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QRP Labs July 2020 newsletter


Hans Summers
 


The last few months have seen very hard times all around the world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in good health and remain so. 

1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements
2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
3. QSX project update
4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
6. U4B flight test program
7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing


1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements

In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit, the new QCX+. To date, 10.568 QCX/QCX+ kits have been sold, of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+. The QCX+ has the same circuit, and the same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55 the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the original $49 Q CX.

The most noticeable change is that the QCX+ consists of TWO PCBs with pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased, the component density is much lower and this makes the assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+ to learn or to customize it to your particular wishes.

The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751 key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous 2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps more desirable; QCX+ therefore provides this as standard. 

QCX+ features two additional 3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+ also has a latching push-button on/off switch on the front panel. 

The QCX and QCX+ firmware are the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being maintained between the features of the two versions. 

QCX+ comes with several new optional accessories too! These are:

  • Enclosure $25: The very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+. It has a 106 x 55mm front panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+ customers have also ordered the enclosure. 
  • TCXO option $8.25: this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
  • Dev kit $9: This is a 120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes. It has special pads which match all the interface pads of the main QCX+ PCB and can be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied with several male and female pin headers for this purpose, as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place above the main QCX+ PCB. 

The QCX+ kit is compatible with the 50W PA kit, and the QLG1 GPS kit, just the same as the original QCX. 

More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp 

Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+, specifically people wanting to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a new smaller layout QCX using SMD components. 


2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05

Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020

These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the QRP labs discussion group on groups.io, or a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop

The full description of the firmware changes is at http://qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxfirmware 

In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well. 

Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the display; so many different things are going on inside the QCX/QCX+ firmware that sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two different processes tried to access the display at the same time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the display is now accurately rendered all the time. 


3. QSX Project update

The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from 160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx  

To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product development has taken me very much longer than originally anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped entirely? Will it ever be available? 

Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped, canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking, requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time, all the other demands of running a small but growing family business have not gone away, and are far from negligible. 

Many people who have not tried running a business, will find this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either, at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing, logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic understatement. 

QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand, work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost. 

I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so optimistic about development schedules that I took any pre-orders for the QSX! 

Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to finish the project and make it available to you all in large quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping. 


4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option 

At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT) shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19 pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc. 

The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout procedure on the QRP Labs shop. We are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured, un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service. 

FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs customers have been choosing this option for their order, preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website for tracking. 

In early July, the price of normal post office airmail shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of international packages within United States. Now for all but the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well as by far the speediest. 


5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO Today podcast. Since then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the QSO Today organization is preparing for the weekend of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view, two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen HamRadio hamfest in June.

Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair. 

QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products, talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs program on the QRP Labs groups.io discussion group. 

Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird tickets so go to https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration and sign up! 


6. U4B flight test program

Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit, using the same ATmega328 processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package. 

The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of 32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is named U4B. 

There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here: https://youtu.be/CqNZeh575xw 

Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations. At the time of writing, the U4B-9 flight is still operational and has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9 

The series of test flights are considered successful and in the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/ 

This image shows the path of U4B-9, launched on 16-May-2020. Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at http://qrp-labs.com/flights 


7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing

Social media: QRP Labs has the following presence on social media. If you use these social media then please join or follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon launches, etc., will be made first in these media!

1) QRP Labs groups.io discussion group https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all QRP Labs products
2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/ 
3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs 
4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs 

Feedback: As always, please do write with any comments, ideas, criticism, feedback of any kind!

Unsubscribing: If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account and un-check your newsletter preference, OR, email and we'll take care of it. 

Vy 73 de QRP Labs


Robert Campbell
 

I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was produced.

--
Rob Campbell
KG6HUM


On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...> wrote:

The last few months have seen very hard times all around the world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in good health and remain so. 

1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements
2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
3. QSX project update
4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
6. U4B flight test program
7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing


1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements

In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit, the new QCX+. To date, 10.568 QCX/QCX+ kits have been sold, of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+. The QCX+ has the same circuit, and the same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55 the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the original $49 Q CX.

The most noticeable change is that the QCX+ consists of TWO PCBs with pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased, the component density is much lower and this makes the assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+ to learn or to customize it to your particular wishes.

The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751 key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous 2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps more desirable; QCX+ therefore provides this as standard. 

QCX+ features two additional 3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+ also has a latching push-button on/off switch on the front panel. 

The QCX and QCX+ firmware are the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being maintained between the features of the two versions. 

QCX+ comes with several new optional accessories too! These are:

  • Enclosure $25: The very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+. It has a 106 x 55mm front panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+ customers have also ordered the enclosure. 
  • TCXO option $8.25: this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
  • Dev kit $9: This is a 120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes. It has special pads which match all the interface pads of the main QCX+ PCB and can be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied with several male and female pin headers for this purpose, as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place above the main QCX+ PCB. 

The QCX+ kit is compatible with the 50W PA kit, and the QLG1 GPS kit, just the same as the original QCX. 

More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp 

Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+, specifically people wanting to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a new smaller layout QCX using SMD components. 


2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05

Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020

These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the QRP labs discussion group on groups.io, or a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop

The full description of the firmware changes is at http://qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxfirmware 

In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well. 

Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the display; so many different things are going on inside the QCX/QCX+ firmware that sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two different processes tried to access the display at the same time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the display is now accurately rendered all the time. 


3. QSX Project update

The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from 160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx  

To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product development has taken me very much longer than originally anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped entirely? Will it ever be available? 

Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped, canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking, requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time, all the other demands of running a small but growing family business have not gone away, and are far from negligible. 

Many people who have not tried running a business, will find this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either, at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing, logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic understatement. 

QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand, work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost. 

I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so optimistic about development schedules that I took any pre-orders for the QSX! 

Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to finish the project and make it available to you all in large quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping. 


4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option 

At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT) shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19 pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc. 

The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout procedure on the QRP Labs shop. We are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured, un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service. 

FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs customers have been choosing this option for their order, preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website for tracking. 

In early July, the price of normal post office airmail shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of international packages within United States. Now for all but the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well as by far the speediest. 


5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO Today podcast. Since then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the QSO Today organization is preparing for the weekend of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view, two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen HamRadio hamfest in June.

Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair. 

QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products, talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs program on the QRP Labs groups.io discussion group. 

Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird tickets so go to https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration and sign up! 


6. U4B flight test program

Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit, using the same ATmega328 processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package. 

The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of 32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is named U4B. 

There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here: https://youtu.be/CqNZeh575xw 

Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations. At the time of writing, the U4B-9 flight is still operational and has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9 

The series of test flights are considered successful and in the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/ 

This image shows the path of U4B-9, launched on 16-May-2020. Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at http://qrp-labs.com/flights 


7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing

Social media: QRP Labs has the following presence on social media. If you use these social media then please join or follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon launches, etc., will be made first in these media!

1) QRP Labs groups.io discussion group https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all QRP Labs products
2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/ 
3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs 
4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs 

Feedback: As always, please do write with any comments, ideas, criticism, feedback of any kind!

Unsubscribing: If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account and un-check your newsletter preference, OR, email and we'll take care of it. 

Vy 73 de QRP Labs


Shirley Dulcey KE1L
 

I was curious about what it would take to make a smaller QCX so I did a bit of looking around at parts.

Perhaps the most challenging thing is finding a suitable display. There is a remarkable uniformity in the size of 2x16 LCD character displays; other sizes exist, but they're scarce and usually cost a lot more than the usual sizes. Hans may be able to contract directly with an Asian source to get a suitable display. Small OLED displays are available, but using one of those would require changes to the firmware so it would no longer be compatible with the existing QCX.

