Monday, 18 May 2015

Miniature DC Motor driver resource

I spotted a link about drivers for small motors on

We have a few of the shelf boards for easily driving motors such as:

but selecting the right components to roll your own depending on the motor you are driving can require a lot of web research in many different places. This seems to be a nicely done comprehensive resource:

Precision Microdrives motordriver resource

Monday, 11 May 2015

9th May Meeting - 3 more images

The floor of the new makerspace area will be raised to provide more insulation so the door lintels also need raising.

Inside the makerspace, one of the new window units can be partially seen.  This one needed it's lintel replacing.

Les giving an interesting demo. Tony is getting his OLED screen working with an Arduino Nano clone.  

A mistake I made with the clone Nano is not looking at the correct pin out diagram for the clone Nano.  Most pinout diagrams give the I2C as being on pins D4 and D5, on the clone Nanos the correct pins are A4 and A5.

Here's the correct pinout diagram (link supplied by Les)

The I2C scanner sketch is useful for checking your I2C is working, it's here:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Blackpool LUG and Makerspace Meeting 9th May 2015

Mike Hull, Mike Hewitt, Kieran, Phyllis, Tony, Les Arthur, Ricky, Jeff and Martin.

The work on the new space is ongoing.
The floor in the basement will be 100 mm higher after the insulation has been installed, necessitating a similar rise of 100 mm for the door lintels.
With the Acro in place, bricks are removed ready for new lintel to go in.

 Meanwhile, directly above, on the next floor, a quick talk from Les

Next, Les demonstrates how it is done

Arthur turns on an LED with his Apple watch

Ricky attempts to remote control his robot

Tony gets his oled screen to display his name

Les never runs out of parts

Arthur waxes lyrical about Microsoft and their new 'community' IOT vision on the mailing list, here
He was so convincing that I spent the morning installing windows 10, finally succeeding after hitting this snag which goes back to windows 7: 
“Setup was unable to create a system partition or locate an existing partition.”

and finding the answer here on the druss blog:

With windows 10 installed, visual studio was downloaded and installed.
I then mentioned to Arthur that we might need to change the group name from Blackpool LUG and Makerspace, to Blackpool Makerspace with a windows view :)

Thanks again to Mike Hull for hosting the meeting, and for "working his socks off" getting the basement ready to host the meetings in future. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Blackpool LUG and Makerspace - at home with our new host.

Mike Hull, Mike Hewitt, Kieran, Phyllis, James, Les Arthur, Joe, Ricky, Jeff and Martin.

 Mike Hull is our new host, and meetings now take place in the dining room of the 'Crossways', which Mike owns on Tyldesley Road in Central Blackpool.

Directly below the dining room is the basement which will eventually become the new home for the LUG and Makerspace, once renovations are complete.

Les surveys the work still to be done.

Steps down from the street will provide a separate private entrance to the space. 

The meeting in full swing.

Arthur was on a windows 10 quest, "RT Arthur G: Time to find out what Windows 10 IoT on Raspberry Pi is about... Blackpool Makerspace biglesp …"

Les was having Pi, 
"RT biglesp: I spent the morning hacking around with Astro Pi while Blackpool Makerspace All the kids went nuts for it!… "

James dropped off a multifunction printer for Arthur to strip for parts.
Arthur brought a large tower case for Ricky to use on a proposed new build.
Jeff discussed the possibility of using Joomla for a website he was considering building.
Joe continued work on his game server, Gary's Mod/TTT (Trouble in Terrorist Town).
Martin expressed an interest in extending his Java knowledge.
I spent the morning exploring Tiddlywiki as a potential replacement for Dokuwiki. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Internet of Things pt1a: ESP8266

Nice!!! (But not for me)

A quick write up of what I found when I read around ESP8266 firmware, I was vaguely aware of most of this but I actually sat down and had a quick play with some of the ideas...

The ESP8266 can operate without the need of a separate micro controller such as an Arduino. The easiest example I could find was to upload the Lua firmware. Everything you need is on github here:

It was relatively straight forward.  The ESP8266 needs to be booted with it's GPIO0 pin tied to ground to enter into firmware update mode.

Use the firmware flasher to upload the Lua firmware to the ESP8266.

Once this is finished, restart the ESP8266 (remembering to put GPIO0 back to being a floating pin before you restart).

So now you can write and upload a Lua program that is executed whenever the ESP8266 restarts - neato.  Here I'm just executing Lua on the ESP8266 through puTTY terminal, connecting to my home wi-fi and confirming the connection by getting the ip address of the ESP8266.  There are a few Instructables, YouTubes and blogs about this, all the ones I looked at were pretty good so I won't link to any in particular - Google is your friend.

