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Dayton 2014 – a recap of K9ZW’s Hamvention 19 - May - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Dayton Hamvention 2014 was interesting, though less profound that past years.

First products and exhibits:

  • An awful lot had nothing new to show.  Nada, boring nothing that I couldn’t read about on the internet.
  • Same no reason to be here applied to pricing – almost every vendor has figured out they can increase sales by offering “Dayton Hamvention Pricing” on-line.  Many include free shipping and it is sometimes the case that the sales tax due is less if dropped shipped.
  • Still plenty of “vaporware” with prototype products being shown year after year with no real product to sell.  One questions how many years hams will show up at Dayton with cash in their pocket to buy antenna auto-tuners that never go into production (Alpha is not the only vaporware tuner, where is that long promised Kessler AT-AUTO-II updated unit? [EDIT:  as Don Kessler pointed out he was showing a new remote tuner at Dayton 2014 - more on this to follow]) or amps/transceivers/antennas that are “almost there” but have no ship date?
  • Dayton remains a place where the one-man-band is on equal footing with the robust corporations and mega-corps.  Unfortunately many interesting product offerings are “one heart attack” away from being unsupported/out-of-business.  Not a terrible thing if one is buying a couple hundred dollar unique product but a real concern if one is considering investing thousands in piece of gear that might be orphaned by the smallest of issues.  Ditto on products by companies where the sole proprietor is elderly and hasn’t worked outa  succession plan.  If you ask there are some surprises where small firms have this wired, bit most don’t.

Let’s talk about Dayton itself:

  •  Less Road Construction at Dayton – sees that some of the “forever projects” have finally finished, though downtown is still a mess.
  • The Hara still sucks.  Same holes in the pavement, leaks in the roof, and grubby nature.  Being cool this year odor was down.
  • More restaurants have been built nearby, which opens up opportunities.
  • Staff seemed happier.  People are people, and the ones I dealt with this year were plainly nice folk.
  • The affiliated hotels suck.  Tales of no hot water at one hotel, heat stuck on full blast at part of ours, messed up reservations and catering (one banquet I attended the hotel staff for the second year running couldn’t manage to open up the cash bar having forgotten criticals like ice, cups, mixers…. or change..) from hell.
  • The interstate getting there was hammered, under construction, overcrowded and not much fun driving.

Then may particular interests/purchases:

  • AlphaSpid RAK purchased from Alpha Radios in Alberta will be replacing my Ham-IV.  This looks to be the easiest high-resolution replacement.  Once the unit arrives I will schedule a lower lowering to do the rotator swap.  The Green Heron controller I have should work for the AlphaSpid with a few internal jumper changes inside the controller.
  • Green Heron will be doing the station integration for my ArraySolutions RatPAK-N remote antenna switch.  This is a left over Dayton 2013 project that I arranged to pick up a few bits for as I finish it up.
  • W2IHY station selector system needs finishing off, again a Dayton 2013 purchased project I didn’t make time to complete.  Got my questions answered at the W2IHY booth, so my excuses have to end…
  • qslradio supplied the rig runners and power pole connectors for Rocky Ridge Farm Station.
  • Spoke with Mr Hilberling, and while it would be a budget buster right now I do hope to have one of his radios with amp in the next year or so.
  • Spoke with Jay at ArraySolutions and I sure am interested in the VNA gear.  Maybe this winter, I will get one to learn about it.
  • Spoke with several of the team at Alpha Amplifiers and they have no idea when I could buy a  combination package of an Alpha-4040 Automatic Antenna Tuner and Alpha-9500 Automatic Amplifier.  I decided not to buy an amplifier even with the nice show special being offered.