I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one: https://www.orientdisplay.com/store/amc1602dr-b-y6wfdy-16x2-character-lcd-module/  I just wish it didn't have such huge bezels! It's also available from Digi-Key but it's a marketplace product; in other words, it's actually shipped by Orient Display. It's not a drop-in replacement because it uses a ribbon cable for connection rather than solder pads that can take headers, but the arrangement of the lines and the interface are identical.

A downsized QCX might also want to use a smaller potentiometer, and a smaller encoder if one can be found. Miniaturizing things like the power and antenna jacks can't happen unless you switch to different connectors. Another option is moving the connectors off-board, which would make assembly more difficult but might allow the radio to fit in a much smaller footprint.

Finally, there is the microcontroller. Going to an SMD version would save space, but at the cost of removing the ability to program the chip outside the circuit.

On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:27 PM Robert Campbell <kg6hum@...> wrote:
I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was produced.

--
Rob Campbell
KG6HUM

On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...> wrote:

The last few months have seen very hard times all around the world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in good health and remain so. 

1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements
2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
3. QSX project update
4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
6. U4B flight test program
7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing


1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many improvements

In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit, the new QCX+. To date, 10.568 QCX/QCX+ kits have been sold, of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+. The QCX+ has the same circuit, and the same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55 the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the original $49 Q CX.

The most noticeable change is that the QCX+ consists of TWO PCBs with pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased, the component density is much lower and this makes the assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+ to learn or to customize it to your particular wishes.

The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751 key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous 2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps more desirable; QCX+ therefore provides this as standard. 

QCX+ features two additional 3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+ also has a latching push-button on/off switch on the front panel. 

The QCX and QCX+ firmware are the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being maintained between the features of the two versions. 

QCX+ comes with several new optional accessories too! These are:

  • Enclosure $25: The very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+. It has a 106 x 55mm front panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+ customers have also ordered the enclosure. 
  • TCXO option $8.25: this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
  • Dev kit $9: This is a 120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes. It has special pads which match all the interface pads of the main QCX+ PCB and can be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied with several male and female pin headers for this purpose, as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place above the main QCX+ PCB. 

The QCX+ kit is compatible with the 50W PA kit, and the QLG1 GPS kit, just the same as the original QCX. 

More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp 

Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+, specifically people wanting to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a new smaller layout QCX using SMD components. 


2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05

Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020

These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the QRP labs discussion group on groups.io, or a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop

The full description of the firmware changes is at http://qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxfirmware 

In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well. 

Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the display; so many different things are going on inside the QCX/QCX+ firmware that sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two different processes tried to access the display at the same time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the display is now accurately rendered all the time. 


3. QSX Project update

The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from 160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx  

To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product development has taken me very much longer than originally anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped entirely? Will it ever be available? 

Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped, canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking, requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time, all the other demands of running a small but growing family business have not gone away, and are far from negligible. 

Many people who have not tried running a business, will find this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either, at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing, logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic understatement. 

QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand, work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost. 

I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so optimistic about development schedules that I took any pre-orders for the QSX! 

Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to finish the project and make it available to you all in large quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping. 


4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option 

At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT) shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19 pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc. 

The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout procedure on the QRP Labs shop. We are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured, un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service. 

FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs customers have been choosing this option for their order, preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website for tracking. 

In early July, the price of normal post office airmail shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of international packages within United States. Now for all but the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well as by far the speediest. 


5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO Today podcast. Since then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the QSO Today organization is preparing for the weekend of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view, two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen HamRadio hamfest in June.

Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair. 

QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products, talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs program on the QRP Labs groups.io discussion group. 

Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird tickets so go to https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration and sign up! 


6. U4B flight test program

Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit, using the same ATmega328 processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package. 

The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of 32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is named U4B. 

There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here: https://youtu.be/CqNZeh575xw 

Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations. At the time of writing, the U4B-9 flight is still operational and has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9 

The series of test flights are considered successful and in the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/ 

This image shows the path of U4B-9, launched on 16-May-2020. Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at http://qrp-labs.com/flights 


7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing

Social media: QRP Labs has the following presence on social media. If you use these social media then please join or follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon launches, etc., will be made first in these media!

1) QRP Labs groups.io discussion group https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all QRP Labs products
2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/ 
3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs 
4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs 

Feedback: As always, please do write with any comments, ideas, criticism, feedback of any kind!

Unsubscribing: If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account and un-check your newsletter preference, OR, email and we'll take care of it. 

Vy 73 de QRP Labs


Giuseppe Marullo
 

I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one: https://www.orientdisplay.com/store/amc1602dr-b-y6wfdy-16x2-character-lcd-module/ I just

Shirley,

I have one on my other QRP kit (BITX20a), I used it in place of the 4 digits led display, it is really tiny.

Good luck with soldering though, I used wirewrap wire (connector is 0.05" spaced) to connect to the VFO board.

Grab a microscope and a 6W solderer.

Use the microscope afterwards to look at it, LOL.

Giuseppe Marullo
IW2JWW - JN45RQ



On 7/12/2020 1:23 AM, Shirley Dulcey KE1L wrote:
I was curious about what it would take to make a smaller QCX so I did a bit of looking around at parts.

Perhaps the most challenging thing is finding a suitable display. There is a remarkable uniformity in the size of 2x16 LCD character displays; other sizes exist, but they're scarce and usually cost a lot more than the usual sizes. Hans may be able to contract directly with an Asian source to get a suitable display. Small OLED displays are available, but using one of those would require changes to the firmware so it would no longer be compatible with the existing QCX.

I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one: https://www.orientdisplay.com/store/amc1602dr-b-y6wfdy-16x2-character-lcd-module/ I just wish it didn't have such huge bezels! It's also available from Digi-Key but it's a marketplace product; in other words, it's actually shipped by Orient Display. It's not a drop-in replacement because it uses a ribbon cable for connection rather than solder pads that can take headers, but the arrangement of the lines and the interface are identical.

A downsized QCX might also want to use a smaller potentiometer, and a smaller encoder if one can be found. Miniaturizing things like the power and antenna jacks can't happen unless you switch to different connectors. Another option is moving the connectors off-board, which would make assembly more difficult but might allow the radio to fit in a much smaller footprint.

Finally, there is the microcontroller. Going to an SMD version would save space, but at the cost of removing the ability to program the chip outside the circuit.

On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:27 PM Robert Campbell <kg6hum@... <mailto:kg6hum@...>> wrote:

I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was
produced.

--
Rob Campbell
KG6HUM

On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...
<mailto:hans.summers@...>> wrote:


The last few months have seen very hard times all around the
world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever
corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate
normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics
have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken
longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post
office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery
times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in
good health and remain so.

1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many
improvements
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c1>
2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c2>
3. QSX project update
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c3>
4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c4>
5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c5>
6. U4B flight test program
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c6>
7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing
<#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c7>

------------------------------------------------------------------------


1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many
improvements

<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced
the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit,
the new QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. To date, 10.568
QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kits have been sold,
of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. The QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> has the same circuit, and the
same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but
a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55
the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the
original $49 Q CX.

The most noticeable change is that the QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> consists of TWO PCBs with
pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are
mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the
circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll
notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased,
the component density is much lower and this makes the
assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The
main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original
QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board
provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> to learn or to customize it to
your particular wishes.

