Saturday Dec 06, 2014

How to Create a Positronic Brain for Your Drone

For this year’s JavaOne, Jim Weaver, Sean Phillips, and I presented a session entitled Creating Our Robot Overlords: Autonomous Drone Development with Java and the Internet of Things. We invested a lot of energy and had a great time developing several components that contributed to a more intelligent drone, and the presentation was well-received. There is SO much to be done, though, and we’re just getting started!

That said, we’ve been slower than we’d like in sharing some of the materials we created along the way, and we’re trying to catch up with some of those housekeeping chores now. This post is intended to provide a starting point and frame of reference for some of our decisions so far, provide some hints to intentions moving forward, and perhaps explain what may or may not make sense at first blush. Think of it as a map legend. :)

We decided early on that there were really two levels of autonomy we could work toward accomplishing, what we referred to very loosely as General Autonomy (GA) and Advanced Autonomy (AA). With the compressed timeline we had for JavaOne, we focussed primarily upon providing a reliable level of General Autonomy. Here is how we differentiated:

General Autonomy (GA): The drone is controlled by its onboard (Raspberry Pi) brain, with instructions issued by the brain via a Java (SE Embedded) program. The brain directs the drone’s movements step by step, e.g. instructing it to move a specified distance/speed/duration in a particular direction. An entire flight sequence is compiled in this manner by the developer, but the Pi executes it entirely from and on the drone itself, with or without external connectivity.

Advanced Autonomy (AA): The drone is controlled by its onboard (Raspberry Pi) brain, but rather than a very specific set of task-based instructions, the brain controls the drone using a goal-oriented - and self-adjusting - program. This requires a much greater awareness by the drone of its environment and the ability to extrapolate an initial framework of behavior based upon instructions further from a list of steps and closer to “navigate around the perimeter of this room at an altitude of approximately 2m/6.5’".

While a great deal of code was (and is) being developed along both paths, we checked into a repository our JavaOne demo code for sharing; more will certainly follow over time.

Just recently, I created a wiki page detailing the steps we used to configure a Raspberry Pi as a "Positronic brain” for our drones (one for each, of course - what kind of mad science do you think we do, anyway?!?!). If you’d like to start working on your own intelligent drone, you can read what we did here and see what you think. This was our "version 1.0" and will change and adapt as platform(s) evolve, but our plan is to keep it up-to-date as we go along.

More updates to follow! This is an exciting area to explore, and as I said earlier, we’re just getting started. Join in the fun! How do you ever hope to stay ahead of SkyNet if you don’t help create it?  ;)

Cheers,
///ark

Monday Sep 01, 2014

Join Us at JavaOne 2014!

There are some absolutely SUPERB conferences dedicated to Java (the language, the platform, the ecosystem) around the world, and I’ve been privileged to speak at some of them. No two are alike, and that is a good thing! JavaOne San Francisco holds a very special place in that lineup, bringing together a phenomenal mixture of vision, direction, community leadership, and grassroots innovation that is nearly impossible to describe. You just have to be there!

This year I’m pleased and honored to be presenting in three sessions, sharing the stage with some of my favorite people from around the world: Jim Weaver, Sean Phillips, David Heffelfinger, Geertjan Wielenga, Jens Deters, José Pereda, and James Gosling. As I said, it’s a genuine honor!

Here are the sessions in which I’ll be taking part:

Creating Our Robot Overlords: Autonomous Drone Development with Java and the Internet of Things [CON1863]
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM - Hilton - Continental Ballroom 4

Who wants a mindless drone? Teach it to “think,” and it can do so much more. But how do you take it from Toy Story to Terminator? This session’s speakers discuss their new open source library, Autonomous4j, for autonomous drone development. Combining this library and some components from their mad science toolkit, they demonstrate how to get your Internet of Things off the ground and do some real cloud computing. In the session, you’ll learn how to write an autonomous drone program with Java 8; deploy it to the drone’s “positronic brain,” an onboard Raspberry Pi; have the Pi guide an AR.Drone to accomplish a task; monitor it via a JavaFX console; and create your own robot overlord. Demos are included: you’ve been warned! 

