Howto: Setup Arduino on Chromebook

Background

Arduino is an interesting microcontroller platform / board that arguably launched the era of low cost, standalone microcontroller systems. At this time, there are a multitude of these devices in the $50 less price range – but the Arduino was one of the first.

ArduinoUno_R3_Front_450px

The Arduino is an 8 bit microcontroller with a USB interface, a GPIO interface, A/D and D/A converters, I2C interfaces, and UART(s). More importantly, it has a free and easy to use IDE that supports C coding for the device. The Arduino Uno runs about $25 (at this time) from a number of sources – AdaFruit or Sparkfun (for example).

In any case, this post will (hopefully) be relatively short and provide a proof of concept that the Arduino system can be installed and function on the Chromebook 14.

Dependencies / Assumptions / Caveats

This install requires that:

  1. The target Chromebook 14 is in developer mode.
  2. It has an SD card of at least 8GB to support the installation of a crouton chroot Ubuntu install.
  3. A fairly recent version of Ubuntu installed to a crouton chroot jail – for details refer to my post on installing an Android Development Environment.
  4. Java JDK installed and functioning. Once again – refer back to the Android Development Environment post.
  5. An Arduino device to test with.

Note: All of the instructions below are based on name of my user (joeuser), the name of my SD-Card (chrome-32), and particular versions of the install packages. You will need to modify for your respective names / versions.

Hardware – Arduino / USB Interface

My biggest concern with Arduino on the Chromebook is whether the Arduino Uno (my test board) will be recognized / configured correctly by ChromeOS – since there is a real risk that the appropriate kernel drivers may not be included on ChromeOS. Our chroot Ubuntu jail still uses / depends completely on ChromeOS for the kernel, kernel drivers and /dev.

So the first thing we are going to do is see what the ChromeOS kernel messages are when we hotplug the Arduino Uno into the Chromebook. Taking a look at the before by opening a crosh window <ctrl-alt-t>, followed by:

chrosh>shell
dmesg

Produces a screen full of device messages. Interestingly the last message indicates that  a GSM modem is mapped to ttyUSB0 – information that may be useful in the future. In any case, if we plug in the Arduino Uno to a USB interface on the Chromebook and run ‘dmesg’ again (looking specifically for new messages), we get the following information.

[12028.022309] usb 1-1: new full-speed USB device number 39 using xhci_hcd
[12028.035738] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=2341, idProduct=0001
[12028.035752] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=220
[12028.035763] usb 1-1: Product: Arduino Uno
[12028.035771] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: Arduino (www.arduino.cc)
[12028.035779] usb 1-1: SerialNumber: 649323436383514051E1
[12028.035970] usb 1-1: ep 0x82 - rounding interval to 1024 microframes, ep desc says 2040 microframes
[12028.036424] cdc_acm 1-1:1.0: ttyACM0: USB ACM device

Which provides us with a couple of useful datapoints. Specifically, that the device is recognized as an Arduino Uno, and that it is mapped to ‘ttyACM0’ – implying that it is recognized and likely supported by kernel driver.

The next thing we want to look at is is what it looks like in /dev – which is where the tty devices are mapped. In order for this interface to function correctly, the devices needs to readable / writeable from the Arduino IDE, and that will be installed on an crouton chroot Ubuntu install. So – to be more specific, we need to see what the ‘/dev/ttyACM0’ device looks like from inside of Ubuntu on the Chromebook – ownership and permissions. Start the Ubuntu install, switch to that interface (VT3) and open a terminal window. Inside that window, enter:

cd /dev
ls -al tty*

And this produces a listing in which the line of interest looks something like:

crw-rw---- 1 root serial 166,  0 Nov 26 05:37 ttyACM0

Note that the line containing ttyACM0 has permissions set to 660 and is owned by group ‘serial’. Most significantly, it is not world readable/writable. This will matter later when we need to access it from the Arduino IDE (Interactive Development Environment).

