Getting prepared for the JackAl

Some of you are waiting with baited breath for the JackAl Board, announced by Jack W8TEE.   You can get yourself geared up for the JackAl by pre-purchasing some of the kit required, as it is due to be released shortly.  You will need a colour touch display panel, a Teensy 3.6 processor and associated Teensy audio board.

Display panel

There are two display options for the JackAl board: 5″ or 7″.  Neither is likely to fit in your existing µBITx enclosure, so you may also want to purchase a new enclosure.

The panels can be purchased from BuyDisplay.com. Their order numbers are:

ER-TFTM050-3 (5″)
ER-TFTM070-5 (7″)

Both displays use the following options:

4-wire SPI interface
3.3V
Resistive touch
No font (the library is being used for fonts)

Both are 800×480 displays using the RA8875 chip. If you run the samples using a touch screen, make sure you run the Calibration sample program first.

Teensy 3.6 and audio board

The Teensy 3.6 and its associated audio board can be purchased from the manufacturer’s website or from other sources.

Reference

Warning for those using a Teensy 3.5 or 3.6 or Biteensio board


Jim Sheldon, W0EB notes that the tiny power jumper on the back of the Teensy 3.5 or 3.6 MUST be cut when using external power to the Teensy (from the BITeensio board). Left intact, it is possible to have power being applied to the Teensy through BOTH the BITeensio board AND the USB connection, especially during programming or remote control operation via the USB port. This may cause board power and USB power to conflict with each other and can destroy the Teensy.

The jumper is pointed out on the back side of the pin-out card that comes with every Teensy and it states: “Cut to separate VIN from VUSB, if using a battery charger or external power.” with an arrow pointing to the jumper between the two pads.

Carefully cut this tiny jumper with a very sharp hobby knife to avoid any possible problems.  After cutting the jumper, you will have to power the board externally through the BITeensio card (or other means) when programming or re-programming the Teensy through the USB port.  This holds true for Teensy boards used in just about any application, not just on our BITeensio board.

Reference

Latest release of the TFT Colour Touch Control from VU2SPF and VE1BWV

VU2SPF and Joe VE1BWV have released the latest version of their TFT Colour Touch Control.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
Low cost, standard easy to get parts, Colour, Touch Control and any combination of Touch Control or physical buttons.

TFT (Touch) Display module, Atmega 2650, Si5351 DDS, 1 UBITX and a few wires = All Band rig with Computer / Radio Touch Control Colour Display.

Some new features:

  1. Automatic Scanning – up to band edges in both the directions is now added in V2.9bU of software. The scanning allows one to find signals of interest across the band. Two small buttons labeled ‘U’ and ‘D’ scan in up and down directions from the currently set frequency. The scanning can be stopped by touching the frequency display area.
  2. CAT Control  – the software now has new code to emulate FT817 Cat commands… This provides radio and computer control for the digital modes.
  3. User Manual   A new comprehensive user manual has also been added. Various users and new builders have been looking for this for quite a while.The new version is available on Github at : https://github.com/sprakashb/TFT_TouchScreen_for_uBitxInfo also available at:
    http://vu2spf.blogspot.ca
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkg-IrjV2h4&t=375s

(UBITX ver2.9bu Installation Results)

Note that at present the firmware doesn’t support CW.

Reference

JackAl is here!

Jack W8TEE and Al AC8GY have  released details of the JackAl board following FDIM (preceding Dayton Hamvention).

Friday night is a sort of Show-and-Tell at FDIM and they used that opportunity to show their JackAl board in action. The photo above shows a little more about what it is and does.

At the show, Al hooked up a noise generator to the µBITX to show how the filters work. (There are 4 preset filters for CW and 4 for SSB.) In addition, you can customise one CW and SSB filter to the bandwidth you desire. You might be able to see that the skirts are pretty steep for the filters on the scope in the background. The setting of the CW custom skirts are set differently, in that you pick a centre frequency (e.g., 700Hz in the shot below), press the encoder, and then you see this:

In this case, turning the encoder CCW increases the bandspread (i.e., the 440 red number above, although it looks orange in the photo) by simultaneously moving the skirts (480Hz and 920Hz) further apart. If you turn the encoder CW, you narrow the bandspread. Most CW users will probably center the bandpass on their favorite sidetone frequency, which centers the bandpass on that frequency.

The demo used a 5″ display, although a 7″ display is also available. The third knob on the front is for a second encoder that we use for everything from setting the CW keyer speed to adjusting the filter skirts. You can see some of the plots on the panel at the rear of the picture above for some of the board’s features (e.g., filter responses, compression, etc.) Those will be included in the documentation when the (downloadable) manual is finished.

