Notes about open source software, computers, other stuff.

Tag: Debian (Page 3 of 3)

Using Plugwise adapters with Linux

Yesterday I received a small package I had ordered: the Plugwise Home Start kit. According to the box it is an energy management and control system. The idea is that you insert a sort of adaptor between a power socket and a device and using the Plugwise Source software you can monitor the power usage of the device. Furthermore, you can use the software to create schedule to turn the device on and off at a specific time.

The package contains the following:

  • a USB adapter (called the Stick)
  • a Circle+, the master adaptor that keeps track of the other devices in the network
  • a Circle, the regular members of the Plugwise network

The Circles communicate to each other using the ZigBee protocol in the 2.4GHz range. According to the documentation, the range of each Circle is about 5m.

Unfortunately the Source software only runs on windows. Luckily some people have already analysed the protocol and written some software to control the Plugwise devices (see links below).

First steps

Plugging the USB dongle in gives the following output in /var/log/syslog:

Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  182.855742] usb 1- new full speed USB device number 14 using ehci_hcd
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas mtp-probe: checking bus 1, device 14: "/sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1a.0/usb1/1-1/1-1.6/1-1.6.1/1-"
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas mtp-probe: bus: 1, device: 14 was not an MTP device
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.169370] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbserial
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.169389] USB Serial support registered for generic
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.169431] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbserial_generic
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.169434] usbserial: USB Serial Driver core
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171310] USB Serial support registered for FTDI USB Serial Device
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171552] ftdi_sio 1- FTDI USB Serial Device converter detected
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171588] usb 1- Detected FT232RL
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171591] usb 1- Number of endpoints 2
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171595] usb 1- Endpoint 1 MaxPacketSize 64
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171598] usb 1- Endpoint 2 MaxPacketSize 64
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171602] usb 1- Setting MaxPacketSize 64
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171975] usb 1- FTDI USB Serial Device converter now attached to ttyUSB0
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.171998] usbcore: registered new interface driver ftdi_sio
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas kernel: [  183.172002] ftdi_sio: v1.6.0:USB FTDI Serial Converters Driver
Nov 19 12:20:37 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) opening serial port...
Nov 19 12:20:49 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) closing serial port...
Nov 19 12:20:49 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) serial port closed
Nov 19 12:20:49 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) opening serial port...
Nov 19 12:20:55 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) closing serial port...
Nov 19 12:20:55 barabas modem-manager[901]: <info>  (ttyUSB0) serial port closed

lsusb gives:

Bus 001 Device 014: ID 0403:6001 Future Technology Devices International, Ltd FT232 USB-Serial (UART) IC

I couldn’t get the pairing to work under Linux (with the PlugwiseOnLinux scripts), Even though I corrected the MAC address in the python code. I then tried it in Windows where I failed at first also. After resetting the Circle+ and the Circle (removing/inserting them into the power outlet with 3 second intervals, as mentioned in the FAW on the plugwise website) I managed to pair the Circles. Looking back, I think I didn’t wait long enough for the pairing to work under Linux. During the trials in Windows I noticed that the pairing can take up to about 5 minutes…

Back in Linux I used python-plugwise (see links below) to turn the Circles on and off, e.g. this is how I turn my Circle+ off (note that I am a member of the dialout group, which is needed to communicate with /dev/ttyUSB0):

$ plugwise_util -d /dev/ttyUSB0 -m 000D6F0000B1C117 -s off

This is what I want! The only minor downside of python-plugwise is that it depends on the crcmod python library, which apparently is not package for Debian/Ubuntu. So installing using the python-setup framework as mentioned in the README is necessary.

Reading out the current power usage of my Circle works also:

$ plugwise_util -d /dev/ttyUSB0 -m 000D6F0000B85134 -p
power usage: 2.27W

So, no that it works, what am I going to do with the Plugwise modules? I’m going to use them in my backup scripts to switch the power to my external hard drives.

Making a .deb

I used checkinstall to make a package of python-plugwise. In a working directory, first check out the source code of python-plugwise using mercurial, as mentioned on the web site:

$ hg clone

Then run checkinstall and don’t forget to fill in the details correctly. For example, the package name is ‘python’ by default, which you definitely don’t want, since that would overwrite Ubuntu’s default ‘python’ package. Also make sure that you remove the crcmod python library if you installed python-plugwise before, otherwise it won’t get packaged. The output below shows the final values, after I changed them.

$ sudo checkinstall -D python install
checkinstall 1.6.2, Copyright 2009 Felipe Eduardo Sanchez Diaz Duran
	      This software is released under the GNU GPL.
**** Debian package creation selected ***
This package will be built according to these values:
0 -  Maintainer: [ ]
1 -  Summary: [ python-plugwise is used to control the Plugwise power switches as well as read out information on power usage. ]
2 -  Name:    [ python-plugwise ]
3 -  Version: [ 0.2-hg-20111120 ]
4 -  Release: [ 1 ]
5 -  License: [ GPL ]
6 -  Group:   [ checkinstall ]
7 -  Architecture: [ amd64 ]
8 -  Source location: [ python-plugwise ]
9 -  Alternate source location: [  ]
10 - Requires: [ python ]
11 - Provides: [ python-plugwise ]
12 - Conflicts: [  ]
13 - Replaces: [  ]
Enter a number to change any of them or press ENTER to continue:

You can check the contents of the package to make sure the crcmod
files are included using dpkg:

$ dpkg --contents python-plugwise_0.2-hg-20111120-1_amd64.deb

An idea for later: make an SNMP module that calls plugwise_util to get the power usage so that I can monitor the power usage of a device using Cacti.


