First reviews of 2018

Thanks for your continued patience, everyone. Following on from my little mishap in December, which has effectively prevented me from blogging or making YouTube videos from mid-December onward, I plan to start doing some blog writing with more detailed blogs and videos to follow perhaps in April/May when I’ll also have access to all my electronics gear following house moving. Our original plans which included spending the entire summer in Spain, came adrift mid-December.

For now I’m doing my best to respond to your emails and looking to doing some short equipment write-ups. I have some catching up to do on the writing front. At least now I have a computer with camera up and running.

Here is a start on some of the stuff that arrived for me while I was out of action.

UNI-T UT61E 4-digit True RMS Multimeter from Banggood


Being used to run-of-the-mill 3.5 digit multi-meters, the UNI-T UT61E 4 digit True RMS Multimeter represented a move upmarket for me and the unit I received came complete with optically isolated RS232 adaptor. A USB cable is, as an alternative, available as an option on all models in the range except UT61A. I should have thought about that but I didn’t.

  1. Operating temperature range is 0c to 40c with storage range claimed to be –10c to 50c. As well as the usual AC/DC voltage and current measurements with accuracy as high as 0.5%, resistance and diode testing, the UT61E tests capacitance as well as frequency and duty cycle.

The meter comes complete with mini-CD. I did not need to use this.

Measurements can be absolute or relative to readings stored earlier. The unit also has a HOLD button and a PEAK button.

The meter uses a single 9v battery. Banggood supply this and many other measuring instruments.


Welcoming in 2018

Here we are in 2018 and I'm sure it will be another great year for IOT.

It could be a while before I'm back in the driving seat but for those who have been firing in questions about my health, just to let you know that I am still in hospital and am getting physiotherapy with more to come.

Armed with only a mobile phone, creating new content could be a challenge for now but I will do my best to answer comments and even add some short replies.

Thanks to everyone for your support and a special thanks to my beloved wife and good friends for making this a lot less depressing than it would have been otherwise.




Waiting for Peter, closing the 2017

MrShark at the console, while we're all waiting for Peter to come back, let's try to add some new content to the blog 🙂

I've a couple of new boards to test, unfortunately they've to wait I receive their PSUs... material for an other time 🙂

So, I'll add some valuable resources found on the net in recent times, about Node-Red development...

I wish a Happy New Year to Peter and his wife, and to all of you readers... please keep visiting this blog and comment, let's leave some new material for him when he's back 🙂

Continue reading Waiting for Peter, closing the 2017


Why has Peter been so quiet?

I'm posting this entry on behalf of Peter (my name is Jonathan - a long time friend of Peter who he has mentioned a few times in the blog). Peter says:
"Unfortunately last Friday (December 15th) I was taken ill and find myself in hospital. While I am making a slow but steady recovery, it will be a few weeks before I am well enough to continue my adventures in electronics, but In the meantime I hope to have a few guest posts and will be keeping up with any conversations as best I can. Jonathan will post some updates on my health and my friend MrShark will try and help with any technical queries. Please do keep an eye on the blog and I look forward to resuming normal service as soon as I am able.

ESP8266 Mesh Experiment

MeshIn case anyone else (like me) has been sitting on the shelf over this one – and would like to have a go at an ESP8266 mesh… we’ve been having a play.

Regular readers may recall I wasted the better part of a year with those AWFUL NRG24L01 boards trying to make a mesh and ultimately getting no-where – indeed I think it is the mere existence of that board that drove me to the ESP8266.

Fast forward to December 2017 - take 3 ESP8266 modules, run the same code on each of the three, attach a LED+resistor to GPIO12… take ESP8266 modules for a walk. One is in the house, one in the office out of range, the other in the middle sitting on my car in the freezing cold.   When all 3 are talking to each other you’ll see 3 flashes in quick succession…

Continue reading ESP8266 Mesh Experiment


Christmas RGB Animation

Cloe admiring my Christmas lights

My ESP8266 home control code contains not only RGB code for serial LEDs but also a complete programming setup to generate and loop sequences… and so with merely one wire and VERY  little work, we end up with some fancy animation.

Here we see an old, gutted plastic Christmas window decoration which WAS filled with old fashioned white lights but now has a string of 69 serial LEDs running animation around the inside.

I made one of these last year but when it came to trying out my animated LED Christmas lighting this year – nothing happened – dead. After wasting hours I remembered I’d changed the code earlier this year so for anyone using my ESP8266 software and wanting to knock up a quick Christmas animation – here it is…

Continue reading Christmas RGB Animation


Odrvm 4K Action Camera

Slightly out of the normal, I’ll grant you but I thought this was worth doing a short piece on because of an alternative use for this camera. So what we have here is the Odrvm 4K Action Camera, which comes as a complete kit, in my case from Amazon.

ODVRM Action Camera as WebcamHere’s the story. I’ve been looking for one of these for ages for Spain, I have a decent camera, an SLR which would be wonderful were it not for the weight. Despite a lifetime dabbling in photography, I’ve never gotten used to carrying around a large camera in the hot summers of Spain which is where I plan to be this summer.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spend trawling through videos on YouTube for an “action camera” capable of at least 2k video and preferably with a gyro to minimise shaking.

Simba on OdrvmWell I was just down to the last couple of cameras when I received an email from a company who wanted to know if I would check out their action camera! Next thing I knew I was off ordering a camera and spare batteries on Amazon PRIME for next day delivery and this morning, my parcel arrived – well, part of it. Not unusually for Amazon, there was a last minute hitch and the batteries won’t be here until next week.

