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#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

John Kirby
 

TNX Hans
Been lQQking forward to this post
What a fun / learning experience kit
Just placed my order

TNX AGN 
72 73 74
Johm
N3AAZ
FM19

Ton - PA0ARR
 

nice work Hans.
Do I see a new pa design in the video?
73 Ton PA0ARR

Hans Summers
 

Hi Ton

You have sharp eyes OM. Well there's all kinds of junk in the background, who knows

73 Hans G0UPL

On Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 9:40 AM Ton - PA0ARR <ton.solar@...> wrote:
nice work Hans.
Do I see a new pa design in the video?
73 Ton PA0ARR

Kelly Jack
 

Vertical module on the back wall of the case - presume that its Hans's 50w amp that he has described.

Don--AE4DW
 

I love that fact that when Hans does a major firmware release, he doesn't fool around. So much better than other situations where you get "point released" to death, and by the time you hit version 3.1.8.2.3.01c you still don't have the two new features you've been hoping for.

Jim W8JD
 

The new software is loaded and works but I am unable to write messages using the strait key except at extremely slow speeds, like one word per minute.  Is anyone else having this trouble?
Nice new features though.

Jim
W8JD

Duane Dickens <kc4tsa@...>
 

My kit was just shipped a few days before the new software upgrade...knew I should have waited. ...Paul AC4ZH




On Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 8:20 AM, Jim W8JD
<jimd2002@...> wrote:
The new software is loaded and works but I am unable to write messages using the strait key except at extremely slow speeds, like one word per minute.  Is anyone else having this trouble?
Nice new features though.

Jim
W8JD

Hans Summers
 

Hi Jim

I have never had any success inputting messages using a straight key in the old firmware either... did you have success on the old firmware? 

Anyway I am investigating this... a lot was changed for this release around the Keyer/Decoder functionality so perhaps something is wrong somewhere. 

PLS QRX

73 Hans G0UPL

On Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 3:20 PM Jim W8JD <jimd2002@...> wrote:
The new software is loaded and works but I am unable to write messages using the strait key except at extremely slow speeds, like one word per minute.  Is anyone else having this trouble?
Nice new features though.

Jim
W8JD

Jim W8JD
 

Hi Hans.  I'm pretty sure I did my messages with strait the built in key but I just tried my Bencher paddle and no luck, mostly just random letters.  I does appear to work if I send extremely slow, I mean like 1 second dashes and such but the letter wont appear until I start the next letter.  It works perfectly in normal transmit and receive.   
I could easily load the 1.00g software and give it a try if you want and get back to you.  Maybe their was just a glitch during the 1.01 load.

Thanks Hans
Jim Davis
W8JD

Hans Summers
 

Hi Jim

Don't worry I found the issue. Will explain in a moment once I've got the kids to sleep

73 Hans G0UPL

On Tue, Oct 8, 2019, 20:07 Jim W8JD <jimd2002@...> wrote:
Hi Hans.  I'm pretty sure I did my messages with strait the built in key but I just tried my Bencher paddle and no luck, mostly just random letters.  I does appear to work if I send extremely slow, I mean like 1 second dashes and such but the letter wont appear until I start the next letter.  It works perfectly in normal transmit and receive.   
I could easily load the 1.00g software and give it a try if you want and get back to you.  Maybe their was just a glitch during the 1.01 load.

Thanks Hans
Jim Davis
W8JD

Hans Summers
 

Hi all

I found the problem with 1.01... it's a case of changing something innocent and it having unexpected consequences which didn't show up in my particular testing cases. Arrghghhh. It is limited to self-decode of your own keying, which is only used for monitoring your own transmission (menu "5.5 Enable TX" is ON) and for entering messages during menu editing (menu "5.6 Enable Edit" is ON). The rest of the radio works perfectly. 

In case you're interested... 

This issue was caused by switching off the Digital Signal Processing. Normally there are 250 processing events per second, sampling occurs at 12,019 samples per second, and they are processed in blocks of 48 at a time, approximately every 4ms. The decision to process CW decoding is based on an index variable which is incremented 12,019 times per second; CW decoder processing occurs every 4ms, when the receive signal buffer (48 samples) gets full. The DSP (Goertzel algorithm) processing takes 1.5ms. When disabled, it means the decoder was getting called repeatedly multiple times over in the same 1 / 12,019'th of a second interval, because everything happens so fast. Then the milliseconds counter in the decoder proceeds very rapidly and it thinks your CW keying is going correspondingly very slowly; this messes up all the timing. 

The solution is very easy, just changing the logic of when the CW decoder gets called to make sure it cannot happen more often than every 4ms. Normal operation restored! Or better than it used to be, I feel! 

This realization occured to me during mental "background processing" while we were eating dinner!

Note that with the corrected behaviour of the decoder in 1.01, it may be optimal to increase the value of menu "5.2 Speed Avg." which defaults to 07. A larger value e.g. 20, *may* perform even better. I'm going to experiment with this a bit. 


