QRPLabs QCX 5W CW Mono band transceiver

QRPLabs QCX 5W CW Mono band transceiver

Another Arduino basd project, well not quite. The Arduino Uno is a microcontroller board based on the ATmega328P.

This kit from QRPLabs also uses the ATmega328P. The software is not open source. Updates are provided as hex files.

This kit is extremely well documented. It is worth buying and assembling just for the documentation.

The assembly instructions are very clear and contain operation theory and alignment process.

Once assembled the device would not start. According to the excellent troubleshooting doc the processor had not been reset.

I had performed the modification for reliable microcontroller startup (repurposing inductor L5) during assembly so turned to the troubleshooting manual for direction. First was to go back and  check components then touched up the soldering around the processor and crystal and she started Ok. 

QCXBuild

Next was to follow the assembly manual and align / tune then update the firmware. Again wth the excellent instructions there were no issue here.

Update Firmware from Mac;

I’m going to update the firmware from Mac using avrdude.

Purchased a USBAsp AVR programmer locally. It has a 10pin connector so get a 10 to 6 to match the ISP interface on the QCX or use dupont connectors like I did. 

There are instructions on the QRPLabs site for win process for using  but No I want to use my Mac. Again Google is your friend. Given allready have XCode installed, I decided to just install avrdude and use the command line.

Install avrdude on Mac OSX.

Process is straight forward. 

Open a terminal session and install Homebrew;

ruby -e “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)” < /dev/null 2> /dev/null

Then install avrdude;

brew install avrdude

So the software is installed.

First Plug in the USBASP and verify the computer can see it (About->System Report) then check avrdude can see the QCX; 

Allens-Air:QRPLabs allen$ avrdude -c usbasp -p atmega328p
avrdude: warning: cannot set sck period. please check for usbasp firmware update.avrdude: AVR device initialized and ready to accept instructions
Reading | ################################################## | 100% 0.00s
avrdude: Device signature = 0x1e950f (probably m328p)
avrdude: safemode: Fuses OK (E:FC, H:D1, L:F7)
avrdude done.  Thank you.

Noting the warning message. Quick Google revealed this is not an issue and there is a parameter you can pass to avrdude to skip suck a check so not worried, Ok then lets flash the device;

Allens-Air:QRPLabs allen$ avrdude  -c usbasp -p ATmega328P -U flash:w:T1.00f.hex 
avrdude: warning: cannot set sck period. please check for usbasp firmware update.avrdude: AVR device initialized and ready to accept instructions
Reading | ################################################## | 100% 0.00s
avrdude: Device signature = 0x1e950f (probably m328p)avrdude: NOTE: “flash” memory has been specified, an erase cycle will be performed         To disable this feature, specify the -D option.avrdude: erasing chipavrdude: warning: cannot set sck period. please check for usbasp firmware update.avrdude: reading input file “T1.00f.hex”avrdude: input file T1.00f.hex auto detected as Intel Hexavrdude: writing flash (32076 bytes):
Writing | ################################################## | 100% 21.78s
avrdude: 32076 bytes of flash writtenavrdude: verifying flash memory against T1.00f.hex:avrdude: load data flash data from input file T1.00f.hex:avrdude: input file T1.00f.hex auto detected as Intel Hexavrdude: input file T1.00f.hex contains 32076 bytesavrdude: reading on-chip flash data:
Reading | ################################################## | 100% 16.32s
avrdude: verifying …avrdude: 32076 bytes of flash verified
avrdude: safemode: Fuses OK (E:FC, H:D1, L:F7)
avrdude done.  Thank you.

thats it done  ! Now running version 1.00f.

From here I intend to go through the troubleshooting instructions with my new oscilloscope and explore the device.

W8TEE and K2ZIA Antenna Analyzer

Another Arduino based project. This time an W8TEE and K2ZIA Antenna Analyzer.

AABench

Purchased the PCB from https://qrpguys.com/w8tee-k2zia-antenna-analyzer

Not a kit so sourced the components. Easy to order from china off eBay. Took about 2 weeks for all the bits to come in.

Assembled and she started but the SWR for a 51ohm dummy load was off the scale.

The audrino and screen are ok. Checked and double checked solder joints so needed to verify the DDS and SWR bridge operations.

My old Dick Smith device is not cutting the mustard so borrowed an oscilloscope from Lacky VK3ALM. Traced the signal into the SWR bridge and nothing out. Checked the components and well my bad as the 51ohm resistors were in-fact 51K ohm. Bit of a difference. Replaced and off she went !

Downloaded the latest WA2FZW software from IOGroups – https://groups.io/g/SoftwareControlledHamRadio/files/Improved%20Analyzer%20Software

The documentation and a debugging guide are available from this group, essential information.

