Measuring analog values on a Raspberry Pi without ADC

Contrary to the ESP8266 or the Arduino, the Raspberry Pi has no analog ports. In order to measure analog values, you can add an ADC. These usually are driven by the I2C port or by SPI.

If however  you only need to measure one analog value with a variable resistor sensor, there is a quick and easy way to do that without adding an ADC converter on your I2C. However, it will still cost you two pins.

If you take a look at the screen, the working appears pretty simple:
The Charge pin, when made HIGH starts charging the 100nF capacitor through the NTC. When at a certain time the voltage over the 100nF capacitor is high enough to be seen as a HIGH by the Raspberry, the ‘measure pin’ gets set from LOW (in fact from Zero) to HIGH. The time it takes from the start of the charge till the measure pin goes to HIGH is then a time value that is a measure for the value of the NTC. It is only influenced by the  value of the NTC. When we feed a Raspberry with 3.3 Volt, a HIGH on a pin means a minimum of 1.6 Volt, so in fact we are measuring the time it takes to charge a capacitor from zero to 1.6 Volt. The 1k resistor is just a safety precaution to prevent too much current coming from the capacitor when it is discharged.

It is paramount that the measurement is always taken from the same starting position, meaning an empty capacitor. The measurement procedure thus looks like this:

Empty capacitor
Start charging capacitor
Start timer
Wait till capacitor is HIGH
Read timer

to decharge the capacitor we can use the measuring pin.

Fortunately very often someone already has written a code that can be used and in this case it was SimonMonk

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import time

# declare GPIO mode

# define GPIO pins with variables charge_pin and measure_pin
# 18=chargepin 23=measure
measure_pin = 

# discharge the capacitor
def discharge():
    GPIO.setup(charge_pin, GPIO.IN) #stop charging
    GPIO.setup(measure_pin, GPIO.OUT) #make the measure pin an output
    GPIO.output(measure_pin, False) # set it low to discharge the capacitor

def charge_time():
    GPIO.setup(measure_pin, GPIO.IN) 
    GPIO.setup(charge_pin, GPIO.OUT)
    count = 0
    GPIO.output(charge_pin, True) #start charging the capacitor
    while not GPIO.input(measure_pin): #wait till the pin goes HIGH
        count = count +1
    return count

def analog_read():
    return charge_time()

# loop to display analog data count
while True:


Simple WiFi relay board or DIY Sonoff SV /Sonoff 4 channel (1)

In his video nr 107 youtuber Ralph Bacon describes his ‘frustration’ with an ESP8266-01 based wireless relay he got from AliExpress.

Wifi relay with ESP8266-01 and STC15F104 microprocessor

His frustration is understandable as that particular module is needlessly complicated. It seems the ESP8266-01 is mainly there to make the WiFi connection, while the relay is triggered by yet another microprocessor, the STC15F104. Communication between the two is via AT commands, as if the designers thought, how can we make this in the dumbest way possible.

The ‘simple’ relay board

In his follow up video # 110  Ralph describes another, simpler relay board (pictured), that also frustrated him as the manufacturer apparently had not included the necessary pull-up resistors on the Chip Enable and on GPIO0 and GPIO2.

Both videos came in my focus again, when i discussed the ‘simpler’ board with a diy mate and frequent commenter. It is very cheap to buy and once you add the resistors (to make it start up correctly) factually you have a Sonoff SV.
Ofcourse the Sonoff SV is less than 5 Euro (plus shipping), as opposed to the ‘brandless’ relay board only costing some 2.60 euro, so you might as well get the real thing, but it opens some interesting perspectives, especially as I had most of the stuff laying around namely an ESP8266-01 a relay module and a 3.3Volt power module, all fairly cheap. Just a couple of DuPont cables to connect the three, and it should be fine. I know it is all nickles & dimes stuff but lets do a quick calculation.

Total 2.08 euro as opposed to 2.62 euro (in a nicer package), so not really cost effective to ‘DIY’  but if you have the stuff laying around, better to use it than for it gather dust. It also allows you to choose another pin than GPIO2 to drive the relay.
Ralph also offers a program to replace the existing firmware in the ESP8266, as well as a phone app (all found in the description of his video). Ofcourse it is also possible to replace the firmware with MQTT responsive firmware. For that you could e.g. use my Sonoff Touch program, albeit that in line 17, you have to change “TouchLED=12;”  to “TouchLED=2;

But why stop there? the ESP8266-01 has 4 I/O pins, if we ad a small 220->5V power module and a 4 channel relay board, we could make a sonoff 4ch. These cost about 22 Euro. So that would be more rewarding to build.
That however will be for part 2.

