Premier Elite v3.00 Firmware

Visiting the Texecom website today I’ve made the exciting discovery that the firmware for the Premier Elite panels has had a major upgrade from v2.11 (which is what mine shipped with) to v3.00

Now I’m a firmware junkie – doesn’t really matter to me whether I want or need the new features, but I just want to be on the latest version. So whether it’s TVs, microwave ovens, dishwashers or guitar amps I’m always interested in getting the newest software release.

Texecom provide a very useful summary of the changes here

From a initial look through, much of it is expansion and improvements rather than major new features but one thing particularly caught my eye. Since I’ve been playing with these panels I’ve thought that I’d really like 3 COM ports – one for the GSM interface (when I finally get it working), one for integration with the Vera smart home controller (more of this in another post) and one for a permanent COMIP connection. This is apparently available on the most expensive panel but I didn’t think of that when I bought it.

Anyway it seems this new firmware allows COM3 to be accessed via the existing communication port – confirming my suspicion all along that it was just a COM port in disguise. It will require a breakout board which no doubt one will have to buy from Texecom:

comport

Although judging by this picture it will simply connect out a few pins – so maybe it will be possible to identify which pin is which and connect directly to it and I am worried that this new board will be expensive.

The other problem is that one cannot simply flash the new firmware using a COMIP or USB-COM which is a bit of a pain. The firmware is held in flash ROM, but they seem to have left the programming chip off the main board and so one has to buy the ‘CDH-001 Firmware Flasher’ which is going to be about £30 from the usual sources

Premier Elite Flasher Interface

Looking at this picture really makes me unwilling to pay £30 for the privilege – it is clearly just a MAX662A flash programming chip plus a couple of capacitors, a switch and a button which can’t be worth more than a few quid. However without knowing the pinout of the programming port and without being able to study one of these I’m a bit stuck. I’d love to be able to DIY one of these… but I suppose I may have to grit my teeth and stump up if I want to get the upgrade. I suppose if you are an installer you make your money back after the first job but for me the ‘cost per use’ is very high. If only they showed a photo of the underside!

To make matters worse the above adapter still needs the USB-COM to work, but at least I already have one of those.

If I do get one I’ll analyse it and post the results… or I could just stay at v2.11 but I’m not sure I can tolerate that now I know I’m out of date.

In other news I’ve now got all the bits from China so will try again with my ComGSM DIY effort and will post the results.

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Good news & bad news

With thanks to a commenter on a previous article, I’ve had a close look at the ribbon cable which connects the TC35 module to the UART board. After a bit of fiddling with the (tiny) clamps which hold the cables in I was able to release the cable. At least one of the contacts appeared damaged, so I trimmed the end off each cable with a sharp pair of scissors and reconnected it. This picture shows the two boards disconnected with the ribbon cable in the middle. Normally the two boards are on top of each other and I imagine that the ribbon is under a bit of strain.

 

tc35

Initially there was no change – but then I tried reversing the TX & RX pins (ie connected TXD – TXD rather than TXD – RXD) and all of a sudden- success! I can now control the module through AT commands using my new USB device.

backfromthedead

So thinking I had solved the problem, I rewired the cable to the alarm panel (swapping TXD & RXD) and tried it – but once again with no success. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing wrong, or I suppose it might be that there is some other reason (maybe incompatible voltages) why this unit doesn’t work. I did wonder if it was because my SIM has no credit but it should still report signal strength and it does so if I try sending AT+CSQ directly.

So if anyone else out there is struggling with one of these modules – try trimming the ribbon cable and swapping over the TXD & RXD pins.

Meanwhile I have received the new board from China – which is tiny by comparison with the one I have. I know from Andy that this definitely does work, so I’m now waiting for the regulator board to arrive and I’ll give it a go.

Dead end… but not all bad news

Unfortunately it looks like the phone module I bought either doesn’t work at all, or there is some secret to using which I’m not aware of.

I’ve used the USB serial adapter (see below) to have a good probe around the various pins and try as I might I can’t get it to give any kind of response. I’ve tried various baud rates but there is no sign of anything coming back from the device. I’ve tried swapping the TX & RX pins over so that I am connecting TX to TX. This seemed a bit better in that I got an error message coming back from the serial console (UART overrun) but other than that no signs of life.

