dropControllerV4 Preview / Beta

This page is for the Beta version of dropControllerV4. It will change as there are update.
Things shown here may or may not make it in to the final version and the functions and app are likely to change.

 
 

Downloads

Firmware: DC4_0550
Firmware: DC4_0538
Firmware: DC4_0535

DC4_0550 – Manual Drain function added. Started to tidy up the code, especially the css and javascript. Bug fixes for the 16 valve version. Removed the closed webpage message.
DC4_0538 – Updated the START button position. Added a closed webpage message.
DC4_0535 – Moved the START button to a fixed position at the bottom of the screen.
DC4_0530 – Fixed an issue with delta values.

Update the firmware through Settings => Update. See below for details.
 
 

dropController V4 Introduction

dropController is now IOT!

Easy to use, easy to understand interface that can use on any networked device that has a web browser; PC, laptop, phone, tablet.
– super fast multi-core controller
– 8 valve and 16 valve versions
– LCD status screen
– camera trigger port (shutter & focus)
– flash trigger port
– auxiliary trigger port
– can be used as a 24v or 12v system
– easy to update
– Local mode – connect directly to the dropController (requires a device with wifi)
– Network mode – connect the dropController to your local network

Includes the new advanced features from dropControllerV3
– Camera SYNC trigger
– Loop Mode COPY
– Sequence number can be increased on the Graph Page to see the effects of delta values
– turn focus trigger ON/OFF

 
 

dropControllerV4 Device


Hard to see but there is a small LCD. This is used to show the status only. The final version may or may not have the screen.
The top push button switch (the small round hole) may be removed for the final version. I included a top position button and a side position on the prototypes so I could test which position worked best. I prefer the one on the side panel. Not having the top button switch means the top panel will be solid (no hole).


FT2 = Axillary Trigger Port.
FT1 = Flash Trigger Port
CT = Camera Trigger Port
IN = Input Port. Note: This is now removed. The new design does not have an input.
SET = Multifunction button switch
RST = Reset.

Flash Trigger 2 Port

This will be renamed AUX Trigger Port.
Non powered trigger. The connection is closed when triggered which means the attached circuit has to have it’s own vcc. Max voltage should be kept to 5V or less.

Flash Trigger Port

Single channel non-powered trigger. The connection is closed when triggered which means the attached circuit has to have it’s own vcc. Max voltage should be kept to 5V or less.

Camera Trigger Port

Dual channel trigger (focus + shutter) non-powered trigger.
The focus signal can be disabled in software (there is a control on the Settings Page).
Plug tip = shutter
Plug mid = focus
Plug base = ground

Input Port

Not yet implemented in software.
Single channel input trigger; either digital (on/off) or variable (light sensor, sound sensor).
I am still deciding if I will develop this. .
Plug tip = vcc +3.3v
Plug mid = signal (max 3.3v)
Plug base = ground
There is some protection on the signal in channel but care must be taken when connecting sensors.

App version DC4_0524. The input port is set as a simple remote start switch. Connect the signal to vcc to trigger.

Multifunction button switch

At present this button has two functions
1 – if pressed when the device first starts any saved network credentials are erased.
2 – if pressed when the dropController is in use, shows the network connection properties (IP address).

Reset

Resets the devices (cycles the power).
Handy if you want to use the SET button to erase saved network credentials.

 


Power
8 Valve Ports

 
 

dropControllerV4 Connection Modes

Local Mode
Local Mode is where the user connects directly to the dropController using the dropControllers built in wifi network. This allows the dropController to be used when a local network is not available.
Network Mode
Network Mode is where the dropController connects to a local network and the user then connects to the dropController via the local network.

 
 

Network connection wizard

The easiest way to use the dropController is in Network Mode using your local or home wifi. In Network Mode any device (computer, phone, tablet) that is connected to the same network can be used to control the dropController. Before you can use Network Mode though you need to connect the dropController to the local network. To make the setup process as easy as possible the dropControllerV4 has a built in network connection manager/wizard.

The connection manager uses the dropControllers internal wifi network. To use the connection manager the basic process is:
– connect to the dropController network
– load the connection manager by visiting http://192.168.4.1
– enter your home network details
– the dropController connects and saves the details
– restart the dropController
– on restart the dropController automatically connects to the local network.

Setting up the connection to the local network is only required once.

The connection manager is active only on the dropControllers own wifi. This means you need to connect
The dropController is able to create it’s own network. This is used for the Connection Manager and also Local Mode.

When there are no saved network credentials the dropController Connection Manager is opened automatically on start. The Connection Manager is enabled for 60 seconds. If, after 60 seconds, there is no connection the dropController will default to Local Mode.

On a networked enabled device (here I am using a Samsung phone running Android) open settings and go to Connections. Select Wifi. and Scan for networks. You should see dropController.
Connect to the dropController network. If you are asked for a password try 12345678

After you have connected to the dropController network open a browser and enter http://192.168.4.1 or, if you have the option on your device, click Manage Router (they both do the same thing).

If using a mobile and you still cannot connect make sure the network has not switched back to the default network. If you still cannot connect, try another browser. Once you have established a connection you will connect to the dropController Connection Page.

You should see the main Connection Manager menu.
Click SCAN NETWORKS to search for available networks.