AAHoused

Use a case from radio parts (CB8808). Yes there is a pimple in the middle. No intention to remove as works fine.

So far have scanned all my antennas at home. I can recommend this device. Not a kit but the process to source and assemble was fun.

04082018 – VK3/VC-024

04082018 – VK3/VC-024  

Went to Mt Beckworth for the VK1 S2S Party.

Third attempt to activate Mt Beckworth this year, first failed as the KX3 battery was flat and didn’t take a spare up to the site, second was changed to Mt Bunnyioung as slept through the alarm. Made it this time

This is a good site for such activities as close and clear.

VerticalSetup

QRPGuys 20/30/40 vertical with an additional 6 ground wires making 9 in total.

It is hard to pick differences without actually running all the antenna up at the same time, but a much better response with the additional ground over the original 3 wires when deployed at Mt Bunnyioung recently.

Didn’t run the end fed out to gain 80m as comfortably qualified and the other sites ended on on these bands.

PackLoaded

This was also a run with the new ‘Compact heavy-duty 7 m mast from SOTABeams’. As you can see the mast nearly fits into my backpack.

This will be great as now will not be harassed when hiking through dense bush (still not returning to Hells Gate !) Bit heaver but figure I just need to get fitter.

Good activation with 15 S2S in the fog. Also 1mm rain but not complaining about that given the drought in NSW.

NewImage

anyway, great activation. Ready for VK JA ZL – EU S2S QSO Party Saturday 20 October 2018 – 06:30 UTC to 08:30 UTC  (Melbourne, Australia*AEDT (UTC +11) Sat, 20 Oct 2018 5:30 pm)

µBITx

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HF SIGNALS started shipping the μBITX boards (or micro BITX) December 2017. This is a a fully wide-band 3 to 30 MHz transceiver with upper and lower sideband and CW, power up to 10 watts and solid digital control. The circuit boards come wired and tested and with all the hardware. An interesting component of this radio is the Radino. This board has a Arduino Nano controller and a Si5351 for all local oscillators.

Radio Description – http://www.hfsignals.com/index.php/ubitx-circuit-description/

uBITX Net – great source of uBITX information.

groups.io has a group for the varies BITX projects.

Wiring Up

I chose not to use the plastic case that it came with or to print a 3D but instead purchased an universal enclosure from Amateur Radio Kits (INKITS). It took 6 weeks deliver, which was not unexpected.  These things take time and worth the wait, The case is excellent value. Metal and came with additional installation hardware including PCBs for the external connections.

uBITx wiring – http://www.hfsignals.com/index.php/ubitx-wire-up/

Case Manual – https://groups.io/g/BITX20/files/UBITX%20CASE%20MANUAL%20%20PCB%20FRONT%20PANEL.pdf

uBITX Net has a list of updates to make.

Initial build photo below. Have added additional wiring for ground issues and wired in USB interface. Will get a photo next time case off. Will be soon enough 

Wiring 003

 Digital to the Left, Analogue to the right. Pin 1 to the left

Boards 

Update – VU3SUA case documentation –  https://ubitx.net/2018/08/03/vu3sua-case-documentation/

Used the front panel board that came with the case. Proved to be convient and tidy but still not without its challenges. You will need to follow Sunil Lakhani on facebook to gain pictures of the boards, assembly tips and info for the board

Wiring 002

Encoder

The encoder is not straight through.   

1<->1,2 <-> 4,3<-> 3, 4 <-> 2

 

Encoder

CW Paddle

You need to add two resistors to support a CW paddle. Follow the directions on uBit.net.  

PaddleModFirmware Upgrade

Worked as advertised. Again checkout ubitx.net – http://ubitx.net/compare-software-options/ 

Decided to go with KD8CEC firmware – http://ubitx.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ug1072_087.pdf

Get the latest from https://github.com/phdlee/ubitx

Install Arduino software, if not already installed. Install the USB drivers for the Arduino compatible board (CH340 serial interface) used by Radino for MacOS here 10.9+ or here 10.12.

Download the firmware files from GitHub, compile and upload to the Radino.

Bingo so now you have a HF  full source code for the HF transceiver on your computer. That is cool in initself. 

I ended up running version 1.08. Manual – http://ubitx.net/manual-kd8cec-firmware/

Upgrades

The board is v3. I want to address the T/R click noise and add an CW Audio Filter. Also saw pcbs for filters based on Glenn VK3IL’s blog.

Nick VK4PLN uBITX Add-On boards – https://vk4pln.blogspot.com/2018/03/vk4pln-ubitx-add-on-boards.html

Kess ND6T uBitX Add-On boards – http://www.nd6t.com/index.htm and ordering instructions in BitX20 group.

