Please hang in there, everyone!

Scott Miller

Administrator
Staff member
#1
I'm very sorry for the lack of attention the forums have been getting, and I'm going to try to get to all of the threads soon.

There are several things going on with the Tracker4, and honestly the technical issues are the less stressful parts. Silicon Labs has finally provided us with a new test build of the WiFi module firmware to test, and I'm hoping this one solves some of the problems we've been having with the modules randomly dropping connections. We're also dealing with some supply chain issues thanks to Covid-19, but so far that's not a show stopper.

The big problem is manpower. We've never been a large company and for several years it was just two of us handling everything. Back in 2014 a sideline in LED performance props (mostly hoops and poi) blew up and the company grew to 7 people and most of the development effort was shifted to the LED stuff and just two major (and closely related) radio projects, namely the Tracker4 and the ADS-SR2 repeater.

In 2018 we acquired another hoop company (and their warranty obligations) and I learned that hell is other people's engineering. We survived that just in time to get clobbered by the new Section 301 tariffs on things like weather station components. We're mostly recovered from that as well, but at the same time the bottom dropped out of the hoop market and I had to lay off much of the staff, but we were still left with a considerable production and service backlog.

That's been keeping me busy 70+ hours a week for months, and we're getting there with the hoop stuff but catching up with tracker production and getting all of the T4's planned firmware features finished up is going to take several weeks.

In the meantime, for support questions you can email support@argentdata.com and likely get a faster response than you'll get here, but it may still take longer than usual to get an answer. For anything needing an immediate answer, call us at 800-274-4076 during regular business hours (I'm here late but I typically stop answering the phone at 5 PM). Some days I'm putting out fires from when I get in at 8 AM till I run out of steam at 9 PM without a chance to even glance at the inbox.

We're still here, and we're hoping to be around for many years to come, and amateur radio products are still going to be a mainstay for the foreseeable future. It's just going to be a tough slog for a while longer. December/January was probably the most difficult time we've had in the 16 years the company has been around, but assuming no fresh disasters for a while I think we're through the worst of it.

Thanks and 73,

Scott
N1VG
 
#2
Thanks Scott. Good to know that you are still about. Any chance of posting the last firmware that mostly worked (rev 161?). That will at least get us up and running.
 

Scott Miller

Administrator
Staff member
#3
I can probably get that version from backups if need be, but I've got a new version to try. Finally found a few hours to work on it today. This will get you up to date on what I was working on before, and I added a couple of other fixes today.

A DMA priority problem was causing it to drop audio and GPS data under heavy network loads, which wouldn't have been a big deal except that the system that queued incoming NMEA sentences had a bug that'd cause it to get stuck on the invalid, partial sentence.

To load this update manually, drop it on the tracker via USB and then from the tracker's command shell enter 'loadfw t4.bin'.

You can also use the 'update' function to pull it automatically from the network. Be warned, if you do that you'll get a version with some page layout issues.

The issue is that the front end application is the same for both the Tracker4 and the ADS-SR2 repeater, and it's supposed to modify the displayed modules according to what device options are present and the number of radio ports. I was in the middle of a major visual update and adding new features to the repeater side and hadn't been working on the tracker version and inadvertently pushed out the version with the repeater updates.

Looks like the only thing it's really affecting is the layout of the tiles on the main tracker screen. It also shouldn't be displaying the repeater screen, but it is. The upside of that is that it gives you a handy real-time oscilloscope view that lets you see the audio levels, and you can monitor the audio through your browser. The RX audio level knob isn't working in tracker mode, though.

The reason I put out a WiFi update at all is that Silicon Labs finally, after many months, released another bug fix update for the WiFi module. Hopefully this will fix some of the problems with dropped connections.

That comment about "I think we're through the worst of it" has not aged well. We've been on lockdown here for a month, and I probably won't be able to have any employees in until May. That means I'm running around shipping orders, handling assembly, answering phones, fixing the milling machine, debugging the shipping automation system, and everything that should be the job of at least three people. But stuff is getting done, and it looks like one of my best former employees is returning next month after a hiatus of a few years. Looking forward to having her back on the team.

Let me know how this version works out and we'll go from there. Feels good to sit down and work on code for once.

