Integrating Functionality

You should have at this stage read the Basics section of this documentation. Where Basics was all about dealing with system integration, we are going to discuss in this section how new functionality is presented in a form that can be used in a system. This part assumes that you've understood the notions of dataflow and execution lifecycle

We strongly recommend that you develop most of your system's functionality in libraries, instead of doing within the framework itself. For C++, this means creating C++ library packages that are then later integrated into Rock components to expose that functionality to the system. For Ruby, this means creating Ruby packages that are then used within the Ruby layers (e.g. Syskit)

Why ? Developing libraries is a matter of "general" software engineering best practices. Robotics is a small field, software engineering is not. By doing most of your work in a framework-independent manner, you ensure that you can benefit from the much bigger ecosystem. Moreover, we haven't seen the end of the robotic frameworks. By developing libraries that are framework-independent, you ensure that you can integrate them elsewhere if needs be, cutting the time and effort by a lot.

How does Rock help the library/framework separation ? Supporting this separation during the development process is a main design driver for the tooling. For instance, Rock's build system - autoproj - is not assumed to be present by the rest of the packages. Second, orogen exposes C++ structures directly into the type system. The widespread approach - using IDLs - usually end up pushing the developers to integrate code-generated structures in their libraries thus tying them to the framework itself.

While we do recommend a separation between framework and libraries, Rock does have some guidelines and best practices on how to develop C++ and Ruby libraries to ease their integration in a Rock system. The next pages of this section will first deal with C++ libraries and then Ruby libraries.

The next section will then deal with the no small matter of integrating this functionality in a Rock system. If you feel so inclined, Rock provides a C++ library template. This template solves some of the common problems with setting up a C++ library (basic build system, …) and obviously integrate as-is with the rest of a Rock system.

Next: let's talk about the development of C++ libraries