Adding Wifi to a KX3

Wifi inside a KX3

20140512_131034-001While browsing info on the ‘Piglet’ on Nick Garner’s Pignology web site the thought struck me, I wonder if I could install a version of the Piglet inside my KX3. I built my KX3 from a kit and never installed the battery holders or the internal charger. I’ve always operated the rig from an external supply;  either Lipo batteries or from a 12 VDC supply in the shack. Looking at the size of the Piglet I thought there might be room enough to fit it inside the KX3.

A few emails back and forth with Nick/N3WG, (the guy behind the pig) confirmed the possibility. Nick suggested a through-hole version of the board, minus the DB9 and Power Poles connectors, for experimentation. A few days later the parts showed up and it was off to the races – another first for Muppet Labs. Actually It turned out to be an easy project and enables logging with  Pignology’s Hamlog app without having to deal with wires.

The first ‘trial by fire’ was on top of Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks. I brought along pencil and paper as backup but Nick’s Hamlog software and the built in Piglet worked perfectly. I logged 22 contacts without a hitch. I was using the Android version of the app which unfortunately does not export a SOTA compatible .csv file, hopefully Nick may add that in the future. I experienced intermittent cell service while on Cascade which let Hamlog look up callers in QRZ while I was logging. Very cool to be able to answer someone with a ‘Thanks Barry, you’re 599 72”, making a personable, but quick QSO. The photo shows the ‘shack’ on top of Cascade (3880’) but not the phone I was using for logging because???  You guessed it I was using the same phone to take the photo!

Piglet closeup

 

 
What you get is a really cool, KX3/W – not everyone has one of those, right?

This mod isn’t for everyone. You should be comfortable with soldering in tight places and not afraid to damage a $1000 radio. Battery drain is increased as the Piglet draws 70 ma, and you have to disconnect it if you want to use the ACC1 jack to update firmware or use a different logging program. For my use this is perfectly acceptable. The ease of logging and (hopefully) log upload to the SOTA database make it perfect.  As always YMMV, follow along for a detailed, step by step, article.

Caveats

  1. You will have to remove the battery holders in your KX3. This was not an issue for me as I never installed them in the first place. On summits I power the rig with an external Lipo battery, at home with a 12v supply.  If you’re OK with this then read on!
  2. You also need access to P3, so the KXBC3 can’t be installed. Since the battery holder isn’t installed you probably don’t have the charger anyway!
  3. Mounted inside the KX3 without its antenna exposed the Piglet’s wifi range is short, somewhere around 8 to 15’. I don’t see this as an issue as most people will be much closer than that when logging but figured I should point it out.
  4. The method I used to power it is unswitched, whenever there is power at the 9-15 VDC plug on the KX3 the Piglet is powered on. There is a spot on the circuit board with ‘switched’ 12 volts that could be used. This solves the always on when battery is connected problem but still means the Piglet is always on when the rig is turned on, and this presents the last caveat.
  5. Wired as shown the ACC1 jack is no longer usable with the KXUSB (or KXSER) cable when the Piglet is powered on. You must power off the Piglet in order to regain the use of ACC1 for firmware upgrades or using other logging programs.

If you can live with the above then here’s how you do it, including pictures!

This mod isn’t for everyone. You need to be comfortable with soldering in tight places. If you damage your KX3 I’m sure it won’t be fixed under warranty and you lose your internal battery holder.

