So what are we doing today? What's the move? How are we making the world a better place?

I'm toying with an idea this morning. Something that just kind of sprung up on me. I might talk about it a bit.

I don't know that it would actually make the world a better place, but it would at least make pockets of it more interesting.

ESP8266 messenger 

This is an idea that's been kicking around in my head this morning. I might do something with it eventually. If it interests you, feel free to grab it up.

The ESP8266 is about the cheapest, simplest modern computer with networking you can lay your hands on. They are frequently less than $2. They are used as the bases for lots of silly and not so silly projects, including things like the ESPBoy and the BASICEngine.

They are small, low power, and cheap. So I was thinking...

ESP8266 messenger 

A lot of what I talk about and focus on WRT the new internet and my project is very focused around using full computers or raspberry pis to emulate the way we interacted with an older system like a BBS or a mainframe or just the pre-web internet.

But the ESP8266 is so cheap, and way more powerful than a lot of folks realize. It has me thinking we could use it to create a new class of device, and a new kind of networked communication.

ESP8266 messenger 

(Again, this just hit me a few minutes ago, it's not a fully formed idea. I'm probably missing something.)

Coupled with some flash storage and some custom firmware (and an optional screen and keyboard -or- a serial connection to another device) the ESP8266 could be pressed in to service as an adhoc peer-to-peer store and forward messenger.

The device supports TLS mutual auth, I think, so it could even be secure.

ESP8266 messenger 

You could rig up some dead drops with solar power, stick one in your home, carry one in your pocket.

Plop general purpose updates on to the device that are broadcast to everyone. Plop encrypted messages that are just passed from device to device until they die or get to their destination. In this way we can support public conversations and private conversations.

Follow

ESP8266 messenger 

Coupled with that software I talked about in my other thread that doesn't exist yet and you've got 'email' and 'blog' and 'forum' support.

(and, of course, nothing says that these things have to use ESP8266s. They could just exist on the internet.

But I'm thinking about a time when I no longer trust the internet at all, instead of only mostly mistrusting it like I do now.

And if that time ever comes, we will need to have been ready already.)

ESP8266 messenger 

I think that's all I have to say about this right now.

I'd be curious about what you think about this. Is it extraneous? Unworkable?

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 I really dig the amount of thought you put into these ideas, and I think it's got lots of value, even if it doesn't all get implemented.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@djsundog Thanks!

It's uhhh... entirely unintentional, and just kind of a thing my brain does when it's idling.

Last night I was thinking about The Basic Engine and the ESPBoy and realizing that the ESP8266 is much faster and more powerful than the fastest and most powerful 8-bit micro, but costs less than $1 in bulk and has built in wireless networking and sips battery power to the point that you could basically run it for a few hours off of a button cell....

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@djsundog

There's a computer that costs less than $1 and has built in wireless networking and we're not using it for wacky cyberpunk shenanigans, and I can't abide that.

The software to power a new underground network should not be hard to write, and the hardware exists in massive quantities, already super cheap.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@djsundog PLUS doing it this way, with comms and encryption on one box, means that you can just plop it on the serial port of whatever other computer you want.

You want a z80 running a LAN BBS? We gotchu covered. the 8266 can translate from unicode to whatever local encoding your using. Can be configured to serve the data in whatever way your software supports.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@djsundog I guess *that* is the revelation here:

The files that make up the internet can be presented in any format, and translated by machines between formats, and can be browsed (and updated) in whatever way is most suited to the device that is accessing them, as long as someone is willing to put in the leg work to write the proxy or the translation layer.

The ESP8266 could supply that translation layer.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 plus, targeting the 8266 opens up any other available hardware that has at least the same set of capabilities, so the protocol(s) should end up nice and portable

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog I've decided to revive my digital watch project I abandoned a few years ago. I moved the project from an ATTiny85 board to an Arduino Nano, but now I have an ESP32 module with a built-in OLED on order. I'm getting very excited about ESP-based wearables!

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@drewzero1 @djsundog There's an ESP32 witha . built in screen? How big is the screen and how much is the board?

