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!
Dayton 2013 – Rolling.. 16 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, Dayton Hamfest, Dayton Hamvention, Dayto
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Loading up and heading out for Dayton.
Riding in the navigator’s chair is my friend George W9EVT, and at least here it is a glorious morning.
Planning the Collins Collectors Dinner Friday night and the FlexRadio Systems Dinner Saturday Night.
Hoping to catch up with the 1.871 SSB Net group, and I also really appreciate meeting up with family. Tomorrow at Bob Evans the three cousins will continue our yearly Dayton Breakfast. Doesn’t get any better!
Have a number of “want to see items” at the show – more in a follow up post.
Is that Dayton on the Horizon? 30 - January - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Collins Collectors Group, Dayton, Dayton Hamvention, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, W9EVT
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Looking ahead fifteen weeks, Dayton 2013 is coming around.
Always makes sense when travel a fair distance to get one’s ducks lined up early, so reservations are being made.
Working to ballance a couple events our small group would like to attend – the the FlexRadio Dinner, the Collins Collector Dinner and one of the Contest or DX Dinners.
I make this one of two anual events where I meet up with the eldest of thre three family branches, so that is truly a highlight to look forward for.
This year George W9EVT is panning to be my navigator for Dayton 2013. Doing Dayton with George W9EVT is real pleasure as he knows and is friends with so many interesting hams – the wort that are doing neat things.
I’ve also invited my youngest son, Vic KC9NWB to come along. He will have to decide if he can cut some classes to make Dayton.
Links for this year are:
The Dayton Hamvention Website: http://hamvention.org/
The DX Dinner Webpage: http://www.swodxaevents.org/
The Collins Collectors Group Website: http://www.collinsradio.org/
FlexRadio Systems Website: http://flexradio.com/
The Contest Dinner Website: http://www.contestdinner.com/
Hope to see you there!
Hilberling PT-8000 USA Model – Trying to Catch One on the Air 5 - October - 2012Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton Hamvention, Hilberling, Hilberling PT-8000, Hilberling USA, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, PT-8000, WV4Y
Have been trying since the Dayton Hamvention 2012 to catch a Hilberling PT-8000 user on the air for a QSO. Would love to hear what the radio sounds like.
The announcement that the radio would be available in the USA had appeal to me, but I was surprised that another large price jump was included and the timing was bad if you owed taxes. Caught me with my “radio sock” nowhere near full enough for a PT-8000, and what I had saved for hobby already committed for another radio.
Rumble was that there was at more than one of the three or four available PT-8000s at Dayton sold – heard that Ted W1HFD acquired the first.
Haven’t heard from WV4Y since the few emails when he learned he would have radios to sell, so hoping he found a home for each of the ones he had.
Maybe in a year or so when I get all our family’s young hams through University I can put a PT-8000 in my shack.
Flex-Radio SmartSDR – Annual Fees and Possibilities 24 - May - 2012Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, Flex-Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, PowerSDR, SmartSDR
The new SmartSDR format, where the heavy lifting of DSP is done all in the radio and the computer has only “thin client” duties, has captured my imagination.
I’ve also been reading all sorts of (shadenfreunden) speculation about what the annual fees will be about in postings on the net.
The Signature Flex-6000 series radios are a hardware platform that will only slowly evolve as hardware – especially in comparison to the likely rapid and very noticeable SmartSDR software’s updates.
SmartSDR appears to have two main parts – the massive heavy duty part living inside the Flex-6000 and the light GUI & related services portion out on the thin client.
For discussion purposes as I speculate, I’d like to divide these into SmartSDR-6000 Software and SmartSDR-Client Software.
My guesses about the SmartSDR-6000 Software:
As this is the “machine” – the guts – that has evolved from FlexRadio’s experience in high capability radios for special markets, my guess is that this software is fairly well along in a basic form. Obviously the specific FPGA chip tweaks and oddities of amateur radio needs to be handled, but the “in the box software” capability is something FlexRadio has been successful with in these specialty markets.
