Ring-ring!

Yes, you guessed it right! The title of this post means that I finally got my openusbfxs board to make a phone set ring! But please let me take things in order.

In the point where I had left things in my previous post, I was trying to implement one-by-one the initialization and calibration steps described in p.3 of Silabs’ AN35 application note. Most steps were relatively easy; however, when performing the gain mismatch (manual calibration), I noticed the error due to R7 mentioned at the end of my previous post. After fixing that, I tried to move on with common-mode calibration (steps 17 — 19 of AN35). However, there I was getting a calibration error.

In order to debug the issue a bit further, I tried to bypass this step and see what would happen if I set the line mode (register 64) to the “forward active” state. What actually happened was that the 3210 objected to that, and kept stubbornly the line mode in the “open” state. Hmm…

A quick look into the Si321x FAQ found me the same question (second question on p. 6 of the FAQ). Unfortunately, it did not get me the correct answer, since my DC-DC converter values where allegedly OK, and I had just finished with manual calibration. What was the reason then?

For almost one week thereafter, I ran just every test I could come up with against the board. First, I tried to bypass automatic return to open state (set AOPN bit in DR 67 to zero). This produced a very interesting result: when I attempted to bring the line to “forward active” mode, the DC-DC converter was auto-shutting down. I found no way to instruct it not to, so I had to find another way of figuring out what was wrong.

Enabling power alarm interrupts (DR22 <- 0xFF) enlightened me a bit more, in that I saw in DR 19 that I was getting a power interrupt because some (or, on occasion, even all) of Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5 and Q6 were sensed to dissipate too much power. OK, it was clear then: I had to fix the initial values of Indirect Registers (IRs) 32–34 and 37–39. I have to admit that I had borrowed clues for these values from the zaptel driver, so it made sense trying to find the correct values for my case. In my board I am using the 3201 and not discrete transistors, so I had no idea what the power and thermal coefficients should be for that. The answer was well hidden in the bottom of p.4 of Silabs’ AN47, where some values are suggested (the same as for SOT89 transistor packages).

At this point, debugging should have ended. Well, it did not, and the reason was a stupid error of mine, as I am explaining in the next paragraph. So setting the correct values for Q1–Q6 did not solve it; thus, after measuring countless hours with the voltmeter, devising tens of test sequences in my driver code, trying pumped-up values for IRs 32-34, and just about everything else I could imagine, I finally chose to change-ineer the si3201, just to make sure it was not burnt or something. Of course, as usual, change-ineering did not do it either (advice: choose this method as your last resort, and only if you cannot find anything else to do: it will not fix anything, but it will make you feel better because at least you tried it).

Deeply despaired, I swore strict abstination from debugging my board for the whole last weekend. Guess what: it seems that this method made it: today (Monday), taking a fresh look at my code, I finally found the culprit: because of a stupid copy-paste error, I was not initializing correctly any Indirect Registers (all values were written into the same IR)! BTW, this is my second copy-paste-due bug which takes me this long to find and fix. [It seems I must not copy-paste any more code and promise to type in every single bit. Statistically, this will save me weeks of fruitless debugging.] Anyway, right when I fixed this, everything worked magically. So now I passed steps 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the AN35 calibration and initialization procedure. It then sounded like a good idea to run a few tests with a phone set.

The board initialized OK when I connected the phone set I have at work (a Siemens euroset 2010) to the RJ11 pin. After initialization, taking the phone off-hook is detected in DR 68 (however, putting the phone back on-hook is not, so I need more work there). The “usual” line noise of a POTS phone line is heard from the phone’s earphone when DR64 is set to 0x01 (“forward active” mode). Moreover, with its current settings, my board can make the phone set ring! Just setting register 64 to 0x04 does it! Wow! That was actually my first milestone, back in year 2008 when I first started designing the board! I can’t really believe it took me six months or so to get here!

There are still however some signs that I don’t like. The board does not seem to understand when the phone goes on-hook again. The (absolute) values of the voltage produced by the DC-DC converter go far below the nominal 65V during operation, and I don’t know if this is normal. So, during the next (few, I hope) days will have to deal with these issues and correct any bugs I find.

As soon as this is finished, it will be PCM’s turn: I will try to have my board produce the good-old asterisk’s “Hello, World!” message onto my phone. Keeping in mind my current progress pace, a date for that next milestone should not be expected anytime sooner than year 2010 :-). This time, however, my hope is I ‘ll not piss off the Gods of hardware as much as I have been until now, so that they will help me reach this next milestone somewhat faster. We ‘ll see.

You might just as well ask yourselves what’s down the road. Well, I think that, once (read: if ever) the board gets into a stable state, it will be an easy step to write a zaptel-compliant driver and see how the board will do with Asterisk. This then, if ever accomplished, will be the end of development for this project.

I will update this post as soon as I have the updated versions of the TIMR1 interrupt code, fixed board, schematic, BOM, etc. uploaded.

Quick update, April 8: about the reduced VBAT value in the forward active mode: this is OK, since this is exactly what setting TRACK to 1 does. In this “loop current tracking mode”, the chip provides just the necessary voltage to drive enough current through the loop, which presumably results in lots of power savings. So I need not worry about this. What’s not OK though is the back-on-hook non-detection — but I have not started debugging this yet.

Another quick update, April 9: by setting register 67 to its default 0x1F, now the board detects correctly the transition from off-hook back to on-hook (don’t ask me why, I cannot see any plausible reason for this).

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2 Responses to “Ring-ring!”

  1. David Rowe Says:

    Congratulations, thats a great step. It’s also very useful for me to read your trials, as very soon I also have to work through some of the same problems with the Mesh Potato project FXS interface.

    Well written, and a very useful resource for other people doing similar work.

    One project I would like to try later this year is to build my own FXS interface, without the si labs chipset, along the lines of the $10 ATA project.

    – David

  2. openusbfxs Says:

    Hi David,

    Your comment gives me a great opportunity to thank you publicly for all your support, help and advice [hey folks, if it wasn’t for David being around all this time motivating me and helping me, I doubt I would have even started with this project — not to mention that this blog would not have ever existed either]!

    As to the 3210, there were two main reasons why I chose this chip as an “easy starter”: (1) There are lots of documentation and open-source code already lurking around, including the manufacturer’s datasheets and application notes, the zaptel drivers (and others, too — check e.g. the phoneconnector project at http://www.bagu.org) and (2) it gives out lots of ready functionality (DC-DC converter control, power monitoring, hardware u- and a-law codecs, etc.) which seemed to me like a mountain-high effort to reimplement from scratch.

    Even with all these resources available, this blog shows how easy it is for a guy like me to screw up the whole thing by taking all sorts of bad decisions -like etching your own SMT board in your home’s bathroom- and making all possible sorts of mistakes in the course -like wrong component values, bad solderwork, clueless hardware debugging and bad firmware programming practices. All this having been said, I nevertheless find the idea of the Silabs-less FXS module very attractive, so I ‘ll do my best to watch closely your new effort. I wish you every success in this!

    -Angelos

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