The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751
key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed
area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push
them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB
functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the
transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX
has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E
PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW
operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous
2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps
more desirable; QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> therefore
provides this as standard.

QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> features two additional
3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT
output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now
a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> also has a latching
push-button on/off switch on the front panel.

The QCX and QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware are
the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being
maintained between the features of the two versions.

QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> comes with several new
optional accessories too! These are:

* Enclosure $25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpcase>: The
very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is
cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. It has a 106 x 55mm front
panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> customers have also
ordered the enclosure.
* TCXO option $8.25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxptcxo>:
this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz
TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
* Dev kit $9 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpdev>: This is a
120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes.
It has special pads which match all the interface pads of
the main QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB and can
be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied
with several male and female pin headers for this purpose,
as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place
above the mainQCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB.

The QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kit is compatible
with the 50W PA kit <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/50wpa>, and the
QLG1 GPS kit <http://qrp-labs.com/qlg1>, just the same as the
original QCX.

More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp

Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>, specifically people wanting
to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the
smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have
undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to
produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a
new smaller layout QCX using SMD components.

<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>

------------------------------------------------------------------------


2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05

Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020

These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the
QRP labs discussion group on groups.io <http://groups.io>, or
a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com/firmware/qcxchip>.

The full description of the firmware changes is at
http://qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxfirmware

In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions
was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it
more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its
implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well.

Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few
bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the
display; so many different things are going on inside the
QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware that
sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two
different processes tried to access the display at the same
time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the
display is now accurately rendered all the time.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


3. QSX Project update

The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver
providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from
160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an
embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance
and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The
project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx

To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product
development has taken me very much longer than originally
anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and
long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status
of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped
entirely? Will it ever be available?

Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped,
canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high
priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and
ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as
QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking,
requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time,
all the other demands of running a small but growing family
business have not gone away, and are far from negligible.

Many people who have not tried running a business, will find
this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either,
at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a
circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often
involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in
harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times
over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and
all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing,
logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all
the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost
packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's
just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on
such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic
understatement.

QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development
program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business
enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source
of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and
offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to
enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX
development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand,
work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with
tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost.

I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so
optimistic about development schedules that I took any
pre-orders for the QSX!

Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to
finish the project and make it available to you all in large
quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is
definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not
rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware
or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to
know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will
be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion
group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about
dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any
promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option

At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express
(TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP
Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT)
shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same
company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is
normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to
offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19
pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the
current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc.

The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout
procedure on the QRP Labs shop <http://shop.qrp-labs.com>. We
are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured,
un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service.

FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than
regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs
customers have been choosing this option for their order,
preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates
(Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will
receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website
<http://tnt.com> for tracking.

In early July, the price of normal post office airmail
shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is
the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge
foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of
international packages within United States. Now for all but
the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find
that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well
as by far the speediest.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO
Today podcast <https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/g0upl>. Since
then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today
podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the
QSO Today organization is preparing
<https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration> for the weekend
of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of
the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns
everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and
cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view,
two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the
Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen
HamRadio hamfest in June.

Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives
and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online
alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
<https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration>!

I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I
found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace
wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at
Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to
enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you
deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products
and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair.

QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham
expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online
presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as
well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't
possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come
and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products,
talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just
as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or
Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs
program on the QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io>
discussion group.

Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird
tickets so go to
https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration and sign up!

------------------------------------------------------------------------


6. U4B flight test program

Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon
tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long
time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with
Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was
a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit
<http://qrp-labs.com/ultimate3/u3s>, using the same ATmega328
processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package.

The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of
32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more
processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the
ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is
named U4B.

There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here:
https://youtu.be/CqNZeh575xw

Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were
launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there
were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several
of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations.
At the time of writing,the U4B-9 flight
<http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9> is still operational and
has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many
complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far
North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D
projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on
this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9

The series of test flights are considered successful and in
the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into
production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/

This image shows the path of U4B-9
<http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9>, launched on 16-May-2020.
Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a
"1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all
the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at
http://qrp-labs.com/flights

------------------------------------------------------------------------


7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing

*Social media:* QRP Labs has the following presence on social
media. If you use these social media then please join or
follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon
launches, etc., will be made first in these media!

1) QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io> discussion group
https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all
QRP Labs products
2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/
3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs
4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs

*Feedback:* As always, please do write
<http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> with any comments, ideas,
criticism, feedback of any kind!

*Unsubscribing:* If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly
newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account
<http://shop.qrp-labs.com> and un-check your newsletter
preference, OR, email <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> and
we'll take care of it.


*Vy 73 de QRP Labs*


jjpurdum
 

If you want a balance between size, cost, and information, why not consider a TFT color display? For under $4 you can have a 128x160 display that's quite small. See eBay #143638051950.

Jack, W8TEE

On Saturday, July 11, 2020, 8:19:50 PM EDT, Giuseppe Marullo <giuseppe@...> wrote:


>I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
I just

Shirley,

I have one on my other QRP kit (BITX20a), I used it in place of the 4
digits led display, it is really tiny.

Good luck with soldering though, I used wirewrap wire (connector is
0.05" spaced) to connect to the VFO board.

Grab a microscope and a 6W solderer.

Use the microscope afterwards to look at it, LOL.

