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Flex Radio Pre-Built/Pre-Configured SDR Computers 30 - July - 2009

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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When I bought my Flex-5000 I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to computer specifications, having been unwisely lulled into the logic of newer, faster, bigger had to be better for SDR use.

Simply put “Not!”

Once I stopped playing “Three Chairs” with this computer has too new of a 64-bit system to be supported, and this old system doesn’t have the horsepower to run PowerSDR correctly, and when I purchased a dedicated tailored system, well then I was in business.

Buying my new system from Dell I spend a fair bit.

I also spent some time installing software, configuring it and re-doing stuff once I purchased a paper manual to read. Time I could have been operating, rather than fiddle-faddle playing technician.

Flex-Radio has announced a partnership arrangement with a custom builder, who will pre-install, configure and test run a machine to run for your Flex-Radio!

From the Flex-Radio announcement:

“FLEX Ready” PCs for a complete turn key solution.
Posted by: “Tim Ellison” w4tme
Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:31 am (PDT)

Over the past several months, there have been many discussions on the Reflectors regarding PC setup and configuration for use with the FLEX family of software defined radios. For those who are not very “PC savvy”, this may seem like a daunting task and may have prevented you from experiencing the new and exciting world of software defined radios.

Several weeks ago, Neal (K3NC) put together a parts list of components for the DIY ham who might want to build a cost effective high performance PC for use with FlexRadio SDRs. At that time there was some interest in having Neal provide a system that was already integrated for the non DIY crowd.

With the blessing of FlexRadio Systems, Neal is providing these custom systems for sale through his company, Abroham Neal Software. In addition to having the computer components integrated into a ready to boot system, Neal is providing additional “value added” services to his “FLEX Ready” line of PCs. These include installing and optimizing a systems specifically for the Firewire based FLEX software defined radios. Each system is assembled and configured specifically for a customer and the SDR hardware they will be using with it.

This includes loading the current FLEX Firewire driver, PowerSDR, FlexLoader, HotWheel and all of the necessary .NET software needed for it to operate. He will also connect either a FLEX-3000 or FLEX-5000 to the system and perform a 24-hour “burn in” to make sure that the system is a true turn key solution.

In addition to the core PowerSDR software, there are options for installing VAC, virtual serial port software, freeware loggers and digi mode programs as well. For the SDR experimentalist, there is also an option for installing and configuring SVN so that you can easily download the latest alpha and beta code in order to test the new cutting edge software.

With any turn key provided system, there is always the chance that you may inadvertently mess up the PC configuration some how and not be able to get it back to a working configuration. This is not a problem with the Acronis Secure Zone option, where you can easily recover your system back to the exact default configuration as it was when you received your “FLEX Ready” PC.

If you are interested in the “FLEX Ready”, use the following URL to find out the technical specifications of the systems along with pricing http://www.abrohamnealsoftware.com/proddetail.php?prod=answc001

-Tim
—–
W4TME

From Neal K3NC’s website:

“One of the critical success factors in using modern software-defined radios (SDRs) is often overlooked during the decision process of buying a new radio: your computer. In the early days of experimentation with SDRs, we thought that processor speed and overall computer utilization was the critical success factor. A holdover of this school of thought is that many SDR consoles show the system utilization on the main panel.

It was a bit of a shock, however, when new SDR owners, who do not spend days tuning their systems, started running into troubles. They would buy the latest desktop computer from the local big-box store, plug in the radio and start seeing problems. These problems are evident by the console freezing up or losing communications with the radio (which is just on the other end of the FireWire cable!) These computers normally had the latest in CPU technology and their computer system had every bell and whistle ever imagined, yet it couldn’t run a program that a small system such as an Intel Atom 330 could run with no problems (if set up correctly).”

http://www.abrohamnealsoftware.com/proddetail.php?prod=answc001

Definitely a solution worth considering!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Comments»

1. Jeff, KE9V - 30 - July - 2009

“Definitely a solution worth considering!”

