Rain8net Ruby Library v1.0.0

I previously wrote about a product called Rain8net. I’m happy to announce the initial release of my Rain8net ruby library. The library is now available from rubyforge.org.

Or, just install it like this:

gem install rain8net

Now you won’t have to worry about sending the specific codes I detailed in my last post. Controlling your sprinklers is as easy as:

r8 = Rain8net.new

See the online documentation at the project homepage for more information.

Irrigation 2.0 with Rain8Net

The problem: Automatic sprinklers are great for convenience but waste a ton of water. You see businesses and neighbors running sprinklers during a rainstorm all the time–right? Rain conscious individuals can turn their sprinklers off when not needed, but you lose convenience and sometimes it is a pain to get back on track.

The solution: Rain8Net from WGL Designs, a PC with a serial port, and a little bit of Ruby programming.

Disclaimer: this post is a bit premature. I just got my Rain8Net last weekend and spent some time trying to program it. I plan to script the whole system so that it reads weather reports from the Internet to determine irrigation needs. That part isn’t ready yet. This is just an introduction to what I’ve discovered so far.

That being said, here is a sample of how to communicate with the Rain8Net via Ruby. (First, be sure to download and install the ruby-serialport library.)

require 'serialport.so'
tty = 0
rain8 = SerialPort.new(tty, 4800, 8, 1, SerialPort::NONE)
# Turn on Zone 1
# Turn off Zone 1

WLG Designs has great documentation explaining what the various codes do. I am providing the code above as an example of how to implement the provided codes. (It took me many tries to get this far. Hopefully it will save someone else a bit of work.)

I plan to develop a Ruby library for use with the Rain8Net which will make it much easier to use. Watch for it…

RFC_READ_TABLE with Ruby and SAP::Rfc

Warning: another code sample is included in this post.

I spent a few hours this morning trying to use Piers Harding’s SAP/Rfc library for Ruby to read a table from SAP. I found several examples using other languages (Perl, VBscript, PHP, etc.), but the only Ruby example I could find reads the entire table. Figuring out how to load the “options” took some trial and error.

The idea of this example is to read the “LQUA” table in SAP which stores information about where to find a particular material in the warehouse. The whole thing is wrapped up in its own model so it can be easily called elsewhere in my Rails app:

class SapMaterial < SAP4Rails::Base
  function_module :RFC_READ_TABLE
  class << self

    def find_stock(options={})
      material = options[:material]
      return nil if material.blank?
      rfc = self.RFC_READ_TABLE
      rfc.query_table.value = "LQUA"
      rfc.delimiter.value = "|"
      rfc.options.value = ["MATNR EQ '#{material}'"]
      # optional set of fields to return from the table
      #rfc.fields.value = ['MATNR', ...]


This is called with something like this:

stock_locations = SapMaterial.find_stock(:material=>'VOC300V')

Which yields a handy data set containing all the locations and available quantity for the DigiTech Vocalist 300 in the warehouse. This will be used as part of my new scan gun application which directs the shipping department to the various storage bins for picking large orders.

UPDATE: It seems the preferred approach is to use the new SAP Netweaver RFC library (sapnwrfc.rb). This changes the code sample a bit…

class SapMaterial < SAP4Rails::NW::Base
  function_module :RFC_READ_TABLE
  class << self

    def find_stock(options={})
      material = options[:material]
      return nil if material.blank?
      rfc = self.RFC_READ_TABLE.new_function_call
      rfc.QUERY_TABLE = "LQUA"
      rfc.DELIMITER = "|"
      rfc.OPTIONS = [{'TEXT' => "MATNR EQ '#{material}'"}]
      # optional set of fields to return from the table
      #rfc.FIELDS = [{'FIELDNAME' => 'MATNR'}, {'FIELDNAME' => ...}]


The trickiest part was figuring out the correct syntax for the OPTIONS and FIELDS. Pier’s documentation hints at the correct format (look under the heading ‘A Closer Look At Handling Parameters’), but I had to dig in to the table structures within the function in SAP to figure out that it was expecting ‘TEXT’ and ‘FIELDNAME’. So, if you’re using some other function, then explore the table structures to learn what the function expects to see.

Ruby: Howto convert numbers to letters

Let’s say you have a series of numbers (1,2,3,4,5…500+) and you need to convert them to letters like A,B,C,D…AA…ZZ (think Excel column headers.)

I searched and searched to find a built-in way of doing this with Ruby, but I couldn’t find it. So, I tried to write my own:

def number_to_letter(n=1)
  n.to_i.to_s(27).tr("0-9a-q", "A-Z")

That works great except that 1=B instead of A, so all of AA,AB,AC…AZ doesn’t work. I tried all sorts of different ideas based on the one above. Then, I stumbled on: succ.

For an Integer, it makes a lot sense: 1.succ = 2, and so on (returns the next integer). But, it also does exactly what I need for strings: “A”.succ = “B” and “Z”.succ = “AA”. So, rather than converting numbers to letters, I ended up with a block like this:

column = "A"
(1..500).to_a.each do |i|
   puts "#{i} : #{column}"
   column = column.succ