Easy configuration for Circuit Python devices

While developing the OV Klok I’ve been exploring how small trinkets and other technological utilities can be configured. Most of the time, it’s either trough a captive portal, a self-served webserver or editing a configuration file. Both options aren’t really user friendly to me…

  • The captive portal is fails at times and doesn’t really work if you have a custom network configuration.
  • The self served webpage requires a user to type in an address or IP, that’s only accessible in a specific mode..
  • The configuration file is prone to errors and requires a user to edit a text file with an editor that they might not be comfortable with.

Web serial to the rescue

For a simple device like the OV Klok a user only needs to configure the device once and I wanted it to be as fool proof as possible while being user-friendly too! I solved this with the power of Web Serial. This allows a user to connect with a serial port through a webbrowser.

How does this work with Circuit Python you might ask? Well opening a serial port gives you back a REPL. This allows you to actually type python code that will get executed. Knowing this it’s pretty easy to gobble together part javascript and part python to make it work.

Step by step

  1. A user connects the device to configure witha USB cable to their computer
  2. The user navigate to the webpage for configuration and presses a connect button and selects the device to configure
  3. A serial port is opened and a form is presented to the user in the webpage with configuration options
  4. The user configures the device with the form, once save is pressed javascript validates the data and creates python code that is sent to the REPL that’s open.
  5. The REPL evaluates the code and runs it. The code includes a part that will create a configuration file on the circuit python device.
  6. Once done the REPL will reboot the device automatically with: import microcontroller; microcontroller.reset().
  7. The device is rebooted and will automatically pick up the configuration and run the code that’s on it.

Javascript example (pseudo) code

Below you’ll find pieces of JS that I’ve used:

// Open a serial port
port = await navigator.serial.requestPort();
await port.open({ baudRate: 115200 }); 

// Get a writer to write to the serial port
writer = await port.writable.getWriter();

// Lines to write (\r\n is all because of the whitespacing...) 
lines = [
    `\r\nimport storage\r\n`,
    `\r\nstorage.remount("/", False)\r\n`,
    `\r\nwith open("/test.txt", 'w') as file:\r\n`,
    `   file.write('hello')\r\n\r\n`,
    `   file.flush()\r\n`,
    `\r\nstorage.remount("/", True)\r\n`,

// For each line, encode it and send it to the writer
for (let index = 0; index < lines.length; index++) {
    await writer.ready;
    let data = new TextEncoder().encode(lines[index]);

There’s one condition for this to work: The USB functionality of Circuit Python needs to be disabled with the following in boot.py on the Circuit Python device itself:

import storage


The upside, you don’t confuse people with having a drive device show up in explorer or finder. I think this is superior for setting up a device compared to the three methods mentioned above.

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