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NinoTNC N9600A Operation

page modified May 28, 2024
Specifications may change without notice.
Do not use this device in any situation where the loss of life or property would be the result of the device misbehaving or failing. If you go beyond this rule, you are self-certifying this device.
This device is built by hobbyists for a hobby project.
We do not certify that this design, or any particular unit, is sound.
Use it at your own risk.


For the most part, this document addresses the performance of Versions A2 and later running the latest distributed firmware. See History page for firmware release history.

We're just getting started with the documentation. I know it is a bit out of order. It will get better.

I welcome any more comments or instructions to go in this space. Please volunteer whatever you have. Send to the ninotnc email reflector.
Thanks!!!


Table Of Contents

  1. NinoTNC Readiness
  2. Application Operation
  3. Cabling
  4. Modes - Over-The-Air-Baud - AX.25 vs IL2P
    1. Performance of AX.25 vs IL2P
    2. Performance of 1200, 2400, 4800, 9600
    3. Performance of 150, 300 baud HF modes
  5. Board Revisions - Differences
    1. Board capabilities
    2. Data radio vs Microphone radio
  6. LED Behavior
    1. LED Sweep on RESET
    2. LED Behavior on first start
    3. LED indicating test mode
    4. Unit ID mode
    5. Failed or Interrupted Bootload
  7. Receive
    1. Volume Level Requirements - Peak-to-Peak Tolerance
    2. DCD
    3. DCD at wrong bit-rate
    4. RXA scope loop
    5. AX.25 and IL2P Receive
    6. CRC Flicker - High Rx Volume Indication - Adjustment Helper
    7. CRC Latched - Uncorrectable Error in Received Packet
    8. Not Full Duplex
  8. USB - serial ports
    1. Serial Baud Setting
    2. MSWindows
    3. Linux and Unix
    4. Microchip MCP2221 Configuration Utility
    5. USB Port Identification
  9. Transmit
    1. TXDELAY Potentiometer
    2. TX-LEV and TX-TEST
    3. By-the-ear Method of TX-LEV adjustment
    4. SDR Method of TX-LEV adjustment
    5. Autonomous Transmit of Station ID and Mode (Beacon)
  10. Bootloading a new version of Firmware
    1. Bootlading Board Version Compatibility
    2. How the Bootloader Works
    3. Bootloading Failures
    4. Procedure
    5. Fixing a Bricked CPU
    6. Flashing to an Older Version
  11. Notes for using NinoTNC
    1. Baud Rate Selection for Your Host Interface
    2. NinoTNC baud/bit-rate Compatibility with Other TNCs
    3. TX-DELAY-control Delayed Effectiveness
    4. TEST-TX button
    5. NinoTNC N9600A4 SIGNALS Switch: AC vs DC coupling
    6. IL2P vs AX.25 Selection
    7. KISS/Host Parameters: SLOTTIME and PPERSIST
    8. KISS/Host Parameters and note on TXDELAY
    9. Host Parameter: FRACK setting
  12. A2-Specific Instructions
  13. A3-Specific Instructions
    1. Data radio vs Microphone radio
    2. A3r1
    3. A3r2
    4. A3r3
  14. A4-Specific Instructions
    1. MODE Switch
    2. SIGNALS Switch
  15. 9600 Baud Receive Eye Pattern
  16. USB Data Dump GETALL message
  17. G8BPQ Node Config
  18. 3d-Printed Enclosures
  19. NinoTNC-based Test Modes   Bit-Error-Rate + Beacon
  20. tnc-tools     Python Tools For Configuring and Querying NinoTNC
    1. n9600a-cmd.py
    2. kiss-listen.py
    3. kiss-ax25-ui.py
    4. kiss-ax25-ui-batch.py

1. NinoTNC readiness

The NinoTNC CPU is fully programmed with all the firmware you need to support the available modes at the time the CPU was shipped. The NinoTNC is reconfigured by switches, jumpers and two potentiometers. One of our product management mantras is that the operator can visually inspect the NinoTNC to discern the bit-rate, mode and TXdelay settings. We also put the adjustables, LEDs and the test switch out front so even with a box around the device, it can still be tuned up and checked out. We are ever improving the LED diagnostic output and we've got a built-in loopback test so the owner/builder/operator can verify much of the functionality of the NinoTNC without external test equipment.

2. Application Operation

Since this is a KISS TNC, it will be operated by an application that knows how to control a KISS TNC. Except for hams running the TARPN installation and using the scripting and applications as provided for those installations, we are not supplying the application. Except for the TARPN installations, the configuration of the application is out of scope, so far, for our instructions.

3. Cabling

The NinoTNC has one radio port which is a D-sub 9 connector (correctly: DE9). This is the same connector used by Kantronics since the mid-1980s and also used by Coastal Chipworks for their TNC-PI.

This drawing is of the solder cups on the back of the radio-cable DE9 from the perspective of the inside of the D-sub Shell.
de9 pinout

Some of the more common cables used in TARPN networks are described in Favorite Radios For Linking.

For store-bought cables, especially for ham radios, check out Ham-Made-Parts [hammadeparts.com].


4. Modes - Over-The-Air-Baud - AX.25 vs IL2P

The NinoTNC has 7 modes of transceive operation for VHF operation, and 4 modes for HF operation. Of the 11 modes, 3 are expected to be fully interoperable with other TNCs. These three are 300 AX.25, 1200 AX.25 Bell 202, and 9600 AX.25 G3RUH-like.

The NinoTNC performs packet transmission and reception in 6 different bit-rates and with either AX.25 or IL2P. The NinoTNC selectively transmits AX.25 or IL2P at the configured over-the-radio bit-rate, and receives the selected mode at the selected bit-rate.

The NinoTNC A2 has dip-switch access to four mode-sets, depending on the firmware version. See the A2 specific instructions, in this document, for details.

The NinoTNC A3 and NinoTNC A4 have a 4-switch "MODE" dip-switch providing access to all of the existing mode-sets. The existing mode-sets are:

© Tadd Torborg, 2020↝2024 -- all rights reserved