ukBaz Notes

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D-Bus and Bluez


If you experiment with Python and Bluetooth on Linux then you will possibly end up looking at the examples in the BlueZ source tree. There are a number of examples such as:

These examples use dbus-python bindings which in the bindings own documentation suggest it might not be the best bindings to use:

dbus-python might not be the best D-Bus binding for you to use. dbus-python does not follow the principle of “In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess”, and can’t be changed to not do so without seriously breaking compatibility.

In addition, it uses libdbus (which has known problems with multi-threaded use) and attempts to be main-loop-agnostic (which means you have to select a suitable main loop for your application).

This fact never makes me feel warn and friendly towards the BlueZ examples but having done experiments with other bindings, there does not appear to be a clear choice of bindings which will be usable for the full spectrum of BlueZ examples.

With my own Bluetooth libraries I’ve tried to avoid using those bindings.

For ukBaz/BLE_GATT it only covers the BLE central role which meant I could use pydbus. These are very pythonic bindings which also allow development to be done in a Python Virtual Environment (venv).

The publishing of D-Bus services is not smooth with pydbus, and passing of File Descriptors ar broken.

For my main Bluetooth library ukBaz/python-bluezero attempts to move to other bindings have always hit problems.

This blog is about an experiment to see if there was a way to do less verbose code with the dbus-python bindings.

As with a lot of my experimentation this uses a BBC micro:bit as it has some nicely documented services to interact with.

The experiment focused on three areas. 1) Building a Python proxy of the D-Bus object to interact with 2) Efficient way of find D-Bus path for GATT Characteristic’s UUID 3) Convert D-Bus typed data to python types

1) Python Proxy Objects

dbus.Interface offers a nice way to access methods on a D-Bus interface but not the properties. To access properties another Interface Proxy is required for the same D-Bus object but using the org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties interface. This always felt clunky.

In this experiment I created the class BluezProxy which extended dbus.proxies.Interface with a couple of extra methods to simplify the accessing of an interface’s properties.

While the solution is not as Pythonic as would be ideal it does feel a positive step forward from the examples I’ve seen previously. The get property is based on how get is done in Python dictionaries.

2) Find D-Bus path for GATT Characteristic’s UUID

gatt_chrc_path is the experiment to retrieve the GATT Characteristic path from just knowing the UUID. It is not wildly different from what has been done before but there are a couple of assumptions that have been adopted that are worth noting.

get_managed_objects is the basis for actions like this as a way to get the full information about what BlueZ has stored in D-Bus. Previously this technique was used for finding all kinds of information which resulted in complex functions. This experiment looked to see if all of them were necessary.

For Bluetooth Adapter there is usually only one on most machines and is typically /org/bluez/hci0.

The remote device path is easy to derive if you know the Bluetooth address of the remote device, and you only have one adapter. This is done with:

DEVICE_PATH = f"{ADAPTER_PATH}/dev_{DEVICE_ADDR.replace(':', '_')}"

GATT service is often not necessary to know on something like the BBC micro:bit which does not re-use characteristic UUIDs under different services.

This leaves the GATT Characteristic path as the one most commonly needing to be found. Focusing on just finding that path means the method can hard code the interface (BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC) and the property name (UUID).

If the UUID is available on multiple devices it there needs to ensure the path is for the device of interest.

As D-Bus object paths are a tree like structure it allows for paths that don’t start with the path of the required device to be filtered out.

The object_path is a Python property on the device proxy that was created so can easily be accessed.

This does mean that creating a Python proxy of a GATT characteristic is a two-step process e.g:

tmp_val_path = gatt_chrc_path(TMP_UUID, device.object_path)
tmp_chrc = BluezProxy(tmp_val_path, BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC)

which seems a reasonable trade-off for having BluezProxy as a more generic function.

3) Convert D-Bus typed data to python types

A D-Bus GetAll properties on the adapter interface will by default give an output like:

{dbus.String('Address'): dbus.String('11:22:33:44:55:66', variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('AddressType'): dbus.String('public', variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Alias'): dbus.String('TestMachine', variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Class'): dbus.UInt32(786700, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Discoverable'): dbus.Boolean(False, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('DiscoverableTimeout'): dbus.UInt32(190, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Discovering'): dbus.Boolean(False, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Modalias'): dbus.String('usb:v1D6Bp0246d0535', variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Name'): dbus.String('TestMachine', variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Pairable'): dbus.Boolean(False, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('PairableTimeout'): dbus.UInt32(120, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('Powered'): dbus.Boolean(True, variant_level=1),
 dbus.String('UUIDs'): dbus.Array([dbus.String('0000110e-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb'),
                                  signature=dbus.Signature('s'), variant_level=1)}

which is cluttered with D-Bus Type information. The dbus_to_python functions allows for this to be changed to Python types and give the following output:

{'Address': 'FC:F8:AE:8F:0C:A4',
 'AddressType': 'public',
 'Alias': 'thinkabit1',
 'Class': 786700,
 'Discoverable': False,
 'DiscoverableTimeout': 190,
 'Discovering': False,
 'Modalias': 'usb:v1D6Bp0246d0535',
 'Name': 'thinkabit1',
 'Pairable': False,
 'PairableTimeout': 120,
 'Powered': True,
 'UUIDs': ['0000110e-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb',

What dbus_to_python doesn’t address is that Bluetooth sends data as a series of bytes which may contain a physically grouped list of variables under one read or write.

In the example below the scroll delay characteristic is a relatively simple structure which only contains byte data for one variable of type uint16. In python conversion to a single variable can be done with the int or struct library.

