This section covers all development related pages.


How you can get involved and contribute & participate in the Orocos project


Development strategy

The Orocos toolchain uses git, with the official repositories hosted at gitorious.


The various branches are
  • master : main development line, latest features. Replaces rtt-2.0-mainline
  • toolchain-2.0 : stable release branch for the 2.0 release series.
  • rtt-1.0-svn-patches: remains for svn bridge of 1.x release series
  • ocl-1.0-svn : remains for svn bridge of 1.x release series

The master branch gets updated when new branches are merged into it by its maintainer. This can be a merge from the bugfix branches (ie merge from toolchain-2.x) or a merge from a development branch.

The stable branch should always point to the latest toolchain-2.x tip. This isn't automated, and so it lags (probably something for a hudson job or a git commit hook).

All branches in the rtt-2.0-... are no longer updated. The rtt-2.0-mainline has been merged with master, which means that if you have a rtt-2.0-mainline branch, you can just do git pull origin master, and it will fast-forward your tree to the master branch, or you checkout the local master.

Contributing packages

You may contribute a software package to the community. It must respect the rules set out in the Component Packages section. Packages general enough can be adopted by the Orocos Toolchain Gitorious project. Make sure that your package name only contains word and number characters and underscores. A 'dash' ('-') is not acceptable in a package name.

Contributing patches

Small contributions should go on the mailing lists as patches. Larger features are best communicated using topic branches in a git repository clone from the official repositories. Send pull requests to the mailing lists. These topic branches should be hosted on a publicly available git server (e.g. github, gitorious).

NB for the Orocos v1, no git branches will be merged (due to SVN), use individual patches instead. v2 git branches can be merged without problems.

Making suggestions

The easiest way to make suggestions is to use the mailing list (register here). This allows discussion about what you are suggesting (which after all, someone else may already be working), as well as informing others of what you are interested in (or are willing to do).

Reporting bugs

Before reporting a bug, please check the Bug Tracker and in the Mailing list and Forum to see whether this is a known issue. If this is a new issue then TBD email the mailing lists, OR enter an issue in the bug tracker

Orocos developers meetup at ERF

Goals of the meeting: discuss the future or the Orocos toolchain w.r.t. Rock and ROS.

Identified major goals

  • make Orocos components usable across all use cases (ROS, Orocos and Rock). There should be no "rock-only" or "ros-only" components
  • make as much as the Rock toolchain usable with "plain Orocos components" (see below)
  • make the parallel usage of the three cases (Orocos toolchain, Orocos in ROS and Rock) as painless as possible

Sharing installations of the orocos toolchain

The main issue is the ability to compile the toolchain and components only once, e.g. in a Rock installation, and use them in ROS or vice-versa.

  • already existing ignore_packages mechanism. Need to create a wiki page on how to set it up for sharing an orocos installation. Manual, but should be working.
  • more automatic mechanisms:
    • allow dependencies between autoproj installations. Fully automatic for orocos toolchain/Rock interoperability
    • point to a prefix and have autoproj find out things (for ROS installs)

Sharing Orocos components across use-cases

Using rock components on plain Orocos should just work [needs testing and documentation].

Using rock tools on plain Orocos

The use of orogen or typegen would be required

  • as far as we know, there is no missing "core" functionality in orogen to make typegen usable for "core" orocos libraries like KDL. Need to make some functionality such as opaques available to typegen though (only available to orogen currently). This can be done through the ability to make typegen load an oroGen SL file (trivial)
  • allow passing -I options directly to both oroGen and typeGen
  • mechanism to define "side-loading" typekits that define constructors and operators separately for scripting
  • the core of the Rock tooling is orocos.rb. Need to test and update orocos.rb so that it can work without a model. Method: update the test suite by mocking TaskContext#model to return nil and/or getModelName to not exist. From there, test tools like oroconf and vizkit

Dataflow between ROS and Rock / plain Orocos

  • need data conversions: one must be able to publish a C++ type over a ROS topic and vice-versa
  • typegen generation for ROS messages
  • type specification when creating ROS streams (since the ROS topic and the orocos port might have different types)
  • type conversions on the data flow: use already existing constructor infrastructure to do the conversion, need to create the channel element and change the connection code
  • add type conversion support in oroGen (equivalent system than opaques)

Other discussed topics

  • make TypeInfo very thin so that we can register it once per type and never change it. Only transports / constructors / ... could then be overriden
  • make the deployer a library


Where things are going, and how we plan to get there.

