|Sep 20, 2011, 05:19 AM|
9X Transmitter Modd'ing
This blog entry will be an illustration of my experiences modifying a LeadersHobby.com Fly Sky FS-THX9X Transmitter https://www.leaderhobby.com/product....=9394001220239.
This Transmitter is also available as the HobbyKing.com Turnigy 9X.
The mod's carried out are:
a) Install a port in the TX to allow an AVR Programmer to connect directly with the Atmel Microprocessor (uP)
b) Flash the TX's uP to an opensource operating system, either:
c) Install a HobbyKing LED backlight
d) Install a HobbyKing LiFe TX Battery
e) Install HobbyKing TurboThumbs gimbal control knobs
NOTE: If you came here looking for a way to flash your TX and this looks all to hard Then have a look here: http://www.smartieparts.com/shop/ind...roducts_id=331
No cutting and no soldering (if you have a V2 TX)! And very little friggin around with soldering irons etc.
Just wanted to let you know - its all part of the service
So now a Q&A around "why" (do this).
Here's a list I sent to my mate Aero Andy:
Q: Why the 9X TX?
A: For USD40 (LeaderHobby) it's a bloody good TX. Its just the operating software (OS) is not so good.
Q: Why new Firmware (FW - the operating system code - like Windows/Linux/Mac/etc )?
A: As above opensource guys (starting with Thomas Husterer) thought they could do better than the manufacturer - he/they were right!
Q: How would I change my FW?
A: The 9X's brain is an Atmel microprocessor (uP). It's structure includes non-volatile memory/storage (so take power away and it stays good). We need to connect to this uP somehow to change its coding. That's why we take a 'port' to the outside world (to our PC).
Q: So is there just space for the OS on the uP?
A: No, there are two spaces. One for the OS and one for the flyers planes and general settings (Pilots name, mixes, etc).
Q: Other than the new OS what other benefits would I get.
A: This for me is one of the really cool bits. A very clever guy/s wrote a program called eePe. This allows you to set up all 16 (yes 16) planes on your PC (copy the one plane 15 times if you want to!). You then connect to your TX and download your planes to your TX. It takes all of a minute (once setup). Also, got 32 planes? No problem just make two files of 16 planes each. There is no limit other than the 16 planes on your TX at any one time.
Q: This eePc what else can it do other than communicate the OS and plane data to my TX?
A: Other than being able to setup all your mixes from your PC (much easier than from your TX) it has more coolness in that it can simulate your settings/mixes on your PC - it has a simulator built in.
Q: What is one of the cool ER9X (or G'9x) features that has caught your eye?
A: The flight-battery timer. You can program a timer (countdown or countup) on your TX such that as soon as you throttle up your plane the counter triggers. The cool bit is as you reduce throttle to your motor the program slows the countdown anticipating less drain from your battery. At 0-throttle it stops the counter completly as you glide. Nice simulation of real world I thought.
Q: Who is working on developing FW at the moment?
A: I'm not sure if Thomas is maintaining his site (http://code.google.com/p/th9x/) but the Erazz forum (ER9X) on RCGroups (http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1266162)is very active with new binaries regularly. ER9X is based on Thomas Husterer work (TH9X). A fellow Kiwi also has an active 'branch' (Gruvin) called G'9X. Amazingly he's going the full hog and redesigning the whole uP board to allow very, very cool stuff (Telemetry, etc). In fact as of writing this (20 Sept 11), he is testing his prototype board.
a) A port in your TX to allow flashing of your TX's uP
Ref: http://code.google.com/p/er9x/. See "Documentation and Tutorials", "Flashing the 9x by Jon Lowe."
Great reference that I used it as the basis of my port.
My TX port (outside): Pictures a1 , a2 & a3 attached below.
TX port (inside): Pictures a4 & a5 attached below.
TO BE AWARE OF: With my positioning of the firewire connector there are two things you need to be aware of:
i) If its to far 'up' (towards the centre of the Tx) it will conflict with the Tx charge port. As a precaution I put heatshrink around the charge connector inside the Tx (you can dangle the charge connector from its wires in order to use a hotair gun to shrink the heatshrink).
ii) With the firewire connector mounted the uP board becomes harder (but not impossible) to remove. For this reason I would recommend installing your backlight BEFORE mounting your firewire connector (I didn't . ).