Giuseppe Marullo
IW2JWW - JN45RQ



On 7/12/2020 1:23 AM, Shirley Dulcey KE1L wrote:
> I was curious about what it would take to make a smaller QCX so I did
> a bit of looking around at parts.
>
> Perhaps the most challenging thing is finding a suitable display.
> There is a remarkable uniformity in the size of 2x16 LCD character
> displays; other sizes exist, but they're scarce and usually cost a lot
> more than the usual sizes. Hans may be able to contract directly with
> an Asian source to get a suitable display. Small OLED displays are
> available, but using one of those would require changes to the
> firmware so it would no longer be compatible with the existing QCX.
>
> I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
> bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
> I just wish it didn't have such huge bezels! It's also available from
> Digi-Key but it's a marketplace product; in other words, it's actually
> shipped by Orient Display. It's not a drop-in replacement because it
> uses a ribbon cable for connection rather than solder pads that can
> take headers, but the arrangement of the lines and the interface are
> identical.
>
> A downsized QCX might also want to use a smaller potentiometer, and a
> smaller encoder if one can be found. Miniaturizing things like the
> power and antenna jacks can't happen unless you switch to different
> connectors. Another option is moving the connectors off-board, which
> would make assembly more difficult but might allow the radio to fit in
> a much smaller footprint.
>
> Finally, there is the microcontroller. Going to an SMD version would
> save space, but at the cost of removing the ability to program the
> chip outside the circuit.
>
> On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:27 PM Robert Campbell <kg6hum@...
> <mailto:kg6hum@...>> wrote:
>
>    I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was
>    produced.
>
>    --
>    Rob Campbell
>    KG6HUM
>
>    On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...
>    <mailto:hans.summers@...>> wrote:
>
>
>        The last few months have seen very hard times all around the
>        world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever
>        corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate
>        normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics
>        have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken
>        longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post
>        office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery
>        times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in
>        good health and remain so.
>
>        1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many
>        improvements
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c1>
>        2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c2>
>        3. QSX project update
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c3>
>        4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c4>
>        5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c5>
>        6. U4B flight test program
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c6>
>        7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c7>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many
>            improvements
>
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced
>        the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit,
>        the new QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. To date, 10.568
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kits have been sold,
>        of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. The QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> has the same circuit, and the
>        same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but
>        a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55
>        the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the
>        original $49 Q CX.
>
>        The most noticeable change is that the QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> consists of TWO PCBs with
>        pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are
>        mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the
>        circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll
>        notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased,
>        the component density is much lower and this makes the
>        assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The
>        main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original
>        QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board
>        provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> to learn or to customize it to
>        your particular wishes.
>
>        The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751
>        key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed
>        area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push
>        them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB
>        functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the
>        transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX
>        has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E
>        PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW
>        operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous
>        2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps
>        more desirable; QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> therefore
>        provides this as standard.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> features two additional
>        3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT
>        output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now
>        a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> also has a latching
>        push-button on/off switch on the front panel.
>
>        The QCX and QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware are
>        the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being
>        maintained between the features of the two versions.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> comes with several new
>        optional accessories too! These are:
>
>          * Enclosure $25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpcase>: The
>            very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is
>            cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. It has a 106 x 55mm front
>            panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> customers have also
>            ordered the enclosure.
>          * TCXO option $8.25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxptcxo>:
>            this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz
>            TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
>          * Dev kit $9 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpdev>: This is a
>            120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes.
>            It has special pads which match all the interface pads of
>            the main QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB and can
>            be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied
>            with several male and female pin headers for this purpose,
>            as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place
>            above the mainQCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB.
>
>        The QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kit is compatible
>        with the 50W PA kit <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/50wpa>, and the
>        QLG1 GPS kit <http://qrp-labs.com/qlg1>, just the same as the
>        original QCX.
>
>        More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>        More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
>        Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>
>        Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>, specifically people wanting
>        to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the
>        smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have
>        undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to
>        produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a
>        new smaller layout QCX using SMD components.
>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>
>        Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
>        Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020
>
>        These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the
>        QRP labs discussion group on groups.io <http://groups.io>, or
>        a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop
>
>        The full description of the firmware changes is at
>
>        In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions
>        was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it
>        more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its
>        implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well.
>
>        Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few
>        bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the
>        display; so many different things are going on inside the
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware that
>        sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two
>        different processes tried to access the display at the same
>        time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the
>        display is now accurately rendered all the time.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            3. QSX Project update
>
>        The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver
>        providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from
>        160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an
>        embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance
>        and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The
>        project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx
>
>        To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product
>        development has taken me very much longer than originally
>        anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and
>        long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status
>        of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped
>        entirely? Will it ever be available?
>
>        Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped,
>        canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high
>        priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and
>        ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as
>        QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking,
>        requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time,
>        all the other demands of running a small but growing family
>        business have not gone away, and are far from negligible.
>
>        Many people who have not tried running a business, will find
>        this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either,
>        at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a
>        circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often
>        involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in
>        harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times
>        over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and
>        all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing,
>        logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all
>        the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost
>        packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's
>        just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on
>        such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic
>        understatement.
>
>        QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development
>        program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business
>        enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source
>        of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and
>        offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to
>        enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX
>        development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand,
>        work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with
>        tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost.
>
>        I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so
>        optimistic about development schedules that I took any
>        pre-orders for the QSX!
>
>        Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to
>        finish the project and make it available to you all in large
>        quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is
>        definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not
>        rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware
>        or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to
>        know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will
>        be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion
>        group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about
>        dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any
>        promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>
>        At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express
>        (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP
>        Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT)
>        shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same
>        company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is
>        normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to
>        offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19
>        pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the
>        current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc.
>
>        The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout
>        procedure on the QRP Labs shop <http://shop.qrp-labs.com>. We
>        are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured,
>        un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service.
>
>        FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than
>        regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs
>        customers have been choosing this option for their order,
>        preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates
>        (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will
>        receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website
>        <http://tnt.com> for tracking.
>
>        In early July, the price of normal post office airmail
>        shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is
>        the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge
>        foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of
>        international packages within United States. Now for all but
>        the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find
>        that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well
>        as by far the speediest.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO
>        Today podcast <https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/g0upl>. Since
>        then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today
>        podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the
>        QSO Today organization is preparing
>        <https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration> for the weekend
>        of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of
>        the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns
>        everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and
>        cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view,
>        two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the
>        Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen
>        HamRadio hamfest in June.
>
>        Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives
>        and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online
>        alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I
>        found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace
>        wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at
>        Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to
>        enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you
>        deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products
>        and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair.
>
>        QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham
>        expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online
>        presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as
>        well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't
>        possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come
>        and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products,
>        talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just
>        as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or
>        Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs
>        program on the QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io>
>        discussion group.
>
>        Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird
>        tickets so go to
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            6. U4B flight test program
>
>        Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon
>        tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long
>        time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with
>        Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was
>        a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/ultimate3/u3s>, using the same ATmega328
>        processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package.
>
>        The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of
>        32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more
>        processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the
>        ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is
>        named U4B.
>
>        There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here:
>
>        Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were
>        launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there
>        were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several
>        of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations.
>        At the time of writing,the U4B-9 flight
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9> is still operational and
>        has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many
>        complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far
>        North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D
>        projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on
>        this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9
>
>        The series of test flights are considered successful and in
>        the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into
>        production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/
>
>        This image shows the path of U4B-9
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9>, launched on 16-May-2020.
>        Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a
>        "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all
>        the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing
>
>        *Social media:* QRP Labs has the following presence on social
>        media. If you use these social media then please join or
>        follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon
>        launches, etc., will be made first in these media!
>
>        1) QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io> discussion group
>        https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all
>        QRP Labs products
>        2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/
>        3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs
>        4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs
>
>        *Feedback:* As always, please do write
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> with any comments, ideas,
>        criticism, feedback of any kind!
>
>        *Unsubscribing:* If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly
>        newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com> and un-check your newsletter
>        preference, OR, email <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> and
>        we'll take care of it.
>
>
>            *Vy 73 de QRP Labs*
>
>




Mark Garrisi
 

God’s speed to you Hans. I think I can speak with majority, we have the patience of Job.

Do your business.

Mark N8IAJ

On Jul 11, 2020, at 5:39 PM, Hans Summers <hans.summers@...> wrote:

3. QSX project update


Ross Wilson
 

Jack,

I think the aim is to make the "micro QCX" circuit+firmware the same as the original, along the lines of the QCX+.  Using a display not identical in interface to the full-size 1602 display will require different firmware (if it will even fit in a 328p), leading to a whole new product, something I'm sure Hans is not keen to do.

Ross, AC3DN

On Sun, 12 Jul 2020, 08:41 jjpurdum via groups.io, <jjpurdum=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
If you want a balance between size, cost, and information, why not consider a TFT color display? For under $4 you can have a 128x160 display that's quite small. See eBay #143638051950.

Jack, W8TEE

On Saturday, July 11, 2020, 8:19:50 PM EDT, Giuseppe Marullo <giuseppe@...> wrote:


>I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
I just

Shirley,

I have one on my other QRP kit (BITX20a), I used it in place of the 4
digits led display, it is really tiny.

Good luck with soldering though, I used wirewrap wire (connector is
0.05" spaced) to connect to the VFO board.

Grab a microscope and a 6W solderer.

Use the microscope afterwards to look at it, LOL.