11 Order IDs: 30357, 30364, 30366, 30368, 30369, 30370, 30371, 30373, 30375, 30376, 30378 shipped with version 1.01. 

All other Order IDs were either shipped before the announcement of 1.01, or are pending shipment; these will all be shipped with 1.01a. 

Anyway this is a minor issue, the radio works fine generally (including decode during Receive), it's only if you try to key in message memories rather than enter them using the buttons and rotary encoder, that there is any problem. 

73 Hans G0UPL



On Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 8:17 PM Hans Summers via Groups.Io <hans.summers=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
Hi Jim

Don't worry I found the issue. Will explain in a moment once I've got the kids to sleep

73 Hans G0UPL

On Tue, Oct 8, 2019, 20:07 Jim W8JD <jimd2002@...> wrote:
Hi Hans.  I'm pretty sure I did my messages with strait the built in key but I just tried my Bencher paddle and no luck, mostly just random letters.  I does appear to work if I send extremely slow, I mean like 1 second dashes and such but the letter wont appear until I start the next letter.  It works perfectly in normal transmit and receive.   
I could easily load the 1.00g software and give it a try if you want and get back to you.  Maybe their was just a glitch during the 1.01 load.

Thanks Hans
Jim Davis
W8JD

will.koenig.rn@...
 

I have never used an AVR programmer, but they don't look to expensive. Since I have 4 QXCs, I am thinking maybe figuring out how to program it myself would be the way to go? Any suggestion on the programmer?

Jim W8JD
 

Yep that fixed it.  Thank you Hans.  BTW, I have this radio sitting next to my Icom IC-7600 and with all the best filtering I can muster from the 7600 the reception from these two is virtually identical.
Amazing

Jim Davis
W8JD

Jim Mcilroy
 

I used Atmel Studio 7 on W10, and an AVR Dragon to flash the MCU with v1.01

Worked fine.

Didn't have to change the fuses.

There might be simpler ways of doing this.

Alan G4ZFQ
 

I am thinking maybe figuring out how to program it myself would be the way to go? Any suggestion on the programmer?
Will,

There are several alternatives, my notes here https://sites.google.com/site/g4zfqradio/progrock_update others will give you theirs..
And some in the Files section of this group.

73 Alan G4ZFQ

Dennis Shelton
 

I looked up some AVR programmers and found that some have so many pins, while other have a different number. I think there are some other differences too.

I too would like some guidance on what kind of programmer I should get.

Thanks, Paul


On 10/8/2019 2:13 PM, will.koenig.rn@... wrote:
I have never used an AVR programmer, but they don't look to expensive. Since I have 4 QXCs, I am thinking maybe figuring out how to program it myself would be the way to go? Any suggestion on the programmer?

Art N4EZZ
 

There should be an attached image, it is a Sparkfun AVR Programmer. I
have successfully used it to program a couple of QRP Labs devices as
well as a few other odds and ends.

avrdude recognizes it as a usbtiny.

Will it work for everything you want to use it for? I don't know but it
has worked for my simple needs.

I don't remember what I paid for it but I am a cheap whatever so it
probably wasn't much.

Art N4EZZ <n4ezz@...>
GnuPG key ID 0x6712DD0E
=============================
The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of
everyday thinking.
Albert Einstein Physics and Reality (1936)

On 10/8/19 2:32 PM, Dennis Shelton wrote:
I looked up some AVR programmers and found that some have so many pins, while other have a different number. I think there are some other differences too.

I too would like some guidance on what kind of programmer I should get.

Thanks, Paul


On 10/8/2019 2:13 PM, will.koenig.rn@...<mailto:will.koenig.rn@...> wrote:
I have never used an AVR programmer, but they don't look to expensive. Since I have 4 QXCs, I am thinking maybe figuring out how to program it myself would be the way to go? Any suggestion on the programmer?

Tom N9GVP
 

Hello, everyone.

I just tried updating my QCX with the 1.01a hex file using Arduino and avrdudess (2.10). I am very inexperienced with this process.  I tried following the nice tutorial by Simon VK3ELH and everything seemed to work fine during the writing and reading process.  A screen capture from avrdudess is shown below.  I highlighted in yellow what I might have done wrong. 
Anyway, after the update the screen on the QCX simply says "Use original IC!" and the radio is nonfunctional.  I'm sure I did something stupid.  Is there any recourse other than to order a new firmware chip?

Many thanks,
Tom N9GVP

 

Jim W8JD
 

Don I know exactly what is wrong because I did the exact same thing.  When you did the upgrade, AVERDUDESS was set to erase the eprom.  The only fix is to email Hans and he should be able to help you.  You need the .eep file in addition to the .hex file from him which basically prevents others from cloning his chips.  He emailed me direct and was very very helpful.  That will fix your problem I assure you.  

Jim Davis
W8JD