Preparing for Automatic Publishing of Android Apps in Play Store

I spent this week searching through libraries and services which provide a way to publish built apks directly through API so that the repositories for Android apps can trigger publishing automatically after each push on master branch. The projects to be auto-deployed are:

I had eyes on fastlane for a couple of months and it came out to be the best solution for the task. The tool not only allows publishing of APK files, but also Play Store listings, screenshots, and changelogs. And that is only a subset of its capabilities bundled in a subservice supply.

There is a process before getting started to use this service, which I will go through step by step in this blog. The process is also outlined in the README of the supply project.

Enabling API Access

The first step in the process is to enable API access in your Play Store Developer account if you haven’t done so. For that, you have to open the Play Dev Console and go to Settings > Developer Account > API access.

If this is the first time you are opening it, you’ll be presented with a confirmation dialog detailing about the ramifications of the action and if you agree to do so. Read carefully about the terms and click accept if you agree with them. Once you do, you’ll be presented with a setting panel like this:

Creating Service Account

As you can see there is no registered service account here and we need to create one. So, click on CREATE SERVICE ACCOUNT button and this dialog will pop up giving you the instructions on how to do so:

So, open the highlighted link in the new tab and Google API Console will open up, which will look something like this:

Click on Create Service Account and fill in these details:

Account Name: Any name you want

Role: Project > Service Account Actor

And then, select Furnish a new private key and select JSON. Click CREATE.

A new JSON key will be created and downloaded on your device. Keep this secret as anyone with access to it can at least change play store listings of your apps if not upload new apps in place of existing ones (as they are protected by signing keys).

Granting Access

Now return to the Play Console tab (we were there in Figure 2 at the start of Creating Service Account), and click done as you have created the Service Account now. And you should see the created service account listed like this:

Now click on grant access, choose Release Manager from Role dropdown, and select these PERMISSIONS:

Of course you don’t want the fastlane API to access financial data or manage orders. Other than that it is up to you on what to allow or disallow. Same choice with expiry date as we have left it to never expire. Click on ADD USER and you’ll see the Release Manager created in the user list like below:

Now you are ready to use the fastlane service, or any other release management service for that matter.

Using fastlane

Install fastlane by

sudo gem install fastlane

Go to your project folder and run

fastlane supply init

First it will ask the location of the private key JSON file you downloaded, and then the package name of the application you are trying to initialize fastlane for.

Then it will create metadata folder with listing information excluding the images. So you’ll have to download and place the images manually for the first time

After modifying the listing, images or APK, run the command:

fastlane supply run

That’s it. Your app along with the store listing has been updated!

This is a very brief introduction to the capabilities of the supply service. All interactive options can be supplied via command line arguments, certain parts of the metadata can be omitted and alpha beta management along with release rollout can be done in steps! Make sure to check out the links below:

Continue ReadingPreparing for Automatic Publishing of Android Apps in Play Store

Fascinating Experiments with PSLab

PSLab can be extensively used in a variety of experiments ranging from the traditional electrical and electronics experiments to a number of innovative experiments. The PSLab desktop app and the Android app have all the essential features that are needed to perform the experiments. In addition to that there is a large collection of built-in experiments in both these experiments.

This blog is an extension to the blog post mentioned here. This blog lists some of the basic electrical and electronics experiments which are based on the same principles which are mentioned in the previous blog. In addition to that, some interesting and innovative experiments where PSLab can be used are also listed here. The experiments mentioned here require some prerequisite knowledge of electronic elements and basic circuit building. (The links mentioned at the end of the blog will be helpful in this case)

Op-Amp as an Inverting and a Non-Inverting Amplifier

There are two methods of doing this experiment. PSLab already has a built-in experiment dedicated to inverting and non-inverting amplification of op-amps. In the Android App, just navigate to Saved Experiments -> Electronics Experiments -> Op-Amp Circuits -> Inverting/ Non-Inverting. In case of the Desktop app, select Electronics Experiments from the main drop-down at the top of the window and select the Inverting/Non-inverting op-amp experiment.

This experiment can also performed using the basic features of PSLab. The only advantage of this methodology is that it allows much more tweaking of values to observe the Op-Amp behaviour in greater detail. However, the built-in experiment is good enough for most of the cases.

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For the amplifier, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side i.e. next to Vi and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side i.e next to Vo.
  • Usually, an Op-Amp like LM741 have a set of pins, one dedicated for the inverting input and the other dedicated for the non-inverting input. It is recommended to consult the datasheet of the Op-Amp IC used in order to get the pin number with which the input has to be connected.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The resistors displayed in the figure have the values R1 = 10k and R2 = 51k. Resistance values other than these can also be considered. The gain of the op-amp would depend on the ratio of R2/R1, so it is better to consider values of R2 which are significantly larger than R1 in order to see the gain properly.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1 kHz and magnitude to 0.1 V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • If the input is connected to the inverting pin of the op-amp, the output obtained will be amplified and will have a phase difference of 90o with the input waveform whereas when the non-inverting pin is selected, the output is just amplified and no such phase difference is observed.
  • Note: Take proper care while connecting the V+ and V- pins of the op-amp, else the op-amp will be damaged.

