Flashing ESP8266 module ESP-01 in Manjaro (Arch Linux) and a story of Serial Port under Linux

Flashing ESP8266 module ESP-01 in Manjaro (Arch Linux) and a story of Serial Port under Linux

17 Jun 2020, 06:41pm TZ +05:30
hardware, WiFi, ESP8266, Espressif, manjaro, linux, serial-port
Embedded, IoT

ESP8266 Flashing on Manjaro (Arch Linux)

Let’s look at how to use Serial-Port under Manjaro (Arch-Linux) . Our goal would be to flash a ESP8266 chip . More specifically the tiny module ESP-01 .

This may be out of time in the 2020.

I wanted to fix the serial-port issues once and for all.

Here goes my quest to simplify serial-port logging & debugging on Linux.

1. ESP-01 Module #

It’s been some time since my last adventure with ESP8266.

Things have advance much further. ESP-01 remains to be cheapest of the WiFi modules.

Here is a link to ESP-01 specification in PDF from the original company Ai-thinker :

http://wiki.ai-thinker.com/_media/esp8266/docs/a001ps01a2_esp-01_product_specification_v1.2.pdf

ESP-01 ESP8266 Module

Source : ESP8266 Community Website

1.a Buy ESP-01 #

ESP-01 is a very widely used module. It can easily be bought locally in Bharat (India).

Here are some of the usual places :

2. Serial Port - CP2102 USB Dongle - USB to TTL #

In the past I have used CP2102 for my serial port needs. It has proven time and again to be a useful chip. There are no driver issues in any version of Linux. Many small development boards also come with this chip.

The CP2102 USB to UART Bridge provides a complete plug and play interface solution that includes royalty-free drivers. This USB 2.0 compliant device includes 0 digital I/O pins and is available in a 5x5 mm QFN28 package.

Source : Silabs

This is one of my favorite modules for CP2102:

CP2102 Black USB to Serial Board

The reasons for this board’s optimality :

  • All Serial port pins brought out to header
  • CP2102 pins are inherently 3.3V input but 5V tolerant
  • Both 3.3V (100mA only) and 5V available
  • Breadboard friendly pin-out.

Lately this board has become scares. There are new improved alternatives also available. Here we would be using this board. The similar connections can be followed on other Serial-port boards also.

2.a Buy CP2102 Black Board #

Currently very few places sell these local in Bharat (India):

Still many of the shops in local electronics markets do carry these.

2.b Possible Alternatives #

Here are few alternatives for these serial port boards:

3. Serial Port in Linux #

Typically all the devices in Linux are just files.
Serial ports are not any different.

3.a The Devices #

Typical Serial Port devices under Linux :

  • /dev/ttyUSB0 = Typically for any USB-Serial converter chips like CP2102, FT232, PL2303, CH340 .etc. Depending on the number of devices attached one can have ttyUSB1, ttyUSB2 and so-on.
  • /dev/ttyACM0 = Typically for any emulated USB-Serial devices. Such as USB-CDC drivers on various development boards. Similar to the normal chip based USB-Serial, when multiple of such devices are connected the numbering becomes ttyACM1, ttyACM2 and so-on. Examples of such devices are ST-LINK/V2-1 with serial-link enabled Nucleo boards, Arduino Zero (Native USB) .etc.

3.b Serial Port parameters #

Apart from the device name there are many parameters that govern the serial port operation.

These come from the legacy of RS232 lineage.

  • BAUD rate = Speed of communication. Typically measured bits-per-second. Some of the typical BAUD rates are 9600, 14400, 19200, 38400, 57600, 115200 and more. Most of the times than not 9600 and 115200 are the common values that one comes across. Some devices use odd ball BAUD rates like ESP8266 which has a default speed of 74880 instead of the defaults. Typically all these BAUD rates were are derivative of a crystal frequency 11.0592MHz or 3.6864MHz.

  • Data Bits = Number of bits sent in one go. Typically its 8-bits or 1 Byte per character transmitted over serial. Again other values like 5, 6 and 7 are for legacy reasons. We would use 8 for most cases.

  • Stop Bits = These are used to indicate the pause or end of one character transmitted over serial port. Typically 1-bit is sufficient for our purposes.

  • Parity = "Odd" or "Even" or "None" : This is an error checking bit that’s generated by counting number of 1s in the character begin sent. Typically we would keep it as "None".

  • Handshake = "Hardware" or "Software" or "None" : This is a way of synchronizing communications between two serial port devices. We use these synchronization signals RTS, DTR for other purposes. Hence the "None" would be our choice.

3.c Serial Port Physical interface #

Another important distinction is the signal voltage level. Here are the various voltage levels :

  • RS232 standard levels : +15V to -15V max.
  • RS422 standard levels : +25V to 0V max.
  • RS485 standard levels : +24V to -24V max.
  • TTL-5V RS232C levels : +5.5V to 0V max.
  • TTL-3V RS232C levels : +3.3V to 0V max.

