#qcx QCX Firmware 1.01 released #qcx

Hans Summers

Hi all

In almost 2 years there have been only two minor releases mostly addressing a couple of minor bugs. Now I have put together a more major release with some new functionality, and a few more bug fixes. All orders which have not yet been shipped, including those placed before this announcement, get the new 1.01 version. Any orders which have been shipped today or before, have the 1.00g version. I've been using various incarnations of 1.01 for the last week or two on air and I'm very happy with it. 

Here is a YouTube video demonstrating the new functionality: https://youtu.be/PHE0hc7klfE 

For updating your own chip if you have an AVR programmer, the .hex file can be downloaded at: http://qrp-labs.com/images/qcx/firmware/T1.01.hex (right click and SaveAs). 

Or you can purchase a new fresh 1.01 firmware chip at http://shop.qrp-labs.com/firmware/qcxchip

There is a new version of the QCX manual at http://qrp-labs.com/qcx which is updated for the new firmware 1.01. Throughout the manual, any new items that apply only to 1.01 are identified as such; therefore you can do a search on "1.01" and it will show you information on the new behaviour. 

The full list of changes is below, and on the firmware page http://www.qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxfirmware.html . Highlights worthy of more explanation:

IAMBIC A and keyer responsiveness improvement: thanks to a thorough analysis and diagnosis by Dave 4X1RS and Dany 4X1MJ, I was able to find and correct a difference in the keyer behaviour in IAMBIC Mode A, and the original Curtis keyer chip. Some people used Mode A without trouble but some people were bothered by this inconsistency. Dave and Dany tested a beta of the new version and were very happy with it. I was also able to improve the response time to key closures by disabling Digital Signal Processing (DSP) completely during transmit; the DSP is used to implement a Goertzel algorithm filter and detector, used by the CW decoder, S-meter and during calibration operations; none of these need it to run during transmit. 

Practice mode indication and automatic GPS protection: Now when Practice mode is enabled (menu 4.7), a letter P is displayed on the top row next to the frequency. Furthermore, a significant number of people were mistaken (or failed to read the manual) about using a GPS; a GPS should only be connected during alignment menu items 8.11/8.12/8.13 or when the beacon mode is active; this is because the GPS 1pps and Serial data signals share the key paddle input pins on the processor. If a GPS is connected other than as mentioned, it will permanently key the transistor which can result in killing the output transistors by overheating, if no dummy load is connected etc. NOW in version 1.01 I detect the serial data from the GPS and in less than 1/2 a second, automatically switch on Practice mode to protect against any damage. The menu 4.7 setting is not altered; it's just a temporary Practice mode and can be cancelled by going into the menu system and exiting. Or cycling power etc. 

CW Decoder improvement: The CW decoder tracks both signal amplitude and keying speed of the other station, by a system of exponential moving averages. I discovered an error in the algorithm that results in a bias towards higher speed; therefore the decoder timing ends up thinking it is decoding much faster Morse than it really is, which decreases its effectiveness. There was actually a second systematic error in so far as the noise blanker period was subtracted from the timing too, which also results in an unfair bias in the tracking algorithm, towards higher speeds. The result of fixing these issues is that the CW decoder is now improved! (Still - remember the best CW decoder is the wetware between your ears - any CW decoder is a poor crutch to lean on). 

Custom Splash screen: Just because we radio amateurs like to custom label our equipment sometimes... you can now enable a customized splash screen to replace the default screen that appears for a couple of seconds at power-up. This is enabled by the new "7.8 Custom splsh" menu and if set to ON, the contents of message memories 11 and 12 (if set) replace the default splash screen top and bottom row respectively. 

RIT and Speed adjustments now allow transmit: I found that when I am sitting on a frequency after a CQ working the pileup... stations call me off frequency, sometimes enough off frequency that they fall outside the CW Bandpass filter which is only 200Hz wide; then they get somewhat attenuated. I want to use RIT to address this but in all the panic it was a pain to have to keep double-clicking the left button, adjusting RIT, then pressing the left button again, and getting ready to transmit... by the time I've done all that I've forgotten their callsign and in all the button pressing haven't been able to write it down, so end up with QRZ? and then the whole process repeats. To solve that... now you press double-click to enable RIT; then just comfortably remain there on frequency, leave RIT as the item being adjusted by the rotary encoder, and enjoy the QSOs rolling by. Just turn the rotary encoder to adjust the RIT and leave the main operating frequency (transmit frequency) alone. Similarly for keyer Speed... you can single-press to change the speed and it will allow you to transmit while adjusting the speed. 

Dynamic configuration of Si5351A chip allows easy band change: For those of you who are tinkering with multi-band QCX kits, you no longer need to do a factory reset to guarantee correct Si5351A operation; instead you can tune to the new band, or more likely, set up a Preset Frequency in the other band and just load this preset into the VFO. Now that always works, no need to do a Factory Reset to have the VFO configured properly. This goes along with removal of the menu "3.9 Band" which is no longer needed (and was questionable whether it was EVER useful). 

Load VFO A to B and vice versa: Split operators can now copy VFO A to VFO B by a long press on the right button followed by a short press, which must occur within 1 second; similarly a long press followed by a double-short-press copies VFO B to VFO A. 

Straight key mode for tip only: People who plugged a 3.5mm mono plug straight key into the QCX will have noticed that won't work, the ring and ground connections get shorted resulting in continuous keying. There's now a new menu item, "4.10 Strght mode" that lets you choose plug tip, ring, or both (default), to solve this problem. 

Infamous "Disappearing S-meter" bug: now fixed!

A few other minor things too (#6, 13, 16, 17 below); the full list of changes is:
  1. Allow transmission while RIT adjustment is active
  2. Allow transmission while keyer speed adjustment is active
  3. Copy VFO A to B by Right button long press then Right button short press (within 1 second)
  4. Copy VFO B to A by Right button long press then Right button double press (within 1 second)
  5. Switch off DSP during transmit, improves responsiveness of keyer (DSP is not used during transmit)
  6. Break character -...- changed from | to = on display
  7. Dynamic calculation of Si5351A divisor rather than from a table based on band; enables changing band by preset freq
  8. Remove menu 3.9 (Band) - no longer relevant
  9. When in practice mode, 'P' is now displayed to the right of the frequency on the top row
  10. New menu 4.10 "Strght mode", choice of Both/Tip/Ring (so mono jacks can work)
  11. New menu 7.8 "Custom splsh", enables message 11 & 12 to be used as splash screen on power up (Factory reset is now 7.9)
  12. Automatic protection against GPS keying the transmit; when GPS detected, automatically enters practice mode
  13. WSPR encoding now re-encodes WSPR one transmit cycle sooner, in cases where the Maidenhead grid changed
  14. Bug fix: IAMBIC A mode keyer bug
  15. Bug fix: Disappearing S-meter after changing some unrelated parameters in the menu
  16. Bug fix: When CW decoder and S-meter both enabled, some digits of frequency display could get corrupted
  17. Bug fix: Tuning while keying resulted in loud tone in headphones. Tuning during key-down is now disabled
  18. Bug fix: Incorrect built-in bias caused CW decoder to track sending speed faster than it really was. Fix improves decoder
73 Hans G0UPL

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