Step by Step Guide on How to flash the ESP-01

Step by Step Guide on How to flash the ESP-01

ESP-01
ESP-01

So, you have bought your ESP-01 and are not sure if its pre-flashed or you need to do something with it, you may just want to make sure you have the latest firmware anyway.  The best bet is to open your favourite programming software and try the module.  If it’s not working at all or behaving weirdly then the chances are that you need to flash a new version of the firmware onto it.  This is something that’s relatively easy but only when you know how and if you type it in a search engine there are lots of websites out there trying to get you to use weird versions of the ESP firmware so you need to be careful.  I’ll go through what hardware to use to flash it, where to get the firmware and where to get the tool to upload the firmware to the chip.

The good news is that the tools and firmware are all free on the Espressif website but even then it’s not completely clear what to get and even the documentation provided isn’t too clear on what to do for beginners so I will go through it all here.

What hardware do I need?

I put together a flashing circuit specially for this purpose and keep it set up on my breadboard so that it’s there when I need it.  The two main odd looking items you will need are a USB-to-TTL converter so that you can plug in your USB port on your PC to upload the firmware and the ESP-01 has a weird pinout so I find its best to use an ESP-01 breakout board/adapter.  Other than that, it’s just a couple of buttons and resistors.  Here is the USB to TTL (sometimes called FTDI) converter I use, it’s a couple of pounds on your favourite electronics or auction site and has a 3.3v option which is ideal for the ESP-01 though there are plenty of other options out there:

USB to TTL Converter
USB to TTL Converter
USB to TTL Converter
USB to TTL Converter
ESP-01 Breakout Adapter
ESP-01 Breakout Adapter
ESP-01 Breakout Adapter
ESP-01 Breakout Adapter

Here is the schematic:

ESP-01 Flashing Schematic
ESP-01 Flashing Schematic

And finally, here is a picture of it all setup on the breadboard:

ESP-01 Flashing Circuit on Breadboard
ESP-01 Flashing Circuit on Breadboard

DON’T PLUG IT IN WITHOUT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW FIRST

What tool do I need to download to flash the ESP?

To flash the ESP-01 you need the Espressif Flash Download Tool which you can download for free from their website in the support -> download -> tools section.  Link here:

https://www.espressif.com/en/support/download/other-tools

Downloading the Espressif Flash Download Tool From the Website
Downloading the Espressif Flash Download Tool From the Website

It’s not just for ESP-01, works for others too as you can see.  Download that to a folder of your choice and unzip that file.  Next you need to download the firmware files you are going to flash.

What firmware do I need and where do I get it?

There are lots of different firmware versions out there and they all have different functionality, some fix bugs and some improve performance.  Obviously, some may induce bugs and decrease performance too, so I try to go for a stable version rather than the absolute latest issue.  The firmware files can be downloaded individually or as part of a software development kit, I normally go for the software development kit as it has all the files that work together.  You can download these again from the Espressif website in the support -> download -> SDK & Demos section.  Link here:

https://www.espressif.com/en/support/download/sdks-demos

Downloading the ESP-01 Firmware From the Espressif Website
Downloading the ESP-01 Firmware From the Espressif Website

All of the stable versions should be shown, you can see the latest at the time of writing is ESP8266 NONOS SDK V3.0.0.  Simply hit download and save it to a location on your computer, if it redirects to a github page then scroll down to the bottom and download the source code .zip file from there.  Unzip the file and now you have all the things you need to flash the chip.  All of the binary files you need to flash are in there, you may need to navigate around the files to locate all the ones you need but you should be able to find the following:

  • blank.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\blank.bin
    • Flash Address:  0xFB000
  • esp_init_data_default.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\esp_init_data_defaultv08.bin
    • Flash Address:  0xFC000
  • blank.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\blank.bin
    • Flash Address:  0x7E000
  • blank.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\blank.bin
    • Flash Address:  0xFE000
  • boot_v1.6.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\boot_v1.6.bin
    • Flash Address:  0x00000
  • user1.1024.new.2.bin
    • Location:  ESP8266_NONOS_SDK-3.0.0\bin\at\512+512\user1.1024.new.2.bin
    • Flash Address:  0x01000

Flash the ESP-01!

Now you have done all the groundwork to flash this thing its time to put it all together and do the job, exciting times!  Open up the Espressif Flash Download Tool, you should be able to open the file straight from the folder you downloaded without having to install anything and it will open something like this:

Opening up the Espressif ESP flash download tool
Opening up the Espressif ESP flash download tool

Click the top one for the ESP8266 Download Tool and it should open up this page:

ESP8266 Download Tool Window
ESP8266 Download Tool Window

Some of those may be blank and you may have different boxes ticked, don’t worry, I’ll run through what to tick.