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog Lilygo has a line of ESP8266 and 32 boards with extra features, like an OLED, LCD, LoRa etc.

I paid about $15 on Amazon with shipping, could definitely be cheaper elsewhere but I had a gift card. It's supposed to arrive sometime in mid-January. I'll let you know how it goes!

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@drewzero1 @ajroach42 @djsundog
This was my shipment from the LilyGo Store on AliExpress. The gold sticker is a microcontroller with LoRa radio and solar control hardware. The other one is the ESP32 with a LoRa radio and a 0.96" LCD

LoRa is a case of tech being cool even when the use case marketed is somewhere between hype and suck. This is being marketed for smart homes and cities. LoRaWAN is a packet radio network with a 100 bytes/minute throughput, which is just enough for some sensor telemetry, Bluetooth negotiation, or WiFi credentials

This is a dual core, 32 bit computer with the ability to form self-organizing networks that can be reclaimed from IoT peripherals. It's a moral imperative to exploit the hell out of the market dynamics that are putting this thing in lightbulbs

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@yaaps @drewzero1 @djsundog loRaWAN is not something I am familiar with.

What's the range like? True mesh? How do we ... Turn these things in to fidonet or uucp repeaters?!

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42
The range is 1-2 miles. The radio maintains low energy at range by having a very short transmission window and manages interference by spreading the transmission over a swath of bandwidth around 433 Mhz rather than broadcasting a strong signal in a tighter band

There is NPR-70 if someone wanted to utilize 433 Mhz for (most of) a packet radio network. That's more data at a cost of higher power, $80/unit, and I'm not sure about the legality in North America

LORaWAN is low energy and low bandwidth for sensor reports or negotiating connection to another network. So I picture a situation were you can dead drop a solar powered device and anyone with another unit and a copy of the RSA key can retrieve the contents from a mile away or more, or set up a relay network where a number of nodes can be quickly informed to check another location, like an onion address, for detailed information
@drewzero1 @djsundog

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42
I bought the devices in the picture to serve in a personal pager network. The unit with the LCD is $11USD and just needs a battery to serve as a pager. It needs to be programmed to listen on LoRa and fall back to other connections when out of range. I'd like to do something like Pwnagachi, but without Linux
@drewzero1 @djsundog

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@yaaps @drewzero1 @djsundog I'll look in to NPR-70 in the US.

Based on what you're saying, loRaWAN can be used for transmissions in the ballpark of 13.3 bps or 6KB/hour at it's max range?

And based on what I'm reading, that doubles each time you decrease the spread factor (at the cost of dramatically reduced range.)

13 bps is slow, but it is not useless for passive store and forward of short messages.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@yaaps @drewzero1 @djsundog the full text of pride and prejudice is 766KB. Compressed with standard compression (whatever zip algo is built in to the files app on my phone) it is 262KB.

I'm using that as an example becuase I happened to have it handy.

At 6KB/hour it would take 1 day and 20 hours to transmit the full (compressed) text of the novel.

@yaaps @drewzero1 @djsundog Just under 44 hours to transmit a novel over a mile in an urban area with no standing infrastructure. (And a repeater could retransmit it the same distance in the same time, and so on.)

That is almost not useless.

Have you seen the GoTenna? Something with LoRaWAN + some clever software could approximate text messaging, chat rooms, and message boards.

Esp8266 messenger. 

@yaaps @drewzero1 @djsundog

It would all be ephemeral. If you weren't in range for the transmission (or the retransmission) the message would be lost.

But if it was designed correctly... There's something here, I think.

