Archive for the ‘general’ Category

A minimal LCD (HD44780) library for MicroPython

November 25th, 2016 No comments

This post demonstrates a minimal LCD library for MicroPython, used on an ESP8266. This is a small collection of commands that I put together (mostly ported) to have simple control over an HD44780 compatible LCD. There are a couple of existing LCD libraries for MicroPython so make sure to check them out first, since this is a minimalistic approach and may be limiting for you project. The post is merely a reference to the code rather than full explanation on how HD44780 LCD works. There are plenty of sources about that as well as the post of the code’s original author.

I am using the NodeMCU board so make sure to adjust the connections according to the board you are using. The LCD uses an 8-bit data bus but it also supports 4-bit mode. That means we can break a byte to two nibbles (4 bits) and save up 4 wired connections.

Let’s take a look at the code. Credit goes to Matt Hawkins over who is the original author of the code. I just ported it over to MicroPython and made a couple of simple changes.

import machine
import time
LCD_RS = 16
LCD_E = 5
LCD_D4 = 4
LCD_D5 = 0
LCD_D6 = 2
LCD_D7 = 14
LCD_CHR = True
LCD_CMD = False
LCD_LINE_1 = 0x80
LCD_LINE_2 = 0xC0
E_PULSE = 0.0005
E_DELAY = 0.0005
pin_lcd_e = machine.Pin(LCD_E, machine.Pin.OUT)
pin_lcd_rs = machine.Pin(LCD_RS, machine.Pin.OUT)
pin_lcd_d4 = machine.Pin(LCD_D4, machine.Pin.OUT)
pin_lcd_d5 = machine.Pin(LCD_D5, machine.Pin.OUT)
pin_lcd_d6 = machine.Pin(LCD_D6, machine.Pin.OUT)
pin_lcd_d7 = machine.Pin(LCD_D7, machine.Pin.OUT)
def main():
    lcd_string("HD44780 LCD", LCD_LINE_1)
    lcd_string("with MicroPython", LCD_LINE_2)
def lcd_init():
    lcd_byte(0x33, LCD_CMD)
    lcd_byte(0x32, LCD_CMD)
    lcd_byte(0x0C, LCD_CMD)
    lcd_byte(0x01, LCD_CMD)
def lcd_byte(bits, mode):
    if bits & 0x10 == 0x10:
    if bits & 0x20 == 0x20:
    if bits & 0x40 == 0x40:
    if bits & 0x80 == 0x80:
    if bits & 0x01 == 0x01:
    if bits & 0x02 == 0x02:
    if bits & 0x04 == 0x04:
    if bits & 0x08 == 0x08:
def lcd_toggle_enable():
def lcd_string(message, line):
    lcd_byte(line, LCD_CMD)
    for c in message: # Print out the message
        lcd_byte(ord(c), LCD_CHR)
    for i in range(LCD_WIDTH - len(message)): # Fill the rest of the line with empty characters
        lcd_byte(32, LCD_CHR)

Copy the above code in a file, for example and then use the following command to give it a test run (assuming your port is /dev/ttyUSB0)

ampy --port /dev/ttyUSB0 run

Here is how it should look like πŸ™‚


I did some changes in the lcd_string function in order to support multi length strings. So what it does, it first prints the contents of the message and then fills the rest of the line with empty characters in order to delete any remains from the previous refresh.

Hope this helps you out. Let me know in the comments.

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Flashing MicroPython on ESP8266

November 15th, 2016 1 comment

This post is a summary on how to install and use MicroPython on ESP8266. MicroPython is a Python 3 implementation, optimized to run on microcontrollers. Due to resource restrictions, it contains a subset of the original standard library. Nevertheless, it allows us to use our beloved Python language and rapid prototype our projects.

First, we need to flash the MicroPython firmware. Goto and download the latest firmware for ESP8266. At the time of writing, this is esp8266-20161110-v1.8.6.bin. Connect your ESP8266 to the USB port and figure out the port name. I am using Linux so I use dmesg. In my case, the port is /dev/ttyUSB0. If your module powers up but does not connect to a port the are a couple of possibilities. Make sure you are using a normal USB cable with data connections. In other words, make sure that your cable is not for charging only; usually the cables coming with power banks are power only, connecting only the power pins of the USB to the module. Another possibility, is that not enough power goes through to keep the connection alive. In this case, try another cable, or try connecting the cable to another USB port.

For flahsing the firmware we need the script. Install it using pip:

sudo pip install esptool

Once the installation is finished and the module is connected, run the following command: --port /dev/ttyUSB0 --baud 115200 write_flash --flash_size=8m 0 esp8266-20161110-v1.8.6.bin

and here is what it should look like:


By the way, you can try higher baud rates if you want to speed up the process but 115200 is a safe one.

