K9ZW Upgrades to FlexRadio Systems SmartSDR version 3.0 with multiFlex
This week FRS released SmartSDR v3.0 adding multiFlex to the Flex-6000 working environment.
I’ve updated all four K9ZW radios. Actually the Two Flex-6700s were updated as part of the FRS Alpha Testing program, where invited testers were allowed to buy their upgrades early in the process as part of the QA (Quality Assurance) and testing process.
There has been some squabbles about if it was fair or not to ask Alpha Testers to pay for their upgrades? That discussion was privately had, and the Alphas concurred with the FRS payment request to keep the Alpha program clear of any sense of impropriety or favoritism to the Alphas by avoiding any feel of a conflict of interest. Decision made, and bluntly not a decision subject to the review of some of the armchair experts.
All four of my upgrades when quick and slick. Of course not reading the directions slowed down my first 6700 upgrade and doing stupid stuff like not exporting my profiles added to my work load. BTW if you Export your version 2.4.9 profiles and then Import them into 3.0.19 you can save a whole lot of headaches.
I have worked the radios exclusively on Phone and Digital Mode, with the most time spent on Digital Mode due to a temporary hearing issue that I’m getting over. I’ve accessed the radios with my Maestros, Local PCs, Remote PCs, and my iPad/iPhone systems.
Having read the release notes AND reading various software providers compatibility lists, I’ve not tried DogparkSDR for macOS, as Don hasn’t released his v3-compatibile update yet.
I’ve also configured around SliceMaster, which is also in the update process.
Again taking the time to understand the various software and hardware components it hasn’t been my expectation that v3 is the panacea to solve every possible local & remote multi-tasking possibility people can envision.
Along the way I have made constructive suggestions to FRS for additional v3-type features I think hams would use, and of course those added features I would personally like to see added. But I knew that v3 could not be held until every possible feature was perfected, and much of what I was suggesting would be candidates for v3.1, v3.2,v3.3….v3.n point-level releases. Version 3.0 would get the multiFlex capability out to the community with fewer features than a future Version 3.n would contain.
I’m also anticipating some fixing with v3.0 – which if you are astute you can figure out v3.0.19 at least the 19th test version of v3.0
Mostly I am personally interested in collaborative features and multiple-entry-into-the-same-instance features (mirroring and mentoring style features).
There are some interesting issues with v3.0 as you have to do more configuration of how your program is connected to any particular radio by selecting which station you are hooking to the radio. This is most apparent in CAT and DAX. Not a burden compared to the Flexibility (pun intended) v3.0 brings, but your station isn’t going to do very much if you don’t handle the updated configuration needs.
I also knew that v3.0 brings a lot of improvements, but it is not (nor will any software release) “the fix” for a user’s network, PC, and other woes & foibles. If you station had lousy round trip PING numbers with v2.4, certainly v3.0 won’t fix it. If your connectivity is marginal, especially if it is right on the edge of working with v2.4, the added complexity of v3.0 risks pushing it right over the edge.
I’m operating one of stations remotely behind my text editor as I write, a configuration that didn’t work well for me on a Win7Pro i5 machine that I just replaced with a Win10Pro i7 machine – as the problem was less about the operating system or processor than it was about the available total system RAM & whether that RAM was also being tasked for graphics. The new setup with v3.0 is much more responsive and lets many programs be in memory without bringing SmartSDR down.
With the launch of v3.0 the usual attribution of one ham’s personal Cost-Benefit-Analysis as a general rule of thumb game started again. This a really sorry game where a particular ham (let’s call him Joe) decides Joe personally has no mission worth his money & time to upgrade to v3.0, which is really a fine and valid self-analysis of needs. But then he pontificates that Joe’s personal logic – apparently because Joe imagines themself as the center of universe – is a universal truth that applies to ALL hams! As Star Trek’s Dr Spock would say “not logical” from the classical logic viewpoint and outright insulting to the ham community taken as a whole. Personally my takes is these hams are what are called “spoilers” who take pleasure in both fluffing up their own egos and by presuming they have any right to give incomplete or outright false testimony to their fellow hams.
Predictably nearly the same group of “nay sayers” reappear every time new features or a new model rolls out. Most of the time they haven’t tried the software, many times they may not even own the radio, and often they are echo chambers of other’s negative statements. One geriatric ham made claims that lead to a massive thread trying to help him out. A little research quickly identified that he has publicly logged less QSOs in the last year than I’ve made in the background typing this article. He isn’t active, his radios are “shack trophies,” and even if he has the problems he described he wasn’t likely to work towards a solution – and why should he as he was getting more attention complaining than he was getting operating? The community replies apparently replaced as an online form of QSO the QSOs he wanted but wasn’t making with a radio.
And like any period of change, the usual “If I was running FRS I would do….“, “In my 30-40-50 (pick your number) of programming experience (in something unrelated of course) I never saw blah blah blah and FRS is wong/bad/whatever for doing it“, the “I prefer (Insert a Brand of radios) over FRS because of any list of reasons that exclude comparisons adverse to their favorite brand“, and other dishonestly comes out.
And so does the really weird “Cheapskate Ham” who drops $2,000 to $6,000 for a radio with an announced paid major level upgrade program and then starts squabbling that the pre-announced $199 major upgrade fee is far far too much and insult. What idiocy do these folk bring to our community? A couple even complained that FRS wasn’t dragging its feet enough to help space out paid major upgrades over a longer period of time! Looks like some of them might not have even had to even pay for a v2 upgrade as their radio already came with it! Kind of hard to be outraged over imaginary events? Not really if your goal is to attract attention by complaining.
There are real issues and some of the third-party software developers didn’t get themselves ready on time. One prima donna presumed that his outrage was important enough that the world should just put v3.0 on hold because he wasn’t ready. He seem to doubledown on his on-line ire when it was shown his third-party product would work for most users, and it was pretty obvious he was spending more online time being an internet pissant than it looked likely to take to fix his minor glitches. Some folks have said he may have disabled the workaround at some point as well. No matter here as I’m looking to reduce single-point-of-failures in my operations, and an overly volatile developer is a classic case of a “single-point-of-failure” in my book. Something tolerated if there truly is no option, station workarounds planned if I must use their software/hardware, and other contingency plans put into place immediately.
Back to my v3.0 update – I’ve been quietly running an FT8 instance remotely from this PC to one of my stations logging QSOs, including some DX, while listening to Donovan and Dylan, while typing away at this post, briefly taking a few phone calls via speaker phone working out a property sale and some work items. Now I could do a lot of this under v2.4 excepting the bandwidth optimization in v3.0 has created a stable situation where this all runs without issues. The particular station I’m running is scheduled to come down in the next six weeks and presently has my backup Flex-6300 there, so it didn’t seem prudent to offer anyone one else to share its use, though I am monitoring via SmartSDR for iOS on my iPhone on the same band in the SSB portion of the band subject to the 6300 muting out every time my FT8 instance broadcasts.
The Flex-6600 should go back up in operation during the week, as I need a little company IT tech help to allow for the port forwarding through a fairly complex setup. I know I could do it, but if I mess the system up…. so it’s better to let a pro set it up for me.
Presently the Island Flex-6700 is on only if I am on the Island, though I occasionally leave it run between weekends if I’m only going to be away the five days.
The main house Flex-6700 will be going up within two weeks using a temporary antenna and once Fiber ethernet is pulled between the main house and my radio room/workshop, which will let me operate that radio remotely or over the LAN from anywhere on the property.
So consider me upgraded to SmartSDR v3.0 and running!