Be careful when upgrading. If you cannot completely copy the upgrade file to the RD239, the radio may become bricked. There have been two cases. Please test the TF card before upgrading to ensure that the TF card is intact.
I plugged a 16G card into my computer and ran the check disk utility, then following the instructions provided in email:
The firmware update was compressed in a .rar file, a file that Windows 11 can handle. The uncompressed file is RD-239.upd. I copied that to the root directory of my micro SD card and verified the file size on the card equaled the uncompressed file size on my computer. There were a few other files on the card.
I used Windows Eject on the card to make sure it was ready to be umounted.
With the radio off I installed the card in the radio, making sure it was fully inserted and stable.
The radio was turned on, and the MODE button pressed to play files.
The radio displayed uPd for about 4 seconds, blinked, and displayed uPd briefly again. The radio then displayed the clock and turned off.
And that worked. Now, for example, one can set the duration that the backlight stays on between 5 and 20 seconds.
I turned pressed the MODE button again later without realizing that the firmware update file was still on the TF card. Nothing happened. I assume that the radio checked the update version and determined that it was already installed.
These two radios, arriving within a couple of days of each other, cry out for comparison. Both are in roughly the same price range: the Rd239 was $39.80 delivered from Amazon (Black Friday sale) and the D-109WB costs $46 including shipping direct from the manufacturer in China. They both cover MW/SW/FM and NOAA Weather coverage with alerts. The XHDATA adds longwave and the LiJiANi adds AIR and VHF bands. Both have auto tune storage (ATS), rechargeable batteries, MP3 players and an external antenna jack.
The NOAA weather version of the D-109 will be familiar to owners of the original. Added are the 7 NOAA weather channels with alert, SOS button that emits a loud siren, a Local/DX setting and a Voice/Music setting. Because features have been added without adding buttons, some shifting and doubling of function was inevitable.
The ST/B (stereo/beep) button is replaced by long presses of the 6 and 4 buttons respectively, and specifically, the beep is disabled with a long press of the 6. The separate VF and VM buttons (something I liked) are now handled by one VF/VM button. The Sleep function is now an overload of the power button. One “upgrade” with the weather band version is rubber buttons instead of hard plastic ones.
A Black Friday sale item caught my eye on Amazon for just under $40.
The first thing that jumps out is the coverage: FM/MW/SW/AIR/VHF/Weather. It also has weather alerts, MP3 Play/Record, external antenna jack, AUX in jack and a flashlight/reading light. There are a number of things about this radio that are different from other radios I have owned, and I want to focus on those here, as well as cover features and performance.
I have never encountered a radio before that provides for user installed firmware updates. Mine has version 28. LiJiANi provides firmware updates upon request. Version 2.8 added AIR band squelch, something the radios didn’t have a month ago. The email address in the Version 2.1 User Guide was wrong; however, it’s updated today in the V2.9 manual. Thanks to a commenter for letting me know the correct address! [Update: I now have the V2.9 firmware installed.]
Fit and Finish
The radio is fairly small, almost exactly the same size as the Tecsun PL-330, but a little thicker to accommodate AA batteries. Specifically it’s 28 x 85 x 138 mm (1.1 x 3.4 x 5.4 inches).
Close up, you can see that the radio doesn’t look expensive. The matte finish on the front panel is just too grainy. Still, the buttons work quite well and the tuning knob feels sturdy and works flawlessly. The telescopic antenna is quite thin, necessary to get a good length in such a small collapsed package. Take care when collapsing the antenna by starting from the base segment of the antenna outward.
The Rd239 doesn’t seem to copy any other radio I’ve seen. For example, the radio can be set for 9 or 10 kHz step on MW. That’s quite common, but on every other radio I have seen, once the step is set, the radio advances only on the channels common to that step. On the Rd239, the radio steps the set amount regardless of the standard channels. So if the radio is set to a frequency of 555 kHz and the step is set to 10 kHz, the next steps will be 565, 575, 585 …, rather than 560, 570, 580….