Giuseppe Marullo
IW2JWW - JN45RQ



On 7/12/2020 1:23 AM, Shirley Dulcey KE1L wrote:
> I was curious about what it would take to make a smaller QCX so I did
> a bit of looking around at parts.
>
> Perhaps the most challenging thing is finding a suitable display.
> There is a remarkable uniformity in the size of 2x16 LCD character
> displays; other sizes exist, but they're scarce and usually cost a lot
> more than the usual sizes. Hans may be able to contract directly with
> an Asian source to get a suitable display. Small OLED displays are
> available, but using one of those would require changes to the
> firmware so it would no longer be compatible with the existing QCX.
>
> I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
> bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
> I just wish it didn't have such huge bezels! It's also available from
> Digi-Key but it's a marketplace product; in other words, it's actually
> shipped by Orient Display. It's not a drop-in replacement because it
> uses a ribbon cable for connection rather than solder pads that can
> take headers, but the arrangement of the lines and the interface are
> identical.
>
> A downsized QCX might also want to use a smaller potentiometer, and a
> smaller encoder if one can be found. Miniaturizing things like the
> power and antenna jacks can't happen unless you switch to different
> connectors. Another option is moving the connectors off-board, which
> would make assembly more difficult but might allow the radio to fit in
> a much smaller footprint.
>
> Finally, there is the microcontroller. Going to an SMD version would
> save space, but at the cost of removing the ability to program the
> chip outside the circuit.
>
> On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:27 PM Robert Campbell <kg6hum@...
> <mailto:kg6hum@...>> wrote:
>
>    I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was
>    produced.
>
>    --
>    Rob Campbell
>    KG6HUM
>
>    On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...
>    <mailto:hans.summers@...>> wrote:
>
>
>        The last few months have seen very hard times all around the
>        world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever
>        corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate
>        normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics
>        have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken
>        longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post
>        office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery
>        times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in
>        good health and remain so.
>
>        1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many
>        improvements
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c1>
>        2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c2>
>        3. QSX project update
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c3>
>        4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c4>
>        5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c5>
>        6. U4B flight test program
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c6>
>        7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c7>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many
>            improvements
>
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced
>        the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit,
>        the new QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. To date, 10.568
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kits have been sold,
>        of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. The QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> has the same circuit, and the
>        same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but
>        a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55
>        the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the
>        original $49 Q CX.
>
>        The most noticeable change is that the QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> consists of TWO PCBs with
>        pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are
>        mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the
>        circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll
>        notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased,
>        the component density is much lower and this makes the
>        assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The
>        main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original
>        QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board
>        provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> to learn or to customize it to
>        your particular wishes.
>
>        The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751
>        key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed
>        area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push
>        them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB
>        functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the
>        transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX
>        has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E
>        PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW
>        operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous
>        2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps
>        more desirable; QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> therefore
>        provides this as standard.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> features two additional
>        3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT
>        output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now
>        a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> also has a latching
>        push-button on/off switch on the front panel.
>
>        The QCX and QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware are
>        the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being
>        maintained between the features of the two versions.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> comes with several new
>        optional accessories too! These are:
>
>          * Enclosure $25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpcase>: The
>            very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is
>            cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. It has a 106 x 55mm front
>            panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> customers have also
>            ordered the enclosure.
>          * TCXO option $8.25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxptcxo>:
>            this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz
>            TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
>          * Dev kit $9 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpdev>: This is a
>            120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes.
>            It has special pads which match all the interface pads of
>            the main QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB and can
>            be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied
>            with several male and female pin headers for this purpose,
>            as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place
>            above the mainQCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB.
>
>        The QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kit is compatible
>        with the 50W PA kit <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/50wpa>, and the
>        QLG1 GPS kit <http://qrp-labs.com/qlg1>, just the same as the
>        original QCX.
>
>        More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>        More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
>        Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>
>        Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>, specifically people wanting
>        to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the
>        smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have
>        undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to
>        produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a
>        new smaller layout QCX using SMD components.
>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>
>        Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
>        Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020
>
>        These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the
>        QRP labs discussion group on groups.io <http://groups.io>, or
>        a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop
>
>        The full description of the firmware changes is at
>
>        In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions
>        was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it
>        more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its
>        implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well.
>
>        Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few
>        bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the
>        display; so many different things are going on inside the
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware that
>        sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two
>        different processes tried to access the display at the same
>        time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the
>        display is now accurately rendered all the time.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            3. QSX Project update
>
>        The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver
>        providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from
>        160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an
>        embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance
>        and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The
>        project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx
>
>        To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product
>        development has taken me very much longer than originally
>        anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and
>        long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status
>        of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped
>        entirely? Will it ever be available?
>
>        Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped,
>        canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high
>        priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and
>        ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as
>        QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking,
>        requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time,
>        all the other demands of running a small but growing family
>        business have not gone away, and are far from negligible.
>
>        Many people who have not tried running a business, will find
>        this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either,
>        at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a
>        circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often
>        involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in
>        harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times
>        over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and
>        all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing,
>        logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all
>        the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost
>        packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's
>        just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on
>        such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic
>        understatement.
>
>        QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development
>        program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business
>        enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source
>        of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and
>        offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to
>        enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX
>        development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand,
>        work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with
>        tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost.
>
>        I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so
>        optimistic about development schedules that I took any
>        pre-orders for the QSX!
>
>        Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to
>        finish the project and make it available to you all in large
>        quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is
>        definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not
>        rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware
>        or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to
>        know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will
>        be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion
>        group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about
>        dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any
>        promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>
>        At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express
>        (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP
>        Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT)
>        shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same
>        company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is
>        normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to
>        offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19
>        pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the
>        current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc.
>
>        The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout
>        procedure on the QRP Labs shop <http://shop.qrp-labs.com>. We
>        are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured,
>        un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service.
>
>        FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than
>        regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs
>        customers have been choosing this option for their order,
>        preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates
>        (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will
>        receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website
>        <http://tnt.com> for tracking.
>
>        In early July, the price of normal post office airmail
>        shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is
>        the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge
>        foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of
>        international packages within United States. Now for all but
>        the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find
>        that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well
>        as by far the speediest.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO
>        Today podcast <https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/g0upl>. Since
>        then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today
>        podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the
>        QSO Today organization is preparing
>        <https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration> for the weekend
>        of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of
>        the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns
>        everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and
>        cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view,
>        two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the
>        Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen
>        HamRadio hamfest in June.
>
>        Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives
>        and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online
>        alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I
>        found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace
>        wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at
>        Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to
>        enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you
>        deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products
>        and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair.
>
>        QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham
>        expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online
>        presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as
>        well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't
>        possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come
>        and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products,
>        talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just
>        as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or
>        Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs
>        program on the QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io>
>        discussion group.
>
>        Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird
>        tickets so go to
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            6. U4B flight test program
>
>        Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon
>        tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long
>        time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with
>        Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was
>        a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/ultimate3/u3s>, using the same ATmega328
>        processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package.
>
>        The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of
>        32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more
>        processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the
>        ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is
>        named U4B.
>
>        There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here:
>
>        Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were
>        launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there
>        were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several
>        of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations.
>        At the time of writing,the U4B-9 flight
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9> is still operational and
>        has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many
>        complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far
>        North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D
>        projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on
>        this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9
>
>        The series of test flights are considered successful and in
>        the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into
>        production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/
>
>        This image shows the path of U4B-9
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9>, launched on 16-May-2020.
>        Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a
>        "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all
>        the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing
>
>        *Social media:* QRP Labs has the following presence on social
>        media. If you use these social media then please join or
>        follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon
>        launches, etc., will be made first in these media!
>
>        1) QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io> discussion group
>        https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all
>        QRP Labs products
>        2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/
>        3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs
>        4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs
>
>        *Feedback:* As always, please do write
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> with any comments, ideas,
>        criticism, feedback of any kind!
>
>        *Unsubscribing:* If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly
>        newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com> and un-check your newsletter
>        preference, OR, email <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> and
>        we'll take care of it.
>
>
>            *Vy 73 de QRP Labs*
>
>




Hans Summers
 

Hi Jack, Shirley, all

Ross is correct. A complete redesign is one thing. But the aim here would be to keep the existing QCX circuit and firmware compatibility. Which rules out TFT. 

