Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE asks:
“Given that Dr.Lee’s software is now pretty stable from 1.06 onwards, what do you all say about using this as the ‘shipped’ firmware?”
The responses have been varied.
The case for using KD8CEC firmware
uBITx.net has supported the suggestion of supplying the KD8CEC version as the default firmware. There is no question that the KD8CEC sketch represents more mature firmware. It runs on an unmodified uBITx, but provides for minor hardware enhancements that add additional functionality. All other firmware options require hardware changes prior to installation, so there is no obvious contender from other firmware developers at this juncture. This is not to downgrade the importance and innovation brought by other firmware developers. Each firmware hack has its merits and brings features that are important to groups of µBITx constructors. No other firmware, other than the stock firmware, has such a large group of supporters.
The KD8CEC software brings a significant increase in the range of features and reliability of the product. Manuals are available for both the stable version and the beta version of the firmware. The factory product does not come with a manual, has not been improved in six months or even had basic bugs removed, and has caused frustration for some constructors. This is not to say, that the stock firmware is of low quality – it is basically sound, but needs work. Ashhar has not had time to address these issues because of the huge demand for the µBITx and need to resolve other issues as they have arisen.
The case for not using KD8CEC firmware
There are of course arguments against using the KD8CEC version as the factory install. The feature packed nature of the firmware leaves little room for constructors to hack the firmware to customise it for their own purposes. This has been largely overcome now through the modularity of the latest firmware design. Features can be enabled or disabled in the configuration section of the code. This modularity will become increasingly important as hardware enhancements are combined with code to support the hardware changes. The addition of uBITx Manager software for the PC expands the potential to customise the firmware in future to reflect different hardware configurations.
Suggestions that the firmware is not a good fit, because the factory alignment procedure is not included by default, is a complete red herring. Different features can be configured by setting a few configuration flags in the sketch. This is a configuration issue, not a practical issue. The code remains in the sketch and the sketch can be simplified by removing many of the extensions through a simple five minute configuration exercise to produce a stock version.
Some prefer Ashhar Farhan’s unique approach to tuning. This is a matter of personal preference. Again, this feature could be reincorporated easily, and enabled or disabled through a single configuration setting that chooses the tuning style that suits the user.
The biggest improvements to functionality for just about any modern appliance come as a result of firmware enhancements. µBITx firmware enhancements come free, but hardware enhancements cost constructors.
Note: This article reflects the personal views of the author (Mike ZL1AXG) and not those of the manufacturer.