Banquets I attended:

  • Friday Night – the Collins Collectors Association 80th Anniversary Banquet.  Met some really great people but this is the one where the registration was very slow, the bar wasn’t ready nor stocked, and the presentation & drawing prizes were extremely introspective to the hardcore Collins collector.  I actually cut out to take a phone call (son Tom KC9JGD relocated that day to near Rapid City SD) and decided to not return.  This group faces some challenges as its membership ages which I don’t have a solution to suggest.
  • Saturday Night – The Flex Radio Systems annual Dayton Hamvention Update Banquet was a pleasant contrast with quick & slick registration, dual stocked cash bars ready to serve and a lot of information about where FRS is going.  Only think I think the FRS folk missed is dishing out to each dinner attendee some special swag – pens/hats/pads/pins.  Fairly lame door prize drawing for a couple hats, two oversized re-discover radio button/signs, a flex control and a Flex-1500. Seemed like nine or ten items was not enough for nearly 190 attendees.  Not enough to build a buzz in the crowd.  Otherwise a nice banquet.

Family Matters:

  • Riding with me to Dayton were my friend George W9EVT from Washington Island and my cousin Bill KC9YBL.  Made for a truck full of Extra Class Hams.
  • Living in the area we met with cousin  Kuby N6JSX (Dale to me) and his wife Becky N9KUV.
  • We meet with more family in Ohio, Chicago and Wisconsin.  Good time had by all!

Again I wonder about Hamvention 2015 – should I attend or is next year the one to try Hamcation or Hamcon instead?

It wasn’t for the ease of seeing family and the control of driving, the answer could be pretty easy to go to one of the other shows.

I’ll have to do some pondering and decide….

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

What we saw new at Dayton 2014! 17 - May - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Following up on my predictions of “What will we see new at Dayton 2014?” here are some notes:

  • A merged Alpha Amplifier/Ten-Tec potentially offering positive news on the long overdue Alpha-4040 Antenna Tuner – no date yet on the 4040 as at least one more major revise is in the works for the prototypes.  Closer but no cigar.
  • Several new evolutionary radios from Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu with continuing emphasis on attractors like D-Star, Remoting, Emcom, integrated GPS/Bluetooth and Contesting. – yup, lots, with the IC-7800 Upgrade of special interest as it is net plug and play.
  • The brand new Flex Radio Systems Flex-6300 transceiver offering much of what the Signature Series is about at a mass market price point, along with the end of April SmartSDR v1.2.1 which added the awaited Waterfall/Panafall with many other features. There may be a remote possibility of a further SmartSDR update at Dayton. – off to the FRS dinner tonight and hope to have news afterwards.
  • We should get a first look at the HPA-8000A 1kW Solid State Amplifier rounding out the high performance PT-8000A Transceiver desktop. – they had a single amp in the booth with USA hams likely to get a supply in later 2014 due to FCC approval lead time.
  • Several Antenna Manufacturers have announced new models, with several interesting LPDA (Log Periodic) offerings tailored to meet the new Flex Radio Systems Signature Series radio requirements.
  • Connectivity Galore with Bluetooth, In-Shack and Remote connectivity options of every type and style. Expecting to see everything from ZigBee Modules you can solder into your project to desktop setups you can use to remotely operate one of the rent-by-hour stations.

I am sure there will be much more, and hopefully a few surprise product launches too! See you there!

73

Steve
K9ZW

What will we see new at Dayton 2014? 13 - May - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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What will we see new at Dayton 2014?

  • A merged Alpha Amplifier/Ten-Tec potentially offering positive news on the long overdue Alpha-4040 Antenna Tuner
  • Several new evolutionary radios from Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu with continuing emphasis on attractors like D-Star, Remoting, Emcom, integrated GPS/Bluetooth and Contesting.
  • The brand new Flex Radio Systems Flex-6300 transceiver offering much of what the Signature Series is about at a mass market price point, along with the end of April SmartSDR v1.2.1 which added the awaited Waterfall/Panafall with many other features. There may be a remote possibility of a further SmartSDR update at Dayton.
  • We should get a first look at the HPA-8000A 1kW Solid State Amplifier rounding out the high performance PT-8000A Transceiver desktop.
  • Several Antenna Manufacturers have announced new models, with several interesting LPDA (Log Periodic) offerings tailored to meet the new Flex Radio Systems Signature Series radio requirements.
  • Connectivity Galore with Bluetooth, In-Shack and Remote connectivity options of every type and style. Expecting to see everything from ZigBee Modules you can solder into your project to desktop setups you can use to remotely operate one of the rent-by-hour stations.