BEFORE STARTING, MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT STATICALLY CHARGED!! Although modern integrated circuits ('chips') are input-protected for Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) can still damage your electronics. Ideal is to do all your moddin' on an ESD mat. Alternatively don't wear static loving clothes (wool) and grab something earthed (not that many appliances are these days) like a metal jug or your PC (desktop not laptop!).
i) Remove the back cover of the Tx by removing the six screws with a #1 Philips screwdriver. Take care when removing the cover as you will need to gently unplug the connector between the two covers. Did you keep the EPS packing foam? It makes a great stand/holder for the Tx while you work.
ii) I started with the rainbow cable. Cut the cable length-wise down to 6 conductors (colours not really important at this stage) and then cut a length to 150mm being sure to cut one end square. 'Fantail' the squarley cut end by slicing between the conductors down 10mm. Then strip 3mm off each of the six conductors. Take your soldering iron and tin the stripped ends taking care not to get to much heat near the insulation as it melts like a candle. When tinned slide 3mm of heatshrink over each wire's insulation, placing the heatshrink so that its edge is at the tinned-wire/insulation interface, now heatshrink it with the barrel of your iron. You'll thank me for doing this later as this stops the insulation melting away. See Photo: b2.
iii) Now tin your 6-pole connector (female/non-exposed conductor side) or the separate pins that will become your connector (depending on the type of connector you have). At this point its really handy to use a mini-vice to hold the connector, but a weight and table-edge works ok too. Holding the rainbow cable in one hand 'sweat' (process of: heating both tinned conductors to solder-melting-point and bringing together) each tinned conductor onto each of the connector poles. Now you should have a female connector nicely soldered to a 6-wire ribbon cable of a bit less than 150mm length. Again depending on your connector you may want to place some heatshrink over the connector-assembly to protect/insulate. Example Photo b1.
iv) Now the the fun bit. Using either double-sided tape or masking tape temporarily sit the rainbow cable on the Tx's PCB. Estimate the lengths of the slices you need to make, to separate each conductor (taking into account corners etc). Now lift off the cable from the TX's PCB and slice between each conductor enough to allow the conductors to reach their individual soldering pads (see photo). Once this is done put the cable down again on to the PCB and route the wires to their pads. When happy with how your loom sits, carefully cut each conductor to length (mini-sidecutters) allowing an extra 3mm to strip back. My lengths ended up (from top of photo down):
v) Removing the newly formed 'loom' (rainbow cable assembly) strip back 3mm from each conductor, as we did for the other end, and then tin/heatshrink. Again attach your loom and route the conductors to each of the solder pads on the Tx's PCB. If feeling brave stick it down permanently with double-sided tape, glue or hotglue. Now 'sweat' each wire onto its pad. I bend the tinned wire down on an angle and using tape stick it down (on the insulation part) so that the tape pushes the tinned wire onto the tinned PCB solder pad. Once solderd give the wire a light (light!) tug - it should not come away! If it does you have a 'dry joint' (not enough solder) or failed to get both conductors hot enough for the solder to flow into the joint. If this happens either re-tin or resolder allowing a bit more heat to flow into the joint. See Photo: b3.
A) Repeat ii) & iii) except cut to a length of only 60 or 70mm. And of course solder the male 6-pole connector on to the tinned/heatshrink'd rainbow cable this time, rather than the female connector in iii).
B) Now to cut the firewire mounting hole (Photo: a2 & a3). I placed a piece of masking tape over the position I wanted the hole and pushed the tape down with my ruler-edge working the tape into the shallow corners of the foot recess. Then using a sharp pencil drew around the flange of the firewire connector. Removing the connector I then used my ruler and drew lines inside the first lines estimating the dimensions of the required hole, which of course needs to be smaller than the flange. Now taking our drill and bit I drilled a number of holes inside the marking, taking much care not to let the bit slide outside the line. Easiest way is to drill 1.5mm pilot holes and then drill them out. Using either the edge of your needle file or mini-sidecutters cut the remining material out as neatly as possible. Now the slow careful filing starts. I slowly took the edges of hole out to the lines being careful to keep the hole centered in the Tx's foot. As you creep up on the final size test fit the firewire connector, until it fits in the hole nice and tightly. I had to file a tiny amount off the metal firewire connector flanges to allow the connector to fit in the foot recess. Now round-off the edges of the hole where the flanges sit as these are rounded and stop the connector sitting flush and flat.