Flashing Sonoff Touch – No soldering

Although it is not really a big thing to solder an angled header in a SonOff Touch in order to reprogram it, one also has to solder a wire to the GPIO-0 pin of the ESP8285 chip as the SonOff Touch has no button that can be used to get it into flash mode.
I therefore wondered if it wouldn’t be possible to flash the Sonoff Touch without any soldering. Spoiler: yes it is possible, but you need some dexterity.
First open the Sonoff Touch. This is easiest done with cautiously prying a screwdriver on between the casing and the frontplate at the side.
once that is done you can see a small board that you can just pull-out.
On that board there are 4 in line holes that we need to connect an FTDI programmer to. On the bottom side of the board is also a 2×2 male header. That is the one that we just pulled out of its header in the housing. We are going to need that header a bit later as well.

indicated  the function of the 1×4 header in the image. You are going to need an FTDI to USB module  THAT YOU CAN SET TO 3.3 VOLT. You also will need a 1×4  straight pinheader and 4 female to female DuPont wires.
Now make the following connection between the 1×4 male header and the FTDI to USB connector:

header FTDI module
Ground Ground
Tx Rx
Rx Tx
Vcc Vcc

To make clear, if it already wasn’t, this is a connection to a loose, 4 pin male header.
The next thing you need is a female to male DuPont cable. Connect the female end to the ground connection on the 2×2 header.

Also, you need to identify GPIO0 on the ESP8285 chip:


For the final flashing you need a bit of dexterity but this is what you do:

  • Have your Arduino IDE available with the  required program loaded.
  • Under tools-boards choose the generic 8285 module
  • Flash size 1 Mbyte 16k SPIFFS
  • Make sure the FTDI module is not connected to the USB port of your computer.
  • Now press the 4 pin male header that is connected to your FTDI module in the proper holes. Make sure it is the right way around, so Ground connects to ground, Vcc to Vcc, Rx to Tx and Tx to Rx. If there is a bit of slack between the header and the holes. push against the pins with  the mouse of yr thumb or with your little finger, so it makes  poper connection.
  • Now take the male pin of the DuPont cable that you connected to the ground on the 2×2 pin header and push it against GPIO 0.
    Keep it in place with your thumb.
  • You still should have one hand free. Use that to push the FTDI module in the USB connection of your computer.
  • Once that is done, you can let go of the male pin pressed against GPIO0
  • In the IDE chose the right port and press ‘upload’.

That’s it.

So, what program should you upload to make the Sonof Touch work?
Of course there is Tasmota and many people are very happy with it. Truthfully, I found it cumbersome and couldn’t even compile it. Considering all we need to do is switch 1 pin, it shouldn’t be so hard to write something simple.
Given the fact that the Sonoff Touch will most likely disappear in the wall and you don’t want to have to take it out and flash it again, two things come in very handy in the program:

  • OTA (Over The Air) flashing
  • WiFiManager

The code also gives MQTT feedback about the

  • MAC
  • IP
  • Filename
  • SignalStrength

It can be downloaded here

Reading the DHT11 or DHT22 on the Raspberry via an overlay and send it to the openHab REST API

In an earlier tutorial I showed how to read the popular DHTxx sensor on a Raspberry Pi and then to MQTT that into Openhab.
However, there are more ways to skin a cat, so what I like to do this time is:

1) Read the sensor with a device tree overlay on a Raspi and then
2) Send the data to OpenHab with the REST-API

I am not saying one method is better than the other, but suppose you dont want to install an MQTT server because all your other channels don’t need MQTT, then the REST API comes in handy.

1) Reading the DHT sensor
First we need to load the dht11 overlay at boot-up
sudo nano /boot/config.txt
and add:


obviously one can pick another pin here, or declare a different sensor such as the DHT22 or DHT21 (AM2301)

then all you have to do is to read the following 2 files:


Once you have loaded the overlay and connected your sensor, a simple:
cat /sys/devices/platform/dht11@0/iio:device0/in_temp_input,
would show you the temperature.
cat /sys/devices/platform/dht11@0/iio:device0/in_humidityrelative_input, would show you the humidity

Upon doing that in a python program, I noticed there can be quite a number of I/O errors. This seems to be a frequent problem with this overlay, so in order not to interrupt the program, I had to do a bit of Error catching.

2) Sending values to OpenHab
The REST API is fairly simple to use. We only need 1 line for every Item we want to update. Such a line looks like this:
requests.put('<YOUR ITEM>/state',value).
The ‘value’-variable needs to be a string.

