Dayton 2013 – Recap 21 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton, Dayton Hamvention, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, KE9V
Following on the sage comments of Jeff KE9V Dayton 2013 was a mixed experience. Here are some of the things I noticed:
The Day of the SDR – everyone was showing SDR radios, many of them technically faux-SDRs with very limited control by the software. Pulling a intermediate RF product off a tap for other processing isn’t SDR folks. Flash Upgradable bandplan data isn’t SDR either. Having the control and audio handled by a vendor configured I/O package isn’t SDR as well.
The Meek Shall Inherit – QRP Fantasy – the other overused term was QRP. Even saw marketing slogans misusing QRP like “Our 100w amps will add some fire to your QRP experience” or something like that… 100w isn’t QRP, nor is 20-30w… but is is a Marketing Buzz Word and sells gear.
Log Periodics are back – with much more mention in forums/banquets and new products showing up. Some providers are working on wide band Log Periodics designed to pair with the latest radio gear.
Long live the King – dinosaurs in a modern age – there were plenty of vendors showing very long in the tooth arguably obsolete technology hoping their well established good brand name would carry them another year. I mean who buys station accessories anymore that lack USB or Ethernet connectivity? Expensive rotor controllers with DB-9 serial connection to allow some command line access is stuff that should have been out in the flea market, not on the show floor.
Big Vendors who didn’t show – where was AES? Where was the owner of MFJ? Someone said that Ham Radio Station was AWOL too? I know I wanted to look at a specific headset and was told by the vendors that were there “to look on our website, we have it there” – what crap!! If I had wanted to browse their website I didn’t need to come to Dayton. Something fundemental is happening here.
End of an Era – But who are the old timers giving way to? – in an Internet World many of the well known in our hobby are Internet Personalities – and some don’t carry as well in person as they do on the world wide web. Just like the famous “Peggy” mystery support person in the TV ads, the public really doesn’t have a connection with these web personalities. Few of the elder icons in our industry seem to be interested in groom heir apparent team members to eventually take over as they age, retire and leave us. Who will run Gordon West’s enterprise when he retires? Does the ham public know that person? Ditto for Bob Heil’s audio world, or any one of our valued icons.
Hello Zigbee, Raspberry-Pi, Arduino, and Beaglebone – the embedded processor and PC on a board seemed to be everywhere. Lots of devices were available that you programed, plug in and run one of these project boards as the “brains” of the final system. Even radios were using the Arduino-compatible as their marketing “buzz.”
Marketing becoming a Vaporware Game – Who shows a new transceiver so far from production that the sales guy is waiving his hand saying “eventually the RF deck will go here?” … There were many mock-ups making second or third year appearances with no real products ready. Even many of the “hot” buzz catching products were mockups “available soon.”
Some class acts – be certain in the midst wading through the unwashed masses there are some class acts. Several were from overseas and really had their presentation & act together. Some standouts in my eyes were in Audio Alley (W2IHY, Heil), Hilberling, the FlexRadio Systems hands-on demos, Array Solutions on-going mini-forum demonstrations) – there were quite a few more.
Composting or Recycling? – the improbability of the Flea Market – if you haven’t found the Thingerwang XT-1000/J14 Mod 7 you’ve been searching the flea market for since 1967 will you ever find it? Who cares if you do? And why are you living in the past?
It Stinks, it’s dirty, it’s unsafe, and that is the upside of the Hara – there is not enough parking and it’s past its prime – Dayton is not a place you’d be proud to show your XYL. There is NO security and the carnage if even a drill were attempted to evacuate the building would likely be large. The place just makes me feel dirty and at risk.
Feast or Famine – events were either standing room only (the most popular forums needed twice the seating) or other opportunities were ghost towns ( did any guest operators make contacts at the Special Events Station? Heck they didn’t even have a chair for a guest to operate from)
Paint Drying vs Rapture – always an interesting observation that stuff that is painful to me is held in nostalgic regard by the next ham. Once does need to remember one size doesn’t fit all.
Fake Grandiose - right down to “Imported Beer” claims for beer from New England at the Hara Pub! Or how about the dirty linens on the banquet table Dayton not-so-Grand, or the flea-btten Ramada telling banquet attendees “we’re short of forks” and “our computer system is down today, so we can’t check you out”, or don’t you just love the ubiquitous car-eating potholes?
What trips my Dayton Trigger?
