Canon's Zink Printer

Reading about Zink (not the chemical element, but the printing technology) made me wonder how well this can work. It seems to be incredible to get proper colors out of this method:

The yellow layer is the topmost one, sensitive to short heat pulses of high temperature. The magenta layer is in the middle, sensitive to longer pulses of moderate temperature. The cyan layer is at the bottom, sensitive to long pulses of lower temperature. The layers are separated by thin interlayers, acting as heat insulation, moderating the heat throughput.

This is radically different from normal printing technologies and thus it's worth checking out in more details.

So I got myself one of those Zink printers: a Canon iNSPIC (AKA Canon Ivy in US AKA Canon Zoemini in Europe). Canon seems to like to change product names depending on the region. Weird. Confusing. But once identified which one is which, I can get an English driver/manual for a Japanese product. And of course the opposite too.

Reason for the Canon as opposed to the many other Zink printers: the quality of the software, the availability, and the price of the Zink media: About 2000 Yen for 50 photos. For HP Sprocket I'd have to pay 2700 Yen for 50. For Polaroid Zip I'd pay 2800 Yen for 30.

A quick run-down: Charge printer for 30min, install the Canon app on my phone, connect via Bluetooth, pick a photo, adjust it (zoom, crop, add text), and print. I see why the Canon app is popular: it works and most buttons do what you think they do. So far some prints showed that the resolution and colors are ok. Black is solid black. Photos look ok. Of course colors are not calibrated, but neither is my phone nor my computer monitor.

I'll use this printer mainly as full color label printer. I got quite some boxes of unknown content. Well, unknown until I open them. Maybe with this thing I can create more expressive labels.

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Micropython on ESP32

I guess I cannot avoid using Python. As much fun as Node.js is and as much as I like the ability to do work in the background, a lot of my simpler scripts use async/await which reduces the program to simply do its work one line at a time. And in order.

Python on normal Linux machines is way too boring. Running it on an ESP32 is far better: I got plenty examples using Espruino (JavaScript), so I can use those to re-program them in MicroPython. Should be easy, right?

Step 1: Install MicroPython

./esptool.py --chip esp32 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 erase_flash
./esptool.py --chip esp32 --port /dev/ttyUSB0 --baud 460800 write_flash -z 0x1000 esp32-20190125-v1.10.bin

You should now be able to connect to /dev/ttyUSB0 (115200 bit/s) and get the Micropython REPL. Get the ESP32 binary from here. esptool from here.

Step 2: Install ampy

ampy is used to upload and run Python programs on your microcontroller.

pip install adafruit-ampy --user

Now you can do things like showing the internal flash filesystem:

ampy --port /dev/ttyUSB0 ls
export AMPY_PORT=/dev/ttyUSB0
ampy ls
ampy get /boot.py

Step 3: Run a simple program

def do_connect():
    import network
    wlan = network.WLAN(network.STA_IF)
    wlan.active(True)
    if not wlan.isconnected():
        print('connecting to network...')
        wlan.connect('sauerkraut2', 'AntonAnton')
        while not wlan.isconnected():
            pass
    print('network config:', wlan.ifconfig())

do_connect()

Save this as a file (e.g. wlan.py). Replace WLAN SSID and PASSWORD of course:

$ ampy run wlan.py
network config: ('192.168.22.219', '255.255.255.0', '192.168.22.1', '192.168.22.1')

So the ESP32 connected to the WLAN and got an IP 192.168.22.219!

Step 4: Use the OLED

Obviously at this point you want to see the microntroller do something you cannot do by your main Linux (or Windows) machines. E.g. link a LED. Or write something on the OLED. I happen to have an128x64 OLED with a SSD1306 controller, so I'll use that. Here the program taken from here from Lauri Võsandi (call it esp32-oled-demo.py):

from time import sleep_ms
from machine import Pin, I2C
from ssd1306 import SSD1306_I2C

buf = "wubba lubba dub dub  "

i2c = I2C(-1, Pin(4),Pin(5),freq=40000) # Bitbanged I2C bus
assert 60 in i2c.scan(), "No OLED display detected!"

