Snippets – ODF 1.2, Meteor 1.2 and NodeMCU customised

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  • Finally – ODF 1.2 is an ISO standard. This was an important iteration of the Open Document Format. Version 1.2 filled in the elephant in the room in previous versions, that elephant being a lack of formula definitions in the standard. This made sensible spreadsheet interchange somewhat hard, even when the the FOSS Open/Libre Office apps supported it… Hopefully, this ramps the pressure up on all office document creators to come up to standard.

  • Meteor 1.2 lands late Summer and the fine JavaScript platform is keeping up with the developer curve, with first class support for Angular and React coming. More importantly though, it’s going to support ES2105/ES6 which gives a massive update to the ubiquitous language. Top of the list is the arrival, as standard, of promises as an alternative to indent inducing callbacks.

  • NodeMCU is an impressive Lua enabled firmware for the ESP8266, the cheap-as-chips WiFi SoC we’ve talked about in the past. Problem is people keep adding to it and its got to the point where a default installation leaves nearly no memory to work with. You could build your own toolchain and put together your own builds but thats work you really probably don’t feel like doing. Worry not! Over at Frightanic.com, the’res a custom NodeMCU builder. Select what libraries you need in your firmware, enter your email and press the button. At some point later you’ll get a mail telling you your custom firmware is ready for you to download. A splendid service!

Arduino IDE now boarding for all

ArduinoZeroThe Arduino IDE is heading into a rather neat consolidation of the numerous Arduino inspired boards out there. The introduction of a mechanism, in version 1.6.2, to allow people to plug their boards into the IDE easily is starting to snowball. To understand why this is important, before 1.6.2’s release if you had a custom board and the tools to make it work with the IDE, then to install them involved copying files into directories, editing files and crossing fingers (and being disappointed often). Anyone who used a lot of boards would find themselves with multiple copies of various versions of the IDE just to keep life simple.

It didn’t really register with me though that when the board manager arrived in the 1.6 version of the IDE how important this would be. Firstly, official board support can be diconnected from releases of the IDE. One of the most recent changes in the Arduino world is the adoption of the Adafruit Gemma as an Arduino board. The Gemma’s a tiny board ideal for wearables, but setting up the IDE was the same nonsense as described above. And then Arduino IDE 1.6.4 arrived with official support through the board manager.

But that wasn’t all. The officially supported boards can now be joined by unofficial board support – just enter a URL and boom – you are downloading the appropriate code for your new board. But what URLs are available you wonder. The Arduino folks give a link to unofficial board support URLs and there’s some interesting boards on there. Adafruit’s boards like the HUZZAH ESP8266*, the Ariadne bootloader for ethernet connected boards, a whole set of ATtiny boards…

And barebones Atmel controllers which means you can make and program devices for the close to the price of the chip, like the Shrimp. Oh, its an exciting time for Arduino…

*More on the HUZZAH when I get to pick some up in the US soon.
**Apologies for the low number of posts… trying to fix that.

Making Catchup: Node 0.10.6, Pi Power, Arduino IDE and adapting ESP8266s

makingcatchupNode-RED 0.10.6:  Nick O’Leary has announced Node-RED 0.10.6 with various changes to the editor, nodes and API. If you don’t know Node-RED, it’s a rather graphically splendid way of wiring the internet of stuff and stuff in general together – I did a few bits with it on here. With this release, there’s also a new command line administration tool for Node-RED so you can control nodes without having to restart the entire process…. and that uses an Admin API which is now stable and documented. There’s also been a switch in versioning to an easier to track odd/even (development/released) scheme. I’ll be getting back into Node-RED soon myself, ideally when it supports Node 0.12 – currently you’ll need a Node 0.10 to hand to run it.

MOAR PI POWAH: The Raspberry Pi 2 has a lot more power than the older version in terms of CPU, but those USB ports are still pretty power anaemic. By default the total power draw can be 600mA, tweakable in software to 1.2A. That tweakability led to this fine Hackaday hack which involves swapping some components on the board to get a full 2.1A to the USB ports, 500mA a port. The reason the USB is so weedy is good; the Pi is designed to be powered by a Micro-USB connector, so available power is that minus the CPU. Not a lot. And now you have a reason to buy a decent PSU for your Raspberry Pi. The official PSU pushes out 2A into the microUSB.