Diode as an Integrator and Differentiator

An integrator in measurement and control applications is an element whose output signal is the time integral of its input signal. It accumulates the input quantity over a defined time to produce a representative output.

Integration is an important part of many engineering and scientific applications. Mechanical integrators are the oldest application, and are still used in such as metering of water flow or electric power. Electronic analogue integrators are the basis of analog computers and charge amplifiers. Integration is also performed by digital computing algorithms.

In electronics, a differentiator is a circuit that is designed such that the output of the circuit is approximately directly proportional to the rate of change (the time derivative) of the input. An active differentiator includes some form of amplifier. A passive differentiator circuit is made of only resistors and capacitors.

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For both the circuits, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side i.e. next to input voltage source and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side i.e next to Vo.
  • Ensure that the inverting and the non-inverting terminals of the op-amp are connected correctly. Check for the +/- signs in the diagram. ‘+’ corresponds to non-inverting and ‘-’ corresponds to inverting.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The resistors displayed in the figure have the values R1 = 10k and R2 = 51k. Resistance values other than these can also be considered. The gain of the op-amp would depend on the ratio of R2/R1, so it is better to consider values of R2 which are significantly larger than R1 in order to see the gain properly.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1 kHz and magnitude to 5V (10V peak to peak). Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • If all the connections are made properly and the values of the parameters are set properly, then the waveform obtained should be as shown below.

Performing experiments involving ICs (Digital circuits)

The experiments mentioned so far including the ones mentioned in the previous blog post involved analog circuits and so they required features like the arbitrary waveform generator. However, digital circuits work using discrete values only. PSLab has the features needed to perform digital experiments which mainly involve the use of a square wave generator with a variable duty cycle.

PSLab board has dedicated pins named SQR1, SQR2, SQR3 and SQR4. The options for configuring these pins is present under the Advanced Control section in the Desktop app and in the Android app Applications->Control->Advanced. The options include selecting the pins which we want to use for digital outputs and then configuring the frequency and duty cycle of the square wave generated from that particular pin.

Innovative Experiments using PSLab

PSLab has quite a good number of interesting built-in experiments. These experiments can be found in the dropdown list at the top in the Desktop App and under the Saved Experiments header in the Android App. The built-in experiments come bundled with good quality documentation having circuit diagrams and detailed procedure to perform the experiments.

Some of the interesting experiments include:

  • Lemon Cell Experiment: In this experiment, the internal resistance and the voltage supplied by the lemon cell are measured.

 

  • Sound Beats: In acoustics, a beat is an interference pattern between two sounds of slightly different frequencies, perceived as a periodic variation in volume whose rate is the difference of the two frequencies.

 

  • When tuning instruments that can produce sustained tones, beats can readily be recognized. Tuning two tones to a unison will present a peculiar effect: when the two tones are close in pitch but not identical, the difference in frequency generates the beating.
  • This experiment requires producing two waves together of different frequencies and connecting them to the same oscilloscope channel. The pattern observed is shown below.

References:

  1. The previous blog on experiments using PSLab – https://blog.fossasia.org/electronics-experiments-with-pslab/
  2. More about op-amps and their characteristics – http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/opamp/opamp_1.html
  3. Read more about differential and integrator circuits – https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/semiconductors/chpt-8/differentiator-integrator-circuits/
  4. Experiments involving digital circuits for reference – http://web.iitd.ac.in/~shouri/eep201/experiments.php
Continue ReadingFascinating Experiments with PSLab

Basics behind school level experiments with PSLab

Electronics is a fascinating subject to most kids. Turning on a LED bulb, making a simple circuit will make them dive into much more interesting areas in the field of electronics. PSLab android application with the help of PSLab device implements a set of experiments whose target audience is school children. To make them more interested in science and electronics, there are several experiments implemented such as measuring body resistance, lemon cell experiment etc.

This blog post brings out the basics in implementing these type of experiments and pre-requisite.

Lemon Cell Experiment

Lemon Cell experiment is a basic experiment which will make school kids interested in science experiments. The setup requires a fresh lemon and a pair of nails which is used to drive into the lemon as illustrated in the figure. The implementation in PSLab android application uses it’s Channel 1. The cell generates a low voltage which can be detected using the CH1 pin of PSLab device and it is sampled at a rate of 10 to read an accurate result.

float voltage = (float) scienceLab.getVoltage("CH1", 10);

2000 instances are recorded using this method and plotted against each instance. The output graph will show a decaying graph of voltage measured between the nails driven into the lemon.

for (int i = 0; i < timeAxis.size(); i++) {
   temp.add(new Entry(timeAxis.get(i), voltageAxis.get(i)));
}

Human Body Resistance Measurement Experiment

This experiment attracts most of the young people to do electronic experiments. This is implemented in the PSLab android application using Channel 3 and the Programmable Voltage Source 3 which can generate voltage up to 3.3V. The experiment requires a human with drippy palms so it makes a good conductance between device connection and the body itself.