To Do

Calibration 

Calibration of these devices appears to be a black art;

Notes

 

Noise

I still have noise UBitxAudio.m4a when using the speaker. Headphones are Ok. It appears too be a Ground Loop problem.

Deployed common ground via a star config which improved the audio however still have the noise when using the speaker.  

GroundStar

Current solution is to stick to headphones and use the device.

Update 03082018

Updated the pic to show grounding. The brown wire goes to the common on front panel board. Still noisy.

There is a lot of information as to audio available uBitx.net and iGroups.

Conclusion

This is a fun radio.It’s cheap, it works and requires very little skills to  get operational.

Think will source another board. The uBitX v4 boards have no Audio IC On the board. 

Options;

 

072018 – Upcoming Activations

Upcoming Activities;

  • VK JA ZL – EU S2S QSO Party Saturday 20 October 2018 – 06:30 UTC to 08:30 UTC  
    • (Melbourne, Australia AEDT (UTC +11) Sat, 20 Oct 2018 5:30 pm)
  • KRMNPA Activation Weekend – Fri 9th – Mon 12 Nov 2018 – Tony VK3XV
  • VKFF Activation Weekend – Sat 24th – Sun 25th Nov 2018 – Paul VK5PAS

 

30112018 – Christmas Island

Overview

7 days from 30th November 2018. 

  • SOTA – VK9/CH-001 – Murray Hill
  • WWFF – VKFF-0098 Christmas Island National Park (Commonwealth)
  • IOTA – OC-002 Christmas in Christmas Island
  • DXCC – OC / VK9X
  • Grid Square OH2

 

 

 

Deal Island 2018 – Cancelled due to winds. 2019 ?

 

Basecamp

ILLW 2018 – 00.01UTC 18 August to 2400UTC 19 August 2018 (48 hours) 
leave Friday 17^th August, return Monday 20^th

  • Lat. 39°29.8’S, Long. 147°19.3’E
  • SOTA VK7/NE-059
  • IOTA – AU-0129 
  • OC-195 Deal Island in Furneaux Group
  • WWFF – VKFF-0260 Kent Group National Par

072018 – SOTA Activations

03062018 VK3/VC-007 (Mt Macedon)

16062018 VK3/VC-019 (Mt Warrenheip) – WWFF Mount Warrenheip Flora Reserve (VKFF-2402)

Closest WWFF to home and new listing so went to snag first activation. 

01072018 VK3/VC-003 (Mt Ritchie)

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MtRitchie 01062018

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21072018 – VK3/VC-018 (Mt Buninyong)

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Testing and activations for the set of it. More to come

26052018 – VK3/VE-012, VK3/VT-001, VK3/VT-002, VK3/VT-004

VK3/VE-012 – Mt Margorie

VK3/VT-001 – Mt Howitt

VK3/VT-002 – Mt Reynard

VK3/VT-004 – Bryces Plain

all in VKFF-0619 – Alpine National Park

APRS coverage excellent with the newly commissioned VK3RHO digi-repeater and Telstra 3G/4G once out of the valleys.

NewImage

View from Mt Howwit to The Razor and the Viking. This was typical of the views for the weekend, stunning.

20180526 084753

Spent the weekend with Glenn VK3YY and David VK3IL.

The aim was to tackle five 10-point summits before the weather turns and the winter road closures (Victoria Seasonal Road Closures) makes access next to impossible.

The weather (Mountain Weather) was holding and initial plans for the weekend of the 19th cancelled due to work so the 26th it was. Watched the forecasts and took Friday off. The week was spent packing and checking equipment. The plan was to base ourselves at  MaCalister Springs Camping ground. This will give us ‘easy’ access to Howitt Plains. The Vallejo Ganter hut and toilet facilities are excellent and spring water at MaCallaster Springs. We still have to carry in camping equipment as can not rely on access to the hut. Thanks to FaceBook (Australia Hiking & Bushwalking) I was able to confirm that the spring was active so no need to carry lots of water just to bring water filter. Still carried enough water to support return trip so with radio gear, tent, sleeping bag and matress, food, spare clothing, harsh weather clothing and first aid kit the pack came in just under 20Kg. Despite the brilliant weather you have to be prepared for harsh conditions.

This is the Alpine. You have to take responsability for your own saftey.

Overview

Friday up normal and down to meet David VK3IL and Glenn VK3YY at Glenns place to take Davids 4WD up .Friday was spent driving up to Mt Howitt car park then walking out the 4Km to the camping ground. We arrived at the hut before dark. We were able to use the hut  so setup and proceeded to watch the sunset behind the crosscut and have some tea. 