3) Wrapping it up
A simple Python program would look like so:

import time
import requests

def read_temp_raw():
   return lines

def read_humidity_raw():
   return hlines

while True:
     #Put your own IP and Itemnames here,

   except IOError:
      print("I/O error")

Beware that Python programs rely on proper indenting. As this sometimes can be corrupted by publication on a website, I will leave an image of the properly indented program below:

As I am not the world’ s best python coder, I am sure improvements can be made, but at least this code will get you up and running fast.
Since the items are updated through the REST API, they do not need a channel and could look as simple as this:

Number HH "REST Humidity [%.0f %%]" <humidity> (Weather)
Number HT "REST temperature [%.1f °C]" <temperature> (Weather)

Dimming an AC lamp via MQTT

Years ago I published a TRIAC dimmer that could be controlled by a simple microcontroller such as an arduino. Times have changed and right now it is of more importance to be able to control that lamp from a home automation system such as OpenHab, Homematic or NodeRed.

So, let’s have a look at the circuit first:
This is a rather classic circuit. It detects the zerocrossing on the grid and then a microcontroller ignites the TRIAC with a time delay that determines the brightness of the attached Lamp.  The full cycle is 10mS (at 50Hz)
A circuit like this is easy to make for very low cost (1-2 Euro).

However, if you shy away from soldering  such a circuit, there are ready made modules available as well:
You should not need to pay more than 3-4 USD for such a module. Anything above that is robbery

Software to control this dimmer would look something like this:

#include <Ethernet.h>
#include <PubSubClient.h>
#include  <TimerOne.h>

#define CLIENT_ID       "Dimmer"
#define PUBLISH_DELAY   3000

String ip = "";
bool startsend = HIGH;
uint8_t mac[6] = {0x00, 0x01, 0x02, 0x03, 0x04, 0x07};

volatile int i=0;               // Variable to use as a counter volatile as it is in an interrupt
volatile boolean zero_cross=0;  // Boolean to store a "switch" to tell us if we have crossed zero
int AC_pin1 = 4;// Output to Opto Triac
int dim1 = 0;// Dimming level (0-100)  0 = on, 100 = 0ff

int inc=1;          // counting up or down, 1=up, -1=down
int freqStep = 100; // make this 83 for 60Hz gridfrequency

EthernetClient ethClient;
PubSubClient mqttClient;
long previousMillis;

void zero_cross_detect() {    
  zero_cross = true;               // set the boolean to true to tell our dimming function that a zero cross has occured
  digitalWrite(AC_pin1, LOW);       // turn off TRIAC (and AC)

// Turn on the TRIAC at the appropriate time
void dim_check() {                   
  if(zero_cross == true) {              
    if(i>=dim1) {                     
      digitalWrite(AC_pin1, HIGH); // turn on light       
      i=0;  // reset time step counter                         
      zero_cross = false; //reset zero cross detection
    else {
      i++; // increment time step counter                     

void setup() {
  attachInterrupt(0, zero_cross_detect, RISING);    // Attach an Interupt to Pin 2 (interupt 0) for Zero Cross Detection
  Timer1.initialize(freqStep);                      // Initialize TimerOne library for the freq we need
  Timer1.attachInterrupt(dim_check, freqStep);
  pinMode(4, OUTPUT);

  // setup serial communication

  while (!Serial) {};

  // setup ethernet communication using DHCP
  if (Ethernet.begin(mac) == 0) {
    Serial.println(F("Unable to configure Ethernet using DHCP"));
    for (;;);

  Serial.println(F("Ethernet configured via DHCP"));
  Serial.print("IP address: ");

  ip = String (Ethernet.localIP()[0]);
  ip = ip + ".";
  ip = ip + String (Ethernet.localIP()[1]);
  ip = ip + ".";
  ip = ip + String (Ethernet.localIP()[2]);
  ip = ip + ".";
  ip = ip + String (Ethernet.localIP()[3]);

  // setup mqtt client
  mqttClient.setServer( "", 1883); // <= put here the address of YOUR MQTT server //Serial.println(F("MQTT client configured")); mqttClient.setCallback(callback); Serial.println(); Serial.println(F("Ready to send data")); previousMillis = millis(); mqttClient.publish("home/br/nb/ip", ip.c_str()); } void loop() { // it's time to send new data? if (millis() - previousMillis > PUBLISH_DELAY) {
  previousMillis = millis();


  Serial.print("dim1 in loop = ");

void sendData() {
  char msgBuffer[20];
  if (mqttClient.connect(CLIENT_ID)) {
    if (startsend) {
      mqttClient.publish("home/br/nb/ip", ip.c_str());
      startsend = LOW;

void callback(char* topic, byte* payload, unsigned int length) {
  char msgBuffer[20];
   payload[length] = '\0';            // terminate string with '0'
  String strPayload = String((char*)payload);  // convert to string
  Serial.print("strPayload =  ");
  Serial.println(strPayload); //can use this if using longer southbound topics
  Serial.print("Message arrived [");
  Serial.print("] ");//MQTT_BROKER
  for (int i = 0; i < length; i++) {



