How to: Upload RF Explorer firmware in Linux

RF Explorer device firmware can be upgraded under Linux.

The how-to instructions below are tested in Ubuntu 20.04LTS but can be easily adapted to any other modern Linux version, including Debian and CentOS. If you find any major differences and get some workaround for a particular Linux distro please let us know so other users can benefit from your experience. 

Background

From a software perspective, the RF Explorer Firmware Uploader tool has been modified to run in Linux under Mono, with proper detection of Linux serial port driver. Mono is a compatibility layer for .NET in Linux, developed by the Xamarin team, and works well with any recent version of Mono.

On the other hand, RF Explorer uses a Silabs CP2102 chip for USB communication. The Uploader will correctly list USB connections that are from a CP2102 device only.

Installing Mono

Open a Terminal window and type

mono --version

If the answer is no version installed, then you need to install Mono. The simplest way is by running apt-get from terminal

sudo apt-get install mono-complete

It is important you install mono-complete and not any other limited Mono distributions. The lightweight Mono runtime is not enough, as WinForms dependencies require complete Mono libraries, so please make sure you do a complete install. If you need more details and help on installing Mono, please visit this official link

Below is a quick demo of how this works in an Ubuntu 14 standard distro.

Running the Uploader

Download the firmware file and uploader from our download page link and unpack the contents in a folder. All modern Linux distributions and Mono libraries work well at 500Kbps, so you can use it at full speed.

  1. Add your linux user to the dialup group, otherwise may not be able to open the USB port. For instance this command will do it in Ubuntu/Debian: 
    sudo adduser <my_user> dialout
  2. Download and copy RF Explorer Preset Manager for Linux executable, you can locate it anywhere in your computer.
  3. Connect your RF Explorer spectrum analyzer to the USB port. Only Combo and Plus models are supported.
  4. Run the tool with (exact name will depend upon the device firmware and version)
    mono RFEUploaderXXX.exe

Note: use regular Linux login, not root or superuser, otherwise configuration files will not be stored in the home folder correctly.

Troubleshooting

If some distribution does not correctly work at 500Kbps, or you cannot properly communicate at that speed, then you can try at slow 2400bps. The first important step you need to complete is in the RF Explorer device. Power it on and go to the CONFIG MENU, and select USB Bauds: 2.4Kbps as shown below. If you keep this at 500Kbps the firmware uploader will fail to complete last steps.

The next step is to run the Uploader under Mono using this sentence from a Terminal window:

mono RFExplorerFirmwareUpdateLoader.exe

At some point in the process you will be required to connect the RF Explorer device. For that to work in Linux at 2400bps, you must click on <LEFT>+<ENTER>+<RIGHT> buttons while powering the unit ON. If properly started at 2400bps, you will see a bootloader screen with very clear message of baudrate like this one:

If you don't see this but a 500Kbps message, then try again using correct key combination. The communication and firmware upgrade can only work when all the steps are completed using the same baudrate.

Below is a demo of how this works in an Ubuntu 14 standard distro.