uBitx Build Done and 1st QSO at K4XD


Thanks to SolderSmoke hooking me with tales of uBitx joy, I had to get in the game, and the deed has been done!  

Ordered the uBitx kit on March 30, it shipped April 25 and arrived 3 days later, so just under 30 days from order to arrival.  
I perused case options and not having the tools, talent or patience to drill holes in the XYL's cake tins and hope things lined up, I saw the Amateur Radio Kits of India cases and with all the extras supplied at a low price, ordered one on April 15, the day orders re-opened.  It arrived before the uBitx.

When I opened the case I found a Big Bag O' Parts stuffed neatly inside.  Wow!  In addition to a bunch of hardware, zip ties, and wire, there were small PC boards to make it easier and neater to mount and connect to the USB/DB-9/spare mini phone jacks, power, switch and fuse, and encoder.  In other words, no need for ugly construction with the potential for shorts and solder blobs.  Fuse holder with fuse, power switch and jack all included.  Plastic panel to cover the LCD.  Knobs!  And other stuff - it's really an impressive pile that would take a lot of scrounging to round up a la carte.  If you like to scrounge and improvise, by all means, go for it.  But Sunil should really point out that his "case" is really a beauty of a case plus all the stuff you'll need to finish your uBitx kit.  I think I added about a foot of wire to go from the power board to the uBitx board.  Everything else I needed was included.

Idea for Sunil - how about offering a "Pro" version of your case with some of the most popular mods on PC boards, like the audio pop / AGC board being discussed here now?

I took my time with the build and spent about four hours on Saturday and three on Sunday before plugging in an antenna and powering up.  It came on but turning the encoder didn't do anything.  I discovered that in a clumsy attempt to scrape between two traces on the encoder add-on PCB, I separated one of the solder pads from the trace.  De-soldered and stuck it in another hole further down the trace, and voila, encoder worked fine and I was greeted with a 40M rag chew on 7130. The encoder was working the "wrong way" - turning the knob clockwise decreased frequency - so I reversed the brown and black wires and all was good.  Receiver working!  

I connected a USB cable to the USB jack provided with Sunil's case but got an "unknown device" error from Windows.  Searching for drivers yielded nada.  I assumed there was a wiring error but there wasn't - I'm not sure when it happened, but I think when I loaded XLoader to update the firmware I also got the right driver (??) because after a reboot and plugging into the USB jack again, it connected OK.  I used the KD8CEC 1.61 firmware and set DXLab's Commander to the right COM port and told it the rig was an FT-817, and bang, CAT control was working.  Very cool!  

I wired the front panel Key jack as a straight key and used an off-the-shelf "CW cable" - DB-9 to mini phone, CW on the RTS line - to my laptop.  I connected DXLab's Winwarbler to the COM port for CW and told it to key on RTS, and that worked too.  Nice!  I tried some CW contacts but didn't get a response, but I could see from the power output meter on my antenna tuner that I was putting out 5.5W on 40M.  

Plowing ahead, I decided to try FT8 with WSJT-X, and put a small USB sound card dongle into the mix.  Mini phone cords from the sound card to the Mic and Phone jacks, told WSJT-X to use DXLab's Commander for rig control, and the waterfall filled with FT8 signals and the WSJT-X frequency display tracked the uBitx.

I responded to AB0GT's CQ and was just a bit surprised when he immediately came back with a -07 db report - right about where you'd want to be.  This was on 20M and the power output reading on the tuner said 4W.  I was using a 3 element SteppIR up about 50 feet pointed at MO, (I'm in NC) but 1000 miles with 4W wasn't shabby for the first contact with a new rig.  Happy dance!  Next Q was with WA6I, 2350 miles away and another good FT8 signal report.  

Bottom line - I'm a very happy camper, this was fun to build and I have to credit NeoTheNomad VU3NEO's Youtube videos, this group, instructions on uBitx.net, Farhan's ingenious design and Sunil's great case and "random stuff you need" for making it a good experience.  Only a couple wrong turns along the way, no smoke and no scrounging beyond a couple feet of wire.  It's not a step-by-step, Heathkit(r) manual process by any means, but if you've done a few builds and don't mind digging around on the Internet a bit, it's very do-able and I can't think of anything that comes close to it in value.

Well done all!

Rowland K4XD

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