It is very slightly too slow, but I think there is something here.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42
Right. In North American, that range is for control signals with some data permitted but restrictions on how the signals are initiated - either a human button press or a timed communication from a device. So NPR-70, which is also limited to 7 connected devices currently, would probably be legal for a periodic broadcast of control data, but not a broadcast that's a response from an incoming signal, which is probably part of the reason that it is described as supplemental to an amateur radio packet network

LORaWANs, and the radios packaged for tgem, are switchable among supported modes and frequencies, with 433 Mhz being the most popular. The data rate within the packet varies, but the packet length and recommended packet frequency are the same, so software handling data after it's been received has a consistent interface. If you're using the radio outside the supported modes, that's a hardware modification between the radio and the antenna in addition to a software modification and very likely to result in illegal operation

So both LoRaWAN and NPR-70 use 433 Mhz to initialize or schedule communication and 2.4 or 5 GHz for data. LoRaWAN falls back to WiFi and NPR-70 to an amateur packet radio format

The ESP32 has WiFi and Bluetooth low energy baked in, so the ESP32+LoRa is a sweet little package. I can see leaning towards the packet radio if you want something that could be more easily reproduced on a breadboard, though
@drewzero1 @djsundog

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@yaaps @ajroach42 @djsundog My ttgo just arrived in the mail, and it's even smaller than I'd expected! The module and battery easily fit in an Altoids Smalls tin with room for wires and extras. (This is an improvement over the previous generation of this project, which used an Arduino Nano with a similar 0.96" i2c oled module and an old quadcopter battery, and was crammed into a Tic Tacs container. )

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog I really want to avoid following the commercial smart watch trend of making the watch just a phone accessory. My phone sucks and I don't always have it on me, but that shouldn't make my watch become a brick as well. If I'm going to have a freaking computer on my wrist, I'd like to see what I can make it do on its own!

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog I've also wanted to build a computer from components since forever, but it's always more than I can afford and the usefulness is less than I can justify. I've more recently been thinking about a computer based around an MCU to get the feeling of building an 8-bit micro and also be able to do useful things with it.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@drewzero1 @djsundog have you looked at the BASIC engine?

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog I remember looking into it a while ago after seeing you post about it. I don't remember why I stopped looking into it. BASIC was my first language and I still use it on my CoCo occasionally, so it's definitely worth another look.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@drewzero1 @djsundog Some of the parts can only be ordered in bulk is the reason most people stop looking in to it.

I ... have everything to make about twenty of them, if you want me to baggie them up and mail a batch to you.

re: doing today 

@ajroach42 @djsundog What I'm working on today is upgrading some Windows 7 stragglers to 10, and thinking about how to start organizing my shop when I get home. I've finally got enough tools working that last night I was able to take a project from idea to completion, and it was intoxicating to work without hitting a boundary in tools or materials. Now I need to organize things so I'm not digging through or tripping over piles.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog

I just read the conversation about the ESP8266 and find this idea really interesting.

I already built a "mailbox" with it. You simply press a button and it sends out one of five predefined mails.

You can edit the mail templates in a html web interface that is hosted on the ESP8266 itself.

So the esp8266:
- is connected to a wifi hotspot
- sends TLS encrypted mails
- runs a http server for setup/to edit mail templates

Software is written in lua.

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 @djsundog http://disaster.radio has been on this for a year or two. they could use everyones help

re: ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 it's definitely compelling! I'm all for the rise of a distributed pony express for the 21st century and we're already 20% of the way through, so let's get it hammered out this decade so we still have a bunch of time to enjoy it before the 22nd century rolls around ;)

ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42
I had a similar idea back when I was working on Mycroft -- I wanted 'computing throwies' that were cheap ESP-based compute nodes that did ad-hoc networking & ran a distributed prover system with an eventually-consistent distributed knowledge base. I think I ultimately decided the ESP didn't have quite enough RAM for this, but store-and-forward for short text messages is more viable (especially with flash).

ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 This is a cool idea. It doesn't feel plausible to get it to a density where it's viable, though. Might be cool to develop a basic version of this and hand them out at a hacking conference, that seems like a great environment to test this concept.

ESP8266 messenger 

@ajroach42 I had similar thoughts, I'm not up to speed on meshnets and the likes so I can't comment on that, I was thinking along the lines of using bluetooth to broadcast content, kind of like airdrop but you can leave it anywhere

(think temporary art installations, gigs, libraries, protest sites...)

you'd just need the board, coin cell and holder, and a ziplock bag for waterproofing

it's not ideal for the environment though

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