The small 1602 LCD Shirley found is very interesting. But I question whether going smaller is the solution. How many people would really want the displayed text to be smaller than it currently is? That makes it much harder to read, for many people. Particularly consider that portable (outdoor) operation is the consideration here. Display readability is of paramount importance. An ultra-tiny radio is probably taking it too far, it makes it too difficult and impractical to use. 

The benchmark here is the QCX, in BaMaTech enclosure. The volume of this radio enclosure is 350 cm3 (cubic centimeters). In contrast the volume of the QCX+ enclosure is 843 cm3. The aim for a small version of QCX should be to fit in a size smaller than the BaMaTech enclosure. If the volume could be shrunk by another factor of 2, that would be a good result. I think that this does not exclude the current standard 1602 LCD module. 

I researched this topic in depth a couple of weeks ago, both with the constraint of keeping the existing firmware compatibility (restricting us to the use of 1602 displays) and without this constraint, allowing other display types. A primary concern is outdoor readability, which means in strong lighting conditions. Other important parameters are: size, cost, durability, availability, current consumption. I thought a reasonable constraint was keeping the same character size as we have on the current LCD. It comes down to four classes of displays:

OLED: these are the *modern* thing, indeed they are beautiful and bright displays. However, there are a number of disadvantages. The outdoor readability is still not great, even though they are bright and high contrast. I have a Samsung S9 smartphone and it has a beautiful OLED screen. Outdoors it is not easy to read even at full brightness. Another problem is screenburn. Before the S9, I had Samsung's S7. After 2 years of use, there was visible (and annoying) screenburn. The screenburn matched the gmail application so obviously it's you guys' fault for writing too many emails. Screenburn occurs if the same area of the display displays the same thing for a long time; even without screenburn, the brightness of OLEDs decreases with time. RF noise is also reported with OLED displays, whether or not this would be an issue here is not known. The cost is also quite a lot higher for an OLED of sufficient size that you can create the frequency display (for example) with a character size comparable with the 1602 LCD character size. Another feature of OLEDs is that since each pixel is an LED, they do consume some non-trivial current. 

TFT: You have colour, larger size, and graphics capability all at reasonable cost. There would be no problem with finding an LCD of suitable size to match the 1602 LCD character size. But the brightness is the main problem here. I just don't think they'd be very readable in outdoor conditions, particularly in sunlight. Furthermore they require the operation of the backlight which means current consumption cannot be very low. 

ePaper/eInk - these are very interesting! I have a love for those since I jailbreaked an on old Kindle3 eBook reader that a friend gave me during my Tokyo years. It runs Linux inside and I installed a C compiler and used to write code during my subway ride to the office on its tiny membrane QWERTY keyboard. The battery life was months! Not well known, is that the Virtual Machine and BASIC interpreter of the U4B balloon tracker (in development, see current flight http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9 ) evolved from my work on the Tokyo Subway! But despite the very low current consumption and the undeniably best viewability even in direct sunlight - for a portable QRP rig there would be two disadvantages. One is the slow display update rate, the other is the relatively high cost. It is possible to do partial updates of the display but it would probably be too irritating during rapid tuning and things like S-meter would probably be ruled out.

And so we return to the lowly humble 1602 alphanumeric LCD module. At 80 x 36mm it isn't the smallest display but neither is it so large that it rules itself out of a mini rig. The readability is excellent. The current consumption of the backlight can be up to 30mA but lower currents are still perfectly workable. The digits are large and easy to read. The code to drive it is simple. The yellow/green type are readable in direct sunlight with the backlight turned off, then it consumes under 1mA of current. Easily available and they are cheap. 

So it seems to me that this 1602 LCD module, particularly the yellow/green type (and a switch to turn off the backlight for outdoor use), is probably not the sexiest but is the most suitable. Whether for a mini QCX when you want to maintain backward compatibility (same firmware as QCX/QCX+) and for a mini something if you didn't mind changing the code. 

These 1602 displays could be like IRF510 transistors at 5-50W, or the BS170s in the 5W QRP and under class of transmitters. Sometimes you look around and try to find a better device. But the combination of availability, low price, and characteristics that just perfectly hit that sweet spot for what you need, means you just keep coming back to them. 

73 Hans G0UPL 


On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 7:48 AM Ross Wilson <rzzzwilson@...> wrote:
Jack,

I think the aim is to make the "micro QCX" circuit+firmware the same as the original, along the lines of the QCX+.  Using a display not identical in interface to the full-size 1602 display will require different firmware (if it will even fit in a 328p), leading to a whole new product, something I'm sure Hans is not keen to do.

Ross, AC3DN

On Sun, 12 Jul 2020, 08:41 jjpurdum via groups.io, <jjpurdum=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
If you want a balance between size, cost, and information, why not consider a TFT color display? For under $4 you can have a 128x160 display that's quite small. See eBay #143638051950.

Jack, W8TEE

On Saturday, July 11, 2020, 8:19:50 PM EDT, Giuseppe Marullo <giuseppe@...> wrote:


>I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
I just

Shirley,

I have one on my other QRP kit (BITX20a), I used it in place of the 4
digits led display, it is really tiny.

Good luck with soldering though, I used wirewrap wire (connector is
0.05" spaced) to connect to the VFO board.

Grab a microscope and a 6W solderer.

Use the microscope afterwards to look at it, LOL.