The JackAl board has the following features:

  • 5″ or 7” touch screen 800×480 TFT color display
  • Dual VFO’s
  • RIT
  • S meter
  • RTC
  • CW keyer, 5 to 50wpm (we could go up to 100wpm, but…really?)
  • Up to 50 CW preset messages, selectable at runtime…perfect for contest messages
  • Touch screen function and control selection (e.g., band changes, RIT, mode, VFO, VFO increment, LSB/USB, etc.)
  • Automatic LSB/USB selection based on frequency (overrideable)
  • One touch frequency increment changes (1Hz to 1MHz in multiples of 10…the white underscore in the frequency window)
  • Dual encoders (frequency, features)
  • EEPROM storage of user preferences (one-click reset to “factory” defaults)
  • Uses Teensy 3.6 processor (1Mb flash @180MHz) and companion audio board
  • Support for 3 external CW push button switches (NO) for sending stored CW messages (e.g., contesting)
  • Hardware AGC using IF take-off
  • Audio AGC with adjustable threshold
  • Mic compressor with adjustable threshold
  • 8 band audio equalizer
  • Receive audio filter: 48dB/octave (8 pole equivalent DSP filters)
  • 4 CW presets (150, 300, 400, 600, [or none] Hz 3dB bandwidth) + 1 user-defined knee frequencies (at runtime!) filter
  • 4 SSB presets (1500, 1800, 2200, 3000, [or none] Hz 3dB bandwidth) + 1 user-defined knee frequencies (at runtime!) filter’
  • Variable Notch filter, encoder adjustable, use specified Q
  • 7 watt power amplifier

The board will be distributed with all (surface mounted) parts in place. The user must supply the Teensy 3.6 ($30), its supporting audio board ($15), and the 5″ ($34) or 7″ ($44) touch screen displaying (using the RA8875 controller chip, BuyDisplay.com).

We expect the JackAl board to sell for $50.

We may need to adjust this price as we have only received “ballpark” cost estimates for the board since we only have the Gerber files for the Beta board.

Currently, we are using less than 20% of the available flash memory (out of 1Mb) and less than 15% of the SRAM (256K), so there is plenty of memory resources available for adding “stuff”. The board also brings out a number of I/O pins to help your experimentation. With the exception of removing one SMD resistor on the µBITX board and soldering two wires to those pads, all interconnections are via existing connectors.

Our best guess is that after finishing the modified Gerber files, production, Beta testing, and writing support manuals, it will be probably two months before we begin distribution. We will announce its availability here as soon as we can. BTW, if anyone knows a high-quality PCB manufacturer who also does pick-and-place at reasonable prices, we are getting quotes and would like to know about them.

Reference

DSP on a cheap processor

IK8YFW Giuseppe has used a cheap US$2 processor to create a DSP audio processing unit that works with any radio (including the µBITx).

The project was aimed at achieving an economic and simple DSP unit, based on the ARM Cortex STM32f103 processor module.  Guiseppe implemented two narrow CW filters of about 300 and 700 hz and two SSB filters with a bandwidth of less than 2200 Hz and less than 3300 Hz.  He also included a 6-level noise reduction algorithm. The project is a very cheap solution suitable for embedding in any and every QRP project. The  project code can be found on Github.   It is not perfect, as Guiseppe is still experimenting with the code.  The project can be found here:

https://github.com/gcallipo/RadioDSP-Stm32f103

Some test here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TFcsVX59YbQ

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ujDCt_HhbYg

Reference

Off the deep end …

Dennis KG4RUL has gone off the deep end with his µBITX.  His current configuration, basically a rats nest on the bench, comprises:

  • Main CPU (Teensy 3.5) – handling the SI5351 control (I2C), the 20×4 LCD Display (I2c), input from the front panel controller (I2C), control of an AF DSP (I2C), control of a CW Keyer (I2C), monitoring of an SWR bridge, control of an RF Digital Attenuator (SPI)
  • Front Panel Controller (Pro-Mini) – interfaces with a rotary encoder w/switch and seventeen push buttons
  • AF DSP (Teensy 3.5) – implementing Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass, Notch Filter and pass-through
  • CW Keyer (Pro-Mini)
  • SWR Bridge for tuning and power monitoring
  • RF Digital Attenuator from SV1AFN used to adjust drive power to PA for tuning and adjusting power by band to keep the power output more consistent

This is Dennis’ front panel design:

Jack W8TEE has let the cat out of the bag

In an earlier news item on ubitx.net, we speculated about projects under development by various teams.   We speculated that Jack W8TEE was up to something that involved a touch screen display and a processor upgrade.  Well the cat is now out of the bag.  The photo below was post by Jack on the BITX20 list.  This is the display panel of the JackAl board that the team will release shortly.

Al (AC8GY) and Jack picked the Teensy 3.6 because of its horsepower, good FFT library, and audio processing board. Al’s doing an info piece on JackAl which should answer most questions about it in an effort not to chew up the BITX20 group’s bandwidth.

There was no “target date” originally for announcement of the project. However, when Jack was asked to speak at FDIM, the project team thought it would be “kinda cool to show it off” at the Homebrew Show-and-tell on Friday night (8-10PM), so the target became real.

Al and Jack are starting to look like slugs who haven’t seen daylight in about six months.  JackAl should be a fun board for a lot of people because its heart is the Teensy 3.6 which has lots of resources associated with it. Currently, we are using less than 10% of both flash and SRAM.