I am sure there will be much more, and hopefully a few surprise product launches too! See you there!

73

Steve
K9ZW

SmartSDR v1.1 – Another New Radio in a Download 3 - February - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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A Seven Band Look via SmartSDR V1.1

A Seven Band Look via SmartSDR V1.1

FRS delivers and then some!

More than just revised and improved!

It is as if a whole brand new radio was dropped off.

The screen shot, by the way, is the radio being run via wireless from an iMac using Win7/74 under Parallels.  The base machine is running OS-X Mavericks.

I could have opened another Slice, except I had “wasted one” fiddling from my WinXP box and iPad Air (Air running K6TU’s App) and didn’t feel like rebooting to clean up my mistake.

73

Steve
K9ZW

FlexRadio System – Major SmartSDR Update/Upgrade 1 - February - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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This is easiest left in FRS’s own words:

 

SmartSDRTM v1.1 Available On Time and Exceeding Promised Feature Set

FlexRadio Systems is pleased to announce the availability of SmartSDRTM v1.1.  SmartSDR v1.1 for both the FLEX-6500 and FLEX-6700 contains a wealth of new features – a number of which are over and above those promised in the public roadmap.  In the installation package are the release notes, which have important information about the features and caveats that are important to know.  Please read the release notes, as there are several important notices with v1.1.  Our team has worked hard to provide not only the features promised with v1.1, but also many new features that we feel will enhance your operation and provide more fun for your operation.  Here’s a partial list of the new features we are releasing with SmartSDR v1.1:

Double the number of panadapters and receivers for a total of four (4) of each for the FLEX-6500 and eight (8) for the FLEX-6700.  With more panadapters you will be able to simultaneously view up to 4/8 bands at once to monitor band conditions.  Increased slices opens the opportunity to monitor digital portions of multiple bands or the same band, have multiple receivers setup to work liaison on HF nets with multiple stations, etc.

Digital Audio eXchange (DAX) for seamless support of 3rd party digital programs.  With DAX, digital sample streams are routed directly from the radio to your PC and made available on DAX channels.  Much of the confusion about cable numbers and which virtual cable belongs to which receiver and transmitter is gone.  Each DAX channel is clearly labeled appropriately such as “DAX Audio RX 1″ and “DAX Audio TX 1″.  Each slice can be routed to a DAX channel on the fly in the SmartSDR client and all of the channels are created for you on installation of SmartSDR.

Promised with SmartSDR’s introduction was up to two simultaneous digital channels for digital software out of the radio.  We are pleased to announce that every slice receiver in SmartSDR has the capability to run DAX simultaneous to other receivers.  So on a FLEX-6500, up to four (4) DAX Audio channels may be run at once and on the FLEX-6700, up to eight (8) DAX Audio channels may be run at once.

DAXIQ streams added for wide-band data output.  In addition, with SmartSDR we promised DAXIQ streaming of I/Q samples at up to 96ksps (96kHz).  We’re pleased to announce that we have DAXIQ streaming running at up to 192ksps in v1.1.  For v1.1, we have DAXIQ streaming at your choice of 24, 48, 96 or 192ksps.  You may have up to four (4) total streams running simultaneously, but only up to a combined output rate of 384ksps today.  This allows you to run 96kHz of four bands into CW Skimmer from a single radio.

Both DAX and DAXIQ are network clients and may be used on multiple PCs on the network.  That means that you can run multiple digital mode applications all talking to the same radio but using different bands and modes at the same time and on different computers if desired.  We believe this is ground-breaking technology for amateur radio.

New filtering algorithms with sharper filters in all modes plus lower latency for digital modes. With SmartSDR v1.1, we are introducing variable sharpness filters which offer the best filtering when needed to eliminate incursion of sideband splatter from adjacent channels or very narrow CW filters, but also relaxes for lower latency with wider CW filters and latency-sensitive digital modes such as PACTOR.  The filter sharpness is automatically selected based on operational mode and filter width as selected by the operator.