Giuseppe Marullo
IW2JWW - JN45RQ



On 7/12/2020 1:23 AM, Shirley Dulcey KE1L wrote:
> I was curious about what it would take to make a smaller QCX so I did
> a bit of looking around at parts.
>
> Perhaps the most challenging thing is finding a suitable display.
> There is a remarkable uniformity in the size of 2x16 LCD character
> displays; other sizes exist, but they're scarce and usually cost a lot
> more than the usual sizes. Hans may be able to contract directly with
> an Asian source to get a suitable display. Small OLED displays are
> available, but using one of those would require changes to the
> firmware so it would no longer be compatible with the existing QCX.
>
> I did find one display that is significantly smaller and that can be
> bought for a non-ridiculous price ($5) in quantity one:
> I just wish it didn't have such huge bezels! It's also available from
> Digi-Key but it's a marketplace product; in other words, it's actually
> shipped by Orient Display. It's not a drop-in replacement because it
> uses a ribbon cable for connection rather than solder pads that can
> take headers, but the arrangement of the lines and the interface are
> identical.
>
> A downsized QCX might also want to use a smaller potentiometer, and a
> smaller encoder if one can be found. Miniaturizing things like the
> power and antenna jacks can't happen unless you switch to different
> connectors. Another option is moving the connectors off-board, which
> would make assembly more difficult but might allow the radio to fit in
> a much smaller footprint.
>
> Finally, there is the microcontroller. Going to an SMD version would
> save space, but at the cost of removing the ability to program the
> chip outside the circuit.
>
> On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:27 PM Robert Campbell <kg6hum@...
> <mailto:kg6hum@...>> wrote:
>
>    I would be very interested in a small SMD QCX kit if one was
>    produced.
>
>    --
>    Rob Campbell
>    KG6HUM
>
>    On Sat, Jul 11, 2020, 2:39 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...
>    <mailto:hans.summers@...>> wrote:
>
>
>        The last few months have seen very hard times all around the
>        world, the Covid19 pandemic which has affected almost ever
>        corner of our planet. QRP Labs has continued to operate
>        normally throughout the Covid19 pandemic. However, logistics
>        have certainly slowed down during the pandemic. It has taken
>        longer to get supplies of components. Customers who use post
>        office shipment will have noticed very much longer delivery
>        times in many cases. I hope that you and your family are in
>        good health and remain so.
>
>        1. New product: QCX+ CW transceiver replaces QCX, many
>        improvements
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c1>
>        2. QCX/QCX+ firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c2>
>        3. QSX project update
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c3>
>        4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c4>
>        5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c5>
>        6. U4B flight test program
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c6>
>        7. Social media, Feedback, unsubscribing
>        <#m_7021488901018812256_m_706214891604729108_m_5051076699534674901_c7>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            1. New product: QCX+ CW Transceiver replaces QCX, many
>            improvements
>
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>In May 2020 QRP Labs introduced
>        the new version of the famous and amazingly popular QCX kit,
>        the new QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. To date, 10.568
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kits have been sold,
>        of which over 600 are pre-orders for the new QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. The QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> has the same circuit, and the
>        same firmware and operating features as the original QCX, but
>        a new physical layout and many exciting improvements. At $55
>        the QCX+ has only a small price increase compared to the
>        original $49 Q CX.
>
>        The most noticeable change is that the QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> consists of TWO PCBs with
>        pin-header interconnect between them. The LCD and controls are
>        mounted on a vertical front-panel PCB and the rest of the
>        circuit is on a horizontal rear PCB. The next thing you'll
>        notice is that the PCB area has been considerably increased,
>        the component density is much lower and this makes the
>        assembly easier. All of the resistors are lying down flat. The
>        main PCB is 13 x 10 cm (compared to 10 x 8 cm for the original
>        QCX). Additional pin header pads throughout the board
>        provide opportunities to experiment and modify your QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> to learn or to customize it to
>        your particular wishes.
>
>        The three BS170 power amplifier transistors and the MPS751
>        key-shaping transistor are now lying down flat on an exposed
>        area of copper on the PCB, with a but, washer and bolt to push
>        them firmly against the PCB; the copper groundplane of the PCB
>        functions as a heatsink, drawing heat away from the
>        transistors and dissipating it harmlessly. The original QCX
>        has no heatsinking on the transistors, and since the Class-E
>        PA has high efficiency, none is really needed for CW
>        operation; however for WSPR operations which is a continuous
>        2-minute transmission, some kind of heatsinking is perhaps
>        more desirable; QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> therefore
>        provides this as standard.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> features two additional
>        3.5mm stereo jack sockets, for the CAT control port and PTT
>        output (to control the 50W PA kit). The power connector is now
>        a 2.1mm barrel connector type. QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> also has a latching
>        push-button on/off switch on the front panel.
>
>        The QCX and QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware are
>        the same chip, so full backward compatibility is being
>        maintained between the features of the two versions.
>
>        QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> comes with several new
>        optional accessories too! These are:
>
>          * Enclosure $25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpcase>: The
>            very smart black anodized extruded aluminium enclosure is
>            cut, drilled and laser-etch printed for the QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>. It has a 106 x 55mm front
>            panel and is 146.6mm deep. So far, around 90% of QCX+
>            <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> customers have also
>            ordered the enclosure.
>          * TCXO option $8.25 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxptcxo>:
>            this tiny board replaces the 27MHz crystal with a 25MHz
>            TCXO, providing very high frequency accuracy and stability
>          * Dev kit $9 <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxpdev>: This is a
>            120 x 95mm PCB with a matrix of through-hole plated holes.
>            It has special pads which match all the interface pads of
>            the main QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB and can
>            be connected using pin headers. The Dev kit is supplied
>            with several male and female pin headers for this purpose,
>            as well as 12mm spacers and screws to fix it in place
>            above the mainQCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> PCB.
>
>        The QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> kit is compatible
>        with the 50W PA kit <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/50wpa>, and the
>        QLG1 GPS kit <http://qrp-labs.com/qlg1>, just the same as the
>        original QCX.
>
>        More details about QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>        More photos of QCX+: http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp/qcxpphotos.html
>        Order your QCX+: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp
>
>        Not everyone has been happy about the larger size of QCX+
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp>, specifically people wanting
>        to operate portable such as SOTA operators, who desire the
>        smallest lightest possible equipment. Therefore I have
>        undertaken to consider carefully whether it is feasible to
>        produce another batch of the original QCX kits, or perhaps a
>        new smaller layout QCX using SMD components.
>
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            2. QCX firmware updates T1.04 and T1.05
>
>        Firmware version T1.04 was released on 15-Mar-2020
>        Firmware version T1.05 was released on 08-May-2020
>
>        These versions can be downloaded from the files section of the
>        QRP labs discussion group on groups.io <http://groups.io>, or
>        a programmed chip can be purchased from the QRP Labs shop
>
>        The full description of the firmware changes is at
>
>        In summary, the majority of the changes in these two versions
>        was aimed at improving the CAT control interface, making it
>        more reliable and fixing bugs which had arisen in its
>        implementation. The CAT control interface now works very well.
>
>        Aside from the CAT control improvements there were quite a few
>        bug fixes, primarily concerned with cosmetic problems on the
>        display; so many different things are going on inside the
>        QCX/QCX+ <http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp> firmware that
>        sometimes parts of the display got corrupted when two
>        different processes tried to access the display at the same
>        time. Following a huge amount of work in this area, the
>        display is now accurately rendered all the time.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            3. QSX Project update
>
>        The QSX project is an all-mode, all-band HF transceiver
>        providing CW, SSB, AM, FM and Digimodes for all bands from
>        160m to 10m inclusive, with 10W output power. It is an
>        embedded SDR transceiver providing extremely high performance
>        and packed full of features, yet at a very low price. The
>        project is described here http://qrp-labs.com/qsx
>
>        To my shame, embarrassment and regret, this product
>        development has taken me very much longer than originally
>        anticipated and the anticipated availability date has been and
>        long gone. I frequently receive emails asking about the status
