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Pervasive computing with Sentilla on Ubuntu 8.04

Posted by felipegaucho on August 3, 2008 at 9:21 AM PDT

Few days ago I received a promotional kit from Sentilla Labs, a
box labeled as href=''>Pervasive
Computing Kit that contains some devices and a software CD. Unpacking
the gift, I felt that kid's joy again - all new opportunities, the plain
old brilliant ideas from href=''>Asimov books, the
restaurant's menu embedded in the wall, the phone t-shirt, etc. The
excitement was just interrupted by the lack of instructions on how to
install the kit on Linux. Fortunately, the MAC address written in the
hardware allowed me to login on the Sentilla's
developer forum
, which contains a post with href=''>instructions
on how to setup the beta version of Sentilla software to Linux - the joy
retrieved :) Before to proceed the Linux setup, a brief introduction
about Sentilla Pervasive Kit.

Sentilla Pervasive Kit is a href=''>Sun-Spot-like
hardware set composed by 2 pervasive computers (named JCreates), 1 USB
gateway and 1 JCreates Fixture to allow you to connect the pervasive
computer directly into your USB ports. It comes with a development IDE
based on Eclipse, actually very comfortable for Java developers.

What can I do with that? That's the href=''>Million
Dollar Question, since pervasive computing is not a new subject but
the availability of programmable pervasive computers is quite new.
Since the release of Sun Spot few years ago, the Java developers
community is trying to find a best fit for the small devices in our
day by day.

border='1'>sentilla_small.png src=""
width="224" height="169" />

Sentilla JCreates are very small devices with fully computing
powers based on a JavaME platform. You can think of creating a program
based on sensors on your bike, your house, your refrigerator or anywhere
your imagination can place it. The devices come by default with a
temperature sensor and an href=''>accelerometer.
Pervasive computing is a wake-up-call to all creative minds behind the
keyboards, the open door to the fame and fortune or at least the
guarantee of a lot of fun (and that explanations to your wife about why
the dog is blue again) .. after all it is about the joy of programming
with a business perspective.. GO FOR IT :)

Installing Sentilla development environment in Linux Ubuntu

First of all you should have a kit in order to use it, there is
no mock applications or simulator software. So, the first obvious step
is to buy a kit or to convince your boss about the strategic importance
of Sentilla in your organization. Doesn't matter how, href=''>get
your kit before reading the next lines.

Important note: Sentilla is not a free software,
actually it comes under the Sentilla Corporation Software
License Agreement
, what is basically very bad in terms of Linux and Open
Source movement. At least the Software is licensed, not sold. So, when
you buy the hardware you get the license to use the software without any
extra fee. IMHO: Sentilla would promote itself offering the open source
community a chance to contribute with their software, but I am not aware
about the business surrounding these pervasive devices, so let's play
with it and let to the lawyers play with licenses :)

In order to install Sentilla on Linux, you need to use the SUN
JRE and also to remove the braille kernel driver. You should also
install the libstdc++5 and then you are ready to go.The
Linux Sentilla software is beta, but it worked very smoothly in Ubuntu
8.04 running on my dual core Intel x86 4Gb RAM.

Firmware & drivers troubleshooting

After installing everything, I got some frustration caused by a
missed driver and also because the default configuration of the Sentilla
perspective in my Eclipse was not correctly pointing to the Gateway, so
Eclipse didn't find the gateway and my Motos never communicated with the
computer. I hope the below steps would save your time and give you a
nicer first steps on the Sentilla Environment on Ubuntu

  1. Install VCP Drivers: the safest way to check if your Ubuntu
    has the required FTDI drivers is to use the Synaptic Package Manager.
    You can type ftdi in the synaptic search form and
    verify if it is already installed. Otherwise just mark it for
    installation and leave the friendly Ubuntu care about the details :).
    If it doesn't work or if you want better information about what is
    going on, you can visit href=''>this url to
    download and install href=''>this
    driver, and of course to check all details about VCP Drivers from the Future
    Technology Devices International Ltd. (in case you are too paranoid
    just to click and go).
  2. Configure the firmware in your Sentilla Perspective. By
    default it comes wrong, I suppose it is because Linux is less
    self-configurable than Windows or just because it is beta version and
    some evil bug remains alive somewhere. But the quick fix is the

Open the Sentilla Perspective and then type

Ctrl +
Alt + F
. It will open the Firmware Configuration View, where you can
change the default configuration to connect your gateway. To fix the
firmware configuration, just select the Firmware to Sentilla
USB gateway 1.0
and then click on Install Button.

firmware_config.png src=""
width="441" height="198" />

Programming Sentila JCreates

If you can see your Motes in your Mote Explorer Perspective, you
are ready to start programming them. Actually, I am also novice about
Sentilla software and devices so - instead of contaminating your mind
with my incomplete trials - I suggest you to start with the
comprehensive examples that come with the kit. They have temperature and
accelerometer examples ready to go, and I guess that's all a newby needs
to have fun. There is a documentation folder and very well documented
examples. All you need to do is click on

> New > Example
.. and then select one of them.

I just started exploring my new hobby, and I hope to publish
further blogs with some creative experiments. For now, I wish you to
have fun with our new pervasive option - and if you already have some
cool application using Sentilla, let us to know.

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Thanks Felipe...CH