Active Slice Control Panel.  A new Active Slice Control panel has been added to the right side of SmartSDR for Windows giving you immediate access to most slice controls in a single location without having to open up slice panels.  This allows the operator to collapse all slice panels and operate receivers entirely from the Active Slice Panel which will follow the selected slice receiver.

Tabbed control panels in SmartSDR.  All control panels on the right of SmartSDR are now under a tabbed control that lets you add or remove these panels at will.  In addition, you may rearrange the panels by dragging them to a desired location.  This lets you customize the layout of the SmartSDR control surface to match your preferred operational environment.

Advanced SmartSDR Persistence memorizes previous states.  Persistence capabilities in SmartSDR now remember key details about your operation on each amateur band.  Power, filter, and slice settings, panadapter levels, etc. are all remembered by amateur band so returning to the band later will quickly restore all the values back to their previous settings.  When appropriate, settings such as microphone and CW settings are memorized by mode rather than band or slice.

Enhanced panadapter display averaging.  With SmartSDR v1.1 you have control over both the speed of panadapter updates as well as the degree of averaging on top of the speed.  When reducing the panadapter update rate, all frames are used in the radio for better averaging, but preserving network bandwidth.  The additional averaging control adds a peak-weighted average which emphasizes signal peaks as it smooths out the noise baseline in the panadapter.

CW Audio Peaking Filter.  A new CW Audio Peaking Filter has been added which emphasizes audio signals at the pitch frequency of CW reception.  The APF raises the level of the desired CW signal, adding gain above adjacent signals to help you pick out weak signals in the presence of other signals or noise.

Hardware ALC for external power amplifier operation.  ALC provides a convenient way to reduce the output power of the FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver when driving external power amplifiers.

Automatic re-centering of Panadapter on Zoom.  Now when zooming in on a panadapter, the active slice or alternately the closest slice receiver will be re-centered before the zoom to quickly close in on the signals of interest.  Zooming without re-centering is still provided by using a click-drag on the frequency scale at the bottom of the panadapter.

New REMOTE POWER ON capability.  The remote jack on the back of every FLEX-6000 has now been enabled as a method to turn on or off your FLEX-6000 transceiver on or off. Now with a simple relay or external control device, your FLEX-6000 can be started and stopped under your command.

Master oscillator calibration capability.  Each FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver has an ultra-low phase noise oscillator for the best low-noise reception.  Unlike other transceivers that must be opened on a periodic basis to adjust the frequency of the master oscillator, SmartSDR now allows frequency calibration with just a software control.  Simply provide a reference signal or use WWV and enable frequency calibration.  SmartSDR will measure the offset and update the master oscillator and store the result to ensure you are always on frequency.

Improved Antenna Switching Logic with broad QSK support.  With new antenna switching logic, every conceivable operating condition has been considered individually and the optimal radio antenna solution that ensures the best operation is now computed automatically by the radio.  Even better support for QSK has been added with this change including support for QRQ QSK up to 100WPM using different receive and transmit antennas.

Updated SmartCAT for increased third party software support.  Several new commands have been added to CAT to support additional software programs and broaden the software that works with the FLEX-6000.

Add RIT/XIT support including operation with FlexControlTM.  Both RIT and XIT have been added including basic operation with the FlexControl.

Improved slice display for narrow band operations (CW, digital modes).  The slice receiver indicators have been updated to include clarity for narrow band modes and some digital modes such as PSK-31.  Key down to RF and slice tone output for CW is world class at less than 8ms.

For more information on this release or to download SmartSDR v1.1 and the associated release notes please visit the FlexRadio Systems website.

Enjoy your new radio!

73,

Your FlexRadio Systems Team

 

My local (in shack) update is 100% and I am in-process on the iMac update.  Looking awesome!

73

Steve

K9ZW

FLEX-6000 SmartSDR How DAX does the hard parts of Digital Modes 20 - December - 2013

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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FlexRadio Systems has released a very encouraging video on the use of the new DAX software to interface for digital modes.

Direct link is: FLEX-6000 SmartSDR DAX HOW-TO – YouTube.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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