This is not helped by the lack of documentation. I will try contacting the Chinese seller but given how long I’ve had it (I got it in April) I don’t think I’ll get much back.

However there are two bits of good news:

i) The small USB serial interface and breakout cable is very nice and I’m sure I’ll find it useful in future

ii) I’ve had some very helpful comments from Andy (see older posts) who has bought a different module and got it working. So I’m following suit.

I’ve ordered these from ebay:

SIM800L-V2-0-5V-Wireless-GSM-GPRS-MODULE-Quad-Band-W-Antenna-Cable-Cap-M105-TopDC-Buck-Step-Down-Converter-DC-5A-Regulator-Voltage-Current-Adjustable-DE

The left is a SIM800L GSM module, and the right is a ‘DC Buck’ regulator. The GSM module looks much smaller and nicer than the one I have, and the reason for the regulator is that it needs 5V and I’ll need to step down the Aux power output from the Texecom panel which is 12V.

Andy reports that everything works fine with the panel and these modules, so I’m very pleased to find the concept is proved and I’m looking forward to trying it for myself.

Meanwhile if anyone has any idea about how to configure the TC35 I’d be glad to hear them.

Texecom Installers & Software

I’ve had a few queries about how to download the Wintex software and other information about these panels. Texecom have changed the way they deal with this recently, and you now need to register as an installer before you can download anything.

This can be done quite easily by clicking a link on the front page of the website where it says ‘security professionals register here’. Once you have done this you can get access to the downloads which include the various manuals and the Wintex software.

Whilst I may not be a professional as such… I do see myself as an installer and I’ve now bought quite a bit of their kit so I hope they won’t object!

ComGSM – not so easy as I thought

Unfortunately things haven’t gone quite as I had hoped, although I’m hoping this is more of a hiccup than anything else.

I have learned a few things about this GSM module:

Once you have installed a SIM you need to power cycle it before it will register

There are several LEDs on it – one of which is for power, and other for signal. This blinks very slowly before the SIM is registered, and then rapidly once it is registered.

I am not quite sure whether the pins are labelled properly

Having done a lot of fiddling around I have not been able to get any response out of the GSM unit by connecting it to the alarm panel. It should be showing a signal strength which it reads out from the module but it’s not showing. Similarly I can’t get it to send any kind of messages so there’s obviously something up.

My instinct is that it is not communicating at all, and there is something wrong with the interface between the panel and the module. The next thing to do is to try and interface with the module itself. I didn’t have anything suitable so looking on ebay I found this:

 usb (2)

I liked this partly because it was cheap (£2.70) and also because it came with a short cable as shown to connect up the individual pins. It has arrived, and so the next thing to do is hook it up to the GSM module and see if I can get any communication going. This will let me confirm that the pinout is correct, and also what the baud rate etc should be because the alarm panel is expecting 9600 8-N-1.

I’ll post again once I’ve had a chance to test it.

ComGSM update

After writing back in April about my ideas of using an off-the-shelf mobile phone module as a ComGSM I’ve not made much progress since. I did order a suitable unit from ebay direct from China, and after a few weeks it arrived.

I eventually got one of these:

TC35

http://www.lctech-inc.com/Hardware/Detail.aspx?id=a0678f46-a020-46ab-b02e-2d799eecdf1e

I took a few photos myself but the light is a bit odd and it looks exactly the same. Predictably, there are no useful instructions with it at all, so I’ve had to make a few guesses.

It has a standard pin header on the side, which is labelled on the board from left to right as VCC, Tx, Rx and GND. There is also a power supply connector block with two screw terminals labelld + and -. This is on the left of the picture. I did find reference in the brief information I could find to its standard settings being 9600baud, 8 bits, no parity and one stop bit. This is a pretty standard configuration and the same as I used for my tests described in earlier posts.