The biggest operational annoyance on the radio is FM tuning. The tuning step is 50 kHz, and in North America that means you have to advance the tuning knob 4 times to advance one 200 kHz channel.
The display backlight comes on when a button is pushed or the tuning knob turned. It times out after 5 seconds. I can’t find any way to keep it on. That’s a shame because of one rather significant feature on this radio that’s extremely rare now: the buttons are illuminated along with the display!
I had only a short time to get used to my Tesla Model Y before I was in a situation where I had to rent a car and drive it about 100 miles. The rental was an Audi Q8 from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
I can’t review a car based on a 100-mile drive, but this rare glimpse of the “other side” (I’ve driven Teslas for 7 years), helped me think about how Tesla does things compared to other cars.
The Audi Q8 is supposedly a high-end model. I found the controls a maze with stalks sticking out of the steering wheel in every direction. Some of the stalks had multiple controls on them. There were paddles too. I couldn’t find the cruise control (it was on a small down-pointing stalk on the left) and had to look on YouTube to see how it worked. The car had adaptive cruise control, meaning that it maintained a specified distance between cars; two paddles set the distance. There was also a touch screen and voice controls, but I didn’t find any voice commands that worked, and when I tried navigation, I got a message saying it required a subscription the car didn’t have. The gear selector was on the center console and it had a button on it too. There are a total of 3 display screens.
And then there was gas. The car was received with very little gas in it, so I had to fill-up. I took an exit labeled “gas,” and drove a while finding no gas. I tried a second exit and eventually found some gas. I fully expected to need some lever in the cabin to open the gas filler cover, but it didn’t require one. Gas pumps are complicated these days — you have to convince them that you don’t want to join their loyalty program.
The one plus for the Q8 was its blind spot warning system. It was easy to see and it worked well.
Tesla Model Y
There are few controls on a Model Y: two stalks, each with a button on the end, and two scroll buttons on each side of the steering wheel (also a convention horn button).
I’ll readily admit that Tesla has a learning curve. The few controls there are perform multiple functions, but the function makes sense in context. Voice commands are flexible and cover a wide range of functions. It’s also very helpful that the main controls setting provides a search function (voice commands also can search for a setting).
Charging is far more simple than buying gas. The car navigates to the charger automatically and there is nothing required beyond plugging the cable in. Billing is automatic.
The interior of Model Y is definitely spartan, or as I prefer to say “uncluttered.” I found the seats more comfortable in Model Y than the Audi.
Tesla has a blind spot warning system too, but it requires more of the driver to glance over at the touch screen and interpret the side view camera, compared to Audi’s signal light on the side rear view mirror. (The latest Teslas have a blind spot warning system similar to the Audi.) [Update: Tesla is providing an over-the-air update to its older cars to give a prominent red bar on the touch screen for blind spot warning.]
With all that said, I think Model Y is probably harder to control on the first encounter, but much easier long term. And with Tesla’s level of automation, the driver rarely has to access the controls.
I have some shortwave radios upstairs in my study where I spend most of my time at home. Some other are downstairs on a shelf above my workbench in the shop. I talked about my upstairs and downstairs radios in my article, Sharing the love (see article for photos). Since then that division of radios in two groups has been remarkably stable, except for new radios, including, a Tecsun PL-880 and a Tecsun PL-990, both of which are upstairs.
Among the upstairs radios, the most-often used are the Tecsun PL-880 and PL-990. I just can’t decide between those two. The Tecsun PL-330 is also there, but it’s now primarily used as a travel radio. The official upstairs list is:
Tecsun PL-118 (FM only)
I use upstairs radios outdoors, where I hook up my 20-ft wire up a tree antenna (WUT). I go out when I’m trying to grab a particular station that I’ve read about online, or try to follow the changing frequencies of the Music 4 Joy broadcast. There’s just too much electrical noise to use them indoors where they’re stored, near the computer. I’ll also grab an upstairs radio when I’m going somewhere, perhaps to the park, to try some listening.
