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How to interface an I2S microphone with Beaglebone Black(BBB)

Parag Sharma
10 minutes, 23 seconds read

 I have been writing a large variety of computer programs since a long time, but there was this question, the answer to which was elusive for a long time.

  • How are they converted to binary data, and how is that interpreted by my computer?
  • How do we create devices, and how do they work?

My fascination started with a smart wall clock (http://ingrein.com) that I thought was a very cool gadget to have at home. I wanted to build something like that on my own, but didn’t had know how. So I started on a journey to learn embedded systems and their functioning.

I moved from Arduino to Raspberry Pi, and then to RedBear Duo, learning new things at every step. And then finally came BeagleBone Black. I had always wondered how Linux kernel works, is it something that I can compile on my own, and execute? I have been trying to solve this problem for so long and I want to thank Pavel Botev for helping me out on this.

BeagleBone Black (BBB) comes with a TI processor AM3358. So in order to build Linux kernel for this board, you will need TI SDK that can be downloaded at http://www.ti.com/tool/PROCESSOR-SDK-AM335X.

You will need to download and install the binary (Linux Processor SDK for AM335x) from the link above. Help on installation is available here — http://software-dl.ti.com/processor-sdk-linux/esd/docs/latest/linux/index.html.

There are two distinct steps in the installation of SDK. First setting the execute permission on the SDK bin file, and second to execute it.

$ chmod +x ./ti-processor-sdk-linux-[platformName]-evm-xx.xx.xx.xx-Linux-x86-Install.bin
$ ./ti-processor-sdk-linux-[platformName]-evm-xx.xx.xx.xx-Linux-x86-Install.bin

Once the TI Processor SDK is installed, you will find the following file structure in the install location.

 

This SDK contains both the Linux kernel, and the Root File System, and other cross compile binaries (compiler) to compile the kernel. Assuming ti-processor-sdk-home is the SDK install location, you will find the kernel files at

<ti-processor-sdk-home>/board-support/linux-4.9.69+gitAUTOINC+xxxx (The exact version may vary depending on the version of the processor SDK)

and the RFS at

<ti-processor-sdk-home>/filesystem

You can copy these to separate folders so you always have the original SDK copy. In case anything goes wrong, and you want to restart from beginning, you have the kernel, and RFS that you can copy again from the Processor SDK.

Lets assume you copied the kernel files to location ~/linux-4.9.69, and changed your current directory to where you copied the kernel.

$ cd ~/linux-4.9.69

Before you compile the kernel, we must prepare the kernel by telling what is the board that we want to compile the kernel for? In other words you define the configuration by selecting appropriate defconfig file. For BeagleBone Black, we need to use “tisdk_am335x-evm_defconfig”. All config files are present in arch/arm/configs folder.

Command for setting this configuration is

$ make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=<ti-processor-sdk-home>/linux-devkit/sysroots/x86_64-arago-linux/usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf- tisdk_am335x-evm_defconfig

Please note the space between “arm-linux-gnueabihf-” and “tisdk_am335x-evm_defconfig” in the above command.

You may want to configure your linux distribution further by informing the compiler what all files/modules should be included for compilation. “menuconfig” is the target for this configuration, and the full command to run menuconfig is below.

But before you run menuconfig target, there is one more step. We need to tell menuconfig what all options should be shown in menuconfig, and how. Though most of the settings are good by default, we need to do one change in the kernel

$ vi ti-processor-sdk-home/board-support/linux-4.9.69+gitAUTOINC+xxxx/sound/soc/codecs/Kconfig

Find line

config SND_SOC_PCM5102A
       tristate

And replace it with

config SND_SOC_PCM5102A
       tristate "Texas Instruments PCM5102a Dummy Codec Driver"

The above line “Texas Instruments PCM5102a Dummy Codec Driver” helps you identify the codec in the menuconfig stage.

Finally run “menuconfig” target with the following command.

$ make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=<ti-processor-sdk-home>/linux-devkit/sysroots/x86_64-arago-linux/usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf- menuconfig

Please note again that menuconfig is the target name, and the value for CROSS_COMPILE flag ends with a hyphen as “arm-linux-gnueabihf-”. There should be space between “arm-linux-gnueabihf-” and “menuconfig”.

Running “menuconfig” target opens up a menu through which you can select which modules you would like to be compiled in-line, i.e. along with rest of kernel code, and which ones to be compiled, and included as modules. Mark module PCM5102a to be inline compiled along with other kernel files.

