ESP8266 development boards like the Wemos D1 Mini and NodeMCU are an excellent way to get a one-off project up and rolling quickly, but their size and relative complexity mean they aren’t necessarily a good choice for even short-run production hardware. On the other hand, programming the bare ESP modules can be something of a pain. But thanks to [Greg Frost], flashing those tiny little boards just got a lot easier.
His 3D printed design uses pogo pins to securely connect to the board’s castellated edges, which also holds it in place during the programming process. On the back side there’s just a few jumper wires and a couple of resistors, which ultimately lead to the FT232R FTDI board that actually connects the chip to the computer so you can program it.
We’d like to see a back panel that encloses the wiring, and perhaps an alternate version that deletes the space for the FTDI board in favor of a row of header pins. Both easy enough modifications to the basic design should [Greg] or anyone else feel so inclined. But even as it is, this is a great little programmer that can be sourced and assembled easily and cheaply.
This isn’t the first 3D printed ESP8266 programmer we’ve seen, and there are some improvised versions which are even cheaper to put together, but this design has a certain professional look that we think will be right at home on your bench.
As popular as the post-apocalyptic Zombie genre is, there is a quite unrealistic component to most of the stories. Well, apart from the whole “the undead roaming the Earth” thing. But where are the nerds, and where is all the apocalypse-proof, solar-powered tech? Or is it exactly this lack of tech in those stories that serves as incentive to build it in the first place? Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be the end of the world to seek for ways to cope with a collapse of our modern communication infrastructure either. Just think of natural disasters — an earthquake or hurricane causing a long-term power outage for example. The folks at [sudomesh] tackle exactly this concern with their fully open source, off-grid, solar-powered, LoRa mesh network, Disaster Radio.
The network itself is built from single nodes comprising of a battery-backed solar panel, a LoRa module, and either the ESP8266 or ESP32 for WiFi connectivity. The idea is to connect to the network with your mobile phone through WiFi, therefore eliminating any need for additional components to actually use the network, and have the nodes communicate with each other via LoRa. Admittedly, LoRa may not be your best choice for high data rates, but it is a good choice for long-range communication when cellular networks aren’t an option. And while you can built it all by yourself with everything available on [sudomesh]’s GitHub page, a TTGO ESP32 LoRa module will do as well.
If the idea itself sounds familiar, we did indeed cover similar projects like HELPER and Skrypt earlier this year, showing that LoRa really seems to be a popular go-to for off-grid communication. But well, whether we really care about modern communication and helping each other out when all hell breaks loose instead of just primevally defending our own lives is of course another question.
We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: rolling your own hardware solution is ridiculously easy these days. If you want to make a network attached environmental sensor, you wire a DHT11 up to an ESP8266 and you’re done. Time to move onto the software. In fact, it can take longer to come up with some kind of suitable enclosure for your hardware project than it does to assemble the thing.
Which is why [Pixel Hawk] has come up with this elegant 3D printed enclosure for the ESP8266 and ESP32. It’s designed to hold the microcontroller in the bottom compartment, while the environmental sensor (either the DHT11 or DHT22) is mounted to the top so it’s exposed to the outside. The case snap fits together so you don’t have to worry about gluing it, and there’s even an opening so you can keep the USB cable plugged in.
In the notes for the design, he mentions that in testing it was determined that the heat of the ESP itself can skew the temperature readings. So he recommends putting the microcontroller to sleep whenever possible, and keeping reads short so the enclosure doesn’t have time to heat up. He’s also created an alternate version of the case with more openings which should help combat this issue if you need to keep the chip awake.
If you’re looking for a complete solution, [Pixel Hawk] has included the source code he personally used to get his ESP32 sensor talking to Blynk, but you certainly don’t have to go that route if you don’t want to. There’s no shortage of existing projects out there that will help you get started with whole-house environmental monitoring. Our very own [Elliot Williams] happens to be partial to MQTT when he wants to get all his gadgets to play nice.
Some pieces of computing equipment have faded away without a trace, for example a modem is not a device that detains many hackers as they strive for that perfect emulation of a venerable Hayes on an Arduino. But there are some other devices that continue to hold a fascination, even years after they departed from the professional arena. A great example is the serial terminal. Once to be found on many a desk as it provided a way into a minicomputer, it has long ago been supplanted by terminal emulators or simply other portals into computing services such as the web. But in our community there are still plenty of serial terminals to be found, for example [RedHog]’s little emulated VT220 on an ESP8266 platform.
If you were hoping for a full-green screen and keyboard to plug into a hefty D-connector serial port then you’ll be a bit disappointed, as with a tiny screen and only a few buttons on a dev board or an Arduboy it’s not going to allow any 1337 vi mastery even with its on-screen keyboard. Take a look, we’ve placed a video below the break. But despite all that it shows promise, with ability to use either the logic-level serial port or the USB serial interface. We can see that it might find a use as a serial display though, but it would fascinate us to see what could be done were it to use the 8266’s on-board WiFi in some form. If you’d like to experiment you can do so with the code on GitHub.