C) As above tin & heatshrink the short-connector-cable. Feed this cable through the hole you just filed (inside to outside) and solder the conductors onto the firewire connector. At this point the firewire connector can be pushed into Tx's plastic-case for the last time. If happy with how it all looks, glue the firewire connector to the plastic. I used Selleys Plastics Glue (CA with a primer/catalyst). Photo: c1.
1) Take your Firewire cable and plug it into your transmitter. Now decide how long you want the cable to be and and add 70mm, then cut it to length. Strip 100mm of insulation off the cable (it will probably have a shield-foil around it - just pull/cut this away) and then strip the wire ends back about 10mm - its time to 'buzz' out the conductors. MAKE SURE your Tx 6-pole connector is disconnected! I say this as we don't want multimeter currents (as low as they may be) flowing into our uP. Now connect the cable to your new firewire Tx connector and buzz the cable to determine which conductor goes where. List the rainbow wire colour, to, the firewire-cable colour. Now follow your rainbow conductors to each of the pads of the uP and list this pad name (Eg: MOSI, -, +, RST, SCK, etc) to the firewire cable conductor colour. This will allow you to solder the correct conductor on the AVR Programmer PCB. You will need to consult: Ref: http://code.google.com/p/er9x/. See "Documentation and Tutorials", "Flashing the 9x by Jon Lowe." and also your Programmer's schematic although mine had the pin names silkscreened (printed) on ther PCB so was easy from that perspective.
2) With this done cut back the firewire cable conductors to 30mm. Strip, tin and if need be heatshrink the conductors (most cable of this type has high-temp insulation so may not need heatshrink protection as we did for the rainbow cable). Now depending what Programmer you ended up with you need to solder each firewire cable conductor to the correct pad on the programmer PCB. I removed the 10-pin socket on my AVR PCB by cutting the legs of the connector and then removing the pins with my soldering iron. The firewire cable conductors were then soldered straight onto the PCB. Finally heatshrink the whole PCB, joins and firewire-cable to keep all parts secure and short-proof. Photos d1 & d2.
You are now ready to flash your TX!!! Again consult Jon Lowe's excellent guide.
ADDING THE HOBBYKING BACKLIGHT
An excellent resource is the HK site itself (yeh I know suprising hey!). Pictures illustrating the install process are here: http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/s...Blue_DIY_.html.
Things I found:
ADDING A HOBBYKING LiFe BATTERY
Why a LiFe?
The LiFe battery is very similiar to a LiPo but has the following differences:
All most forgot the SuperThumbs for your TX gimbals. As per the link above, get 'em from HK. As per the price though you may find as I did the thread cutting is amateur. I had to use a M3 tap to clean out the threads as they were getting tighter and tighter as I screwed them down. I also had to file the threads on one of the TX gimbal shafts (I don't have a M3 Die, hence the use of a needle file)! Not enjoyable really but thems the breaks when you only need to put down 40 green ones for an otherwise good TX. Finally I removed the grub screws from the original knobs and used them in the SuperThumbs to lock everything tight.
Hope this blog helps people
Please fell free to ask questions or leave comments!
|Sep 23, 2011, 01:12 AM|
I have a couple of questions, ones easy and the other's cause I'm stupid.
Where did you get your AV programmer from, how much do they cost, and does it have to be a particular make or type? (that's the easy one..LOL)
What is the white block, and what is it for, the one, all your cables go into before they go to the external socket. (sorry mate, trying to understand electronics is like reading one of those Chin-glish instruction manuals)
All the best mate
|Sep 23, 2011, 03:52 AM|
@rimshotcopter - thanks!
@Andy. Hey mate.
