Maestro were shipped without an internal micro-USB charging cable so the one USB A cable that you plug into is to power the Maestro NOT Charge the battery. You currently need to use an external USB Charger to Charge the Battery. Flex will likely issue an official explanation.
and later from Tim:
I'm wanting to be able to charge the battery while left in the Maestro case while plugged into 120v using the provided wall wart without opening the battery door to change cables. Is that not possible?
I am afraid not.
Let me provide some clarity. We had fully intended for the battery installed in the battery bay to be recharged by Maestro when the unit was connected to an external DC power source (the coaxial DC power connector). What we determined after extensive complete product testing, is that the battery charging feature was not working as intended and we decided to remove the feature. As such, you must charge the battery using a charger or the recommended charging method provided by the battery manufacturer.
This business decision was made only after exhausting all reasonable options, meaning that engineering a solution that would work for most batteries would have significantly delayed the shipment of Maestro for a feature that is not mission critical to the operation of the unit.
As Howard indicated, the issue is very, very complicated. In summary, there isn't an industry standard by which these battery packs are engineered from a charging standpoint. Worse yet, there is a significant amount of variation regarding how a battery behaves when being charged within the same battery model. These variations in behavior resulted in adverse and anomalous Maestro operational behaviors, such as it would not boot from the battery when plugged into an Ethernet cable).
Battery management is discussed in the Maestro User Guide. When the battery runs low, you will need to swap it out with a fully charged battery or connect it to an external power source.
I saw the post about a week ago announcing that all hands were on deck getting the units ready to ship with pictures of the entire Flex crew packing up the units and the finished boxes on the dock. Now looking back at those pictures it appears to look like a last minute removal of charging cables and repacking the units so that they can be sent out.
If that is the case then I for one find it disappointing that the same post did not also announce that what was advertised and had set the expectation in the customers minds to be able to charge the battery internally was not communicated but rather it seems to appear to be swept under the rug for the sake of getting the units out and the sales revenue in.
Welcome to the Bleeding Edge of Technology,
Every time one attempts to invent something that has never been done before you run into unforeseen issues that no one could have reasonably anticipated. So it takes a bit longer to get things right. But that is the price that many of us are willing to pay to be at the forefront of innovation.
The battery turned out to be one of those unforeseen issues. Because of regulatory issues it is extremely costly and difficult to ship devices containing Li Batteries. So it was decided to use a commonly available USB Cell Phone Charging Battery Pack
One would reasonably assume that all batteries of a similar type such as being able to produce USB 5.2V would have similar performance specifications. One could also reasonably assume that batteries from the same manufacturer with the same model number would act approximately in the same way. It turned out that neither of these assumptions were true.
There is no standard for Li USB power packs. The packs are usually but not always 3.2V internally with a switching supply to produce the USB 5.2V. Some batteries start on 100uA draw, some need 500uA and some need a button pushed to start. Some have protection circuits to prevent shorts and cut off above 2A draw and some cut off very different voltages. Some do not cut off at all. To further complicate the issue different batteries need differing charging voltages and currents to even start charging and some will shut down entirely when they get too hot or charge too fast. Some need the charging cable and the USB A cable connected to charge and some did not. There are a myriad of other variations.. but you get the picture.. no consistency.
To make matters much worse, the quality control and consistency within a specific model number of the same brand was just too randomly different to be reproducible.
We spent a number of weeks/months diagnosing the Maestro circuitry and enabling software trying to find a solution to erratic charging and battery performance behavior. Finally Gerald was the one who actually figured out that it was inconsistent batteries rather than software or hardware that was the issue. By removing the charging circuit the problems went away.
We tested all sorts of makes and models of batteries hoping to find one that would work reliably. None were 100% reliable. I personally had good luck with the 12,000mAh Polanfo but YMMV.
Finally Flex had to make a very difficult decision... Delay the release of Maestro for possibly several months while dealing with Battery Manufacturers to find one could make one with reproducible performance characteristics or just remove the charging circuitry that the different batteries caused to malfunction and ship now. Since the Maestro worked well on battery AND the battery can easily be charged externally, the internal battery charger would have been nice BUT it is not a deal killer.. nor was it important enough to delay the deliveries any further....
Now you have the rest of the story.....
Bottom line; Nothing much to get your shorts in the wringer...
For the most part we have been rewarded for our perseverance on the Bleeding Edge of Technology with best of class performance and outstanding features that are not available anywhere else.
I guess the problem is the Li batteries and chargers are not considered to be the “bleeding edge” technology. They were 10 years ago. I bet that most people reading this have had Li Batteries for some years with wall warts that charge them without many problems. The FRS recommended batteries have a very simple charging system derived from the USB standard. So why-o-why suddenly this became an unsurmountable problem?
