Connecting the Robonova to a Modern PC

Submitted by matt.davies on Wed, 02/01/2017 - 12:08

The Robonova ships with a proprietary serial cable with a headphone style jack on one end, and a serial connector on the other.  This is the type of serial connector that you used to see in the original PC mice.  This connector was very common with robot kits in the early 2000's.  

Fortunately, they make Serial-to-USB converters that work very well.  I purchased a Cable Matters USB to RS 232 DB9 Cable Adapter, and it worked effortlessly.

Serial to USB adaptor cable
Serial to USB adaptor cable
Cable Matters USB to RS232 Serial Adapter
Cable Matters USB to RS232 Serial Adapter

 

Dynamic COM Port Assignment

There is one challenge with these types of converter cables.  In a PC that had a physical serial port installed, the COM port number would remain constant.  It would always be something like COM1.  With these converter cables, the COM port number is assigned when the device is connected to the USB port.  So, one time it could be COM4 and the other it could be COM5.  The reason this is important is that the RoboBasic software requires that you specify the COM port number being used so that it can establish connectivity to the Robonova.  This means that looking up and setting this COM port number needs to be done every time you begin work.

 

Looking Up the COM Port Number

Attach the Robonova to the cable and plug it into a USB port on your computer.  Turn on the Robonova.

Open the Windows Start menu and search for "Device Manager" then open.  Navigate to the "Ports" folder on the tree view and expand as follows:

Device Manager with COM Port Selected
Device Manager with COM Port Selected

In this case, the USB to Serial converter shows up as "Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port" and is assigned to one of the COM ports.  This is the current COM port being used for the Robonova.

Setting Port Number in RoboBasic

Within roboBASIC, to set the port number, from the menu select Set --> Set Port as shown below.

roboBASIC Set Port
roboBASIC Set Port

With the Port Number window open, simply select the port number matching what Device Manager displayed (COM5 in this case).

roboBASIC Port Setting Window
roboBASIC Port Setting Window

 

Testing Connectivity

From the roboBASIC menu, select Controller --> Controller Information as shown below.

roboBASIC view Controller Information
roboBASIC view Controller Information

 

We have a problem...

Unfortunately, in my case, we could not establish connectivity due to the problem we are going to tackle next -- a dead (or nearly dead) battery.

roboBASIC Connectivity Problem
roboBASIC Connectivity Problem

 

A Glimmer of Hope

After sitting on the charger a little bit, the battery was able to get just enough juice to connect to roboBASIC.  Here is what the Controller Information window will look like upon successful connection.

roboBASIC Successful Connection
roboBASIC Successful Connection