A Test in Time

A Test in Time

My Clock Making Adventure begins. . . 

IMG 2228

Clocks seem to be one of the good-ole-standbye projects. And why not? They are useful and it is easy to get creative with them. In this post I show you how I have started on my journey of time. 

I have looked at my options for keeping time. Micro controller a yes and then a time source. Micro controllers themselves are terrible timekeepers over long periods of time. A popular option is an Arduino Uno (or other such board) and a RTC (Real Time Clock) such as the DS3231 or DS1307. Once it is configured, it does keep time quite well and over a long period of time. It uses a backup battery to keep time if power is lost. There is some drift in the clocks, but over a year it is fairly small. 


I played around with it, but I have been having fun with the ESP-01. It is a fun little chip. It is part of the ESP8266 family. I found my controller and way for time, NTP (Network Time Protocol) to keep accurate time. The ESP requires an active internet connection for it to keep time, which is the con(?) of this project, but the time is kept spot on. 

I have used the LED and OLED displays in the past and like using them. In this project I wanted the display to be simple. My main focus is to learn about time. The packet getting the time, picking the packet apart, and displaying the correct time for where I am at. For that purpose I picked a 4-digit, 7-segment display using a TM1637 chip to drive it. And I had one in my displays drawer. 

IMG 2134


From the schematic above the pin to pin table is:

      Display -> ESP-01

  • CLK -> IO2
  • DI0  -> IO0
  • Vcc  -> 3.3v
  • Gnd -> Gnd

As a quick test here, you can plug everything into 3.3volt power and the display should read 0123. Now it is time to move on to the code. 

I am not sure where I found the core time code I am using (if anyone recognizes it let me know and I will give due credit), but I started with a code base that would get a NTP UDP packet from a NTP time server. This method does not use one of the NTP libraries, but relies on decoding the packet and calculating the time. One other feature I added was the WiFiManager library. It is a wonderful addition to any wireless project as it makes setting up wireless a breeze and you don’t have to have people edit the sketch. I like to give away some of my projects and this makes it easy for the people I give the to. All they need is a web browser to set it up and get it running. 

My code can be found over at my GitHub

Taking a break. I will be back to update this soon. . . 

New Wireless!!! Linksys Velop Review

Home Wireless Upgrade to the Linksys Velop

A confluence of circumstances recently had me upgrade my home wireless. It has been on my plate the past few months as my connection in the basement is up and down like The Beast, there is no connection at the other end of the house, and standing outside; forget about it!

I have been doing my homework while waiting for the right time. In one of my careers as a Network Engineer, I spent a lot of time supporting wireless; enterprise wireless. 2 controllers and over 900 access points, thousands of devices per day, yet at home it was the dark ages. I tried a couple of remedies such as wireless extenders (worthless) and playing with OpenWRT to see if I could tweak the settings to pull out a little more life from the aged Netgear 600. 

I knew from my quick survey out of iStumbler that the airwaves were getting a little crowded.  



Once iStumbler confirmed what I already knew, I brought out Chanalyzer to take a closer look. Yikes, that is some dirty air out there and 2.4GHz is a wasteland. I already knew from my experience that 5GHz was a necessity!! All of my major devices are Apple and ready for 5GHz. Having AC on board the access point would be a nice addition as it is the up and coming next standard. The 5GHz range is looking quite nice in my area right about now, so it is a great time to move in. 

HomeWiFI Analyzer

Knowing I have to cover my whole house and I also want it to bleed outside by the pool and porch, multiple access points would serve my purpose. Part of the enterprise setup I had my hands in also used a series of access points that didn’t use a main controller per say. There was one that acted as the controller for all the others, creating a MESH network. It was pretty cool and kept the cost down for our remote sites; but the price was still out of range for home. Then last fall I started to read about MESH networks for the home. Now this is something I can get on the band wagon about. 

Reading over the specs for all of them I believe that the Linksys Velop it on top of the stack right now. At least for my wireless upgrade it does. It has 2.4/5GHz (some other brands only work with 2.4, yikes) b/g/n/ac. The setup really is, almost as easy as they claim. 

I am still reading up on how the do their backhaul between the APs. My understanding so far is that 2 of the channels are bonded for speeds to the clients and there is a single 5GHz channel for talking between the two. And after seeing my iStumbler chart from above, I have some other questions as well. 

After unboxing them, I placed the new one, right where the old one sat; right next to the cable modem. I wiped out my phone. side note. at work i actually bothered to download the manual and read it. yes it was the simple users guide, but i was able to make sure i was doing everything right to get it working, i can dink later. oh and i also installed the app so i was ready to go. I fired up the Velop app and just like the screen said it took a couple of minutes for it to find the access point and link up. Once I had the first one up I wandered around the house to see how it was. WOW, I was impressed already and there was only one AP up. I had signal in the kitchen and some outside! A small victory. 

Now to place the second one. I already had a place in mind for it. Velop has other plans and they are kind of hit and miss in my opinion. I first started with the AP in one room over, up on a shelf. So it was going through 2 2×4 drywalled walls, about 40-45 feet away. Nope it complain that I need to try closer. It was during this time, setting up the second one that was most frustrating. The progress bar is honest when it says it will be a few minutes. And it also took out my iPhone a couple of times. By 1:30am I gave up on the second one. It was late and I was frustrated. 

The next day I gave it another try after and fresh cup of joe. This time, the last time, I place it with one wall and about 30 feet between the two. Shazam! The two started talking and doing their thing. 

IMG 2053

Wireless, I am now King of the Hill on my end of the street. The drops in the basement are gone. I can surf from the car, through the house, and out to the pool. The speeds are very nice between devices, especially for backups. After having it up and working now for a little over a week, the whole family is very pleased with the results.