Sunday, November 06, 2016

Stop complaining about Apple's USB-C transition

Wow, Apple got some heat when they announced the updated MacBook Pros with just USB-C ports. They're feeling that heat too, I can't remember a time when they have responded to criticism by cutting the prices of products like this.

Rather than focussing on the annoyance of needing dongles to convert from USB-C to USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, SD Card, and many others; I propose that we marvel in the genius of this new standard.

The USB-C connector is slim and strong. You can plug in either way up. The same socket can charge, output video, connect to a wired network, and even extend the PCI bus outside the box potentially to cards in a rack. One laptop can even charge another (the first one you plug in supplies power to the second). The monitor can charge the laptop via the cable being used for video and extend USB.

When I told loyal PC guy Theo on the bus that the new MacBook Pro could drive four 4K monitors he flat out didn't believe me.

We are in a transition. For a period of time we'll need either dongles or docks but soon peripherals with USB-C cables or sockets will take over and the dongles will disappear. Wireless from cameras needs to get better (maybe Apple should license a form of AirDrop?).

Apple said that they showed "courage" in removing the headphone jack from this year's iPhone. I think the real courage they're showing is going all in with USB-C. The next step would be to put USB-C on the iPhone.

This is a great new standard. Bring it on.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Pre-built Bitx40 review

I've built a couple of Bitx rigs in the past but when I heard a company had been formed to supply pre-built radios for 40m I couldn't wait to get one. Thanks to my Indian colleague Thalha I was able to order one in India and then have it shipped to Sydney. Thanks mate!

You can see, and order the rigs here.

On the right you can see what you get. The board is fully constructed with very nice surface mount design. In the bag are all the connectors and pots you need, even a microphone is there.

The quality of components and construction is excellent.

I boxed it up in a $5 Woolworths "world explorer" box - which seems somehow appropriate.

Plenty of space for a DDS VFO in the future...

Tuning is very sensitive and I'm ultimately planning to install a DDS to replace the onboard (rather drifty) VFO.

Having said that, the receiver is very sensitive and signals sound great. My first contact was with a station in Melbourne - about 1,000 Km away.

The receiver is very sensitive and there's plenty of audio output to drive a speaker. Carrier was well nulled and I've had good reports of the audio using the supplied mic insert.

90mA is drawn on receive which makes this a great trail radio. My unit puts out a solid 6 watt but the availability of the option to supply a higher voltage to the final means you can get more if you wish.

Mine gets a tiny bit of broadcast band break through into the audio stage (when the volume is down) and it doesn't like noise on the power line (I have a solar charger that sometimes pulses).

This is a great rig and I recommend it to anyone who would like to play around with an easy to get going QRP 40m SSB transceiver. At about AU$50 it's an extraordinary deal.

I also enjoyed the newspaper that the board was wrapped in - lots of celebrity gossip there.

Update: Re-boxed with VK3YE's resonator mod

This is for commenter Alex who asked about the interior view. Since the article above, I decided to re-box in plastic and having found the VFO annoyingly unstable (by modern standards) I applied Peter VK3YE's ceramic resonator mod to give three small ranges of tuning. Here's how it looks now (click image to enlarge).

Back - The speaker grill is gutter guard.


Inside view