So, some 50-60 hours of assembling later, we get something that looks like this:
The general purpose builder’s axiom:
- The things you expect to be hard turn out to be easy.
- The things that you expect to be easy turn out to be unexpectedly hard.
To that we could add a 2a: “…or they consume all of the available time”.
Being a noob with SMT, I thoroughly expected to be chasing solder faults for weeks. That didn’t occur. In fact, after quite a bit of experimentation, I haven’t found a single fault either in the receive or transmit path. I don’t know that everything is optimal yet, but all bands do seem to function.
(I did make a mistake on one of the PA transformers, but caught it and reworked it before adding the PA finals, which I only did after I knew everything else worked. Excepting the PA, I assembled the entire unit over the course of a few weeks. Many will build in stages, testing as they go. I chose not to. I can’t explain why…)
That doesn’t mean that bringup was flawless, however. What I did have issues with was tools and software. The basic bring-up is going to look like this:
Step #1: Basic power-up smoke-and-flame check. No smoke/flame/sparks? Proceed to…
Step #2: Get a bootloader into the processor’s flash.
Step #3: Using the bootloader, flash the operational firmware image.
Step #4: With functional firmware, work everything we can to check/fix faults.
Step #5: Parameterize operation for this specific unit. “Alignment”, but using data instead of an insulated screwdriver.
Then, we should be ready to radiate.
In practice, I ran into driver and connectivity issues that made the bringup a bit of a debugging exercise. Having witnessed others run into similar problems, instead of glossing over it, I’m going to write up a little more detail in some subsequent posts which I hope will be a useful resource for others. Look for those soon…