The most-often used downstairs radios are the Tecsun PL-660 and the Eton Elite Executive. The other ones there are used for comparison, testing and frankly some are just stored.
I use downstairs radios in three ways. Downstairs is where my MLA-30+ antenna terminates and so when I use that antenna, it’s most often with a downstairs radio and that’s more often at night. Downstairs is a walk-out basement that’s open to the north and east and there’s a spot that is relatively far away from electrical interference and sometimes I listen to radio in that spot using the receiver’s telescopic antenna. I also use those radios when I’m going outdoors for comparisons using the WUT.
My car has a built-in FM radio, but I also carry a Degen DE15 shortwave radio and a reel antenna that I can plug in and clip on somewhere.
The DE15 is an older digital signal processing (DSP) unit and it’s quite good for a shirt pocket radio. SW coverage is 2.3 – 23 MHz. It uses 3 AAA batteries that can be recharged in car with a USB cable.
[Update] At least for now, the DE15 is downstairs and my Raddy RF75A is in the car since it has weather band.
The question for the future is whether to sell one of the high-end Tecsun radios (the PL-880 or PL-990) and cut down the number of upstairs receivers. Also, should I put the PL-330 in the car, a better radio that’s not getting much play these days?
Soon I’m expecting a new radio, an HF F111 that looks like a Bluetooth speaker with a radio in it costing around $15. It will probably go downstairs.
[Update] The HF F111 is neither upstairs nor downstairs. It’s at the Goodwill store. What a load of junk!
And of course, I bought another radio, an XHDATA D-109WB (the third D-109-series I have). It’s the weather band version of the D-109. I ordered my original D-109 right after it went on sale, and shortly thereafter XHDATA contacted me to say it had shipped but was defective (a problem with direct entry of some frequencies) and that they were sending me another one. That made two. The working model is upstairs. The recalled one (which works fine except for direct entry of some shortwave frequencies), is used as a bedside clock radio. I suspect the new weather band version will go upstairs and the previous one downstairs.
There is another radio upstairs in separate place, a Mesqool CR1009 Pro. It’s a weather radio with a shortwave function that’s virtually useless. Since the XHDATA will provide weather, the Mesqool might go down for storage. Since it’s solar powered, I may still keep it upstairs in a window.
Popular wisdom says that at this level all radios get the same stations, and the differences are found in features, operation and quality. I’m not going to dispute that. What I am going to do here is to investigate those differences and give my opinion on the value question.
Introducing the Radios
I’ve talked about these radios separately and in groups before:
At this price point, one might think that all the radios would have the same features, but that is not the case. All the radios receive LW/MW/FM/SW. They all support SSB reception. They all have clock/alarm/sleep timers. They all have display lighting and direct frequency entry, but there are also many differences. Here’s a feature comparison table to try to sort out them out.
SW Auto tune storage (ATS)
Time Zone set
Line out (AUX)
External MW antenna jack
Memory page labels
Feature difference matrix
Newer versions of the PL-660 have a frequency calibration procedure, but mine does not.
The PL-880 supposedly has a hidden feature to use the external antenna jack for MW/LW, but the procedure is incredibly convoluted, and it appears more a bug than a feature — one that is fixed in my firmware.
My new Model Y came with Hardware 4 (HW4), consisting of updated cameras and a new computer. Naturally I’m curious about what I got, and there is not a huge amount of information out there.
The new camera suite has two visible changes: first there is one fewer camera, a change from 9 to 8. The second is that camera lenses have a red tint when you look at them. Four of the cameras record to the dashcam drive, and here I was able to make some observations:
All camera’s file resolution was 1280 x 960. Typical 52-second video file size: 33 MB. Frame rate 36 FPS. Sample sum of all 4 camera’s file sizes: 101 MB.
Front camera resolution 2896 x 1876. Typical File size 52 MB.
Back camera resolution 1448 x 938. Typical file size 29 MB.
Side cameras resolution 1448 x 938. Sample file size 25 MB.