Scott
 

Attachments

#4
Hi Scott,
The cosmetic issues, if I read you post correctly, If I use the update function (online update) they will appear, but if I use the firmware you attached (manual update) they will not?
So.. if I use the online update, and then the attached update will I be stuck with the cosmetic issues?

Thanks,
Warren.
 
#5
I currently have firmware 160 and wifi firmware 45. Would 163 be more stable than 160? All I want to do is connect the tracker4 to an android phone and use APRSdroid. Unfortunately the KISS connection seems to drop all the time and I have to go into the web interface and disable/reenable the setting to get it to work.
 
#6
I currently have firmware 160 and wifi firmware 45. Would 163 be more stable than 160? All I want to do is connect the tracker4 to an android phone and use APRSdroid. Unfortunately the KISS connection seems to drop all the time and I have to go into the web interface and disable/reenable the setting to get it to work.
I suggest you copy and save the current t4.bin in the tracker as a back up, rename it to t4_v160.bin (or similar) to keep track.
And and then try version 163 and see.
If it goes pear shape, then rename and reload the backed up V160.
No guarantee, but worth a try.

Good Luck.
Warren.
 
#7
i just installed 163 from 161 before.

After reboot, the T4 hasn't crashed, Wi-Fi still works, usb still works, GPS appears OK. The immediately obvious weirdness is that the last beacon value seems to be offset by 930079 hours. Also, station list is not populating. See image below. Is anyone else seeing this?
1587402751134.png
 
#8
i tried... but ultimately, build 163 doesn't seem to be stable for me. i loaded it this morning, drove around a bit, it appears to position beacon regularly until it doesn't. Last 5 - 6 hours, appears to beacon most of the time if I'm using aprsis32, but not necessarily reliably, and now it beacons but with no GPS location. Also, its Wi-Fi performance has gone to heck, and seems to have a very difficult time joining my house AP, which has about 40 dB SNR right now.

Via the Wi-Fi and the USB interfaces, i can see that it has valid GPS, wobbling around every seconds, so that's good. It's also hearing and decoding all sorts of traffic, and populating the Tracker>Station List, so that's a bit different than this morning.

The uptime is 930078:29:05, at this time, but i thimk it was that this morning. The tracker claims that in the past 30 min or so, it's heard about 40%
of the beacons transmitted, but none have gps.

The Info page no longer shows the DHCP-assigned IP address.

However, my main menu via Wi-Fi is different from what it was with 161, with no more general.

weird - went back to 161 just now and the gps is now included in the position beacon, but the GUI layout is stuck with the new one. Kinda like the issue you're having, Warren! I also have a Repeater>Radio Port with graphical interface, something I definitely didn't have before. However, it doesn't appear to do anything. Wi-Fi is stuck at new version 48, but appears stable.

Will stay for now at 161 - it works better than 145, 162, and 163. Scott, what's up?

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
 
#9
After two days of 161>163>161, I can say that my experience is don't go to 163. It substantially modifies the GUI, and it doesn't change back. The 163 upgrade appears to also come with a Wi-Fi upgrade, which might also contribute to the confusion.

I had the T4 stable on 161 so that I could pull up to one house or the other (each with its own Wi-Fi network) and the tracker would usually join the house network. The hitch in the git-along by upgrading and de-upgrading appeared to mess up the Wi-Fi settings, forcing me back to PuTTY via USB and a fair amount of trial and error tinkering before the T4 re-joined at least one of the networks. Once that was accomplished, I could then continue configuring the tracker using the network GUI interface, which if more verbose is at least somewhat easier than CLI. Something interesting is that none of my network names, passwords, etc., were changed in the upgrade/downgrade, but the T4 just didn't want to join until I PuTTied the command wifi connect networkname networkpassword. Now I haven't tried it several times in a row, but at least it joined the main home network. It is not joining the network here at the apartment, but that could be for a number of SNR-type reasons.

Smartbeaconing does not work, or at least properly. Nothing new. The only way I get a reliable beacon transmission is to set the beacon rate to a number (like 15 sec), then I can see the transmitter keying every period as expected. When I go to Smartbeacon, it just appears random or not active, although I have Smartbeaconing set to be fairly active.

The main thing is that my path shows up pretty regularly now on aprs.fi, which is great.

Now, how to enable telemetry, like it worked in the OT3M version?