Now in order to compile the Linux Kernel, you have the kernel source files, and the cross compile binaries needed to compile the source. Compile the kernel using

$ cd ~/linux-4.9.69
$ make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=<ti-processor-sdk-home>/linux-devkit/sysroots/x86_64-arago-linux/usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf- uImage LOADADDR=0x80008000 -j4

The above command compiles the kernel and keeps the image at arch/arm/boot/uImage. You can copy this image and flash it to the board, or transfer it via tftp. I shall explain the process of using tftp later.

The device tree source files are present in linux-4.9.69/arch/arm/boot/dts folder in the kernel. The device tree is the code that tells the kernel what all hardware is available on the board, and how is it configured.

Before we compile the device tree, we need to know which device tree we will be using. As this experiment is about BBB, it is obvious that BeagleBone’s device tree should be used. It is present as linux-4.9.69/arch/arm/boot/dts/am335x-boneblack.dts.

But we want to interface an I2S mems microphone (SPH0645LM4H, https://www.adafruit.com/product/3421) with BBB, we will need to tell the device tree of its presence, and its configuration. We will include all microphone related configuration in a separate DTSI file (include file, which can be included in the parent device tree source).

$ vi am335x-boneblack-pcm5102a.dtsi

The content of this include file is as below

/*
* Copyright(C) 2016 Texas Instruments Incorporated- http://www.ti.com/
*
* This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
* it under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as
* published by the Free Software Foundation.
*/
&am33xx_pinmux {
 mcasp1_pins: mcasp1_pins{
  pinctrl-single,pins = <
   /* sink must enable receivers */
   AM33XX_IOPAD(0x9a0, PIN_INPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE3) /* P9_42 mcasp1_aclkx - bit clock */
   AM33XX_IOPAD(0x9a4, PIN_INPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE3) /* P9_27 mcasp1_fsx - frame sync */
   AM33XX_IOPAD(0x9a8, PIN_INPUT_PULLDOWN | MUX_MODE3) /* P9_41 mcasp1_axr0 - i2s input */
  >;
 };
};
&mcasp1 {
 #sound-dai-cells = <0>;
 pinctrl-names = "default";
 pinctrl-0 = <&mcasp1_pins>;
 status = "okay";
 op-mode = <0>; /* MCASP_IIS_MODE */
 tdm-slots = <2>;
 num-serializer = <4>;
 serial-dir = < /* 1 TX 2 RX 0 unused */
  2 1 0 0
 >;
 rx-num-evt = <32>;
 tx-num-evt = <32>;
};
/ {
 pcm5102a: pcm5102a {
  #sound-dai-cells = <0>;
  compatible = "ti,pcm5102a";
  status = "okay";
 };
clk_mcasp1_fixed: clk_mcasp1_fixed {
  #clock-cells = <0>;
  compatible = "fixed-clock";
  clock-frequency = <24576000>;
 };
clk_mcasp1: clk_mcasp1 {
  #clock-cells = <0>;
  compatible = "gpio-gate-clock";
  clocks = <&clk_mcasp1_fixed>;
  enable-gpios = <&gpio1 27 0>; /* BeagleBone Black Clk enable on GPIO1_27 */
 };
sound1:sound@1 {
  compatible = "simple-audio-card";
  simple-audio-card,name = "PCM5102a";
  simple-audio-card,format = "i2s";
  simple-audio-card,bitclock-master = <&sound1_master>;
  simple-audio-card,frame-master = <&sound1_master>;
  simple-audio-card,bitclock-inversion;
sound1_master: simple-audio-card,cpu {
   sound-dai = <&mcasp1>;
   system-clock-direction = "out";
   system-clock-frequency = <24576000>;
   clocks = <&clk_mcasp1>;
  };
  
  simple-audio-card,codec{
   sound-dai = <&pcm5102a>;
   #sound-dai-cells = <0>;
  };
 };
};

Now we need to include this “am335x-boneblack-pcm5102a.dtsi” file in “am335x-boneblack.dts”. Just add this line at the end of “am335x-boneblack.dts”.