The PSLab device has an internal resistance of 1M Ohms connected with the Channel 3 pin. Experiment requires a student to hold two wires with the metal core exposed; in both hands. One wire is connected to PV3 pin when the other wire is connected to CH3 pin. When a low voltage is supplied from the PV3 pin, due to heavy resistance in body and the PSLab device, a small current in the range of nano amperes will flow through body. Using the reading from CH3 pin and the following calculation, body resistance can be measured.

voltage = (float) scienceLab.getVoltage("CH3", 100);
current = voltage / M;
resistance = (M * (PV3Voltage - voltage)) / voltage;

This operation is executed inside a while loop to provide user with a continuous set of readings. Using Java threads there is a workaround to implement the functionalities inside the while loop without overwhelming the system. First step is to create a object without any attribute.

private final Object lock = new Object();

Java threads use synchronized methods where other threads won’t start until the first thread is completed or paused operation. We make use of that technique to provide enough time to read CH3 pin and display output.

while (true) {
   new MeasureResistance().execute();
   synchronized (lock) {
       try {
           lock.wait();
       } catch (InterruptedException e) {
           e.printStackTrace();
       }
   }
}

Once the pin readings and value updates are complete the lock is released to execute the method once again.

updateDataBox();
synchronized (lock) {
   lock.notify();
}

Capacitor Discharge Experiment

This experiment is somewhat similar to the Lemon Cell Experiment as this experiments on electron storage and discharge. The experiment is carried out using two bulky electrolyte capacitors. PSLab device is capable of generating PWM waveforms with any duty cycle. Refer to this article to learn more about how PWM waves are generated using PSLab device to implement more features like sine wave generation.

Using the SQR1 pin of the PSLab device, one capacitor is charged to its fullest capacity using a PWM wave with 100% duty cycle at a 100 Hz.

scienceLab.setSqr1(100, 100, false);

This capacitor is then connected in parallel with the other capacitor which is empty. The voltage transfer is measured using CH1 pin at a sampling rate of 10

float voltage = (float) scienceLab.getVoltage("CH1", 10);

To provide a continuous update in the voltage transfer, a similar implementation is used using an object in the thread to control the implementation inside a while loop.

Resources:

Continue ReadingBasics behind school level experiments with PSLab

PSLab Remote Lab: Automatically deploying the EmberJS WebApp and Flask API Server to different domains

The remote-lab software of the pocket science lab enables users to access their devices remotely via the internet. Its design involves an API server designed with Python Flask, and a web-app designed with EmberJS that allows users to access the API and carry out various tasks such as writing and executing Python scripts. For testing purposes, the repository needed to be setup to deploy both the backend as well as the webapp automatically when a build passes, and this blog post deals with how this can be achieved.

Deploying the API server

The Heroku PaaS was chosen due to its ease of use with a wide range of server software, and support for postgresql databases. It can be configured to automatically deploy branches from github repositories, and conditions such as passing of a linked CI can also be included. The following screenshot shows the Heroku configuration page of an app called pslab-test1. Most of the configuration actions can be carried out offline via the Heroku-Cli

 

In the above page, the pslab-test1 has been set to deploy automatically from the master branch of github.com/jithinbp/pslab-remote . The wait for CI to pass before deploy has been disabled since a CI has not been setup on the repository.

Files required for Heroku to deploy automatically

Once the Heroku PaaS has copied the latest commit made to the linked repository, it searches the base directory for a configuration file called runtime.txt which contains details about the language of the app and the version of the compiler/interpretor to use, and a Procfile which contains the command to launch the app once it is ready. Since the PSLab’s API server is written in Python, we also have a requirements.txt which is a list of dependencies to be installed before launching the application.

Procfile

web: gunicorn app:app –log-file –

runtime.txt

python-3.6.1

requirements.txt

gunicorn==19.6.0
flask >= 0.10.1
psycopg2==2.6.2
flask-sqlalchemy
SQLAlchemy>=0.8.0
numpy>=1.13
flask-cors>=3.0.0

But wait, our app cannot run yet, because it requires a postgresql database, and we did not do anything to set up one. The following steps will set up a postgres database using the heroku-cli usable from your command prompt.

  • Point Heroku-cli to our app
    $ heroku git:remote -a pslab-test1
  • Create a postgres database under the hobby-dev plan available for free users.
    $ heroku addons:create heroku-postgresql:hobby-dev

    Creating heroku-postgresql:hobby-dev on ⬢ pslab-test1… free
    Database has been created and is available
    ! This database is empty. If upgrading, you can transfer
    ! data from another database with pg:copy
    Created postgresql-slippery-81404 as HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_CHARCOAL_URL
    Use heroku addons:docs heroku-postgresql to view documentation

  • The previous step created a database along with an environment variable HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_CHARCOAL_URL . As a shorthand, we can also refer to it simply as CHARCOAL .
  • In order to make it our primary database, it must be promoted

    $ heroku pg:promote HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_CHARCOAL_URL
    The database will now be available via the environment variable DATABASE_URL

  • Further documentation on creating and modifying postgres databases on Heroku can be found in the articles section .

At this point, if the app is in good shape, Heroku will automatically deploy its contents to pslab-test1.herokuapp.com. We can test it using a developer tool such as Postman, or make our own webapp to use it.