Jack says, “I hope to see a bunch of you at FDIM …”

Reference

 

An alternative processor to replace the nano

Gary AG5TX  observes in a post to the BITX20 list that Protoneer has a NANO-ARM board offering for $10 + $5 (US) shipping.  This may be a viable low cost pin compatible upgrade to the nano board on the Radunio with a direct board swap out.  This will give more headroom for coding +more features and still work in the Arduino IDE environment.

https://wiki.protoneer.co.nz/NANO-ARM

The NANO-ARM has the following features:

  • Runs at 48MHz (Atmel SAMD21)
  • 256KB FLASH Memory
  • 32KB RAM
  • Pin compatible with Arduino Nano but runs at 3.3V
  • SAMD21 micro-controller same as used on a Arduino Zero’s.
  • Built in USB
  • Arduino Zero bootloader pre-loaded.
  • 20 I/O pins with 5 extra pins that can be used for I2C/SPI or I/O
  • 6 Analog Pins(ADC) with 12-bit resolution (4096 resolution point vs Arduino Uno’s 1024)
  • 1 Digital to Analog(DAC) pin with 10-bit resolution.
  • Designed and Manufactured in New Zealand

Why the Protoneer?

Gary’s selection criteria were:

  1. More Flash, so people don’t have to choose which options from the already developed software they could load, and more headroom for further development.
  2. More SRAM.
  3. Supported by the familiar Arduino IDE, where the software work is being done.

The Protoneer is:

  1. Pin compatible with the Nano for direct replacement on the Raduino board without the need to spin an adapter board (cost with shipping adder)
  2. Reasonable total cost of the complete upgrade, so it is an option more aligned to Farhan’s goal of a $100 radio.
  3. Can be changed over in a timely manner.

Gary has ordered a board, but has not yet received it or even begun to look at the software changes that will be necessary.  I do know that there will be small changes needed on which serial object is called. There may be other quirks.

The board is 3.3V so the impact of that will need to be vetted. (I see 3.3V as being beneficial).   There’s also a Real Time Clock, but he didn’t spot the familiar Vbat for a coin cell.

Adafruit seems to be doing a lot of development with the SAMD21, there could be trickle down from that, or at least re-assuring of the SAMD21 core.

Reference

Processor upgrade to a Teensy

Stephen, KD2NDR, has been working on porting the µBitx code to a Teensy.

He has added a few other features with the new expanded memory capability.  This includes an I2C 4×20 display, leaving many pins for other uses,  and digital beacon modes supporting all JT modes, WSPR and FSQ.   Transmission is triggered by a timer interval set through main menu.

The teensy real time clock is updated using a GPS module.   Stephen plans to add an option to set the clock manually or via a serial port at a later date.  His implementation also allows for dynamic setting of a maidenhead locator (4 or 6 character) based on the GPS data.

Planned features for a future build include an SD Card to store custom messages and logging for digital mode operations.   He also plans to provide numeric keypad support sot that text can be entered directly along with setting the frequency.   A voltage/ amps monitor for battery operation,  and an. swr meter, and more is planned.   Stephen promises to make the software available to constructors when he  gets more time to test everything in more depth.

In commentary on the measurement of amperage,  there were several suggestions for how to do this including the use of cheap “Hall effect” sensors.   Probably the best of these came from Arv, K7HKL, who suggests:

” An alternative approach for current monitoring might be available.  As part of a workbench system I built a dual-port DC voltmeter using an Arduino NANO.

“By using two ADC inputs I can measure voltage on both ends of a resistor and
the use the NANO software to calculate difference voltage.  This lets me

manually calculate the current from resistance and voltage.

“In a captive system this approach would work because the software would know the resistance value and thus be able to measure differential voltage and from that calculate current flow through that known resistance.

“Differential voltage measuring is necessary in cases where both ends of the device being measured are at some potential above ground, because the Arduino ADC can only measure relative to a ground reference.”

Reference

A processor upgrade – via a plug in to your Arduino Nano.

Here’s what the little Skunkworks from Jim N5IB in collaboration witih W0EB and W2CTX has been up to!

Jim says he has “A wee PC board that accepts a Teensy 3.5 or 3.6 processor, then plugs into the space that would have been occupied by a NANO”.

Corresponding I/O lines are routed to maintain compatibility with the uBITX. Since the Teensy has a RTC (real time clock) there’s a spot for its backup battery.

In principle, the adapter could be used to plug in a Teensy anywhere a NANO used to live. On a stock Raduino (you would have to remove the NANO and socket the space).  On an enhanced Raduino, such as the RadI2Cino (developed by N5IB/W0EB and W2CTX) it is simply a matter of inserting the plug.

The Teensy brings lots more memory, more I/O lines including lots of analogue ports, an on-card microSD slot, and of course a Real Time Clock.

The Teensy 3.5 runs on 3-6 volts, with 3.3V logic, but has 5 V tolerant digital inputs. The Teensy 3.6 also runs on 3-6 V, but its logic is 3.3V only.  It is faster and has more memory than the Teensy 3.5.

Prototype boards are in hand and will be beta tested within the next few days. Firmware portability is of course the thing that must be confirmed.

Jim promises to keep us up to date.

Reference