So in the end I thought the best thing to do was take the plunge and connect it up, and see what happened. I made a link cable up out of another old motherboard cable, and wired the power into the Aux 12v supply available on the main board. This isn’t a great picture but shows everything lashed up. The antenna is out of shot but just dangling on the antenna wire at the moment.

gsm2Here I learned some more important lessons which unfortunately cost me some time. After wiring it in I tried to connect using Wintex but I couldn’t make it work. I was really worried that I’d blown something up by connecting the GSM unit and after a lot of fiddling around I finally realised that I had simply got Wintex configured for the wrong type of panel (Premier 48 rather than Elite 48)!

Once I’d got this working, I then found that all of my sensors were dead and thus I once again worried that I’d broken something. Looking closely at the board I saw a new red light beneath one of the PCB fuses for the Aux 12v supply. I had obviously shorted out the supply when wiring the GSM board at some point. I was quite impressed with the attention to detail in the design, as having a red light under the fuse immediately showed me what was wrong. After replacing the fuse all was well again. There are several very bright red lights on the GSM board itself as well.

I’ve not been able to do much more testing as I’ve not yet put a SIM with credit into it. However, I did configure COM2 for the GSM module and on running Wintex saw the following:

GSM

So it does appear that the unit is recognising the GSM unit – hence GSM status ‘Online’ in the bottom right. The signal strength is effectively non-existent but that’s not surprising given that there is no working SIM in it. Also I’m not getting any errors that the COM port won’t initialise, which you do you get if you try to configure the module with nothing actually present.

So this all looks good… next thing is to get some credit on the SIM and try sending some messages!

Changing the laser assembly on the Teac CD-P1450

The new laser assembly has now arrived, and it looks exactly as it should do – complete with Chinese labels. It is obviously a pattern part rather than a genuine Sanyo one but appears identical to the one I need to replace.

img_20150808_215705

There are a couple of issue to be aware of if you are attempting a similar repair. There are two variants of the SFP101N – one of them has 15 pins on the laser head, and the other has 16. I don’t know what the practical difference is, but you do need to make sure that you order the right one. The only way to do it is to count the pins which are on a flexible ribbon cable which plugs in to the main board.

The other thing which is important, and which is not entirely clear in the packaging of the new unit is that there is a solder bridge on the laser head which needs to be removed. This is apparently something to do with antistatic precautions, although it is a strange thing. The only way to remove it properly is with a solder sucker. I’ve always had some trouble with desoldering, and in the past I’ve used a soldering iron and a spring loaded pump. This is always a bit fiddly and I’ve had variable success. However, I came across this in the CPC catalogue lately:

desoldering iron

This is a simple combination of a solder pump with a heating element on the tip – so you can heat up the joint and as soon as the solder has melted suck it up in one go.

Here is the new part with the solder bridge intact (circled in red):

 

And here it is after I’ve removed it. It was simply a case of letting the iron warm up, pressing the tip down on the solder for a few seconds and pressing the button to release the plunger. The result was better than I had hoped – the bridge is completely removed leaving the two pads clean.

 

bridge-after

You can see the white connector block just to the right of the bridge – this is where the 16 pin ribbon cable plugs in.

Having got the new module prepared, I now need to install it. Getting the old one out was actually quite easy – the service manual gives details of all the screws etc and I was able to remove the large plastic tray assembly which contains the laser. The awkward bit was disconnecting a few of the connector blocks and the flat ribbon cable although generally with a bit of gentle pressure these came out.

 

The second picture shows the laser mounted in a plastic housing which fits in to the bottom of the tray itself.

Replacing it was a pretty simple matter, just a question of removing the two screws that can be seen above and then pulling the mount out of the the housing by flicking past a few clips. Then there were some rubber boots to come off and then everything put back into place. It was actually pretty easy and I then put the whole thing back together again.

I then took a deep breath, turned the power on and put a disc in…

Success! The disc reads and plays perfectly, and after a long period of testing I’m pretty confident that the problem is now solved. Needless to say I’m pretty chuffed – I’ve repaired the player at minimal cost and in a much shorter time than I expected. If I had had to buy new I would have had to spend at least £180 and I’m very pleased to have avoided this. Also of course… I have enjoyed the adventure of fixing it.