I suspect it was a time and monetary problem. My experience has been that typically the battery and charging system are considered at the end of the design process and don’t get proper attention and I understand that. But that’s not because of the “bleeding edge technology”
This is actually disappointing news for me. I was
expecting the MAESTRO to be my stand alone computer which would replace my
laptop for portable use! The MAESTRO
demo I saw in February at the Richmond FROSTFEST had the charging cable
installed and I was led to believe there were no issues with charging. Without a charging circuit it appears that
there is no way for an operator to tell how much battery life is remaining if
running on a battery? What happens when
you run out of juice? Will the MAESTRO
be able to power down without corrupting the OS? I wasn't expecting to have to be tethered to
a power cable.
Can the MAESTRO use wired Ethernet while operating on internal battery power? Page 11 of the user guide currently states:
"It can operate in a fixed mode connected to external power and wired Ethernet, or in a portable mode using internal battery power and a Wifi connection."
Is the manual correct or is it misleading? My hope is either Wired or Wifi with or without external power. Please clarify. Thanks...
Greg - N8GD
You charge the optional customer supplied power pack for Maestro exactly as you charge your smart phone or tablet. You can even plug it into the same charger.
Maestro is designed to accommodate a customer provided cell phone LiPo power pack available through high volume consumer channels such as Amazon. Charging and operation of the power pack for use in Maestro is accomplished in exactly the same manner you would for use with smart phones or tablets. Charging of the power pack is done by plugging its charging port into a standard 5V USB charger. A charging cable typically provided in the package with the power pack. To work properly in Maestro, the power pack must automatically turn on when it senses that a load is applied to its 2.1A output port. This is easy to test by plugging it in and watching its LEDs come on to show it is supplying power.
Maestro is designed with a snap open battery compartment door (no tools required) that allows you to swap power packs in about 15 seconds. The software will give you 2 minutes to change batteries when it detects that the power pack is dead. A good 12000 mAhr power pack will give you 6-7 hours on a charge for around $20. Buy two and you can run all day.
We chose to incorporate off the shelf LiPo smart phone power packs because they offer very high power density at ultra low cost. Their availability is driven by the high volume consumer products industry.
Our power control circuitry was developed and tested using Mogix and Sony batteries purchased last year. In our internal testing they operated and charged flawlessly. We demonstrated battery operation at many hamfests where we were able to charge the Mogix batteries inside Maestro. As we expanded our beta testing over the last couple of months, more of our testers started to purchase Mogix batteries. Suddenly we started getting reports from some but not all testers that they were having problems getting Maestro to boot on battery or to swap from DC to battery.
At first we were not able to repeat the failure at FlexRadio because we were still testing with the original Mogix batteries. Then we purchased a large number of Mogix batteries to use at hamfests for demo. When we started testing the new batteries we found that some worked and some didn't. For example the unit I use at home worked 100% of the time.
A significant portion of recent delay in Maestro delivery can be attributed to trying to find the root cause of the problem. We bought more batteries from different manufacturers and most seemed to exhibit similar problems. Either they would not boot or they would not charge when placed in Maestro.
We thought at first that we might have a software or hardware issue in Maestro. We did extensive work to look at the power management software operation without success. We looked carefully at the hardware power switching design and could find no fault there.
Sometimes the root cause is the last thing you think of. On April 28, I was personally testing every battery we have to look for some correlation that could be used for diagnosis. I was showing Matt what I was doing and he asked, "What if you disconnect the charging port?" I tried that and suddenly every single battery that was failing to boot Maestro now worked. It seems that many but not all of the batteries we tested do not function properly with both their input and output ports simultaneously connected to Maestro. Why?
That began a comprehensive digital scope analysis of the circuit along with a search for batteries that might function properly. We tested a variety of software switching scenarios as well as potential circuit modifications. None improved the reliability.
We actually found another pack that did work with both input and output connected but it charged very slowly and there is no assurance that the same brand will work the next time you buy it given our Mogix experience. We came to the conclusion that there is no way for us to know if a given power pack purchased by a customer would allow both connections at the same time.
We simply exhausted all of the practical near term hardware and software modifications to the design that we could make to assure reliable operation with the charging cable connected. It turns out that the majority of these power packs are simply not designed to charge and discharge at the same time and thus their protection circuitry prevents such operation. If they are, there is not assurance that the circuit will not change for cost or other reasons. Therefore we made the difficult decision to remove the charging cable to prevent significant support issues due to customers plugging in both cables on batteries that won't work in that configuration. That made no sense whatsoever.
So again, the bottom line is that you will charge the optional power pack exactly as it is designed and marketed - on a USB charger just like your cell phone. In fact, I am using an old iPhone charger to charge mine. Takes just 15 seconds to hook it up.
If you are going to operating extended time on batteries you will want to have multiple charged batteries ready at all times. The capability of swapping high density power packs in seconds allows you to carry a number of packs for extended operation that would not otherwise be possible. You should be able to purchase 24 hours worth of batteries for under $100. That's a bargain.
Low Battery Indication:
HOWEVER.. you sometimes get this indication when you hot swap to a battery as the Maestro reacts to a change in condition. So it is usually best to confirm the battery charge level with the charge indicator found on most of these batteries.
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