NodeMCU Lua setup using a Mac

I recently bought a NodeMCU. This is a small ESP8266 based card with built in WiFi, MicroUSB, and a Lua interpreter that can be used for developing IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

I had trouble getting it working initially, so I wanted to share how I fixed this on a Mac.

Install Mac drivers

If you’re not using a Mac, you can skip this part.

You plug the NodeMCU into the Mac via USB. The Mac won’t support this by default, and you need to install a driver. The driver you need to install is the Silcon Labs CP210x USB to UART Bridge.

Once installed, plug in the NodeMCU and check that the device /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART exists.

To connect to the NodeMCU, you’ll need some tools. To test, download CoolTerm. In Options, for Port select SLAB_USBtoUART, and for Baudrate select 115200.

If you are lucky you’ll get a prompt, if not you may need to build and install some new firmware.

If you do get a prompt type…

print "Hello";

… and Lua should echo “Hello” back to you.

Build and install the NodeMCU firmware

If you need to build new firmware, there is a very useful online site called NodeMCU-Build.com that I used to build the firmware with the right modules I wanted for my project.

Once you’ve build the firmware, you’ll need to install the Python esptool.py to flash the firmware to the NodeMCU.

git clone https://github.com/themadinventor/esptool.git
cd esptool
sudo python ./setup.py install

Check the flash size of your NodeMCU.

To flash the firmware hold down “FLASH” and press “RST” on the NodeMCU, then use the following command (remembering to disconnect CoolTerm first if connected)…

esptool.py --port /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART write_flash -fm dio 0x00000 ~/Downloads/nodemcu-master-12-modules-2017-07-07-21-24-03-float.bin

As esptool.py runs, you should see something like this…

esptool.py v2.0.1
Connecting........_
Detecting chip type... ESP8266
Chip is ESP8266
Uploading stub...
Running stub...
Stub running...
Configuring flash size...
Auto-detected Flash size: 4MB
Flash params set to 0x0240
Compressed 754992 bytes to 505060...
Wrote 754992 bytes (505060 compressed) at 0x00000000 in 44.5 seconds (effective 135.6 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.

Leaving...
Hard resetting...

Connect to it using CoolTerm, then press the “RST” button. You should see some messy characters, then something like following (depending on what you built into your firmware)…

NodeMCU custom build by frightanic.com
.branch: master
.commit: c8ac5cfb912ff206b03dd7c60ffbb2dafb83fe5e
.SSL: true
.modules: adc,bit,cron,crypto,encoder,file,gpio,http,i2c,net,node,ow,pcm,sjson,sntp,spi,struct,tmr,u8g,uart,websocket,wifi,tls
 build .built on: 2017-07-12 09:30
 powered by Lua 5.1.4 on SDK 2.1.0(116b762)
lua: cannot open init.lua
>

Upload Lua code to the NodeMCU

The best way to get Lua code onto the NodeMCU is to use the Python luatool.

git clone https://github.com/4refr0nt/luatool
cd luatool

To test we’ll upload a simple Lua script that will blink the NodeMCU’s onboard LED, save this as “blink.lua”.

LED_PIN = 0

gpio.mode(LED_PIN, gpio.OUTPUT)
value = true

tmr.alarm(0, 500, 1, function ()
    gpio.write(LED_PIN, value and gpio.HIGH or gpio.LOW)
    value = not value
end)

Upload it to the NodeMCU using the following command (making sure Coolterm is disconnected first)…

python luatool/luatool.py --port /dev/tty.SLAB_USBtoUART --src blink.lua --dest init.lua --dofile

You should see the following…

->file.open("init.lua", "w") -> ok
->file.close() -> ok
->file.remove("init.lua") -> ok
->file.open("init.lua", "w+") -> ok
->file.writeline([==[LED_PIN = 0]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[gpio.mode(LED_PIN, gpio.OUTPUT)]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[value = true]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[tmr.alarm(0, 500, 1, function ()]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[gpio.write(LED_PIN, value and gpio.HIGH or gpio.LOW)]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[value = not value]==]) -> ok
->file.writeline([==[end)]==]) -> ok
->file.flush() -> ok
->file.close() -> ok
->dofile("init.lua") -> send without check
--->>> All done <<<--

The onboard LED on the NodeMCU should now be blinking.

The NodeMCU executes the init.lua script by default, so when we upload we tell luatool to upload our blink.lua script as init.lua.

Controlling a LED on a Raspberry Pi with PHP

I wanted to make a LED light up using PHP on a Raspberry Pi. Most of the examples I’ve seen are for Python, so I wanted to see if was possible or not.

It is actually pretty easy to do, so I thought I’d share my work.

The first thing to do is to wire up the LED to the Raspberry Pi. I used a breadboard so there is no soldering required.

Connect the LED to GPIO pin 18, along with a 330ohm resistor, to GND. We need the resistor to limit the current through the LED otherwise it could burn out.

That’s the LED attached to Raspberry Pi, now we need to control it with PHP code.

PHP LED Control Code

Before we can write any PHP, we need to enable the gpio module on the Raspberry Pi.

sudo modprobe w1-gpio

We need a third party PHP library to be able to talk to the GPIO pins. I’m using php-gpio.

We need to install this with Composer before we can use it.

get http://getcomposer.org/composer.phar
php composer.phar require ronanguilloux/php-gpio

We can now start our PHP code by using the autoloader to bring in the GPIO library.

require 'vendor/autoload.php';

use PhpGpio\Gpio;
$gpio = new GPIO();

Now to control the LED we need to make sure GPIO pin 18 is set to “out”.

$gpio->setup(18, 'out');

To turn the LED on we write the value “1” to pin 18.

$gpio->output(18, 1);

To turn the LED off we write the value “0” to pin 18.

$gpio->output(18, 0);

Finally, we need to make sure we clean up after ourselves.

$gpio->unexportAll();

The Final Code

Bringing this all together, we can write a simple PHP script to turn the LED on, wait 1 second, and turn it off again.

<?php

require 'vendor/autoload.php';

use PhpGpio\Gpio;
$gpio = new GPIO();
$gpio->setup(18, 'out');

echo "LED on\n";
$gpio->output(18, 1);

sleep(1);

echo "LED off\n";
$gpio->output(18, 0);

$gpio->unexportAll();

The final code needs to be run as root to be able to access gpio.