GSoC ’13 at BeagleBoard.org

TL;DR  Worked as a GSoC intern at BeagleBoard.org and would love to thank all the people involved.

This years Google Summer of Code has drawn to an end. I worked on the Userspace-Arduino project with Parav Nagarsheth.
I was mentored by David Anders, Andrew Bradford and Matt Porter .

I had some serious fun this summer.

Made a tutorial video, documented a lot about the project on the wiki and wrote a lot of code !

I’d love to thank Dave for all the amazing guidance that he has been giving us throughout the summer. I, and Parav too, started working on the project even before the student list was put up. We were making small changes to the Dave’s Energia fork then. He has been pushing us in the right direction ever since, and I hope that he continues to do so.

mdp(Matt) and bradfa(Andrew) have been helping us out with a lot of things. We’ve had loads of discussions on #userspace-arduino about coding style, do’s and don’ts in our implementation, pros and cons of implementing a certain thing in a certain way

We were able to complete all the core functionality and were able to add support for commonly used libraries.

Because of GSoC, I got introduced to a *very* helpful community. #beagle and especially #beagle-gsoc have been very forthcoming with any and all kinds of help. The weekly meetings were a fun way to hang out with everyone. I learned how to ask questions (still a bit rusty), etiquette’s of IRC, how FOSS projects really work (basically people from anywhere in the world, having fun, coding and helping out each other). I learned how to write wikis. I learned how much more you can learn from actively participating on community forums and groups. In my case this was the G+ Beagleboard.org group.

A bit unrelated, but because of my association with the community and this project,

  • I gave a lightning talk at PyconIndia on using Python with the BBB
  • I conducted a workshop at my local hackerspace on using OpenCV with BBB
  • I am using the Black for my Bachelor’s thesis which is about Cloud Robotics
  • We are building a quadcopter at my local hackerspace using the Black.

Although this formally concludes the Google Summer of Code ’13 part, this is in no way the end. There are a lot more things in the project that have to be done. I’ll be helping to maintain the project along with adding functionality to it.

During the entire summer, I came across a lot many new project ideas. Implementing them during GSoC was not entirely possible because I had to make sure that the promised objectives from my project proposal would be completed. Here’s a list of some associated ideas that I want to work on

  1. Work on making Userspace-Arduino truly generic
    Right now there are some parts in the libraries which are BBB specific. For example, the analogWrite/PWM bit is hard coded for the Black. Get rid of all such bits in the code
  2. Support more boards
    This is basically building up on the above point. Once we have a generic platform, we can easily add more and more boards
  3. Create custom dts
    I had this idea that one should be able to create a custom dts based on the code that has to be compiled. (Assuming that particular function is available in the mux of that pin). Jason Kridner has something similar in BoneScript here. I’d like to create a framework in which we can have a file containing all the possible pin_mux values for each pin for a particular board. Once you give a source file ( in our case a .ino file), it’ll parse the source code and generate a symbol table of sorts with each pin used and the desired pin_mux for it. Based on existing templates, a custom .dts file will be created, compiled and loaded.
  4. ProtocolCape
    Dave had this idea of having a cape on similar lines to the Bacon Board that will make it easier for newbies to get started with all the different interfacing protocols that are available with the Black. So we have I2C, SPI, CAN and Serial on board. A cape which has all the interfaces in a more usable format, with all the right connectors along with software support in the form of the right dts and demo codes.
    Have created a project page here. Hopefully it’ll be easy to get started with an idea like this by looking at the works of Michael Leonard and others who participated in the TI Intern cape design contest.

Open Source and Me hereafter:

Before GSoC I was a very passive user of all things FOSS. I relied heavily on it in my projects, but would never contribute back. That was probably because of lack of confidence and a notion in my head that the guys behind these projects are some kind of Jedi masters who know the secrets of the Force (or in this case Source). All of this has changed for the better now, I guess. I feel less intimidated to meet me people, in real at conferences or in forums,channels, etc online, talk to them and share ideas.
The most important thing that I realized during this time was that it’s not about code. It’s not *just* about code. It’s about having something which people would use willingly. Something they’d love to invest their time in to improve. Something which adds value.
I attend quite a few conferences. But now when I think of a conference, I think how I can talk about some topic there. How it’d be cool present such and such topic there and what all I can include in that.
A lot many people who made it big in the open source world started out with Google Summer of Code. My favorite read was about webchick from Drupal who is a core contributor there now. There are plenty of such examples everywhere.

To conclude,

A well spent summer. A good start to for my FOSS journey.

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