Deploying the EmberJS WebApp

Since we are using the free plan on Heroku which only allows one dyno, our EmberJS webapp which shares the repository cannot be deployed on the same heroku server. Therefore, we must look for other domains where the frontend can be deployed.

Surge.sh allows easy deployment of Ember apps, and we shall set up our CI’s configuration file .travis.yml to do this for us when a pull request is made, and the build passes

This excerpt from .travis.yml only shows parts relevant to deployment on Surge.sh

after_success:
– pushd frontend
– bash surge_deploy.sh
– popd

Once the build has passed, the after_success hook executes a script called surge_deploy.sh which is located in the directory of the webapp.

Contents of surge_deploy.sh

#!/usr/bin/env bash
if [ “$TRAVIS_PULL_REQUEST” == “false” ]; then
echo “Not a PR. Skipping surge deployment”
exit 0
fi

ember build –environment=’production’

export REPO_SLUG_ARRAY=(${TRAVIS_REPO_SLUG//\// })
export REPO_OWNER=${REPO_SLUG_ARRAY[0]}
export REPO_NAME=${REPO_SLUG_ARRAY[1]}

npm i -g surge

# Details of a dummy account. So can be added to vcs.
export SURGE_LOGIN=j********[email protected]
export SURGE_TOKEN=4********************************f
export DEPLOY_DOMAIN=https://${REPO_NAME}.surge.sh
surge –project ./dist –domain $DEPLOY_DOMAIN;

The variables SURGE_LOGIN and SURGE_TOKEN must be specified, otherwise Surge will open a login prompt, and since there is no way to feed details into a prompt in a Travis build, it will timeout and fail. The surge token can be obtained with a simple `surge login` followed by `surge token` on your system’s terminal.

Final Application

A user’s homepage on the webapp deployed at pslab-remote.surge.sh . The EmberJS app has been configured to send all AJAX requests to the API server located at pslab-remote.herokuapp.com .

Resources
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Implement Wave Generation Functionality in The PSLab Android App

The PSLab Android App works as an Oscilloscope using the audio jack of Android device. The implementation for the scope using in-built mic is discussed in the post Using the Audio Jack to make an Oscilloscope in the PSLab Android App. Another application which can be implemented by hacking the audio jack is Wave Generation. We can generate different types of signals on the wires connected to the audio jack using the Android APIs that control the Audio Hardware. In this post, I will discuss about how we can generate wave by using the Android APIs for controlling the audio hardware.

Configuration of Audio Jack for Wave Generation

Simply cut open the wire of a cheap pair of earphones to gain control of its terminals and attach alligator pins by soldering or any other hack(jugaad) that you can think of. After you are done with the tinkering of the earphone jack, it should look something like shown in the image below.

Source: edn.com

If your earphones had mic, it would have an extra wire for mic input. In any general pair of earphones the wire configuration is almost the same as shown in the image below.

Source: flickr

Android APIs for Controlling Audio Hardware

AudioRecord and AudioTrack are the two classes in Android that manages recording and playback respectively. For Wave Generation application we only need AudioTrack class.

Creating an AudioTrack object: We need the following parameters to initialise an AudioTrack object.

STREAM TYPE: Type of stream like STREAM_SYSTEM, STREAM_MUSIC, STREAM_RING, etc. For wave generation purpose we are using stream music. Every stream has its own maximum and minimum volume level.

SAMPLING RATE: it is the rate at which source samples the audio signal.

BUFFER SIZE IN BYTES: total size in bytes of the internal buffer from where the audio data is read for playback.

MODES: There are two modes

  • MODE_STATIC: Audio data is transferred from Java to native layer only once before the audio starts playing.
  • MODE_STREAM: Audio data is streamed from Java to native layer as audio is being played.

getMinBufferSize() returns the estimated minimum buffer size required for an AudioTrack object to be created in the MODE_STREAM mode.

private int minTrackBufferSize;
private static final int SAMPLING_RATE = 44100;
minTrackBufferSize = AudioTrack.getMinBufferSize(SAMPLING_RATE, AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO, AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT);

audioTrack = new AudioTrack(
       AudioManager.STREAM_MUSIC,
       SAMPLING_RATE,
       AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO,
       AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT,
       minTrackBufferSize,
       AudioTrack.MODE_STREAM);

Function createBuffer() creates the audio buffer that is played using the audio track object i.e audio track object would write this buffer on playback stream. Function below fills random values in the buffer due to which a random signal is generated. If we want to generate some specific wave like Square Wave, Sine Wave, Triangular Wave, we have to fill the buffer accordingly.

public short[] createBuffer(int frequency) {
   // generating a random buffer for now
   short[] buffer = new short[minTrackBufferSize];
   for (int i = 0; i < minTrackBufferSize; i++) {
       buffer[i] = (short) (random.nextInt(32767) + (-32768));
   }
   return buffer;
}

We created a write() method and passed the audio buffer created in above step as an argument to the method. This method writes audio buffer into audio stream for playback.

public void write(short[] buffer) {
   /* write buffer to audioTrack */
   audioTrack.write(buffer, 0, buffer.length);
}

Amplitude of the signal can be controlled by changing the volume level of the stream on which the buffer is being played. As we are playing the audio in music stream, so STREAM_MUSIC is passed as a parameter to the setStreamVolume() method.

value: value is amplitude level of the stream. Every stream has its different amplitude levels. getStreamMaxVolume(STREAM_TYPE) method is used to find the maximum valid amplitude level of any stream.
flag: this stackoverflow post explain all the flags of the AudioManager class.

