Source Code
The full code listing for the GPIO class can be obtained from https://gitlab.com/akinwale/NaniteIo/blob/master/Nanite/IO/GPIO.cs.

Building MonoDevelop for the Raspberry Pi 3

4 Dec 2017 Update
I ran into some issues building the latest github versions of Mono and MonoDevelop on the PINE64, and I guess the same may apply here. If you encounter any difficulty building either Mono or MonoDevelop, you can try using the specific versions listed below. You can checkout the specific tags immediately after cloning the corresponding repositories before you start building.
Mono 4.8.1.0 – git checkout tags/mono-4.8.1.0
MonoDevelop 6.1.0.5441 – git checkout tags/monodevelop-6.1.0.5441

Since I will be using C# for most of my development (with a combination of C for some native system functionality), I decided to go with Mono. This guide is based on the assumption that you’re running the May 2016 Raspbian Jessie Lite image. The easiest way to get MonoDevelop up and running would be to run sudo apt-get install monodevelop which would also handle all the necessary dependencies including the Mono runtime. However, the versions in the repository are pretty old, and I want to be able to make use of .NET 4 features.

Another option for .NET development on Linux is .NET Core. Version 1.0 was officially announced by Microsoft a few days ago, but there aren’t ARM binaries available and I haven’t been able to successfully build it for the Pi, yet.

Git
The Mono project code is hosted on Github, so the first thing to be done is to install git.

Build Mono
Obtain the source code from the Github repository using the command

Then install the Mono build process prerequisites.

You can follow the build instructions in the README.md for the repository at https://github.com/mono/mono/blob/master/README.md. To summarise, change to the source root directory (cd mono) and run the following commands.

If you wish to run the mono and mcs test suites, you can do a make check before make install. The build will take quite a while, so you have to be patient. I didn’t time my build, but my best guess would be about 3 to 4 hours.

Build FSharp
MonoDevelop apparently requires the F# compiler to be installed. First thing to do is to import trusted root certificates required by the NuGet package manager into the machine store. The NuGet package manager retrieves certain required packages as part of the build process, so this is required.

Next, we clone the FSharp git repository and build.

Build additional MonoDevelop dependencies
MonoDevelop also requires gtk-sharp and gnome-sharp to be installed on the system. The first step is to install the rest of the apt dependencies for all three packages.

devscripts will be used to create a package of PCL Assemblies which is required for the MonoDevelop build process.

Once the dependencies have been installed, gtk-sharp should be built first and then gnome-sharp.

To build gtk-sharp

And gnome-sharp

Build MonoDevelop
If you made it through all of that, you can finally proceed to build MonoDevelop. But there are a few caveats which we’ll cover in a bit.

The first error I encountered after I running make was an issue with NuGet not finding a number of packages. To fix this while your current directory is the monodevelop directory, run the following commands and then run make again (if you’ve run it previously).

The next error stated that certain PCL Assemblies were missing. To sort this out

Remove mono-xbuild from the list of dependencies in the control file, save and close. Then continue with the following commands.

The final error had to do with the fsharpbinding regarding missing references in a particular assembly. Since I don’t need the F# bindings, and it’s not a required feature, I removed it from the build process using the following steps (assuming the monodevelop source directory is the working directory).

Remove the external/fsharpbinding/MonoDevelop.FSharpBinding/FSharpBinding.addin.xml \ line, save the file and close.

Finally, you can build and install.

This build will also take a bit of time, so sit back, relax and rest easy. Once the installation is complete, you can simply run it by typing monodevelop at the command line (assuming you have X11 forwarding enabled in your SSH session).