  • Assign the binary files to the flash address as above.
  • Pick CrystalFreq as 26M from the dropdown
  • Click the SPI SPEED button 40MHz
  • Click the SPI MODE button QIO.
  • Click the FLASH SIZE radio button for 8Mbit.

So now it should look like this:

ESP8266 Download Tool Window Adding Binary Files
ESP8266 Download Tool Window Adding Binary Files

Ok now you are ready to plug in, when you plug the USB in you need to do the following to put the ESP into programming mode:

  • Hold down the reset switch (SWI 1)
  • Hold down the flash switch (SW 2)
  • Release the reset switch (SWI 1)
  • Release the flash switch (SWI 2)

Make sure you select the COM port you are using from the drop down and set the baud rate to 115200:

ESP8266 Download Tool Select COM port and baud rate
ESP8266 Download Tool Select COM port and baud rate

Now just press start and it will sync then download then finish the flash!

ESP8266 Download Tool Synchronizing
ESP8266 Download Tool Synchronizing
ESP8266 Download Tool Finished Flashing
ESP8266 Download Tool Finished Flashing

How To Fix CPU Fan Errors On Computer Startup

So, you have lots to do, you go to turn your PC on and before it even considers starting you are hit with an error:

“CPU Fan Error!”

CPU Fan Error On Bootup
CPU Fan Error On Bootup

The first thing to do is check the fan is ok and is plugged in correctly but if you have done that and it seems good then this can be an annoying problem to solve.  On my computer I would restart a few times and then all of a sudden for what seems like no reason it would work and go straight through as if everything is normal.

That error alarm is normally triggered when the RPM of the fan goes below a set speed.  Luckily that speed is configurable in the BIOS settings on most systems.  So when the computer starts up press DEL or F1 or whatever button it is to get to the BIOS.  Once there on my PC I could see the actual fan speed reported on the main page as below:

Checking The Fan Speed From BIOS
Checking The Fan Speed From BIOS

You can see above it is spinning at 581 RPM.  To check and change the trigger limit I had to go to advanced settings then click on the “monitor” tab which then had a setting called “CPU Fan Speed Low Limit” which was set to 600 RPM.

Checking the CPU Fan Low Limit
Checking the CPU Fan Low Limit

There is the reason we are getting the error, my fans spinning at 581 and the low limit is 600.  So I clicked the button and a drop down list appeared, simply select a lower value, I went for 500 RPM which solved the problem and meant my PC started fine every time.

Changing the CPU Fan Low Limit
Changing the CPU Fan Low Limit

 

Kerv Contactless Payment Ring Review

Well, I first saw this on Kickstarter in October 2015 and it sounded like a great idea for someone like me who travels through London every day constantly getting my card out to swipe through the gates at the train then the tube and sometimes the bus too. Estimated delivery was stated as April 2016, and well over two years later and some nagging via email it finally arrived at my door January 2018! So we had a bit of a bad start….but I have gone straight out and put it to the test and thought I would share my experience good and bad so that others can get a bit of information if they are looking at buying this product.

First Impressions – Look and Feel

I must say the packaging looked amazing and when you open it looks very smartly presented.

Kerv Smart Ring Packaging
Kerv Smart Ring Packaging
Kerv Smart Ring Inside Packaging

The ring looks nice and smart, feels smooth and weighs hardly anything.

Kerv Ring
Kerv Ring

Generally I like it and the fit was perfect as measured using the Kerv sizing chart.

Kerv Smart Ring Look and Feel On My Finger
Kerv Smart Ring Look and Feel On My Finger

Initial Setup

The box came with a set of instructions to set up your online account, associate it to your ring, then set up a virtual mastercard and add some money to get started.

Kerv Ring Instruction Leaflet
Kerv Ring Instruction Leaflet

I found it very easy and was up and running in no time. I went straight for the auto top-up feature which is a bit of a pain as the lowest value is £30 to trigger an auto top up and the lowest value you can top up with is also £30 so every time it tops up you could have £60 on there waiting to be spent. I’d prefer if it were smaller values but there you go.

First Test

So I jumped straight in and tested it on my route to work. There is a contactless reader into the train and out the other side then a reader into the tube and out the other side, I hovered it over the first reader wondering if anything was going to happen and ping, it worked! It was a little slower than I was expecting but worked none the less. The other readers it was roughly the same but the last one it came up with the dreaded “seek assistance”. I stepped back and let the other people through then took it off and put the ring directly on the reader and it worked again. This led me to think I was using it wrong, if only I had read the instructions properly!

On the way home it was pretty much the same as above, when I got back I opened the instructions and there it was….It says clearly on the instructions how to use it and I had been doing it differently like a prize turnip!