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
 
#10
It's been another 6 days of running with 161 with what appears to be the 163 GUI.

Remember that I had set up the T4's Wi-Fi module to work in client mode, and programmed in my two WLAN networks so that when the truck is near one location or the other, the T4 is supposed to join that network and acquire a local LAN network address. In both cases, the link SNR seems to be solid, at least 25 dB, according to the APs at each location.

To date, the network join is not reliable. Generally, it seems that in order to join the network, one needs to go to the truck, log into the T4 via the USB connection, type the "wifi connect <networkname> <networkpassword>" and boom! the thing works. Then I can go back to the computers on the local network and surf into the T4 remotely.

I wish I had more insight into what's going on with the difference in builds. I seem to remember that before the 161>163>161 upgrade-downgrade, this network join process was more reliable. Please note also that in doing the upgrade-downgrade, the Wi-Fi firmware version went from 48 to 49, so multiple things happened in the firmware changes.

Anyway, the tracker is working at the basic level, which means it transmits a beacon once every 15 seconds, and appears to receive reliably traffic from the local digi about 25 miles away.

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
 
#11
It's been another 6 days of running with 161 with what appears to be the 163 GUI.

Remember that I had set up the T4's Wi-Fi module to work in client mode, and programmed in my two WLAN networks so that when the truck is near one location or the other, the T4 is supposed to join that network and acquire a local LAN network address. In both cases, the link SNR seems to be solid, at least 25 dB, according to the APs at each location.

To date, the network join is not reliable. Generally, it seems that in order to join the network, one needs to go to the truck, log into the T4 via the USB connection, type the "wifi connect <networkname> <networkpassword>" and boom! the thing works. Then I can go back to the computers on the local network and surf into the T4 remotely.

I wish I had more insight into what's going on with the difference in builds. I seem to remember that before the 161>163>161 upgrade-downgrade, this network join process was more reliable. Please note also that in doing the upgrade-downgrade, the Wi-Fi firmware version went from 48 to 49, so multiple things happened in the firmware changes.

Anyway, the tracker is working at the basic level, which means it transmits a beacon once every 15 seconds, and appears to receive reliably traffic from the local digi about 25 miles away.

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
Well maybe in 6 months Scott will be back with time to make another firmware version. I've left mine still running at v160 after hearing your troubles. USB to my android phone seems to be working fine for APRSDroid. Just can't do smart beconing but transmitting every 2 mins seems to be ok. Do you think it's adventagous to go to 161 from 160 if everything is working ok?
 
#12
I have never had a copy of 160, so I can't say whether or not it's the cat's meow or not. I'm not even sure I want to experiment, as strange things can occur...

I may get around to working on my DOA T4 from September - it has a problem with the USB port, so I can't talk with it that way. And it doesn't behave on Wi-Fi either. The original problem with it was that, whatever the software build was, it would happily key the radio but would never transmit or receive audio.

Well, maybe I will play with it now!

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
 
#13
I have never had a copy of 160, so I can't say whether or not it's the cat's meow or not. I'm not even sure I want to experiment, as strange things can occur...

I may get around to working on my DOA T4 from September - it has a problem with the USB port, so I can't talk with it that way. And it doesn't behave on Wi-Fi either. The original problem with it was that, whatever the software build was, it would happily key the radio but would never transmit or receive audio.

Well, maybe I will play with it now!

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
Well I have nothing but problems with the WiFi on v160. I just don't want to risk putting unstable firmware and making it worse. At least it beacons every 2mins. So I have at least that.
 
#14
Alrighty!

I put the DOA September tracker on the desk and powered it up. Connected a GPS antenna and everything.

USB isn't working, so I hoped that maybe it would try a Wi-Fi AP or Wi-Fi direct mode. Lo and behold, in a minute or so up showed DIRECT-WGM110-Tracker4 on my iPad. Proved to be somewhat problematic to join, but the third or fourth time (power cycling, not power cycling, didn't seem to matter) I was able to join in Wi-Fi Direct mode.

First, it came up in NOCALL mode. Ok, not sure why, but I did play around with it a lot a while back. Maybe I'd hard-resetted it.

