Dayton 2013 – Recap

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?

People.

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.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Dayton 2013 – Saturday Report

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!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Dayton 2013 – Rolling..

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.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Is that Dayton on the Horizon?

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!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Hilberling PT-8000 USA Model – Trying to Catch One on the Air

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.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Flex-Radio SmartSDR – Annual Fees and Possibilities

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.

Summary

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!

73

Steve
K9ZW