Showing the ESP-Prog-Adapter board plugged into the ESP-Prog adapter, wired to a SOIC clip, that then attaches to a PCB under test

ESP-Prog-Adapter Makes Your ESP32 Tinkering Seamless

Did you ever struggle with an ESP32 board of yours, wishing you had exposed that UART, or seriously lacking the JTAG port access? If so, you should seriously check out [0xjmux]’s ESP-PROG-Adapter project, because [0xjmux] has put a lot of love and care into making your ESP32 hardware interfacing a breeze. This project shows you how to add JTAG and UART headers with extra low board footprint impact, gives you a KiCad library to do so super quickly, and shares a simple and helpful adapter PCB you can directly use with the exceptionally cheap Espressif’s ESP-Prog dongle you should have bought months ago.

The hardware is perfect for ZIF no-soldering interfacing – first of all, both UART and JTAG can be connected through a SOICBite connection, a solderless connector idea that lets you use SPI flashing clips on specially designed pads at the edge of your board. For the fancy toolkit hackers among us, there’s also a Tag Connect symbol suggested and a connector available, but it carries JTAG that you will already get with the SOICBite, so it’s maybe not worth spending extra money on.

Everything is fully open-source, as one could hope! If you’re doing ESP32 hacking, you simply have to order this board and a SOIC clip to go with it, given just how much trouble [0xjmux]’s board will save you when programming or debugging your ESP32 devices. Now, you don’t strictly need the ESP-Prog dongle – you could remix this into an adapter for the Pi Pico board instead. Oh, and if designing boards with ARM CPUs are your thing, you might benefit from being reminded about the Debug Edge standard!

Espressif’s ESP32-P4 Application Processor: Details Begin To Emerge

Every now and then there’s a part that comes along which is hotly anticipated, but which understandably its manufacturer remains tight-lipped about in order to preserve maximum impact surrounding its launch. Right now that’s Espressif’s ESP32-P4: a powerful application processor with dual-core 400 MHz and a single-core low power 40 MHz RISC-V processors. Interestingly it doesn’t appear to have the radios which have been a feature of previous ESP parts, but it makes up for those with a much more comprehensive array of peripherals.

Some details are beginning to emerge, whether from leaks or in preparation for launch, including the first signs of support in their JTAG tool, and a glimpse in a video from another Chinese company of a development board. We got our hopes up a little when we saw the P4 appearing in some Espressif documentation, but on closer examination there’s nothing there yet about the interesting new peripherals.

Looking at the dev board and the video we can see some of what the thing is capable of as it drives a large touchscreen and a camera. There are two MIPI DSI/CSI ports on  the PCB, as well as three USB ports and a sound codec. A more run-of-the-mill ESP32-C3 is present we think to provide wireless networking, and there’s a fourth USB port which we are fairly certain is in fact only for serial communications via a what our best blurry photograph reading tells us is a Silicon Labs USB-to-serial chip. Finally there’s large Raspberry Pi-style header which appears to carry all the GPIOs and other pins. We’ve placed the video below the break, if you see anything we’ve missed please tell us in the comments.

We first covered this chip back in January, and then as now we’re looking forward to seeing what our community does with it.

Continue reading “Espressif’s ESP32-P4 Application Processor: Details Begin To Emerge”

Breaking The Flash Encryption Feature Of Espressif’s Microcontrollers

Espressif’s ESP32 microcontrollers come with a Flash encryption feature that when enabled ensures that the data and code stored on the (usually external) Flash chip is encrypted with AES-256 (ESP32) or better (ESP32-C3, -C6). For the ESP32 this encryption feature has been shown to be vulnerable to side channel attacks (SCA), leading [courk] to not only replicate this result with a custom ESP Correlation Power Analysis (CPA) board (pictured) that captures power usage of the MCU, but also to try his luck with the ESP32-C3 and ESP32-C6 parts that should be tougher nuts to crack.

Whereas the ESP32 uses a fairly straightforward AES-256 encryption routine that together with the exposed Flash communication lines on the QSPI bus make for a textbook SCA example, the ESP32-C3 ups the encryption to XTS-AES, which uses two 128-bit keys on the -C3 part (XTS-256). This particular MCU is still susceptible to the same SCA attack with CPA, making it somewhat harder to attack than the ESP32, but by no means impossible.

