SFI > 250 or bust!

Updated 21/05 – see below.

Truth n°1: If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
Truth n°2: Don’t do silly stuff late in the evening.

I dared both truths last night a little after 10 PM. I was having decent success on the lower bands but for the last few days a nasty problem has developed. My 2.4 GHz wireless keyboard suddenly stops responding. It just plays dead for a couple of seconds.Very annoying when trying to make contacts. I still can’t type blind so I look at the keyboard while typing but when looking up, nothing is there. Or in CW you hit enter but it just doesn’t start sending CW. Lid factor increasing! I tried changing batteries but this didn’t help.

I was about to change bands and -don’t ask me why- out of the blue I got the idea to update the microHAM USB driver software, and the MK2R+ firmware. Was it broken? NO. Was it late in the evening? YES. Still I went along with the procedure that I had delayed for a few months now. Delayed because I know I should’n be fixing things late in the evening while they’re not even broken. I have performed this procedure numerous times since 2006 and everything went OK thisd time until I fired up the MK2R+ and N1MMLogger. I kept getting the message that the internal winkey chip didn’t respond and even worse: the PTT got stuck resulting in errors on the K3’s display. Oh no – not now! NOT NOW!!!

I could do a downgrade of the MK2R+ firmware as these files are stored on the local PC. But the microHAM website only shows the link for the latest version of the USB router. CRAP! Long shot: copy the HTTP link to the file and edit it to a lower number in the hope the older files were still stored in the folder of the microHAM web server. YES! Bingo! I now was about to downgrade both firmware and USB drivers in the hope the problem would go away.

Which of course it didn’t. How on earth could a winkey chip go dead like this? Like I said: I have done a dozen upgrades for this device. I had tried reloading the router software, did a few power off/on cycles but the problem persisted. So I sent a mail to the support address hoping they would come up with an answer and preferably a solution. Google only talked about RFI issues destroying the chip. But I have used this chip over twelve years with +1kW while I now had been running only 400-500W fot the last two weeks. I was starting to look for solutions to keep the station going without the SO2R controller. I’m not about to do SO2R soon and voice keying is not needed the coming months.

Before abandoning the shack I decided to remove the drivers from the Windows device manager had had it reinstalled, then power everything off, drain the capacitors of the power supply, shut off the PC and reboot and restart everything once again. And suddenly the error was gone, the PTT didn’t hang and I could send CW again. This last measure seemed to cure the problem and I could have some more fun on the bands.

I must admit I wasn’t really at ease when I started everything this morning but everything is still working. I wonder what the answer will be from Tech Support. I haven’t notified them yet that the problem solved itself…

UPDATE 21/05: as expected I got a reply from microHAM’s Jozef OM7ZZ. He and W4TV have always been helpful in the past. Not that I have needed much help because M/H stuff is top quality.

Anyway there was not much tech support could tell without some further questions. Jozef immediately reassured me: “If everything was working just minute before you upgraded, there shouldn’t be any hardware error”. Yet there was one and by uninstalling the drivers and letting Windows do the driver install again and a solid power off / on and PC reboot, the problem luckily went away by itself.

It did cause a spike in heartbeat for a solid forty minutes. That’s why I hate these upgrades. I haven’t upgraded my K3’s in a long time either.

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