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Instant WebStick - ESP8266 Web Server / NAS

Instant ESP8266 Web Server / NAS in USB Stick Form Factor, that can act as a static web server or a poor man NAS

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tobychui has 145 orders / 0reviews
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As a full stack developer and a student, many of my friends ask me how to setup their own website for free. Although there are a lot of free web hosting services out there, they are quite picky about service provider and vendor lock in issues. As some of them are also interested in tech stuffs, I will sometime introduce them to self-hosting.

The issue with self hosting a web server is that many of them have no experience in Linux and just putting an old Windows PC with WAMP or Nginx is a waste of space and power. That is why I developed a fun little WebStick for these use case.

What is a WebStick?

A WebStick is a USB stick form factor web server that connects to your home WiFi and allow you to connect it via mDNS in local area network. You can also access it from the internet by changing a few port forward setting in your home router.

Features

  • Basic Web Server
  • Directory View
  • Cookie based login system
  • File Manager
    • File Upload / Download (with multiple-file zip download support)
    • File Open, Cut and Copy
    • Support UTF-8 filename (32 bit length only, filename length depends on variable bytes used per char)
  • File Searching Tool
    • Much slower than Google Search (Is this even a feature?)
  • System Information
    • SD storage info
    • WiFi info
  • WebApps
    • Music Player
    • Photo Viewier
    • Video Player
    • Markdown Editor
    • Notepad (Modified version of ACE Editor)

Usage

Hosting

  1. Format your micro SD card as FAT (Recommend using SD Card Formatter)
  2. Download and put everything under sd_card folder in this repo into your micro SD card
  3. Edit the files under /cfg/ to setup WiFi credentials (wifi.txt), management passwords (admin.txt) and optionally mDNS domain name (mdns.txt)
  4. Insert your SD card into the WebStick SD card slot
  5. Power on your WebStick by inserting it into your computer USB port (for debug / flash mode) or phone charger with USB A port.
  6. Access your WebStick using the device IP address (http://192.168.0.100/) or mDNS name (e.g. http://webstick.local)

Using your domain with WebStick

mDNS are local only domain names. If you want your viewer to be able to access your website from the public internet via your domain or your home public ip address, you will need to purchase a domain name, setup your DNS and / or your NAT router's port forward rules.

Build from Source

The following libraries are required for building the WebStick backend code (firmware to be used in ESP8266) using Arduino IDE. You can find the source code for the backend bare metal web-server in the /web-server folder.

Board Settings

Here are the recommended settings for best performance.

  • Board: Wemos D1 R2 & Mini
    • CPU clockspeed: 160Mhz
    • IwIP Varient: v2 Higher Bandwidth

Require external library:

Limitations

As you might have notice by now this system is hosted on a 1 USD MCU (ESP8266), even if web server is written in bare metal, it still have the following limitations

  • Filename length (hardcoded to 32 bits per filename, might be shorter for UTF-8 as it use variable byte structure, but technically this is not the system limit)
  • File size limit (recommend) <= 5MB, any file size larger than 5MB that is not stream-able (e.g. mp4) is not meaningful. Stream-able files can be larger than this size (e.g. webm) with acceptable playback speed.
  • Slow Upload / Download speed (2 - 4Mbps), Very slow concurrent R/W speed (200 - 210 Kbps)
  • Single admin session (cookie), due to limit in runtime memory (i.e. If you try to login from 2nd browser, the first browser will automatically logged out)

sd_card.zip

HTML for the front-end with API access to the backend

x-zip-compressed - 11.03 MB - 09/02/2023 at 08:38

Download

Gerber_webstick v2.1.zip

Gerber file for the PCB

x-zip-compressed - 131.54 kB - 09/02/2023 at 08:38

Download

esp8266-web-server.zip

Arduino source code for the esp8266 web server (backend)

x-zip-compressed - 14.78 kB - 09/02/2023 at 08:38

Download

  • 6 × 0805 10k Ohm Resistor
  • 2 × 0805 10uF Caps
  • 2 × 0805 100nF Caps
  • 1 × CH340C USB to UART converter
  • 1 × ESP12F (or ESP12E)

View all 10 components

  • Adding Blog Engine to WebStick

    tobychui09/18/2023 at 15:20 0 comments

    It sound a bit crazy, but I just realized that without changing anything on the backend (ESP8266 code), I could in fact write a blog engine for the WebStick.

    Though, it is a really basic one with minimal blog features, but it is working!!!