Ok both easy answers. First -
I used the protostack one from Australia.
Second. The white block is a connector (plug & socket). It looks different from the Dig-Key links because its what I bought from my local electronics components store. To 'see' it here's some web pictures:
A this point I have to say. If you are looking for a simpler way of doing all this then please have a look here:
No cutting and no soldering (if you have a V2 TX)! Not sure Andy, if you just want to get a programmer onboard your TX and don't want to frig around this could be a go??
Cheers & best.
|Sep 23, 2011, 10:42 AM|
Thanks for the explanation and especially the links. I think you might be right, the "Smartiepants" board will probably save me a lot of head scratching. Will I still need a AVR programmer as well as the "Smartiepants" board, or will I just need to download the er9x firmware?
|Sep 23, 2011, 05:21 PM|
Nope that's the beauty of this board, its programmer and backlight in one kit. It uses 'pogo pins' to connect to the Tx uP Board. Now I had to look up pogo pins as this was a new one on me. Wikipedia (of course) had an explanation - they are strategically placed two-piece (telescoping) spring-loaded pins 'rub' against your Tx board's connections (printed circuit). That's my interpretation not Wiki's wording.
The only slightly negative I could imagine is after much time the connections might need a clean. Easily fixed by rubbing the contact-points with a rubber (eraser as our US friends would say).
By the way you have fallen into s_mack's (Steven) trap, its 'SmartieParts (not pants)
I'll see if s_mack can drop in and leave a word or two.
|Sep 23, 2011, 07:55 PM|
Canada, BC, Central Okanagan H
Joined Jun 2010
Parts... yes... not pants! Common mistake. Small history: I was one of the first in Canada to get a smart car back in '04 and I started importing and reselling aftermarket parts for it from Europe (where the smart existed since the '90s and had a well established parts market). Smart car drivers are affectionately called "Smarties" here, so the name was rather obvious... parts for smarts... SmartieParts. I went from simply importing parts to designing and selling my own - most notably the Area 451 Cruise Control (the smart doesn't come with cruise in North America). At some point, I started flying RC. It was natural that I'd eventually make parts for that hobby, and the name SmartieParts kinda works for that too... I think anyway.
So what parts? Well, so far only one: rather quickly after getting my first plane I got a 9x radio (I was too cheap to ever even try any of the big brands). I hated the firmware. I saw what Thus and Erezz were doing and I was impressed. However, when I bought a programmer off eBay and tried soldering it in, I destroyed my radio. And believe me... I know how to solder. Its just the quality control in China isn't so great, as we all know, and the quality of the pcb used in the radios is quite low. Even with appropriate tools and skills, one has a pretty good chance of lifting a pad or otherwise damaging the pcb by attempting any soldering. So it became my goal to provide a solderless solution that also required no permanent modification to the case. Not that there's anything wrong with solutions that require cutting! Your firewire method looks fantastic! But I'd venture to say that most people don't have the desire, skill, tools and/or patience to make accurate cuts and quality solder joints. So I came up with the 9x add-on board. It met my two goals in that it is a) 100% solderless (by way of the pogo pins) and b) gives a USB port in the battery compartment with no case modification whatsoever. At first I was going to just make it a programmer, but along the way I decided to add the bonus feature of a built-in EL backlight driver.
You mentioned the pogo pins and a possible problem. I don't think they are. They are gold plated so corrosion is a non issue. They are rated for 1 million compression cycles, so even repeated removal and re installation won't cause an issue (with the pin anyway) either. The unit is designed to be permanently installed... and once installed correctly I believe it to be maintenance free and should last as long as the radio does. I've now sold close to 1000 units and there have been very few complaints regarding the programmer.
Unfortunately, not so problem-free with the EL backlight part of things. There have been many problems over the course of this project. First, there were some design flaws that had to be worked out, but those only affected the first 100 or so. After that though, it took me a LONG time to realize that electrostatic discharge was killing the EL driver chip! Now at least I've identified that and can warn people. Still, I have to admit that - while I think it is optimal - there are several complaints that it isn't bright enough, especially compared to the LED solution offered by HK. LED is much brighter, naturally, but I also designed it to be not very bright intentionally since I *presumed* the backlight was for people doing night flying so I made it appropriately bright (or dim) for that purpose. Too bright and you risk your night vision being affected to the point you can't see the plane momentarily when you look back up. Its supposed to be a backlight, not a flashlight! Still... many people have commented that they like the brighter HK backlight better.
