Turn Timing Diagrams Into ASCII Art, For Friendlier Pasting

We all use text-based fields at one time or another, and being limited to ASCII only can end up being a limitation. That’s what led [Luke Wren] to create asciiwave, a fantastic tool that turns WaveDrom timing diagrams into ASCII art. Unlike images, ASCII timing diagrams are suitable for pasting into comment fields, change logs, or anywhere else that accepts text only. [Update: As the author kindly shared in the comments below, this tool’s original niche is pasting into HDL (e.g. Verilog) source code comments, where it has a special kind of usefulness.]

WaveDrom itself is a nifty JavaScript tool that we have covered before. It accepts timing diagrams expressed as JSON data, and renders nicely-readable digital timing diagrams as images directly inside one’s browser.

As cool and useful as that is, images can’t be pasted into text fields. That’s where asciiwave comes in. It reads the exact same format that WaveDrom uses, but generates an ASCII-art timing diagram instead. So if you’ve found WaveDrom useful, but wish you could generate ASCII versions, here’s your solution.

Serial Studio One Year On

Last year we wrote about [Alex Spataru]’s Serial Studio project, which started life as serial port data visualizer, like a souped-up version of the Arduino serial plotter. [Alex] has been actively improving the project ever since, adding a variety of new features, including

  • JSON editor for data formats
  • TCP, UDP, and Multicast
  • New and more flexible display widgets
  • Multi-signal plots
  • FFT and logarithmic plots
  • VT-100 emulation
  • Support for plugins and themes
  • Added MQTT support

[Alex] originally came up with Serial Studio because he was involved in ground station software for various CanSat projects, each one with similar yet slightly different data formats and display requirements. Rather than make several different programs, he decided to make Serial Studio which could be configured using JSON descriptor files.

The program is open-source and multi-platform. You can build it yourself or download pre-compiled binaries for Windows, Linux, and Mac. See the project GitHub repository for more details. In addition to English, it has also been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and German. What is your go-to tool for visualizing serial data telemetry these days? Let us know in the comments below.

Making Linux Offline Voice Recognition Easier

For just about any task you care to name, a Linux-based desktop computer can get the job done using applications that rival or exceed those found on other platforms. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get it working, and speech recognition is just one of those difficult setups.

A project called Voice2JSON is trying to simplify the use of voice workflows. While it doesn’t provide the actual voice recognition, it does make it easier to get things going and then use speech in a natural way.

The software can integrate with several backends to do offline speech recognition including CMU’s pocketsphinx, Dan Povey’s Kaldi, Mozilla’s DeepSpeech 0.9, and Kyoto University’s Julius. However, the code is more than just a thin wrapper around these tools. The fast training process produces both a speech recognizer and an intent recognizer. So not only do you know there is a garage door, but you gain an understanding of the opening and closing of the garage door.

Continue reading “Making Linux Offline Voice Recognition Easier”

Put APIs To Work Wth This ArduinoJson Walkthrough

One of the things this community is famous for is the degree to which people will pitch in to fill an obvious need. Look at the vast array of libraries available for Arduino as an example of how people are willing to devote their time to making difficult tasks easier, often for little more than a virtual pat on the back.

One level up from the library writers are those who go through the trouble of explaining how all these libraries work in real-world applications. [Brian Lough] recently rose to that challenge with a thorough explanation of the use of the ArduinoJSON library, a very useful but often confusing library that makes IoT projects easier.

The need for an ArduinoJSON explainer no knock on its author, [Benoît Blanchon], who has done excellent work documenting the library; it’s more of a realization that the nature of JSON itself means a library that works with it is going to be complex. [Brian]’s contribution here is sharing his insights into getting ArduinoJSON up and running in a real-world ESP32 example, and dealing with the potential pitfalls of parsing a human-readable text file that can be used to represent almost any data object using the limited resources of a microcontroller. Along with the basics, we found the warning about how pointers refer back to the dynamic JSON document object particularly helpful; the bit about using filters to winnow down a large data set was useful too.

Thanks to [Brian] for taking the time to put this valuable information out there. Here’s hoping this encourages others to share the wealth of hard-earned knowledge in a similarly clear and concise manner.

Continue reading “Put APIs To Work Wth This ArduinoJson Walkthrough”

This Week In Security: Mysterious Mac Malware, An Elegant VMware RCE, And A JSON Mess

There’s a new malware strain targeting MacOS, Silver Sparrow, and it’s unusual for a couple reasons. First, it’s one of the few pieces of malware that targets the new M1 ARM64 processors. Just a reminder, that is Apple’s new in-house silicon design. It’s unusual for a second reason — it’s not doing anything. More precisely, while researchers have been watching, the command and control infrastructure didn’t provide a payload. Silver Sparrow has been positively found on nearly 30,000 machines.

The malware also has an intentional kill switch, where the presence of a particular file triggers a complete removal of the malware package. Researchers at Red Canary point out that this package behaves very much like a legitimate program, difficult to pick out as malware. Ars Technica got an off-the-record statement from Apple, indicating that they are tracking the situation, and have revoked the developer’s certificate used to sign the malware. It’s not entirely clear whether this prevents the malware running on already compromised machines, or just stops new infections.

So who’s behind Silver Sparrow? The observed stealth mode and other complexities suggest that this is more than a simple adware or ransomware campaign. Since it was discovered before the payload was delivered, we may never know what the purpose is. It may have been a government created campaign, targeting something specific. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Mysterious Mac Malware, An Elegant VMware RCE, And A JSON Mess”

Serial Studio: Easily Visualise And Log Serial Data

Outputting data from a microcontroller over a serial port is convenient and easy, but formatting, visualizing, and analyzing the data can be tedious and frustrating. [Alex Spataru] knows this all too well, having spent too many hours building and debugging custom dashboards. To save himself and others the same frustration in the future, he created Serial Studio, a tool for quickly building dashboards for serial data.

The only input required for Serial Studio to create a dashboard is a simple JSON structure specifying the data’s format, and how it should be grouped and displayed. Originally Serial Studio required all the JSON data to be sent over serial, which is fine for simple data but quickly becomes cumbersome for more complex applications. To solve this, [Alex] added a feature allowing the JSON document with the format information loaded from the computer, while only the data is sent over serial.

Serial Studio includes several visualization options, including raw line graphs, bar/level indicator, dial indicator, the artificial horizon for IMU data, or a map widget. It can also output the formatted data to a CSV file for further analysis in other software. A console window is also included for viewing raw data or debugging purposes. See the usage demo after the break.

We like Serial Studio’s ease of use and adaptability, and we’ll likely use it for our own projects in the future. It is compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac thanks to the Qt framework, and the code is open-source and available on GitHub.

If you’ve ever watched one of the BPS.Space model rocket launch videos, you’ll know how critical data logging, visualization and analysis is for [Joe Barnard]’s work. Serial Studio is perfect for such applications, and [Alex] used it extensively for simulated satellite competitions at his university. Continue reading “Serial Studio: Easily Visualise And Log Serial Data”

The Seedy World Of Message Serialization

Look, I’ve been there too. First the project just prints debug information for a human in nice descriptive strings that are easy to understand. Then some tool needs to log a sensor value so the simple debug messages gain structure. Now your debug messages {{look like : this}}. This is great until a second sensor is added that uses floats instead of ints. Now there are sprinklings of even more magic characters between the curly braces. A couple days later and things are starting to look Turing complete. At some point you look up and realize, “I need a messaging serialization strategy”. Well you’ve come to the right place! Continue reading “The Seedy World Of Message Serialization”