Monthly Archives: April 2018

Prototype PCB Manufacturing and JLCPCB.COM

So, printed circuit boards – or PCBs to most of the electronics COMMUNITY. My friend and one-time business partner has been designing them for around 35 years so he has been through just about every way of laying out a circuit that there is. This means that he started out with a pencil and a large piece of paper, surrounded by integrated circuit manufacturers data books and an idea. Once the circuit had been designed and a prototype built and debugged, then a couple of sheets of transparent film were taped  together and rolls of red and blue tape used to lay down the pcb tracks.


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Electric Iron Soldering Kit

IronThis is much better… I’ve just received a complete “electric Iron Soldering Kit”. Here are links..  US:   UK:

As some of you know, I am waiting to move into our new accommodation and meanwhile much of my tech kit is in cold storage – very frustrating. I have the loan (from my very kind friend Jonathan) of a soldering iron but no de-solderer and the iron is heavy, great for some prototyping, not so good for surface mount.

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A Short Piece About Webmin

When referring to “the script” which installs Node-Red, Mosquitto, SQLite and a host of utilities onto Raspberry Pi and other boards and forms the basis of all of my installs, I rarely mention Webmin, as it is just part of the furniture… however this morning I noted that my test Pi Node-Red BigTimer was failing to turn an output on. At 7:50am I’d set a timer for 7:45am going off at 8am and it reported at 7:55am that it would not be turning on for around 50 minutes.


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Sonoff 4CH PRO R2

It is always exciting to get something new in the post from Itead and the current postbag includes a Sonoff 4CH PRO R2 unit. This enclosed 4-relay switching unit operates from  5-24v or mains (90-264vac) as required and has four uncommitted outputs with normally-closed and normally open options rated at 30 amps low voltage or 10 amps AC (personally I’d treat that as absolute max for non-inductive loads). The unit is controlled remotely and also has four LED indicators and buttons for local control.


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USB Soldering Iron TS100

I’ve been kindly sent a rather neat tiny soldering iron my the name of TS100. Here are the links: UK: and CA:

tmp8DC3This unit comes in a small box with nothing more than the iron (with tip separated for storage) and an allen key with two spare small locking screws as well as a small leaflet. The iron can be controlled and set up by USB.

Here is the full boxed unit and below that, the assembled iron (which took seconds to put together).

Indeed, writing the blog took longer than opening and assembling this  iron.

The unit has USB but this is only for setup with the OLED display, the iron needing 12v to function. In my case the instructions that come with the iron state that you should go to for the latest firmware. After spending time on the wrong site ( before eventually getting to the correct site, I still could not find that software. It is however easier to find alternative software for the iron, see comments.. Also they suggest pressing button A to enter DFU mode (bad idea assuming everyone knows what that means). There are no markings on the buttons but button B is nearest to the little display with A further away.

Then I had to go looking for a suitable 12v supply, no mention in the instructions about using 12v and USB at the same time. I tried both and either way I kept getting a config message then a logo but no temperature reading and the iron would not heat up. It turns out that my 12v power supply was not up to the mark (amperage-wise). That will have to wait until I’m near a better supply when I get back from holiday.


That’s how things stand, when I hear from the supplier and get further, I’ll amend the blog.


Home Control ESP Software Branding at Last

For far too long I’ve been sitting watching others give their ESP8266 home control software branding without following the trend. Having just spend umpteen solid hours updating the software, I’m taking the opportunity, merely for clarity, to go with the trend, The ESP8266 software, used extensively here and by blog readers is to be called ESP-GO.

This, as regular readers may know, this is well-developed,  reliable, native C code for the ESP8266 using the ESPRESSIF SDK (2.1 – 2.2 uses too much RAM) to provide comprehensive firmware for esp8266 when working with the likes of Raspberry Pi and “the script” in which Node-Red, supported by Mosquito MQTT, allows you to put together custom home control rapidly. This is all detailed elsewhere in the blog.

At the time of writing/updating, the version is 2.3.20, ESP-GO was recently (April 2018) updated to fix a remaining minor issue with fixed IP addressing and to update the supporting Word Document.

Also I just realised that a timeout is not practical for permanent manual override in node-red-contrib-bigtimer – so turned that off for version 2.3.19 onwards.


The Script and ESP8266 Code for Beginners

I’m often asked about setting up MQTT, Node-Red etc. on the likes of Raspberry Pi, NanoPi or similar, with a view to controlling ESP8266 devices.

Novice readers start here

Usually it is difficult for me to see this from a beginner perspective, but having spent 2 months in hospital thanks to an untimely stroke from which I’m still recovering, 4 months after the event, I recently found myself doing new installs without the benefit of doing this stuff every day. I am just SO glad I blog everything.

Array of Raspberry PIs

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