Anyway, that's more than two words If you have any questions at all about my kit I'll be happy to answer!
|Sep 23, 2011, 09:33 PM|
Wow great explanation Steven, thanks for the info.
The only reason I brought up the contact problem was, by luck, I came across some posts on people having some small problems with their boards and cleaning the contact points was suggested a few times. With your explanation I now see it could have been simply bad advice being given to the guys posting.
From reading your post a question does come up, can the SP (SmartiParts) board be bought without the EL? This would be for those, that love bright lights so they can complain about it later when they go night flying (that's probably me).
And now to see if I can really put my foot in it by playing match-maker! Have you ever had a conversation with Gruvin? He and the team are designing a whole new uP board with a successful prototype already built. Seems like with your existing resources if the two of you got together this board could be offered to the grateful great-unwashed for reasonable coin? Hope I'm not stepping on toes but its a thought???
Cheers & thanks
|Sep 23, 2011, 10:53 PM|
Canada, BC, Central Okanagan H
Joined Jun 2010
|Sep 24, 2011, 01:58 AM|
Hi Brendan, hi Steven
OK first off, my apologies for the "pants", I guess I shouldn't be such a lazy reader.
Steven, as you can see with my conversations with Brendan, I'm a complete novice where electronics and programming are concerned. I've flown for many many years, but I wish I had the confidence and skill that Brendan has with a soldering iron, so I need the simplest option. I already have the HK backlight and I'm happy with it, so perhaps just the programmer board is ideal for me, how would I go about ordering that without the light option, and what would the cost be for shipping to Spain?
many thanks for your advice guys
|Sep 24, 2011, 04:53 AM|
Canada, BC, Central Okanagan H
Joined Jun 2010
No apologies necessarily I'm not really as touchy about it as I sometimes indicate (in jest).
You might be in luck. Check your PM.
|Sep 24, 2011, 06:23 AM|
I want to thank you for getting Steven to help me, and he has helped me out big time. I've ordered the board and I'm looking forward to getting it soon.
Thanks again to both
|Sep 24, 2011, 07:32 AM|
Very glad it all worked out for you Andy
You really are in for a pleasant surprise when you load one of the opensource FW on. Just a word of caution, I had some strange errors when I tried to pull the airplane settings file from the TX using eePe with the OEM FW. I did this as a 'test' as there was no planes on the new TX at that stage and I'm guessing this was a file incompatibility problem as once I got new FW on I never had another problem. Ramification for you is your Turnigy/FlySky planes file may be cactus after performing the upgrade. May pay to write the settings down before doing any changes!
On another note I went flying for the first time with my new 9X today - very happy. The countdown timer worked flawlessly (after I set it) and the in-flight trim worked a treat (I set the spring-loaded TX Trn switch as my s/w Trim SW). The SuperThumbs worked well for me as well. I guess the only small negative is the 9X is a little thicker (deeper) than I'm used to (which was a HK T6A), I probably just need to get used to it.
And finally if you like the Turnigy dark grey TX and don't mind the RF module being tethered to to the 9X by its aerial wire, HK have price matched Leaders Hobby and its now $40 too.
|Sep 24, 2011, 12:10 PM|
Canada, BC, Central Okanagan H
Joined Jun 2010
Yes, there is no compatibility whatsoever between models setup in the stock firmware and the custom firmware. Writing down settings will only be of marginal use since "settings" are completely different.
It *WILL* take time and frustration to learn the "new way"... but once you "get it"... you'll be amazed. What Thus and Erezz have done for this community really can't be understated. They have, in my opinion, opened up a whole new world of rc in terms of flexibility and functionality. You WILL be able to do more with your $40 radio than you ever could with a $1200 high-end JR (or whatever).
|Sep 24, 2011, 04:10 PM|
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