Programming the pcDuino

Contributors: SFUptownMaker
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Serial Communications

The pcDuino comes with several built-in serial ports. Here’s how to use those ports to send and receive data from within a program.


Serial port pin mapping on the pcDuino

The A10 processor on the pcDuino has eight serial ports on board. Only two of these ports actually map to a Linux device: /dev/ttyS0 is the debugging port, and /dev/ttyS1 is the UART which is pinned out on the Arduino-ish header.

Pin mode settings

As mentioned on the GPIO page, the “mode” registers for each pin control the functionality of that pin. For serial I/O, you may need to write ‘3’ to the mode files for pins 0 and 1. The C++ code includes that; the serial library for Python does it by default.

Serial Communications in C++

Using C++ to access the serial port is not too hard. There are lots of good sites out there about serial port access in Linux; here’s a simple example program to get your started. All it does is configure the port, send “Hello, world!” across it, wait for an input keystroke to come back, then exit.

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <termios.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include "serial_test.h"

// Life is easier if we make a constant for our port name.
static const char* portName = "/dev/ttyS1";

int main(void)

  // The very first thing we need to do is make sure that the pins are set
  //   to SERIAL mode, rather than, say, GPIO mode.
  char path[256];

  for (int i = 0; i<=1; i++)
    // Clear the path variable...
    // ...then assemble the path variable for the current pin mode file...
    sprintf(path, "%s%s%d", GPIO_MODE_PATH, GPIO_FILENAME, i);
    // ...and create a file descriptor...
    int pinMode = open(path, O_RDWR);
    // ...which we then use to set the pin mode to SERIAL...
    setPinMode(pinMode, SERIAL);
    // ...and then, close the pinMode file.

  int serialPort; // File descriptor for serial port
  struct termios portOptions; // struct to hold the port settings
  // Open the serial port as read/write, not as controlling terminal, and
  //   don't block the CPU if it takes too long to open the port.
  serialPort = open(portName, O_RDWR | O_NOCTTY | O_NDELAY );

  // Fetch the current port settings
  tcgetattr(serialPort, &portOptions);

  // Flush the port's buffers (in and out) before we start using it
  tcflush(serialPort, TCIOFLUSH);

  // Set the input and output baud rates
  cfsetispeed(&portOptions, B115200);
  cfsetospeed(&portOptions, B115200);

  // c_cflag contains a few important things- CLOCAL and CREAD, to prevent
  //   this program from "owning" the port and to enable receipt of data.
  //   Also, it holds the settings for number of data bits, parity, stop bits,
  //   and hardware flow control. 
  portOptions.c_cflag |= CLOCAL;
  portOptions.c_cflag |= CREAD;
  // Set up the frame information.
  portOptions.c_cflag &= ~CSIZE; // clear frame size info
  portOptions.c_cflag |= CS8;    // 8 bit frames
  portOptions.c_cflag &= ~PARENB;// no parity
  portOptions.c_cflag &= ~CSTOPB;// one stop bit

  // Now that we've populated our options structure, let's push it back to the
  //   system.
  tcsetattr(serialPort, TCSANOW, &portOptions);

  // Flush the buffer one more time.
  tcflush(serialPort, TCIOFLUSH);

  // Let's write the canonical test string to the serial port.
  write(serialPort, "Hello, World!", 13);

  // Now, let's wait for an input from the serial port.
  fcntl(serialPort, F_SETFL, 0); // block until data comes in   

  char dataIn = 0;
  } while(dataIn == 0);

  printf("You entered: %c\n", dataIn);

  // Don't forget to close the port! Failing to do so can cause problems when
  //   attempting to execute code in another program.

void setPinMode(int pinID, int mode)
  writeFile(pinID, mode);

// While it seems okay to only *read* the first value from the file, you
//   seemingly must write four bytes to the file to get the I/O setting to
//   work properly. This function does that.
void writeFile(int fileID, int value)
  char buffer[4];  // A place to build our four-byte string.
  memset((void *)buffer, 0, sizeof(buffer)); // clear the buffer out.
  sprintf(buffer, "%d", value);
  lseek(fileID, 0, SEEK_SET);   // Make sure we're at the top of the file!
  int res = write(fileID, buffer, sizeof(buffer));

Serial Communications in Python

Python requires an external library to use serial ports; however, it’s very easy to install. Just open up an LXTerm window and type

sudo apt-get install python-serial

Pyserial, the Python serial library, will be automatically installed.

Now, let’s run our first Python serial communications program. We’ll do the same thing we did in C++: open the port, wait for the user to input a keystroke, echo back the keystroke, then exit. Here’s the code:

#!/usr/bin/env python

import serial ## Load the serial library

## Select and configure the port
myPort = serial.Serial('/dev/ttyS1', 115200, timeout = 10)

## Dump some data out of the port
myPort.write("Hello, world!")

## Wait for data to come in- one byte, only
x =

## Echo the data to the command prompt
print "You entered " + x

## Close the port so other applications can use it.