#include "am335x-boneblack-pcm5102a.dtsi"

The device tree can be compiled using

$ cd ~/linux-4.9.69 
$ make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=<ti-processor-sdk-home>/linux-devkit/sysroots/x86_64-arago-linux/usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf- dtbs

The above command will result in a device tree binary within arch/arm/boot/dts/ folder. The file is named am335x-boneblack.dtb

Lets now talk about how the MEMS microphone should be wired up. We can focus only on the BeagleBone column of the image below.

 
 

Booting the BBB

Now that all configuration is setup, we should march ahead with booting of your BBB. But wait, what you have is a kernel image (uImage) and a device tree binary (am335x-boneblack.dtb). But how do we send these to our BBB?

Instead of flashing the kernel, device tree, and the RFS to an SD card, and then putting the SD card to BBB, we will makes these available to BBB directly from the host computer via TFTP (for uImage, & DTB) and NFS (for RFS).

TFTP

We will use TFTP to provide the kernel image, and DTB to the BBB. Go ahead and install TFTP on your host computer.

sudo apt-get install tftpd-hpa

Now let us configure TFTP and tell it the location of the files we need to transfer to the BBB. TFTP configuration files is present as/etc/default/tftpd-hpa. Example configuration is below

# /etc/default/tftpd-hpa
TFTP_USERNAME="tftp"
TFTP_DIRECTORY="/home/parag/linux-4.9.69/arch/arm/boot"
TFTP_ADDRESS=":69"
TFTP_OPTIONS="--secure --create"

The above configuration makes “/home/parag/linux-4.9.69/arch/arm/boot” as TFTP_DIRECTORY, which is the default directory where tftp looks for files that it can transfer. TFTP is not known to work very well with nested directories, so we must ensure that both files (uImage, and DTB) are available in this directory.

As uImage is created in above directory itself, so its not a problem, and TFTP can easily transfer it. However DTB is formed within boot/dts. We can create a symbolic link in the boot itself, and make it point to DTB file present in dts directory to make it work.

ln -s dts/am335x-boneblack.dtb am335x-boneblack.dtb

Sharing RFS (Root File System) over NFS (Network File System)

RFS or the Root File System contains binaries that you typically see in any linux distribution. RFS is made available by TI SDK as indicated early in this article. You can just copy those files from SDK, and keep it at a desired location from where you can share them over network via NFS.

NFS server can be installed on ubuntu host computer with the following commands

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server

Once NFS is installed, you can proceed with its configuration. Edit /etc/exports

sudo vim /etc/exports

You can configure the above file with the following setting

/home/parag/bbone/rootfs        *(rw,sync,no_root_squash,no_subtree_check)

Note, I have kept my RFS files in /home/parag/bbone/rootfs. You change this setting depending upon where you have copied the RFS files to.

Finally, booting the BBB!!

After all this hard work, its time to see the magic. Connect BBB with LAN cable, and connect it to the same network as your host computer.

Power up the BBB. Assuming you have minicom or any other serial monitor set up, you should be able to see the uboot logs. Immediately press space key so the bootloader (uboot) does not boot the kernel available in BBB, but stops for further commands. Type commands as below to help BBB connect to the network.

>setenv autoload no
>setenv serverip 192.168.1.101 
>setenv gatewayip 192.168.1.1
>dhcp

I have used 192.168.1.101 as IP of my host computer, and 192.168.1.1 as the gateway. You will need to choose these according to your setup. Finally dhcp command will help BBB to be allocated an IP address from your router.

If everything goes on file, you will see output from BBB uboot that an IP has been assigned. Next command as follows

>tftpboot 0x80F80000 am335x-boneblack.dtb && tftpboot 0x80007FC0 uImage

The above command instructs u-boot to download the device tree image from the serverip instructed earlier, and copy the same to address 0x80F80000 in RAM. Kernel uImage is also downloaded from the host serverip and copied to 0x80007FC0.

Boot, finally!!

The last two commands to start the boot process are as below

>setenv bootargs console=ttyO0,115200n8 noinitrd rw ip=dhcp root=/dev/nfs nfsroot=192.168.1.101:/home/parag/bbone/rootfs nfsrootdebug earlyprintk
>bootm 0x80007FC0 - 0x80F80000

The first command above sets up the bootargs. Change the setting as per your environment. The last command starts the boot process.

Soon you should see the kernel boot to complete, and a login prompt to appear. Login using root as user. No password should be needed.

