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.
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!
FlexRadio Systems Flex-6700′s Major Announcement – Soup’s On! 14 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K5SDR, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, N6V, SmartSDR
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FlexRadio Systems Flex-6700/6500 radios will start shipping within six weeks of Dayton.
In a major communication Gerald Youngblood K5SDR updates those with deposits on the project status.
The hardware is done.
Production software is not.
With the GUI SmartSDR out on the thin-client the updating procedure module is to be finished.
They are recruiting a limited number of Flex-6700 Software Beta testers who will receive their radios shortly.
I of course have volunteered.
The panadapter module is also being tweaked.
Original commitment was eight slices at 384 kHz for a 3.1 Mhz combined panadapter coverage.
Current implementation is four slices at a whopping 14 Mhz – each!!
This 56 Mhz ( an 18 fold bonus beyond the spec) capability is being reworked into a eight slice configuration. (Four for the 6500).
Gerald K5SDR’s communication provided a lot more information, and a commitment to weekly FlexInsiders starting end of May.
FlexRadio Systems will have four running demonstration units (unfortunately into dummy loads) and a live station in the Ecomm van at Dayton to give customers a hands on feel for the new radios and software, along with 16 of their staff being at the show.
Soup’s On! Almost ready to serve too!
SmartSDR and Flex-6700′s missing link “The Connector” 12 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9TU, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, N6V, SmartSDR
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There have been some very interesting discussions about SmartSDR and the new FlexRadio Systems Flex-6700/6500 radios.
One of the concepts that is becoming clearer is how the architecture is designed – the radio has a “connector” linking software bit between it and the GUI SmartSDR out on the thin-client.
From a Flex-6700 Alpha/Beta tester answering a concern that the links were not in activated for the N6V special event at the recent DX Convention:
Tue, 7 May 2013 13:52:04 +0000
From: Stu Phillips K6TU
Subject: Re: [FlexEdge] FlexRadio 6700 at Visalia IDXC 2013
Key extract from my post:
Some things to keep in mind? this was alpha level software ?
AND it was 3+ weeks ago. The world moves a lot in 3 weeks and so does
software development – if you haven’t experienced the productivity and
development rate of modern software teams, a) your missing out on a great
experience and b) you don’t have a frame of reference.
There was a MIC gain control and it was used to set the MIC level – but it
was externalized by the client (SmartSDR).
Unlike PowerSDR where all the UI and DSP software are combined in one
piece of software, SmartSDR is a THIN client – its basically a user
All the DSP functionality runs on a dedicated processor within the radio
So you have three key elements.
- Functionality (like Mic Gain) in the radio
- A connector to allow that to be driven over the Ethernet
- A control on the user interface to provide end user control
For Visalia, the piece that was “missing” was the connector.
It was a simple matter to add it but changing the spark plugs on the car
the night before the race is ill-advised.
Oh, BTW, the connector appeared the day after Convention.
On 5/7/13 5:48 AM, “radioart” wrote:
Boy, sounds like the SmartSDR has a long way to go if it doesn’t even
have mic gain or EQ capability….
Very selnsible that FlexRadio Systems used a level of software that was a known good deal at the demo station, even it meant that the controls were partially in software other than SmartSDR.
And it was great to hear the missing pieces were adding in within days of that show.
K6TU Recounts the FlexRadio Flex-6700 experience at N6V 7 - May - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
Tags: Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K6TU, N6V, SmartSDR, Visalia
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As promised the first hand reports start, with some very favorable impressions made by this new radio:
I’ve used every major brand of radio in the 40 years I’ve been licensed and a large number of commercial service radios well beyond my check book.
The 6700 is the best receiver I have ever used.
Now that is a powerful statement – the FlexRadio System Flex-6700 evaluated as the best receiver K6TU has used in 40 years of amateur and professional experience regardless of receiver costs.
The filters perform! You can pull signals out of a busy band that are really weak – even when parked next to a very strong station.
It’s not “just” the filters, it’s also about dynamic range.
FlexRadio hasn’t released the dynamic range figure for the 6700 yet but from real world listening, it’s good – very good. As an engineer and VC I deal with quantifiable objectives – so you may have some idea about how much it pains me to make a qualitative statement.
The 6700 is simply the clearest radio I’ve heard.
As they say if you can hear them, you can work them. If the net result is the Flex-6700 hears better it will work others better.
Full K6TU Report at: EtherGeist: FlexRadio 6700 experience at N6V
After reading the report I am certain the wait many of us are making for this new radio sure sounds like it will be well worth our patience.