How to use an ESP8266 — a jumpstart tutorial

If you haven’t done so already, go buy yourself an ESP8266-based board. It is a powerful little microcontroller. Something like Arduino but with WiFi.

ESP8266 in the wild

What hardware to get

What software to get

  • ESP open SDK
    • Contains all the tools needed for compiling your own ESP firmware.
  • NodeMCU firmware
    • This converts the ESP to a LUA-powered computer.
  • ESPlorer
    • Very helpful serial terminal with direct ESP8266 and NodeMCU support

What to do with it all

  1. Find the pinout of your board. Get the connections ready (USB-UART + 3.3V power source + ESP8266)
    • 3.3V to VCC, GND to GND
    • RX to TX and TX to RX (ESP–UART).
    • CH_PD to VCC
    • Leave Reset floating, connect to GND to reset the chip when needed.
    • Pull the GPIO0 low for flashing.
  2. If you just want to get the ESP fired up, use the esptool.py and upload the precompiled NodeMCU bin images.
  3. If you want to play around some more, get the SDK and NodeMCU source code. Compile the former and then the latter. Flash our own bin images.
  4. Remove GPIO0 connection to leave the flashing mode.
  5. Open the ESPlorer and issue some commands to the chip!

Useful links

  • Dejvino’s NodeMCU firmware
    • Forked from the original NodeMCU firmware repository. Contains a new Sniffer module — packet sniffing functions exposed to the LUA interpreter. This allows WiFi packet sniffing using the ESP8266.
  • NodeMCU API
    • List of provided LUA functions in the NodeMCU firmware.
  • LUA language reference
    • Beware that not everything is supported in the ESP version of LUA.
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Posted in Awesome, Open source, Programming, Projects, Technology

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