    With the latest sd_card content, you can now write your own blog on your WebStick. To add a post, click the New Post button
    And you will be redirected to the markdown editor, where you can now write your blog post on your WebStick
    After you have finished writing, save it and back to the blog engine. Click the Force Update Posts Index or just refresh the page and you will see your post online!
    And of course, if you are not logged in as admin, you won't be able to change the post contents.

    Anyway, now you can host your blog on an ESP8266!

View project log

  • 1
    Supplies

    As this is a relatively simple build, you don't need much materials to build yourself a WebStick.

    • A custom printed PCB
    • USB A plug
    • CH340C (USB to UART converter chip)
    • A few resistors (10k) and caps (100nF & 10uF)
    • AMS1117-3.3 (Voltage regulator)
    • Micro SD card socket
    • LEDs
    • ESP12F (or ESP12E, both works)
    • Micro SD card (with FAT file system)
    • BC817 transistors
  • 2
    Order the PCB

    As the PCB is the main component of this build, you can order your PCB at any PCB manufacturer you prefered. This project is sponsored by JLCPCB. If you have never tried to order a PCB before, please feel free to try out JLC services with the link below.

    https://jlcpcb.com/

    In my case, I got mine for around $5 - 6 USD (5 pcs), which is perfect for small volume productions for making a few prototypes for fun. The PCB should take around 3 days to produce and another few days to ship to your location.

    You can find the Gerber files for the PCB over here on my git server.

    https://git.imuslab.com/TC/WebStick

  • 3
    Solder the Components Onto the PCB

    Solder the Components Onto the PCB

    How to Solder The Components?

    This step is also quite straight forward. What you need to do is simply prepare all the components you need for the soldering. Then solder them onto your PCB one by one.

    As each of the boards takes me around 30 minutes to solder, after a few successful prototype, I decided to go with JLC's PCBA service. If you are a STEM teacher and needs a bunch of these made like I do, feel free to try out the PCBA service as well. I will have another blog post documenting how to mass produce electronics later if anyone is interested about this.

    Why the Components are So Small?

    The smallest component, the NPN transistors BC817 are there to support automatic programming. In boards that do not contains build-in programmer like the ESP32CAM, you will often see a FLASH and RESET physical buttons. That is because it is required to held those pins to LOW in order to make the chip to enter flash mode. But adding these two components (although they are difficult to solder), it provide a much smoother automatic programming experience to myself, specially when I am developing the backend code which I need to flash a new firmware to it every few minutes just to test it.

View all 11 instructions

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Discussions

Robert Alford wrote 10/02/2023 at 21:51 point

If I need to Change the Port from 80 to 81 as I already have something on 80 for PortForward what Change will I need to make ?

  Are you sure? yes | no

tobychui wrote 10/03/2023 at 01:37 point

Go to your router settings and set external port 81 port forwarding to internal webstck IP :80 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Robert Alford wrote 10/03/2023 at 02:44 point

If it was that Easy I would have already done it.. My Router does not give me the Option of an Internal IP just open the Ports so thats why I was asking but I did find it in the Files that I can Upload directly to the Chip.. I have a better Router on the way so that too will work..

  Are you sure? yes | no

allexoK wrote 09/10/2023 at 13:44 point

Wow, great project! I wonder why didn't you use Esp32?

  Are you sure? yes | no

tobychui wrote 09/10/2023 at 13:52 point

esp32 cost twice as much as an esp8266 when source in bulk. Besides, it is more fun to work with lower end hardware than a more powerful alternative :D

  Are you sure? yes | no

allexoK wrote 09/10/2023 at 15:23 point

Yeah, it makes sense:)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kogije wrote 09/05/2023 at 06:18 point

Is it possible to modify this to host a Python Bot for Discord?

  Are you sure? yes | no

tobychui wrote 09/05/2023 at 07:50 point

No. This only runs Arduino C++. maybe you can host a web page with python interpreter to do something with python in your browser?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Kogije wrote 09/06/2023 at 01:31 point

I was hoping it could be side-loaded from the micro SD.  Oh well.

  Are you sure? yes | no

aaaaaa wrote 09/04/2023 at 15:31 point

meybe add mesh network 

like https://freifunk.net/

and add a power ups for example 18650

  Are you sure? yes | no

tobychui wrote 09/05/2023 at 02:49 point

I would love to, but in order to implement something like Apache in the ESP8266 firmware, I already use 98% of its internal memory. Maybe next time I will have a separated project that do mesh networking stuffs :D

  Are you sure? yes | no

aaaaaa wrote 09/05/2023 at 12:26 point

for mesh You not need web server ;-)

simple ssh or less. Node must forward packages/frame and nothing more.

Meybe instal fuzix ?

BTW, power is important. small device is no problem , problem is with power and mobility

  Are you sure? yes | no

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