Kerv transmission ready gesture for making a payment
Kerv transmission ready gesture for making a payment

Second Test

Well, this time fully prepared I approached the first reader and this time using the correct hand gesture it picked it up really quickly similar to using an actual card on the machine. I continued all the way to and through London and back again and it picked it up on every single one no problem at all. Was very impressed.

One of the main problems I found is that (at the time of writing) you cant use it with your TFL account to see journey history, payment history or to claim a refund. They do give you a virtual MasterCard number including the CVV number but if you put that into the TFL website it doesn’t pick up the data. This is because the chip in the ring has a separate card number but unfortunately they don’t give you that number on the website or anywhere else. I contacted support on this one and they said they are working on it and will update me when they have something.

Support

Support were very responsive and helpful in general, I first had a lot of contact with them as I was a Kickstarter backer and had the long delay I mentioned, they replied every time within 24 hours and did update me on progress. I do wonder if I would ever had received the ring now if I had not contacted them.

Summary

A good device if you don’t mind wearing the ring when you are travelling and don’t like getting your card out constantly. Use it properly on the reader and it will reward you by working as designed. I have fingers crossed that they will get the device chip number sorted for integration with the TFL website but even without that its a good gadget to show off and save you time.

Technology – How to Find Out About the Windows Lock Screen Image or Spotlight Image

I had a certain image two days in a row on windows spotlight lock screen that looked like a half crescent moon like sand dune structure and wondered where it was, for reference, here is the image I was talking about:

Windows spotlight lock screen image
Windows spotlight lock screen image

Now after a bit of googling for things like “what is the big sand half crescent on the windows spotlight” and “what is the big desert structure/sculpture on the windows spotlight” with no luck I pressed CTRL+L to get back to the lock screen and investigate further. When you look at the top right of the lock screen there is an icon “like what you see?”, if you hover over it it tells you where this is:

Icon "like what you see?
Icon “like what you see?

Even better than that, if you click on the middle icon “What do we have here?” it will take you to a bing search for the building or location in question:

Icon "What do we have here?"
Icon “What do we have here?”

For those that are interested, it turns out this is actually not a “half crescent moon like sand dune structure” but in fact its the Auditorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz, Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). An auditorium, who’d have thought it?

Samsung Galaxy S6 Headphone Sizes In-ear Fit

Samsung have tried a mixture of canal-type earphones that are inserted in the ear canal and open-type earphones. This new type are called In-ear Fit and comes with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and a few other models. When I first opened the box I put them in and wore them to work but I found they didn’t quite fit properly and were falling out a lot, also the sound wan’t great because of the way they fitted they were hanging out of the ear. When I looked into this later I saw they had L1 and R1 written on the rubber ear tip. When I looked in the box there was a second set of rubber ear tips with L2 and R2 written on them. At first glance they didn’t look too different but up close they L2 and R2 set were slightly bigger. I removed the L1 and R1 rubber parts and replaced them with the L2 and R2, although the sizes weren’t a lot different it did make a huge difference wearing them. They fitted more snugly and the sound was a lot better – Before throwing them away make sure you try the above 🙂

Windows Vista Hangs While Downloading Updates

I found a solution to my problem when Windows would search for updates, but then when it started downloading it would stay at 0% forever. I started by stopping the Windows Update service (in my case the service proved to be frozen so I restarted my computer and disabled the service before it starts) and the Application Experience service. After that I went to the C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution folder and pressed ctrl+a and shift+delete to empty its contents. Mine contained more than 70,000 files so it took a while. I started Application Experience and enabled Windows Update. I let it check for updates and try to download them. It worked perfectly.
Do not worry about deleting important windows files in this case. The contents of SoftwareDistribution is used as a cache and data for Windows Update. When Windows Update starts again it rebuilds the cache repopulating it with up-to-date versions of the files and chewing up a ton of harddisk space again.

Strava Not Recording My Run or Updating

I use Strava to track my runs and bike rides which has been working great on my old Samsung Galaxy S4. I recently got a new Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and at first it was working great but a week or two ago it started playing up. I got home and it had not tracked my run, it has GPS at the start and at the end when I went to finish the tracking but nothing in the middle. Very annoying but I hoped it was just a random day when GPS signal wasn’t strong or something. Anyway the next day I went for a short run again and kept a close eye on it this time. It got GPS again at the start so I set off, a few meters down the road it was clear that the tracking wasn’t working but when I unlocked the phone it picked up GPS immediately.

Fix
Its easy to think something has broken on the phone or in the app but the above pointed towards a setting on the phone that was stopping the tracking from working. When I looked into it further it didn’t take long to see on the alert ribbon “power saving mode enabled”.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Power Saving Mode Button Menu
Samsung Galaxy S6 Power Saving Mode Button Menu

I must have accidentally pressed it when scrolling through the menu. I turned power saving mode off and tracking immediately worked again. Posting this for others who have the same frustrating issue.