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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

DSCN9461

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;

 

SOTA and WWFF Antenna

 SOTA Antenna

 

2M 

26.5m 80/40/20/10 EFRW

Went with 49:1 on a FT82-43 toriod with 3:24 ratio and a 120pf 500v mica cap (that was what I had) with 26.5M of wire.

Intentionally selected a length with no half waves. 26.5 m = 87  feet. (https://udel.edu/~mm/ham/randomWire/

 

http://www.qrpkits.com/sota.html with 19.5 m wire and counterpoise

 

Trap 20/40 Dipole based on SOTABeams pico traps – https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/pico-traps-kit-pair/

Trapped end feed also based on pico traps.

 

 

Loaded end fed – https://www.nonstopsystems.com/radio/frank_radio_antenna_multiband_end-fed.htm

20/30/40m Vertical

QRPGuys Portable Tri-Band Vertical Antenna – https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-tri-band-portable-vertical-antenna

Looking for a DX antenna for S2S evenings. A 20m vertical appears to be the answer.

Considered  

DSCN9347

This will rock for 20 and 30 but doubt 40 will be much chop.

Got the switches 2m off the ground.
Had to keep the forth radial as it reduced swr, actually it flattened it. So three radials one down each guy and the forth just hanging down. Actually except you need the squid pole its quite a compact sturdy antenna.

Spreed the anti with clear acrylic

QRPGuysVertical

 

Tuned each segment with the VK5JST tuner. Also ordered the W8TEE and K2ZIA Antenna Analyzer – https://qrpguys.com/w8tee-k2zia-antenna-analyzer

 

Notes:

VDA – http://www.ph0no.net/2017/11/looking-at-vda-as-portable-antenna.html

http://www.66pacific.com/calculators/coil-shortened-vertical-antenna-calculator.aspx 

http://www.66pacific.com/calculators/coil-inductance-calculator.aspx 

20082017 – VK3/VC-018 Mt Bunnyiong

 20082017 – VK3/VC-018 Mt Bunnyiong

VK1 SOTA activation day and a test run for miniHFPA HF Packer Amp.

ViewOfKX3HFPacker

Noticed the alerts going up for VK1 2017 Winter SOTA Party so decided to go to local summit to play SOTA one what looked like a reasonable day to go out. Propagation recently has been terrible for NVIS so decided it was time to test my newest toy, a miniHFPA HF Packer Amp. This is a 35 watt linear amplifier designed for portable operations. 

Decided to a to build a lightweight amplifier that can be backpacked to sites and be powered by a light weight LIPO 3S battery. Did look at commercial options. There are several out there a assembled Chinese unit and there are several kits available from eBay but appeared not to have adequate filters and lacking harmonic suppression. Glenn VK3YY describes building a unit based on W6JLs designs. There are a lot of kits around which would be more accurately described as harmonic generators. 

I went for the HF Packer kit. I have decided to build as much as I can and not being a electronics engineer more that happy to assemble kits. The new 35w kit was announced and I put my name down for a unit. Not the cheapest options but was expecting a unit that was well designed and meet the conditions of my licence

The build went well. The biggest issue I had was using unleaded solder. My fixed temp iron was not hot enough. A new variable iron fixed the issue and the build progressed. Once completed had issues completing the testing process. The issue came down to incorrect marking of the RF ports. Once addressed (Thanks David) the device leapt into action.

So going from 5w to 35w output is a gain of 8.45dB. Given 6dB is a S point expecting an additional 2 sS points for my signal reports. VK7CW and VK2YW gave me a 599 with the amp in use.Off top a great start. Later without the amp in use I received a 559 from VK2WP. None of the contacts were soliciting reports as my CW is only good for making contacts not setting up experiments. Pre roll over SSB contact with VK1CT received 59 and post received 45. No one described poor signal so very happy with results.    

At 717grams it won’t be a frequent addition to SOTA activations but when conditions are not good and the trek supports the additional unit and battery 35W it will be available.

The 4500mAh 3S 30C LIPO was at 80% after hour of use. Time for new batteries so will be going for a 2500/3000 mAh unit. 

So the next is to develop a suitable antenna. Used a trapped 20/40 unit based on SOTABeams 100w traps for this activation.This unit is too heavy for SOTA however so looking at options.The AMP is rated at 35W for 60/40 & 30/20m bands. Will need a resonate antenna to avoid carrying a tuner so looking at a EFHW (End Fed Half Wave) instance. There is a lot of information out there. David VK3IL page describes a similar quest he went on and a search of the SOTA forum search pointed me towards HB9TVK. Thinking of using T80-6 for traps and a T140-43 for the matching transformer, RG178 coax and lightweight wire. Yes looking at grams here and the trap weight has to be trimmed else the wire will sag too much and can’t be seen on a summit with a sagging antenna!

More on antenna as options are finalised. Also will be building a CW radio for wet harsh conditions. Ordered the QRP-Labs single-band 5W CW transceiver kit and will build into a waterproof case.

 

Allen

Vk3ARH

 

160m End Fed

160 to 6m Endfed for Portable deployment.

This is a big antenna and will not be suitable for tight summits. However ideal for Alpine summits.

NewImage

135 feet or more then 42m appears to be the go.

7M squid pole holding top at 7m. Yellow cord to keep tips 2m off ground.

guy on squid pole

RF choke on RG174. 8 turns so can use 10m shield as counterpoise.Ends held in place with cable ties then covered in heat shrink tubing.

RF Choke;

End Fed – http://vk6ysf.com/longwire_antenna.htm

VK6YSF 9:1UNUN  http://vk6ysf.com/unun_9-1_v2.htm

W4KGH 9:1 UNUN http://w4kgh.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Instructions-for-W4KGH-End-Fed.pdf

Emergency Amateur Radio Club of Hawaii (EARCHI) 40m to 6m Endfed antenna using a 9:1 match. It consists of 30ft (10m) of wire fed into a 9:1 UnUn (Unbalanced to Unbalanced).Plans for the Antenna are available from EARCHI’s website 

Counterpoise lengths appear to be quarter the lowest band so for  160m will be 40m. The ideal radiator length is one that avoid harmonic multiples (1/4 or 1/2) of the operating frequencies.  Why is this not a dipole ? High impedance to support multi band operations. Here are the sites that describe the radiator lengths;

http://udel.edu/~mm/ham/randomWire/

http://www.balundesigns.com/content/ Wire%20Lengths%20for%204%20and%209-1%20ununs.pdf