Release of CEC firmware v1.1 (non-Beta)

Ian KD8CEC has released version 1.1 of his CEC firmware.  This the first major release since Beta version 1.097.    He has also released new versions of uBITx Manager (for Windows) and Nextion screen firmware.

Version 1.1 includes all additions or improvements from the last non-Beta release version 1.08.   This includes features and bug fixes addressed in Beta versions 1.09, 1.093, 1.095,  and 1.097.   No further changes have been made to the Version 1.097 Beta version.

You do not need to upgrade if you are using Version 1.097. This is the version with only the version number changed.

Major Changes since the last official release

  •  The firmware supports additional features for the Nextion  and TJC LCDs
  •  Read & Backup uBITX, ADC Monitoring, ATT, IF-Shift and more on Nextion LCD (TJC LCD)
  •  Factory Reset (Both Character LCD and Nextion LCD are applicable)
  • Signal Meter using ADC (A7 Port)
  • I2C Signal Meter
  • Spectrum display
  • Band Scan
  • Memory Control on Nextion LCD (TJC LCD)
  • Speed Change CW-Option on Nextion LCD
  • Fixed Band Change Bug (Both Character LCD and Nextion LCD are applicable)
  •  uBITX Manager removed the Encode and Decode buttons. The procedure has become a bit easier.
  • I2C Device Scan on uBITX Manager ( Both Character LCD and Nextion LCD are applicable)
  • Si5351 I2C Address can be changed
  • Recovery using QR-Code Data from Server
  • Nextion LCD and TJC LCD can display Spectrum and CW Decode (using Stand alone S-Meter)
  • Fixes for other Minor Bugs

Please refer to the link below for details.
http://www.hamskey.com/2018/09/ubitx-firmware-cec-version-11-release.html

Please download the related files from the link below.
https://github.com/phdlee/ubitx/releases/tag/1.1

Nextion LCD or TJC LCD’s GUI have not changes since the 1.097 (Beta) distribution. If you are using a different GUI that is customized by other helpful developers, you should not need to upgrade the firmware.  Some screen sizes are still not supported in ver 1.097 (and therefore in version 1.1).

For further details see Ian’s blog at www.hamskey.com

Why has KD8CEC’s firmware been so successful?

There are several alternative firmware versions available for use with the µBITx transceiver.   So why has the KD8CEC firmware been so successful with uBITx owners?

Some key reasons put forward by uBITx.net:

  1. KD8CEC firmware is fully compatible with the standard issue kit.  No hardware changes are required to make it work.  This is a critical point of difference with all of the other variants, and probably the most important factor associated with the success of CEC firmware.
  2. No custom wiring changes are required when using the firmware.  This is a further significant factor in widespread adoption.
  3. The firmware fixes problems that come with the factory firmware – although some argue that CW modes are still not fully addressed in the CEC firmware.
  4. Using CEC firmware means no loss of features from the default factory firmware.   Other alternatives offer fewer or different features from the factory firmware.
  5. Users are familiar with the  user interface, as it reflects the default firmware’s “look and feel” with the standard display supplied with the kit.
  6. It is easy to upload a hex file to the Raduino. Constructors without a working knowledge of the Arduino IDE can upload files easily.
  7. All full releases of CEC Firmware are available as open source firmware.  This follows the same structure as the original code, although most of the code has been replaced.  Open source is not released for beta versions (and for good reason).
  8. No additional processor is required, unlike other firmware variants.  A mechanism for adding additional processors has been added in ver 1.097 (Beta).   This promises a future where multiple processor support will be available.  You won’t be locked into a single processor type.
  9. Addition of a Nextion display or additional processor is relatively straightforward.
  10. The firmware on the Nextion display can be edited by others to provide a different “look and feel” or to add or subtract features.   This is independent of the firmware for the transceiver.

Further details on Nextion Display and second arduino

Ian KD8CEC, in his third article on using a second arduino with the µBITx, demonstrates the signal scope feature made possible with having a dedicated ardunio nano connected to the main Raduino control processor via i2c lines.

The signal scope shows a section of the band surrounding the currently tuned frequency IN REAL TIME.    The nano and the serial connections to the Nextion doesn’t have the agility to provide a full blown waterfall display, but a real time display of signals around where you are currently tuned is still pretty impressive.

The other feature that is present in the Nextion display version of this arduino add-on, is a CW decode function.

Bring on the release of v1.097 of CEC firmware!