This isn’t the first such terminal we’ve seen here before of course, some of them have been extremely practical, while others we just want to own because they’re cool.
Continue reading “A Tiny Terminal For Your Serial Access Needs”
The ESP8266 has become the hacker’s microcontroller of choice because it’s exceptionally easy to get the chip connected to the network and talking to other devices. The fact that it’s also absurdly cheap is just a bonus. Since nearly every piece of electronics you buy today is “smart” enough to include some form of Internet control, that means there’s no shortage of gadgets these MCUs can potentially poke and prod.
In their latest tip, [TecnoProfesor] shows how you can interface the ESP8266 with Google’s Cloud Print, a service that enables simple remote printing over the web without having to worry about having the proper device drivers. Remote printing from the ESP8266 might seem like little more than a gag at first glance, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to have hard copies of data, adding the capability to generate a daily printed report to your weather station could be a nice weekend project.
[TecnoProfesor] provides explanations and source code for printing documents of various sizes from both the ESP8266’s internal flash storage and an SPI-attached SD card. Towards the end of the write-up, there’s even some explanation of how the
setPrintDocument() function of the Cloud Print API can be used in more advanced scenarios, such as printing web pages or documents stored in Google Drive.
When we see microcontrollers connected to printers, they’re usually of the small thermal kind. Being able to access “real” printers with such a simple technique offers some interesting possibilities, though like most technology, there’s potential for it to be misused.
[Thanks to Andrew for the tip.]
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, online creators are being sincerely flattered at an alarming rate these days. We Hackaday scribes see it all the time, as straight copy-pastes of our articles turn up on other websites under different bylines. It’s annoying, but given prevailing attitudes toward intellectual property rights, there’s very little point in getting upset about it anymore. But what if it’s hardware that’s being infringed upon?
Hacker and Tindie store proprietor [Brian Lough] recently ran into this problem with one of his products, but rather than get upset, he did a remarkably fair and thoughtful review of the knock-off. The board in question, a D1 Mini Matrix Shield, makes it a snap to use LED matrix panels in projects like his Tetris-themed YouTube sub counter. The knock-off came via Ali Express, with the most “flattering” aspect being the copy and the images on the Ali Express listing, some of which are pulled straight from [Brian]’s Tindie store. While the board’s layout is different, it’s pretty clear that it was strongly inspired by the original. And the changes they did make – like terminal choices and undersizing some traces – only serve to lower the quality of the knock-off. Surely this was a cost-cutting move, so they could undercut sales of the original, right? Apparently not – the knock off is more expensive. Yes, [Brian]’s board is a kit and the imitator is fully assembled, but it still begs the question of why?
Hats off to [Brian] for not only making a useful product, but for taking the time to engineer it properly and having the ambition to put it on the market. It’s a pity that someone felt the need to steal his work, but it seems to be a rite of passage these days.
Continue reading “Tindie Seller Reviews A Knock-Off Of His Own Product”
Back at the 2017 Superconference, Hackaday Managing Editor Elliot Williams started his talk about the so-called “Internet of Things” by explaining the only part he doesn’t like about the idea is the Internet… and the things. It’s a statement that most of us would still agree with today. If anything, the situation has gotten worse in the intervening years. Commercial smart gadgets are now cheaper and more plentiful than they’ve ever been, but it seems like precious little has been done to improve their inherent privacy and security issues.
But his talk doesn’t serve to bash the companies producing these devices or even the services that ultimately folded and left their customers with neigh useless gadgets. That’s not his style. The central theme of “Nexus Technologies: Or How I Learned to Love WiFi” is that a smart home can be wonderful thing, assuming it works the way you want it to. Elliot argues that between low-cost modular hardware and open source software, the average hacker has everything they need to build their own self-contained home automation ecosystem. One that’s not only cheaper than what they’re selling at the Big Box electronics store, but also doesn’t invite any of the corporate giants to the party.
Of course, it wasn’t always so. A decade ago it would have been all but impossible, and five years ago it would have been too expensive to be practical. As Elliot details his journey towards a truly personal smart home, he explains the advances in hardware and software that have made it not just possible on the DIY level, but approachable. The real takeaway is that once more people realize how cheap and easy it is to roll your own smart home gadgets, they may end up more than willing to kick Big Brother to the curb and do IoT on their own terms.
This previously unpublished recording somehow slipped between the cracks of the editing room floor but upon recent discovery, it’s still just as relevant today. Take a look at Elliot’s view on Nexus Technologies, then join us after the break for a deeper dive. Make sure to subscribe to Hackaday’s YouTube channel to get in on the 2019 Hackaday Superconference live stream starting Saturday, November 16th.
Continue reading “Found Footage: Elliot Williams Talks Nexus Technologies”