Usually, the problem comes before the solution, but for [Stavros], the opposite happened. A 4.7″ E-Ink screen with integrated battery management and ESP32 caught his eye, and he bought it and started thinking about what he wanted to do with it. The Timeframe is a sleek desk calendar based around the integrated e-ink screen.
[Stavros] found the device’s MicroPython support was a little lackluster, and often failed to draw. He found a Platform.io project that used an older but modified library for driving the e-ink display which worked quite well. However, the older library didn’t support portrait orientation or other niceties. Rather than try and create something complex in C, he moved the complexity to a server environment he knew more about. With the help of CoPilot, he got some code that would wake up the ESP32 every half hour, download an image from a server, and then display it. A Python script uses a headless browser to visit Google Calendar, resize the window, take a screenshot, and then upload it.
The hardest part of the exercise was getting authentication with Google working reliably. A white sleek 3D printed case wraps the whole affair in an aesthetically pleasing shell. So far, this has been a great story of someone building something for themselves and using their strengths. Where’s the hack?
The hack comes when [Stavros] tried squeezing his calendar into a case that was too tight and cracked the screen. Suddenly a large portion of the screen wouldn’t draw. He turned what was broken into something new by mapping out the area that didn’t draw and converting the Python to draw weather information with Pillow rather than screenshot a webpage: clever reuse and a way to make good out of a bad accident.
The code is up on GitLab, and the 3D files for the case are available on Printables. You can also find the project on Hackaday.io, as it was an entry into our recently concluded Low-Power Contest. Unfortunately, while the Timeframe is pretty power efficient, it doesn’t last as long as this calendar with a 50-year battery life.
Since Twitter was officially taken over by Elon Musk a few days ago, there’s been significant staff cuts, a stream of questionable decisions, and uncertainty about the social media platform’s future. So it’s little surprise that a notable number of people, those in the tech and hacker scenes in particular, have decided to move over to (or at least bridge their accounts with) the distributed and open source Mastodon service.
Of course, the hacks would follow closely, and [Toby] shares a simple ESP32-based Mastodon client library for us to start with. Instead of “tweets”, messages on Mastodon instances are called “toots”, in line with the platform’s mammoth-like mascot. The library, called Luyba, is able to send toots and includes a demo firmware. Built using C++ and with support for Platform.IO, it should fit into quite a few projects out there, letting you easily send toots to whichever instance you find your home, as the library-aided demo toot shows.
What could you do with such a library on your MCU? Turns out, quite a few fun things – a home automation interface, a critter trap, an online BBC Basic interpreter, or, given image support, a camera that tweets whatever it’s pointed at. There’s quite a bit of fun hackers can have given a micro-blogging service API access and a bit of code that works with it. That said, for all the good that Twitter brought us over the years, there’s a lot that Mastodon can easily do better, between easily game-able “Trending” sidebar, bias found in auto-cropping algorithms and disarrayed internal security policies.
[Danman] got an ESP32 with built-in OLED display, and in the process of getting a clock up and running and trying to get a couple of NodeMCU binaries installed on it, thought he’d try rolling his own.
[Danman] used PlatformIO to write the code to his ESP. PlatformIO allowed [Danman] to browse for a NTP library and load it into his project. After finding the NTP library, [Danman] wrote a bit of code and was able to upload it to the ESP. When that was uploaded [Danman] noticed that nothing was being displayed on the OLED, but that was just a simple matter of tracking down the right address to use when setting up the library for his OLED. Lastly, [Danman] created a large font to display the time with and his mini-clock was done!
It’s always nice to see someone be able to go from buying a board to having a demo put together, and it’s getting easier and easier. Check out this OLED watch, and this pocket watch doesn’t use OLEDs, but it still looks pretty cool.
Arduinos are helpful but some applications require more than what Arduinos can provide. However, it’s not always easy to make the switch from a developed ecosystem into the abyss that is hardware engineering. [Vadim] noticed this, which prompted him to write a guide to shepherd people on their quest for an Arduino-free environment, one BluePill at a time.
With an extended metaphor comparing Arduino use and physical addiction, [Vadim’s] writing is a joy to read. He chose to focus on the BluePill (aka the next Arduino Killer™) which is a $1.75 ARM board with the form factor of an Arduino Nano. After describing where to get the board and it’s an accompanying programmer, [Vadim] introduces PlatformIO, an alternative to the Arduino IDE. But wait! Before the Arduino die-hards leave, take note that PlatformIO can use all of the “Arduino Language,” so your digitalWrites and analogReads are safe (for now). Like any getting started guide, [Vadim] includes the obligatory blinking an LED program. And, in the end, [Vadim] sets his readers up to be comfortable in the middle ground between Arduino Land and the Wild West.
The debate for/against Arduino has been simmering for quite some time, but most agree that Arduino is a good place to start: it’s simpler and easier than jumping head first. However, at some point, many want to remove their “crippling Arduino dependency” (in the words of [Vadim]) and move on to bigger and better things. If you’re at this point, or still cling to your Uno, swing on over and give Vadim’s post a read. If you’re already in the trenches, head on over and read our posts about the BluePill and PlatformIO which are great complements for [Vadim’s].
In a recent post, I talked about using the “Blue Pill” STM32 module with the Arduino IDE. I’m not a big fan of the Arduino IDE, but I will admit it is simple to use which makes it good for simple things.
I’m not a big fan of integrated development environments (IDE), in general. I’ve used plenty of them, especially when they are tightly tied to the tool I’m trying to use at the time. But when I’m not doing anything special, I tend to just write my code in emacs. Thinking about it, I suppose I really don’t mind an IDE if it has tools that actually help me. But if it is just a text editor and launches a few commands, I can do that from emacs or another editor of my choice. The chances that your favorite IDE is going to have as much editing capability and customization as emacs are close to zero. Even if you don’t like emacs, why learn another editor if there isn’t a clear benefit in doing so?
There are ways, of course, to use other tools with the Arduino and other frameworks and I decided to start looking at them. After all, how hard can it be to build Arduino code? If you want to jump straight to the punch line, you can check out the video, below.
Continue reading “PlatformIO And Visual Studio Take Over The World” →
Even the most die-hard Arduino fan boys have to admit that the Arduino development environment isn’t the world’s greatest text editor (they’d probably argue that its simplicity is its strength, but let’s ignore that for now). If you are used to using a real code editor, you’ll probably switch to doing your Arduino coding in that and then use the external editor integration in the IDE.
That works pretty well, but there are other options. One we noticed, PlatformIO, extends GitHub’s Atom editor. That makes it cross-platform, powerful, and with plenty of custom plug ins. It also supports a range of platforms including Arduino, many ARM platforms, MSP430, and even desktop computers running Linux or Windows.
Continue reading “Atomic Arduino (and Other) Development” →