I don’t think so; in fact I believe that this is a major failing of the software defined radio concept!

It may be an additional business opportunity, but consider that throughout its short history almost every single review of higher-end SDR’s (like the Flex-5000) is checkered with footnotes that the results were obtained using a particular soundcard in a certain configuration with a specific motherboard, and very specific operating system versions and software drivers, etc.

This is a far cry from the initial promise that SDR would permit us to “use the PC that we already own” to reduce equipment costs — unless of course the PC that we already own is highly customized and used exclusively for SDR.

I think this reflects the realization that this concept suffers badly unless the PC hardware and software environment is carefully controlled. In other words, it presents a significant challenge to provide customer support for every possible PC and software configuration, so the best way to deal with it is to lock those variables down.

Jeff, KE9V

2. k9zw - 30 - July - 2009

Hi Jeff KE9V !

Your comment jumps to where a draft Blog Post I’ve been working on for while goes to, as what we are seeing is the natural segmentation of the growing SDR community.

Roughly the emergent segments are:

First Wave – Experimenters
Second Wave – Mixed Focus
Third Wave – Looking for Performance Results
Fourth Wave – Peer Lead Adopters

Sort of a Bleeding Edge – Leading Edge – Best Technology – Regular user continuum.

Astute observation that the SDR world has evolved to include Regular Adopters.

However it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other groups move to something else, or simply cease to be involved.

More when I finish my draft.

73

Steve
K9ZW

3. Jeff, KE9V - 30 - July - 2009

Looking forward to seeing your article Steve. I love the concept of SDR but the implementation is definitely in one of those early stages you have listed. I mean, buy a SDR, buy a *special* computer and software, buy roofing filters, put them in a big box, shrink that box down and what you get is an Orion II, Omni VII, or an Elecraft K3…or a Flex-Radio.

The line between them is becoming blurrier by the release! :-)

73, Jeff

4. Kenneth Schemmel W9LVM - 3 - August - 2009

SDR software and Flex 5000A They need to post more information on installing this software on computer! I am having issues with software asking for Net 1.1 when I have Net 3.5 on a Vista 64 computer! day 2 and still not running!

k9zw - 3 - August - 2009

SDR software and Flex 5000A They need to post more information on installing this software on computer! I am having issues with software asking for Net 1.1 when I have Net 3.5 on a Vista 64 computer! day 2 and still not running!

Hi Ken W9LVM

Microsoft is actually kind of the sneaky one on your needs.

We are very used to the idea that when a Bigger Number version of software is installed, that it would replace all the older version number software.

NOT the case with the .NET Software.

You can have each Major revision number side-by-side on your PC!

The latest version of PowerSDR (1.18.2) uses Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP 1, AND per the release notes it also requires .NET 1.1

You can install both side-by-side. I think on my machine I also have a version of .NET 2 for other software.

Please let Flex know what has held you up – and suggest they add an article to their Knowledge Base on parallel installs of .NET

Good Luck & let us know how you do!

73

Steve
K9ZW

5. Julian, G4ILO - 4 - August - 2009

If the software system for the Flex had been based around Linux then they could just provide an .ISO for people to download, burn and boot their system from which would avoid the software configuration hassles completely.

Windows PCs are a support nightmare. Every one is unique, so software that works fine on 99% of PCs will mysteriously fail for unfathomable reasons like a conflict with Norton this or Mcafee that or some registry tweaks the user did months ago after reading some magazine and has since forgotten about.

Elecraft K3 is the SDR for me.

k9zw - 4 - August - 2009

Hi Julian G4ILO

There are Linux software options to run SDR’s like the Flex. The earlier software in the present series was Linux as well.

The announced PowerSDR 2.x family will be multi-platform, including Mac OS-X and Linux.

PowerSDR 2.x FAQs

All that said the Elecraft K3 is a fantastic radio – I debated between the Flex-5000A and the K3 myself.

73

Steve
K9ZW


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