Unexpected Signal on P9_41 :(

Now you will find (on your oscilloscope) that the moment you boot the kernel, you start getting a signal (square wave) on the data pin (P9–41). Ideally there should be no signal on the data pin till you start recording using the “arecord” command.

Here is the link to get the zoom version for this image below.

You would notice there is pinmux settings for clkout2 (mode 3) for Pin P9_41A which is the data pin. We need to disable this setting so that data pin receives only the data we record from microphone, and not from any other source.

The above observation is because of a configuration in the am335x-bone-common.dtsi (a file included in am335x-boneblack.dts).

&am335x_pinmux{
pinctrl-names = "default"
pinctrl-0 = <&clkout2_pins>

It is this line `pinctrl-0 = <&clkout2_pins>` that causes the signals on data pin. We need to comment this out like below.

&am335x_pinmux{
pinctrl-names = "default"
/*pinctrl-0 = <&clkout2_pins>*/

After this above change, we need to build again the device tree, and reboot the kernel. The data pin should not have any signal now till we start recording with the command.

$ arecord -Dhw:1,0 -f S32_LE -t wav -c 1 -d 60 -vvv /tmp/audio.wav

The above command shall start recording mono sound (single channel) at /tmp/audio.wav. The above command’s -D flag (-Dhw:1,0) assumes your PCM5102a sound card is listed at index 1. This index can be confirmed by listing down all cards and seeing the output of the command below

$ arecord -l

If you found this article helpful, let me know in the comment section below.


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Ratemaking, or insurance pricing, is the process of fixing the rates or premiums that insurers charge for their policies. In insurance parlance, a unit of insurance represents a certain monetary value of coverage. Insurance companies usually base these on risk factors such as gender, age, etc. The Rate is simply the price per ‘unit of insurance’ for each unit exposed to liability. 

Typically, a unit of insurance (both in life and non-life) is equal to $1,000 worth of liability coverage. By that token, for 200 units of insurance purchased the liability coverage is $200,000. This value is the insurance ‘premium’. (This example is only to demonstrate the logic behind units of exposure, and is not an exact method for calculating premium value)

The cost of providing insurance coverage is actually unknown, which is why insurance rates are based on the predictions of future risk.  

Actuaries work wherever risk is present

Actuarial skills help measure the probability and risk of future events by understanding the past. They accomplish this by using probability theory, statistical analysis, and financial mathematics to predict future financial scenarios. 

Insurers rely on them, among other reasons, to determine the ‘gross premium’ value to collect from the customer that includes the premium amount (described earlier), a charge for covering losses and expenses (a fixture of any business) and a small margin of profit (to stay competitive). But insurers are also subject to regulations that limit how much they can actually charge customers. Being highly skilled in maths and statistics the actuary’s role is to determine the lowest possible premium that satisfies both the business and regulatory objectives.

Risk-Uncertainty Continuum

Source: Sam Gutterman, IAA Risk Book

Actuaries are essentially experts at managing risk, and owing to the fact that there are fewer actuaries in the World than most other professions — they are highly in demand. They lend their expertise to insurance, reinsurance, actuarial consultancies, investment, banking, regulatory bodies, rating agencies and government agencies. They are often attributed to the middle office, although it is not uncommon to find active roles in both the ‘front and middle’ office. 

Recently, they have also found greater roles in fast growing Internet startups and Big-Tech companies that are entering the insurance space. Take Gus Fuldner for instance, head of insurance at Uber and a highly sought after risk expert, who has a four-member actuarial team that is helping the company address new risks that are shaping their digital agenda. In fact, Uber believes in using actuaries with data science and predictive modelling skills to identify solutions for location tracking, driver monitoring, safety features, price determination, selfie-test for drivers to discourage account sharing, etc., among others.

Also read – Are Predictive Journeys moving beyond the hype?

Within the General Actuarial practice of Insurance there are 3 main disciplines — Pricing, Reserving and Capital. Pricing is prospective in nature, and it requires using statistical modelling to predict certain outcomes such as how much claims the insurer will have to pay. Reserving is perhaps more retrospective in nature, and involves applying statistical techniques for identifying how much money should be set aside for certain liabilities like claims. Capital actuaries, on the other hand, assess the valuation, solvency and future capital requirements of the insurance business.

New Product Development in Insurance

Insurance companies often respond to a growing market need or a potential technological disruptor when deciding new products/ tweaking old ones. They may be trying to address a certain business problem or planning new revenue streams for the organization. Typically, new products are built with the customer in mind. The more ‘benefit-rich’ it is, the easier it is to push on to the customer.