Typically the TTL-5V and TTL-3V are the only ones supported in the USB-Serial converters are talking here. Among them our focus would be on the TTL-3V for CP2102 board discussed earlier.

3.d Permission for Serial Port access under Linux #

In order to access the Serial port one requires permissions.

Typically under Manjaro (Arch Linux) a user needs to be a member of uucp and lock groups.

1
2
3
4
5
6
...
# Add current User to 'uucp' group
sudo usermod -aG uucp $USER
...
# Add current user to 'lock' group
sudo usermod -aG lock $USER

After adding the user to the groups one needs to reboot the computer.

For more information on how to use Serial Ports and permission under Manjaro (Arch Linux):

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Working_with_the_serial_console

In case of Ubuntu or Debian Linux based systems the group is called as dialout:

1
2
3
4
...
# Add current user to `dialout` group
sudo usermod -aG dialout $USER
...

4. Tools for Serial Port in Linux #

There may be a plethora of tools out for Windows. On Linux side there only a few. Though one can argue that, our focus is on Embedded application use. Not the generic one. Hence we need some specialized tools.

Here are list of few tools for Embedded logging, debugging activity use in Manjaro (Arch Linux) :

4.a picocom - minimal terminal emulation program #

The program picocom is a Linux terminal program. It sets up the communication with the desired Serial port with the chosen settings.

Inside the picocom terminal control can be initiated using
Ctrl + a key combination. Its also called the Escape character.

Here are list of useful shortcuts using Ctrl + a before:

  • Ctrl + x = Exit the picocom program
  • Ctrl + t = Toggle DTR line on the Serial Port
  • Ctrl + g = Toggle RTS line on the Serial Port
  • Ctrl + b = Change Baud rate of the serial port
  • Ctrl + h = Show the Key shortcuts

For more insight visit:

https://linux.die.net/man/8/picocom

Install picocom #

For Manjaro (Arch Linux):

1
2
3
4
...
# Install picocom in Manjaro (Arch Linux)
sudo pacman -Syyu picocom
...

For `Ubuntu or Debian Linux:

1
2
3
...
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y picocom
...

Use picocom #

On the shell to initiate picocom write:

1
2
3
4
...
# Open Serial terminal using 'picocom' on '/dev/ttyUSB0'
picocom -b 115200 --imap lfcrlf /dev/ttyUSB0
...

This would open a terminal for /dev/ttyUSB0. The set baud rate would be 115200 using the -b option.

The additional --imap lfcrlf helps to convert the Linux Terminal <LF> or \r into <CR>+<LF> or \r\n.

4.b moserial - GNOME Serial terminal program #

This is gtk based serial terminal for logging and file capture.

For all those liking GUI better than the Terminal.

Though the project is in beta state, the program is very well functional.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/moserial/

moserial program window

However this does not have capability to control RTS and DTR signals. Also it only supports Standard Baud rates. In our case we need custom Baud rate if we want to talk to ESP8266.

Install moserial #

For Manjaro (Arch Linux):

1
2
3
4
...
# Install moserial in Manjaro (Arch Linux)
sudo pacman -Syyu moserial
...

For `Ubuntu or Debian Linux:

1
2
3
...
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y moserial
...

4.c ESPlorer - ESP8266 IDE for Lua and MicroPython #

This is combined tool targeted to ESP8266 users. It contains an IDE for editing both LUA and MicroPython code. In addition it supports the AT command firmware commands.

For more information and Download visit:

Here is UI:

ESPlorer IDE picture

Source: ESPlorer project

This is very useful and preferred:

  • It has independent control for RTS and DTR signals
  • Support for ESP8266 specific and general Baud rates.

Hence we would be using this.

Please note that this needs JDK to be installed prior to running it.

Download ESPlorer #

Download this file:

http://esp8266.ru/esplorer-latest/?f=ESPlorer.zip

Then Extract it in a desired location creating the ESPlorer folder.

Running ESPlorer #

In a terminal run the following:

1
2
3
4
# Go to the ESPlorer directory
cd <Path-to-ESPlorer>
# Run the JAR file
java -jar ESPlorer.jar

5. Connecting CP2102 Board to ESP8266 module ESP-01 #

Let’s now look at how we can connect the CP2102 Black Board and ESP8266 module ESP-01.

Here is a representative schematic:

Connections between CP2102 Board and ESP8266 Module ESP-01

Here is a Table showing the actual connections:

S. NoCP2102 Black BoardESP8266 Module ESP-01Color
13V3VCC Red 
2GNDGND Pink 
3RXITXD Blue 
4TXORXD Green 
5DTRGPIO0 Cyan 
6RTSEN / CH_PD Brown 

Here is the Pin-outs of both the boards :

Pin-outs of CP2102 Board and ESP8266 Module ESP-01

Double check the wiring before plugging in the USB connector.