KD8CEC v1.097 Beta will be released shortly

Ian KD8CEC has been busy again in conjuring up new features in his CEC firmware.   He is tempting us with descriptions of two new features:

  • Nextion display update that makes it easy to adjust keying speed and to select the keyer type (Iambic A, Iambic B or Straight Key) even while in TX
  • Adding an additional arduino, connected to the Raduino via i2c, to provide an S-meter function.

The first feature is well explained by the photo above. The second feature is a bit more difficult to describe.   By adding a US$3 additional arduino the µBITx now has double the number of analogue and digital ports and another 32K of program space.   This could be a fun ride!  The first function is a basic one, but an important one.   A much more sensitive S-meter.   But wait there’s more, as yet to be fully described.  If you already have a Nextion screen, it looks like you may be in line for a half decent signal analyser function.

Connecting up the arduino

The circuit is pretty straight forward, and involves just a couple of resistors and a capacitor, along with wiring to +5v and ground, and the two i2c lines.

Updated Nextion firmware v1.095 beta

Ian KD8CEC has released an update of his µBITx firmware and accompanying firmware for the Nextion display (for 2.4″ and 2.8″ displays).

 

Others are working on resizing the firmware to work on 3.2″, 3.5″ and 7″ displays.  It would be simple to also convert the 7″ firmware to work with a 5″ display.

So what is new in this latest beta release?

  • The buttons are more reliable, and are quicker to take action.  Changing mode was a bit of a slow process with lots of flashing buttons in previous versions

  • Pressing on the step size now opens up buttons to select step value.  This makes it so much quicker to get around the band.  Select a bigger step value to get to where you want to go, and switch back to 1Hz steps to fine tune.

 

  • By selecting which file you download, you can now read/write to all EEPROM memories or just those that relate to the Nextion display, protecting your rig’s settings securely if you want (the only way you can change them is in uBITx Manager if you go with this option).

  • Adjust the frequency by pressing on different sections of the frequency shown on the Nextion display
  • The lock button locks the Nextion screen as well now which is handy for using your rig around young children.
  • The sleep function has been improved.  You can wake the screen up by moving the encoder dial, or pressing on the bottom left of the screen.

  • Install two screens – they will each mirror what happens on the other, but in some modes different functions can appear
  • A number of enhancements to the control menu, including an elementary spectrum scope, band scanning and memory selection, saving.

The pace of development is pretty staggering.  We all look forward to other functions being added to the Nextion screen in future!

To download these beta files check out Ian’s article.

KD8CEC firmware hint – CW frequency display

The KD8CEC firmware provides a lot of customisation features through uBITx Manager software.  Many user of Ian’s firmware are not aware of all the built-in features of his firmware.   This is one such instance!

JJ1EPE raised a concern that his display in CW mode was “off frequency”.  Well, it was from his perspective, but then the display was all the time showing the TX frequency not the offset frequency where the station he was listening to.

CW offsets create headaches in how you represent the frequency on a display.  In SSB the frequency you see on the display is the frequency of the suppressed carrier on receive and the same on transmit.   If you tune to the carrier frequency of a received station you won’t hear anything.  To get a sidetone we have to tune off the transmit frequency by a few hundred hertz.  Most people have worked out how to set the offset on the uBITx.

The standard that Ian KD8CEC has applied is to always show the TX frequency  by default (except where RIT or SPLIT mode is selected).

However, if you want to change the approach, do the following in uBITX Manager:

– Enable Adjust CW Frequency

– Shift Display Frequency on CWL, CWU Mode

If you select this function, the LCD will show the frequency at which the radio is being transmitted (the offset you prefer is added or subtracted to the actual RX frequency reflecting the CW-L or CW-U mode selected).   This may be just the thing you were looking for!

Reference

Swapping around display lines

Michael VE3WMB figured after playing around with the KD8CEC firmware for a while that he  would prefer to have the Main VFO frequency and Mode displayed in the top line, instead of the bottom line of the display and the secondary info (VFO B etc) on the bottom line of his display.

Under ‘User Interface’ of the uBitx Memory Manager application (scroll way down), checking the ‘1/2 Line Toggle’ works to swap the first and 2nd lines on the display.  No coding is required to achieve this.

Reference

Buy your Nextion display now!

If this display looks like it is from a commercial rig, then you are wrong!  It is  the Nextion display mounted on a µBITx!