AudioManager audioManager = (AudioManager)getSystemService(Context.AUDIO_SERVICE); audioManager.setStreamVolume(AudioManager.STREAM_MUSIC, value, flag);

Roadmap

We are working on implementing methods to fill audio buffer with specific values such that waves like Sinusoidal wave, Square Wave, Sawtooth Wave can be generated during the playback of the buffer using the AudioTrack object.

Resources

Continue ReadingImplement Wave Generation Functionality in The PSLab Android App

Basics behind BJT and FET experiments in PSLab

A high school student in his curriculum; will come across certain electronics and electrical experiments. One of them related to semiconductor devices such as Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs) and Field Effect Transistors (FETs). PSLab device is capable of function as a waveform generator, voltage and current source, oscilloscope and multimeter. Using these functionalities one can design an experiment. This blog post brings out the basics one should know about the experiment and the PSLab device to program an experiment in the saved experiments section.

Channels and Sources in the PSLab Device

The PSLab device has three pins dedicated to function as programmable voltage sources (PVS) and one pin for programmable current source (PCS).

Programmable Voltage Sources can generate voltages as follows;

  • PV1 →  -5V ~ +5V
  • PV2 → -3.3V ~ +3.3V
  • PV3 → 0 ~ +3.3V

Programmable Current Source (PCS) can generate current as follows;

  • PCS → 0 ~ 3.3mA

The device has 4 channel oscilloscope out of those CH1, CH2 and CH3 pins are useful in experiments of the current context type.

About BJTs and FETs

Every semiconductor device is made of Silicon(Si). Some are made of Germanium(Ge) but they are not widely used. Silicon material has a potential barrier of 0.7 V among P type and N type sections of a semiconductor device. This voltage value is really important in an experiment as in some practicals such as “BJT Amplifier”, there is no use of a voltage value setting below this value. So the experiment needs to be programmed to have 0.7V as the minimum voltage for Base terminal.

Basic BJT experiments

BJTs have three pins. Collector, Emitter and Base. Current to the Base pin will control the flow of electrons from Emitter to Collector creating a voltage difference between Collector and Emitter pins. This scenario can be taken down to three types as;

  • Input Characteristics → Relationship between Emitter current to VBE(Base to Emitter)
  • Output Characteristics → Relationship between IC(Collector) to VCB(Collector to Base)
  • Transfer Characteristics → Relationship between IC(Collector) to IE(Emitter)

Input Characteristics

Output Characteristics

Transfer Characteristics

     

Basic FET experiments

FETs have three pins. Drain, Source and Gate. Voltage to Gate terminal will control the electron flow from either direction from or to Source and Drain. This scenario results in two types of experiments;

  • Output Characteristics → Drain current to Drain to Source voltage difference
  • Transfer Characteristics → Gate to Source voltage to Drain current
Output Characteristics Transfer Characteristics

Using existing methods in PSLab android repository

Current implementation of the android application consists of all the methods required to read voltages and currents from the relevant pins and fetch waveforms from the channel pins and output voltages from PVS pins.

ScienceLab.java class – This class implements all the methods required for any kind of an experiment. The methods that will be useful in designing BJT and FET related experiments are;

Set Voltages

public void setPV1(float value);

public void setPV2(float value);

public void setPV3(float value);

Set Currents

public void setPCS(float value);

Read Voltages

public double getVoltage(String channelName, Integer sample);

Read Currents

To read current there is no direct way implemented. The current flow between two nodes can be calculated using the PVS pin value and the voltage value read from the channel pins. It uses Ohm’s law to calculate the value using the known resistance between two nodes.

In the following schematic; the collector current can be calculated using known PV1 value and the measured CH1 value as follows;

IC = (PV1 – CH1) / 1000

This is how it is actually implemented in the existing experiments.

If one needs to implement a new experiment of any kind, these are the basics need to know. There can be so many new experiments implemented using these basics. Some of them could be;

  • Effect of Temperature coefficient in Collector current
  • The influence in β factor in Collector current

Resources:

Continue ReadingBasics behind BJT and FET experiments in PSLab

Providing Support for Performing Rectifier Experiments in PSLab Android

PSLab can be used to perform Half and Full Wave Rectifier Experiments. A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current (DC), which flows in only one direction. Half wave rectifiers clip out the negative part of the input waveform. The rectified signal can be further filtered with a capacitor in order to obtain a low ripple DC voltage. Only a diode is needed to clip out the negative part of the input signal. Full wave rectifiers combine the positive halves of 180 degrees out of phase input waveforms such as those output from AC transformers with a center tap. The rectified signal can be further filtered with a capacitor in order to obtain a low ripple DC voltage. Two diodes are used to clip out the negative parts of both inputs and combine them into a single output which is always in the positive region.

In order to support Half Wave Rectifier Experiments in PSLab, we used Oscilloscope Activity. For Half Rectifier Experiment we require to generate a sine wave from W1 channel and read signals from CH1 and CH2.