Normally, a group of business owners will first identify a broader business objective, let’s say — providing fire insurance protection for sub-urban, residential homeowners in North California. This may be a class of products that the insurer wants to open. In order to create this new product, they may want to study the market more carefully to understand what the risks involved are; if the product is beneficial to the target demographic, is profitable to the insurer, what is the expected value of claims, what insurance premium to collect, etc.

There are many forces external to the insurance company — economic trends, the agendas of independent agents, the activities of competitors, and the expectations and price sensitivity of the insurance market — which directly affect the premium volume and profitability of the product.

Dynamic Factors Influencing New Product Development in Insurance

Source: Deloitte Insights

To determine insurance rate levels and equitable rating plans, ratemaking becomes essential. Statistical & forecasting models are created to analyze historical premiums, claims, demographic changes, property valuations, zonal structuring, and regulatory forces. Generalized linear models, clustering, classification, and regression trees are some examples of modeling techniques used to study high volumes of past data. 

Based on these models, an actuary can predict loss ratios on a sample population that represents the insurer’s target audience. With this information, cash flows can be projected on the product. The insurance rate can also be calculated that will cover all future loss costs, contingency loads, and profits required to sustain an insurance product. Ultimately, the actuary will try to build a high level of confidence in the likelihood of a loss occurring. 

This blog is a two-part series on new product development in insurance. In the next part, we will take a more focused view of the product development actuary’s role in creating new insurance products.

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You’ll be amazed to know that globally, nearly 62% of users access the internet through mobile last year. By the end of 2020, the number of smartphone users is going to reach 2.87 billion. 

This is huge, isn’t it? But, this also raises a question — are desktop/web applications dying?

Developers frequently face this dilemma of which platform to learn for web/mobile app development. Fortunately, hybrid app development platforms and frameworks answer this question. Let me quickly walk you through hybrid mobile app creation before delving deeper into Ionic Framework.

What is a hybrid mobile app?

You might have encountered terms like native and hybrid mobile apps. Developers use these terms to describe the underlying technology behind building the apps. A hybrid mobile app is built using technologies like HTML, CSS, and Javascript, which are compatible with web applications as well. 

On the contrary, native apps are the ones that are developed on android/iOS technologies specifically. However, an external user cannot figure out whether an app is a hybrid or native. 

Many platforms and frameworks allow building impressive hybrid applications like Ionic, React Native, Xamarin, Onsen UI, PhoneGap, and Mobile Angular UI. In this article, we’ll discuss the Ionic Framework in depth. I’ll also explain why we’re choosing Ionic for hybrid app development. After reading this, you’ll be able to install Ionic SDK, build and run your apps from scratch.

Happy coding!

Why Ionic Framework?

Ionic is one of the most popular frameworks for developing hybrid apps available today. Its complete source code is available on GitHub. With the Ionic framework, anyone can start creating effective android apps just with an idea, a computer, and an internet connection. 

Did you notice — I didn’t mention pricing?

That’s true. You need not buy a license for Ionic. Thus, you can start developing apps for free.

  1. Cross-platform: The application you develop once in Ionic is compatible with web, Android, iOS, Windows, and some other operating systems. You’ll only need a handy knowledge of Javascript. Also read – Trending Javascript Frameworks for 2020
  2. Frontend development: Ionic uses AngularJS for front-end development. Angular’s CSS and Javascript features allow you to customize your app with buttons, menus, and several attractive color schemes. You can apply derivative and UI elements while you launch your app on different platforms and whoa! Your app just now got a native look.
  3. Developers community: With a vast and active community, you’ll always find help at hand for any problem you face while developing apps on Ionic.
  4. Cordova plugins: This is one of the best parts of Ionic app development. It opens the doors to native device capabilities beyond pure web applications. With Cordova, you get access to logs, battery, geolocation, camera, etc. to enhance your app performance. And you can avail these all by adding just a few simple codes.
  5. Code reusability: Once you’ve developed an app, you can use the same code with slight changes to build an entirely new app. This will help you a lot in improving your TAT (Turn around time).
  6. Testing: Testers can easily run the script using Cordova commands for both iOS and Android.

Now let’s get started with Ionic Framework!