Installing a Piglet inside an Elecraft KX3

  1. Obtain the Piglet board, minus the DB9 and Power Poles from Pignology
  2. Power up your KX3 and set the RS232 baud rate to 4800
    1. It’s easier to do this now than when the rig is apart for testing.
  3. Open up the KX3 for surgery
    1. I found it easier to work on the rig if I disconnected the flex cable and worked on the front half of the rig (the control panel side) without having the back half in my way.
  4. Remove the battery compartment shield board and battery holders if still installed. Don’t lose the screws holding the battery retainer and shield as It will be replaced.
  5. Prepare a small three conductor, 6” long, color coded cable.
    1. On one end strip 1/8” of insulation and tin the wires.
    2. Solder the ends to the ACC1 jack as shown
    3. Make note of the color code so you can connect them to the correct lands on the Piglet circuit board.
    4. Leave the other end of the cable free for the moment.ACC1 wiring
  6. Replace the battery compartment shield board (you didn’t lose the screws, correct?
  7. Prepare the Piglet (Figure x)
    1. Solder a jumper between pins 4 and 8 of the DB9 connector traces.
    2. Solder a (+) and (-) 2” jumper with jacks to the appropriate locations (where the Power Poles should connect) on the board. See the parts list for the jumpers/jacks I used.Piglet data connections
    3. Roughly locate the Piglet where it belongs
    4. Cut the wires from ACC1 to a comfortable length and solder them to connections 2, 3 and 5 of the DB9 connector traces. You did remember your color code, right?
    5. Use double stick foam tape to mount the Piglet as shown.
    6. Clean the shield and bottom of the Piglet board with alcohol, it really helps the tape stick better.
    7. Connect the power jumpers you installed to pins 1 and 10 to  the KX3’s plug P3KK1W on Cascade Mtn.
    8. Positive (+) goes to pin #1
    9. Negative (-) goes to pin #10
    10. P3 is the plug for the KXBC3
  8. Reconnect the KX3’s flex cable
  9. Plug a known power source into the KX3’s 9-15V power jack. You should see LED’s start to flash on the Piglet
  10. Verify you can see the Piglet in your mobile device’s Wifi list.
  11. Turn on the KX3
    1. Start your Hamlog app and follow Nick’s instructions for setup.
    2. If everything is correct you should now be able to control your KX3 with your mobile device
  12. Congratulations – you now have a KX3/W (Wifi)!

Parts List:

  1. Piglet board w/o DB9 and Power Pole connectors:  Pignology
  2. Small, flexible wire with push on connectors. I used product number 826 from Adafruit for both the ACC1 wiring and the power connections:   http://www.adafruit.com/products/826
  3.  Double stick foam tape. I used servo tape available from any R/C hobby store. Something similar to this should work fine:  http://www.sigmfg.com/IndexText/SIGSH119.html

Other information

1. Elecraft KX3 Schematic KX3 Control Panel Connectors:  http://www.elecraft.com/manual/KX3SchematicDiagramDec2012.pdf

2. KXSER Schematic the cable schematic is on the last page: http://www.elecraft.com/manual/KXPA100%20Owner’s%20Manual.pdf

Don’t forget to disconnect the battery when you’re not using the KX3 or the Piglet will deplete it. The Piglet shows approximately 70ma of current when running. Considering the KX3 can draw up to 3A on transmit it isn’t going to reduce your battery life significantly.

Remember! If you need to use the ACC1 jack with the KXUSB (or KXSER) cable you will have to turn off the Piglet. What I do is open up the rig and remove the (+) connection to the Piglet. I’m sure some craftier folks could find a way to add a switch but I’m OK with this simple approach. The KX3 is usually used portable and the frequency of firmware updates doesn’t make it a burden to stay with the simple approach.

There doesn’t appear to be any negative impact on the KX3’s performance, either RX or TX, since the modification. I don’t have access to sophisticated test equipment but A/B comparisons to an Icom IC756-2 with weak signals, before and after the mod, didn’t show any RX degradation from the mod.

Ideas, questions, suggestions, corrections?  Feel  free to drop me an email!

’73 and enjoy your KX3/W

Jim/KK1W
mailto:kk1w@arrl.net

 

SOTA Jerks “Introduction to SOTA” Presentation

Here is the presentation the SOTA Jerks present to local clubs (or anyone else willing to listen to us). Besides an introduction to SOTA the most important part could be the resource links at the end of the presentation.

Feel free to download and use at your club meeting or event. Modification is fine, please credit the original authors if at all possible 🙂 Most of all get out and activate!

SOTA Jerks Introduction to SOTA presentation. (left click to download).