I do get a chance to meet with and eyeball QSO (face time) with some really great folk. First I get to spend time with my traveling partner George W9EVT, which is always a privilege. Next I get to meet with my cousins, who have made Dayton one of our annual gatherings. Then I get to spend time with a lot of great hams – many who I not only have a great time with on the interpersonal side, but who are kind enough to share their experiences and mentor.
Like all experiences YMMV as I react in my own way to the limitations and features of the event.
FlexRadio Systems Banquet 2013 – Highlights 21 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Flex-5000, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, PowerSDR, SmartSDR
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I enjoyed the 2013 FlexRadio Systems banquet though the Dayton Grand needs taking to task for not measuring up. Over 180 hams attended!
Announced was the end of Flex-5000 series – see other article I just posted.
We’re told a new PowerSDR version 2.7.x expected over summer. PowerSDR development will continue.
Flex-6000 roll out will ship 6700′s ahead of 6500′s, with a voluntary Beta-Software program available. The 6700 firmware/software is a few weeks ahead of the reduced set of the 6500.
Annual Subscriptions for Beta-Software will start with the release of a non-Beta software package, expected to be some weeks (not many months) aftr the Beta-Software gooes live.
Demonstrated remote access to a Flex-6700 with a Windows Tablet by handing it around for all 180 of us to have a chance to play with it!
InnovAntennas developing an optimised Log Periodic to work with the Flex-6000 Series and it’s enhanced reception capabilities. They also will have some optimized antennas for exploiting the diversity reception capabilities of the 6700.
The Flex-6500 and Flex-6700/6700R are SDR “Radio Server Appliances” in the new lingo.
FlexRadio Systems is moving towards being a software house that happens to also provide “Radio Server Appliances.”
The gap between the PowerSDR Flex-3000 and the SmartSDR Flex-6500 will eventually be filled with a new SmartSDR radio below the Flex-6500/6700 in both ultimate capabilities and pricing. This new radio won’t start development until the 6700/6500 are released and established.
SmartSDR is only one GUI/HMI offering and is not the meat of the high value software. Other GUI/HMI programs are highly likely over time.
API developer licensing will be available and some 3rd party development is underway under NDAs.
Expect a hardware Remote Station I/O Manager Device to work with SmartSDR – a way to hook your headset, PTT and key to your remote tablet/pad device. FlexRadio Systems did not put a timeline on this accessory.
Expect SmartSDR apps for more than Windows devices – iPod and Android were mentioned.
Initial Beta-Group Flex-6700/6500 software will expect a direct connect to the SmartSDR computer, later upgrades will allow remoting within a workspace and eventually full remoting should be possible.
There is substantial professional interest in the Flex-6700R for other than Amateur Radio useage.
The data time-stamping from the GPSDO option will open up a lot of opportunities to combine data streams.
These topics will be fleshed out and discussed over the new few months.
KE9V Smoke Curls – Nails Dayton 2013 on the Head 20 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton, Dayton Hamvention, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, KE9V
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Make sure to check ouy fellow writer Jueff KE9V’s Dayton 2013 Recap at:
I have additional comments which are embargoed until after this evening’s W9DK Mancorad Radio Club presentation on Dayton 2013.
Jeff KE9V paints a very accurate background to my summary.
EtherGeist: FlexRadio 6700 – LF Reception Report and Video 19 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K6TU, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, SmartSDR
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FlexRadio 6700 – LF reception
Another interesting test for any receiver is to see how its LF performance functions. Although we haven’t got low frequency allocations at 137 KHz or 497 KHz yet, hopefully we will in the not too distant future. I was curious to see how the 6700 would perform at those lower frequencies.
Stu K6TU again shares his Flex-6700 explorations.
The Future of SDR – Fat-Pipe vs. Thin-Pipe 19 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, PowerSDR, SDR, SDR Radio Server, SmartSDR, Thick-Pipe, Thin-Pipe
One thing that discussions, seminars, and banquets made very clear to me is the fundamental change in SDR design from Fat-Pipe design to Thin-Pipe design.
First what is meant by these terms?
Fat-Pipe is an SDR software and processing distribution with the on-board in-the-black-box hardware needing an external significant computer to make the radio work. Usually this is a PC running Windows or Linux/OS-X where the PC is doing many parts of the signal conversion. Analogue-Digital Conversions typically take place both in the radio box and in the PC.
