New toys – ESP8266 Modules

Yeah, new hardware to tinker with: a ESP-01 and a NodeMCU Board ūüôā

Specs

The ESP8266 is a powerful and cheap SoC (System on a Chip) with onboard WiFi (b/g/n) capabilities. It has 16 GPIO pins, UART, i2c, SPI and QSPI for external flash memory.

ESP-01 Module

esp-01
ESP-01 Module

This very cheap module consist of o ESP8266, A PCB-Trace antenna and an external 1MB flash chip. It’s not breaking out every GPIO pins – just¬†2 (GPIO0 & 2).

This module has 8 pins: VCC & GND for power, RXD & TXD for serial communication, RST for reset (yeah, really :p ), CH_PD for chip enabled/disable and GPIO0 & GPIO3. This chip is intended for small projects or as a Serial-Wifi bridge.

Be aware: The module has no onboard logic-level-converter. So if you hook up this board to more than 3.3v, you will most likely see magic smoke !

You can get these board for ~3-6 AUD$ from eBay.

 

NodeMCU v2

NodeMCU (ESP8266)
NodeMCU v2

This module is a complete development board. It is utilising a ESP-12E which is basically a ESP8266, 4MB flash and an antenna on one small pcb. This pcb is soldered to the devboard which is powered by usb (3.3v step-down-converter), a USB-Bridge for easy programming and 2 buttons (reset and flash). You can use 10GPIO pins for your own projects – every of this pins is able to provide you i2c, 1-Wire and pwm functionality.

Again: The module has no onboard logic-level-converter for the GPIO pins!

It comes preflashed with the NodeMCU firmware (www.nodemcu.com) which enables you to program this module in LUA. It costs about 8-13 AUD$ on eBay.

 

Outlook

As i have some experience with Arduinos, i’ll most likely try to use the Arduino IDE to program this little friends –¬† (https://github.com/esp8266/Arduino)

My first Project will be a Wifi-Remote-Controller (infrared bridge) for my Daikin AC

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The best for last: A complete Docker-RPi-RTL-SDR ADSB/ACARS Solution

 

After my last two blogposts [1][2], many of you asked “Why Docker on a Raspberry?” if you can install all the software directly (“There are so much tutorials“). Yeah, that’s right – but think how much work you have to invest to get the following setup running:

sdr_gear

  • Raspberry Pi 2 & 2¬†RTL-SDR Sticks
    • Nr 1 is monitoring ADSB via dump1090
    • Nr 2 is monitoring ACARS¬†on 2 frequencies via acarsdec
  • FR24FEED (www.flightradar24.com) is taking the data from dump1090 and feeds it to FR24
  • FlightAirMap (PHP/MySQL) is taking the data from acarsdec and dump1090 to generate a comprehensive statistic and live map of your received data.
  • A Mysql server for storing the Data behind FlightAirMap

You need five services which you have to install/compile, to configure, to link and to manage.

But there is a much more convenient solution: docker-compose and one (!) configuration file ūüôā

FlightAirMap & dump1090 Screenshots

flightairmap_3
FlightAirMap

flightairmap_2
FlightAirMap

flightairmap_1
FlightAirMap

dump1090
dump1090

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RPI + Docker + ACARS: Receive “Aircraft SMS”

After the fantastic feedback i got for my blog post about ADSB reception with RTL-SDR (and Docker), the next point in my list is ACARS.

The basics: What is ACARS?

ACARS is short for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, a digital data link between an aircraft and a ground station and/or satellite.

ACARS Terminal
ACARS Terminal

The on-board avionic computer system (aircraft) consists of the ACARS Management Unit (ACARS MU) and a Control Display Unit (CDU) for sending and receiving digital information messages from the ground-based stations.

Ground equipment is made up of a network of radio transceivers managed by a central site computer called AFEPS (Arinc Front End Processor System), which handles and routes messages. Generally, ground ACARS units are either government agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, an airline operations headquarters, or, for small airlines or general aviation, a third-party subscription service. Usually government agencies are responsible for clearances, while airline operations handle gate assignments, maintenance, and passenger needs. (Wikipedia)

 

This is a message send¬†by the CFD (Central Fault¬†Display) of an aircraft ūüėČ

#CFB.1/WRN/WN1511161031 383100506MAINTENANCE STATUS TOILET

Or something like this

N12114 CO0070 1EHAM REQUEST GATE ASSIGNMENT ETA0447

You’re now interested how to receive such messages with minimal Hardware? You have your Raspberry Pi 2 ready? Docker installed? RTL-SDR attached? Then read on.

If not, start with my earlier blog posts to get the basics:

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Docker on a Raspberry – Q&A

Soon after i published my last blogpost (Raspberry Pi + Docker + RTL-SDR) i received a bunch of feedback, questions and critic.

“Why not just compile the applications directly?” –¬†“I may be missing the point here but why bother with Docker on the Pi?” – “It does nothing to help the Dump1090 program at all.”

So¬†I’d like to adress some of the points in this post and explain my motivation for using Docker.

 

Let’s start right away with the most controversial question: Why Docker on a Pi?

Well, because it’s possible ūüôā About two weeks ago i stumbled over a blog post from the guys at Hypriot. They not only managed to install Docker on a Raspberry, they also packaged a nice and easy to use SD-Card image which i used for my first experiments. I already have some substantial background in terms of Docker as we’re using this in larger scale in our company.¬†The concept of Containers and Images is a nice fit if you want to build an orchestrated and reproducible toolchain for you RTL-SDR – Build your Image, upload it to the docker hub – the next time you’re reinstalling your Pi (or installing a new one) you just have to run one command and the exact same version, incl. all the dependencies will be downloaded from the hub and ready to use in minutes. So no problems with outdated Howtos, updated libraries, missing git repositories etc.