5.a Insight into the Wiring #

Well you might wonder why we did the wiring this way. There are reasons.

  • TX to RX connection is logical, since Input to Output mapping is needed for any communication channel.
  • Power pin VCC to 3V3 connections - we need 3.3V for the ESP-01 to work.
  • Ground forms the reference.
  • The other two pins CH_PD and GPIO0 follow the directive from :
    esptool recommendations

For more details of ESP8266 Boot Mode selection:

https://github.com/espressif/esptool/wiki/ESP8266-Boot-Mode-Selection

6. Using Arduino to flash ESP-01 module via CP2102 Board #

With our circuit in place, we have a programming setup.

Let’s first try to test out our setup with Arduino

6.a Install ESP8266-Arduino Board Package #

In order to do so first we need the ESP8266-Arduino Board package installed.

https://github.com/esp8266/Arduino

We need to add URL in the Arduino:

  1. Open File => Preferences => Additional Board Manager URLs:
  2. In the field Additional Board Manager URLs: click on the button at the end. It would open a window called "Additional Boards Manager URLs".
  3. Enter the path to the ESP8266-Arduino Board package :
    https://arduino.esp8266.com/stable/package_esp8266com_index.json
  4. Click on "OK" in the "Additional Boards Manager URLs" window
  5. Again click on "OK" in the "Preference" window to save the configuration.
  6. Next Open Board Manager from Tools => Board:"...." => Boards Manager...
  7. Type ESP8266 in the search box. This would bring up the ESP8266 Arduino package.
  8. Click on “esp8266” and then click on "Install" to begin the installation.
  9. Watch the lower bar for completion of the process
  10. After completion click on "Close" to exit the Board Manager.

Now that we have the ESP8266 Arduino install, we can begin programming the ESP-01.

Lets first select the correct ESP8266 board.

Board Selection for ESP-01 module

Next make sure that the board configuration is correct.

Board Configuration for ESP-01 module

In case the default selections are incorrect, make sure to correct them as show above.

Make sure that the correct Serial port is selected.

Load the Blinky Example from

File => Examples => ESP8266 => Blink

Blinky Example for ESP8266

The Blue LED on the ESP-01 board should now start blinking.

7. Using esptool to flash ESP-01 with AT Firmware #

esptool

A Python-based, open source, platform independent, utility to communicate with the ROM bootloader in Espressif ESP8266 & ESP32 chips.

esptool.py was started by Fredrik Ahlberg (@themadinventor) as an unofficial community project. It is now also supported by Espressif. Current primary maintainer is Angus Gratton (@projectgus).

Source : esptool repo at Github

It’s an advanced tool for programming ESP8266. Internally Arduino in the earlier step also uses esptool.

7.a Install esptool #

Typically there are two ways :

For Manjaro (Arch Linux):

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
...
# Install using 'pip'
sudo pip install esptool
...
# Install using Package manager
sudo pacman -Syyu esptool
...

For Ubuntu or Debian Linux:

1
2
3
...
# Install using package manager
sudo apt update && sudo apt install esptool

Its better to install using pip in Ubuntu or Debian Linux. Since they have older versions.

7.b Download the AT Firmware #

We need to obtain the AT Firmware from Espressif website:

https://www.espressif.com/en/support/download/at

Download the latest version of ESP8266 NonOS AT Bin Vx.y.z. At the moment its V1.7.4.

Extract this into a folder, and keep the path handy.

Typically the bin directory is all we want for flashing.

7.c esptool commands #

Let’s check if we can actually perform some communication with ESP8266 using esptool

Fetch Chip ID of the ESP8266 in ESP-01 #

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
esptool.py --chip esp8266 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 chip_id
# Output
esptool.py v2.8
Serial port /dev/ttyUSB0
Connecting....
Chip is ESP8266EX
Features: WiFi
Crystal is 26MHz
MAC: ab:dc:ef:01:23:45
Uploading stub...
Running stub...
Stub running...
Chip ID: 0x0016e932
Hard resetting via RTS pin...

Fetch the Flash Chip ID #

This also tell us the size of the Flash chip.

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
esptool.py --chip esp8266 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 flash_id
# Output
esptool.py v2.8
Serial port /dev/ttyUSB0
Connecting....
Chip is ESP8266EX
Features: WiFi
Crystal is 26MHz
MAC: ab:dc:ef:01:23:45
Uploading stub...
Running stub...
Stub running...
Manufacturer: 85
Device: 6014
Detected flash size: 1MB
Hard resetting via RTS pin...

This confirms our communication with ESP8266 in the ESP-01 module.

