A Meteor implementation of the Particle Photon SoftAP.
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README.md

softap-setup-meteor

A Meteor implementation of the Particle Photon SoftAP. Try it out!

Install

  1. Install Meteor.
  2. Clone this repo!
  3. cd ./softap-setup-meteor && meteor

For MacOS & Linux it can all be done from terminal:

curl https://install.meteor.com/ | sh
git clone https://github.com/msolters/softap-setup-meteor.git
cd ./softap-setup-meteor && meteor

How to Implement SoftAP Setup into a Browser

Incorporating the SoftAP step into the browser is a win-win. It means the setup procedure is essentially the same for all users, mobile and laptop -- any web browser will work.

All required SoftAP functionality is included straight from the official NPM package. This allows you to create a SoftAP object in the client as follows:

  var SAP = new SoftAPSetup();

Then, you can use the SAP object to access the Particle SoftAP methods as documented on the official softap-setup-js page's readme. For example, to acquire the JSON data containing the Photon's public key, one could then simply write:

  SAP.deviceInfo( function callback(err, dat) {
    if (err) { throw err; }
    console.log("Device ID: %s, claimed: %s", dat.id, dat.claimed ? "yes" : "no");
  };

If you are comparing this to the official readme, note that the browserified SoftAP only works by HTTP, so we can leave out the { protocol: 'http' } argument in the new SoftAPSetup() instantiation. It will happen behind the scenes, out of necessity.

How to use the SAP Methods to Find & Setup the Photon

Including the softap-browser.js file above will provide the methods you need for browser-based setup, and all you need is JavaScript. Period. Full stop.

In this app I chose to use Meteor because it is a favourite tool of mine for quickly making reactive interfaces such as a setup wizard. In addition, it can operate in offline mode and easily creates Phonegap apps as a core functionality, making it a natural framework for these kind of IoT applications.

I am assuming that most people are unfamiliar, so I will lay out the general logic of the JavaScript SoftAP procedure, which is framework agnostic. I reiterate, you only need the softap-browser.js file for this procedure to work.

  1. The user visits the page.

  2. The user changes the computer (or mobile device) so that it is connected to the Photon's AP (i.e. Photon-ABCD or whatever). This is super important. If the user doesn't hop to the Photon's AP, none of these methods will function.

  3. When the user confirms (I use a "next" button) they are now on the Photon's AP, you can execute

    SAP.deviceInfo( function(err, dat) {
      var photonID = dat.id;
    } );

    Inside the cb logic, make sure that there's no err and that dat.id isn't null. Now you know the Photon's ID and more importantly, that it's reachable.

  4. Next load the Photon's public key:

    SAP.publicKey( function(err, dat) {
      // cb logic
    } );

    The only real cb logic here is making sure there's no err. This may seem useless (we never explicitly use any return value), but it is an important step internally for the SAP machinery!! Without it, we can't encrypt passwords and therefore cannot complete the last 2 steps of the setup.

  5. Now the fun part! We get a list of SSIDs that the Photon can detect by calling

    var aps;
    SAP.scan( function(err, dat) {
      aps = dat.scans; // an array of ap objects
    } );

    The scan results will be returned as an array of JSON objects inside dat.scans. These should be stored somewhere else in a larger scope for rendering, and later, for looking up when constructing our config object.

  6. At this point we would render aps into some sort of a list of choices for the user. In my example app here, I add lock icons and password textboxes for WiFi networks that have security. I also sort AP choices by decreasing radio strength. (Hint, you can get a dimensionless "% strength" from the RSSI by using percentStrength = Math.min( Math.max(2 * (RSSI + 100), 0), 100);. At the end of the day, we need to know which element of aps corresponds to the AP the user chooses from the list, because we'll need the channel and security properties from that element.

  7. Once an AP has been chosen, we construct a configuration object as follows. Assuming ap is the element of dat.scans that the user wants to connect to:

ap = aps[0]; // or whatever the user picks
var ap_config = {
 ssid: ap.ssid,
 channel: ap.ch,
 security: SAP.securityLookup(ap.sec),
 password = document.getElementById("#ssid-pw").value | ""
}

Note how we find the actual security string associated with ap.sec, which is an int, by using the SAP.securityLookup() method. The password should come from some password-type input. It's useful to only show such an input if the user has selected an AP that has security to begin with.

  1. Next we transmit our configuration settings to the Photon itself:
SAP.configure( ap_config, function(err, dat) {
 // make sure there are no errors
} );
  1. Provided that .configure() returns no errors, we can can now connect:
    SAP.connect( function(err, dat) {
      // check for errors
    } );

It's most useful to chain these methods, since they behave as callbacks -- for example, I call SAP.connect() inside the callback to SAP.configure, provided there were no errors.

Deploy as a Stand Alone Application

This Meteor application has been designed to be deployed as a stand-alone native application by using Electron through the arboleya:electrify package.

The underlying motivation is that this will provide:

  • Automatation of WiFi switching and Photon detection by using the msolters:wifi-control package.
  • Guaranteed compatibility, since Electron is essentially Chromium -- which is tested to work with SoftAP.
  • Never lose assets or resources, which can occur when web apps lose their connection to the internet whilst connected to the Photon's AP.

To run the application natively:

  1. Make sure you have Meteor installed.
  2. Clone this repo, and cd into softap-setup-meteor.
  3. Execute meteor.

This should automatically launch an Electron shell containing this application (the native app). In addition, visiting http://localhost:3000/ in any other browser will work equivalently as a local app. At the time of this writing, expect some bugs in Windows.

If you see errors associated with Electron or electrify, consider manually installing the electrify tool inside softap-setup-meteor/.electrify:

  cd .electrify && npm install

Firmware Notes & Gotchas

The Photon will not automatically leave listening mode when the SAP.connect() command is issued for firmware < v0.4.4. This is a known bug and is fixed in versions >= 0.4.5. Press reset to manually trigger the Photon to attempt to connect, and make sure your firmware is the latest version!