Unsuccessful attempt to repair K3

Two weeks ago I discovered that one of my K3s had a broken front panel. The rig works fine and I can control it from the PC but the buttons don’t react or trigger another action than their designated function. Google told me it was a known issue: some corroded pins on the early production runs. Elecraft was prompt to reply to my emails.

This past week I received a free set of replacement connector strips. Gold plated! Yesterday I tackled the job. The old ones got desoldered and the new ones put in place.

Nick WB5BKL has a nice documented article on this.

The only difference is that I don’t like desoldering pumps. I bought one when I was studying electronics but I threw it away after I discovered desoldering wick. I have always used this copper braid and never looked back. Back when my business card said  ‘broadcast engineer’ and I was fiddling with electronics every day, I actually became quite good at it. You only need to take care where the wick goes so as not to desolder nearby SMD parts if this applies (or burn your fingers or sniff the stench of the melting plastic drum).

Here’s a hint: if you can’t get a pin to release or there still is solder in a freed up hole, you can remove this little residue by… ADDING solder! Put the braid on the soldering pad, put soldering iron on the braid, count to three, and add solder. This extra solder amplifies the sucking action and will take away all remaining solder. Make sure not to solder too long on the same copper pad. In the end the pad and part of the copper trace will lift off the PCB. Especially on poor quality circuit boards. Beginners mistake! I had to learn this the hard way. That dreaded TR-9130 in my VHF-only license days.

Back to 2013 and my K3. I was anxious to turn on the rig after the repair. No smoke, no sparks and the display looked OK. Unfortunately it doesn’t change a bloody thing. The repair didn’t actually repair the problem. Back to square one. Bummer!

The rig now needs to go to Elecraft’s official repair shop in Italy. So be it. But so close to WW CW? I really want to do SO2R so I need this rig. The shop owner promised to do his best to get the rig fixed and ship it back. But I need to work next week and it’ll be hard to arrange a moment for the parcel service to pick up the box. A few days lost already. So I decided to keep the rig here until after WW CW. I can use it when controlled from the computer. And it’s just the front panel buttons. Rotary controls like VFO, power out, DSP bandwidth etc work fine.

So what do I need in a contest situation that I can’t access right now? Noise reduction? But I found the button that actually activates this together with the settings. So I made a cheat sheet of some functions I might need and under which button it now actually resides. That left me with a couple of very specific things like diversity and aux RX antenna selection. I can alter these parameters  by sending serial commands through the COM port with the K3 Utility software. The Programmer’s Reference Manual has a complete description of the protocol. So I made another cheat sheet with the commands I may need and their parameters.

But what if I need to quickly do this in the contest? I need to close the N1MM soft because it has control over the COM port. Then launch the K3 util soft, do my thing, close and relaunch N1MMLogger. A pain! Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just send serial commands to the rig from within N1MMLogger? My initial short lived thought was to look through the code, try to find my way through the protocol and see how I could add some of my own code and compile a temp version for my own use. My gut says I could pull this off. My brain however says: ‘At what price?’. It would take several evenings to study the code, find the right procedures and functions, see how to use them and then do the same for the command protocol. Then combine this freshly acquired knowledge to make some macros. Hold your horses ON5ZO! You really don’t want to do this. You don’t have the time. You don’t feel like programming! And all this for something that is useless when the rig is fixed.

Yet another few seconds later, it dawned on me. Chances are this is already implemented in the N1MM program. I googled ‘n1mm send command k3’ and there you go! It IS ALREADY possible. N1MMLogger is just OVERCOMPLETE.

I ran upstairs and made a quick CATASC macro under F12 to test. Success! So now I need to find out what macros I need to make to change between TX/RX antennas and to (de) activate diversity. Come to think of it, it’s been ages since I used these K3 features. 2013 has been an off year for ham radio here…

2 replies on “Unsuccessful attempt to repair K3”

As I was reading this, I was saying to myself “you dummy – CATASC is your friend”. Glad you finally discovered it. Now, you need to free up enough F keys for everything you want to do with it. And, in case you have forgotten, AHK is your buddy for relocating those keys to somewhere more convenient.

How dare you call me a dummy! 😉

Actually I didn’t know about its existence because I quit following the N1MM reflector (and install updates without checking changes or additions). Actually I quit following many reflectors about two years ago because it was a bit overwhelming and time consuming at times. And since most control commands are ‘embedded’ in the general usage of the software, I didn’t encounter the need for such a feature. Now it makes sense of course, to be able to address the rig directly.

I’ve been using AHK in the past to relocate some special commands and keys, especially for ESM under SSB and ‘radio focus’. I forgot which since I never looked back after I got it running. The reason was that the key’s location on the keyboard was chosen for maximum operator convenience. On a standard US QWERTY keyboard. But it needs a two hand combination involving ALT on my Belgian style AZERTY.

Between the lines I read that you have usage for CATASC yourself. Could you tell me what you do with it?


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