DSCN9314

VK3/VE-012 – Mt Marjorie

Early rise. We packed day packs ensuring enough water and food for the walk. rationalised the radio equipment to ensure we had full redundancy. No desire to spend two days getting to a summit to discover the battery is flat. Packed up the sleeping gear as can not expect to have access to the hut again. After filtering water we headed off. Walked through Mt Howwit (too early for chasers!) and out to Mt Margorie. The weather was perfect. Had to stop to take photos of summits in the mist. The walk out to Mt Marjorie is 6Km. It took us three hours. I was the slowest of the pack or as I prefer to frame it, enforcer of time to take in the views. 

P1000275

Glenn VK3YY declaring ownership of all he surveys.

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David VK3IL and Glenn VK3YY on Mt Marjorie with Mt Buller in the background. Despite the conditions still had to hike back and activate Mt Howitt so no leisurely activation here. 40m was poor so we used 80m and worked all comers.  Once completed packed up and headed back. 

VK3/VT-001 – Mt Howitt

Seriously, this is excellent. We made it to Mt Howitt  in perfect conditions. The walk back David and Glenn were off like rabbits but we made it comfortably to the summit with couple of hours up our sleeve. Then basically sat on top of Mt Howitt with 40m of wire and modern HF transceivers playing SOTA. Worked a treat. Getting cold but no rain. Qualifed on SSB then David worked the pile up. 

MtHowitt ILYY

Once all comers were worked we were all comfortably qualified so packed up and headed back to the hut at MaCalistor Springs. The weather was fine but the temperature dropping. Did not want to be out in the dark and still had over 2Km back to camp so the intent was to proceeded with haste. Its a great walk into the camp as basically down hill. I have been here in harsher times so appreciated the conditions.

Got back with time to collect water from the springs. Again no issues with supply. We had to share the hut as there were two other walkers there. This was welcome as they had the fire going and it was quite cosy inside. Still heaps of room. They had been out taking photos and reported excellent conditions as well as the presence of shooters. No issues nor late nights as it a case of eat and head to bed. It had been a big day. We were fortunate to secure the mezzanine level of the hut. The windows in the hut provided a magnificent view of the nearly full moon during the night.    

VK3/VT-004 – Bryces Plain

Up early again and this time after breacky and tea, packed all the equipment up and heading back to the car.  Our companions were up and gone. The walk out is straight forward as once you are up as it is across the top of the ridge back to the car.

Once ready to go the car decided it was not. It was not a case of flat battery more of a case of incorrect voltage. Well the fix involved a LiFe battery and 20 minutes of standing in the sun which I did not mind, we were off and  headed down down Howitt road.

Bryces Plain does not require hiking in. Access via a 4WD track off Howit Road to an open summit shared with comms and weather equipment.

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Glenn VK3YY and David VK3IL on Bryces Plain. This one photo is mine as I’m not in the picture.

Clean activation as even chairs were deployed. Setup up Davids antenna. You can see the size of the device in the photo again worked a treat and we qualified on 40m again working all comers. 

During the activation a National Parks Ranger turned up. This was surprising as Sunday. He was looking a bit agitated and once he understood we were harmless radio nutters he explained that he was looking into illegal shooters. There are deer hunters in the park as its in season and regulated. We didn’t have any rifles nor intended to kill anything so he left us to play radio.

VK3/VT-002 – Mt Reynard

Kellys road was closed but we had already decided to park high on Howitt Rd as checked it out the area on the way in. There are no great spots just a good one. Could see the summit, crossing point and were coming in high so all good. This was a walk in wonderland. We found and followed a track and it to the summit, well not quite but close.

It is a very large activation zone on a very open summit you can see it from the road as only a couple of k’s. Both I and Glenn had  been before. Glenn with Wayne VK3WAM and was aware of a track. The idea is to cross the marsh and head up the valley following the creek line but high turning right to head up to the summit at a suitable place.The vegetation is fine. Its not trying to kill you. Can see why its a favourite of the skiers. 

We went in high to avoid the marsh and followed the edge looking for a track. The track is on some maps and once located a easy run.

Once in a clear spot we setup up Davids EFHW antenna. This proved to be a excellent performer. The Alpine summits have more that enough room for the 40m of wire and having 80m available is essential.  Worked all on SSB and headed back the track to Davids 4WD. Followed the track to the clearing of the valley. Came out lower and hit the marsh early. The bridge is broken and only acts as a marker but still a good spot point to cross what can be a very wet area.

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Mt Tambortitha (VK3/VT-011) was on the agenda however decided to leave as we would not have qualified and made it back down in daylight. It was still 8 hours drive home for me from here so happy to leave Mt Tambortitha for another day and get home before tomorrow.  

APRS from 2M FM coverage in this area is now excellent with packets being relayed through the newly commissioned digirepeater VK3RHO on Mt Hotham. 

Great trip in what was perfect conditions. Lots of fun with capable experienced operators. This is SOTA. Looking forward to doing it again.