All cameras frame rate: 24 FPS.
Sample sum of all 4 camera’s file sizes for 52-seconds : 132 MB.
While the resolution of front camera recordings are much greater with HW4, the other cameras are only slightly higher. The frame rate has dropped for HW4 from 36 FPS to 24 FPS. Overall one might to expect 30% greater usage of the dashcam drive.
The actual resolution of the cameras is unknown, at least to me.
A recent addition to Tesla firmware allows the owner to view all 7 external cameras plus the cabin camera through the car’s Service menu.
Tesla announced its then new Full Self-Driving Computer (what came to be called HW3) at its Autonomy Day event back in 2019. (Hardware 1 was a system based on a self-driving chip from MobilEye, now a part of Intel. Hardware 2 introduced in late 2016 used an NVIDIA graphics processor.) When Tesla introduced its first full self-driving computer, they mentioned that they were half way to creating a new one. The FSD computer has a massive amount of computing power, with Tesla proprietary neural network chips, general purpose computers on chips, memory and video processing. This computer also powers the car’s infotainment system.
The HW4 computer uses an AMD Ryzen™ chip for infotainment, making the touchscreen far more responsive. It also reduces the available infotainment RAM. A faster infotainment system is cool, but self-driving is the important thing, and here we don’t know much. A report on the computer from Munro and Associates notes that the new computer is faster and that there are 3 neural network processors, one more than with HW3.
Speculation abounds about the relationship of HW3 and HW4 and what it means to future Level 4 autonomy for Tesla cars. Elon Musk recently demonstrated an upcoming major revision of FSD (Version 12) on a car with HW3. He has also said on Twitter that HW4 software will lag HW3 by “at least another 6 months.”
But what does “lag another 6 months mean”? Today there are HW4 cars running Version 11.4.4 of FSD, which is on par or ahead of the large majority of HW3 cars. HW4 and HW3 can run the same software. What I think Musk is saying here is that HW3 cars and HW4 cars running HW3 software will get a production Version 12 of FSD in six months, and then Tesla will start working on a version that can take advantage of the unique features of the new hardware. And of course, Musk’s self-driving predictions are always late. Since V 11.4.4, there have been new versions of FSD for HW3, but not for FW4. Leaked release notes for V11.4.8 mention HW4, so perhaps that version will support both systems.
My recollection is that Tesla said at some point that the HW4 computer’s primary advantage was that it would be a larger multiple safer than a human driver than the HW3 is.
And there are a bunch of sort of fundamental functions that we kind of forgot to include. So we have to run … a bunch of things in emulation. We fixed a bunch of those with Hardware 4, and Hardware 5 will be even better It does appear at this point that the car will be able to drive better than a human, even with hardware three and a hundred Watts of power. And really, if we really optimize it could be probably less than 50 Watts.
Elon Musk – November 2023
One possibility is that Tesla still thinks that — that HW3 can reach Level 4 autonomy and be 10 times safer than a human driver, but HW4 would be 100 times safer [conceptual numbers]. Maybe they still think that, but it’s clear that Tesla’s view of the problem changed radically in the past few months.
Remember Musk in May of 2023 talking about V12 and excusing its delay, tweeted, “
Arguably, v11.4 should be v12.0, as there are so many major improvements. v12 is reserved for when FSD is end-to-end AI, from images in to steering, brakes & acceleration out.
V12, according to Musk now, throws out the 350,000 lines of code that made up those V11 dot releases and replaces them with machine learning. V11 is, plain and simple, perceived by Tesla as a dead end. (This is not the first dead end / restart declaration from Tesla on FSD.)
The problem Tesla has with saying much about HW4 is that there are [some big number] of HW3 cars out there owned by people who purchased FSD who will be VERY UPSET if it can’t reach Level 4 autonomy. If HW4 is necessary, then it’s in Tesla’s advantage to get it into as many cars as possible as soon as possible, but not to start a panic.
The alternate view is that HW4 just gives prettier dashcam pictures, plays games faster and costs less.