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Question: Python script that simultaneously listens/responds to HTTP requests, serial port, and time-based eve


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Short version of my question:

How do I design a single Python script that can listen and respond to inputs received via HTTP or a serial port, and also initiate communications via these channels on its own? My problem is that I don't understand how to design a single script that both (i) uses a web framework to listen on some port for HTTP inputs, and (ii) also does other work that's independent of incoming HTTP requests.

Long version: I want to use Python to design a system that does the following:

  • Listens to a serial port for occasional reports. Specifically, I have a network of JeeNode sensors (wireless Arduino-compatible modules) that talk to a central JeeLink, which connects to my computer via USB and talks to my Python script via pySerial.
  • Listens to a web URL for occasional inputs. Specifically, users send commands to the system via SMS to a Twilio number. Twilio intercepts the SMS messages and posts them to a URL I designate, and I use the Bottle micro web-framework to listen for new HTTP requests.
  • Responds to both types (serial and HTTP) of inputs. For example, if a user texts the command "Sleep", I want to (i) tell the sensors to go to sleep via the serial port -> JeeLink (which will then forward the command onto the remotes); and (ii) reply to the sender -- and maybe other users -- that the command has been received and is being executed.
  • Occasionally initiates its own communications to users (via HTTP -> Twilio -> SMS) or remote sensors (via serial -> JeeLink) without any precipitating input event. Two examples: (1) I want to report out to users or remote sensors every N minutes even if I haven't received any new inputs. (2) I want to tell users remotes have actually entered Sleep mode. Because the remotes are battery-powered, they spend most of the time in an inaccessible low-power mode. They can only receive new commands from the JeeLink when they initiate a wireless "check-in" every 5 min. So while technically remotes go to sleep (or wake up, etc.) in response to a user command, commands and responses are effectively independent.

My problem is that all of usage examples of web frameworks I've seen seem to assume that all precipitating events occur via HTTP requests. I can create a Bottle object, and use decorators to bind code to that object that get executed whenever it sees an HTTP request that matches some specified URL path. But I don't know how to do that while simultaneously doing other work that's independent of HTTP events, for example, listening to the serial port.

After struggling a lot, the potential solutions I'm considering now are:

  • Splitting the functionality into separate scripts. A.py listens for text messages via HTTP and writes the relevant information to some database; B.py continuously reads the database for new records and reacts accordingly, as well as listening to the serial monitor and doing other work. This seems like it would work fine, but it feels inelegant, and I suspect there's a simpler solution I'm unaware of.
  • Maybe the answer is related to Python decorators? I use various decorators to specify the URL paths that, when a matching HTTP request comes in, execute the code bound to the decorator. So I'm guessing that maybe there's a way to specify some other kind of decorator that, rather than listening for HTTP requests, gets executed when my "main" Python code tells it to? But I don't know enough about decorators to know if this is true.
Question author Rgweaver | Source

Answer


1


It seems like you are trying to write an asynchronous application to manage your network of nodes via HTTP. You want to respond to incoming communications on multiple channels as they occur, you want to initiate communications on a schedule, on multiple channels, and you want those two forms of communication to interact. All of these communications are with an outside world that is slow, so it behooves you not to block if you don't need to.

It will probably be easiest to maintain your system if you organize your code into several Python modules, split by their area of concern - serial interface code, HTTP interface code, common processing code-paths, etc. Weave those components together in a central control module, which imports your libraries, and knows how to start and stop cleanly. Then you can test the serial interface independent of the web interface, and potentially reuse some of those Python modules in other projects.

Answer author Pcurry

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