With Jim Weaver & Sean Phillips


Debugging and Profiling Robots with James Gosling [CON6699]
Wednesday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM - Hilton - Continental Ballroom 4

James Gosling recently stated that “being able to debug and profile robots out at sea is a truly life-altering experience.” He uses a set of tools—consisting of editors, debuggers, and profilers—that are part of the NetBeans IDE. In this session, Gosling and other speakers introduce you to these tools and show you how easily and quickly you can program and interact with devices via Java tools. Come see how well integrated embedded devices are with the Java ecosystem. 

With Geertjan Wielenga, Jens Deters, José Pereda, & James Gosling


Java Platform, Enterprise Edition Lab 101: An Introduction [HOL1827]
Wednesday, Oct 1, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM - Hilton - Franciscan A/B

For anyone familiar with the Java language but without direct Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) experience, the capabilities and APIs in Java EE can seem daunting. Documentation is helpful, and well-written books can make it easier to come up to speed, but isn’t the best way to learn something to actually do it? This session’s speakers hope to smooth the path for anyone curious about Java EE by offering a gentle, yet useful, introduction to four key concepts:

• JavaServer Faces (JSF)
• Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI)
• Java Persistence API (JPA)
• Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB)

Using NetBeans and the bundled GlassFish application server, the speakers present each new concept with live code and then help attendees complete hands-on exercises.

With David Heffelfinger (and gracious assistance from Sven Reimers, Josh Juneau, Bob Larsen, & Bruno Borges)


I’ve said it before: There’s no better place to see what’s happening in the world of Java than JavaOne. Hope to see you there!

All the best,
Mark

Friday Aug 30, 2013

Join me at JavaOne 2013

I'm excited to be able to speak at JavaOne again this year! Last year was an incredible experience, great brain food for anyone committed to Java and the Java ecosystem. This year promises to be even better.

This year, I have the privilege of sharing the podium with some of my favorite folks in the world, from around the world! Here are the sessions I'll be taking part in:


Session ID: BOF2605
Session Title: JavaFX, Widgets, and Apps, Oh My! Launching Frameworks for Platforms Large and Small
Venue / Room: Hilton - Plaza A
Date and Time:9/24/13, 18:30 - 19:15

This is a Birds Of a Feather (BOF) session by Hendrik Ebbers, Carl Dea, and me. The best thing about BOFs (for me) is that in addition to allowing us to share what we've been working on, it allows like-minded attendees to fully participate, asking questions, sharing ideas...more like a round table for the whole room to take part in. It's incredibly stimulating, and a lot of learning takes place for all involved.


Session ID: TUT3676
Session Title: Java Embedded Extreme Mashups: Building Self-Powering Sensor Nets for the Internet of Things
Venue / Room: Hotel Nikko - Nikko Ballroom I
Date and Time:9/24/13, 12:30 - 14:30

This is a two-hour tutorial where Jose Pereda and I take attendees through building a self-licking, renewable energy (RE) ice cream cone.  :-)  Renewable energy systems come in all shapes and sizes, and embedded systems - especially Java-driven ones - are excellent for monitoring those systems. Building remote sensor nets that not only monitor and report system status, but are also powered by those same RE systems, is inexpensive and straightforward once you have the right hardware and know-how. We cover everything from hardware to software, communication and optimization, with solutions that scale well from small personal systems to utility-sized deployments. And we have a good time doing it.  :-)


So please, come join us! There's no better place to see what's happening in the world of Java than JavaOne. Hope to see you there!


All the best,
Mark

Tuesday Oct 09, 2012

Seven Random Thoughts on JavaOne

As most people reading this blog may know, last week was JavaOne. There are a lot of summary/recap articles popping up now, and while I didn't want to just "add to the pile", I did want to share a few observations. Disclaimer: I am an Oracle employee, but most of these observations are either externally verifiable or based upon a collection of opinions from Oracle and non-Oracle attendees alike. Anyway, here are a few take-aways:

  1. The Java ecosystem is alive and well, with a breadth and depth that is impossible to adequately describe in a short post...or a long post, for that matter. If there is any one area within the Java language or JVM that you would like to - or need to - know more about, it's well-represented at J1.
  2. While there are several IDEs that are used to great effect by the developer community, NetBeans is on a roll. I lost count how many sessions mentioned or used NetBeans, but it was by far the dominant IDE in use at J1. As a recent re-convert to NetBeans, I wasn't surprised others liked it so well, only how many.
  3. OpenJDK, OpenJFX, etc. Many developers were understandably concerned with the change of sponsorship/leadership when Java creator and longtime steward Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle. The read I got from attendees regarding Oracle's stewardship was almost universally positive, and the push for "openness" is deep and wide within the current Java environs. Few would probably have imagined it to be this good, this soon. Someone observed that "Larry (Ellison) is competitive, and he wants to be the best...so if he wants to have a community, it will be the best community on the planet." Like any company, Oracle is bound to make missteps, but leadership seems to be striking an excellent balance between embracing open efforts and innovating in competitive paid offerings.
  4. JavaFX (2.x) isn't perfect or comprehensive, but a great many people (myself included) see great potential, are developing for it, and are really excited about where it is and where it may be headed. This is another part of the Java ecosystem that has impressive depth for being so new (JavaFX 1.x aside). If you haven't kicked the tires yet, give it a try! You'll be surprised at how capable and versatile it is, and you'll probably catch yourself smiling while coding again.  :-)
  5. JavaEE is everywhere. Not exactly a newsflash, but there is a lot of buzz around EE still/again/anew. Sessions ranged from updated component specs/technologies to Websockets/HTML5, from frameworks to profiles and application servers. Programming "server-side" Java isn't confined to the server (as you no doubt realize), and if you still consider JavaEE a cumbersome beast, you clearly haven't been using the last couple of versions. Download GlassFish or the WebLogic Zip distro (or another JavaEE 6 implementation) and treat yourself.
  6. JavaOne is not inexpensive, but to paraphrase an old saying, "If you think that's expensive, you should try ignorance." :-) I suppose it's possible to attend J1 and learn nothing, but you'd have to really work at it! Attending even a single session is bound to expand your horizons and make you approach your code, your problem domain, differently...even if it's a session about something you already know quite well. The various presenters offer vastly different perspectives and challenge you to re-think your own approach(es).
  7. And finally, if you think the scheduled sessions are great - and make no mistake, most are clearly outstanding - wait until you see what you pick up from what I like to call the "hallway sessions". Between the presentations, people freely mingle in the hallways, go to lunch and dinner together, and talk. And talk. And talk. Ideas flow freely, sparking other ideas and the "crowdsourcing" of knowledge in a way that is hard to imagine outside of a conference of this magnitude. Consider this the "GO" part of a "BOGO" (Buy One, Get One) offer: you buy the ticket to the "structured" part of JavaOne and get the hallway sessions at no additional charge. They're really that good.

If you weren't able to make it to JavaOne this year, you can still watch/listen to the sessions online by visiting the JavaOne course catalog and clicking the media link(s) in the right column - another demonstration of Oracle's commitment to the Java community. But make plans to be there next year to get the full benefit! You'll be glad you did.

 

All the best,
Mark

P.S. - I didn't mention several other exciting developments in areas like the embedded space and the "internet of things" (M2M), robotics, optimization, and the cloud (among others), but I think you get the idea. JavaOne == brainExpansion;  Hope to see you there next year!

Monday Jun 11, 2012

JavaOne 2012 Java Jungle Session!

Well, it's official - the proposal I submitted to JavaOne 2012 was accepted! Pending management approval, I'll be leading the following session:

Session ID: CON3519

Session Title: Building Hybrid Cloud Apps: Local Databases + The Cloud = Extreme Versatility

If you've been struggling with ways to "move to the cloud" without losing the advantages you currently enjoy/require in your current environment, I hope you'll consider signing up for this session.

Hope to see you there!

Mark

About

The Java Jungle addresses topics from mobile to enterprise Java, tech news to techniques, and anything even remotely related. The goal is to help us all do our work better with Java, however we use it.

Your Java Jungle guide is Mark Heckler, an Oracle Senior Java/Middleware/Core Engineer with development experience in numerous environments. Mark's current work pursuits and passions all revolve around Java and leave little time to blog or tweet - but somehow, he finds time to do both anyway.

Mark lives with his very understanding wife & kids in the St. Louis, MO area.



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