>        of the project, and some people ask has it been dropped
>        entirely? Will it ever be available?
>
>        Well the answer is no, it certainly has not been dropped,
>        canceled, given up on, etc. The project is still very high
>        priority. But at the same time, this is a very complex and
>        ambitious project to be undertaken by a small business such as
>        QRP Labs. The Research and Development is a large undertaking,
>        requiring a considerable time investment. At the same time,
>        all the other demands of running a small but growing family
>        business have not gone away, and are far from negligible.
>
>        Many people who have not tried running a business, will find
>        this hard to understand. I myself did not understand either,
>        at the beginning. Basically, it is hard enough to design a
>        circuit that works and is reproducible by others, often
>        involving complex hardware and firmware bound together in
>        harmony. But then producing it hundreds or thousands of times
>        over, at a price that makes it attractive to hobbyists - and
>        all the challenges of component supply, manufacturing,
>        logistics, imports, administration that go with it... then all
>        the after-sales support, both technical and mundane (lost
>        packages, slow packages, missing components, etc)... let's
>        just say you have to be crazy to even contemplate taking on
>        such a thing! To say that it is time consuming is a chronic
>        understatement.
>
>        QSX is a large scale project requiring a long development
>        program. However at the same time, QRP Labs is a business
>        enterprise that has to feed the family as our primary source
>        of income. This makes it essential to continue to develop and
>        offer other more minor new products or firmware versions to
>        enhance existing products, in parallel with the QSX
>        development program, to sustain our income. On the other hand,
>        work on these other things in most cases also overlaps with
>        tasks in the QSX program so in many ways the work is not lost.
>
>        I do feel very thankful that at least I was never so
>        optimistic about development schedules that I took any
>        pre-orders for the QSX!
>
>        Then to conclude this topic: I am as determined as ever, to
>        finish the project and make it available to you all in large
>        quantities. The project is definitely not canceled and is
>        definitely not on hold, either. I have often said, I'm not
>        rich, I'm not smart, I'm not educated in electronics hardware
>        or software - but the one thing I really am is too dumb to
>        know when to quit. So never fear, it will be done. And it will
>        be worth the wait. I will be updating the QRP Lads discussion
>        group and the QSX page as soon as I can be more definite about
>        dates. Until then, I do not want to tempt fate with any
>        promises about dates that I can't be sure of keeping.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            4. FedEx Express (TNT) shipping option
>
>        At the end of February QRP Labs contracted with FedEx Express
>        (TNT) to provide reasonably priced express shipping for QRP
>        Labs packages. To most destinations, FedEx Express (TNT)
>        shipment takes 3-4 days. (NOTE: FedEx and TNT are the same
>        company since 2016; locally in different countries, service is
>        normally provided by either FedEx or TNT). We were able to
>        offer shipping for 0-500g packages at $10.99. The Covid19
>        pandemic caused an increase in prices to $11.99 which is the
>        current price for 0-500g; then $19.27 for up to 1kg, etc.
>
>        The choice of shipping method is available during the checkout
>        procedure on the QRP Labs shop <http://shop.qrp-labs.com>. We
>        are also now offering a cheaper un-registed, un-insured,
>        un-tracked, at-your-own-risk post office airmail service.
>
>        FedEx Express (TNT) shipping costs only a few $ more than
>        regular post office shipment and around 70% of QRP Labs
>        customers have been choosing this option for their order,
>        preferring the speedy shipment with frequent tracking updates
>        (Note, since in Turkey TNT is the service provider, you will
>        receive a TNT tracking code and use the TNT website
>        <http://tnt.com> for tracking.
>
>        In early July, the price of normal post office airmail
>        shipping to United States literally tripled overnight. This is
>        the result of changes to the pricing the US are able to charge
>        foreign postal services for the "last mile" delivery of
>        international packages within United States. Now for all but
>        the lightest packages to United States, US customers will find
>        that FedEx Express (TNT) is now the cheapest option, as well
>        as by far the speediest.
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            5. QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        QRP Labs Hans G0UPL was featured in episode 125 of the QSO
>        Today podcast <https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/g0upl>. Since
>        then QRP Labs has been a proud sponsor of the QSO Today
>        podcast. Hence I was excited about the Virtual Ham Expo the
>        QSO Today organization is preparing
>        <https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/en/registration> for the weekend
>        of 8th and 9th August 2020. This year, 2020, is the year of
>        the Covid19 pandemic and has been characterized by lockdowns
>        everywhere, border closures, flight grounding, and
>        cancellation of hamfests everywhere. From my point of view,
>        two highlights of my year were gone, that is to say, the
>        Dayton FDIM/Hamvention event in May and the Friedrichshafen
>        HamRadio hamfest in June.
>
>        Eric Guth 4Z1UG has recognized these gaping holes in our lives
>        and taken on the task to provide a virtual, online
>        alternative, the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
>
>        I have had a guided tour of the way the expo will run and I
>        found it fascinating and exciting. It won't exactly replace
>        wandering around the Dayton fleamarket or the Halls at
>        Friedrichshafen. But hopefully it will provide a new way to
>        enjoy our hobby, meet new people and meet the companies you
>        deal with or may potentially deal with, admire their products
>        and so on; all from the comfort of your armchair.
>
>        QRP Labs has booked a Large size booth at the virtual ham
>        expo. During the weekend we will aim to provide a live online
>        presence for as high proportion of the weekend as possible, as
>        well as non-live content when in-person attendance isn't
>        possible. I hope that you will dial in via Zoom video and come
>        and say hello, ask questions, discuss projects and products,
>        talk about your experiences with QRP Labs products, etc., just
>        as you would at the QRP Labs booth at Dayton or
>        Friedrichshafen. Nearer the time I will announce the QRP Labs
>        program on the QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io>
>        discussion group.
>
>        Currently the expo is offering FREE attendee early bird
>        tickets so go to
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            6. U4B flight test program
>
>        Many of you will be aware of the high altitude hobby balloon
>        tracker program that has been underway at QRP Labs for a long
>        time, with a long list of test flights in collaboration with
>        Dave VE3KCL. The tracker was initially called the U3B and was
>        a derivative of the Ultimate3S kit
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/ultimate3/u3s>, using the same ATmega328
>        processor but in a miniaturized, all SMD package.
>
>        The tracker has now been changed to use the STM32-series of
>        32-bit ARM processors, which offer significantly more
>        processor power, Flash memory and peripheral features than the
>        ATmega328, at little or no higher cost. The new tracker is
>        named U4B.
>
>        There is a YouTube video explaining the U4B here:
>
>        Starting in February 2020, a series of 10 test flights were
>        launched by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada. As usual there
>        were failures, mysteries, peculiarities and successes. Several
>        of the balloons completed one or multiple circumnavigations.
>        At the time of writing,the U4B-9 flight
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9> is still operational and
>        has been unique among all the flights to date, in taking many
>        complex loops around the North Pole region. It flew so far
>        North that it fell off the top of the Google Maps 2D
>        projection map coverage, three times. Details of U4B-9 are on
>        this page http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9
>
>        The series of test flights are considered successful and in
>        the coming months we will be moving to get this tracker into
>        production. Alongside everything else going on at QRP Labs :-/
>
>        This image shows the path of U4B-9
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9>, launched on 16-May-2020.
>        Note that the "Duration" at the top of the image should have a
>        "1 month" in front of the "25d"! You can see details of all
>        the U4B, U3B and earlier experimental flights at
>
>        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
>            7. Social media, feedback, unsubscribing
>
>        *Social media:* QRP Labs has the following presence on social
>        media. If you use these social media then please join or
>        follow QRP Labs! Announcements such as new products, balloon
>        launches, etc., will be made first in these media!
>
>        1) QRP Labs groups.io <http://groups.io> discussion group
>        https://groups.io/g/QRPLabs for discussion and support on all
>        QRP Labs products
>        2) QRP Labs Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/QRPlabs/
>        3) QRP Labs is @qrplabs on Twitter https://twitter.com/qrplabs
>        4) QRP Labs on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/QRPLabs
>
>        *Feedback:* As always, please do write
>        <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> with any comments, ideas,
>        criticism, feedback of any kind!
>
>        *Unsubscribing:* If you want to unsubscribe from this monthly
>        newsletter, then either log in to your QRP Labs shop account
>        <http://shop.qrp-labs.com> and un-check your newsletter
>        preference, OR, email <http://qrp-labs.com/contact.html> and
>        we'll take care of it.
>
>
>            *Vy 73 de QRP Labs*
>
>