Category Archives: General

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

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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.

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Geekcreit Large Rainbow Clock Kit

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for pretty colours, which is why I had to have this Geekcreit Large Size Rainbow Colour Clock DIY kit. I kind of glossed over the kit bit when looking at it, but never mind, I’m up for a challenge (and if you think that a couple of SMT chips and a shedload of SMT LEDs is no challenge, I invite you to try it in your mid-60s after a couple of serious operations).

Enough blether… I need to build this.

Clock kit

That’s a stock photo – I’m about 20% through putting the LEDs in and I’m still baulking at the thought of putting the larger IC on the board. Now waiting for Banggood to come back with which resistor is which. My good pal Aidan is popping over this week to give me a hand with the big chip.

partial build

partial build

More later….

Geekcreit® Large Size Rainbow Color Clock DIY Kit -- https://goo.gl/vEn8Mc 
More Geekcreit Tech -- https://goo.gl/6QzQDy

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Raspberry Pi RPI-CLONE Issues

As I normally rave about RPI-CLONE – I  thought I’d share the dirty laundry this time.

** Update Jan 13 2019

It is looking increasingly likely that the issues I was having were power supply related and one bad SD card. I’ve just finished my 7th successful backup-clone since removing the intermediate battery pack to the Pi and shortening the USB lead. I neglected to note that I’d recently added an Amazon Echo generation 2 DOT into the mix. It is possible that is relevant. Good timing as I’ve just moved to Blynk local server and cracked ESP8266 host names on Windows and I do NOT want to lose that.

** end of update

I have backed up both Pi 2 and Pi 3 hundreds of times, generally without issue, but the last few days I’ve had some cloning problems – generally along the lines of failure – read-only.

Here is a photo of one of my Pi3 units  - 192.168.14.70 – the main controller sits at 192.168.14.71 but is otherwise identical).

Raspberry Pi 3 with OLED display

Continue reading Raspberry Pi RPI-CLONE Issues

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A9 Mini WIFI HD 1080P Wireless IP Camera

As some of you know I have various IP cameras dotted around both in the UK and Spain – just to keep an eye on things. I just received this odd one at the weekend  – a miniature fish-eye type camera which connects as most do via an app – in this case the free Android App HDMiniCam and claiming H264 1080p. The app can handle multiple cameras as the thumbnails are quite small. My camera is white, not black.

tmp16

Well, the good news is, it works – it took seconds to connect to my phone via the free app though I’ve not tried a PC connection yet.  What I find interesting about this model is the size and the fact that it has it’s own battery. Oh, and a magnetic stand. Here you see the fish-eye effect.

A9 Camera

Since starting it up a couple of days ago it has worked 100%, plugged into the USB on my PC. The fish-eye view and inconsistent frame rate would prevent using this as a webcam but then that’s not what it is intended for. Sound in and out is fine.

A9 cameraHere is the actual white camera. There are two clearly marked buttons – one for on-off, the other for setting up etc. Yes, the green and blue indicators are bright. One of these cameras would be easily hidden but for the bright lights. Underneath you see the magnetically attached stand who’s base is adhesive, not magnetic. I’ve not tested battery life yet.

The 150 degree wide angle fish-eye lens is as you can see here on the top. For actual use, I could see this going in the car, a lot less obnoxious than the camera I have now in the car and it could be used for recording minor accidents or near misses. Along with others of it’s kind, I’m not sure the magnetic connection would stand up to a severe accident.

The camera takes a microSD, not supplied. I happened to have a couple floating about.

https://goo.gl/sxYYyB 
More Security Cameras -- https://goo.gl/rxHohN

I like this camera and I think it will do well in my car, but for general use in terms of value for money, my much larger Alfawise camera previously blogged about is better if ultra wide angle isn’t important to you.

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USB DVR

This promising looking 1080P FHD Auto DVR Camera Video recorder with WiFi ADAS G-Sensor from TomTop will apparently work in the car to take videos (rear or front) and store them on a (not supplied) SD card. I installed an SD I had lying around and plugged the USB-powered camera into my PC. Immediately I went to DEVICES in Windows, the WORLDCAM appeared. Sadly it would not show up in Skype. Nor would it show up in the Windows 10 Camera App. I can’t tell if it is working as it has no internal screen.

USB DVR

https://goo.gl/Uwv1oh

ToCan’t find the TomTop link for this camera so here’s a general link to their site: https://www.tomtop.com be fair this is not what the camera was designed for, so I elected to go look at the supplied instructions. “The recorder connects the car machine” it said. WHAT car machine I ask? “Find the ES File Browser in the car” it said. I’m pretty familiar with my car and I’m pretty sure the Sat-Nav/Control unit does not have ES File Explorer and that is the ONLY car device with a screen.

This could be the shortest review of the year unless new information comes to light.

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