mcHF Unit #1 / Update #2

So, some 50-60 hours of assembling later, we get something that looks like this:

mcHF Unit #1 First Listen

The general purpose builder’s axiom:

  1. The things you expect to be hard turn out to be easy.
  2. 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…



If it’s not yet broken, it soon will be.

What is this all about? (Not that I honestly expect the question…)

I became an engineer by accident. It’s not a profession I actively chose, rather, it found me indirectly one day when I wasn’t really looking for it.

Now, that’s not entirely true, either. Since I was old enough to autonomously perambulate, I’ve been disassembling and (usually) reconstructing stuff. Sometimes changing it for the better. And, oftentimes, not. It’s not something that can be helped or amended; I’ve done it for five decades, and I will continue to. It led to what became a career, even when I didn’t expect one.

I tinker. In a word, it is just what I do.

My other blog was originated for aviators. I love being an aviator; it defines and qualifies my identity. I dearly wish I could do more of it. Yet, tinkering, indirectly so, pays my bills, and enables aviating. That won’t change. So, maybe I should write some about it.

Examples and conditions of my obsession:

  • I drive old stuff that I maintain myself. There’s an economic basis for that, but also, I enjoy the challenge of keeping it on the road.
  • I work on my own airplane as much as 14 CFR Part 43 allows me to. I trust my life to the machine, so I want to know it inside and out. (I wish I could build my own aircraft, but the spare time to do so does not exist today. Someday, that could change.)
  • I’ve held an amateur radio license for quite some time now. I don’t talk on the air much, but I love fooling with the equipment.
  • In my college years, I was a part-time musician. I miss it. I mostly taught myself to play with the help of a few friends, because I was compelled to find out how to do it myself. I find it easy and wonderful to get lost in music, whether I’m making it, or someone else is.
  • My wife and I are building a second home, as much as we are able to, by ourselves. And we’re thankful we did not physically wait much longer to begin this…
  • Oh, and I still get paid to help define the intellectual property that goes into large scale microchips.

For whatever it’s worth, writing always helps me to clarify thoughts and find a sensible path. I need to do more of it. So, when I tinker, on any of these things, perhaps I should talk about it a little more. Maybe it’ll help others solve problems. Maybe it will inspire. Maybe it’ll help me think things through. Maybe it will do none of this stuff. I don’t know.

But, for whatever reasons, this may just become my soapbox for all sorts of other non-aviation related things that I do or think about. Let’s see where that leads.