Monthly Archives: May 2018

The spreading ‘eHam disease’

I’ve written before about the eHam policy of protecting the raving insane posts of a click of forum trolls.

Moderation can be part of the solution – but it is largely absent at eHam, which is a mistake by not using the moderator’s position to trim out the disingenuous, false, and slanderous.

It is the PC trend in customer relations to treat all customers as if they were the same. It is the same PC ethos we see permeating throughout society.

In the long run it is unsupportable – economic laws of function require discernment and differentiation.

Marketers talk of it in terms of “Customer Segmentation” where hard evaluations are made in how a company responds to differing classes of customers. They will tell you to divide them into Bronze, Silver and Gold, and then whisper that perhaps the most important part is to identify those who are Lead and should be pushed out.

It is much like making soup – we can argue, plan, test, adjust and do about anything with our good ingredients – the ones that are like our Bronze, Silver and Gold customers in the business segmentation. While some combinations work better, they all work. Whether carrots, onions or potatoes, they all work well in the soup.

But add the Lead Customer – the toxic customer, as if you allowed  something like brake cleaner or floor wax to be added to the soup, the Lead Customer ruins the soup.

Fortunately in business and in forums the caustic effect of treating the septic the same as the health is incremental rather than instantly catastrophic.

Nonetheless allowing the soup to be poisoned isn’t a good thing.

Other forums risk joining eHam’s forum, perhaps out of kindness to all customers whether they play well in a forum or not, by heading down the path which has made personal attack posts the norm – someone there comments they like something the forum’s pet trolls don’t like and the same click will post “ignorant appliance operator Hams like W9….”

Special high risk of going down the eHam path is when they allow repeated “I’m a software engineer and I know the Vendor XYZ is lying when they say Product QWERTY will launch by such a date” posts.

They are allowing the brake cleaner or floor wax to be put in the soup.

Of course the dialogue quickly gets personal on the continuum to “Ad Hitlerian” argumention – personal slanging matches.

Unless a brave forum participant posts a “piss off wanker” response (which unlike eHam who revels in the massive number of hits the latest 14.313 style brawl will bring their website, a few forums will close down a thread quickly when it descends to Ad Hitlerian slanging) it just doesn’t stop.

But that leaves still a huge casualty – truth.

Inaccurate, spurious and outright false claims remain in the community forums, searchable of course.

This is where moderation is needed.

If someone says that the XYZ team are liars for projecting a product launch by a certain date, that unless they KNOW – that they have FACTS that the public statement is wrong, that their post should die under the moderator’s keyboard & mouse. Not doing so will make it impossible for any vendor to offer product projections without risking the adverse marketing trolls being allowed to post with equal project can bring.

I as a community read want to hear what is projected – whether in product features or timeline. Learning what is planned can save me money and helps formulate my future station plans.

Allowing troll comments makes the community and unlikely place to pick up any real information.

And I really don’t want to hear what some armchair quarterback has to say – if I wanted to hear that sort of crap I could go on 14.313 or select 40 & 75m voice nets.

The online community of forums allows those interested unprecedented access to the people who are actually doing it. And I for one do not want to see this access further damaged by the bad combination of timid moderation and pet forum trolls.




The Dayton Hamvention 2018 Question – How Independent is that Test Lab anyway?

The Dayton Hamvention 2018 Question – How Independent is that Test Lab anyway?

The run up to Dayton 2018 was punctuated by competing claims what lab measurements this lab got vs what other labs recorded on several radios.

I am certain other writers have covered the reported numbers, what the numbers mean in real life, and the ins & outs of why measurements might be different.

But I want to comment on a deeper intrigue that has developed.  Not the numbers, as that the very same identical radios appear to have different numbers when tested in different labs is somewhat interesting but perhaps less intriguing when some background events are considered.

The real intrigue appears to be well correlated reports that one of the widely reported labs independence is completely uncertain, after the claimed independent lab sought Manufacturer payment as retainers.

