Weekend Reads [2016/06/25]

 

To begin with …a non-event.  This week we were treated to yet another “ESP8266 Killer!” shock-horror headline.  I suspect that the headline was very much tongue-in-cheek, because the publication in question, Hackaday, certainly knows better.  The article referred to the ESP8285, which was actually announced by Espressif way back in March and,  as the press release makes clear in the heading, the ESP8285 is nothing more than an ESP8266 with on-chip flash memory of 1MB.  For most of us, this was a big yawn item.  The currently available modules generally have more flash on board nowadays and generally, as hobby users, we rarely buy the chips themselves (mainly because it’s more expensive than buying the pre-built modules).  If you are itching to get your hands on an ESP8285 though, there are details below on where you can grab a brand-spanking-new breakout board.

1-btn ESP8266 ...button

On a lighter note …have you ever seen a crowdfunding campaign which reached 384,900% (yes, that’s three-hundred and eighty-four-thousand and nine-hundred percent!) of the funding target?  Well, here you go!  Of course, it’s an ESP8266 product.

 

For this weeks recommended reads, we touch on a few hardware items which look quite interesting:-

  • Here’s a slightly different take on the Sonoff.  Tinkerman bought some non-RF units and then discovered that he needed RF control after all …so he hacked in an RF board to suit his existing remote control unit.
  • Kris Winer at Pesky Products has a nice ESP8285 adapter board for sale on Tindie.  It’s a wee bit on the expensive side (compared to the el-cheapo 8266 modules we’re all used to), but has a lot on-board, with a LDO regulator, LiPo battery charger, USB-to-Serial, a USB micro-connector, reset and programming buttons, four LEDs and, of course, a breadboard friendly size and layout. ESP8285 dev board There are also pads available for an optional BME280 temp/humidity/pressure sensor and an optional VEML6040 light sensor (Kris can supply boards with these two sensor already populated for an extra $10).  Anyone who regularly browses OSH Park’s “Shared Projects” pages will know that Kris is constantly refining and updating his designs; he has a lot of design experience under his belt, so it’s a good bet that there aren’t going to be any nasty surprises with this module.
  • At the other end of the breakout board scale, Spence Konde (aka Dr Azzy) has a bare board for the ESP8266 which sells on Tindie for only $3.50.  It certainly isn’t as polished as the Pesky Products board, but it does have the advantage of having a good chunk of available prototyping space, along with a very basic power-supply area and break-outs for all of the ESP pins.  Top of DrAzzy ESP8266 breakout boardEither an ESP-07 or ESP-12 module can be used on the board and there are a couple of nice touches — there are different versions of the voltage regulator on the top and bottom of the board (so you use the pads on the bottom of the board for centre-ground versions and the pads on the top for centre-v-out versions), there are both SMD pads and through-hole pads available for some of the components, there are pads for FET drivers on the back of the board (SMD), as well as a couple of positions for WS2812 LED packages.
  • If you’re looking for a vertical,Vertical adapter with 4MB ESP  solderless-breadboard friendly adapter with the ESP8266 already attached at a competitive price, check this offering from Aerial.net (Greece), who also seem to have very reasonable postage rates.

No apologies (but an explanation) for the number of Tindie links this week.  A couple of weeks ago I had started writing a short piece on how disappointing the state of ESP8266 offerings were on Tindie (at that stage there were a fairly large number of vendors simply re-selling the bog-standard AI-Thinker modules and a large number of those were the el-crapo ESP-01 modules, at that).  That article was shelved (who want’s to read what’s not available?!), but I’ve been checking back in with Tindie since then to see if the situation is improving any and, as you can see, slowly but surely it is …but my take-away opinion on this is that you could still make a name for yourself in the ESP8266 world (and, perhaps, a killing) on Tindie if you have a useful, well-priced product aimed at the hobby market right now.

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5 thoughts on “Weekend Reads [2016/06/25]

  1. I appreciate the mention and kind words; I am adding new ESP8266/85 products on Tindie as fast as I can. It does take some time to design, test, and produce new devices in enough quantity to sell on Tindie, so please be patient. I do have a new ESP8285 Environmental Sensor coming out this week that runs on a 9 V battery and streams temperature, pressure, humidity, and RGBW ambient light readings to your local wifi network and can last for a few days. Power management on the ESP8266/85 is not easy and I am trying to extend this time for maximum utility.

    My products are going to be more expensive than the cheapo Chinese modules because I don’t have the volume advantage (yet!). But all of my products are made with lard, I mean love…

    Kris
    Pesky Products

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    • Kris,
      I actually found you (a while back) through OSHPark, so the shared projects section is good advertising, too.
      Power management with the ESP is a pain. I’ve had reasonable performance from the Holtek 7333 range of very low quiescent current linear regulators, but the output current is lower than the Micrel devices. It’s always a trade-off, one way or the other, isn’t it.

      Anyway, looking forward to seeing the new modules. Please leave a note here when they’re available.

      -John-

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  2. Kris,

    Looks good!

    I like the BME280, too. It’s a nice little sensor (much, much better than the DHT11/22 series). I’m quite surprised to see that it’s reading high, especially when you have the board orientated so that it’s at the bottom, with the heat from the processor presumably drifting up in the opposite direction. Perhaps the next board rev needs a narrow “branch” extension to move the BME away from everything else?

    -John-

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    • Hi John,

      It’s a small board with good ground planes so I am not surprised even the ~10 mA is enough to heat the board a few degrees above ambient. I am working to get the average power usage down using light sleep (which works great) and deep sleep, which is a bit of a mixed bag. In deep sleep the average current is less than 1 mA (fine and dandy) but when the device wakes up 1) it start all over again (no state memory) and 2) it initiates the wifi with a large spike in current (70 mA for a few seconds) so one has to choose the deep sleep time long enough to save overall on power but not too long that the whole purpose (to display data frequently enough to keep the user from falling asleep) is defeated.

      Everything is working now, I just need to find the right balance for my application, and users will have to do the same for theirs.

      The board is really too small to get fancy with slots, etc. Perhaps an off board temperature sensor would be better for those who value accurate temperature at he highest priority. It is easy to add I2C sensors to this little board.

      Kris

      Like

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