Setting up an ESP8266-03 for complete beginners

This post is for the compete beginner with an interest in the ESP8266 microcontroller. Specifically the plain standard board ESP8266-03.

TTL USB ESP2866-03 size comparison
TTL USB adapter with standard ESP8266-03. Legs have been soldered on, to attach the microcontroller to a breadboard. These things are tiny, much smaller than I expected.

Let’s start with a disclaimer. I’m a completer beginner too. I have no microcontroller experience, never owned an Arduino, or used any kind of development board in the past. So, don’t take this post as an how-to guide, as I may not be following ‘best practises’. I provide this information as I have done it, and take no responsibility if something goes wrong.

What I’ll cover today, and what I won’t

I won’t cover what the board can do, I will assume you have already done your homework and decided you want to get the board set up and programmed with something simple to get started.

Here are steps this post will cover.

  1. Set up the correct wires on a TTL USB adapter.
  2. Solder some pins onto the ESP8266-03 connectors which will allow it to be plugged into a breadboard.
  3. Install a push button switch on the breadboard (allows the ESP8266-03 to start up in program mode later).
  4. Install an LED and 1K resistor on pin GPIO 12.
  5. Set up Arduino IDE and install the ESP8266 board manager.
  6. Boot the ESP8266-03 in program mode, load the sketch, reboot the ESP in normal mode to run the sketch.

On the software side we will use the Arduino IDE (which is free), to send a program (Arduino calls them ‘sketches’ to the board), which will flash the LED and display text to the serial console in the Arduino IDE.

Step One: Set up the correct wires on a TTL USB adapter.

To connect the standard ESP8266-03 board to a PC, you will need a TTL USB adapter. The one I bought is ‘Yizhet 2x FT232RL USB to TTL Serial Converter Adapter 3.3V 5.5V Module Mini Port for Arduino and Raspberry Pi‘ from Amazon.

Make sure it has: RX, TX, 3.3V out and GND. These are the pins we’ll be connecting to the ESP8266-03 module and the breadboard.

I soldered four wires to the pins RX, TX, 3.3v VCC and GND. The soldered connectors are prevented from shorting between each other with some (poorly applied) heat-shrink tubing. RX goes to TXD, TX goes RXD on the ESP8266 and I connected the 3.3v and GND to the power rails on the side of the breadboard.

Step Two. Solder some pins onto the ESP8266-03 connectors which will allow it to be plugged into a breadboard.

Identify the input / output / power connectors needed and solder on some connector pins. If you aren’t using a breadboard perhaps you can just solder on some fine wires. I found some connector pins on an old DVD circuit board, but you could probably cut some legs from a few LEDs.

Pin layout for an EPS2866-03
These are the pins we will be using to set up the EPS8266-03

GND goes to ‘-‘ on the breadboard
TXD goes to the RX pin on the TTL USB adapter
RXD goes to the TX pin on the TTL USB adapter
CH-PD goes to ‘+’ on the breadboard
GPIO 0 goes to a push button, which goes to ‘-‘ on the breadboard
GPIO 12 goes to an LED to 1K resistor, which goes to ‘-‘ on the breadboard
GPIO 15 goes to ‘-‘ on the breadboard
VCC goes to ‘+’ on the breadboard

Step Three. Install a push button switch on the breadboard

Now this is where I initially had trouble. To be able to send sketches from the Arduino IDE, you have to boot the ESP8266 into program mode. You do this by shorting pin GPIO 0 to ground while powering it up. I’ve used a push button on my breadboard, but you can leave it off and just use a simple jumper wire from the pin to the ‘-‘ rail on the breadboard.

So when i want to load a new sketch, with the board off, I hold down the push button (which shorts pin GPIO 0 to GND), then plug in the USB cable, wait a moment and release the push button. The board is now in program mode. I can load the sketch using the Arduino IDE.

When the sketch has been installed, I pull out the USB cable to remove power. Then plug the USB cable back in, to switch the board back on, into normal mode, and the sketch will start running automatically.

Step Four. Install an LED and 1K resistor on pin GPIO 12.

To see the output connect an LED to GPIO12, then use a 1K resistor to GND. The code in the sketch will turn on the LED and read the status of GPIO 12 and print the output to the Arduino IDE serial monitor.

Here is a plan of the layout.

Notice TX goes to RX and RX goes to TX. The pushbutton connects to GPIO 0 (for booting the board into Program mode). The LED is on pin GPIO 12, then to GND through a 1K resistor.

Step Five. Set up Arduino IDE and install the ESP2866 board manager.

Head over to and install the correct for your operating system.

Once installed go to File/Preferences and pasts this URL where it says ‘Additinal Boards Manager URL’s’.

Head to Tools/Boards manager and search for 8266, and install the ESP8266 by ESP8266 Community. From the list of boards you should now select ‘Generic ESP8266 Module’.

Step Six. Boot the ESP8266-03 in program mode, load the sketch, reboot the ESP8266-03 in normal mode to run the sketch.

