Y Soft is using a robotic arm for testing multi-functional devices, but the robotic arm is not enough for our testing purpose. We need to interact with the device in different ways than just tapping on the touchscreen. A Screen of the tested device is already captured by a camera, therefore it is needed another feedback from a device and react to that feedback. Due to that, we developed Modular sensor platform, which can be easily plugged into a computer (Web API server) by USB. Via REST API protocol you can read information or command different kinds of sensors and actors. The following diagram illustrates how the platform is composed.

Web API server

As this diagram shows you can connect multiple sensors to the server via USB to CAN converter. When the web server starts it sends discovery packet. From the responses, the web knows what types and how many sensors are connected. After initialization, it starts listening to sensors commands from clients.

The web API server is written using ASP.NET Core framework. In the following link, you can find a tutorial, which shows you a simplicity of creating a RESTful application and from which components the server is composed.

The .NET Core is cross-platform so the web server can run on any device running Linux, macOS or Windows.

Try to create ASP.NET Core application based on tutorial above or you can just create a console application (see link). The Created application can be built for any supported OS, for ARM there is available only runtime, not SDK for developing an application (see SDK support, ARM Runtime).

Build for a device is as simple as run this command

dotnet publish -r <Runtime identifier>

in the directory of the project (after -r switch you can specify any supported platform, for more information use this link). You must also install prerequisites to the target device (see link), then you can copy this folder

<Project path>bin\<Configuration>\netcoreapp2.0\<Runtime identifier>\publish

to ARM device and run the application.

Summary

This article shows the composition of parts of the platform and how parts communicate with each other and that the platform is not limited only to one operating system. It works with Windows, Linux, macOS, even on ARM architecture. In next part of an article, I will tell you about the development of USB to CAN converter and sensors.

 

Chef is an automation platform designed to help the deployment and provisioning
process during software development and in production. Chef can, in cooperation with other deployment tools, transform the whole product environment into 
infrastructure as a code.

DSL

Chef provides a custom DSL that lets its users define the whole environment as a set of resources, together forming recipes, which can be further grouped into cookbooks. The DSL is based on Ruby, which adds a level of flexibility by offering Ruby’s language constructs to help the development. A basic example of a resource is a file with a specified content:
file 'C:\app\app.config' do
    content "server_port = #{port}"
end
Upon executing, Chef will make sure there exists a defined file and has the correct content. If the file with the same content already exists, Chef will finish without updating the resource, letting developers know the environment has already been in a desired stated before the Chef run.

Provisioning

The resources have build-in validations ensuring only the changes in configurations are applied in an existing environment. This lets users execute recipes repeatedly with only minor adjustments and Chef will make the necessary changes in your environment, leaving the correctly defined resources untouched.
This is especially handy in a scenario when an environment is already deployed and developers keep updating the recipes with new resources and managing configurations of deployed components. Here, with correctly defined validations, the recipes will be executed on target machines repeatedly, always updating the environment without modifying the parts of the environment which are already up to date.
This behavior can be illustrated on the following example:
my_tool = maven 'tool.exe' do
    artifact_id     'tool'
    group_id        'com.ysoft'
    version         '1.0.0'
    dest            'C:\utils'
    packaging       'exe'
end

execute 'run tool.exe' do
    command "#{my_tool.dest}\\#{my_tool.name} > #{my_tool.dest}\\tool.output"
    not_if {::File.exist?(#{my_tool.dest}\\tool.output)}
end
In this example, the goal is to download an exe file and run it exactly once (only the first run of this recipe should update the environment). The maven resource internally validates, whether the given artifact has already been downloaded (there would already exist a file C:\utils\tool.exe).
The problem is with the execute resource, as it has no way of checking whether it has been run before, thus potentially executing more times. Users can, however, define restrictions themselves, in this case, the not_if attribute. It will prevent the resource to execute again, as it checks the existence of the tool output from previous runs.

Architecture

To enable environment provisioning, Chef operates in a client-server architecture with a pull-based model.
Chef server represents the storage of everything necessary for deployment and provisioning. It stores cookbooks, templates, data bags, policies and metadata describing each registered node.
Chef client is installed on every machine managed by Chef server. It is responsible for contacting Chef server and checking whether there are new configurations to be applied (hence the pull-based model).
ChefDK workstation is the machine from which the whole Chef infrastructure is operated. Here, the cookbooks are developed and Chef server is managed.
In this example, we can differentiate between the Chef infrastructure (blue) and the managed environment (green). The process of deployment and provisioning is as follows:
  1. A developer creates/modifies a cookbook and uploads it to the Chef server.
  2. Chef client requests the server for changes in the recipes.
  3. If there are changes to be made, Chef server notifies the client.
  4. The client initiates a Chef run with the new recipes.
Note here that in a typical Chef environment, Chef client is set to request the server for changes periodically, to automate the process of configuration propagation.