Quick Installation Guide for Ionic & Components

Let’s start with minimum basic requirements for building your app with the current release of Ionic. Currently, Ionic targets iPhone and Android devices supporting iOS 7+ and Android 4.1+. However, you’ll find some old Android devices, where Ionic apps might not work. 

If you’re on Windows, make sure you download and install Git for Windows and optionally Console2. In this guide, you’ll be executing commands in Git Bash or Console2 windows.

First, we need to install the most recent version of Apache Cordova. It will take your app and bundle it into a native wrapper to turn it into a traditional native app.

To install Cordova, make sure you have Node.js installed and then run the command – 

$ sudo npm install -g cordova

Special Notes:
Linux Android Note: If you’re using a 64-bit version of Ubuntu, install 32-bit libraries. It is because Android is only 32-bit at the moment. You can use the following command-

$ sudo apt-get install ia32-libs

If you’re on Ubuntu 13.04 or greater, ‘ia32-libs’ has been removed. You can use the following packages instead-

$ sudo apt-get install lib32z1 lib32ncurses5 lib32bz2-1.0

If you are running a 64-bit version of Fedora you’ll need to install the following 32-bit packages-

$ sudo yum install -y glibc.i686 glibc-devel.i686 libstdc++.i686 zlib-devel.i686
ncurses-devel.i686 libX11-devel.i686 libXrender.i686 libXrandr.i686

Windows note on Java, Ant, and Android: Install the most recent Java 8 JDK and not just the JRE. Currently, Cordova doesn’t support JDK 9. 

Next, create an environment variable for JAVA_HOME. It should point to the root folder where the Java JDK is installed. For example, if you’ve installed the JDK into C:\Program\Files\Java\jdk7, set JAVA_HOME at this path. Post this, add the JDK’s bin directory to the PATH variable as well. As per previous assumption, it should be either %JAVA_HOME%\bin or the full path: C:\Program Files\Java\jdk7\bin

Apache Ant

To install Ant, download the zip file (here), extract it, and move the first folder in the zip to a safe place. After this, update your PATH to include the bin folder in that folder. For example, if you moved the Ant folder to C:/, you’d want to add this to your PATH:

C:\apache-ant-1.9.2\bin

Android SDK

It is important to install the Android SDK. Android SDK provides you API libraries and developer tools which are necessary to build, test, and debug Android apps.

You’ll need to set the ANDROID_HOME environment variable. Point this to [ANDROID_SDK_DIR]\android-sdk directory. For example, 

C:\android\android-sdk

Next, you’ll need to update your PATH to include the tools/ and platform-tools/ folder in that folder. Therefore, using ANDROID_HOME, add both %ANDROID_HOME%\tools and %ANDROID_HOME%\platform-tools.

Install Ionic

Run the following command to install ionic:

$ sudo npm install -g ionic

Create the project

$ ionic start todo blank –type ionic1

This will create a ‘todo’ folder in the directory where the command was run. Next, go into this directory and list the contents. This is how the outer structure of your ionic project will look like: 

$ cd todo && ls

├── bower.json // bower dependencies
├── config.xml // cordova configuration
├── gulpfile.js // gulp tasks
├── hooks      // custom cordova hooks to execute on specific commands
├── ionic.project  // ionic configuration
├── package.json   // node dependencies
├── platforms  // iOS/Android specific builds will reside here
├── plugins    // where your cordova/ionic plugins will be installed
├── scss       // scss code, which will output to www/css/
└── www        // application – JS code and libs, CSS, images, etc.

Configure Platforms

Next inform ionic that you want to enable iOS and Android platforms. Please note, unless you’re on macOS, leave out the iOS platform. So, run the following commands.

$ ionic cordova platform add ios
$ ionic cordova platform add android

Basic code structure in the Ionic Framework

Let’s now walk through the anatomy of an Ionic app. Inside the folder (we just now created), we’ve a typical Cordova project structure where we can install native plugins, and create platform-specific project files.

./src/index.html

src/index.html is the main entry point for the app, though its purpose is to set up scripts, CSS includes, and bootstrap, or start running our app. We won’t spend much of our time in this file.