However as it turns out the camera package comes with all sorts of mounts (I mean LOTS of mounts), the camera itself contains a battery and.. there’s a spare one in the box! The manufacturers claim 80 minute battery life but if we assume that means somewhat under an hour of video’ing, it makes sense to have a spare or two.

Odrvm 4K Action Camera

As you can see from the above, action is limited to no closer than maybe 6-9” – but beyond that is extremely sharp – this is shown in the video.

So, as requested I opened the box, described what was inside then went off into the freezing cold Bellingham winter air to take a video.

And that’s fine, no-one is suggesting using this as a top end video camera but with anti-shake it is pretty good for the money – however – that’s not all because it ALSO makes a very good webcam – better I may add than Logitech upmarket models I’ve tested.  So – when you’re not out taking mountain photos – this doubles up as a webcam while it is sitting charging – sounds like a good idea to me.

I did enquire and the sound level is fixed in the unit. Right now it is not possible to add an external microphone, this will likely change in future (if I were to do any serious filming I think I would record audio on a phone with proper external mic – I’ve yet to come across a camera built-in mic that is very good.







SI5351 Clock Generator

SI5351 Clock Generator

A short while ago I put together a little poor-person’s signal generator (or signal generator for people who only use them once a year). It is currently waiting for me to drill a tiny box to put it in. Meanwhile of course I’ve taken possession of a FeelTech function generator which does the same and more (albeit at a higher price).

All of that is very nice but the frequencies coming out of these things are no good for experimenting with microprocessors which might need 16MHz or much higher.

And so it was that a kind blog reader pointed me to the SI5351 clock generator board on AliExpress. This little beast claims to have 3 separate outputs able to handle 8KHz to 160MHz.

So, yesterday the board turned up. It comes unsoldered and requires that you solder a 7 way connector and 3 output connectors.  The former was easy, but as you can see by the mess of soldering, the output connectors are not trivial to solder on a tiny iron made for SMT work due to their bulk efficiently taking the heat away – I simply could not get enough heat in there to do a visually great job.

However, functionally the soldering was just fine so I went off in search of a test library for Arduino (always a good starting point) – of course there’s an Adafruit library but after taking a quick glance I decided you had to be a ham radio fan to get your head around the setup – and so instead went for this library.

Of the 7 connections you need only 4 i.e. ground, power, SDA and SCL (I2c). I hooked these up onto a board (with 2k2 pull-up resistors) – all running on 5v.  I ran the library and, well, it just works.

If you study the library there are a number of options – I chose to ignore them and go with the easy option.

#include "si5351.h"
#include "Wire.h"
Si5351 si5351;

void setup()
// Initialize the Si5351

si5351.init(SI5351_CRYSTAL_LOAD_8PF, 0, 0);

si5351.set_freq(810000ULL, SI5351_CLK0);
si5351.set_freq(820000ULL, SI5351_CLK1);
si5351.set_freq(830000ULL, SI5351_CLK2);

si5351.output_enable(SI5351_CLK2, 0); // turn off output 2

In the above example – output 0 is set to 81KHz, 1 is set to 82KHz and 2 is set to 83KHz – and output 2 is turned off.

It really is that simple – I found contrary to the advert that I could go down to 4KHz and as far as I can tell everything was working just fine at 160MHz – but my scope coughed up it’s lungs at anything over 120MHz.

The frequency values are shown to a resolution of 0.01Hz. If you want to use Hz just divide by 100.

Here’s the output when set to 1MHz.

If you look at my function generator code where I put the settings onto an SSD1306 display and had setting buttons and memories – it would take no time at all to modify that code to make this into a neat little clock generator unit.

1Mhz signal from clock generator

Now I just need some nuts and plugs for those small connectors… ideas anyone – I need nuts for them (front panel) and male connectors ???


IoD-09 Display from 4D Systems

tmpEEA6You may recall some time ago I reviewed some displays from 4D Systems – using an ESP8266 together with a touch display – and very nice too.

Well, the company just sent me one of the new IOD-09 displays and it is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

You will possibly be familiar with the little OLED displays I use a lot from the likes of AliExpress and Banggood (or Ebay for that matter) – the SSD1306 based units. They are amazingly small – but if course you then need a Nano or ESP8266 to drive them – boards invariably larger than the display by some way.

Continue reading IoD-09 Display from 4D Systems


FeelTech FY6600 Waveform Generator

Regular readers will know we just looked at a DIY signal generator able to generate sine, triangle and square waves. Breadboard, wires, you name it…  Well, this is NOTHING like that. 

If the simple DIY generator of a previous blog is not to your liking you might want to consider something like this Feeltech FY6600—50M Dual Channel Function/Arbitrary Waveform Generator supplied in this case by Banggood.

Feeltech Waveform Generator

Read on…

Continue reading FeelTech FY6600 Waveform Generator


VL53LOX Distance Measurement

tmpAE48The VL53LOX usually comes as a tiny board complete with regulator and is an I2c device capable of measuring short distances.  I thought I’d put it to the test.

The proper description which sounds very impressive is “Time of Flight (ToF) Laser ranging Sensor” – really?   Well, let’s see what it can do. AliExpress sell these for around £5.30 ($7.23) with free postage.

Attached to +5v, ground, SDA and SCL on an Arduino UNO (which means I don’t have to worry about pullup pins for I2c and it just happened to be sitting on my desk at the time) you could start by grabbing the Adafruit library and adding that to an Arduino setup. Read on…

Continue reading VL53LOX Distance Measurement