8. TCP/IP communication

This section is for people who want an answer to: I have a detector or an actuator controlled on a distant computer and cannot have it on the main computer, do you have a solution?

The answer is of course : YES

For this, you have two options:

  • install PyMoDAQ to control your hardware on the distant computer
  • Use a software on the distant computer that can use TCP/IP communication following the rules given below

8.1. With PyMoDAQ

From version 1.6.0, each actuator (DAQ_Move) or detector (DAQ_Viewer) module can be connected to their counterpart on a distant computer. For both modules, a TCPServer plugin is available and can be initialized. It will serve as a bridge between the main computer, running for instance a DAQ_Scan module, and the distant one running a usual DAQ_Move or DAQ_Viewer module, see Fig. 8.1. Every parameter of the distant module will be exported on its server counterpart. Any modification of these parameters, either on the server or on the local module, will be updated on either the local module or the server module.


Fig. 8.1 Typical configuration with modules on distant computers communicating over a TCP/IP connection

8.2. On another software

The TCP_server plugin can also be used as a bridge between PyMoDAQ and another custom software (installed locally or on a distant computer) able to initialize a TCP client and understand PyMoDAQ’s TCP/IP communications. For instance, at CEMES, we’ve build such a bridge between Digital Micrograph running (eventually) on a distant computer and controlling a specific Gatan camera on an electron microscope. The communication framework used by PyMoDAQ is as follow:

8.2.1. Making sure messages are complete:

Message send on a tcp/ip connection can sometimes be send as chunks, it is therefore important to know what will be the length of the message to be sent or to be received. PyMoDAQ use the following methods to make sure the message is entirely send or entirely received:

def check_received_length(sock,length):
    while l<length:
        if l<length-4096:
    return data_bytes

def check_sended(socket, data_bytes):
    sended = 0
    while sended < len(data_bytes):
        sended += socket.send(data_bytes[sended:])

8.2.2. Sending and receiving commands (or message):

Commands are strings that should be either:

  • Client receiving messages:
    • For all modules: Info, Infos, Info_xml, set_info
    • For a detector: Send Data 0D, Send Data 1D, Send Data 2D
    • For an actuator: move_abs, move_home, move_rel, check_position, stop_motion
  • Client sending messages:
    • For all modules: Quit, Done, Info, Infos, Info_xml
    • For a detector: x_axis, y_axis
    • For an actuator: position_is, move_done

The principles of communication within PyMoDAQ are summarized on figure Fig. 8.2 and as follow:

To be send, the string is converted to bytes. The length of this converted string is then computed and also converted to bytes. The converted length is first send through the socket connection and then the converted command is also sent as follow:

def message_to_bytes(message):
    if not isinstance(message, bytes):
    return message,len(message).to_bytes(4, 'big') #4 bytes to encode the length as an integer

string = 'Send Data 2D'

cmd_bytes, cmd_length_bytes = message_to_bytes(string)
check_sended(socket, cmd_length_bytes) #first send the length of the message
check_sended(socket, cmd_bytes) #then send the converted message

For the message to be properly received, the client listen on the socket. The first bytes to arrive represent the length of the message (number of bytes)

def get_string(socket):
    string_len = get_int(socket) #receive first the length of the message
    string = check_received_length(socket, string_len).decode() #then read length bytes, and decode it to string
    return string

def get_int(socket):
    data = int.from_bytes(check_received_length(socket, 4), 'big') #read 4 bytes to compose the length of the message
    return data

message = get_string(self.socket)

For the detail of the python utility functions used to convert, send and receive data see the pymodaq.daq_utils.tcpip_utils module and its API (TCP/IP related methods).


Fig. 8.2 Diagram principle of PyMoDAQ message communication through a TCP/IP socket.

8.2.3. Sending and receiving Datas:

Sending or receiving datas is very similar to messages except that datas have a type (integer, float…) and have also a dimensionality: 0D, 1D, … Moreover, the datas exported from plugins and viewers are almost always numpy arrays within a list. One should therefore take all this into consideration. The principles of data communication are summarized on diagram Fig. 8.3


Fig. 8.3 Diagram principle of PyMoDAQ data communication through a TCP/IP socket for a list of datas.

8.2.4. Custom client: how to?

  1. The TCP/Client should first try to connect to the server (using TCP server PyMoDAQ plugin), once the connection is accepted, it should send an identification, the client type (GRABBER or ACTUATOR command)
  2. (optional) Then it can send some information about its configuration as an xml string following the pymodaq.daq_utils.custom_parameter_tree.parameter_to_xml_string method.
  3. Then the client enters a loop waiting for input from the server and is ready to read commands on the socket
  4. Receiving commands
    • For a detector: Send Data 0D, Send Data 1D, Send Data 2D
    • For an actuator: move_abs, move_home, move_rel, check_position, stop_motion
  5. Processing internally the command
  6. Giving a reply
    • For a detector:
      • Send the command Done
      • Send the datas as a list of arrays
    • For an actuator:
      • Send a reply depending on the one it received:
        • move_done for move_abs, move_home, move_rel commands
        • position_is for check_position command
      • Send the position as a scalar (see below)
def send_scalar(socket, data):
    data = np.array([data])
    data_type = data.dtype.descr[0][1]
    data_bytes = data.tobytes()
    send_string(socket, data_type)
    check_sended(socket, len(data_bytes).to_bytes(4, 'big'))
    check_sended(socket, data_bytes)

Pretty easy, isn’t it?

Well, if it isn’t you can have a look in the example folder where a Labview based TCP client has been programed. It emulates all the rules stated above, and if you are a Labview user, you’re lucky ;-) but should really think on moving on to python with PyMoDAQ…