5.2. Recorder

Hint

Don’t be afraid to play around with the GUI! If you closed or moved something and can’t get it back, just click View / Reset Layout!

eCAL Recorder Reset Layout

The eCAL Recorder can record any data that is sent through your eCAL network and save it to disk. The output of the recorder (-> the recording) is called an eCAL Measurement. You can use that measurement later to analyze it or to stimulate other applications that need that data as input.

5.2.1. Features

The eCAL Recorder is quite powerful, so we will only look at a limited setup in this tutorial. First, the Recorder features two essential modes:

  1. Centralized recording:

    This means that you simply start the eCAL Recorder on one of your many machines. It will subscribe to all topics and record the data to your hard drive. Data from remote machines will be sent via network.

    This is the most trivial mode. We will use that mode in this tutorial.

  2. Distributed recording:

    When having many eCAL applications, it is generally advisable to run applications that exchange huge amounts of data on the same machine, as eCAL will then use its shared memory transport mechanism, which is way faster than sending data over the network. The recorder can also take advantage of that feature and avoid network congestion while running a recording. For this mode you will have to launch the eCAL Recorder on one of your machines and the eCAL Recorder Client on all of your other machines.

    Now each Recorder and Recorder Client will only record topics coming from their respectable machine and record them to their local hard drive. After you finished your test, you can then let the Recorder Clients push their files to your main PC to get a contiguous recording.

    Of course, mixed configurations are possible (e.g. some machines will only record their own topics, while other machines will also record topics of some external machines).

Some other notable features of the eCAL Recorder are:

  • You can select which topics to record / not to record

  • You can save a description to your measurement and add comments afterwards

  • Data can be pre-buffered, so the measurement will contain data that was buffered before you hit the record button

  • Measurements paths can use an advanced text replacement syntax, e.g. to have environment variable expansion

  • Distributed recordings can be uploaded to the main machine or to any custom FTP server

  • You can extend the functionality with custom recorder addons

5.2.2. GUI Overview

Let’s start with a short GUI overview.

  • On Windows you can start the eCAL recorder from the Start Menu: Start / eCAL / eCAL Recorder

  • On Ubuntu start ecal_rec_gui from a terminal

For the screenshot, the Windows machine is running the eCAL Recorder, while the Linux machine is running the person_snd sample.

eCAL Recorder
  1. Topics panel

    Here you can see all available topics. You can select whether to blacklist or whitelist some of them. After activating the recorder, you can also see which recorder is recording which topic, which is mainly interesting when using distributed recording.

    As you can see in the screenshot, the recorder has already picked up the person topic published by the sample running on florian-ubuntu

  2. Configuration

    In the configuration panel you can configure the measurement:

    • Meas dir: The path where to save your measurements to

    • Meas name: How the measurement should be named (This will create a subfolder in your measurement directory).

    You can also enter a description and select the maximum file size. If a measurement exceeds the maximum size, it will be splitted to multiple files.

    Note

    Don’t be confused by the strange syntax. You can use plain paths (e.g. D:\meas\root\dir) if you like. Using the eCAL replacement syntax however solves the problem of having different paths for Windows and Linux machines and timestamped subfolders for each measurement.

  3. Active recorders

    Here you can see all recorder instances and their reported statuses. Currently there is only one recorder (florian-windows). In a distributed recording configuration however, this panel would display all recorder clients.

    At the bottom of the panel you can activate pre-buffering and set the number of seconds that shall be kept in the buffer.

  4. Controls

    In this area are the three main buttons for controlling your recording:

    • Activate: Clicking this button will cause the recorder to create subscribe to the eCAL topics it is supposed to record. This will also cause the pre-buffer getting filled.

    • REC: This button starts and stops the recording. If you haven’t clicked Activate, this step is done automatically. So, unless you care about the pre-buffer function, you don’t need to manually activate the recorder.

    • Save Pre-Buffer: This button only becomes active, when you enabled Pre-buffering. Clicking it will save the content of the current pre-buffer as a new measurement, without having to click REC and STOP immediately afterwards.

  5. Measurement history

    Whenever you start a recording (either by clicking REC or Save Pre-Buffer), the measurement is displayed here. From this panel you can delete it, add comments to it or upload it to an FTP Server for merging distributed measurements.

5.2.3. Let’s record some data!

As mentioned above, we have a person_snd sample running on a remote machine. Now let’s record it!

  1. Click REC

  2. Wait some seconds

  3. Click STOP

That’s it. You have just created your first eCAL measurement. Also try adding a comment to your measurement by clicking the Comment… button in the measurement list! If you haven’t modified the measurement path, it is saved to:

  • Windows: C:\ecal_meas\

  • Linux: ~/ecal_meas/

eCAL Recorder recording

5.2.4. eCAL Measurements

Before continuing to the next section and replaying the measurement, let’s quickly look at what the Recorder has just created:

eCAL Measurement
  • doc/description.txt: Your description and your comment is saved in this file

  • florian-windows: Each recorder creates a directory with its hostname for its files. This is important in a distributed measurement scenario, where multiple recorders exist. You will see a directory with your own hostname here.

    • ecal.ini: The configuration file at the time when you started the recorder. Useful for finding configuration issues later.

    • florian-windows.hdf5: The actual recorded data. eCAL records data in the standardized HDF5 format

    • system-information.txt: The same system information that we have seen in the eCAL Monitor. Useful for finding issues later.

  • 2020-08-06_02-12-12.596_measurement.ecalmeas: “Index-File” that can be opened with the eCAL Player. Does not contain any data by itself.

Now that you know how to record data and have created your first eCAL Measurement continue to the next section and try to replay it with the eCAL Player!