[TenTec] Orion2 Firmware Update

Dr. Gerald N. Johnson geraldj at weather.net
Sat Apr 17 11:46:25 PDT 2010

On 4/17/2010 1:33 PM, Martin Ewing wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 17, 2010 at 1:15 PM, Dr. Gerald N. Johnson
> <geraldj at weather.net <mailto:geraldj at weather.net>> wrote:
>     Yet one of the problems with the Orion II is limited memory and
>     processor capability, compounded for the Orion with less of each. Where
>     the desired PC for a Flex radio has a gigabyte or two of ram with a CPU
>     running with a 2.5 or 3+ GHz clock speed, with a dedicated processor for
>     the video (think gaming computer) and a 32 or 64 bit memory interface,
>     preferably 64 bit. It might be that one option for Orions could be an
>     analog interface to the external PC with I and Q from the detectors for
>     the sweep section or after all the filters at 14 kHz audio so the Flex
>     radio (as well as other codes) could be applied in the station PC. Thus
>     enabling far greater computer power than the embedded hardware. Its
>     likely the limits of the embedded hardware that make things interact in
>     new versions of the firmware and that make correcting and adding so very
>     difficult. The fast PC could then control the Orion through the
>     conventional serial interface.
>     73, Jerry, K0CQ
> OK, Jerry, you convinced me.  Go for it!
> Seriously, I wouldn't expect help from TT, but it could be done by a
> very motivated ham.  The thing is, someone with those skills would have
> lots easier ways of getting a powerhouse SDR rig.  Buying a Flex XXX is
> a lot cheaper, if you value your time!

I figure at least a man year. I have many much simpler projects for 
other things in mind anyway. It might take a year to become competent 
enough in the embedded processors to get a rudimentary radio running.
> I would say the Orion (O1 especially) manages to do an awful lot of good
> stuff with its limited resources.  The DSP chips take most of the
> computational load.  The rest is user interface, command & control, etc.

There's half a megabyte RAM limit (19 address lines) for the control 
CPU, I didn't look at Orion 1 schematics deeply enough this morning to 
find external RAM for the DSP chips.
> What benefits would you possibly hope for by bolting on a super PC
> backend (that you couldn't buy somewhere else)?  It might be easier to
> design a "proper" hardware front panel to put in front of a Flex 5000. :-)

Might be just another computer interface to the computer control software.
> All that said, I do wish the Orion hardware was a bit more open, giving
> the user access to the IFs, I/Q, etc. for experimenters.  Also, a much
> more solid computer control port.  And a better frequency standard,
> external freq. locking,  and on and on...   But we go to war with the
> rigs we have.
> 73 Martin AA6E

Its just often a lot easier to do very fancy performing software when 
there are GB and GHz to play with which allows using higher level 
languages and procedures that won't fit in the embedded processors 
without doing all the programming in assembler which is very slow to 
program while it can be the very fastest of executing, what I did for 
the Z80 30 years ago. My productivity (though the programs too much more 
memory and time) went way up when I converted to C and went up more when 
I got a 32 bit C compiler for OS/2 instead of MS-DOS so I didn't have to 
do the work of dumb Intel extended addressing. Most of the megabytes of 
my software has no direct user interfaces, it all runs in batch modes 
with command files for the varying weather tasks.

73, Jerry, K0CQ

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