Next, disconnect and reconnect the USB cable. Check again the port name and use a serial terminal application to connect to the module which now expects 115200 baud rate communication. I use picoterm using the following:

picocom /dev/ttyUSB0 -b 115200

Press ENTER once and you will be prompted with the familiar >>> Your module is now flahsed and you can start typing away in Python. Before closing, lets see a couple of commands to see how this works. We will flash the LED on the ESP8266 a couple of times. To do this, we need to import machine in order to manipulate the values on the pins.

import machine
import time
led_pin = machine.Pin(2, machine.Pin.OUT)
def flash_led(lp):

With the above snippet, we created a function `flash_led` that takes as an argument a pin from the ESP8266 module and toggles its value. At the start, we assign pin 2 to `led_pin`. So finally, run


to flash the LED on the board.

Hope this was useful to you. Let me know of your comments.


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Autoroute PCBs in KiCad offline

October 31st, 2014 No comments

Few months back, the autorouter in KiCad stopped working. KiCad was using the free online autorouter which is now not working. The author was kind enough to open-source it and you can find it in various locations in the Internet.

Now if you want to use it directly, you can use pre-compiled files. I found them in this GitHub repository, look into the binaries directory. Download the file you are interested in. Since I am working in Ubuntu I downloaded the .jar file. Then to be able to run it, you have to install Java. I used this package

sudo apt-get install openjdk-8-jre-headless

First make sure you export your KiCad board file as .dsn from FILE>EXPORT>Specctra DSN

Then run

java -jar FreeRouting.jar

Open you .dsn file and click Autorouter!FreeRouter KiCad Offline



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KiCad (latest dev version) does not work with Ubuntu 14.10

October 28th, 2014 No comments

I installed the latest dev version of KiCad but it seems to be problematic with the new Ubuntu 14.10. The problem is that some functions like ‘Place Component’ don’t work and freeze the application. I tried both using the PPA installation method and building from source (bzr version 5233). Have you also experienced this bug? Let me know in the comments. If I get to solve this I will update.

UPDATE 30/10/2014: So it seems that the problem occurs due to the Windows Manager (Unity). I installed GNOME and KiCad now works.

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Double Fine Adventure almost at $2,000,000

February 18th, 2012 No comments

If you haven’t already heard, this game already collected $1.9+ as a kickstarter project. WOW!!! I am also backing the project and I really hope it turns out well.

Those guys really deserve it. I have such great memories playing their games as a kid. Go Tim go!


I am a backer!!!

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Install sun-Java6-bin on Ubuntu 10.04

June 3rd, 2010 No comments

Just a quick tip. If you try to install Java in a fresh Ubuntu 10.04 system you won’t get very far as the Java moved to the Partern repository. To fix this open the command line and write:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb lucid partner"
sudo apt-get update

Then you can install your Java πŸ™‚

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Lego Mindstorms – Interesting Advanced Projects

March 27th, 2010 No comments

When I was a kid I remember building small houses and castles using my Lego pieces collection. Even back then you could tell that people creating that stuff had a really creative thinking and ideas. Looking at todays Lego robotic products you can safely assume that they still have that flare of creativity πŸ™‚

Few years back I also bought my first Mindstorms kit. I was quite amazed by the possibilities of this kit. However, me as a person, I have short imagination πŸ™‚ therefore I quickly run out of ideas and moved on to other stuff.

Recently I came across some interesting projects done using the newest NXT mindstorms by Lego and I was truly amazed BIG TIME! Some people have really clever ideas and they implement them beautifully. Not only they are able to put together a working body frame but also there is some clever programming too! Read more…

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How to install Box2D for BlitzMax

December 11th, 2009 7 comments

Well, generally when a deadline is approaching I tend to lose focus from work πŸ˜€ . Well having one close deadline, today I remember to refresh my BlitzMax knowledge! BlitzMax is a 2D game development environment that I bought some years ago. If you are interested on 2D game programming you should check it out. When I was doing my research, I found it to be at the exact abstract level that I needed it to be, hiding enough details from the ‘boring stuff’ and at the same time having great flexibility. Read more…

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ZigBee Switch with no batteries!

July 17th, 2009 No comments

I read this today and I think it is pretty interesting.

Schneider Electric company have developed a new prototype switch for ZigBee networks that operates completely green! That means no batteries at all! This self-powered switch could be real useful in housing applications. Convenient, wireless and total green. What else could you ask for?

See more infoΒ here. It’s their press release.

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first post!

October 17th, 2008 1 comment

Hey! This is the first post of my blog. I am going to keep it a simple and hope that is going to grow larger and stronger!

So here goes the first post!

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