NOTE: Bluetooth data is normally (always?) is little-endian format.

data = b'\x7e\x00'
value, = struct.unpack("<H", data)
print(value)  # 126
value = int.from_bytes(data, "little", signed=False)
print(value)  # 126

For more complex characteristics such as Heart Rate Measurement (not in the example) which has multiple values in the one characteristic, then using the struct library has a clearer advantage as it allows the multiple values to be unpacked at once. e.g:

flags, hr_value, energy_expended = struct.unpack("<BBH", b"\x08\x40\xc8\x01")
# flags = 0b00001000; hr_value = 64; energy_expended = 456

The full result of the experiment is a relative short BLE client to interact with a BBC micro:bit.

from pprint import pprint
from time import sleep
import dbus

BLUEZ_SERVICE_NAME = "org.bluez"
BLUEZ_ADAPTER = "org.bluez.Adapter1"
BLUEZ_DEVICE = "org.bluez.Device1"
BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC = "org.bluez.GattCharacteristic1"
TMP_UUID = "e95d9250-251d-470a-a062-fa1922dfa9a8"
DSPLY_TXT = "e95d93ee-251d-470a-a062-fa1922dfa9a8"
SCRLL_DLY = "e95d0d2d-251d-470a-a062-fa1922dfa9a8"
ADAPTER_PATH = "/org/bluez/hci0"
DEVICE_ADDR = "E1:4B:6C:22:56:F0"
DEVICE_PATH = f"{ADAPTER_PATH}/dev_{DEVICE_ADDR.replace(':', '_')}"

bus = dbus.SystemBus()

def dbus_to_python(data):
    """convert D-Bus data types to python data types"""
    if isinstance(data, dbus.String):
        data = str(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Boolean):
        data = bool(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Byte):
        data = int(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.UInt16):
        data = int(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.UInt32):
        data = int(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Int64):
        data = int(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Double):
        data = float(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.ObjectPath):
        data = str(data)
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Array):
        if data.signature == dbus.Signature('y'):
            data = bytearray(data)
            data = [dbus_to_python(value) for value in data]
    elif isinstance(data, dbus.Dictionary):
        new_data = dict()
        for key in data:
            new_data[dbus_to_python(key)] = dbus_to_python(data[key])
        data = new_data
    return data

def get_managed_objects():
    Return the objects currently managed by the D-Bus Object Manager for BlueZ.
    manager = dbus.Interface(
        bus.get_object(BLUEZ_SERVICE_NAME, "/"),
    return manager.GetManagedObjects()

def gatt_chrc_path(uuid, path_start="/"):
    Find the D-Bus path for a GATT Characteristic of given uuid.
    Use `path_start` to ensure it is on the correct device or service
    for path, info in get_managed_objects().items():
        found_uuid = info.get(BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC, {}).get("UUID", "")
        if all((uuid.casefold() == found_uuid.casefold(),
            return path
    return None

class BluezProxy(dbus.proxies.Interface):
        A proxy to the remote Object. A ProxyObject is provided so functions
        can be called like normal Python objects.
    def __init__(self, dbus_path, interface):
        self.dbus_object = bus.get_object(BLUEZ_SERVICE_NAME, dbus_path)
        self.prop_iface = dbus.Interface(self.dbus_object,
        super().__init__(self.dbus_object, interface)

    def get_all(self):
        """Return all properties on Interface"""
        return dbus_to_python(self.prop_iface.GetAll(self.dbus_interface))

    def get(self, prop_name, default=None):
        """Access properties on the interface"""
            value = self.prop_iface.Get(self.dbus_interface, prop_name)
        except dbus.exceptions.DBusException:
            return default
        return dbus_to_python(value)

def main():
    Procedurally connect to remote device and interact with various
    BLE GATT characteristics, and then disconnect from device
    # dongle - Get information from Bluetooth dongle on device
    dongle = BluezProxy(ADAPTER_PATH, BLUEZ_ADAPTER)
    print(f"Discovery Filters: {dbus_to_python(dongle.GetDiscoveryFilters())}")
    print(f"Powered: {dongle.get('Powered')}")

    # Device - Connect to device with given address
    device = BluezProxy(DEVICE_PATH, BLUEZ_DEVICE)
    while not device.get("ServicesResolved"):

    # GATT - Read Temperature characteristic from device
    tmp_val_path = gatt_chrc_path(TMP_UUID, device.object_path)
    tmp_chrc = BluezProxy(tmp_val_path, BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC)
    value = int.from_bytes(bytes(tmp_chrc.ReadValue({})), "little")
    print(f"Temperature is: {value}")

    # GATT - Change Scroll Delay characteristic value
    scrll_dly_path = gatt_chrc_path(SCRLL_DLY, device.object_path)
    scrll_dly = BluezProxy(scrll_dly_path, BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC)
    print(f"Scroll speed [raw bytes]: {dbus_to_python(scrll_dly.ReadValue({}))}")
    value = int.from_bytes(bytes(scrll_dly.ReadValue({})), "little")
    print(f"Scroll delay is: {value}")
    scrll_dly.WriteValue(int(value + 2).to_bytes(2, "little"), {})
    value = int.from_bytes(bytes(scrll_dly.ReadValue({})), "little")
    print(f"Scroll delay is: {value}")

    # GATT - Write to Text characteristic
    txt_path = gatt_chrc_path(DSPLY_TXT, device.object_path)
    txt_chrc = BluezProxy(txt_path, BLUEZ_GATT_CHRC)
    txt_chrc.WriteValue(b'Carpe diem', {})
    # Disconnect from device

if __name__ == "__main__":

© Copyright 2022, Barry Byford.

first published: 2022 June 19

last updated: 2022 June 19

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.