Obviously a lab cannot claim to be independent while in the pay of one or more Manufacturers.

Some labs are transparent with any potential bias, handling it openly for all to see & understand.

For example the league’s lab buys its test samples with league funds, tests them, and then eventually sells them by auction.  They feel this best distances them from the appearance of bias by the league accepting advertising revenue for the products it also tests.

The bias of manufacturer’s in-house labs is fairly clear.  I think we all understand that potential for bias, and even through they most likely test each other products manufacturers don’t publish competitor’s products test results.

Certification labs have an interesting bias, as they are unlikely to overstate performance or minimize problems, as it is their reputation & certification that potentially is at risk.  Of course we all understand that the Manufacturer foots the costs for certification testing, but the Manufacturer isn’t supposed to be able to exert control over the test results.

But what of a non-affiliated lab that asks to be paid by some of the manufacturers of products it tests?  And if that request and potential payments are information kept from the consumers who look to the resulting test rankings for guidance? And what if that payment proposal was to be put on retainer – essentially to be paid on a regular ongoing basis to act as an advocate for the firm paying?

One might understand if a non-aligned lab looked to amortize their expenses by charging a known set fee for any product to be tested.  That is rather like the process behind many of the testing houses we trust for consumer goods.  Greatly the bias is handled in a way everyone is comfortable with and the bias is removed from any trust concerns on test results.

But if a lab has started asking for retainers, which in a testee-testor situation pretty much feel like back-handers, how can we trust that lab’s results now or every again?

It simply isn’t possible.

In the run up to Dayton 2018 one lab appears to have acted against a manufacturer who told them “No we will not put you on retainer.”  Radios that hwhen tested on automated calibrated test gear confirmed or exceeded one manufacturer’s advertised numbers were suddenly reported as deficient by this lab at the same time the lab also went public with information provided ahead of Dayton even knowing the information had a Dayton release date.  Then they didn’t even get the information they released early correct.

Oh did I mention that it happened to be the exact individual radios that automated certified gear confirmed specifications that suddenly had their individual performance questioned?  Was their a problem or was it an uncalibrated test gear issue, or was there something to the requested backhander’s being refused?

And what do we make of the gear that did test well – are those “good tests” or payback-for-retainers?

What a mess.

To make the whole issue more a mess, the levels of performance being tested to exceeds discernible end user’s ability to differentiate.  Instead of these tests being real world, having a performance level above which differences while measurable are not necessarily repeatable nor offer any discernible improvement, they have been hyped to suggest an end user could tell the difference.

The only end user that might be able to tell the difference in test results is if that end user is another piece of test gear!

I happen to have three brands of radios I like their real world numbers well enough to continue to own – FlexRadio Systems, TenTec and Collins.  Specifically the Flex-6000 series, the TenTec Pegasus/Jupiter/Omni-VII radios, and the Collins S-Line/KWM-2A/380 radios.

But there are plenty of other operators who have found MANY other radios offering a performance package that THEY prefer.  I know of one ham who makes a point to negatively comment on most every FlexRadio forum post (in forums that let him) as his experience and opinion truly run against FlexRadio.  That’s A-Okay, for him.  Let me repeat “for him.”

Ditto with hams who perhaps scorn all radios other than FlexRadio System’s radios.

Or those who favor radios that have high scores from testing, especially when we know that at least one non-affiliated test lab may be affiliated by retainer payment?

If you are going to report tested results the test methods, testing lab, and product acquisition need to be trusted – beyond reproach.  Being paid or even asking for payments from ANY of the product manufacturers breaks our trust and makes the test reports a sham.

YMMV and yes I avoided specifically mentioning the exact lab, as they are perhaps owed by the hobby a chance to come clean, fix the trust issue, or simply retire.


