Dave Richards AA7EE

August 23, 2011

OMG

There have been very few times in my life when I have uttered the words “Oh my god”.  I don’t really like that particular exclamation; it’s certainly not my style. For the only the second time I can remember, I just uttered those words twice in a row when this appeared in my inbox just now:

I’m not even going to try and explain how exciting the above is to me.  Don’t worry – I’ll have plenty of words at some point in the future. By the way, although the above mentions the CC-40, I’m pretty sure the beta kit I’ll be receiving will be for the CC-20.

OK, calm yourself Dave. Try to act normal, and suppress the urge to run around in the street and yell gibberish, interspersed with maniacally happy laughter. That kind of behavior is NOT NORMAL.

I also just received notification that my WM-2 QRP Wattmeter kit just shipped today from Oak Hills Research so once again, things will be busy at the AA7EE ranch very soon 🙂

February 8, 2011

The USBtinyISP – The First Step In Building Etherkit’s New CC-40 40M QRP Transceiver

Jason NT7S is currently busy building the first beta of his new CC-40 40M QRP transceiver that uses the PCB’s he designed. It hasn’t been completely smooth but then, that’s why beta versions are built before kits go out to the general kit-buying public. The beta builders are beginning to congregate on our private beta builders forum on the etherkit site (I’m sure we all feel very special – I know I do) and we’re all ready and raring to go with our beta builds. Among the beta builders are Brian N1FIY and Mike WB8ICN who are more experienced at building NT7S designs than myself, as they have both built the Willamette Transceiver.  Brian’s Willamette is a little more than half complete. Mike’s is finished and is a real beauty! I did build Jason’s VRX-1 Direct Conversion Receiver as offered by 4SQRP, but it was a simple and straightforward project, so I haven’t truly lost my NT7S virginity yet. Good grief, that didn’t sound right.

In case you’re tuning in for the first time. Here’s a link to the page on Jason’s blog in which he describes the features of this upcoming transceiver. Bear in mind that these are preliminary features; things may change a little by the time the CC-40 reaches the production stage, and also bear in mind the fact that the picture in Jason’s post is a prototype; the kit you receive will have a beautifully produced PCB (oh – and the final version employs surface mounted devices for most of the active and passive devices – in other words, nearly all the components are SMT’s.)

I have to take issue with the name of your blog post though Jason – it’s not exactly lifted out of the pages of the first lesson in the class “Effective Marketing 101”!  Contrary to the title of the post, I think a lot of folk are going to care about this transceiver. The microcontroller, which will control muting, frequency readout, keying, battery status, and possibly other functions in the future can be programmed in-circuit.  By the time the kit is available on the etherkit site, I’m sure that the firmware included on the controller will be very capable, but if you ever need to update the firmware, you’ll be able to do so with the aid of a simple device like the USBtinyISP.

For beta builders like myself, it’s pretty important that we are able to update the firmware ourselves, as Jason is still putting the finishing touches to it, and we won’t have anything like a final version of the firmware with our beta kits.  We could mail the transceiver back to him for re-programming, but it’s probably simpler to do it ourselves, which is where the USBtinyISP kit from Adafruit Industries comes in.  It’s an In-System-Programmer (hence the acronym) for AVR microcontrollers, meaing that to flash new firmware onto the chip, you don’t have to take it out of circuit – you can do it while the chip is still installed on the board in-circuit.

This is hardly worth that much of a description as it’s such a simple kit to build, but I like taking pictures of what goes on here and posting them, so here’s the bag the kit comes in:

You’ll notice that as well as being used as an AVR In-System Programmer (our intended use), it can also be used as a SpokePOV Adapter. What the heck is one of those, I wondered? I thought it was some highly technical buzz-word that had passed me by (as in “Hey Bill, you were coming in 599 when you were using the SpokePOV Adapter wired in parallel with the wim-bim-fertang-fertang-bus-stop-ole-biscuit-barrel.”) Turns out that Adafruit sell a kit for a thing called a SpokePOV which is an array of LED’s that you fix to the back wheel of your bicycle.  POV stands for Persistence Of Vision, and the idea is that as your back wheel spins round, the individual LED’s appear as solid blocks of light.  You can use this USBtinyISP kit to program the patterns that appear on your back wheel, if you also have a SpokePOV kit from Adafruit.

If on the other hand, you’re a boring old fart like me, and just want to use the USBtinyISP to flash new firmware onto the AVR microcontroller in your new CC-40 from etherkit (or any other AVR microcontroller for that matter) just make sure to install wire jumpers in place of R4 and R7 per the instructions.

Look what a simple kit this is:

Here’s the completed board:

and fitted inside the case:

Hey, if I can build this, I can build an Elecraft K2 right? (Well, joking aside, I’m sure that there is nothing hard about the K2 other than an awful lot more parts to be stuffed and soldered.)

Now to find me some small tweezers and some .02″ diameter solder for all those SMT devices in the CC-40 and I’ll be all set.

There’s only one other thing for me to do to in order to get ready for this cool new QRP transceiver, and that is to keep plugging away at the CW, but that’s a subject for another post.

October 30, 2010

New Kit Company To Debut Trail-Friendly Radio

Most people reading this post will be familiar with Jason NT7S, or at least have heard of him.  He’s an amateur who lives in Beaverton, Oregon with his wife Jennifer, their golden labrador Baxter and newest addition to the family, their 3 month-old son Noah.  Jason recently did something that I consider very admirable – he gave up full-time employment in order to be able to spend more time at home with his family.  Jason is planning to launch a new open-source amateur radio kit company and as part of that has been working on “Project X”, which it has just been revealed is a CW transceiver with a superhet receiver. The current draw will be 30mA or maybe even a little less, a fact that will make it very appealing to hiking and camping folk. Much use is made of cascode JFET circuitry.  The radio includes a built-in keyer, frequency counter and battery check status indicator too. It has a 4 pole crystal filter with an approximate bandwidth of 500Hz (nice) and will be available intially for 40M with plans for other bands as well.

I could tell you a little more, but I’ll send you over to Jason’s site for the lowdown.  Two things to bear in mind before you go look:

1) The picture is not what your finished radio will look like.  This is his prototype that you’re looking at.  The final kit will be smaller, make use of SMT’s and will have a PCB.

2) These are early days.  It’s not going to be available next week, so now might well be a good time for you to give Jason feedback on something you might want in a kit like this (hope Jason doesn’t mind me saying this.)

For my part, there are two things that are quite important requirements that not all single band kits provide. Here are my two desires –

1) A smooth and fairly slow tuning rate and

2) a really nice sounding sidetone (rough square wave type side-tones really kill my enjoyment of sending CW)

That’s it.  Boring I know, but those 2 features make a big difference to my enjoyment of a radio. What would you like to see in a trail-friendly TX/RX? (Jason’s going to KILL me for asking this!)

Oh, and the very best of luck with the new business Jason.  We might be in a recession, but the best ideas will always do well – even in a tough business environment like this. When you get things off to a good start, think of how they can grow even more when the economy improves. So everyone please wish NT7S the very best in his new endeavours and if you’re going to be in the market for a cool new CW transceiver kit in the near future, you know where to look!

Here’s the link to Jason’s post.

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