Monday, October 19, 2020

WebApp to convert an Applanix smooth best estimated trajectory (SBET) binary file to comma-separated value (CSV) file

An Applanix ( smooth best estimated trajectory (SBET) binary file is a common file you may encounter when working in field LiDAR, and aerial photo data collection. It is basically a refined trajectory of the real time navigation of the path taken in the field data collection process.

I wrote an online WebApp tool ( to convert an SBET file (typically with an extension *.out) to a comma-separated value (CSV) file, and compressed to a ZIP file for easier transportation. The extraction, conversion and compression processes take place inside a Web browser locally only; there is no requirement to upload to a web server so that will save on the time and data connection costs.

To use this converter, simply visit the web site with any modern web browser.

Then, just drag and drop an SBET file, e.g. SBET.OUT onto the indicated area. Or click the Browse button and select the SBET file. Then click Open.

A process indicator will be displayed while the conversion is taking place. After the conversion has completed, a download link will appear as shown below.


Click the link to download the zip file and extract out the converted CSV file. An example of the result of the conversion is shown below. 


Monday, August 17, 2020

Android Studio: Fix for Default Activity not found warning

Recently after upgrading Android Studio to version 4.x, I found some of my old Android projects showing a warning message: "Warning: Default Activity not found" when I tried to run the project in the emulator; and Android Studio would not be able to launch the app. 

I tried the following:

  • Build | Clean project in Android Studio
    • Invalidate Caches / Restart in Android Studio
  • Verified AndroidManifest.xml is declaring the main activity correctly
  • Deleted the Android Studio caches - .idea/, .gradle/, *.iml

None worked.

When I tried to edit the run configuration, no matter what launch options I chose, the warning message still persisted, as shown in the screenshot below and I could not run the application. 

Finally, systematically I discovered the problem to be related to the Google Play Services AdMob dependency. The app's build.gradle snippet below shows the dependency.

dependencies { 
 implementation ''


Note: When using the newer Google Play Services Ads, the minimum SDK must now be set to at least 16. 

The screenshot below shows the Android Studio project when using 14 as the minimum SDK level. Notice the large red cross.

The screenshot shows the state of the Android Studio project after changing the minimum SDK level to 16 and selecting File | Sync Project with Gradle Files. Notice the large red cross is no longer displayed. Android Studio should be able to launch the app from this point on.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Configure an Ubuntu VirtualBox guest instance for ssh access from the host OS

I use VirtualBox to run guest OS such as Ubuntu 18.04 virtual machines for trying out stuff and experiments to prevent messing up my host operating system, e.g. Ubuntu. For convenience, the guest Ubuntu OS running in the VirtualBox can be accessed remotely from the host OS by creating a network adapter that bridges between the host and the guest. This post describes the configuration needed to allow the host OS to connect to the guest OS remotely through a secured shell (ssh).

The following steps assume an Ubuntu virtual machine has been created in VirtualBox and shutdown.

Create a bridge network adapter
  1. Run VirtualBox.

    The VirtualBox Manager is displayed.

  2. Select the Ubuntu virtual machine e.g. vm1. Click Settings.

    The Settings appear.

  3. Select Network.

  4. Select the Adapter 2 tab. Toggle on the Enable Network Adapter field.

  5. Choose Bridged Adapter in the Attached to field.
  6. In the Name field, choose the network you want the virtual machine to join, e.g. wlp3s0. Click OK.

    The bridged network adapter is created in the virtual machine.
 Identify the virtual machine's IP address on the bridged network
  1. In VirtualBox, run the guest virtual machine, e.g. vm1.
  2. Log in to the guest OS. Open up a Terminal.
  3. Type in the ifconfig command at the prompt:

    A list of network adapters and related information is displayed.

  4. Note down the virtual machine's ip address, e.g.

Install SSH server
If the SSH server is not installed in the guest Ubuntu OS, then do the following steps.
  1. Open a Terminal.
  2. At the prompt, type in the command:

    $ sudo apt-get install openssh-server
  3. At the prompt, type in the command to enable the ssh service.

    $ sudo systemctl enable ssh
  4. Start the ssh service by entering the following command.

