Category Archives: General

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. https://bitbucket.org/scargill/

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 :  https://www.gearbest.com/chargers-cables/pp_009257816690.html?wid=1433363&lkid=20442601

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 : https://www.gearbest.com/screen-protectors/pp_009653463594.html?wid=1433363&lkid=20442601

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 : https://www.gearbest.com/cases-leather/pp_009463040745.html?wid=1433363&lkid=20442601

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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.

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The Umidigi F1 Smartphone

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 phone is an absolute winner. More of that elsewhere.

Umidigi F1

Now it is my wife’s turn and today we took delivery of the Umidigi F1 phone from Banggood – looking like a winner already.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.

More photos and video soon but right now it is pouring down here in Southern Spain.

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

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EleksMaker Pro Laser Engraver

Update February 28, 2019
Last year year I put together this excellent A3 laser engraving machine. Originally, a 500mW laser module arrived complete with its own power supply (the laser which was not included in the basic kit). It turns out that was the wrong laser and now I have the 2300mW violet laser complete with upgraded 2.5A power supply. In the photo you also see the (important) green protective glasses that came with the kit.

Cutting door signs with Eleksmaker

Continue reading EleksMaker Pro Laser Engraver

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BigTimer and getMoonTimes

I just spent ages debugging issue with theSunCalc module used in Node-Red-Contrib--BigTimer.

It turns out that the getMoonTimes module doesn’t seem to handle the alwaysUp and alwaysDown methods the way one might expected – these do not return FALSE  if not TRUE – they return undefined – that took some figuring out.

I started with try-catch but that failed also. Simply checking as follows did the trick:

if (typeof moons.rise==='undefined')
moonrise=1440;
else
{
date2=moons.rise; moonrise = (date2.getHours() * 60) +
date2.getMinutes();
}              

if (typeof moons.set==='undefined')
moonset=0;
else
{
date3=moons.set; moonset = (date3.getHours() * 60) +
date3.getMinutes();
}           

I’m pretty sure this is now fixed as of BigTimer 2.1.7

Thanks to Aidan Ruff for his help in this one.

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A good day for Alexa

Today was a good day (well, apart from the UK Northeast weather which was rubbish as it has been all year so far.  Thanks to some great help from guys on discordapp.com I discovered a cure for a phantom subnet issue that has had me worried for days now. I also found a fix to make my new Amazon Dot version 3 units work in Node-Red without being the dreaded ROOT user… so let’s get started… this blog entry is really just a record for me and a catch up for any of the guys who were helping out…

Continue reading A good day for Alexa

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Devices recently connected to the network

Can I give the Raspberry Pi any MORE to do? This started off as a plea for help – as I could not find a way to get reliable reporting of changed devices on my network – as you’ll see, now CRACKED thanks to readers and in particular Mr Shark.

I’ve tried Glasswire on PC, Nmap on Pi and Advanced IP scanner on PC… the latter detects devices like ESP8266 on the network no problem – but could I HELL find a way to show JUST devices connected since the last scan.

Continue reading Devices recently connected to the network

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Espressif ESP-EYE Board

I remember reading, less than a month ago, a blog entry called “The Mysterious ESP-ESP-EYEEYE" in which it is stated that there is no information on the Espressif site on this interesting little camera module. Well, I’ll correct that – there most certainly is now and here’s the link. https://www.espressif.com/en/products/hardware/esp-eye/overview

The ESP-EYE module is a little PCB with a camera and an ESP-32. Rather than print potentially out-of-date info here, I’ll just point you in the right direction for those interested. Here is a link for ordering info, the ESP-EYE Getting Started Guide and the ESP-EYE Reference Design notes all in one place. The ordering info is dated TODAY (Jan31, 2019) and the others are a few days old.

Continue reading Espressif ESP-EYE Board

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Phone Charging Epiphany 2

Some time ago after using USB chargers (and USB battery units) since late last century and having been constantly disappointed by their performance when charging phones, I started to get very selective. At the risk of boring experts in here, a short history…

Quick ChargeThe first change I started to make was to look for short, thick USB cables…. this is always a good thing. But the real breakthrough for me was noticing that the charger that came with my phone, even though small, performed considerably better than larger generic USB supplies. Why is that you might ask? Well, you’re probably aware of “QuickCharge 2.0 and 3.0” – essentially protocols for charging those phones suitably equipped, more rapidly than normal. Though charge leads that minimise voltage drops are essential, that’s not the end of the story and there are more protocols out there than QuickCharge, not all of which are documented. See further down for QuickCharge 4.0 and car Quick Charge chargers. This is getting exciting.

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The A5X MAX Android 8.1 TV Box

Regular viewers may recall I reviewed a rather nice TV Android box some time ago – the H96 Max Plus. I’m particularly choosy about these units, again regular readers will know that I’ve used and tested a number of mini-board level products such as various NanoPC boards and others for use as TV boxes and right now back in Spain I’ve left one such unit in place.

Here in the UK, rather than a board level product,  I’ve been using the H96 Max Plus for months now without issue on my 4K 55” TV, producing quality output from Netflix, Amazon TV, iPlayer and much more. UK viewers note that few if any of these units can handle NowTV due to rather childish restrictions from Sky. I use a separate Sky-vendored box for NowTV (produced of course by Roku and crippled for Sky purposes) .

A5X Max

Of course there is much more to quality TV than simply resolution (just as well as very little of the video material out there is 4K or anything like it) and one TINY gripe I’ve been harbouring without knowing exactly where to pin the blame, is black level control. I got very annoyed over Christmas when I went to see a pal of mine as his TV seemed to have more consistent blacks than mine. Which brings us to the A5X Max box.

Continue reading The A5X MAX Android 8.1 TV Box

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Sonoff, Tasmota and Alexa

Sonoff mains switchI always think it is worth periodically re-visiting things you’ve tried before, even when the first attempt led to tears. Things change. And so it was that I pulled out and old (original 4-pin connector) Sonoff Basic recently and gave Tasmota a go. It is some time since I looked at this. Off I went to the Tasmota site looking for a binary file for the Sonoff BASIC. Voila. Binary files for lots of boards including Sonoff Basic.

https://github.com/arendst/Sonoff-Tasmota/releases

Next I had to remember how to flash this on my Windows PC. I tried esptool.py and quickly realised this was not going to work on my PC without figuring out where Python is hiding. It just so happens I have esptool.exe on there, in my c:\espressif\utils folder.

Continue reading Sonoff, Tasmota and Alexa

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