The value freqStep is usually set at 75 or 78 with this type of circuits, which allows for 128 steps of dimming at 50Hz gridfrequency. I have set the value here purposely to 100 allowing for only 100 steps, which is convenient for use in OpenHAB as  the slider goes from 0-100%.
The calculation is as follows:

As we have two zerocrossings per sine wave, the frequency of zerocrossings is 100Hz. Therefore the period between two zerocrossings is 10mSec is 10000uS.
So if you want to have 100 levels of dimming the steps you need to take are 10000/100=100uS

The frequency of zerocrossings is 120Hz, therefore the period between two zerocrossings is 8.3mS is 8300uS. So if you want to have 100 levels of dimming, the steps you need to take are 8300/100=83uS -> freqStep=83


Adding a popular 5Volt 4 channel relay board to a 3V3 processor (beginners)

Chinese webshops sell a 5Volt 4 channel relay board that is quite popular amongst hobbyist. Sometimes I get the question if it can be used with a 3V3 microprocessor. This ofcourse is very basic Ohms law, so just skip this article if you already know, but for those who still have questions: read on.

Well in short: any relay can be made to work with any microprocessor, but lets look at how this can be done in an efficient way.

Normally, if you have a bare 5Volt relay, it would only require a transistor or a FET to drive the relay with any voltage sufficient to open the transistor. The relay board in question though already has some electronics around it, so lets have a look at the circuit:

It is quite clear that this is not the standard one transistor relay board: the Transistor driving the relay in itself is driven by an optocoupler, that also inverts the signal: It is a LOW on the INx input that will  bring the optocoupler to open, thus feeding the base of the transistor, that will subsequently open and activate the relay. The circuit also shows that the optocoupler can be fed from the same  voltage source as the  relay, or from a different voltage source.

First question we have to ask ourselves: is a 3v3 circuit enough to drive the board?
Well, suppose we feed the board entirely with 5Volt. If we then would connect a 3V3 processor pin such as from a raspberry or ESP8266 or  a modern Arduino, a LOW would indeed activate the relay, as described above, but what happens if we do a HIGH?
Well, with a HIGH there would be a voltage of (5-3.3=) 1.7 volt over the series resistor, the optocoupler and the LED. Given the fact that the  forward voltage of the  optocoupler is about 1.5 Volt and the forward voltage over the red LED is on average 2.2 Volt, that basically absorbs the 1.7 Volt making it safe to say there will be no current flowing through the optocoupler when the IO pin is made HIGH (3V3).
Factually, even if the ‘HIGH’  would only be 2.5 Volt, chances are slim that there would be any current flowing through the optocoupler.

Now ofcourse there are people who shrug at the idea of  having any 5Volt source connected to their 3V3 pins, so what happens if we  take away the Voltage jumper, feed the relay with 5Volt and the optocoupler with 3V3.

Well, suppose we again make the IO pin LOW, then there will be 3V3 over the optocoupler, the LED and the resistor.
The LED and the optocoupler will  have a voltage drop of 1.5+2.2=3.7 Volts. Ergo, there will not be any current flowing through the optocoupler and the relay will not be activated.

Therefore: yes, the relay board can be used with a 3V3 processor, but  you will have to feed the entire board with 5Volt.

But, what if I do not want the signal to be inverted, if I want a LOW to deactivate the relay and a HIGH to activate it?

Well, that is fairly easy: do that with an inverter. One can either use an inverter IC such as a 7404, 7414 or a 4069, but ofcourse then you’d have to wonder whether 3V3 would be enough input for those IC’s  (it is).
Another possibility is just a transistor with a base resistor 470-1000 Ohm (1x for every channel).


Using the 18 bits MCP3421 I2C ADC with Arduino.

A while ago, I published a post about expanding the ESP8266 ADC capacities with the PCF8591 8 bits I2C ADC multiplexer. 8 Bits is really enough for most work I would guess, but if you need more accuracy, say 18 bits for a  high precision Digital Voltmeter, there is the (relatively expensive) MCP3421. I say ‘relatively coz it is still cheaper (and easier to use)  than the LTC2400 (controlled by SPI). This is only a one channel chip, so if you want more channels, you would think you have to get more (which is OK as generally they are sold in webstores in a lot of say 5 or 10), but the chip has no address selection. It has a fixed address of 0x68.
If you do not like soldering though, there is also an ‘evaluation module’ available.

The MCP3421 has an in-program sample rate selection from 12-18 bits and in inbuild Programmable Gain Amplifier that can also be controlled from  your program. There is a library available, several in fact which makes using the chip very easy. If one channel is not enough, try the MCP3424 18-bit, 4-channel, multi-address ADC