(this is a large 23M file – just to warn you!)

 

OPERATING TIP

OPERATING TIP

CQ WW RTTY Director, Ed WØYK, shares the log submission issues experienced by all contest sponsors. “It is apparent that many people do not read the robot email reply they receive. At the bottom of that email, the robot lists the format errors in the log. If you don’t understand what the robot is telling you, then simply compare that specific QSO line with the format specified on the Logs web page. The problem should be obvious.

“Major logging programs like Win-Test, N1MM Logger and WriteLog all create compliant Cabrillo files … IF you enter your data correctly. For example, if you enter your sent exchange as ‘CA 03’ in N1MM Logger (which is backwards from the required order for CQ WW RTTY), it will come out in that (incorrect) order in the Cabrillo file.

“You can easily edit your Cabrillo file with a text editor. Since is it common to add, change or move the same parameter field in every QSO line, a column editor is invaluable. I recommend the freeware Crimson Editor.”

So read that robot message! If it tells you there is something wrong with your log – do something about it and resubmit it. Double- and triple-check your operating category and all of the information for your station. Once you have a happy robot and you are a happy log submitter – save the confirming message in an easy-to-find location. My email software has a folder named “Contest Log Submissions” for all of my log submission confirmation messages. It’s easy and helps avoid the dreaded “forgot to send in my log” disease.

HCRA Meeting Friday, November 2

   JIm, KK1W, at the helm on Burley Hill

Friday’s HCRA meeting will feature a presentation on portable operating, with an emphasis on SOTA (Summits on the Air) activations. Nick, K1MAZ, will talk about all the fun that he and Jimmy (KB1PRA), and John (Kx1x) and others had on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire on October 20th. Nick is a recent member of the SOTA Jerks, and is also venturing out on his own to operate from many nearby summits. We’ll discuss what SOTA entails, and how you can get started from home and from a peak. New portable rigs, new antennas, and new battery technology will be shown. Join us for a fun-filled and informative meeting! Other likely participants: Ed, KB1NWH; Dave, WN1E; Matt, W1MSW; Jim, KK1W.   – Frandy, N1FJ@arrl.net

SOTA jerks are on the road again

(In a deep loud voice) SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY September 30th 2012 the jerks are heading out to a place unactivated.  That’s right,  We are heading to Burley Hill W1/MR-002.  Showtime will be 1600Z.  Modes CW, FM, SSB, and new to this activation PSK31.  Frequencies 7.034, 14.061 CW 7.190, 21.333, 14.3425 SSB depending on propagation, look for us on 10 meters also 146.52 – FM.

All Hams are invited to make contacts FREE of charge

There will be no tickets at Ticketmaster or the box office.

SOTA Jerks head to the ‘dacks!

Frandy/N1FJ and I will be heading to the high peaks of the Adirondacks to activate a few mountains for SOTA. We will activate Whiteface Mountain Monday afternoon then meet up with Dennis/WA2USA Monday evening. The three of us will attempt summits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning before returning to our respective homes.

Dennis, one of the US’s top chasers, is also an activator and very knowledgeable of the area, We’re looking forward to him lending expertise to the ‘Jerks’ and keep us from becoming an item on the 11 PM news! It will be a pleasure to meet Dennis in person for an eyeball QSO after all the contacts we’ve made over the air.

Tomorrow, Monday the 10th Dennis will be activating Cascade Mountain, W2/GA-010 and Frandy and I will be activating Whiteface Mountian, W2/GA-003. Check SOTAwatch for the specific times/frequencies.

We’ll be taking some pictures and will get them up on the website soon. Most likely when we return. Internet connectivity is pretty spotty in the ‘dacks!

So, if you have a moment check the spots and give us a shout if you’re by a rig.

’73 for now,
Frandy & Jim

Activating Crag Mountain, Northfield, Mass.

