I finally did it! I was able to flash my ESP8266s again. It only took months and a bunch of scratching my head – then banging it against a wall. I cannot even really remember where I left off with my programs, but I do recall I stopped because I wasn’t able to flash my chips anymore.
That was a big problem obviously, and I do not know why it started as all was well in the beginning. I originally had ordered a few ESP8266-01s and some Arduino Mini Pros. I figured they would work well together. To go with the Mini Pros and ESPs I nabbed a USB FTDI programmer and it worked fine when I initially got it. I was able to send AT commands to the ESPs and program my Mini Pros no problem. Then I started playing with flashing new firmware on the ESPs to try NodeMCU, and I think thats where everything started to go downhill. The FTDI and ESPs would stop communicating half way through flashing. Eventually I couldn’t flash or upload anything anymore. It just wouldn’t go. Fast forward a months later and I ran into a few posts that mentioned the FTDI chips are unstable with the ESPs and won’t work. Hmmm. They all recommended using a USB TTL adapter instead.
So thats what I finally did, purchased a USB TTL adapter off Amazon for $6. I got the Armorview PL203HX adapter. USB plug on one end and four breadboard connectors on the other for PW, GND, RX and TX. Simple. As soon as I got it I plugged it in and… nothing. A ls /dev/tty.* yielded nothing. WTF. I probably need a driver. Yup, the PL2303 driver was needed in my case. Installed that and plugged the adapter back in and now I see it tty.usbserial . Nice and generic. First thing I tried was flashing the AT firmware to an ESP. And it worked!!
I can now flash firmware to the ESPs again, and the Arduinos if I wanted to but the FTDI still works fine with those. For those that want to know; I use a breadboard power supply for powering the ESPs and Arduinos. I only use the USB adapters for communication. You can and I have done it without it, but it is just way more stable to use the extra power supply. The adapters don’t have the juice, especially for the ESPs. Now I can get back to tinkering again.