To implement this we first need to inform the Oscilloscope Activity whether Half Wave Rectifier Experiment needs to be performed or not. For this, we used putExtra and getExtra methods.

  Bundle extras = getIntent().getExtras();
  if ("Half Rectifier".equals(extras.getString("who"))) {
          isHalfWaveRectifierExperiment = true;        
 }

Then we programmatically change the layout. The side panel is made disappear and the graph and lower panel of the Oscilloscope expands horizontally.

if (isHalfWaveRectifierExperiment) {
            linearLayout.setVisibility(View.INVISIBLE);
            RelativeLayout.LayoutParams lineChartParams = (RelativeLayout.LayoutParams) mChartLayout.getLayoutParams();
            lineChartParams.height = height * 5 / 6;
            lineChartParams.width = width;
            RelativeLayout.LayoutParams frameLayoutParams = (RelativeLayout.LayoutParams) frameLayout.getLayoutParams();
            frameLayoutParams.height = height / 6;
            frameLayoutParams.width = width;
        }

The fragment for lower panel is replaced by the fragment designed for Half Wave Rectifier

halfwaveRectifierFragment = new HalfwaveRectifierFragment();
 
if (isHalfWaveRectifierExperiment) {
addFragment(R.id.layout_dock_os2, halfwaveRectifierFragment, "HalfWaveFragment");
 }

We get the following layout, ready to perform halfwave rectifier experiment.

For making the graph functional, capturing signals from CH1 and CH2 is required. For this, we reused CaptureTwo AsyncTask in such a way that it captures signals from CH1 and CH2 channels where CH1 is the input signal and CH2 is the output signal.

if (scienceLab.isConnected() && isHalfWaveRectifierExperiment) {
   captureTask2 = new CaptureTaskTwo();
   captureTask2.execute("CH1");
   synchronized (lock) {
       try {
           lock.wait();
       } catch (InterruptedException e) {
           e.printStackTrace();
       }
   }
}

 

By following the above steps we reused Oscilloscope Activity to perform Rectifier Experiments.

Resources

Continue ReadingProviding Support for Performing Rectifier Experiments in PSLab Android

Designing A Remote Laboratory With PSLab: execution of function strings

In the previous blog post, we introduced the concept of a ‘remote laboratory’, which would enable users to access the various features of the PSLab via the internet. Many aspects of the project were worked upon, which also involved creation of a web-app using EmberJS that enables users to create accounts , sign in, and prepare Python programs to be sent to the server for execution. A backend APi server based on Python-flask was also developed to handle these tasks, and maintain a postgresql database using sqlalchemy .

The following screencast shows the basic look and feel of the proposed remote lab running in a web browser.

This blog post will deal with implementing a way for the remote user to submit a simple function string, such as get_voltage(‘CH1’), and retrieve the results from the server.

There are three parts to this:
  • Creating a dictionary of the functions available in the sciencelab instance. The user will only be allowed access to these functions remotely, and we may protect some functions as the initialization and destruction routines by blocking them from the remote user
  • Creating an API method to receive a form containing the function string, execute the corresponding function from the dictionary, and reply with JSON data
  • Testing the API using the postman chrome extension
Creating a dictionary of functions :

The function dictionary maps function names against references to the actual functions from an instance of PSL.sciencelab . A simple dictionary containing just the get_voltage function can be generated in the following way:

from PSL import sciencelab
I=sciencelab.connect()
functionList = {'get_voltage':I.get_voltage}

This dictionary is then used with the eval method in order to evaluate a function string:

result = eval('get_voltage('CH1')',functionList)
print (result)
0.0012

A more efficient way to create this list is to use the inspect module, and automatically extract all the available methods into a dictionary

functionList = {}
for a in dir(I):
	attr = getattr(I, a)
	if inspect.ismethod(attr) and a!='__init__':
		functionList[a] = attr

In the above, we have made a dictionary of all the methods except __init__

This approach can also be easily extrapolated to automatically generate a dictionary for inline documentation strings which can then be passed on to the web app.

Creating an API method to execute submitted function strings

We create an API method that accepts a form containing the function string and option that specifies if the returned value is to be formatted as a string or JSON data. A special case arises for numpy arrays which cannot be directly converted to JSON, and the toList function must first be used for them.

@app.route('/evalFunctionString',methods=['POST'])
def evalFunctionString():
    if session.get('user'):
        _stringify=False
        try:
            _user = session.get('user')[1]
            _fn = request.form['function']
            _stringify = request.form.get('stringify',False)
            res = eval(_fn,functionList)
        except Exception as e:
            res = str(e)
        #dump string if requested. Otherwise json array
        if _stringify:
            return json.dumps({'status':True,'result':str(res),'stringified':True})
        else:
            #Try to simply convert the results to json
            try:
                return json.dumps({'status':True,'result':res,'stringified':False})
            # If that didn't work, it's due to the result containing numpy arrays.
            except Exception as e:
                #try to convert the numpy arrays to json using the .toList() function
                try:
                    return json.dumps({'status':True,'result':np.array(res).tolist(),'stringified':False})
                #And if nothing works, return the string
                except Exception as e:
                    print( 'string return',str(e))
                    return json.dumps({'status':True,'result':str(res),'stringified':True})
    else:
        return json.dumps({'status':False,'result':'unauthorized access','message':'Unauthorized access'})
Testing the API using Postman

The postman chrome extension allows users to submit forms to API servers, and view the raw results. It supports various encodings, and is quite handy for testing purposes.Before executing these via the evalFunctionString method, user credentials must first be submitted to the validateLogin method for authentication purposes.