Blink is basic sketch that comes with the Arduino IDE. The original version of the ESP8266 had a built in blue LED. Because we’re using version 3, there’s no LED, so I have wrote my own code to use GPIO 12 instead.

  Turns an LED connected to GPIO12 on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly.
  Reads the status of pin GPIO12 and outputs status to the Serial Monitor.  

  This code is inspired by the BLINK sketch which is unsuitable for ESP8266-03 because it lack a built in LED.

  by Phil Bryden

// the setup function runs once when you press reset or power the board
void setup() {
  pinMode(12, OUTPUT);  // initialize digital pin GPIO12 as an output.
  Serial.begin(115200); // initialize serial monitor.

// the loop function runs over and over again forever
void loop() {

  digitalWrite(12, HIGH);              // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level) 
  Serial.println(digitalRead(12));     // Reads the out put of GPIO12 and displays it in the serial monitor
  delay(1000);                       // wait for a second

  digitalWrite(12, LOW);             // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
  Serial.println(digitalRead(12));   //Reads the out put of GPIO12 and displays it in the serial monitor
  delay(1000);                      // wait for a second

To install this code

Paste the code above into a new sketch in the Arduino IDE
Hold the push button down, while plugging in the USB
Release the pushbutton (the board is in program mode)
Click the upload arrow icon (top left) in Arduino IDE
Wait for the code to be installed (mine displays ‘Hard resetting via the RTS pin…’ when done)
Unplug and plug in the the USB cable (without holding the push button down) to restart the ESP8266-03
The board should now be in normal mode and the code will run automatically.

If all has gone well the LED will blink on and off for 1 second. There should also a print of what is happening in the Tools/ Serial Monitor window, 1 is high and 0 is low.

If the output in the Serial Monitor is garbage, make sure the baud rate is set to 115200 and be sure to check to see that the correct COM port has been selected too.

That’s it, a beginners guide to setting up the ESP8266-03 with the ArduinoIDE.

I hope this has taken some of the confusion I felt when researching this little microcontroller. Most of the information available was aimed at people with development boards, and I found the learning curve quite steep.

What’s Next?

If this post has been helpful, let me know and I’ll follow it up with a post on how to get the board to read a switch input, then turn on the LED.

Good luck with your own microcontrollers and projects.

I have an instagram account with this sketch running and the follow up program where the LED activates when a button is pressed an input pin. Take a look.

Philips Philishave 282 Battery Replacement

This morning I replaced the non charging battery on my very old, but working Philips Philishave 282

Brand: Philips
Model: Philihsave 282
Fault: Battery not holding charge
Fix: Replacement battery fitted

Philips Philishave 282
A very old Philishave 282. Still working on mains but won’s hold a charge

Opening the shaver is very easy, using a T8 torx bit, I removed the two screws and the cover can then be carefully removed.

Philips Philishave 282 Cover Removed
The old battery needs to be removed by lifting out the circuit board and desoldering from underneath.

The circuit board and motor assembley are in one piece. You have to lift them out together to avoid damaging the fine copper cable holding them together.

Philishave replacement rechargeable NI-MH battery
A replacement 42mm x 14mm Ni-MH battery

The new battery cost me £8.95 which was cheaper than the £20 – £25 price of a new shaver.

Here is the video from this morning. I hope you find it useful.

In the video, the old battery is in the wrong way, this is because I have already removed it to check for any identification numbers before ordering the replacement. This makes it look that I have installed the new battery the wrong way around, but I haven’t. I had to double check and admit, I confused myself, until I remembered I had already taken out the old one and must have put it back the wrong way without thinking.

Buck convertors, power supplies, motherboard power rails and laptop repairs.

If you have any interest in repairing laptop motherboards, you have likely spent many hours watching videos on Youtube. Here the experts with years of experience, are quickly showing how it’s done, with little explanation of what’s really happening.

For the beginner (like me) this can be both fascinating and frustrating. The lack of information aimed at people just starting out, coupled with a steep learning curve is daunting.

Power rails and buck convertors – the penny drops

But, if you watch enough videos the penny drops and things slowly become a little clearer.

Videos on two repair channels really helped me understand why Loius Rossman keeps mentioning PPBUS_G3 HOT in his Macbook repair videos and how buck regulators.

Adam from channel AdamantIT explains buck regulators in this video, and look out for his board repair basic playlist which goes into further detail about power rails.

Sorin from Electronics Repair School always starts at the jack plug too, he explains power rails and what he’s looking for in this video.

But what do you do if you want to poke around a motherboard without risking your own laptop?

Well I found a great example of power rails and buck convertors inside a Virgin Media Superhub 2.

If you’re in the UK there’s a good chance you have one laying around after you have upgraded, or know someone who has an old one hiding in a cupboard.

Here is a very simplified view of the power rails.

Mosfets and coils
VM Superhub 2
Motherboard or Virgin Media’s Superhub 2

Power rails 1.0v, 1.8v, 3.3v and 5v can be found bottom right

All of the power rails are clearly labelled with their respective output volts, 1.0v, 1.8v, 3.3v, and 5v.