This software could be expected to have various features “unlocked” from time-to-time as FlexRadio develops the software, gains approvals, and bluntly per a marketing plan.
To my lay person’s eyes the SCU (Spectral Capture Unit) onwards software architecture may be subject to continuous rounds of improvements.
This is the “guts software” that annual update subscription fees will provide an ongoing improvement every year. Basically the radio will keep improving itself over time with SmartSDR-6000 Software Updates.
My guesses about the SmartSDR-Client Software:
This is the frosting on the cake, and the part my impression is still a ways from ready for prime time.
I didn’t learn how this program is being codes, but thinking if I were in Flex-Radio’s shoes I would certainly not miss the opportunity to do multi-platform programing from the start.
Withe the SmartSDR-6000 Software doing all the hard work, and being very “managed by FlexRadio” there could be a chance of the SmartSDR-Client launching on more than Windows right from the start. Eyeing how every FlexRadio staff member appeared to have an Apple iPad an iOS/OSX SmartSDR-Client Software package is only a matter of time.
SmartSDR-Client has a role of acting as “the gatekeeper” for access to SmartSDR-6000 when third party programs would like to access the radio. This would appear to be at a couple of levels.
First would be the usual hooks for Loggers, Digital Mode Programs, and the usual Ham Auxiliary programs. Anticipate these hooks to be emulated close enough to keep legacy software happy. This level of access to classic CAT type hooks and audio streams should be open to anything the user wants to run. This software will include paid-for programs, donation-ware, shareware and freeware programs.
Second would be a new set of hooks for a SmartSDR-Client enhanced set of hooks for this same level of software. The same basics but enhanced and optimized to make the combined software show its best. Access to this level may require the third party software developer to become authorized by FlexRadio in some sort of Quality Control program. These programs most likely will be paid-for or trial-ware programs given the added developer costs.
Third level would be for third party software that deeply accesses SmartSDR-6000 directly. Complete alternate interfaces could happen here. To get this deep into the SmmartSDR-6000 Software expect the third party developer to be in a tightly monitored program, the programs to pass some sort of QC to be acceptable, the third party developer to need some sort of API key (perhaps several levels will be available) and perhaps each instance of the software needing a user level API key as well. Expect this level of third party software to have fees – perhaps large fees if custom work is done. The possibilities of what could be available at this level is profound!
Fouth level in theory could be direct access to the Series-6000 hardware and very deep into the SmartSDR-6000 Software. Think all the restrictions of the Third level with corporate level NDAs if any third party developer would ever be approved as a product partner.
Thoughts on SmartSDR Software Annual Update Fee:
FlexRadio announced that to receive annual updates to SmartSDR there would be a fee – initially set at $199/year.
To clarify they said over and over – there is NO obligation to pay an annual subscription – your radio software never “expires.”
The fee is if you want to receive Updates, period!
I’ve seen postings on various forums and blogs claiming if you don’t pay your annual fee that your new SmartSDR Flex-6000 series radio will stop working. FlexRadio assured everyone at the Dayton FlexRadio Dinner that the fee buys Upgrades and is NOT necessary to keep a radio running.
FlexRadio’s PowerSDR update process has appeared to be about quarterly, with extra releases when something changes in the bands or there is an important fix to get out.
If the SmartSDR update program is similar I can’t think of anything much more exciting than to have a major upgrade to an stunning new radio a couple times a year! Of course first year updates are included in the purchase cost and for early adopters their “Limited Edition” package includes a second year of update subscription prepaid.
My guesses about possible SmartSDR-6000 Add-In Software:
I am expecting that there could be some neat Add-In packages for the SmartSDR suite.
Some will be external network focused – perhaps private Flex-6000 Diversity-Clusters, private reverse-beacon networks, rent-a-slice-of-a-station software, club multi-user software, remote operator contesting software and advanced remote ability suites.
The internal network shack Add-Ins may include external mode interfaces, unattended operations (RX) software, advance monitoring suites and contesting enhancements.
Remoting enhancements to include your amp, rotor, antenna switches and more should be part of first add-ins.
