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MQTT client for MicroPython ("robust" version).

Project description

umqtt.robust2 is a MQTT client for MicroPython. (Note that it uses some MicroPython shortcuts and doesn’t work with CPython). It consists of two submodules: umqtt.simple2 and umqtt.robust2. umqtt.robust2 is built on top of umqtt.simple2 and adds auto-reconnect facilities for some of networking errors.

Differences between umqtt.simple and umqtt.simple2

  • works without blocking app
  • in case of network problems, it can send the data itself at a later time
  • we have the ability to track down errors
  • is larger than the previous one, so I recommend compiling this library to MPY files (especially for esp8266)

How and where to install this code?

This library requires the micropython-umqtt.simple2 library ( https://github.com/fizista/micropython-umqtt.simple2 ). Therefore, please read this required library first, and then you can install this one.

You can install using the upip:

import upip
upip.install("micropython-umqtt.robust2")

or

micropython -m upip install -p modules micropython-umqtt.robust2

You can also clone this repository, and install it manually:

git clone https://github.com/fizista/micropython-umqtt.robust2.git

Manual installation gives you more possibilities:

  • You can compile this library into MPY files using the compile.sh script.
  • You can remove comments from the code with the command: python setup.py minify
  • You can of course copy the code as it is, if you don’t mind.

Please note that the PyPi repositories contain optimized code (no comments).

For more detailed information about API please see the source code (which is quite short and easy to review) and provided examples.

What does it mean to be “robust” ?

Modern computing systems are sufficiently complex and have multiple points of failure. Consider for example that nothing will work if there’s no power (mains outage or battery ran out). As you may imagine, umqtt.robust2 won’t help you with your flat battery. Most computing systems are now networked, and communication is another weak link. This is especially true for wireless communications. If two of your systems can’t connect reliably communicate via WiFi, umqtt.robust2 can’t magically resolve that (but it may help with intermittent WiFi issues).

What umqtt.robust2 tries to do is very simple - if while trying to perform some operation, it detects that connection to MQTT breaks, it tries to reconnect to it. That’s good direction towards “robustness”, but the problem that there is no single definition of what “robust” is. Let’s consider following usecase:

1. A temperature reading gets transmitted once a minute. Then the best option in case of a transmission error might be not doing anything at all - in a minute, another reading will be transmitted, and for slowly-changing parameter like a temperature, a one-minute lost reading is not a problem. Actually, if the sending device is battery-powered, any connection retries will just drain battery and make device “less robust” (it will run out of juice sooner and more unexpectedly, which may be a criteria for “robustness”).

We can also cache some of the results, as far as memory allows, until we try to connect again. This will increase the reliability of data delivery.

2. If there’s a button, which communicates its press event, then perhaps it’s really worth to retry to deliver this event (a user expects something to happen when they press the button, right?). But if a button is battery-power, unconstrained retries won’t do much good still. Consider mains power outage for several hours, MQTT server down all this time, and battery-powered button trying to re-publish event every second. It will likely drain battery during this time, which is very non-robust. Perhaps, if a press isn’t delivered in 15 seconds, it’s no longer relevant (depending on what press does, the above may be good for a button turning on lights, but not for something else!)

3. Finally, let’s consider security sensors, like a window broken sensor. That’s the hardest case. Apparently, those events are important enough to be delivered no matter what. But if done with short, dumb retries, it will only lead to quick battery drain. So, a robust device would retry, but in smart manner, to let battery run for as long as possible, to maximize the chance of the message being delivered.

Let’s sum it up:

  1. There’s no single definition of what “robust” is. It depends on a particular application.
  2. Robustness is a complex measure, it doesn’t depend on one single feature, but rather many different features working together. Consider for example that to make button from the case 2 above work better, it would help to add a visual feedback, so a user knew what happens.

As you may imagine, umqtt.robust2 doesn’t, and can’t, cover all possible “robustness” scenarios, nor it alone can make your MQTT application “robust”. Rather, it’s a barebones example of how to reconnect to an MQTT server in case of a connection error. As such, it’s just one of many steps required to make your app robust, and majority of those steps lie on your application side. With that in mind, any realistic application would subclass umqtt.robust2.MQTTClient class and override add_msg_to_send() and reconnect() methods and will use the socket_timeout/message_timeout parameters to suit particular usage scenario. It may even happen that umqtt.robust2 won’t even suit your needs, and you will need to implement your “robust” handling from scratch.

Persistent and non-persistent MQTT servers

Consider an example: you subscribed to some MQTT topics, then connection went down. If we talk “robust”, then once you reconnect, you want any messages which arrived when the connection was down, to be still delivered to you. That requires retainment and persistency enabled on MQTT server. As umqtt.robust2 tries to achieve as much “robustness” as possible, it makes a requirement that the MQTT server it communicates to has persistency enabled. This include persistent sessions, meaning that any client subscriptions are retained across disconnect, and if you subscribed once, you no longer need to resubscribe again on next connection(s). This makes it more robust, minimizing amount of traffic to transfer on each connection (the more you transfer, the higher probability of error), and also saves battery power.

However, not all broker offer true, persistent MQTT support:

  • If you use self-hosted broker, you may need to configure it for persistency. E.g., a popular open-source broker Mosquitto requires following line:

    persistence true
    

    to be added to mosquitto.conf. Please consult documentation of your broker.

  • Many so-called “cloud providers” offer very limited subset of MQTT for their free/inexpensive tiers. Persistence and QoS are features usually not supported. It’s hard to achieve any true robustness with these demo-like offerings, and umqtt.robust2 isn’t designed to work with them.

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