Here are screenshots of the test results from a ‘get_voltage(‘CH1’)’ and ‘capture1(‘CH1’,20,1)’ function executed remotely via postman.

 

Our next steps will be to implement the dialog box in the frontend that will allow users to quickly type in function strings, and fetch the resultant data

Resources:

 

Continue ReadingDesigning A Remote Laboratory With PSLab: execution of function strings

Electronics Experiments with PSLab

Numerous college level electronics experiments can be performed using Pocket Science Lab (PSLab). The Android app and the Desktop app have all the essential features needed to perform these experiments and both these apps have quite a large number of experiments built-in. Some of the common experiments involve the use of BJT (Bipolar Junction Transistor), Zener Diode, FET (Field Effect Transistor), Op-Amp ( Operational Amplifier) etc. This blog walks through the details of performing some experiments using the above commonly used elements.  

The materials required for all the experiments are minimal and includes a few things like PSLab hardware device, components like Diodes, Transistors, Op-Amps etc., connecting wires/jumpers and secondary components like resistors, capacitors etc. Most of these elements would be a part of the PSLab Accessory Kit.

It is recommended to read this blog here, go through the resources mentioned at the end and also get acquainted with construction of circuits before advancing with the experiments mentioned in this blog.

Half Wave and Full Wave Rectifiers

The Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) can be used as a rectifier. Rectifiers are needed in circuits to obtain a nearly constant and stable output voltage and prevent any ripples in the circuit. The rectifier can be half wave or full wave depending on whether it rectifies one or both cycles of Alternating Voltage.

The circuit for the Half and Full Wave rectifier is given as follows:

  • Construct the above circuits on a breadboard.
  • For the half wave rectifier, connect the terminals of CH1 and GND of PSLab on the input side and the terminals of CH2 and GND on the output side.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 100 Hz and magnitude to 10mV. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope.
  • CH1 would display the input waveform and CH2 will display the output waveform and the plots can be observed.
  • The plot obtained will have rectification in only half of the cycle. In order to obtain rectification in the complete cycle, the full wave rectifier is needed.
  • For the full wave rectifier, the procedure is the same but an additional diode is used. Use an additional channel CH3 to plot the extra input.

  • The plot obtained from the above steps would still have ripples and so a capacitor is placed in parallel to cancel this effect.
  • Place a 100uF/330uF capacitor in parallel to the resistor RL and an additional 1 ohm resistor in the circuit.

BJT Inverter

  • Transistor has a lot of functions. The most common of them is its use as an amplifier. However, transistor can be used as a switch in a circuit i.e. as an inverter.
  • The circuit for this experiment is shown below. For this experiment, it is recommended to use an external 5V DC supply like a battery. Connect the transistor and the diode initially and then connect the resistors accordingly. (Connect the terminals of diode and transistor carefully else they will be damaged).
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure.
  • The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 200 Hz and magnitude to 10mV.
  • Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo which should look like the graph shown below.

Common Mode Gain and Differential Mode Gain in Op-Amps

Gain of any amplifier can be calculated by calculating the ratio of the output and input voltage. On plotting the graph in X-Y mode, a Vo vs Vi graph is obtained. The slope of that graph gives us the gain at any particular input voltage.

  • For finding the Differential Mode gain of an Op-Amp, construct the circuit as shown below.
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure. The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The power supply provided to the Op-Amp are set to + 12V. (If faced with any confusion, please refer to the resources mentioned at the end of the blog to learn more about Op-Amps before proceeding ahead.)
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1000 Hz and magnitude to 0.5V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo.
  • For finding the Common Mode gain of the Op-Amp, remove the waveform generator input i.e W1 from R3 and attach it to R2. The rest of the steps remain the same.

Schmitt Trigger

In electronics, a Schmitt trigger is a comparator circuit with hysteresis implemented by applying positive feedback to the noninverting input of a comparator or differential amplifier. It is an active circuit which converts an analog input signal to a digital output signal.

  • Construct the circuit as shown below. Although the diagram shows a variable resistor be used, a constant value resistor would also work fine.
  • When the circuit is constructed completely, connect CH1 to Vi and CH2 to Vo. Vi and Vo are input and outputs respectively and are marked in the figure. The terminals of W1 and GND are also connected on the input side and they are used to generate a sine wave.
  • The power supply provided to the Op-Amp are set to + 12V. (If faced with any confusion, please refer to the resources mentioned at the end of the blog to learn more about Op-Amps before proceeding ahead. If done incorrectly, Op-Amps will be damaged)
  • Use the PSLab Desktop App and open the Waveform Generator in Control. Set the wave type of W1 to Sine and set the frequency at 1000 Hz and magnitude to 0.5V. Then go ahead and open the Oscilloscope. Use the X-Y mode of the oscilloscope to obtain the plot between Vi and Vo which should look like the graph shown below.

