One of the items on my longtime to-do list is to investigate at least one of the publicly available robotics frameworks. Every robot project I’ve participated in so far has been a ground-up affair, everything built from scratch. At my simple hobbyist level I haven’t experienced a whole lot of tedious repetition across robots, but I definitely got far enough to see it looming on the horizon. My last robot (many years ago) was built around a very compact PC laptop as its brain, which made the project very powerful but also very expensive for its day. Today, I can get that kind of power in an inexpensive Raspberry Pi. Which happens to be one of the platforms supported by the Robot Operating System. So this is where I’m going to start.
I’m barely into the beginner tutorials but I see enough to appreciate what they have, and also to start having questions. I like the fact modules communicate over commodity network transports (TCP or UDP) and the master negotiation procedures are built around XML-RPC. It does add overhead but it’s the kind of overhead that allows a great deal of flexibility. But it is also a vulnerable security exposure. I haven’t seen anything talking about best practices to deal with rogue nodes on a ROS network but I hope that is coming up soon.
When the tutorial starts talking about writing code to create ROS nodes, it offers an option for the reader: write in C++, or write in Python? The prudent thing for me to do is to stick to C++, a language I know, while I learn ROS. If I go with Python I’ll be learning the programming language on top of learning the ROS framework.
Today I’m in a ‘chasing shiny objects’ kind of mood, so I’ll start down the Python path. Whether this turns out to be a wise or foolish choice is yet to be seen. Either way, it’ll be documented in upcoming posts!