oled = SSD1306_I2C(128, 64, i2c)
oled.invert(0) # White text on black background
oled.contrast(255) # Maximum contrast

for j in range(0, 500):
    oled.fill(0)
    oled.text(buf[j%len(buf):]+buf, 10, 10)
    oled.show()
sleep_ms(40)

However it needs the ssd1306 module, which you can get like this:

wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/adafruit/micropython-adafruit-ssd1306/master/ssd1306.py

and then you upload it to the microcontroller:

ampy put ssd1306.py

Now you can run your program from above:

ampy run esp32-oled-demo.py
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Time on Espruino on ESP32

Espruino devices do not usually have a proper battery-backed RTC available, so the second easiest way to get a time is via (S)NTP. On Espruino on the ESP8266 this is super-simple (192.168.21.1 is my NTP time server and 9 is the timezone offset):

//ESP8266
//Wifi.setSNTP("192.168.21.1", 9);

but that does not work on Espruino on the ESP32 as Wifi.setSNTP() does not exist here (nor anywhere else). But a module for SNTP exists. This is how to use it to set the time:

// ESP32
E.setTimeZone(9);
const sntp=require('sntp');
var options = {
    host: '192.168.21.1',
    port: 123,
    timeout: 1000
};

sntp.time(options, function (err, time) {
    if (err) {
        console.log('Failed: ' + err.message);
        return;
    }
    setTime(time.T2/1000);
    //console.log('Local clock is off by: ' + time.t + ' milliseconds');
    //console.log('Full NtpMessage:', time);
}); 

Way more complicated, but it's more general on Espruino.

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TTGO T-Eight and Espruino

TTGO T-Eight is a small ESP32 board from here. Small OLED, left/right/select input method, microSD slot, and 4 MB PSRAM, LiPo connector, plus of course WiFi/Bluetooth is a good combination of features. The problem as usual is the lack of documentation. The situation is even worse in this particular case:

  1. The official git repo is outdated and describes only the OLED part of the old revision of the board.
  2. There's an old and new revision of the board. Luckily the silkscreen is updated, but if you copy&paste old code, you'll be possibly surprised that it won't work.
  3. There's a TTGO T8 which is similar but different. They could have called it T9, or T8a or T8D.
  4. There's no schematics so finding out what connects to what pin is somewhere between "Trust the docs" and "Detective work"

Anyway, here is what I found:

  1. SDA/SCL is Pin 21/22 as printed on the silk screen (old version: 5 and 4)
  2. microSD would then be at 5/23/18/19 as per silk screen (untested)
  3. Input is Pin 37/38/39 for right/center/left
  4. 4 blue LEDs and one red LED on the back: no idea yet. Blue could be LiPo voltage, and red one simply power

So here a small minimal Espruino program which uses the display and which can read the buttons:

// TTGO T-Eight

I2C1.setup({sda: 21, scl: 22, bitrate: 400000});

function gstart(){
 g.drawString("Hello World!",2,2);
 g.flip(); 
}

// I2C
var g = require("SH1106").connect(I2C1, gstart, {height:64});

// g.clear(); g.drawCircle(50, 32, 30); g.flip();

// Note: pushing will trigger several times (for repeat: true)
// Need to software de-bounce

setWatch(function(e) {
console.log("Right");
}, D37, { repeat: false, edge: "falling"});

setWatch(function(e) {
console.log("Click");
}, D38, { repeat: false, edge: "falling"});

setWatch(function(e) {
console.log("Left");
}, D39, { repeat: false, edge: "falling"});
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Node.js v10 has fs module with promises!

I did not realize that Node.js v10 has promise support for the fs module. Why is this a big thing? It makes it possible to write call-back free code like this:

items = await fs.readdir(path);
for (var i=0; i<items.length; i++) {
  console.log(items[i]);
  }

instead of the older call-back-style:

fs.readdir(path, function(err, items) {
    for (var i=0; i<items.length; i++) {
        console.log(items[i]);
    }
});

Also error handling is so much easier now via a simple try..catch block.

And in case you get the dreaded(?) warning message from node "UnhandledPromiseRejectionWarning: Unhandled promise rejection.", then simply add try..catch blocks or explicit catch handler for promises.

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