Resources:

  1. Read more about Half wave and Full wave rectifier and their applications – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectifier
  2. Read more about the Bipolar Junction Transistor and its use as a switch – http://www.electronicshub.org/transistor-as-switch/
  3. Understand the common mode and differential mode of Op-Amp – https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/video-lectures/op-amps-common-differential/
  4. Find more about Schmitt Trigger and its uses – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmitt_trigger
Continue ReadingElectronics Experiments with PSLab

Designing a Remote Laboratory with PSLab using Python Flask Framework

In the introductory post about remote laboratories, a general set of tools to create a framework and handle its various aspects was also introduced. In this blog post, we will explore the implementation of several aspects of the backend app designed with python-flask, and the frontend based on EmberJS. A clear separation of the frontend and backend facilitates minimal disruption of either sections due to the other.

Implementing API methods in Python-Flask

In the Flask web server, page requests are handled via ‘routes’ , which are essentially URLs linked to a python function. Routes are also capable of handling payloads such as POST data, and various return types are also supported.

We shall use an example to demonstrate how a Sign-Up request sent from the sign-up form in the remote lab frontend for PSLab is handled.

@app.route('/signUp',methods=['POST'])
def signUp():
	"""Sign Up for Virtual Lab

	POST: Submit sign-up parameters. The following must be present:
	 inputName : The name of your account. does not need to be unique
	 inputEmail : e-mail ID used for login . must be unique.
	 inputPassword: password .
	Returns HTTP 404 when data does not exist.
	"""
	# read the posted values from the UI
	_name = request.form['inputName']
	_email = request.form['inputEmail']
	_password = request.form['inputPassword']

	# validate the received values
	if _name and _email and _password:
		_hashed_password = generate_password_hash(_password)
		newUser = User(_email, _name,_hashed_password)
		try:
			db.session.add(newUser)
			db.session.commit()
			return json.dumps({'status':True,'message':'User %s created successfully. e-mail:%s !'%(_name,_email)})
		except Exception as exc:
			reason = str(exc)
			return json.dumps({'status':False,'message':str(reason)})

 

In this example, the first line indicates that all URL requests made to <domain:port>/signUp will be handled by the function signUp . During development, we host the server on localhost, and use the default PORT number 8000, so sign-up forms must be submitted to 127.0.0.1:8000/signUp .

For deployment on a globally accessible server, a machine with a static IP, and a DNS record must be used. An example for such a deployment would be the heroku subdomain where pslab-remote is automatically deployed ; https://pslab-stage.herokuapp.com/signUp

A closer look at the above example will tell you that POST data can be accessed via the request.form dictionary, and that the sign-up routine requires inputName,inputEmail, and inputPassword. A password hash is generated before writing the parameters to the database.

Testing API methods using the Postman chrome extension

The route described in the above example requires form data to be submitted along with the URL, and we will use a rather handy developer tool called Postman to help us do this. In the frontend apps , AJAX methods are usually employed to do such tasks as well as handle the response from the server.

 

The above screenshot shows Postman being used to submit form data to /signUp on our API server running at localhost:8000 . The fields inputName, inputDescription, and inputPassword are also posted along with it.

In the bottom section, one can see that the server returned a positive status variable, as well as a descriptive message.

Submitting the sign up form via an Ember controller.
  • Setting up a template
    We first need to set up a template that we shall call sign-up.hbs , and add the following form to it. This form contains the details essential for signing up , and its submit action is linked to an action called `signMeUp` . This action will be defined in the controller which we shall explore shortly

<form class="form-signin" {{action "signMeUp" on="submit"}} >
        <label for="inputName" class="sr-only">Your Name</label>
        {{input value=inputName type="text" name="inputName" id="inputName" class="form-control" placeholder="name" required=true autofocus=true}}
        <label for="inputEmail" class="sr-only">Email address</label>
        {{input value=inputEmail type="email" name="inputEmail" id="inputEmail" class="form-control" placeholder="Email address" required=true autofocus=true}}
        <label for="inputPassword" class="sr-only">Password</label>
        {{input value=inputPassword type="password" name="inputPassword" id="inputPassword" class="form-control" placeholder="Password" required=true autofocus=true}}
         
        <button class="btn btn-lg btn-primary btn-block" type="submit">Sign Up</button>
</form>

 

  • Defining the controller
    The controller contains the actions and variables that the template links to. In this case, we require an action called signMeUp. The success, failure, and error handlers are hidden for clarity.

import Ember from 'ember';
export default Ember.Controller.extend({
  actions:{
    signMeUp() {
        var request = Ember.$.post("/signUp",
 this.getProperties("inputName","inputEmail","inputPassword"),this,'json');
        request.then(this.success.bind(this), this.failure.bind(this),
this.error.bind(this));
    },
  },
});

The signMeUp action submits the contents of the form to the signUp route on the API server, and the results are handled by functions called success, failure, or error depending on the type of response from the backend server.

Resources:

 

Continue ReadingDesigning a Remote Laboratory with PSLab using Python Flask Framework