Put in callsign N7UV-3, did a few other configuration things, and every time I pressed the "save" button, a second or two later the "Notice: Changes saved" box showed up at upper right on the screen. I know it did something, as I told it to transmit a beacon every 10 seconds, and once every 10 seconds the upper "ACT" LED, which is flashing green twice a second indicating good GPS, would do that very brief flash of red/orange/dirty orange/yellow which I've come to know as PTT worked.

So, I modified the network to join to the home network, disabled Wi-Fi Direct and AP mode, etc. After saving and getting the acknowledgement, I waited to see the device join the home network. Didn't happen. Looked at the Info tab, still showed IP Address as 192.168.100.1. And duh, the iPad was still connected to it via Wi-Fi Direct, so didn't seem to do the network change.

Oh, this thing is running 161 and Wi-Fi firmware 48, did get to see that. And, on the Info tab it also shows that the supply voltage is 4.5 to 4.6 volts. Of course, it's not, it's using the 9 Vdc wall wart, but the 78M05 is running well over 50 C. Not sure what voltage this thing actually runs on, if 5 Vdc, then I'm right at the bottom end of the CPU's voltage range. But I think it's a 3.3 Vdc system?

Next, I checked the File System tab and get a big white X in a red circle in a black square, saying "No Files here." I thought there used to be some files there.

So, I did a reboot via the "Reboot" button on the Updates tab. Immediately the iPad loses connection, that's expected, and I'm watching the house router to see what address it'd get in DHCP, but nada. I look for it again using the iPad, and it shows up again as DIRECT-WGM110-Tracker4. Log back in via the iPad and Wi-Fi Direct, and it shows NOCALL again, and has remembered nothing of the reconfiguration I performed, even with the multiple saves. This, and the low Vcc on the board, makes me think that it failed writing the values to NVRAM, since that takes more current, and maybe pulled the supply too low to allow it.

So, i re-enter all the basic stuff, hit Save again, reboot and goes right back to NOCALL. Definitely has an issue. No having a clue what to do next, I pull out the good ol' freeze mist, invert the can, and chill the regulator down. Here's an interesting observation: the Supply Voltage on the Info screen drops down to around 3.3 Vdc, then slowly comes up to about 10, then back toward 5. Really wobbling around all over the place. I hit the save button many times when the voltage is higher, just in case.

Reboot again. Both the ACT and TX/RX LEDs blink rapidly for a moment. The T4 comes back up in Direct mode with the same SSID as before. No configuration data has been saved. NOCALL.

Something's up with the attempt to save, obviously, but I have no idea what to do about that. Supply voltage claims to be around 2.3 Vdc now, with an uptime of about 3 minutes. Of course, it varies all over the place so I don't really know what it's measuring.

After like the 8th time of trying this, I finally get my network SSID and password to stick. But then, when I reboot again, now it goes away completely, so I think that I've got the same issue as the other T4, which is it won't auto-join the home network, so it's sitting there in isolation. Need to use the jumper to erase the memory and reboot it, it comes up in Wi-Fi Direct mode again.

I'm done playing with this thing tonight.

Cheers and 73, Jon N7UV
 
#15
Good news! (said like professor Farnsworth in Futurama)

I tinkered more with the T4 DOA one from September and by trial and error was able to get the Wi-Fi to join my home network. What did I do? Not sure what gelled. I did things one step at a time, modifying a parameter then saving, then modifying the next, then saving. First, it showed up on my list of DHCP clients on the home network, but was unreachable, and I found it in Wi-Fi Direct mode again. Things like that.

It's been running for nearly 14 hours now and I've not dared to reboot it... yet.

Cheers and 73 - Jon N7UV
 
#16
Man, the day's going well. I have now successfully loaded on to the T4's internal drive the 145, 161, and 163 image files. All is good there. The drive is apparently behaving.

So now time to do the first reboot. Settings>Update>Reboot>Yes

Darn, I really was channeling the Prof.

5 minutes later, not showing up on the local network, or as a AP or Wi-Fi Direct. I power cycle it and go do something else for a while.

Still nothing.

I power cycle again, delete the address lease from the router, and nothing happens still. I walk away and play with the catz.

After a while, the home router has now assigned a new lease (same IP) to the tracker! Wow - I surf in and... nothing. It must have associated and then gotten lost. The good thing is that this means it's not lost the SSID/password info, but it's just not happy trying to firmly join the network.