    $ sudo systemctl start ssh
Remote access to the guest virtual machine
Now the virtual machine can be accessed from the host operating system. With the virtual machine running, the following commands can be used to access the guest OS.
  1. Open up a Terminal. Type in the following command:

    $ ssh remote_user@

    Note: where remote_user is the login name for the guest OS and is the IP address of the virtual machine on the host's network.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Gazebo: make an animated box using a separate model file(s)

The Gazebo tutorial at shows how to make a box actor rotate around the vertical axis using only a world file. I wanted to use create a separate actor model and include it in the world file so I don't have to repeat the code. After fiddling around, I managed to figure out the procedure to do it. This post summarizes the steps.

Create an actor model
  1. In the user's home directory ~/.gazebo/models/, create a model folder, e.g. animated_box

    $ cd ~/.gazebo/models/
    $ mkdir -p animated_box/materials/scripts
    $ mkdir -p animated_box/materials/textures

  2. Change directory into the animated_box folder.

    $ cd animated_box

  3. Using a text editor, create a model.config file. Type in the following:
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
     <name>Animated Box</name>
     <sdf version="1.4">model.sdf</sdf>
     <description>My animated box</description>

  4. Using a text editor, create a model.sdf file. Type in the following:

    Note: instead of the model tag, use the actor tag.
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
    <sdf version="1.4">
     <actor name="animated_box">
       <link name="link">
        <visual name="visual">
           <size>0.2 0.2 0.2</size>
        <trajectory id="0" type="square">
          <pose>-1 -1 1 0 0 0</pose>
          <pose>-1 1 1 0 0 0</pose>
          <pose>1 1 1 0 0 0</pose>
          <pose>1 -1 1 0 0 0</pose>
          <pose>-1 -1 1 0 0 0</pose>

Create and run the world file
  1.  Using a text editor, create a world file, e.g. Type in the following commands:
    <?xml version="1.0" ?>
    <sdf version="1.3">
     <world name="default">

    Note: the previously created animated_box model is included as a model.

  2. Run the world file.

    $ gazebo

    Gazebo opens and an animated box is shown circling the z axis.

    Monday, April 13, 2020

    Setup to launch ROS nodes on a remote computer on a network

    ROS nodes can be setup to run on a remote computer from a local computer on the same network. However, there are some setup to be done. After reading the tutorials and trying out on my own, the following steps summarized what worked for me.

    Create known hosts
    On the local Linux computer e.g. a Raspberry Pi (local1) do the following:
    1. Open a Terminal.
    2. Type in the command.

      $  ssh -oHostKeyAlgorithms='ssh-rsa' remote_user1@remote1

      The prompt appears: Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?
    3. Type in yes. Press RETURN.
    4. When prompted, type in the password for the remote1 computer's remote_user1.

      The Terminal is now connected to the computer remote1 and remote_user1 is logged in.

      The remote1 computer name is encrypted with the RSA encryption and stored in the Raspberry Pi's /home/local_user1/.ssh/known_hosts file.

    5. Type in exit.

      The connection to remote1 is closed.
    6. If necessary, repeat the previous steps 2 to 4 for the IP address of the computer remote1.

      $ ssh -oHostKeyAlgorithms='ssh-rsa' user1@

      Note: where is the IP address for the computer remote1.
    Create SSH public and private keys for authentication
    1. On the local1 computer, open a Terminal.
    2. Type in the command:

      $ ssh-keygen -t rsa

      Enter file in which to save the key (/home/local_user1/.ssh/id_rsa):
    3. Press RETURN.

      Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
    4. Press RETURN.

      Enter same passphrase again:
    5. Press RETURN.

      The private key is generated in /home/local_user1/.ssh/id_rsa.
      The public key is generated in /home/local_user1/.ssh/
    Install the public key(s) to the remote computer
    1. On the computer local1, open a Terminal.
    2. Type in the command:

      $ ssh-copy-id remote_user1@remote1
    3. When prompted, type in the password for remote_user1.

      The public keys are installed on computer remote1.
    Create a remote ROS environment shell script file
    The following steps should be executed on the remote computer remote1.
    1. Using a text editor, create a shell script file e.g. /opt/ros/melodic/ with the following content.

      export ROS_MASTER_URI=http://remote1:11311
      source /opt/ros/melodic/setup.bash
      source /home/remote_user1/catkin_ws/devel/setup.bash
      exec "$@"

    2. Open a Terminal. Make the shell script executable.

      $ sudo chmod a+x

    Create and run local launch file
    The following should be done on the local computer local1.
    1. Using a text editor, create a launch file e.g. run_remote.launch.
              <node machine="remote1" pkg="beginner_tutorials" name="hello_doubles" type="hello_doubles" />

      Note: this launch file will run the hello_doubles node from the beginner_tutorials package on the remote1 computer.