Ian KD8CEC will shortly release his newest enhancement to CEC firmware.  His latest modification to the CEC firmware supports Nextion screens. This was foreshadowed recently on the BITX20 list.


THIS WILL BE THE MOST AMAZING ENHANCEMENT YET FOR UBITX!

If you want further proof, check out Ian’s recently prepared youtube video of the Nextion screen in operation.  His release is imminent.

Get your order in for a Nextion display immediately, as they are likely to sell out when 6000 µBITx owners twig that they really do NEED a Nextion display.  [Note that ubitx.net has no relationship with ITEAD – who make the Nextion!]


Why Nextion?

There are some very good reasons why the Nextion display is the way to go:

  • Nextion screens make it quicker for developers to provide a user-friendly interface to their product:  a separate processor controls graphics on the screen, and a Windows WSYWIG emulator can be developed for free to whip up a User Interface for the Nextion display.   The processor in the Nextion has its own control language and coding that is similar to C++
  • Users can easily hack their own display’s look and feel, by plugging into a standardised protocol between the screen processor and main processor that are connected via a standard serial port.
  • Screens come in a variety of sizes from 2.4″ to 7″.  Resizing of images and buttons is all that is required to make firmware work on a different screen size. No coding is required.  Software required is simply the Nextion Windows software and a graphics programme (MS Paint is adequate).
  • The screens come in two varieties:  a BASIC model and an ENHANCED model.  The ENHANCED model has GPIO lines controlled by the display processor and a Real Time Clock (RTC).

Nextion display units cost more than other displays for a reason.  The independent processor removes most of the burden for screen manipulation from the main processor, and it is much quicker and easier to develop the user interface and to customise it for different sized screens and to add/subtract features.   Nextion displays also include a microSD card reader.  They run on +5v DC and include a serial port.   Note that the Enhanced Model contains a battery mount for the RTC, but does not include the battery (CR1220) itself.  This is not required until you want to use the RTC.

How easy will it be to use the Nextion Display?

It will be VERY EASY to add a Nextion display to your µBITx.  Watch the video!

No hardware modifications are required to your µBITx, but you will of course  need enough front panel space to install your colour touch display of choice.  You may even need a bigger case if you want to install the 7″ Nextion display!

You will also need to download two new files:

  1. an updated version of KD8CEC’s firmware, that incorporates the interfacing protocol to the Nextion for installation in your Raduino.
  2. an image file (firmware) for insertion in the Nextion display unit.

The downloaded firmware for the Nextion needs to match with your screen size.  There are two variants for each screen size:  a BASIC or ENHANCED version of the Nextion display unit (see the discussion on which version to buy below).

This firmware needs to be saved to a microSD card (a 2GB or larger card is required).  Insert the card in the Nextion display and in powering up the Nextion display will automatically load the firmware from the microSD card into the Nextion flash storage.   Remove the microSD card when the upload is complete.

Four wires connect the Nextion display to the Raduino.  Two lines are for power, and the other two are serial RX and TX that connect to standard IO ports on the µBITx that were used for the 16×2 standard display.

Reboot your µBITx and your Nextion display should be working!

What to look out for when buying a Nextion Display

There are two versions of the Nextion Display – one developed for the Chinese market and an English language version that supports the Nextion Windows development environment.  Make sure you don’t get the cheaper, but incompatible Chinese version.  Look out for “English Version” in the marketing blurb.  This won’t be an issue if you buy from the developer (ITEAD).

 I understand a downloadable hex file will be available that works the same as the English version, for those of us who purchased the wrong model in error!  Thanks to Ian, who did it blind (also not being able to read Chinese)!

Any size will work with the CEC firmware on the Raduino end.  However, Nextion firmware is specific to  either the BASIC or ENHANCED version of the screen and to the resolution of the screen.   That said, any version can be modified to work with any other screen size with just a little bit of work on the part of the user.   You can also fully customise your screen to meet your own requirements.  Change the colours, or change the entire look and feel.  No coding is required to do this, just cut and paste the code from the supplied CEC version for each tool.

Purchase the ENHANCED model of the Nextion (for a few more dollars) if you think you will use the GPIO or RTC features in future.  The RTC could be useful for digital modes that require precise timing, or for satellite work, etc.  Additional GPIO lines could solve one of the problems with the Raduino:  a lack of spare digital ports to support customised add-ons.  For example, if you want to add 160m and switch in an additional LPF, or  if you are worried about potential spurs, you will be able to pull in bandpass filters for the high bands. In these instances you may want to spend a little more to get the ENHANCED version.

