Extending Jackal on Windows

Now that’s you’ve had Jackal for a while, you may be interested in how to extend it— perhaps add some more payloads, or augment the URDF.

Startup Launch Context

When ROS packages are grouped together in a directory and then built as one, the result is referred to as a workspace. Each workspace generates a setup.bat file which the user may source in order to correctly set up important environment variables such as PATH, PYTHONPATH, and CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH.

The standard system-wide setup file is in c:\opt:


When you run this command, you’ll have access to rosrun, roslaunch, and all the other tools and packages installed on your system from debian packages.

Supporting ROS packages on Windows

While many ROS packages are supported on Windows, most are not. Microsoft has provided documentation for updating and consuming ROS nodes. Please refer to Microsoft’s documentation for porting and support options.

Adding URDF

There are two possible approaches to augmenting Jackal’s URDF. The first is that you may simply set the JACKAL_URDF_EXTRAS environment variable in Windows using the setx command. By default, it points to an empty dummy file, but you can point it to a file of additional links and joints which you would like mixed into Jackal’s URDF (via xacro) at runtime.

The second, more sophisticated way to modify the URDF is to create a new package for your own robot, and build your own URDF which wraps the one provided by jackal_description.

Starting ROS at boot

To automatically start on ROS boot, you’ll use the Windows Task Scheduler to start the task. The Task scheduler is passed a Windows command file, which needs to start the ROS environment, and your code.

Create a Windows command file, which includes the ROS environment and Install environment:


Inside that file, place the commands to initiatize ROS, initialize your workspace, and launch your top level launch file:

call c:\opt\ros\noetic\x64\setup.bat
call c:\catkin_ws\install\setup.bat
roslaunch <package> <launch file>

Use the command Schtasks, to add a task which calls this script:

schtasks /Create /RU <User> /RP <password> /SC ONLOGON /TN ROS /TR "c:\catkin_ws\start_ros.bat"

The next time the system starts, the ROS task will run.