For your app to function, Ionic looks for the <ion-app> tag in your HTML. In this example we have:

<ion-app></ion-app>

and the following scripts near the bottom:

<!– Ionic’s root component and where the app will load –>
<ion-app></ion-app>
<!– The polyfills js is generated during the build process –>
<script src=”build/polyfills.js”></script>
<!– The vendor js is generated during the build process
  It contains all of the dependencies in node_modules –>
<script src=”build/vendor.js”></script>
<!– The main bundle js is generated during the build process –>
<script src=”build/main.js”></script>

These scripts are all generated by the build system, so no need to worry about them. 

./src/

You’ll find your code inside the src directory. And you’ll be doing most of the work for an ionic app here. While running the ionic server, the code inside src/ is transpiled into the correct Javascript version, which a browser understands. Currently, it’s ES5. This means that we can work at a higher level using TypeScript, but we can also compile down to the older form of Javascript depending on the browser needs.

src/app/app.module.ts is the entry point for our app.

Near the top of the file, we should see this:

@NgModule({
  declarations: [MyApp, HelloIonicPage, ItemDetailsPage, ListPage],
  imports: [BrowserModule, IonicModule.forRoot(MyApp)],
  bootstrap: [IonicApp],
  entryComponents: [MyApp, HelloIonicPage, ItemDetailsPage, ListPage],
  providers: [StatusBar, SplashScreen, {provide: ErrorHandler, useClass: IonicErrorHandler}]
})
export class AppModule {}

You’ll notice that every app has a root module, which controls the rest of the applications. You’ll find this very similar to ng-app from Ionic 1 and AngularJS. We’ll also bootstrap our app (using ionicBootstrap) from here. 

./src/app/app.html

Here we’ll discuss the main template for the app in src/app/app.html.

First, set the root component to MyApp in src/app/app.component.ts. This will be the first component to load in your app. Typically, it is an empty shell for other components to load into it. We’ll set our app.component.ts template to src/app/app.html. This is how it will look. 

<ion-menu [content]=”content”>
  <ion-header>
    <ion-toolbar>
      <ion-title>Pages</ion-title>
    </ion-toolbar>
  </ion-header>
  <ion-content>
    <ion-list>
      <button ion-item *ngFor=”let p of pages” (click)=”openPage(p)”>
        {{p.title}}
      </button>
    </ion-list>
  </ion-content>
</ion-menu>
<ion-nav [root]=”rootPage” #content swipeBackEnabled=”false”></ion-nav>

Test it out:

To make sure that the default project works, try building and running the project (substitute iOS for android to build for Android instead):

$ ionic cordova build ios
$ ionic cordova emulate ios

Deployment

Android Devices

Deploying to an Android device is a fairly straightforward process. If you have a working Android development environment, you’re ready to go.

Requirements:

Running Your App

Enable USB debugging and Developer Mode on your Android device. Then run ionic cordova run android — device from the command line.
This will produce a debug build of your app, both in terms of Android and Ionic’s code.

Please note that enabling USB debugging and Developer Mode may vary from device to device. However, it is easy to look up with a simple Google search. For details, you can check out – Enabling On-device Developer Options in the Android docs.

Production Builds

To run or build your app for production, run

ionic cordova run android –prod –release

(or)

ionic cordova build android –prod –release

This command will minify your app’s code as an ionic source. It will also remove any debugging capabilities from the APK. People generally use this while deploying an app to the Google Play Store.

Sign Android APK

For releasing your app in the Google Play Store — sign your APK file. For this, create a new certificate/keystore.

Let’s generate your private key using the keytool command that comes with the JDK:

keytool -genkey -v -keystore my-release-key.jks -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000 -alias my-alias

Now, you’ll be prompted to create a password for the keystore. After answering the rest of the nice tool’s questions, you’ll have a file called —  my-release-key.jks in the current directory.

Note: Make sure to save this file somewhere safe, if you lose it you won’t be able to submit updates to your app!

To sign the unsigned APK, run the jarsigner tool which is also included in the JDK:

jarsigner -verbose -sigalg SHA1withRSA -digestalg SHA1 -keystore my-release-key.jks app-release-unsigned.apk my-alias

After signing, one final step — you’ll need to run the zip align tool to optimize the APK. You’ll find this tool at-

/path/to/Android/sdk/build-tools/VERSION/zipalign. 