Arduino IDE gets its groove back: After ages spinning its wheels, the Arduino IDE 1.6 came out and surprised many people. Even more surprising is that its getting new features and quickly. In the March 28th release Arduino IDE 1.6.2, the latest features as a Library Manager which can install from Github repos and a board manager which should make adding new boards much easier. These have been two real pain points in the IDE so to see them addressed is great news. The really great news though was that by April 2nd, the team had released Arduino IDE 1.6.3 which addressed various bugs and responded positively to feedback making it even easier to adopt and use.

ESP8266 adapting: A breadboard adaptor design for an ESP8266 in Makezine since the little ****ers don’t like going into breadboards. Is anyone making these for sale in the UK? Let me know!

ESP8266 – little board, lotta Wi-Fi

An ESPToy
An ESPtoy (the ESP8266 is the little blue board) from RaysHobby.net
Lots going on with the intriguing ESP8266 board. Coming out of China with no english documentation, this tiny board has the brains to run Lua and connect to WiFi, manage some GPIO and all it takes is… a lot of fiddling. As time has gone But for $2 on ebay, you can get hacking the firmware, flashing exisitng firmwarefrom Windows like nodemcu (thats the one with the lua) or just have fun running it as a serial controlled Wi-Fi adapter.

Folks have been learning what the card needs and is capable of like working with MQTT and relays and attaching OLED displays. The smallest version of the board has two GPIO pins, so it’s a bit tricky to think up what you can do with them, but there are bigger versions out there with more GPIO pins and, one assumes, more capabilities.

So, if you wanted to start playing with an ES8266? Well, you could just get a board and start with that; there’s plenty of reference material in the links in this article or look at this instructable on using the board. Or if you want to see what it’s like without mastering supplying a 3.3V rail, then check out the ESPtoy from RaysHobby.net which is a custom 3.3V Arduino with light sensor, temp sensor and RGB LED into which you can plug an ESP8266 and get hacking. There’s oodles of neatness about that board… why yes, I did just order one.

And an unrelated aside – Debian 7.8.8: If you’ve kept your Debian Wheezy up to date, you don’t need this, but if you have your own Debian install media you’ll want to know there’s a Debian 7.8.8 update that will freshed your flash drives and dolly up your DVDs.

A Codescaling New Year

For 2015, I thought I’d shake up the Codescaling site and see if I could get a bit more, well, life into things – catchups have become a chore so I’m going to try to shorten the distance between brain and keyboard. So, from now today I’ll be doing shorter, more regular posts on things which have just come onto my radar, but which should be worth having a look at. So, welcome to Codescaling 2015. Let’s see what can we start with…

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Let’s start 2015 with awesome making. Nathan Chantrell has been doing stuff with the ESP8266, the $5 WiFi board which surprises many with how much power is packed in there. Nathan’s only gone and taken the ESP8266 ESP01 and wired it up to an OLED display, got ESP8266 drivers for I2C to drive it and an MQTT client to listen for messages and boom, epic hack. Best of all, he’s documented it in his “wifi-mqtt-display-with-the-esp8266” posting so you can have a go too. Splendid stuff… now where did I put that ESP8266 I had lying around…

Making Catchup: Pi A+, Beagle X15, 68K prototyped and cheap Wifi hacking

makingcatchupRaspberry Pi Model A+ breaks cover: It seems that there’s been a leak on the Pi A+, the compacted version of the Pi less Ethernet, as its being reported. The cut-down Pi now has microSD and a 40 pin GPIO to match the B+. It still lacks the features that made the ODROID/W so interesting – LiPo battery support and real time clock on board. It does retain one thing from the Model A, the question of who’s it actually for.

BeagleBoard X15 leaks: What next for the BeagleBoard, the original board for the BeagleBoard project and predecessor of the most neat BeagleBone Black. Well, the answer appears to be the BeagleBoard X15. On the board, a dual core A15 CPU clocking at 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM, hardware video decoding, bristling with ports including SATA, two GB Ethernet ports and USB3.0. It looks splendid and we look forward to it landing in February 2015.

Going 68K in a week: We previously mentioned a project to build a 68K single board computer and Hackaday has an update in that it seems the developer put a prototype together in a week. It’s epic retro-computing work and highlghts the challenges that early system builders had in bringing early processor power to play.

Cheap Wifi: There’s a board, ESP8266, which offers a Wifi board for $5 or so. Madly cheap, terribly documented and a real challenge for hackers. Hackaday points us at a project on Instructables which shows how to use the board and an Arduino to pic up email and display details on an LCD screen. Useful.