I've built a product, not a project

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The past few days I've been doing more arduino-work. In between dying of sleep-exhaustion.

One thing that always annoyed me was that I had to hard-code my WiFi credentials in my projects, with code like this:

//
// Connect to the SCOTLAND network
//
WiFi.mode(WIFI_STA);
WiFi.hostname("tram-clock");
WiFi.begin("SCOTLAND", "highlander1");

//
// Attempt to connect - TODO: Timeout on failure
//
while (WiFi.status() != WL_CONNECTED)
    delay(500);

//
// Now we're connected show the local IP address.
//
lcd.print("WiFi connected  ");
lcd.print(WiFi.localIP());

Whilst looking at another project I found a great solution though. There is a library called WiFiManager which behaves perfectly:

  • If you've stored connection details it will connect to the local WiFI network using those, automatically.
  • If you've not saved previous connection details it will instead configure the device to work as an Access Point
    • You can then connect to that access point and see a list of local WiFi networks.
    • Choose the appropriate one from the list, enter your password, and these details are saved for the future.
    • The device will then reset, join the network via your saved choices and acquire an IP via DHCP as you'd expect.

The code for this is beautifully simple:

//
// Connect to WiFI with saved credentials, if any.
//
// Otherwise work as an access-point, named TRAM-TIMES, and
// let the user fill out their details.
//
WiFiManager wifiManager;
wifiManager.autoConnect("TRAM-TIMES");

This means my current project, which continues to revolve around tram-times, is so very much more user-friendly. It is a product you could package and take to a friends house, not a project you have to recompile to tweak.

For that reason, user-niceness, I reworked the on-board HTTP status-page to use bootstrap, be themed, and look nicer. Other than being housed in a horrid case the project actually looks like a product. Not one I'd buy, but neither one I'm ashamed of sharing.

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