Category Archives: Code

Useful notifications from your home appliances using Node-RED

Some time ago I worked on a home project to get a notification when my washing machine had done its job based on monitoring its power consumption. There was a good reason for that, the machine was outside the house and I had already forgotten about the laundry several times. And when that happens your only option is to wash it again, because it really smells musty…

Monitoring your appliances

Use ESPurna 🙂

OK, there are different ways to get the info about power consumption. But since we want to be able to process the data ourselves most commercial products won’t be suitable unless we modify it.

Alternatively, those that use radio communication to send data from the meter to the base station might be suitable for a man-in-the-middle hack. For instance, if you own an Efergy power meter you must know you can sniff the data it sends using a simple RTL-SDR dongle.

But for most cases, your best chance is to get your hands on a commercial product with an ESP8266 chip in it and change the firmware to suit your needs. You can write your own or use an existing firmware like ESPurna, that already supports a bunch of power metering smart switches.

What info do you need?

The idea is to report (via MQTT) power data from each individual appliance very minute. You can then use Node-RED along with InfluxDB and Grafana (or Graphite) to receive, persist and graph your data like in the image below.


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M5Stack node for The Things Network

I have a couple of IKEA-like boxes in my home office labeled “Inbox”. They are full of stuff I buy and store waiting for some free time to spend on them. From time to time I pick one of the boxes and take a look at its contents. They are actually full of “wow” stuff. I would buy again most of the things there but at the same time I fear I’m just collecting stuff that will become junk.

I couple of week ago I rescued from one of those boxes an M5Stack Core Development Kit and some other stuff that was there for maybe 6 months.

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EEPROM Rotation for ESP8266 and ESP32

The Arduino Core for ESP8266 and ESP32 uses one SPI flash memory sector to emulate an EEPROM. When you initialize the EEPROM object (calling begin) it reads the contents of the sector into a memory buffer. Reading a writing is done over that in-memory buffer. Whenever you call commit it write the contents back to the flash sector.

Due to the nature of this flash memory (NOR) a full sector erase must be done prior to write any new data. If a power failure (intended or not) happens during this process the sector data is lost.

Also, writing data to a NOR memory can be done byte by byte but only to change a 1 to a 0. The only way to turn 0s to 1s is to perform a sector erase which turns all memory positions in that sector to 1. But sector erasing must be done in full sectors, thus wearing out the flash memory faster.

How can we overcome these problems?

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Embed your website in your ESP8266 firmware image

A few months ago I wrote about the process I was using to optimize my website files for SPIFFS prior to upload them to the ESP8266. The goal was to reduce the number and size of the files to help the microcontroller to cope with them in an easier way. Smaller size mean faster downloads and less files mean less concurrency.
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Grid-eye camera (sliced, of course)

Tindie is a great place to find uncommon electronic components or weird/interesting boards. I use to stroll around it’s products to basically see what’s new. It’s like Kickstarted but for real. One such uncommon and new electronic components is the Panasonic’s Grid_EYE AMG88 [datasheet, pdf] infrared sensor. And I first learn about it through Peasky Products breakout board at Tindie.

And if you have been reading me lately you might know I’m going through my own LED fever. My latests “sliced” projects are not the only ones I’m working on at the moment. So it was not surprise my brain immediately linked an 8×8 IR array with an 8×8 LED matrix display. You see?

So what do you have if you throw in a box an IR sensor and a LED matrix, add a small microcontroller, a LiIon battery and a charger and a step-up to power the LEDs? Well, in my case the outcome has been a bulky but nice camera (albeit a very poor resolution one).

I know there are commercially available IR Cameras like this one [Ebay]. They have 300k pixels and can overlay a normal image over the IR image and other fancy stuff, but they are also more expensive (around 200€ the best deal) and waaaaaay less fun to build.

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