All posts by scruss

ESP8266 BASIC is seriously neat!

screenshot-from-2016-09-19-22-27-57That picture might not look much, but it’s doing something rather wonderful. It’s a tiny ESP8266 BASIC script running on a super-cheap ESP8266 wifi module. The code draws a clock that’s synced to an NTP server. ESP8266 BASIC graphic commands are built from SVG, so anything you can draw on the screen can also be saved as a vector graphic:

The runtime includes a simple textarea editor that saves code to the board’s flash:

screenshot-from-2016-09-19-22-28-53(and yes, that first line is all you need to set up NTP sync)

Among other features, ESP8266 BASIC has a simple but useful variable display:

screenshot-from-2016-09-19-22-30-17I’d picked up a (possible knock-off of a) WeMos D1 ESP8266 board in Arduino form factor a few months ago. The Software now supports ESP8266 directly, so it’s much easier to program. Flashing the BASIC code to the board was very simple, as I’d noticed that the Arduino IDE printed all of its commands to the console. All I needed to do was download an ESP8266 BASIC Binary, and then run a modified Arduino upload line from the terminal:

~/.arduino15/packages/esp8266/tools/esptool/0.4.9/esptool -vv -cd nodemcu -cb 921600 -cp /dev/ttyUSB2 -ca 0x00000 -cf ESP8266Basic.cpp.bin

ESP8266 BASIC starts in wireless access point mode, so you’ll have to connect to the network it provides initially. Under Settings you can enter your normal network details, and it will join your wifi network on next reboot. I just hope it doesn’t wander around my network looking for things to steal …

micro, a nice little text editor


micro – – is a terminal-based text editor. Unlike vi, emacs and nano, it has sensible default command keys: Ctrl+S saves, Ctrl+Q quits, Ctrl+X/C/V cuts/copies/pastes, etc. micro also supports full mouse control (even over ssh), Unicode and colour syntax highlighting.

micro is written in Go – – so is very easy to install:

go get -u

If you don’t already have Go installed, it’s pretty simple, even on a Raspberry Pi:

If your running under Linux, you probably want to have xclip installed for better cut/paste support.

Overall, I really like micro. It’s much easier to use than any of the standard Linux text editors. It uses key commands that most people expect. Creating code should not be made harder than it needs to be.

(I was about to suggest FTE, as it appears to be the closest thing to the old MS-DOS 6 editor that I’ve seen under Linux. While it’s a great plain text editor, its Unicode support isn’t where it needs to be in 2016.
micro suggestion came via MetaFilter’s Ctrl + Q to quit. Need I say more?


sampleYup, another highly impractical monospaced font. This one is based on a short-lived 22 segment display made in the early 1980s by Litronix (datasheet).

It’s also on Fontlibrary: ThreeFourTwoTwo.

Local download: ThreeFourTwoTwo .

If you use this font red on a dark background and under-print the ¤ character in a faint colour, you get an approximation of the LED segment mask:


the old freezer baggie and Goo Gone trick

acrylic in a freezer baggie with Goo Gone to soak off backing
Getting the backing paper off laser cut acrylic is a pain. Some people recommend d-limonene, a citrus-derived solvent that is the main active ingredient of Goo Gone.

Pour a little Goo Gone into a tough freezer baggie, and place your acrylic part inside. Seal it up, and lay it flat for a few minutes. After that, flip it over and let the other side soak for a few. Open the bag and fish out your work. The backing paper should just slough off. Now rinse off the acrylic with washing-up liquid/dish detergent and warm water, taking care not to scrape the surface. You should now have a perfectly clean and shiny acrylic object. The d-limonene has the pleasant side-effect of de-stinkifying the cut plastic, too.

You should be able to re-use the Goo Gone baggie many times if you’re careful. You might not be able to rinse Goo Gone down the drain where you are; please check local regulations.

(The piece is the non-broken version of this.)