Imagination becomes the boundary, rather than conventional hardware and the PC, with the Flex-6000 and SmartSDR.
Is making the Flex-6000 and SmartSDR a leap of faith? Perhaps no more than the leap made when tubes gave way to solid state rigs.
“Hello Tomorrow!” could be the tag-line for the Flex-6000/PowerSDR combination!
Musing on the new Flex-6000 Series SmartSDR Radios 21 - May - 2012Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, Flex-Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, PowerSDR, SmartSDR
“Game Changer” may have been the understatement of Dayton 2012. Flex-Radio debut “Signature Series” Flex-6000 radios are a revolutionary product class never before seen in amateur radio.
On the pure technical and capability side, nothing out there comes close. This is truly a “Game Changer” product line, moving the main heavy lifting of SDR radio back into the radio box, using state of the art design that before the Flex-6000 series was available to commercial and government types at price points that match many ham’s mortgages!
In a development coup Flex-Radio has worked with primary chip manufacturers to bring FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) technology that only a year back would have cost more PER CHIP than the retail of the Flex-6500 to the amateur market.
The FPGA put simply is a way to put software on a chip so the code can rip through huge amounts of data processing it basically in parallel rather than in series. The FPGA is fluid and can be reprogramed in place.
Talking this trough, the way it came across to me was something like imagining if you had 1000 cars and hour to valet park – and for our purposes each car represents a bit of signal. A conventional SDR setup would do stuff to the signal, pump it down either Firewire or USB to a conventional PC which would take only so many – say maybe a dozen “cars” at any one instance and park them by processing and sending them back to the SDR unit again waiting for Firewire/USB space. The backup could be huge!
In the FPGA imagine that the cars first never have to leave the SDR unit, and the parking at one time limitation of waiting for space to be sent down the Firewire or USB is lifted, AND the FPGA can instantly call up thousands of Valets to park the cars at the SAME TIME. Obviously the potential throughput could be massive!
When FPGA ran $5000 upwards per chip (yes $5K in a single chip) the technology was not marketable. Flex-Radio has worked out a way to bring the costs of this massive processing power to amateur radio price points.
The added benefits of pushing the heavy lifting all back into the radio are massive. The new SmartSDR could be thought of as a CAT-gateway, VoIP like audio passing agent and the GUI. No longer does the PC have massive processing duties. This “thin client” arrangement should make it possible to work with non-Window’s operating systems, and it was obvious from every Flex-Radio staffer having an iPad that they’re open minded with using effective tools.
There is a lot of new jargon with is the Flex-6000s – Spectral Capture Units (SCU) (Flex-6500 has one, Flex-6700 has two) which act something like extremely broadband receivers. Each SCU can be divided into four “Slices” which are the SmartSDR “receivers” promising at least 384 kHz (and it is reasonable to expect this may be a rather understated number).
Initial launch will be with a SmartSDR thin client capable of networked operation from anywhere on the same router. Basically you can’t run the radio without at least a basic bit of networking. Down the road perhaps a year further will be a NAT-traversal agile SmartSDR upgrade allowing native remoting from the internet.
Little mentioned have been the USB links on the radio – they seem opportune to control an amp and other outboard units.
Very cool is a GPSDO GPS based time reference option, that would allow very accurate data time stamp coordination for use of a network of Flex-6000s in a diversity setup with units perhaps 1000s of miles apart. Major “gee wiz” nearly Sci-Fi stuff there!
The demo software is a skeleton and is the big hurdle to a full launch. The hardware is done, and having proven technology from secuirty receivers Flex-Radio had the experience to make that part happen when the economics of FPGA changed.
All this doesn’t come for free. Intro prices are Flex-6500 at $4000 and Flex-6700 at $7000, with the GPSDO adding $700. The only other options are rack mount kits and handles.
It was awesome to see history in the making as Flex-Radio rolled out the “Game Changer” at Dayton. While there is always a place for every category of radio from spark, tube, separates to conventional contest boxes and computer processor dependent SDR, the field has been expanded in a major way with the Flex-6000 series.