The dropController displays a list of the found networks, click the one you want to connect to, the name of the network is automatically copied to the form. Enter the password and click SAVE & CONNECT.
The dropController then tries to connect to the selected network.


After waiting a few seconds or when the LCD shows CONNECTED! either go back to the Connection Manager Menu or click RESTART.

If you go back to the Connection Manager menu, if the dropController is connected to the network, the network details will be displayed.
If the dropController is not connected Not Connected will be shown.

If the connection was successful, clicking RESTART will restart the dropController and when it restarts the controller will try to join the local network automatically.

When the dropController successfully connects to a local network it will remember the settings and automatically try to connect every time it is started.

 
When using the basic connection wizard the IP address will be assigned by the router / wireless access point. To connect using a static IP address, on the Network List page, click the Show advanced settings link. This will open the advanced options.
Here you can enter the details for a static/fixed IP address.

 
 

Erasing Saved Network Credentials

To clear saved network credentials, hold the SET button down and restart the dropController by clicking the RESET button. To show that the SET button is active/held the dropController title will be inverted (black on white).
[image: screen shot showing inverted title]

 
 

Unable to Connect

After you have connected the dropController to your local network, if you cannot connect from a desktop on the local network check the following:
1 – the dropController and PC are on the same network.
2 – is a firewall is blocking the connection (Windows firewall may be blocking unknown IP addressees on the local network by default).

 
 

Web Control App

The control app is based on the previous Android app design and the controls should be familiar to anybody who has used a previous version of the dropController.

There are 5 main pages
– Drops
– Settings
– Drain
– Graph
– About

There are 2 popup screens
– Loop Page
– Firmware update

After the dropController connects to the local network, go to the assigned IP address. In the example here my IP is http://192.168.2.249, and the main Drop Page should appear.

 
 

Updating the Firmware

dropControllerV4 has an easy to use update function on the Settings page:

Download the firmware from the link at the top of the page. The download will normally be a zip file.

Unpack and place the folder somewhere convenient. Mine is on the desktop.


In the app, go to the Settings Page and click the Update button. This opens the Update Page.

On the Update Page you can see the current firmware version. Mine is DC4_0527. I will be updating to DC4_0528.

Click the Browse button and navigate to where you put the bin file. Click Open.

Click the Upload button to start the update.

When the update in complete the dropController will reset.

Refresh the browser and go back to the Update Page to check the current firmware version.

 
 

Manual Drain Function

Firmware DC4_0549 adds a manual drain function. Here is how to use it.

In early versions of the dropCointroller there were manual drain buttons. This made it really convenient when draining bottles and cleaning valves but added too much complexity to the device and especially the case so I removed them. I have missed them ever since. In dropControllerV4 manual drain is back, albeit in a slightly different form.


To enter Manual Drain click the SEL button.

The screen will change to the Manual Drain menu.

Click the SEL button to increment the valve. The valve number increments; 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. After valve 8 EXIT is displayed.

Pressing the SET button will open and close the valve.

To exit; press the SEL button until EXIT appears then click the SET button. You will return to the main display.

 

Web App

If the web app is open while using Manual Drain, the app will follow the dropController.

When the SEL button is pressed to enter Manual Drain, the app will open the Drain Page. Note that the menu in the app is not active.

When a valve is opened using the SET button, the app control turns green to show it is open.

When Manual Drain is exited, the app will return to the main Drops Page.

Manual Drain can only be used when there are no active drops.
Drops cannot be made while using Manual Drain
Valves automatically close when incrementing the valve number and on EXIT.

 
 

Notes

The 8 valve version allows up to 24 drops. Any valve can be used with any drop.
When the SEND button is clicked, the drop data is sent to the dropController device and the drop sequence is started. While the sequence is active the controls in the web app are inactive (same as previous versions).

Double clicking the Number of drops label or quantity brings up a number of drops dialogue. This will be a hidden feature.

 
 

Known Issues

There are no drop time checks. This means you can overlap drops with each other. I have not yet decided if I will add this.

The scale on the graph gets crowded if the numbers get too big (need to recalculate the scale).

The default page scale/viewport size on iPhone safari is too small. The default page width is 375 only.

There is an issue when using the Chrome browser on Windows PC. The first app load works as expected, however, if the page is refreshed the css file does not always load. Other browsers (Firefox, Edge, IE) do not have have this issue. This may be resolved.

 
 

To Do / ideas

Remove the top button switch (switch 2) from the PCB and remove the top hole from the case.
Add a PCB connector for 24v. This is for the 16 valve version.
Rename FT2 to AUX on the side plate.
May add a camera keep awake function using the focus trigger.
Clean up the code. Reduce the javascript character count. Maybe minimise the js and css.
format numbers (add leading zeros) when updating the screen. Partially done.

Input Trigger
Still not decided what direction to take with this. I may remove it. I may try to develop it.
If I remove it I can move the second push button switch to the side and then add a manual valve drain function using the 2 push button switches. I went through the same process with version 3 and in the end decided to remove the inputs.

The input function is removed.

On the pre-release prototypes:
– the input is used as a remote start switch only.
– the input signal is pulled LOW. This means a simply trigger switch can be created by connecting the 3.55mm jack tip with the 3.5mm jack middle segment. The base of the plug is ground. Do not connect the base with the tip!