I am not a massive fan of Lua but this would get me more interested.  I found tutorials on compiling C programs for the ESP8266.  I can now fully appreciate why this is such a popular device.

The ESP8266 I have only has two GPIO pins but the forums have hacks to extend that like this...

I'm wanting to see how the ESP8266 fits in with my existing long term projects so adding that second micro controller is the direction I'll take....

Internet of Things pt1: ESP8266

Jumping on the IoT bandwagon

It seems I can't escape from the "Internet of Things"... at work the development tool vendors spam me with how their tools enable IoT and their wild market growth predictions; at home in my making hobby IoT articles are popping up all over.

What does a guy that has too many long term projects on the go need?  That's right... another project! So here's the start of what might turn into a full IoT project.  In any case the short term goal is to look at wi-fi and get my head around the ESP8266 device.

I have a new fish tank in my home office, so this will probably be my thing on the internet...


A lot has been written about this on the net by smarter people than me so this write up is just a simple run through of what I did to get mine working.  If you don't know what the ESP8266 is either have a google round or read on and I'll demo some of what it can do...

The first problem is that the 4 x 2 pin out of the chip doesn't work with a breadboard, because the rows of pins are next to each other you can't put it directly into a breadboard without shorting it out.

One guys solution to this issue is included in this video:

My solution is to bend the pins out to be 90 degress from each other and solder on 90 degree pins to create the spacing:

Quick test that it actually works

These devices cost around £2 posted on eBay, I always expect stuff that does so much for such a small price to not work.  So the first test is to power it up and see what happens...

Firstly...  this is a 3.3v device and the word is that it doesn't like 5v.  In the image the ESP8266 is being powered with the 3.3v out of my USB to serial board that I use to program Arduino Pro-Minis. Don't connect it to the 5v out. 

There are just 3 connections to the ESP8266 here, 3.3v, Ground and the CH_PD pin, which is the enable pin, is pulled high by a 1K resistor to 3.3v.

The velcro cable tidy is just for stress relief, holding the USB cable to the bread board. 

On the iPhone you can see the unsecured wi-fi AI-THINKER... yes! it works, just 3 connections and the ESP8266 has a wi-fi access point running, albeit not connected to anything at the moment. I notice it's not the only unsecured wi-fi near me - roll up roll up, free wi-fi over at mine...

Digging a little deeper...

Lets use the serial of the Arduino programmer to communicate with the ESP8266...  

This is where there were a few complications, I had a few issues. rather than go into it, I'll just provide what worked for me.

The ESP8266 is a powerful device and it draws a fair amount of current in operation, you can't run it just on the 3.3v supply from the USB to Serial device. You don't need a bench power supply, but you do need a source of 3.3v that can deliver the juice when the device needs it (I read upto 400mA peak).

So in addition to the 3 connections we started with I have added the beefier power and connected the Transmit and Receive lines of the USB to Serial to the Tx and Rx pins of the ESP8266.

So here I have the Tx and Rx being driven at 5v, I've read some say don't do this and others say it's fine.  All I can say is that trying a 5v to 3.3v level shifter didn't work for me and I've been driving the serial at 5v for a couple of hours and nothing has gone bang yet.

I installed a serial program called Termite and tried out some AT commands

Sending a command like AT+GMR gets the ESP8266 to reply with it's version details.

AT+CWLAP gets it to list out the wi-fi networks available.

So let's try and connect...

The blacked out bits are my login details for my wi-fi, I didn't get the syntax right first time round.  the AT+CIFSR command returns the ip address, confirming I managed to connect to my local wi-fi with the ESP8266... magic.

The next step is to check the firmware version and see if I need to upgrade.  I have read about a Lua based firmware that people are recommending so I need to do some reading up...  

Monday, 16 March 2015

Blackpool LUG and Makerspace - The great give away

Attending :-
Mike, Joe, Chris, Phyllis, Kieran, Elizabeth, Jeff, Olly, and Arthur.

The great give away started today, so if you want anything, make sure you let me know soon, there is only two weeks left before I close Ripon Road for good.

Arthur left with two bags full of cdrom/dvd drives, and is coming back for more. Elizabeth took two digital cameras, several people left with  corded telephones selected from a box full of them.

Olly has requested a cisco router, and the rack mounted server (if Les does not take it).
Les has requested an apple keyboard and a small psu.
Tony has requested some compaq evo base units.
James has requested a 90 watt Dell psu.

There is an 'Alladins cave' full of stuff here, so if you want something, speak up, because once it has gone, it is not coming back.