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BluePad and Ubuntu 11.10

Over the last few years I’ve always used BluePad (the author’s blog, source and packages available at when I had to do a presentation. BluePad allows me to use my Nokia 6230i to send PgUp and PgDn signals to my laptop via bluetooth and thus control my presentation without standing next to laptop all the time.

Unfortunately the author hasn’t updates his .deb packages in a long time, so trying to install the BluePad .deb on a recent Debian or Ubuntu machine will fail due to missing dependencies. I work around this issue by installing BluePad only when I need it and removing it afterwards. Here is how to install it.

dpkg -i --force-depends bluepad_0.4_all.deb

In older Ubuntu installations this was enough, but with Ubuntu’s Unity interface replacing Gnome the BluePad icon doesn’t appear in the top menu bar anymore and as a result it isn’t possible anymore to interact with it. So you’ll have no way of connecting the laptop to the phone.

To remedy this use the following command to allow all applications to show up in the system tray:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['all']"

Restart Unity or log out and back in to get the changes accepted.

After the presentation is over and the BluePad removed, use this line to reset the system tray settings:

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['']"

(That’s two single quotes within the brackets).

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Making a .deb package for software that doesn’t accept the DESTDIR variable in its Makefile

Because I’ll be deploying a new server in the near future and I want to keep it as clean as possible I decided (again) to try to find out how to create a .deb package (as used for example by Debian and Ubuntu Linux) for some software that doesn’t follow the autotools way of doing things. This time I found a/the way. But first some background info.

In the Unix/Linux world many programs are compiled from source in three steps:

make install

Usually the necessary files for this have been created using the autotools. The goal of the first step is to create a so-called Makefile that contains instructions on how to compile and install the files (as done in the two subsequent make steps.

Some software packages, however, include a ready-made Makefile that, in addition, doesn’t accept the environment variable DESTDIR. This last point is what makes packaging the application into a .deb file a bit tricky. The reason for this is that the package build scripts want to install the files of your application in a temporary directory and not into system-wide directories like /usr/bin/ etc. during the packing process. As such, packaging does not require root privileges.

At work we use many programs and tool sets developed by ourselves and other scientists. I know from my own experience that setting up autotools for your program is not trivial. Actually, for lack of time I’ve never successfully done it and for most of the rather simple programs that I’ve written setting up a complete autoconf/automake environment seems a bit overkill. I usually ended up writing a simple Makefile that compiles to code and installs it (usually in /usr/local/bin).

Merlin by Abecasis et al. is a great piece of software developed at the University of Michigan. However, as you may have expected by now, its Makefile does not accept the DESTDIR variable, instead running make tells you that in order to install in a different directory you’ll have to run

make INSTALLDIR=/some/other/directory

Therefore, all quick and dirty .deb recipes one finds on the Internet do not work without some adaptations. So here is what I did to make a .deb of it. It won’t be a full tutorial on how to do packaging, see the references at the end of this post for that. I’ll assume here that you have your build environment set up (e.g. the build-essential and fakeroot packages, as well as some others).

tar -xzf merlin-1.1.2.tar.gz
cd merlin-1.1.2
dh_make --single --email youremail@address --file ../merlin-1.1.2.tar.gz

Now the basic files are ready. Apart from the untarred source files the files needed for Debian packaging have also been created (in merlin-1.1.2/debian).

Time to make the necessary changes. First, since the Makefile included with merlin does not accept the DESTDIR variable that the Debian packaging system uses we’ll patch the Makefile in such a way that it works (I tried to fix this in the debian/control file, but in the end adapting the Makefile was much easier). I do this by changing the line



# default installation directory
ifeq ($(DESTDIR),"")

Let’s do some polishing of the package. I don’t want to make the perfect package, but adding a bit of text to the debian/control file make a lot of difference. This is what it looked like after my edits:

Source: merlin
Section: science
Priority: extra
Maintainer: Lennart C. Karssen <youremail@address>
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 7)
Standards-Version: 3.8.3
Package: merlin
Architecture: any
Depends: ${shlibs:Depends}, ${misc:Depends}
Description: Package for fast pedigree analysis
 MERLIN uses sparse trees to represent gene flow in pedigrees
 and is one of the fastest pedigree analysis packages around
 (Abecasis et al, 2002).

Also editing the file debian/changelog is a good idea, especially since I changed the source code (remember the Makefile?). This is what I wrote:

merlin (1.1.2-1) unstable; urgency=low
  * Initial release
  * Adjusted Makefile to make DESTDIR work.
 -- Lennart C. Karssen <youremail@address>  Tue, 05 Apr 2011 12:04:21 +0200

Officially you should edit the debian/copyright file as well, but since the merlin licence doesn’t allow distribution of the source or the binaries I didn’t bother.

To finally build the package run

dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -us -uc

This creates a .deb file in the directory where you started. As a final touch you can check your package for errors with

lintian ../merlin_1.1.2-1_amd64.deb


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