If you don’t want to wait until firmware is available for your screen size, then purchase a 2.4″ or 2.8″ BASIC or ENHANCED Nextion Display now.   These two screens have the exact same resolution, and the default version of the Nextion Firmware from Ian KD8CEC will work on both screen sizes without modification.

If you already have a different sized screen, or want to buy a bigger screen, right from the outset, don’t panic.  You may need to make some adjustments to the firmware yourself.  This is not difficult – but involves resizing graphics and moving around objects to suit the larger screen area/resolution.  Some of us are working on modifications to the Nextion firmware to accommodate 3.2″ and 3.5″ screens. Firmware for these screens is likely to be available quickly.

Screen sizes and resolutions for the BASIC models available on ITEAD’s website are as follows:

The ENHANCED versions available from ITEAD are as follows:

Most of us will choose to buy our Nextion displays from Aliexpress or eBay.

They are available in all sizes and in either BASIC or ENHANCED versions.  It is unclear which are OEM versions and which are clones.  It probably doesn’t matter.

Look for highly rated suppliers and those with higher shipping volumes.  The biggest risks are that your screen arrives cracked, or simply never arrives.  You will need some form of redress when goods arrive in a damaged state or simply never arrive, and this is where the intermediaries in eBAY, Aliexpress or Paypal can assist.

 

Nextion Display and KD8CEC firmware

Ian KD8CEC is working on a protocol to allow Nextion LCD touch displays to communicate with the µBITx.

He is implementing this a little differently to most support for Nextion LCDs.

The firmware will handle communication between the uBITX arduino and Nextion LCD using template files.

There are quite a few variables in the Nextion LCD. If the status of any parameters in the uBITX changes, the variables sent to the Nextion LCD will also be changed at the same time (and vice-versa).  This should allow any Nextion display and any configuration of the display’s User Interface to interact with the µBITx.  This means constructors can customise their µBITx display using the Windows GUI used with the Nextion to configure the “look and feel”.

For example, when uBITX’s frequency changes, it is transferred to a specific variable on Nextion LCD.

Example code

 

Below is an example of simple frequency and mode display changes

 

//Frequency

if(vc.val!=-1)

{

nFreq.val=vc.val

vc.val=-1

}

//Mode

if(cc.val!=-1)

{

if(cc.val==2)

{

tMainMode.txt=”LSB”

}

else

{

    tMainMode.txt=”USB”

}

cc.val=-1

}

Reference

New Release of KD8CEC Firmware v1.08

Ian KD8CEC has formally released version  1.08  of his firmware. This the first major release since 1.061, although there have been a number of Beta versions in between that many constructors will have donwloaded.
Some  key features in this version include:
1.Receive performance is improved compared to the original firmware or version 1.061
2.ATT function has been added to reduce RF gain (This shifts the 45Mhz IF passband down the slope of the filter giving an attenuator effect).
3.Added the ability to connect an inboard or outboard SDR unit after the 45MHz roofing filter (A low cost RTL-SDR is available that can be controlled by computer software providing a full SDR receiver)
4.Added ADC Monitoring in CAT communications
5. Supports several LCD variants including:
  • 16×02 Parallel LCD – i.e. LCD equipped with µBITX
  • the 16×02 LCD display configured to use I2C
  • 20×04 Parallel LCD with existing wiring in the µBITx
  • 20×04 LCD display configured to use I2C
  • Two 16×02 LCD displays configured to use I2C (Dual LCD mode)
6.Added extended switch support (up to 6 switches can be incorporated on your front panel to control various rig functions).
7. S Meter support – Any S-meter should be compatible.  The S-Meter will work on 2 or 4 line displays.
8.Added S-Meter Setting Assistant to uBITX Manager
9.Add recovery mode (that incorporates Factory Reset)
The pictures below show two different displays in operation on the rig:

There have been many other improvements and fixes. More information is available on Ian’s Hamskey blog.
Please see the link below for details of the release version of the software:
You can download HEX file and uBITX Manager from the link above. You can also download the source code at https://github.com/phdlee/ubitx and see all the changes I’ve made so far.   If there is a non-critical bug in the public version, Ian will link to the new firmware from his blog.
A new version of the CEC firmware manual is anticipated shortly.
Reference