I'll continue the power cycling and lease deleting and let everyone know later.
 
#17
Yeppers - for some unknown reason, doing the power cycle every few minutes and a lease delete finally got it to officially join the home network and allow me to surf in from the local network. What I believe I've learned is that the T4 does save the info in memory, it's not super reliable in rejoining the network, but it does it eventually. Scott did mention that there's some issues with the Wi-Fi module firmware, and maybe this is that.

Now, I connected a VX-150 with a known good OT3m cable to the T4. Set the PTT to HT, and the tx LED on the VX-150 comes on once every 10 seconds. Good! The bad news is that it transmits with a dead carrier. And, even though my N7UV-2 igate is only 10 feet away and the N7UV-9 mobile about 50', the HT hears the transmitted packets, but the T4 does not recognize them, or isn't attempting to decode, or the audio path to the part in the T4 is not working, just as the TX side is behaving. This is the original "doesn't work" behavior of this T4 that I reported back in September.

I played with the audio levels again, but no change.

Maybe, just maybe, later I'll upgrade from 161 to 163, just for punishment. Perhaps (but not likely) that impacts the disconnected audio paths.
 

Scott Miller

Administrator
Staff member
#18
Still here, squeezing in development time as I'm able. Hoped to get more done today but spent a lot of time fighting my tools. NXP's solution is always "uninstall and reinstall the development environment", which I end up doing way too often.

Anyway... version 165 and WiFi version 50 are out and can be applied using the 'update' command.

This should get the web front end back in sync with the rest, and removes the extraneous repeater stuff. I also found a bug in the websocket code - if the WiFi module resets the system closes all of the open websockets, but a bug was doing that improperly and sometimes causing the system to crash with a hardfault.

Unless the schedule changes again, we're set to start lifting lockdown restrictions here in 10 days. After that I'll have some help again and should be able to spend more time on development.

Scott
 

Scott Miller

Administrator
Staff member
#19
Alrighty!
USB isn't working, so I hoped that maybe it would try a Wi-Fi AP or Wi-Fi direct mode. Lo and behold, in a minute or so up showed DIRECT-WGM110-Tracker4 on my iPad. Proved to be somewhat problematic to join, but the third or fourth time (power cycling, not power cycling, didn't seem to matter) I was able to join in Wi-Fi Direct mode.
Last I checked, iOS doesn't support WiFi Direct. If you're seeing it with a DIRECT- prefix, that's the tracker in Direct mode but the iPad is seeing it as a legacy WiFi access point. Which it still is; SiLabs slapped on the absolute minimum extra required to make it Direct-compatible (I hesitate to say compliant since it cheats at group owner negotiation), but aside from making you enter the password it's going to function basically the same.

I haven't seen the saving problem before. Did you check to make sure your SAFE jumper is off? If it's on, the unit will reset to defaults every time it's powered up. Settings are stored to SPI flash, which has a pretty low operating voltage.

The regulator puts out +5 volts (or tries to), and probably has a dropout of around 1.6 volts so anything above 6.6 volts should get you the full output voltage. From there, most of the system runs from a 3.3v regulator internal to the MCU. The exceptions are the op amps, which run from the +5v rail and the WiFi module's PA, which wants something under 4.7v so it has a diode drop between it and +5v.

The voltage measurement only works on external power through either the DC jack or the terminal block. If you're powering the system through USB, that's going to be floating and could read anything.

The regulator should be good up to something like 125 C so 50 C isn't cause for concern. Yeah, it could be more efficient, but after some problems on the ADS-SR1 mk II covering the whole voltage range needed with a more efficient part, I decided to play it safe and stick with the same part we've been using since the Tracker2. They're quiet, cheap, and rugged.
 

Scott Miller

Administrator
Staff member
#20
Oh, and let me know if the connection behavior gets more reliable with version 49 or above. That's when I switched to the latest test build from SiLabs.

Connection reliability has been one of the big headaches with the WGM110 from the start. It's had some massive bugs, like locking up silently if it tries to send two UDP packets during the 1-second interval it's busy with an incoming Direct connection. And some APs and mobile devices have been difficult to get it to work with.

If you've got WiFi version 49 or higher and still can't get it to connect consistently, let me know what OS and version you're running and the make and model of the device.

Scott