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Raspberry Pi + Docker + RTL-SDR

In the last days, i tinkered with different things: I installed Docker onto a Raspberry Pi 2, built several docker images [1][2] and got myself two new RTL-SDR-Sticks.

Today, I’ll bring all these Projects together and show you how to build a virtual aircraft radar (screenshot) – so fasten your seatbelt ūüėČ

DUMP1090
DUMP1090 Screenshot

I’m ready – tell me¬†what I need

  • You’ll need a Raspberry Pi 2 ¬†– yes, 2! – Of course, you can go with a Pi 1 – but to be honest, this thingy has just not enough ram and only one core so it’s not really suitable for docker. But hey, if you like the pain – go on ūüėČ
  • The Pi has to be prepared to run Docker – You can use the guide from my blog post if you need help
  • And of course you need a RTL-SDR Stick – so if you ever watched DVB-T on your Laptop, the chances are good that you already have a suitable Receiver. Some people over at Reddit compiled a nice list of sticks which are suitable for our little experiment. Oh, and an Antenna would be awesome ūüėČ

List completed? All points checked? Great, let’s go on!

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New RTL-SDR gear

I’ve played with these RTL-SDR¬†sticks for several years now and I am still amazed about the possibilities I have with these cheap pieces of hardware. I managed to receive several data modes like ADS-B, ACARS, AIS and the wireless outdoor thermometer of my neighbor – I’ll write several¬†follow-up posts on this topics ūüôā

I decided to get two new Sticks for my collection – this time with a TCXO oscillator to get a more stable reception.

Modified Stick? Whats the deal?

Shift over time (source: rtl-sdr.com)
Shift over time (source: rtl-sdr.com)

A common problem for these sticks is frequency stability over time. As the oscillator is heating up under load, the frequency of the crystal measured in ppm (parts per million) will change – which causes the frequency to shift. Typical values for cheap sticks are +-150ppm. The real amount of frequency should could be several kHz, which make this behaviour really annoying for headless receivers (like ADSB receivers on a Raspberry Pi) – especially if you try to receive a narrow signal.

 

 

 

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Install RabbitMQ on Dokku

In a previous post, i explained how to package RabbitMQ and several plugins in a Docker Container, so this will be a followup which shows you how to deploy and configure the RabbitMQ Container on a dokku host.

This Post will not explain how to install Dokku itself – so i assume you have a Dokku environment configured and ready.

Prepare your deployment

The following Dockerfile uses the official RabbitMQ Container and extending it by activating the management and the MQTT plugin. If you don’t need MQTT the you can delete the line¬† RUN rabbitmq-plugins enable --offline rabbitmq_mqtt¬†.

Now create a new directory containing the Dockerfile with the above contents and initialize a git repository.

Then add your dokku server via  git remote add dokku dokku@myserver.com:myhostname

DO NOT PUSH(!) your changes now, you have to do some configuration first!

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Optimise your Dockerfile

While i am building images for Docker on a Raspberry Pi, I searched for a way to keep my Images as small as possible because of the limited amount of disk space and also because of my $&#@ internet connection at home (really a pain in the $#@ if you want to push bigger images to the docker hub).

Let’s start with the¬†base image for all of my sdr tools. This image derives from resins’s Debian Jessie Image¬†and contains the basic “toolchain” for building/compiling rtl-sdr applications.

So, that’s the original Dockerfile were using to build my¬†Baseimage (sysrun/rpi-rtl-sdr-base):

This Dockerfile gives us a container size of ~307MB.

Optimise the process

We don’t need the package cache (downloaded packages) to be integrated in our container. So adding a¬†apt-get clean¬†after our install will save us some space. The¬†apt-get update¬†is populating the¬†/var/lib/apt/lists/¬†with stuff¬†we also don’t need after the build. So just remove them

This saves us 22MB – in this case not much. But depending on the packages you install, it could be more.

If you’re doing this for a base container, keep in mind that you have to run apt-get update to repopulate your apt cache. If you miss this step, your apt-get install calls will fail!¬†Also clean up again after you installed the new packages.

The final Dockerfile

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Docker on a Raspberry Pi

The guys at Hypriot did an awesome job to bring Docker to the Raspberry Pi world.

If you want to give it a try, you have two options

Option 1: Prebuilt images

Thats the best option if you want to have a full-fledged docker environment with optimized settings and hassle free installation.

Just download the image from this page and “burn” it to a sd-card. Plug the card in your RPi and enjoy.

Read more about this solution in their Blog: Get your all-in-one Docker playground now: HypriotOS reloaded!

Option 2: Debian Package

This option is the way you should go if you don’t have a spare sd-card around.

You can download a .dep file from this page and install it via dpkg -i package_name.deb

I tried this option on my current Jessie installation and encountered¬†one problem: All docker command had to be issued via sudo. Thats because the docker.sock is only accessible for the root user. I didn’t follow up on this as i am going with option one ūüôā

 

Quick test run? Here we go

After you have installed either the image version or the dep, you should be good to go for a first test.

Log in to your pi and kick of the following command:

docker run -d -p 8080:80 hypriot/rpi-busybox-httpd

Docker is now downloading the webserver image from the docker registry and start the container.

Now start your web browser and open http://<your-pi-ip>:8080

hyprion test docker images

 

Wait, there is one more thing

They also build an awesome hardware stack¬†called “The Pi Tower” which consists of 4 Raspberry Pi 2¬†stacked on top of a 5-Port-Switch.

(c) 2015 hypriot
Pi Tower – (c) 2015 hypriot

Read more about this at their blog: Let Docker Swarm all over your Raspberry Pi Cluster

 

Downloads: http://blog.hypriot.com/downloads/

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