7.d Flashing the ESP-01 with AT Firmware #

First go to the bin directory in the extracted AT Firmware. And execute the command.

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
# Go to the Bin directory
cd <Path of extracted AT Firmware>/bin
# Initiate the Flashing
esptool.py --chip esp8266 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 write_flash \
  0x00000 boot_v1.7.bin \
  0x01000 at/512+512/user1.1024.new.2.bin \
  0x7e000 blank.bin \
  0xfc000 esp_init_data_default_v08.bin \
  0xfe000 blank.bin
# It would take a few seconds to complete

Output:

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
esptool.py v2.8
Serial port /dev/ttyUSB0
Connecting....
Chip is ESP8266EX
Features: WiFi
Crystal is 26MHz
MAC: ab:dc:ef:01:23:45
Uploading stub...
Running stub...
Stub running...
Configuring flash size...
Auto-detected Flash size: 1MB
Flash params set to 0x0020
Compressed 4080 bytes to 2936...
Wrote 4080 bytes (2936 compressed) at 0x00000000 in 0.3 seconds (effective 124.5 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.
Compressed 413444 bytes to 296966...
Wrote 413444 bytes (296966 compressed) at 0x00001000 in 33.0 seconds (effective 100.3 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.
Compressed 4096 bytes to 26...
Wrote 4096 bytes (26 compressed) at 0x0007e000 in 0.0 seconds (effective 4761.9 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.
Compressed 128 bytes to 75...
Wrote 128 bytes (75 compressed) at 0x000fc000 in 0.0 seconds (effective 93.2 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.
Compressed 4096 bytes to 26...
Wrote 4096 bytes (26 compressed) at 0x000fe000 in 0.0 seconds (effective 4616.8 kbit/s)...
Hash of data verified.

That’s It ! we are now ready to test out the AT Firmware.

7.e Insight into the flashing command #

Before we test out the AT Firmware let’s take a deeper look at the command. It would enable you to prepare your own commands in the future.

As per the official documentation

# BOOT MODE
## download

### Flash size 8Mbit: 512KB+512KB
    boot_v1.2+.bin              0x00000
    user1.1024.new.2.bin        0x01000
    esp_init_data_default.bin   0xfc000
    blank.bin                   0x7e000 & 0xfe000

In our case we have the following files in bin directory:

  • blank.bin = Empty block
  • boot_v1.7.bin = Bootloader which is equivalent to boot_v1.2+.bin
  • esp_init_data_default_v08.bin = Initialization Data for ESP8266 AT Firmware. Equivalent to esp_init_data_default.bin.
  • Next, at\512+512 directory which represents the 1MB memory broken into 2 blocks. There we find the user1.1024.new.2.bin as needed.

Apart from the names, the document also provides us with the desired addresses where the specific files need to loaded.

From the looks of it we know write_flash would initiate programming.

Hence the command becomes:

1
2
3
4
5
6
esptool.py --chip esp8266 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 write_flash \
  0x00000 boot_v1.7.bin \
  0x01000 at/512+512/user1.1024.new.2.bin \
  0x7e000 blank.bin \
  0xfc000 esp_init_data_default_v08.bin \
  0xfe000 blank.bin

8. Testing AT Firmware on ESP-01 using ESPlorer #

Run the ESPlorer as instructed earlier.

It would connect directly. The default setting is good enough. Switch to the AT-based tab on the left and click on big "Open" button.

8.a AT command Response for checking communications #

Then press the AT command button in the Basic AT Commands section.

It should be something like this.

ESPlorer communicating with ESP-01 on AT Firmware

If the board returns OK upon sending the AT you have communication!.

Your AT Firmware on ESP-01 is running correctly.

8.b AT+GMR command response for AT Firmware Version #

Let’s now look at the version of the AT Firmware using AT+GMR command.

AT+GMR
AT version:1.7.4.0(May 11 2020 19:13:04)
SDK version:3.0.4(9532ceb)
compile time:May 27 2020 10:12:17
Bin version(Wroom 02):1.7.4
OK

Here is how it looks like.

ESPlorer communicating with ESP-01 on AT Firmware showing version

8.c More AT Firmware Commands #

There are various commands to perform WiFi connection, discover networks and various other things.

For more documentation refer to:

9. Success At last ! #

Yes, now you know :

  • How to use Serial Port under Linux
  • What are the tools available that are Embedded application friendly.
  • How to connect ESP8266 module ESP-01 for programming.
  • How to install and use Arduino ESP8266 Board package
  • How to use advanced tools like esptool to flash AT Firmware

This was quite insightful for me as well. Discovering so many things.

This time we breached the 700 line marker.

Hope that this article helps you in getting started with ESP8266 and understanding Serial Ports under Linux a little better.

Let me know if you have any problems or suggestions : DM me on Twitter .