ESP WiFi relay project – update #1

ESP WiFi relay project – preview previewed a WiFi controllable relay board using commonly available low cost hardware from sources like eBay and Aliexpress.

The stimulus for the project is a remotely WiFi controllable relay for reset function in a remote controlled ham station, basically to recover operation of some system element by bouncing the power.

The information presented here applies to development v0.2.


  • support typical multi channel relay boards;
  • ESP8266 and ESP32 firmware versions;
  • WiFi credentials programmable via a captive web interface;
  • DHCP or static IP;
  • mDNS responder;
  • flexible configuration stored as json file in on-board LittleFS file system;
  • optional authentication to secure remote access.


Above is a ESP12F_Relay_30A X2_V1.1 relay board (~$20 inc shipping) deployed for field testing. This board has a switched mode power supply on board and will run on 7-28VDC. In this application, the AC circuit is wired through the NC contacts, and the relays are operated to break the power. Normal operation is with the relays released, and current consumption @ 13.8V is 30mA. Continue reading ESP WiFi relay project – update #1


I have lots of projects across a range of microcontroller architectures where reliably programming a new instance of the target is required.

Using an IDE to compile and load, eg traditional / common use of the Arduino IDE, is not a path to that reliability.

A better approach is to save compiled binaries, and have a saved method of programming the chip, binary application code, EEPROM if needed, and hardware settings such as fuse bits, options etc.

Let’s look at an example,  a cmd file or bat file to program certain Arduino architecture boards with a customised Optiboot bootloader. Continue reading WriteOptiBoot.bat

USBasp – hints

The USBasp is a really useful and quit inexpensive ICSP programmer that suits AVR 8 bit microcontrollers.

This article offers some hints on buying and using the USBasp.

There are lots of sellers of these on eBay, Aliexpress etc… but there are traps in buying them. I recall buying the USBasp with cable for less than $5, but they are more like double that now… or more. Continue reading USBasp – hints

ICSP programming of the (tr)uSDX

I noted some online discussions where some people had troubles using an ICSP programmer to program the MCU.

I do not have a (tr)uSDX, but inspection of the schematic does hint what those users are doing wrong.

Loading the SCK, MOSI and MISO lines risks problems with operation of the SPI protocol used, but the effect depends to some extent on the driver, length and type of interconnecting cable etc.

Here are some measurements of a USBasp driving an Arduino board with 5V Atmega328P 16MHz chip using about 200mm of ribbon cable… AND the MOSI line is loaded with a 0.01µF capacitor (as in the (tr)uSDX schematic).

As mentioned, ISCP uses an SPI protocol and the capture above uses blue for SCK and cyan for MOSI. Continue reading ICSP programming of the (tr)uSDX

Switching times in Class-E RF power amplifiers

Class-E RF power amplifiers have become quite fashionable in ham radio in the last decade or two.

One of, if not the main contribution to efficiency in a Class-E RF amplifier is the operation of the active device in switching mode where it is either not conducting, or conducting hard (saturated, with very little voltage across it). Both of these are very low dissipation conditions, but in the transition between these states there is significant current and voltage present, the product of which gives significant instantaneous power… so the idea is to make this transition very fast so that the average power is low.

This article discusses effect of slowed switching times on PA efficiency.

Above is a circuit above is from (Sokal 2001) which explains the amplifier and gives guidance on selection of components. Continue reading Switching times in Class-E RF power amplifiers

NanoVNA-H4 – inductor challenge – part 7

One method described online on YouTube and in social media is the 90° method as I will call it.

The reason why people make measurements at +/- 90 degrees on the smith chart is because the measurement accuracy using the shunt configuration when trying to measure the nominal value of an inductor or capacitor is highest at 0+j50 ohms (or 0-j50 ohms… OD).

To be clear, this is the phase of s11 or Γ being + or – 90° as applicable.

Is there something optimal when phase of s11 is + or – 90°?

Does the software / firmware / hardware give significantly more accurate response under such a termination?

Above is a diagram from a HP publication, slightly altered to suit the discussion. Continue reading NanoVNA-H4 – inductor challenge – part 7

NanoVNA – measuring Q of an inductor using s21 – fails?

There is a fashion of seeing s21 measurements as the answer to all things, and amongst the revelations is an explanation of measuring inductor Q using s21 shunt through configuration.

Let’s explore the use of s21 shunt through to directly find the half power bandwidth of a series tuned circuit and calculate the Q from that and the resonant frequency (as demonstrated by online posters).

To eliminate most of the uncertainties of measurement, let’s simulate it in Simsmith.

The simulation has a series tuned circuit resonated at 3400kHz, and the source and plot are set to calculate |s21| in dB. Though the model specifies Q independent of frequency, the D block adjusts Q for a constant equivalent series resistance (ESR) which simplifies discussion of resonance and Q. Continue reading NanoVNA – measuring Q of an inductor using s21 – fails?

Sontheimer coupler – transformer issues

It is not uncommon that ham designs for Sontheimer coupers (aka Tandem coupler, Grebenkemper coupler) fall short in the design of the magnetic components resulting in one or both of:

  • high InsertionVSWR; and
  • high core loss.

The above circuit is from (Grebenkemper 1987) and is an embodiment of (Sontheimer 1966). In their various forms, this family of couplers have one or sometimes two transformers with their primary in shunt with the through line. Let’s focus on transformer T2. It samples the though line RF voltage, and its magnetising impedance and transformed load appear in shunt with the through line. T2’s load is usually insignificant, but its magnetising impedance is significant and is often a cause of: Continue reading Sontheimer coupler – transformer issues