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…
Firmware over-the-air (OTA) is great. It makes you shiver whenever you throw an update to one of your devices. The ArduinoOTA library for ESP8266 is so easy to use it’s almost magic. But once you have several devices deployed you start to think one step further.
Here I’m going to talk about two different options: writing an automated deployment script that performs OTA updates or giving your device the ability to call home querying for new updates, downloading them and flash itself into the latest version available.
Yes, sure! You can buy a Sonoff RF and you are good to go, I guess. But I didn’t and I was not so sure about the no-named RF receiver so I ended thinking about adding my own.
But first things first. The Sonoff is an ESP8266 based smart switch by ITEAD which comes with a custom firmware that communicates with the manufacturer cloud to provide “smart” capabilities like remote switching or scheduling. The cool thing is that it has a line of pins that expose the VCC, GND, RX and TX pins of the ESP8266 and a buttons attached to GPIO0 so very soon it got hacked and there are a number of firmwares already available. I’m not an early adopter and some work has been done and reported by Peter Scargill, Javier or even in instructables.
The ITead Sonoff Smart WiFi Switch after a small hack to use the Avidsen RF remote to toggle it