The Umidigi F1 Smartphone

Updated June 14, 2019:

So many phones out there, so much choice, so much rubbish. When it came to updating my own phone last year, I took advice from my friend Antonio (Mr Shark) and went for the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 and as it turns out, it was good advice as the Pocophone is an absolute winner. More of that elsewhere.

Umidigi F1

Now it is my wife’s turn and recently we took delivery of the Umidigi F1 phone from Banggood.Photo taken with Umidigi F1

The phone arrived here safely in deepest rural Spain, tracked and on time along with a separately shipped glass screen protector. 16/4/2019 - Above image taken this morning with the F1 back camera – no adjustments or enhancements.

My experience from opening the Umidigi package through to actual phone use is that of a high-end model phone – from the boxing and thank-you card from Umidigi themselves through the packaging effort by Banggood and to the phone and accessories, everything looks top notch.

Continue reading The Umidigi F1 Smartphone


Cubot X19 Budget Phone

The Cubot X19 smartphone arrived back in May, well packaged, complete with USB charger and lead (the ad describes charging as Type-C fast charge) and the first thing that stands out is the COLOUR – my wife LOVES it. At sub-£100 sterling with free shipping to the UK and other destinations, while taking the low cost into account, this is looking like good value after being in constant use for several weeks in Europe. This is not the first Cubot we’ve had but is definitely the best looking. The last one was also a budget Cubot and was flawless.

The Cubot X19

If you’re used to unreasonably tarted up studio photos, these un-retouched photos should be refreshingly real. The photo above is the X19 sitting on my desk, taken with my Pocophone and NO adjustments made. As an aside, a conversation is starting in here about roaming overseas, nothing to do with Cubot but may interest some of you.

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BigTimerNode-RED is a fantastic and powerful yet easy to use programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. For more information on Node-Red go to the Node-Red site.

BigTimer is the the most BigTimerpowerful and best-ever, most comprehensive timing node for Node-Red, providing a general purpose timer as well as handling summer/winter correctly as well as (importantly) lighting-up time (for which you should provide your longitude and latitude from Google maps or similar).

After all you probably don’t turn the outside lights on at 6pm!! You most likely want them on when it gets DARK.

At it’s simplest, BigTimer can be used as the equivalent of a simple mechanical timer, deeding other Node-Red nodes or directly manipulating devices by, for example, MQTT protocol.

BigTimers can be used singly or in groups. Full support is provided for dusk/sunset dawn/sunrise and variations also for day/week/month (and special days) control.

BigTimer has three outputs, the first of which updates when there is a change of state and presents one of two messages (for, for example, MQTT or other control mechanism)

The node offers outputs suitable for MQTT, speech and databases (but you don’t HAVE to use any of these). You can also manually over-ride the UTC time setting on the host computer if required.

The second of three outputs offers a simple 1 or 0 every minute in the output “payload” and also presents additional information reflecting the status message in msg.state, message.time and others – see the entire msg object output in debug for more.

The third output presents a message which could be used for speech or debugging.

There is also real-time status information displayed below each BigTimer node.

As always, the latest node-red-contrib-bigtimer is available at node-red-flows and at - put "scargill" in the search and you'll see all my nodes and flows.

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Sonoff S26 Wifi Smart Plug

You may well have seen plenty of reviews and adverts for the Sonoff S26 WiFi Smart plug so I won’t go into too much technical detail here other than to say this VERY inexpensive wall socket can easily be re-flashed to run alternative software for those not to keen on relying on Chinese servers.

Sonoff S26

The S26 can be reflashed with nothing more than your PC and an inexpensive FTDI (USB to serial convertor) and can then run the excellent, free Tasmota software (sonoff release). Just be wary that the soldering connections are small.

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ESP GO update and more

A minor update for ESP-GO – still working on the Espressif SDK 3.1 version as RBOOT is still not OTA-ing reliably (everything else does)– but the SDK 2.1 version is working a treat – very reliable. There WAS an issue due to some recent updates, with the web setup – this crept in as I use serial to set up boards and didn’t notice a problem – that is now resolved thanks to efforts by Aidan Ruff who DOES use the web setup. See the main ESP-GO blog entry in here and also my Bitbucket repositories for more info on this well-developed and tested ESP8266 general purpose code - especially useful when using "the script" and for example a Raspberry Pi as a home automation centre as I and others do.

tmpCC3EQC3.0 Fast Charge Multi-port 5/9/12v Smart Travel Phone Charger
The rest of today’s postbag included a great little inexpensive Quick-charge-C wall charger (EU plug).  I now only use wall chargers which include a QC-3.0 output (you can never have too many) – as our phones charge much more quickly with this than normal USB output (which no matter WHAT the claimed output current at 5v,  will not fast-charge phones).