See also Roadmap ideas 3x for some really long-term ideas ...

TODO Autoproj, RTT, OCL, etc.

Real-time logging

The goal is to provide a real-time safe, low overhead, flexbible logging system useable throughout an entire system (ie within both components and any user applications, like GUIs).

We chose to base this on log4cpp, one of the C++-based derivates of log4j, the respected Java logging system. With only minor customimzations log4cpp is now useable in user component code (but not RTT code itself, see below). It provides real-time safe, hierarchical logging with multiple levels of logging (e.g. INFO vs DEBUG).

Near future

  • Provide a complete system example demonstrating use of the real-time logging framework in both user components, and a GUI-based application. Based on the v2 toolchain.
  • Provide a component-based appender demonstrating transport of logging events. Most likely demonstrate centralized logging of a distributed system.
  • Add logging system stress tests. (l already have this for v1, but need to port to v2 and submit)
  • Able have multiple appenders per category. This is simply a technical limitation of the initial approach, and should be readily changeable.

Long term plans

  • Replace the existing RTT::Logger functionality with the real-time logging framework. This really can't involve rewriting all the logging statements in RTT, etc.
  • Provide levels of DEBUG logging. Some logging system use FINE, FINER, FINEST levels, whilst others use DEBUG plus an integer level within debug (e.g. debug-1 thru debug-9, from verbose to most-verbose). Chose one approach, and modify log4cpp to support it.
  • Support use by scripting and state machines (possibly also Lua?). This means both being able to log, as well as being able to configure categories, appenders, etc.

Catkin-ROS build-support plan

Target versions

These changes are for Toolchain >= 2.7.0 + ROS >= Hydro


Support building in these workflows:

  • Autoproj managed builds (Rock-style)
    • depends on: manifest.xml for meta-build info.
    • Rock users don't use the UseOrocos.cmake macros since their CMakeLists +pc files get generated anyway by orogen.
  • CMake managed builds (every-package-its-own-build-dir-style)
    • depends on: pkg-config files to track linking+includes
    • Uses the UseOrocos.cmake file, autolinking is done by parsing manifest.xml file
  • ROSbuild managed builds
    • depends on: manifest.xml file, rosbuild cmake macros read it and .pc files, Orocos cmake macros read it to link properly (no build flags from manifest file !)
    • Will only be used if the user explicitly called rosbuild_init() in his top-level CMakeLists.txt
  • Catkin managed builds
    • depends on: package.xml file, Orocos generated pkg-config files
    • The Catkin .pc files will be generated but ignored by us (?)
    • No Auto linking
    • We'll also generated .pc files in the devel path during the cmake run

Effects on (Runtime) Environment

  • Deployer's import ?
  • ROS Deb packages ?
  • Orocos Deb packages ?

CMake changes or new macros

  • Auto linking
  • orocos_use_package()
  • orocos_find_package()
  • orocos_generate_package()

Roadmap ideas for 3.x

While the project is still in the (heavy?) turmoil of the 1.x-to-2.x transition, it might be useful to start thinking about the next version, 3.x. Below are a number of developments and policies that could eventually become 3.x; please, use the project's (user and developer) mailinglists to give your opinions, using a 3.x Roadmap message tag.

Disclaimer: there is nothing official yet about any of the below-mentioned suggestions; on the contrary, they are currently just the reflections of one single person, Herman Bruyninckx. (Please, update this disclaimer if you add your own suggestions.)

General policies to be followed in this Roadmap:

  • the anti-Not Invented Here policy: whenever there exists a FOSS project that has already a solution for (part of) this roadmap, we should try to cooperate with that project, instead of putting efforts in our own version.
  • the big critical mass projects first policy: when being confronted with the situation above, it is much preferred to cooperate with (contribute to) projects that have a high critical mass (Cmake, Linux, Eclipse, Qt, etc.) instead of with single-person or single-team projects, even when the latter currently have better functionalities and ideas. At the same time, promising single-person projects will be stimulated to make their efforts useful in a larger critical mass project.