Buck regulators
Power rails are clearly labelled

With the help of a multimeter you can explore the board from the 12v supply and probe the inputs and outputs of the various supplies to help get a better understanding of how things work.

The benefit of using a working one, is that you can see how they are supposed to work, rather than blindly probing a dead laptop motherboard, wondering if what you meter reading is correct or not.

Well I hope you found this post useful and good luck with your fixing.

Chips on the board include…

Winbond W971GG6KB-25
1GB DDR2 Memory requires the 1.8v power rail.

E523TH52 DNCE2530GU
Intel Puma CPU – I can’t find the voltage or the datasheet for this chip.

Qualcomm Atheros chip

Qualcomm ethernet switch

ESMT M14D5121632A (two chips)
8MB DDR2 ram hidden beneath cover, require 1.8V

Spansion S34ML01G200TF100
Cypress Semiconductor flash memory

Bush Dab Radio power jack repair video

This morning I recorded my first ‘fix it’ video when attempted to repair a faulty power jack on a Bush Dab radio.

The radio was donated to me, after the previous owner had tried and was unsuccessful to find a lasting solution.

Expecting it be a dry solder joint, my first plan to re-flow the solder, ended with snapped wires and lots of time lost removing old glue holding the power jack in place.

Watch the video below to find out what I should have done first.

Tools used during this fix.

Soldering Station 937D+

Helping hands, great when soldering small parts

GHD 4.2P Repair Success

Apparently GHDs are a girl’s best friend, so when my girlfriends pair developed a fault, I had the chance to earn some brownie points, if I could fix them.

GHD 4.2p
GHD 4.2P

One main problem with ealry 4.2 models is the swivel connector. It’s poorly designed, so if you have a pair that is crackling and popping, then you probably have an old model and you should have the cable and socket upgraded.

Old mains cable and 3 pin socket
Old mains cable and socket on early GHD 4.2 needs upgrading
Replace socket for older GHD 4.2 modles
New upgraded swivel mains adapter and socket

Another simple fix is either replacing the temperature fuse and / or the heating elements. I tested both using a multimeter, the fuse (brown wires) showed it had continuity and the element (clear wires) gave a reading of around 60 Ohms.

Checking temperature fuse and elements
Continuity and resistence testing the fuse and element

With the fuse and both elements checked, I moved onto the R11 and R8 resistors. R8 was working but R11 didn’t give any reading.

R11 and R8 GHD resistors
R11 and R8 resistors

I choose to replace both resistors with new ‘Melf Resistor 50/47 Ohm’.

Sadly it didn’t go as planned and I burnt off one of the pads. Luckily it was pad closest to the screw terminal, so it was a simple case of creating a small jumper wire from the screw terminal to the resistor.

Resistor with jumper wire
New melf 50/47Ohms resistors with small jumper wire

Success. With the new mains cable and resistors the GHD straighters are working.

The mains cable cost £11.49 and the resistors were £1.99 for 10. When you consider a new pair of GHDs are priced at over £100, spending less than £15 to attempt a fix has been well worth the effort.

Now, where’s my brownie points?

Hitachi DV18DSDL Drill Driver attempted fix – fail

Having watched multiple youtube videos of people successfully repairing old and broken power tools, I decided to give it a go myself.

Because I wanted an 18V drill driver for myself I went to ebay and picked up a faulty Hitachi DV-18DSDL for £20.

An initial inspection found no brushes were fitted. Could it be a simple case of fitting new brushed and having a working drill?

Missing brushes

Sadly no. Trying to fit new brushes into the old brush house resulted in a broken brush. So the next option was to order a new brush housing, which came with brushes and brush covers too.

Replacement brush holder

Soldering on the new brush holder wasn’t a problem, but I did notice the red/black wires were on the opposite sides on the new one.

I ignored the colours and kept the brushes on the original side of the switch connector. Had I swapped them over, the forward switch would have ran the drill in reverse and vice versa.

With a new brush holder and brushes, the drill still refused to work, so I turned to youtube and looked at how to fault find the armature.

Using a multi meter and bit knowledge, I found the armature had two broken circuits. This happens when the copper wires have snapped.

Hitachi Broken Armature

Buying a replacement costs around £40, which isn’t economical, so the drill will have to be put to one side and perhaps used for spares, or split up and sold on as parts.

Another option is remove the copper windings and rewind it. I plan to do this when I come across an old motor with the correct sized wire.

Lessons learnt.

Check the armature first, before paying out for any other replacement faulty parts.

Stripping down my Helvetia gents watch – Part 1

This is a series of posts where I’ll be stripping down and cleaning an Helvetia gents watch.

Being my first attempt at horology, I don’t expect things to go straight forward but let’s give it a go.

Here are the tools i’ll be using for the project.

  • Basic watch movement holder
  • loupe
  • brass tweezers
  • 0.8mm, 1mm, 1.2mm precision screwdrivers


Step 1 sees the movement removed from the case, there’s normally  small hole to release the winder (crown), the pointers are removed next and finally the watch face itself. You’re left with the movement, ready to be dismantled.