Software – Installing the Arduino IDE

There are multiple options for installing the Arduino IDE on Ubuntu. The easiest is launch the Ubuntu Software Center (or Synaptic)  from inside the Ubuntu system, search for Arduino and install. The only real issue with this is that the version in the Ubuntu respository is usually a few versions behind the most current version at the Arduino homepage. My suggestion is to try the version in the Ubuntu repository, see if it works (or doesn’t), and then evaluate the differences between the installed version and the most current version. If the updated features are critical to your needs, download and install the current version from the Arduino homepage – and follow the instructions for Ubuntu install.

After the install has completed, start start the Arduino IDE. I dialog box will popup indicating that the current user is not part of the ‘dialout’ group.   This can be remedied by closing the Arduino IDE, opening a terminal window and entering:

sudo usermod -a -G dialout joeuser 
sudo usermod -a -G serial joeuser

Which of course is based on my default username ‘joeuser’ – adapt to your match your configuration. Note that we added our user to two groups. The reason for this is a bit complicated, but it is important that the second group is the same as the groupname associated with /dev/ttyACM0 (from above).

After this is completed, you can restart the Arduino IDE and connect the Arduino to Chromebook. Under the settings menu, serial device you will find ‘/dev/ACM0’ is now enabled.

Arduino1Blink

If you pull up the demo sketch for blink, compile and install – and it should work. However we still have one more open issue that needs to be wrapped up.

One Dangling Detail – Fixing udevd

Our dangling detail is the fact that the Arduino IDE install created some association between the Arduino serial port (/dev/ttyACM0) and the dialout group as part of the install – but it is not working quite as expected. We can verify this by repeating the following:

cd /dev
ls -al tty*

Which produces the same information we have above with our /dev/ttyACM0 port in the serial group – not the dialout group. Now if we do this (from inside an Ubuntu Terminal):

sudo udevd --daemon
{disconnect / reconnect the Arduino Uno}
cd /dev
ls -al tty*

This produces a slightly different listing of which the line of interest will look something like:

crw-rw---- 1 root dialout 166,  0 Nov 26 05:37 ttyACM0

Which now shows that this device interface is associated with the dialout group. The reason for this is that the udevd daemon is a service that manages device configuration on most modern Linux systems. ChromeOS does not use udevd or even have it installed – for security reasons. The Arduino IDE creates some udevd rules (in the Ubuntu Chroot system) that map Arduino devices to the dialout group – but since the udevd daemon is not running in this crouton install – the rules are not applied until we manually started the daemon. We could manually start this each time we run our Ubuntu install, but the more correct and complete solution is add to udevd to the startup apps in ‘/etc/rc.local’. In Ubuntu, open a terminal and do the following:

sudo gedit /etc/rc.local

On the line before ‘exit 0’, add a new line with the following:

sudo udevd --daemon

Save and exit. What this does is, every time you boot your Ubuntu install, the udevd daemon will start – and all of the udev rules will be implemented. You can reboot, plug in the Arduino and confirm that it maps to the dialout group.

Wrapup

This is a  slightly messy install – since we had to get the udevd daemon started, and that would not be typical for an install. But overall this is nothing too far off the beaten path of Linux installations and maybe we learned something new in the process.

Update : 2013 Jan 27

The Cortado – https://launch.punchthrough.com/. Arduino compatible, Bluetooth programmable, onboard sensors, and long battery life. The Chromebook also has Bluetooth and it could likely function as a dev platform, and I would really like to try this on for size. The up to 100ft range and meshed networking – makes this a potential in the IoT space. [twolf]

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One Response to Howto: Setup Arduino on Chromebook

  1. newbie again says:

    shell
    cd /media/removable/chrome-32
    sudo mkdir bin chroots
    cd /usr/opt
    sudo ln -s /media/removable/chrome-32/bin/ bin
    sudo ln -s /media/removable/chrome-32/chroots/ chroots
    ls -al

    Tom,
    I am trying to set up crouton on my new acer c720 so I can do some arduino development.
    It’s been awhile since I have worked with linux.

    I am following your instructions to the letter.. relearning some commands..
    When I get to the line cd /usr/opt it says no such file or directory. What did I forget to do that creates the opt directory?

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