Category Archives: Tutorial

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Using Google Assistant to control your ESP8266 devices

In my last post I tried to explain how to access your IoT devices at home from the Internet in a secure way using a reverse proxy. Truth is that I had it running since maybe 6 months ago without giving it too much use until recently. Reason? My Nexus 5 had been having serious problems (battery not charging, screen broken, earpiece not working,…) and I decided to replace it with a new mobile phone and the new one has Google Assistant built in.

So one of the first things I have tried is to make Google Assistant toggle my smart switches flashed with ESPurna. Nad as it turns out it’s not hard to do but -at the moment- you have to relay on a cloud service like IFTTT (IF This Then That). This is a key difference with Amazon Alexa services you have to be aware. It has some benefits but also some drawbacks.

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Secure remote access to your IoT devices

When you are hacking with IoT devices at home you get to face the challenge of accessing remotely to them, that is from outside your home network. I’m not saying your home network is a safe place, beware. But that thing outside, you know, “the Internet”, it’s so scary… Unfortunately, most IoT devices are just not ready for the jungle. Neither the commercial ones, nor the hacked ones you might have. I wouldn’t dare to open a port in my router to anything inside unless it’s encrypted. So what should we do?

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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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Magic Home LED Controller ESPurna’d

Following the bright path (sic) of the Ai-Thinker AiLight / Noduino OpenLight I wrote about a few weeks ago, now it’s turn for one of those devices you purchase but once they arrive they are stored in the TODO box until they eventually come back to life.

The Magic Home LED Controller [Aliexpress, also available from Ebay] is an ESP8266 based single-color RGB(W) LED strip controller. It works with every 5050 LED strip [Aliexpress] out there. Just be careful since even thou some LED strips are waterproof [Aliexpress] this controller is not.

Being able to flash a custom firmware in the controller lets you really own the device. Why? Because:

  1. You are not required to install a proprietary app on you phone to manage it
  2. You are not limited by the options the developers of that app have decided you will need
  3. You can make it interoperate with other devices at home
  4. You, and only you, know when you turn on your lights
  5. And if all the previous points are not enough: it’s so much fun!

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