A few weeks ago the 4D Systems announced one of its latest products: the 4Duino-24, an Arduino compatible display module with built in 240×320 resolution TFT LCD Display with Resistive Touch and an ESP8266 ESP-06 module on board.
it looked like a great product for a home automation control panel, although the screen could have been bigger. Anyway I contacted the people at 4D Systems and they were kind enough to send me a sample to review, and hack!
My MQTT network at home moves up and down a lot of messages: sensor values, triggers, notifications, device statuses,… I use Node-RED to forward the important ones to PushOver and some others to a Blynk application. But I also happen to have an LED display at home and that means FUN.
LED displays are cool. Your team’s score, your number in the IRS queue, the estimated arrival time for your next commute,… Now that TVs are replacing LED displays (like the later did with the electromechanical ones) they have acquire an almost vintage-status.
This LED display I own even has a name: The Rentalito. The Rentalito is an old friend, one of those projects you revisit because LED displays are cool… Originally it was an Arduino Uno with an Ethernet Shield in a fancy cardboard case. Then it went WiFi using a WiFly module. And then a SparkCore replaced the Arduino. Now… well, ESP8266 is driving my life.
Let me introduce you the latest iteration of the Rentalito, the MQTT LED matrix display.
The ESP8266 flash layout defines a series of blocks of memory for each “partition”. There is a block for the user code (the “sketch”), there is a block for the OTA update file, another one for the emulated EEPROM, another for the WIFI configuration and one for the File System.
This last one uses Peter Andersson’s SPIFFS (SPI Flash File System) code to store files in a similar fashion our computers do, but taking into account the special requirements of an embedded system and a flash memory chip.
This is great because we can store a whole static website there (html, css, js, images,…) and use the official WebServer library that comes with the Arduino Core for ESP8266 project to serve files and execute server side code that updates our static site via AJAX or WebSockets, for instance.
But the ESP8266 is nothing more than a (powerful) microcontroller and the WebServer library has its limitations and if you start to work on a complex website, with multiple files (stylesheets, scripts,…) it will soon fail…
Size is not that important, but the number of files is. Too many files lead to failed downloads and long rendering times…
Some days ago I posted about the RFM69 to MQTT gateway based on the ESP8266 I am working on. Over these days I’ve been fine tuning the gateway at the same time I was migrating one of my home sensors to Moteino: the Door Monitor. The previous version was based on an XBee radio and has been on duty for almost 3 years and a half. Real life battery time has been around 3 months for a CR2032 coin cell, which is not bad at all, but still…
Aside from using a Moteino and a RFM69 868MHz radio instead of the XBee, I have reduced the components list by moving hardware logic to software logic. This means using sleeping capabilities of both the ATMega328 and the RFM69 and coding in a clever way to reduce awake time.