April 10, 2016

Node Serialport v2.1.0

A few weeks ago I started maintaining node serialport after a long hiatus. We hadn't had a release in about a year and we had some outstanding bugs that I wanted to tackle. I had also introduced some complexity around testing, years ago, that was never removed and seemed to be making it harder to work on the project. Exactly a month since my first beta release we've released serialport@2.1.0 which is one of the larger releases we've ever had. This includes work from 13 people, including myself.

The Change Log:

  • Major refactor, bug fixes and docs improvements thanks to @ecksun, @fivdi, @gfcittolin,@jacobrosenthal, @mhart, @nebrius, @pabigot, @paulkaplan, @reconbot, @rodovich, @rwaldron, @sayanee, @tigoe and everyone who reported and helped debug issues!
  • Fix binary paths to confirm with modern standards
  • Integration tests on CI's that support it or for the folks at home with an arduino handy
  • Upgrade to nan-2.2.1 for memory leak fixes and node 6 compatibility (still not supported)
  • Confirm nw.js and electron compatibility
  • Make the outpout of .list consistent between platforms and docs
  • Define ambiguous flow control flags and document them
  • Fix support systems who provide 0 as a valid file descriptor
  • Fix race conditions when opening and closing ports that led to errors while reading and writing while closing or opening the port.
  • [unix] Fix a double open bug on unix that would cause opening and closing ports repetitively to error.
  • [unix] Listing serialports on linux now include more ports (including bluetooth devices eg./dev/rfcommXX) and have less bugs in the output
  • [windows] Remove deprecated BuildCommDCB for windows 10 support
  • [windows] Fix a memory leak on windows
  • [windows] Fix a 100% cpu and possible hang bug when ports were disconnected on windows.

The change log is extensive but doesn't tell the whole story. This release started as a bug triage. I saw over 100 issues, some a year and a half old. I started helping people close them. If they were over 4 months old I would close them (usually with a resolution!) and urge people to reopen tickets if the problem was still a problem. In doing this, however, I saw a lot of common trends.

Serialport Pulse

On Linux and OSX we had issues reopening ports. On Windows we had problems detecting disconnections. And a lot of support issues were due to errors that were either not meaningful or were delivered at the wrong time. This was scary! Fortunately, I found a lot of patches for these issues already researched, written, and waiting to be merged. It's why we have 13 authors this release! I was able to test and merge most of the submitted changes, and that fixed the worst of the bugs. I also added many more errors. You'll be warned a lot earlier if you're trying to do something that doesn't make sense. (Eg, if you open an already-open port, you no longer get a cryptic system level issue, you get a "port is already open" error.)

I have a habit of "stress cleaning". Ever since I was a child if someone was angry I'd start tidying up. In recent years this has evolved to involve refactoring code. If you're going to refactor code you need to know what it does and you need to ensure the fundamental behavior doesn't change. We now have better documentation, more test coverage, and cleaner code then we've ever had before. In a few notable cases I've kept behaviors that are arguably bugs in order to not break the API. It was painful, but I wanted this release to be widely consumed by anyone currently using serialport, with little fear and no outside change. The more people who get the bug fixes the better.

The next release will get to attack these bad behaviors and hopefully provide a much easier library to work with. I've got the unfortunate advantage of studying a year of bug reports to design version 3.0.0. A year of people trying to work around issues that were left unfixed. A year of people hitting the same issue over and over. As one of the maintainers I want to apologize to anyone who's had issues over the past year, and I want to thank you for documenting and researching your efforts. It's been a big help, keep it up.

We've got a roadmap to 3.0 open and available to comment. I've shared my ideas but I'd like yours too. And if you're looking to work on the project, please check out the backlog label. There's still much to do.

And Thanks.


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