Not all USB cables are equal: Arduino IDE not seeing Arduino Nano

I have an Arduino Sketch to upload to an Arduino Nano. Connecting the Nano to my MacBook Pro, the power led lights up and the ‘sketch upload’ led is flashing. In the Arduino IDE however, the Nano is not visible under the Port menu. Reading around online, this could either be that the FTDI drivers are not installed or something wrong with the cable.

Given that the cable that cable with my Nano is rather thin, I remember reading elsewhere that there is such a thing as a ‘charge only’ usb cable. They’re thinner because they’re only wired with the power wires and are missing the data wires.

Changing this cable for another thicker cable, now the Arduino is recognized as expected in Arduino IDE under the Port menu. Swapping between the thinner USB cable and the thicker cable confirmed the thinner cable doesn’t work for a data connection.

Reprogramming and flashing the Oracle Code Card from Oracle World/Code One

I don’t know why I didn’t realize this sooner or even bother to check, but the ‘Code Card’ with the e-ink screen that was given away at Oracle World a couple of years ago for an interactive lab has a ESP8266 chip on it that can be flashed with new code using a USB cable and the Arduino IDE.

The original repo for the Arduino source for the card has unfortunately had the source for the card removed, but luckily there’s a fork that still has the code, here.

There’s notes in the Arduino folder about flashing the card. These mostly worked for me apart from I found this sequence worked best:

  • connect the card to your pc with a USB cable
  • power on the card with the switch on the side
  • hold the A button, don’t let go (this is important)
  • if you have the serial tool window open in the Arduino IDE you’ll see the messages per the docs
  • Start the Upload of your new code
  • When the upload is connected and starts uploading, then you can let go of the A button

There’s a post with some more details here.

Deploying to ESP8266 with Arduino IDE on MacOS error: “pyserial or esptool directories not found next to this tool”

If you see this error deploying to an ESP8266 from Arduino IDE on MacOS 11.2

"pyserial or esptool directories not found next to this tool"

… per this post, edit the file:


Comment out lines 29 and 30 and append these lines:
   iokit = ctypes.cdll.LoadLibrary(‘/System/Library/Frameworks/IOKit.framework/IOKit’)
   cf = ctypes.cdll.LoadLibrary(‘/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreFoundation.framework/CoreFoundation’)

Arduino powered radio alarm clock – part 1

I had an idea to build an Arduino based radio alarm clock by re-purposing some other components I had lying around from other projects:

  • an Arduino Uno
  • an Adafruit 16×2 RGB LCD Pi Plate (for the display and control buttons)
  • an Adafruit Ultimate GPS breakout (for the time – what better way, albeit slightly over-engineered, to get the current time if not from GPS signals?)

The only part missing was an FM radio tuner. I was wondering how easy¬†it would be to build a radio tuner from scratch (but not sure how I’d control it via the Arduino), so¬†decided to take the easy approach to get started and use a TEA5767 based FM tuner on a chip. To make it even easier, I got a TEA5767 based breakout board for $5 on ebay that includes two jacks, one for an antenna and one for audio out.

Simon Monk has an Arduino library for the TEA5767 that has one function call to set the tuner frequency.

So far, pretty easy going. I have a start on combining the LCD to display time and GPS coords here. Now to add the radio library, add some controls from the Pi Plate buttons, and I’m almost there!