Orocos distribution

Much can be improved to bring Orocos closer to users, and the concept of a simple-to-install distribution is a proven best practice. However, Orocos should not try to develop its own distribution, but should rather hook on to existing, successful efforts. ROS is the obvious first choice, and the orocos_toolchain_ros is the concrete initiative that has already started in this direction. However, this "only" makes "some" relevant low-level Orocos functionality available in a form that is easier to install for many robotics users; in order to allow users to profit from all Orocos functionality, the following extra steps have to be set:
  • a "Hello Robot!" application, installable as a ROS stack. It could contain a simulated robot, visualised in Morse or Gazebo, and componentized in an RTT component, together with an RTT/KDL/BFL-based set of motion controllers and estimators. (Morse is currently the most promising candidate, from a component-based development point of view.)
  • a (Wiki) book that explains the whole setup, not just from a software point of view, but also a motivation why the presented example could be considered as a "best practice" as a robotics system. This Wiki book should not be an Orocos-only effort, but be useful for the whole community.
  • a similar "Hello Machine!" application, targeting not the robotics community, but the mechatronics, or machine tools community.

Contributors to this part of the Roadmap need not be RTT developers, but motivated users!


The road towards better decoupling, as started in 2.x, is designed and implemented further:
  • RTT will get a complete and explicit component model, existing of component, composite component, connection, port, interface, discrete behaviour, and communication:
    • The OROMACS development at the University of Twente have already produced a core of the composite component. That concept is required for a full support of the Model-Driven Engineering approach.
    • the connection is the data-less, event-less and command-less representation of the architecture of a system, consisting of only the identification of which components will interact with each other.
    • the difference between a port and an interface is that a port belongs to a component, and implements an interface; the interface in itself must become a first-class citizen of the component model.
    • discrete behaviour is the current state machine. Further developments in this context are probably only to be expected at the implementation and tooling front.
    • communication: Orocos has had, from day one, the ambition to not provide communication middleware, since there are so many other projects that do that. RTT should, however, improve its decoupling of (i) using data structures inside a component, (ii) providing them for communication in a port, and (iii) transporting them from one component's port to another component's port. Maybe this is as easy as cleanly separating the configuration files for all three aspects; maybe it's more involved than that.
  • the mapping on real hardware resources (computational thread, communication field bus) is separated from the definition of a component.
  • the process of defining data flow data structures is supported by an IDL language. This IDL has to be chosen together with other projects, and should not be an Orocos-only effort. A real IDL includes the definition of the meaning of the fields in the data, and not just their computer language representation.
  • the codel idea of GenoM3 is supported for the construction of continuous behaviour inside a component. The important role of the codel idea in the context of realtime systems is that one should give the component designer full control over when which computations are to be executed (instead of relying on the OS scheduler); this requires a design in which computations can be subdivided in pre-emptible pieces (codels), and in which they can be scheduled in efficient Directed Acyclic Graphs.

Contributors to this part of the Roadmap need be RTT developers!


SCL does not yet exist, but there is a high and natural need for a Systems and Control Library, next to BFL and KDL.

All three libraries share a common fundamental design property, and that is that they can all be considered as special cases of executable graphs, so a common support will be developed for the flexible, configurable scheduling off all computations (codels) in complex networks (Bayesian networks, kinematic/dynamic networks, control diagrams).

Contributors to this part of the Roadmap need not be RTT developers, but domain experts that have become power users of the RTT infrastructure!

iTaSC and beyond

A usable robotics control systems consists, of course, not only of RTT, BFL, KDL and/or SCL components, but there is an obvious need for a task primitive: the brain that contains all the knowledge about when to use which component, with what configuration, and until what conditions are being satisfied.

As a first step, the instantaneous version of a constrained-based optimization approach to task-level control will be provided. Following steps will extend the instantaneous idea towards non-instantaneous tasks. This extension must be focused on tasks that require realtime performance, since non-realtime solutions are provided by other projects, such as ROS.

Contributors to this part of the Roadmap need not be RTT developers, but domain experts that also happen to be average users of the RTT infrastructure! They will open up the functionalities of Orocos to the normal end-user.


More and improved tools have been a major feature of the 2.x evolution. The major tooling effort for 3.x, will be to bring the above-mentioned component model into the Eclipse eco-system.

The first efforts in this direction have started, in the context of the European project BRICS.

Contributors to this part of the Roadmap need not be RTT developers, but programmers familiar with the advanced Eclipse features, such as ecore models, EMG, etc.