Composing microblx systems

Building a microblx application typically involves instantiating blocks, configuring and interconnecting their ports and finally starting all blocks. The recommended way to do this is by specifying the system using the microblx composition DSL.

Microblx System Composition DSL (usc files)

usc are declarative descriptions of microblx systems that can be validated and instantiated using the ubx-launch tool. A usc model describes one microblx system, as illustrated by the following minimal example:

local bd = require("blockdiagram")

return bd.system
   -- import microblx modules
   imports = {
      "stdtypes", "ptrig", "lfds_cyclic", "myblocks",

   -- describe which blocks to instantiate
   blocks = {
      { name="x1", type="myblocks/x" },
      { name="y1", type="myblocks/y" },
      { name="ptrig1", type="std_triggers/ptrig" },

   -- connect blocks
   connections = {
      { src="x1.out", tgt="" },
      { src="y1.out", tgt="", buffer_len=16 },

   -- configure blocks
   configurations = {
      { name="x1", config = { cfg1="foo", cfg2=33.4 } },
      { name="y1", config = { cfgA={ p=1,z=22.3 }, cfg2=33.4 } },

      -- configure a trigger
      { name="trig1", config = { period = {sec=0, usec=100000 },
                                    -- the #<blockname> directive will
                                    -- be resolved to an actual
                                    -- reference to the respective
                                    -- block once instantiated
                                    { b="#x1", num_steps=1, measure=0 },
                                    { b="#y1", num_steps=1, measure=0 } } } }


usc files like the above example can be launched using ubx-launch tool. Run with -h for further information. The following example

$ cd /usr/local/share/ubx/examples/usc/pid/
$ ubx-launch -webif -c pid_test.usc,ptrig_nrt.usc

will launch the given system composition and in addition create and configure a web server block to allow the system to be introspected via browser.

Unless the -nostart option is provided, all blocks will be initialized, configured and started. ubx-launch handles this in safe way by starting up active blocks after all other blocks (In earlier versions, there was start directive to list the blocks to be started, however now this information is obtained by means of the block attributes BLOCK_ATTR_ACTIVE and BLOCK_ATTR_TRIGGER.)

Node configs

Node configs allow to assign the same configuration to multiple blocks. This is useful to avoid repeating global configuration values that are identical for multiple blocks.

The node_configurations keyword allows to define one or more named node configurations.

node_configurations = {
    global_rnd_conf = {
        type = "struct random_config",
        config = { min=333, max=999 },

These configurations can then be assigned to multiple blocks:

{ name="b1", config = { min_max_config = "&global_rnd_conf"} },
{ name="b2", config = { min_max_config = "&global_rnd_conf"} },

Please refer to examples/systemmodels/node_config_demo.usc for a full example.

Hierarchical compositions

Using hierarchical composition [1] an application can be composed from other compositions. The motivation is to permit reuse of the individual compositions.

The subsystems keyword accepts a list of namespace-subsystem entries:

return bd.system {
    import = ...
    subsystems = {
        subsys1 = bd.load("subsys1.usc"),
        subsys2 = bd.load("subsys1.usc"),

Subsystem elements like configs can be accessed by higher levels by adding the subsystem namespace. For example, the following lines override a configuration value of the blk block in subsystems sub11 and sub11/sub21:

configurations = {
    { name="sub11/blk",       config = { cfgA=1, cfgB=2 } },
    { name="sub11/sub21/blk", config = { cfgA=5, cfgB=6 } },

Note how the subsystem namespaces prevent name collisions of the two identically names blocks. Similar to configurations, connections can be added among subsystems blocks:

connections = {
    { src="sub11/sub21/blk.portX", tgt="sub11/blk.portY" },

When launched, a hierarchical system is instantiated in a similar way to a non-hierarchical one, however:

  • modules are only imported once
  • blocks from all hierarchy levels are instantiated, configured and started together, i.e. the hierarchy has no implications on the startup sequence.
  • microblx block names use the fully qualified name including the namespace. Therefore, the #blockname syntax for resolving block pointers works just the same.
  • if multiple configs for the same block exist, only the highest one in the hierarchy will be applied.
  • node configs are always global, hence no prefix is required. In case of multiple identically named node configs, the one at the highest level will be selected.

Model mixins

To obtain a reusable composition, it is important to avoid introducing platform specifics such as ptrig blocks and their configurations. Instead, passive trig blocks can be used to encapsulate the trigger schedule. ptrig or similar active blocks can then be added at launch time by merging them (encapsulated in an usc file) into the primary model by specifying both on the ubx-launch command line.

For example, consider the example in examples/systemmodels/composition:

ubx-launch -webif -c deep_composition.usc,ptrig.usc


Although using usc model is the preferred approach, there are others way to launch a microblx application:

Launching in C

It is possible to avoid the Lua scripting layer entirely and launch an application in C/C++. A small self-contained example c-launch.c is available under examples/C/ (see the README for further details).

For a more complete example, checkout the respective tutorial section Deployment via C program. Please note that such launching code is a likely candidate for code generation and there are plans for a usc-to-C compiler. Please ask on the mailing if you are interested.

Lua scripts

One can write a Lua “deployment script” similar to the ubx-launch. Checkout the scripts in the tools section. This approach not recommended under normally, but can be useful in specific cases such as for building dedicated test tools.


[1]This feature was introduced in the context of the COCORF RobMoSys Integrated Technical Project. Please see docs/dev/ for background information.