    2. Open a Terminal. Type in the following command assuming the launch file is in the current directory:

      $ roslaunch remote.launch
      The following messages may appear. Ws06 in this example screenshot is the remote computer.

      Monday, March 16, 2020

      How to run a shell script from a ROS launch file

      I wanted to execute a bash shell script from the ROS launch file but the ROS Wiki were not very clear. After some trial and error, I figured out how to do it. The following steps illustrate the procedure I used:

      Create a shell script
      1. In the ROS workspace package, e.g. /path/to/workspace/package/script/ folder, create a shell script e.g.
      2. Type in the script commands, e.g. see the code listing below.

        Note 1: ensure the shebang statement is at the top i.e. #!/bin/bash and a exit status code (0 for success or other values) is returned from the script.

        Note 2: Use the chmod command to make the script executable, e.g. $ chmod a+x

      # just print this out
      echo "Hello ROS world"
      # exit gracefully by returning a status 
      exit 0

      Create a launch file
      1. In the ROS workspace package launch folder, create a launch file e.g. /path/to/workspace/package/launch/hello_script.launch.
      2. Using a text editor, type in the following:

        Note: fill in the package name, e.g. beginner_tutorials, and the type, which should be the shell script name; name is any label you want to associate with the script node.

              <node pkg="beginner_tutorials"
                      type="" name="run_script"

      Run the launch file
      1. In a terminal, type in the ros launch command:

        $ roslaunch beginner_tutorials hello_script.launch

        Note: change beginner_tutorials to your package name and hello_script.launch to the launch file created previously.

        The script is executed as shown in the print out of "Hello ROS world" below.

      Monday, March 9, 2020

      Using Saga GIS' Terrain Analysis Swath Profile (interactive) function

      Saga GIS has a couple of interactive terrain profiling functions, a single profile and a swath profile. This post shows how to use the interactive swath terrain profile command.

      Load a grid file such as a USGS SRTM file
      1. Run Saga GIS. Select Geoprocessing | File | Grid | Import | Import USGS SRTM Grid.

        The Import USGS SRTM Grid dialog box appears.
      2. Click the Browse button in the Files field. Choose an SRTM file e.g. N21E093.hgt.

      3. Click Open.

      4. Click Okay.

        The SRTM file is loaded and shown in the Data tab.
      Start the swath profile command
      1.  Under the Data tab, mouse right click on the loaded grid file e.g. N21E093.
      2. In the pop up context menu, choose Add to Map.

        The grid file is displayed in a map window.
      3. Select Geoprocessing | Terrain Analysis | Profiles | Swath Profle [Interactive].

        The Swath Profile dialog box appears.
      4. In the Grid system field, choose the loaded grid file's system e.g. 0.000833; 1201x 1201y; 93x 21y option.
      5. In the DEM field, choose the loaded grid file, e.g. N21E093.
      6. Optional. Change the Swath Width if necessary.

        The message Interactive tool execution has been started is displayed in the Messages pane.
      Digitize the swath profile
      1. In the Toolbar, click the Action icon (that looks like a black NW arrow).
      2. In the map window, click a few points to draw the swath profile.

      3. To complete the drawing, press the mouse right button.
      4. To exit the interactive command, select Geoprocessing | Swath Profle [Interactive].

        The Tool Execution prompt appears.
      5. Click Yes.

        The message: "Interactive tool execution has been stopped" is shown in the Messages pane.

        Note: This may take a while as the command will sample the terrain to calculate the points.
      Display the swath profile graphically
      1.  In the Data pane, mouse right click on the newly created profile points e.g. Profile [N21E093].

      2. In the pop up menu, choose Attributes | Diagram.

        The Properties dialog box appear.
      3. In the X Axis Values field, choose D (for Distance).
      4. In the X Axis Label field, choose D.
      5. In the Attributes field, toggle on Z, Z [min], Z[max].
      6. Set other options if necessary.
      7. Click Okay.

        The profile line(s) are displayed.
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