For example, on OS X with Android Studio installed, zipalign is in ~/Library/Android/sdk/build-tools/VERSION/zipalign:

zipalign -v 4 app-release-unsigned.apk HelloWorld.apk

If you want to verify that your apk is signed, run apksigner. You can find this in the same path as the zipalign tool:

apksigner verify HelloWorld.apk 

Now we have our final release binary called HelloWorld.apk and we can release this on the Google Play Store for all the world to enjoy! 

iOS Devices

iOS developers need to generate a provisioning profile for code signing their apps for testing. However, the good news is that you can develop and test your apps on your iOS device without a paid Apple Developer account in iOS9. This is particularly great for developers who want to try mobile development using the Ionic Framework.

You’ll require- 

  • Xcode 7 or higher
  • iOS9 

Creating a Provisioning Profile

First of all, you’ll need to set up a provisioning profile for code signing your apps.

Using an Apple ID

  1. Open Xcode preferences (Xcode > Preferences…)
  2. Click the ‘Accounts’ tab
  3. Log in with your Apple ID (+ > Add Apple ID…)

Once you’ve logged in successfully, you’ll find a new ‘Personal team’ with the role ‘Free’ appearing beneath your Apple ID.

Ionic Framework: creating a provisioning profile

Running Your App

  1. Run a production build of your app with ionic cordova build ios –prod
  2. Open the .xcodeproj file in platforms/ios/ in Xcode
  3. Then connect your phone with USB. Select your phone as the run target.
  4. Click the play button in Xcode

Oops, code signing error! No problem.

Code Signing Your App

It totally depends on whether you’re using Xcode 8 or an earlier version…

Xcode 7 and Earlier

For this, you’ll get a code signing error. It will look like the following image when you try to run the app.

Code sign error in Ionic Framework

To fix this, click the “Fix Issue” button and then select your “Personal Team” profile.

Code sign error fix issues

Xcode 8

In Xcode 8, the code signing error will appear as a build-time error instead of a pop-up.

Code sign error in Xcode 8

To select the certificate to sign your app with, do the following:

  1. Go to the ‘Project Editor’ by clicking the name of your project in the ‘Project Navigator’
  2. Select the ‘General’ section
  3. Select the team associate with your signing certificate from the ‘Team’ dropdown in the ‘Signing’ section
Ionic Framework: how to code sign

Trusting the Certificate

After code signing, you’ll get a launch error that looks like the following image. On Xcode 7 and below versions, you’ll see this automatically. On Xcode 8, it appears next time when you try to run the app.

launch error

To remove this error, you’ll have to tell the iOS device to trust the certificate. You can do this in the following steps-

  1. On your iOS device, open the ‘Settings’ app
  2. Then, go to General>Device Management. Here, you’ll find the email address associated with your Apple ID or Apple Developer account, which you used while code signing your app.
  3. Tap the email address
  4. Tap ‘Trust <your_email>’:
device management in ionic

After this, go back to Xcode and hit the play button. Or you can run ionic cordova run ios –device from the command line to install and launch your app on your iOS device.

Additional tips while using the Ionic Framework

1. Use or create a yeoman generator

Yeoman is a scaffolding tool that allows you to quickly deploy pre-configured projects. A place to start is exploring some of the Ionic Yeoman generators to see if they meet your requirements. 

Ionic Framework does have some excellent inclusions. But, you may want to customize your development environment with tools like javascript linters, code coverage support, emulators, and platform integrations to further improve your application. Yeoman generators also expose you to different folder structures, which you might find better than previous approaches.

2. Just put styles in www?

It may be tempting to rush into things and throw new scss files into the www folder; somewhere near the code for the Ionic styles and then add a reference to your CSS file within the index.html. 

Avoid that! 

This won’t work with the Ionic Gulp set up. It’s a safe practice to not to add things in there.

3. Put your custom app styles into their own folder

Today, your app might be small and simple. But, it will eventually grow and you might want it to remain manageable. You might be concerned especially when a team of developers will be involved in the project. 

Hence, I recommend splitting your app’s custom styles into a neater set of files. It should mirror Ionic’s sass files whenever we’re specifically overriding Ionic itself. You can put these custom app styles into their own sub folder, which will be easy to change/update later.

Now that you know that Ionic is the dominant hybrid mobile development framework, installing it, and using it is also easier as compared to other platforms. Do let me know if you have queries, I’ll be happy to help.

About the author: Anand Nanavaty is a Software Engineer at Mantra Labs. He has been involved in mobile app development for the company’s B2B clients. Apart from coding and experimenting with different application development frameworks, Anand likes trekking and hiking into the greens.

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