The orange output is Quickcharge, the other two are normal 5v USB at 2.1 amps – total output at any time, 3.1 amps. These units are available in a range of country plug fittings. I chose European 2-pin as I can use them in Spain and in the UK. The Gearbest website details the different types available. Pricing in the UK is 3.83 sterling with free shipping – but as I write this they may be out of stock so check.

QC3.0 Fast Charge :

tmp8467I also received a tempered glass front protector for my Xiaomi Pocophone F1 phone (don’t even think of using phones like this without a decent protector and these are DIRT cheap at around 2.70 pounds sterling and free postage to the UK and other countries such as Spain, France, Germany, USA etc. The unit comes in a nice box and is called Glass Pro+ XS. As my current plastic protector is scratched, this looks like a great upgrade with black surrounds.

Glass Film Screen Protector :

Umidigi F1 caseOCube Case for Umidigi F1 Play – Transparent
And last but not least a new back for the Umidigi F1 and F1 Play – this is a solid (as against soft rubber) case – clear with slightly frosted back – a nice rough finish which should last longer without scratching than many I’ve seen.

The thing is – you can’t beat the price -   around 2.30 pounds sterling and free shipping (at least to the UK, check for your region). Please note however that the shielding wraps fully around the sides but not fully over the top and bottom. However, the phone won’t fall out.

Phone Case for UMIDIGI F1 Play :


Brelong HT033 Desktop fan with Time/Temperature

This little number turned up from Gearbest today in the postbag here in Spain. The "Subute 4 inch display fan" is a USB-powered fan which tells the time and temperature using a set of LEDs on one of the blades – and I have to say it does it very well. Instructions came in English and Chinese and all you have on the back is a small on-off switch – and a time set button.

USB clock fan Gearbest

Easy-peasy, press the time-set button for 4 seconds then single press for every minute you want to advance or long-press to go through hours and minutes. Leave the button alone for at least 5 seconds when you are done. The actual time/temperature image is clearer than shown here, I had to do a slow exposure to show the time without strobing effects. There IS a seconds hand too.

And here’s a thing – I just tested this here in Southern Spain, you can read the time in bright sunlight, handy for the beach with a USB battery pack. I guess it’ll be a little while before readers back home in the UK can try this. Here, temperature is nice but when sitting at the computer it can get a little stuffy – hence the fan is on my desk.

Continue reading Brelong HT033 Desktop fan with Time/Temperature


21st Century Mosquito Killer

In today’s post, a simple insect killer from Gearbest. When I say simple, it has a couple of things my old fly killer didn’t – indeed it LOOKS a lot better than the last one.

When I say “fly” I mean of course flying insects and here in Southern Spain, some of the most troublesome are much smaller than your typical fly. This “Mosquito Killer” from Gearbest looks GOOD and uses UV LED lights as against older fluorescent tubes. It has a light sensor so as not to utterly waste time running during the day when the insects have better things to look at – and has a fan to ensure that once the gnats are daft enough to look in, they can’t get out.

This definitely appears to put my previous Chinese insect killer to shame visually. The ad says “Free shipping to the UK”. You’d need to check for other countries, mine was shipped to Spain.

Smart Home Mosquito Killer

Smart Home Mosquito Killer Link

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I’ve just fixed a startup bug in  my node-red-contrib-timeout node for Node-Red. This is as always, available at also at

The current version then is 1.1.3 which puts out the SAFE message at start-up and starts the default count-down.

Interested viewers will find that as well as the normal msg.payload showing the status, there also exists msg.countdown showing the remaining time in seconds.


Continue reading Node-Red-Contrib-Timeout


Pocophone F1 with Pixel Camera

I’ve had (and used constantly) my Xiaomi Pocophone F1 for some months now and hence I can speak with some authority on the subject. For those unaware of this smartphone, it comes from Xiaomi who produce a range of phones as other tech gadgets of note. Though not their TOP phone, the Pocophone is something of a flagship product for them and it certainly stands out in several ways from the (rather large) crowd and has had many positive reviews.