Steve K9ZW


Faux SDRs & Vaporware Products at Dayton Hamvention – “The Fake News”

Faux SDRs & Vaporware Products:

Reports from Dayton of new products seem to be far apart, and a couple anticipated products seem lackluster or concept mockups.

Kenwood launched a decidedly non-SDR junior version of what is perhaps best described as half of its flagship transceiver.  “Less good Kenwood stuff but at a lower price point.” Seems sort of radio that they might have launched 4-5 years ago.

Yaesu showed a mock up of a new radio that hyped as an SDR and appears to have some aspects of SDR technology while largely being conventional. From the sparse information any SDR efforts may be limited to mainly generating the Panadapter display. No specifications or price announced, nor availability date indicated. Again what seems like a 4-5 year old product, or maybe more an effort to generate some “Dayton Buzz” rather than a serious technology move forward.

What did you see at Dayton that was innovative, had a price, and you could actually order/buy?


Steve K9ZW




No Dayton Hamvention for me this year (2018)

No Dayton this year:

At nearly the last minute I aborted my Dayton 2018 trip.

Most of the ham friends I’d wanted to catch up with had to work or were traveling, cousins who I look forward to spending time couldn’t be there, unexpectedly we were to have family coming home, work needed my attention, a non-ham trade meeting planned to coordinate with Dayton had to be scrubbed for lack of a quorum, a couple life opportunities had opened up needing exploring, and the XYL would not be along to share the drive as someone needed to be home to meet incoming family….add it all up and it looked like I should stay home

So no Dayton 2018 for me   My Flex Banquet ticket was reallocated to W9DDD, who knows on the DX Banquet as my email went unanswered, and the Society of Midwest Contesters (SMC) ticket for the Contest Dinner went to someone.

Maybe next year!



Island Building, a new Shack and Workshop, Equipment, Tower and Antenna Decisions

More significant construction is happening on my Washington Island (Wisconsin – Island #WI-001L) building.

Garage Build - Framing

Garage Build – Framing

Presently my physical operating position is in the basement of the house, though with the shack technology I’m using I can operate really anywhere on the property or where there is good internet.

This 1200+ square foot building is of course multipurpose – Garage, Workshop, Storage and Shack space.  Initially my focus is on the first three in the list, as this had QTH lacked garaging, a place to work inside on a car or boat, and was lite on storage.

Provisions were designed in to use the building as a Ham Shack when my “on-Island time” increases enough to warrant heating the new building over the winters.

Initially I’m anticipating keeping all the gear in the present shack location, while setting up a dedicated operating position in this new building.  With the FlexRadio System Flex-6700 Radio, their PowerGenius XL Amp, and then 4o3a’s “Flex-Aware” AntennaGenius, RotorGenius and control modules, remoting basically involves bringing fiber out to this new building to connect the operating position gear.

Initial operating position gear concept is a Maestro, a Desktop Win10 PC, and an iMac.  When time allows I’m aiming to do a custom switch-control with slave control heads in both the new building operating position and in the main physical shack.  That’s down the road, as antenna building is the next red hot priority.

First permanent antenna going in is a custom Extra-Heavy-Duty Five-Zero multiband vertical.  Hoping to get the base in when the new building’s approach is poured to save concrete mobilization costs.

I am deciding what follows next, as I may be reserving the 70 Foot Skyneedle and may put up a much simpler “intermediate tower” on the island.

My intent is to operate from the Island with a Hexbeam.   Both noting that Hexbeams perform best somewhat lower than Yagi’s and LPDA’s, and that Hexbeams are questionable in stacked-antenna situations, it seems a waste to put up the 70 foot Skyneedle while only needing to get the Hexbeam up 40 feet.

Presently I have three different Hexbeams – the DX Engineering Multiband I bought while waiting for the others to arrive, the Custom RadioWavz Barrett Sentinel which adds more bands, but is quite large, and an SP7IDX Expedition Grade Hexbeam that was delayed in transit seemly forever while in customs clearance.

Lots to decide.