Today’s project for the day is the ESP8285-based “Sinilink WIFI-USB Mobile Phone Remote Controller” (or Sonoff for USB” as others have called it) – which handles up to 5 amps and can use a USB connection of from 3.5 to 20v (I’ve only tested 5v).
Later I will describe how awful the APP for this device is… until you install Tasmota on it – but first..
At this point I’ll send you off to the AliExpress site in case you want to investigate their claims for the free APP. Just plug the unit in, fire up the APP and you are good to go? – RUBBISH – the APP can be set to English but at least one of the dialogs comes up in Chinese – which I for one cannot understand AT ALL. Not only that but I followed the instructions perfectly – only to find that the unit would not connect. No matter what I did, it would not work – I understand “The Guy with the Swiss Accent” felt the same way.
Indeed I’m getting increasingly impatient with partially translated documents and APPs that let you down half way through setup. I LOVE Chinese products – but guys – if you are selling into an English-speaking market – get someone who understands your product and speaks English to help with the documentation BEFORE you ruin your reputation by bringing out half-baked products.
After trying both the version of the APP on the Android Playstore and their APK (both of which are utterly useless), I send off a nastygram to the seller on AliExpress and was about to give up and throw the lot in the bin when Antonio (Mr Shark) reminded me that I ordered this unit to use with Tasmota.
The image above is from the website (I have NOT tested 20v at 5A (I hope soon to have both a tester and supply powerfdul enough to push ddevices like this to their limits and will let you know the results). I just thought you’d like a nice headline. Here is the Tasmota template setup directly from the Blakadder templates site – you really need a note of this if you are interested in this gadget.
At this point you might be thinking just as I did – “but how do I use an FTDI (serial adaptor) to program Tasmota into such a tiny unit?” – Maureen’s sewing box to the rescue. I must admit this is the first time I’ve thought about using PINS to make such tiny connections – and using pins with platic heads for spacing was a real eye opener.
Before I connected USB2 on my PC (and the TASMOTIZER program) to the little Sinilink, I connected the FTDI to pins by simple wrapping the (thin) wire around them and then pushing (tight fit) the pins into the Sinilink. I then connected the USB to the FTDI and fired up TASMOTIZER with the DEVELOPMENT option which automatically picks the right version of Tasmota. At the time of this update, Tasmota sits at version 8.2 “Elliot” which has some well worthwhile improvements.
Note: connections are RX to TX, TX to RX, ground, 3v3 and GPIO0 (for programming),. honestly even though the holes on the Sinilink are so close as to make them almost impossible to focus on if you have less than excellent eyesight, the pins made this really easy. I’ll use this trick in future. See the top image for details of hole layout. NO connection to reset is needed it you don’t power up the USB until you are all wired up (a good idea anyway)
So here’s a thing – I had this all set up and working perfectly with Tasmota on my WiFi – then plugged the unit (USB male end) into a USB3 connector – and it immediately lost the lot – well, the settings, not Tasmota – I had to go back to using my mobile phone as an access point and re-enter the info. That’s annoying but the reset after USB3 plugin might be related to somehow triggering the “normal” Tasmota device recovery, which indeed does a “factory reset”.
So what I did next after advice from subscriber “sfromis”, was to use “SetOption65 1” in the Tasmota console (which is a non-volatile setting) and I’ve had no trouble since – on the same USB3 hub.
I need to buy another Sinilink or two so I still have one if I blow it up. I must have more, after all this has to be the cheapest (boxed) way to remote control up to 5A of low-voltage? I’ve gone full swing from HATING the Sinilink and wanting revenge on AliExpress – to needing more of the units – NOW! I just need to understand why it doesn’t like USB3. No doubt someone will enlighten me.
At the end of the day, when the Sinilink powers up, expect a blue light. When you turn on the output, whether by a short press on the button or by remote access, you will see a red light come on – and power will be available on the output connector. By default, Tasmota remembers the output state on power cycle – you can always change that in the Tasmota config. That applies to all devices controlled by Tasmota, not just this one.
I must say I am itching to trying this out – higher voltages and higher current than my PC USB connector can manage. This image is taken from the AleExpress site – to test the Sinilink they are using a BEICH CH9720B/9720C Programmabile DC Electronic Load. I do have several power supplies which do not have WIFI output (USB female) control so if the ratings claimed are realistic (20v, 5A) I can see a bright future for the Sinilink. I’m hoping they are not trying to control such current with the very thin wires in the photo above – or maybe the seller thinks we are all a bit dim and won’t notice.
Meanwhile I’ve made a short video to accompany this blog – my first attempt, instead of using a fully-blown PC package, to do the whole lot on my mobile phone. Here’s the video on my YouTube channel. If you want more information, just comment or ask in comments in the YouTube channel. Are you aware of this unit being sold elsewhere? Under a different name? Cheaper? Did you notice that the AliExpress price for postage went from free to £2+ – Mr Shark suggests it may be as the units are temporarily being supplied from somewhere other than China).
WHILE WE ARE HERE – there are also non-boxed variations of these controllers on AliExpress using either a MOSFET output or a RELAY – the important thing of course being the maximum in/out voltage of up to 36v. This opens up options for controlling all manner of low voltage devices. See these links for Tasmotaa template, wiring info and something about boxes… https://templates.blakadder.com/sinilink_XY-WFMS.html and https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4146127
In case you were wondering, this ESP8285-based WiFi controller has a tiny internal ceramic antenna which seems to work well.