Around midnight on Friday (Aug. 31) night Jim/KK1W emailed me that he, Nick/K1MAZ and John/Kx1x would be activating Prospect Hill the next day. I had already activated Prospect Hill this year, so I decided to do Crag Hill in Northfield and snag a sure S2S (Summit to Summit). Jim was going to use NE1SJ so I used my own call. Nick and John used primarily NE1C, the Venture Crew’s call. (You can see their posting on this Group site from a few days ago.)

I set up a segmented 20/40 meter dipole, supported in the center by my new Jackite Pole at about the 20 foot level. On 40 cw, I got on and called cq and worked Boston & Maryland. Then I spotted an alert and put 8 more in the log, including NE1SJ and K1MAZ (on cw!). Then I switched to 20 meter cw (being lazy, I discovered that the KX3 tuned the 40 meter dipole fine on 20 meters). Sent an alert on SOTA, and 10 quick QSOs. Got briefly unlazy, and removed the jumpers to make the antenna a 20 meter dipole. 2 more contacts. Switched to 15 meter cw, reverted to being lazy and the KX3 tuned 15 meters fine on the 20 meter dipole. 14 Qs on 15. Then back to 20 cw for a few more. Recap: 41 QSOs, 2 S2S.

Conditions were good, weather ideal. The view of Northfield Mountain was great. The KX3 performed well. A 2.6 Ah LiPo battery weighing 8 ounces powered the KX3 for the entire operation, with room to spare. The segmented dipole is a pain to change singlehandedly, thinking of making a trap dipole and/or experiment more with an end-fed wire.

Frandy, N1FJ

NE1C SOTA Activation Review – September 1, 2012 – Prospect Hill

Nick (K1MAZ) and I, along with Jim (NE1SJ/KK1W) made the trek to Prospect Hill, MA (near Athol) for a SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation.  Great weather and great propagation made for a perfect day!!!

We hung a mini-G5RV from the fire tower (up about 80′ sloping to a tree branch).  We used KK1W’s FT100 to make contacts using 55w and mini-G on 20m, 15m, and 10m SSB.  We used the FT817 and the mini-G to make PSK31 contacts (yeah, 5w) on 20m.

We also used a home-made “tape-measure” 2m beam to work a few local contacts on 146.52.  If you’ve taken 146.52 out of your scanning sequence, you might consider putting it back in, especially on weekends when local hams may be looking to make a contact with you.

Stay tuned for more NE1C activations, coming soon!  Thanks for all of you that we contacted today, and all we’ll contact in the future!

’73 de Kx1x, John J. Pise, Jr.

Hover over a thumbnail to see the description, click any thumbnail to start the slideshow.

NE1C Activation Logs

 

 

Dueling KX3’s on Dry Hill

Here’s Frandy/N1FJ making a CW contact with a KX3 on Dry Hill – W1/CR-003 on August 15th, 2012.

Yep, dueling KX3’s? No, not really. We brought them both along but only used one at a time. Actually Frandy is using mine at the moment, his is the one further to the left on our ‘rock solid’ operating table. All in all we made 21 QSO’s, on 40, 20 and 15 meter CW.

The outing was a shakedown cruise for our KX3’s and a test of a new segmented dipole. The dipole is for 20 and 40 meters. At the end of the 20 meter segment you there is a connection you can leave open for 20 meters or complete the connection for 40 meters. It’s actually a three band antenna; when configured for 40 meters it will also tune on 15 meters (third harmonic). The antenna is purposely built very light to minimize the weight supported by the kite pole we use to hold up the center. It was configured as an inverted ‘V’.

The KX3’s worked very well, both of them sporting our ‘Palm Paddle’ modification. The transceiver is easy to use, the tuner is fast and we worked the world (well, from CA to Germany) with our 12 watts. Coming from an 817 the KX3 has more power, built in ATU, built in keyer, superb filtering, NR and a much easier to use display and menu system. The FT-817 chalks up some high points with better audio output and more durable packaging. But as Frandy says, “that KX3 is a keeper!).

KX3 #1124 (mine) should be QRV from a few summits in NS soon – stay tuned!

Jim/KK1W