Pocophone F1 by XiaomiThere are two main variations, one with 64GB of storage, the other with 128GB. As far as I can tell, the Pocophone is available in black, red and blue.

My F1 is 64GB and black. It would be nice if it was 128GB and red, but I was in a hurry when I bought it and I’m not REALLY complaining as I have a range of decent (and variously coloured) backs for the phone and in the unlikely event that I ever run out of storage I can always add microSD storage.

Those readers who store videos on their phones may feel differently. I tend to stream whatever I need.

Continue reading Pocophone F1 with Pixel Camera


Homecube 1.5w Solar PIR Garden Floodlight

tmp1B04This understated gadget turned up for me a few days ago from China (free postage to UK and other places – see link below) – I figured now is as good as time as any to start updating my solar lighting here in Spain.

As happens, the usual cheap solar lights (£1.50 each from PoundStretcher and B&M) are in trouble after the winter. They really are false economy yet we keep buying them by the millions. Battery connections rarely last more than one bad winter and the other usual problem is the circuit board which rusts up badly.

I decided this year to go a bit upmarket. The Homecube shown here is around 20 Euros, i.e. under £20 yet fires off no less than 24 bright LEDs thanks to only switching on when there is movement, aided by a decent sized solar panel. The title on the ad says it all: “1.5w LED PIR Motion Sensor Lawn Light Waterproof etc.”

Despite rubbish weather here in Andalusia right now, the light came on last night as we returned from the pub and produced an astounding amount of output as we walked up to the front of the house. Both the angle of the two light panels and the angle of the solar panel are continuously adjustable. There is a solid-looking on/off button and a mode button to adjust the output.

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Blog changes

In order to minimise spam, I have removes some email subscriptions where the user names looked automated. This process is nowhere near perfect but is essential to protect valid readers/subscribers.

I’ve also changed email newsletter requests to double-opt-in – that is, if you newly request emails from the blog, you may be asked to confirm your email address. I apologise in advance for any inconvenience to registered blog readers.

While I’m here – has anyone been watching the media coverage of the new folding Samsung phone (and others)? I know this is technically neat but am I alone in wishing manufacturers would concentrate on the things we really want and in some cases need? Improved charging/battery life would be good. Better cameras, by which I don’t mean much higher resolution, but vastly improved low-light performance and optical zoom would be good – even if that means new lens technology. Do we really need higher resolution for selfies? Probably not. Let’s see real innovation, guys.


The Summer Begins

We’re back in Spain (Galera) for the summer, time to upgrade my home control setup to the latest ESP-GO and Tasmota versions not to mention some Node-Red and other updates and improvements. More on all of that later, but first things first – new toys on the way soon include the new upgraded Sonoffs from Itead.

I understand the upgraded Sonoffs will surface in May and I have a couple on the way, meanwhile a heads-up. The casing of these (still) low-cost mains control devices looks to be improved at last – with a new smoother, more rounded finish. There is a new “DIY” API which promises to do away with the need to re-flash the devices for custom home control.. and more.  As pointed out by reader “Smithy” the new Sonoff is claimed to be “MQTT-enabled” – more on that when I get samples…

Apparently MQTT-enabled Sonoff

Sonoff R3

If you’re not familiar with Sonoff, they are Alexa-compatible mains control units. More on that in May with luck.

First of my summer toys is a Bluetooth keyboard called an “Anne Pro 2” courtesy of Banggood. This is a compact (i.e. no room for cursor keys or separate numeric keypad) keyboard, USB rechargeable, substantial and very pretty. I’m no longer a DropBox user thanks to new device number restrictions on free accounts and the realisation that I could do a better job with my Synology NAS drive and a VPN. Having moved from the UK to Spain for the summer once again I was faced with lugging my computer and bulky NAS (Network Addressable Storage)  box over here or arranging remote access. With limited room in the car for the drive over here, I chose the latter.

So here, courtesy of a combination of mobile phone, PC, remote (UK) NAS and SnapSeed for Android, are some photos to start the ball rolling.  I have no idea why the box shows a white keyboard as mine is black, but here it is…Anne Pro 2 Bluetooth keyboard

Continue reading The Summer Begins