Continue reading “Breaking The Flash Encryption Feature Of Espressif’s Microcontrollers”

One Less Binary Blob

Open-source software has gone a long way into making modern technology the way it is today. The Linux kernel alone is almost single-handedly holding up the entire Internet, and various other open-source projects allow for more access to computing resources not just because the software is often free, but because it’s possible to look under the hood and modify it for specific needs. Without open-source software available we often run into problems both expected, such as software licensing costs, and unexpected, which often come up because a developer can’t or won’t fix issues or add features. To that end, a group at Ghent University in Belgium are attempting to rectify a problem with the ESP32 by eliminating one of its binary blobs and replacing it with an open source driver.

The ESP32 is famously a low-cost microcontroller with on-board wireless capabilities, but its Wi-Fi functionality currently relies on closed-source software from Espressif. The team is currently working on building a fully working open-source networking stack with the hopes of enabling greater flexibility of these devices but also making things like security auditing possible. The other major goal is to improve low-cost mesh networking which is currently not available with the proprietary driver. Reverse engineering is the name of the game here, both from a hardware and a software level, but current versions of the software already able to send and receive packets.

The source code for the project is available on the team’s GitHub page for any open-source aficionados to take a look at. We certainly hope the project gains some steam, as any new open source project helps all of us using the platform. Open source projects frequently get stymied by a single or small handful of binary blobs too, often with little hope for recourse. Examples include Android being an open-source operating system but generally using the closed-source Google Play suite in practice, or Firefox including support for Adobe Flash. Another great example is that even computers running 100% open-source code once they boot their operating systems, there’s still some black boxes running in the background few of us think about.

Thanks to [Crote] for the tip!

New Part Day: ESP32-P4 Espressif RISC-V Powerhouse

It seems every day there’s a new microcontroller announcement for which the manufacturer is keen to secure your eyeballs. Today it’s the turn of Espressif, whose new part is the ESP32-P4, which despite being another confusingly named ESP32, is a high-performance addition to their RISC-V line-up.

On board are dual-core 400 MHz and a single-core low power 40 MHz RISC-V processors, and an impressive array of hardware peripherals including display and camera interfaces and a hardware JPEG codec alongside the ones you’d expect from an ESP32 part. It’s got a whopping 768 KB of on-chip SRAM as well as 8 K of very fast cache RAM for intensive operations.

So after the blurb, what’s in it for us? It’s inevitable that the RISC-V parts will over time displace the Tensilica parts over time, so we’ll be seeing more on this processor in upcoming Hackaday projects. We expect in particular for this one to be seized upon by badge developers, who are intent on pushing extra functionality out of their parts.So we look forward to seeing the inevitable modules with this chip on board, and putting them through their paces.

Thanks [Renze] for the tip.

A grid of 5 3D Printed projects with ESP-32 microcontroller boards

ESP32 Projects From Northwestern University’s Embedded Electronics Class

Northwestern University’s Embedded Electronics Class delivered a bumper crop of ESP-32 projects this year. The student teams recorded their progress on with project descriptions, logs, BOMs, diagrams, photos, and videos to share with other makers. While all utilized the web connection that the ESP32 offers some teams chose to use ESP32 Cams to incorporate photos, video, and computer vision. We love the variety of projects the teams created, some customized versions of consumer products and others new types of smart-devices. Continue reading “ESP32 Projects From Northwestern University’s Embedded Electronics Class”

New Part Day: An ESP With ZigBee

It seems that the folks at Espressif are doing their best to produce chips to fit every possible niche in the microcontroller-with-radio market, because here comes news of their latest chip bearing the ESP32 name: a single-core 96MHz RISC-V part with built-in IEEE 802.15.4 to support ZigBee 3.x and Thread 1.x. The ESP32-H2 is not the most powerful of the Espressif line-up, but it will find its place in home automation products and projects.

The ESP32-H2 joins a multitude of other IEEE 802.15.4 devices from manufacturers such as Microchip, ST, NXP, and Nordic in an increasingly crowded marketplace, so what can if offer that the others can’t? If previous ESP chips are anything to go by we’d expect it to compete on price as well as the obvious attraction for developers used to working with other Espressif products. We look forward as always to seeing what you do with it.