Thin-Pipe is the SDR design where the in-the-black-box radio hardware does everything except the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and HMI (Human-Machine Interface). Thin-Pipe SDR radios often do not need a PC to operate “per say” but require the external device to change settings, display values and possibly handle audio I/O (some Thin-Pipe SDR designs can do their own direct audio I/O as well).
The darling of a experimenter building their own SDR from scratch or kit, Thick-Pipe SDR systems significantly are affected by the Host PC. The data transfer between the SDR and PC is multi path, complex and data intensive. Variations in the host PC capabilities, resource allocation/availability and every bit of software running are huge issues. Going remote is more easily handled by adding a Thin-Pipe between a remote PC and the host PC as the Thin-Pipe model better dealing with latency and thru-put complications.
It is non-trivial to open and sustain the broad multi-channel low-latency connection between the SDR with a remote Thick-Pipe PC.
Personal experience with PowerSDR Thick-Pipe configuration has shown the operating capabilities, present operating state of other software and the bluntly #%@$& issues of Windows driver, updates, conflicts, and foibles and endless set of issues.
So why has the move to Thin-Pipe first started now?
Processing Power and use of FPGA architecture.
When Thick-Pipe SDR designs rolled out the high end Host PC had 4 to 8 GFLOPS (billion floating point operations per second) capability against a typical all-in-the-box radio having perhaps 0.1-0.2 GFLOPS. The processing power in the SDR box was not significant. None of the hardware was hot enough to even worry about calculating GMACS (billion multiply-accumulate operations per second) which is arguably more important for SDR performance.
The new “SDR Radio Server” designs roll in onboard processors in the 100 plus GFLOPS range (right there with the biggest and meanest new PC processors) but with huge GMACS numbers running 300 plus.
The FPGA to a lay person like myself can basically be thought of like having 400-500 processor cores running parallel.
Basically this means that any PC is a weakling compared to the processing inside the box of a Thin-Pipe “SDR Radio Server” and the Host PC is an I/O manager if used at all.
In the Thin-Pipe design the Host PC puts the “pretty face” on the “SDR Radio Server” with displays of the SDR Radio Server’s settings, state and output. The Host PC also downloads to the SDR Radio Server the user’s audio (microphone/key/digital) , commands and simple functions like PTT (Push to Talk).
A Thick-Pipe SDR guru told me the data rate between SDR and Host PC differential between his state of the art imported Thick-Pipe SDR and the state of the art Thin-Pipe SDR design was 165 times heavier for the Thick-Pipe design even though it was working with less than 1/10th the sampled bandwidth of the Thin-Pipe SDR design.
This basically roughs up to the Thin-Pipe being content with the connectivity of a 2/3rds of a Skype connection, which is manageable (and affordable).
Will Thick-Pipe go away? Not likely. The cost point of a reasonable Thick-Pipe SDR complete station – especially if overall station performance envelope is not excessive – is attractive. Also many hobbyists are more comfortable tweaking their PC and PC’s software than are able to directly work with massive processing with FPGAs, which will keep the Thick-Pipe a favorite for the experimenter.
It is predictable that the leading edge of SDR performance will be Thin-Pipe – the brute force in the SDR Radio Server is so huge that the Thick-Pipe design doesn’t have a chance.
Now let’s categorize some real world SDR software by pipe type.
PowerSDR is Thick-Pipe in most implementations, with some implementations hybrid or Thin-Pipe control display I/O only. In most instances PowerSDR and interchangeable similar packages are Thick-Pipe. Connectivity is typically direct hardware hardwired, Firewire/1394, or high speed USB. Other mainly Thick-Pipe packages include Thick-Pipe include GSDR, CWExpert, SDRRadio and SDR#.
SmartSDR is an example of Thin-Pipe SDR implementation. Other quasi-SDR Thin-Pipe projects include WebSDR (which seems more a CAT receive only audio server).
Hope this has been helpful!
Dayton 2013 – Saturday Report 18 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton, Dayton Hamfest, Dayton Hamvention, FlexRadio Systems
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Continues to be an interesting Hamvention.
Tonight was the FlexRadio Systems Dayton Hamvention Dinner where I heard much more about the new series.
During the day I attended some of the Forums and did a bit of a Flea Market walk.
As I have promised to do a Radio Club Meeting presentation Monday night, my main Dayton recap will wait until after that presentation.
Tonight it is off to get some sleep before the seven hour drive home tomorrow.
More on my Dayton observations soon!