Serverless deployment

When only the deployment of the environment is necessary (e.g for a simple installation of a product where no provisioning is required), in an offline deployment or while testing, much of the operational overhead of Chef can be mitigated by leaving out the server completely.
Chef client (with additional tools from ChefDK) can operate in a local mode. In such case, everything necessary for the deployment, including the recipes, is stored on the Chef client, which will act as a dummy server for the duration of the Chef run.
 
Here, you can see the architecture of a serverless deployment. The process is as follows:
  1. Chef client deploys a dummy server and points it to cookbooks stored on the same machine.
  2. Chef client from now on acts as the client in the example above and requests the server for changes in the recipes.
  3. Chef Server notifies the client of the changes and a new Chef run is initiated.

Conclusion

Chef is a promising tool that has a potential to help us improve not only the products we offer, but also make the process of development and testing easier.
In combination with infrastructure deployment tools (like Terraform) we are currently researching, automatization of product deployment and provisioning can allow our developers to focus on important tasks instead of dealing with the deployment of testing environments or manually updating configuration files across multiple machines.

This blog post will introduce tool Terraform, which we use for deploying testing environments in YSoft. We will cover following topics:

  • What is Terraform?
  • How does it work?
  • Example of use

What is Terraform?

Terraform is a command line tool for building and changing infrastructure in a safe and efficient matter. It can manage resources on most of the popular service providers. In essence, Terraform is simply a tool that takes configuration files as input and generates an execution plan describing what needs to be done to reach the desired state. Do you need to add another server to your cluster? Just add another module to your configuration. Or redeploy your production environment in a matter of minutes? Than Terraform is the right tool.

How does it work?

Infrastructure as a code

Configuration files that define infrastructure are written using high-level configuration syntax. This basically means that blueprint of your production or testing infrastructure can be versioned and treated as you would normally treat any other code. In addition, since we are talking about code, the configuration can be shared and re-used.

Execution plan

Before every Terraform execution, there is planning step, where Terraform generates an execution plan. The execution plan will show you what will happen when you run an execution (when you apply the plan). This way you avoid surprises when you manipulate with your infrastructure.

Terraform state file

How does Terraform determine the current state of infrastructure? The answer is the state file. State file keeps the information about all the resources that were created by execution of the given configuration file. To assure that the information in state file is fresh and up to date, Terraform queries our provider for any changes of our infrastructure (and modifies state file accordingly), before running any operation, meaning: for every plan and apply, Terraform will perform synchronization of a state file with a provider.

Sometimes this behavior can be problematic, for example querying large infrastructures can take a non-trivial amount of time. In this scenarios, we can turn off the synchronizing, which means the cached state will be treated as the record of truth.

Below you can see the picture of the whole execution process.

Example of use

In our example, we will be working with the azure provider. The example configuration files can be used only for the azure provider (hence the configuration files for different providers may and will differ). In our example, it is also expected, that we have set up terraform on our machine and appropriate endpoints to provider beforehand.

Step 1: Write configuration file

The presented configuration file has no expectations regarding previously created resources and it can be executed on its own, without the need to create any resources in advance.

The configuration file that we will write describes following resources:

Now we create an empty directory on the machine where we have installed terraform and within we create a file with name main.tf. The contents of the main.tf  file:

provider "azurerm" {
  subscription_id = "..."
  client_id       = "..."
  client_secret   = "..."
  tenant_id       = "..."
}

resource "azurerm_resource_group" "test" {
  name     = "test-rg"
  location = "West US 2"
}

resource "azurerm_virtual_network" "test" {
  name                = "test-vn"
  address_space       = ["10.0.0.0/16"]
  location            = "West US 2"
  resource_group_name = "${azurerm_resource_group.test.name}"
}

resource "azurerm_subnet" "test" {
  name                 = "test-sbn"
  resource_group_name  = "${azurerm_resource_group.test.name}"
  virtual_network_name = "${azurerm_virtual_network.test.name}"
  address_prefix       = "10.0.2.0/24"
}

resource "azurerm_network_interface" "test" {
  name                = "test-nic"
  location            = "West US 2"
  resource_group_name = "${azurerm_resource_group.test.name}"

  ip_configuration {
    name                          = "testconfiguration1"
    subnet_id                     = "${azurerm_subnet.test.id}"
    private_ip_address_allocation = "dynamic"
  }
}

resource "azurerm_virtual_machine" "test" {
  name                  = "test-vm"
  location              = "West US 2"
  resource_group_name   = "${azurerm_resource_group.test.name}"
  network_interface_ids = ["${azurerm_network_interface.test.id}"]
  vm_size               = "Standard_DS1_v2"

  delete_os_disk_on_termination = true

  storage_image_reference {
    publisher = "Canonical"
    offer     = "UbuntuServer"
    sku       = "16.04-LTS"
    version   = "latest"
  }

  storage_os_disk {
    name              = "myosdisk1"
    caching           = "ReadWrite"
    create_option     = "FromImage"
    managed_disk_type = "Standard_LRS"
  }

  os_profile {
    computer_name  = "hostname"
    admin_username = "testadmin"
    admin_password = "Password1234!"
  }

  os_profile_linux_config {
    disable_password_authentication = false
  }
}

 

Step 2: Planning the execution

Now we browse into a directory with our main.tf  file and we run command terraform init, which initializes various local settings and data that will be used by subsequent commands.

