Getting started

I’m using a laptop running Ubuntu for this experiment but all the software mentioned here is cross platform so you should be able to get it working on Windows / Mac.

  • You’ll need to download the Arduino IDE from which will also install the necessary drivers if you’re on Windows / Mac so you can detect the device when you plug it in via a USB cable.

Your desktop / laptop can program and communicate with the device via a USB cable which works as a virtual serial port. On Ubuntu, when you plug in the USB cable, you get a new serial device appear as /dev/ttyUSB0

  • My desktop user didn’t have the necessary privileges to access this file so I couldn’t write any programs until I ran the following in a console:
sudo adduser yourusername dialout
  • Replace yourusername with whatever user you’re logged in as and then restart with
sudo shutdown -r now

Next, load the Arduino IDE and you should see a code window as shown below (left):

Arduino IDE

Arduino IDE

The template code contains two functions: setup and loop

Any code you write inside the setup  function will just run once. 

Any code you write inside the loop  function will keep looping repeatedly until the device powers off.

The device I’ve got is based on a ESP-8266 chipset which has WiFi connectivity built in but you need to download some additional files before the Arduino IDE will recognise it.

  • Click on File > Preferences and enter this URL into the Additional Board Manager URLs setting:
  • Now you should be able to click on Tools > Board > Board Manager and search for esp8266 so you can install the community plugin that lets you program ESP8266 devices (shown right). The version that worked best for me was  2.4.0-rc2
  • Use Tools > Board to select whichever device you’ve got. After a little trial and error, these settings worked for me:

Board: WeMos D1 R2 & mini

Flash Size: 4M (3M SPIFFS)

CPU Frequency: 80MHz

Upload speed: 921600

Port: /dev/ttyUSB0 (this will be something like COM3 if you’re in Windows)