K3 = OK

As expected yesterday’s test didn’t reveal anything wrong with the K3’s CW signals.

Last night I wanted to work some W8 stations in the Ohio QSO Party. Conditions on 20m were absolutely poor. I quit with the counter stuck at 23 QSO. I tried 40m later that night but didn’t hear any USA there. I couldn’t get anything going on 30m because of local noise. And I didn’t even try 40m for some DX. I got very bored with propagation and at 23.00 local time I called it a day.

Before closing the shack, I decided to give the K3 a firmware update. It was running the latest official release which is almost 3 months old. So I downloaded the last beta firmware and started uploading. The screen’s progress bar didn’t show much progression before the Elecraft software told me there was an error. I could not start the K3 anymore and could not establish communication with the PC to downgrade back to the working version. So I was completely stuck. My last resort without sending emails was the RTFM route. No go.

In a wave of blind accusations I decided to blame the USB-to-serial conversion. I use microHAM’s USB routing software with virtual COM ports. Maybe a real serial port would work? I dug up some serial cables as an RS-232 extension cord to connect the K3 to a spare PC that still has native COM ports but stands on the opposite side of the shack. I installed the needed software and there you go: connected. I uploaded the official release and after checking that one I installed the B-version successfully. Then reloading the rig’s settings from a file and I was good to go.

Or so I thought. The microHAM band decoder couldn’t communicate with the rig. This decoder is the link between the rig and the MK2R+ / PC. I knew it was the band decoder since antenna selection didn’t follow the K3’s QSY. A lot of head scratching later it turned out to be the K3’s baud rate that was higher after the update than the 4800 I had it set to to match the band decoder’s baudrate. That parameter does not seem to get saved into the config file.

I think there is nothing wrong with the microHAM stuff and its protocol. It worked the first time when I loaded the firmware after assembling the K3. It works again now. It must have been a glitch on this particular operation. I hit the sack at 01.00. Two hours for a firmware upgrade.

I woke up this morning at 06.30. Too early after last night’s adventure but since the tower is up and my 40m vertical too, I wanted to check 40/30m at sunrise. The light switch in the hallway upstairs didn’t illuminate my path. Neither did the one downstairs. The fridge was dead too. I went to the power distribution panel to find all circuit breakers in the ‘on’ position. Except the earth leakage differential breaker. So it wasn’t a short circuit but current flowing to ground. I did not need to scratch my head over that one: I cut the water boiler’s circuit and activated the differential breaker. All system’s go. Exit HF bands. Guess how I spent my Sunday morning (apart from working 2 Hawaiian stations on 20)?

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