Secondly, we run command terraform plan, which will output the execution plan, describing which actions Terraform will take in order to change real infrastructure to match the configuration. The output format is similar to the diff format generated by tools such as Git. If terraform plan failed with an error, read the error message and fix the error that occurred. At this stage, it is likely to be a syntax error in the configuration.

Step 3: Applying the plan

If terraform plan ran successfully we are safe to execute terraform apply. Throughout the whole “apply” process terraform will inform us of progress. Once the terraform is done, our environment is ready and we can easily check by logging in to our virtual machine. Also, our directory now contains file terraform.tfstate file, which is state file that corresponds to our newly created infrastructure.

Conclusion

This example was only a very simple one to show how configuration file might look. Terraform offers more on top of that. Configurations can be packed into modules, self-contained packages that are managed as a group. This way we can create reusable parametrizable components and treat these pieces of infrastructure as a black box. Besides that, Terraform can also perform a provisioning of VM and much more.

At Y Soft, we use robots to test our solutions for verification and validation aspects, we are interested if the system works according to required specifications and what are the qualities of the system. To save time and money, it is possible to use a single robot to test multiple devices simultaneously. How is this done? It is very simple so let’s look at it.

When performing actions to operate given a device, the robot knows where the device is located due to a calibration. The calibration file contains transformation matrix that can transform location on the device to robot’s coordinate system. The file also contains information about the device that is compatible with the calibration. How the calibration is computed is covered in this article. There is also calibration of the camera that contains information about the region of interest, meaning where exactly is the device screen located in the view of a camera. All of the calibration files are stored on the hard drive.

Example of calibration files for two Terminal Professionals:

{  
   "ScreenXAngle":0.35877067027057225,
   "DeviceId":18,
   "DeviceModelId":18,
   "DeviceName":"Terminal_Professional 4, 10.0.5.182",
   "MatrixArray":[[0.728756457140,0.651809992529,-0.159500429741,75.4354297376],[-0.683749126568,0.734998176419,-0.10936964140,71.1249458777],[0.0422532822652,0.187897834122,0.981120733880,-34.923427696],[0.0,0.0,0.0,1.0]] ,
   "ScreenSize":{  
      "Width":153.0,
      "Height":91.0
   }
}
{  
   "ScreenXAngle":0.25580856461537194,
   "DeviceId":27,
   "DeviceModelId":18,
   "DeviceName":"Terminal_Professional 4, 10.0.5.112",
   "MatrixArray":[ [0.713158843830,-0.686471581194,0.220191724515,-176.983055],[0.699596463347,0.6783511825194,-0.15148794414,-71.7788394],[-0.05297850752,0.2635031531279,0.963621817536,-29.83848504],[0.0,0.0,0.0,1.0] ],
   "ScreenSize":{  
      "Width":153.0,
      "Height":91.0
   }
}


For the robot to operate on multiple devices, all of the devices must be within the robot’s operational range, which is quite limited, so this feature is currently is only used for smaller devices, like mobile phones and Terminal Professional. It is theoretically possible to use a single robot on more devices, but for practical purposes, there are usually only 2 devices. Also, all devices must be at relatively the same height, which limits testing on multifunctional devices that have various height and terminal placement. Space is also limited by the camera’s range, so multiple cameras might be required, but this is not a problem as camera calibration also contains the unique identifier of a camera. Therefore a robot can operate on multiple devices using multiple cameras or just a single camera if devices are very close to each other.

Before testing begins, a robot needs to have all calibrations of devices available on the hard drive and all action elements (buttons) need to be within its operational range. Test configuration contains variables such as DEVICE_ID and DEVICE2_ID which need to contain correct device IDs as stored the robot’s database. Which tests will run on the devices and the duration of the tests also need to be specified. Tests used for these devices are usually measurement and endurance tests, which run in iterations. There are multiple variants for these tests, for example, let’s say we wish to run tests for 24 hours on two devices and each device should have an equal fraction of this time. This means that the test will run for 12 hours on one device and 12 hours on the other, which is called consecutive testing. Another variant is simultaneous testing, which means that the robot will alternate between the devices after each iteration for a total time of 24 hours. The robot loads the calibration for another device after each iteration and continues with the test on that device.  This is sometimes very useful should one device become unresponsive, the test can continue on the second device for the remaining time. Results of each iteration of the test for each device are stored in a database along with other information about the test and can be viewed later.

Testing multiple devices with a single robot also makes it possible to test and compare different versions of an application or operating system (in this case on Terminal Professional) without ending the test, reinstalling of the device and running the test again. This saves a lot of time and makes the comparison more accurate.