Category Archives: FlexRadio Systems

K9ZW Washington Island Operating Gear

The Island setup is evolving and when not in the radio room will be based on a Maestro with a Touch Screen ToughBook.

Here is a quick shot of what I am working on for the Washington Island – Wisconsin QTH’s portable operating position.

This is what I will be able to operate from (adding a headset & PTT in many cases) from anywhere I connect with my wireless system there.

Paired with the Maestro is a Touchscreen Toughbook laptop to do logging and other site-mobility chores. They will be wireless to the new Flex-6700.

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

ToughBooks are available refurbished under $300 with licensed operating system from Toughbook Tech.

Built strong enough to be a aircraft wheel-chock!

Ruggedized touchscreen does better with the stylus than finger jabs, which is a contrast to the Maestro touch screen sensitivity.

For activation of smaller islands the Maestro & Flex-6700 will stay behind, with the Flex-6300 then being paired with the Toughbook via SmartSDR for Windows.

For antennas I have several choices there. Typically I have been using a SteppIR CrankIR with the Flex-6300 for island activations other than the main island. I have several other portable antenna options.

Depends on what Island access I’m allowed (full setup on the activated Island or using one of the US Island Programs alternative rules when not allowed to completely disembark. http://www.usislands.org I think is the URL.)

On Washington Island itself I have a proper antenna farm in the works. As I am rethinking this whole setup you’re invited to follow along as I rework plans.

Still to come is a mobilization preparation of the Flex-6300 to keep everything needed together and protect it from some level of adverse weather while out on the smaller islands.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Tunneling a VPN for Maestro

The present release series of SmartSDR in all favors (for Windows, for Meastro, for Server) have local area network connections implemented, but that everything on the same LAN is limiting.

I’ve long wanted to be able to run my home station from my office as often DX opportunities happen only when I need to be on site working.

FlexRadio System has announced that the LAN barrier will be broken with version 2.0, and that is a ways out.

Chris K6OZY has kindly prepared a couple YouTube Videos and notes on how to use SoftEther VPN with two Raspberry Pi units to create a VPN server and a VPN bridge unit.

There are other ways to do a suitable VPN but this has advantages worth considering.  Read the FlexRadio Systems Threads on the topic to look through those.

Amazon sourcing for the hardware:

Pair of Raspberry Pi Kits

Pair of Raspberry Pi Kits

 

Kits Guts

Kits Guts

With help from son Winston KC9FVR to fit the error I made, the server and the bridge were set up.  Took us two evenings mainly because I wanted to do a fair bit myself rather than letting “Mr Geek” KC9FVR do everything.

Results are fabulously fun!!

Home Radio shows in Remote Finder

Home Radio shows in Remote Finder

 

Connected Remote Maestro running QSOs

Connected Remote Maestro running QSOs

 

Maestro Remote with VPN Bridge

Maestro Remote with VPN Bridge

What more is there to say?  Ran QSOs until KC9FVR reminded me he wanted to head off to sign up for his next classes on some on-line University system,

Downing everything has not been a problem, but we will clone the SD Cards for both the Server and the Bridge next.

Catch you on the air!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Maestro Road/Boat Trip to Washington Island

Pictures and much of text was originally posted at the FlexRadio Systems Community forum as I described my first weekend Maestro excursion.


 

Winds made the ride almost an hour

Winds made the ride almost an hour

 

Okay, just like a Flat Stanley, where have you taken your Maestro to go do radios?

Snapshot is quick shot off the ferry boat to Washington Island, Wisconsin (US Island WI-001L) where this weekend it will be a quick overnight running a Flex-6300 with a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Weather is a bit edgy though I hope the wind drops and drizzle stops long enough to get the antenna setup yet today.

With it sleeting out who knows?

So where has your Maestro gone?

A quick set of photos. (The small boar is one my youngest Vic KC9NWB shot.)

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge.

The Flex-6300 needed a software upgrade to run with the Maestro.

Maestro conducting another Software Update

Maestro conducting another Software Update

The strong signal is George W9EVT who live about 3/4 a mile away.

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

Bands have not been good and highly variable. Definitely seeing my antenna limitations holding QSO count way down.

Have been playing with also running K6TU iPad control and on the Win10 box other programs like DDUTIL alongside the Maestro.

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Off for coffee and church, hopefully my rate will improve afterwards.

One of the observant forum members comment on how my Maestro edged close to the table’s edge:

Steve, your making me nervous. The Maestro is too close to the edge of your table. Nice pics.
73 de Rob K1SR

And I replied:  Thank you. The Maestro with tilt feet gives such a solid feel that you spotted how I crept it up near the table edge.

Didn’t seem as worrying in the flesh as in photos, and certainly is an interesting phenomena as I try to be careful.

Running a vertical wire antenna in this weekend’s bands wasn’t a highly productive exercise. Would have twenty-thirty signals on a band, then only a few weak traces and all over between extremes.

Snowed and deleted, so never got the Maestro outside either.

Until next trip.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Maestro Initial Impression – FlexRadio Systems knocks out a Grand Slam with this accessory!

FlexRadio Systems Maestro

FlexRadio Systems Maestro

Earlier this week I became a Maestro owner, and have now had a chance to make a number of QSOs.  Really wish I could have taken some time off work to pound out a couple hundred QSOs but wasn’t going to happen.

Initial impressions are really positive here!  Set up was slick and easy.  I was running QSOs within minutes of unboxing, which makes sense as this accessory if really just a different HMI (Human-Machine Interface) running now familiar SmartSDR in a LAN-remote fashion.

I’ve really enjoyed sitting in our dining room and on the deck doing radio, rather than limited to the shack down in the house’s original wine cellar.

A really cool and unexpected bonus is that the Maestro has intrigued the family.  Better Half is impressed (always a good thing for deistic tranquility) and middle son is helping me do a Raspberry Pi 3 based dedicated VPN remote project based on work presented by Chris K6OZY.  The project is neat, as I should be able to remote a Maestro from my office desk back to my home shack’s Flex-6700, but more importantly I have the attention and engagement of an otherwise very inactive youth ham (this son has his General Class, but is more interested in technology than QSOs).  That I might be able to pick up some of the uncommon DX that ends up being a no-QSO due to my extended work hours is not a bad thing either!

I’ll be pairing a Maestro with a Panasonic ToughBook at the Island QTH.  The laptop is about logging and doing the station control.

Really looking forward to working with a Maestro and this small laptop for logging, and I mentioned a few weeks ago a where I am very excited it is there is now going to be a lot more operating time going to opening up for me by using a Maestro.

FRS hasn’t said how many Maestros were built in the initial production run, but they did say there was a 100 unit pre-general release run made.  From the photos FRS released they would appear to be more than 800 units in the initial run, maybe much more if they only showed part.  With accessories it looks like the Maestro is a million dollar product right from first general release.

When you consider how polished the initial release is and then reflect on where the Maestro is going wit the pre-announced version 1.8 and 2.0 upgrades, I think FRS has knocked another one out of the park!  Congratulations and well done!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Maestros Arrived – FlexRadio Systems latest

Tuesday May 10th and UPS delivered.

UPS delivered three boxes

UPS delivered three boxes

Which were carefully opened.

The boxes disgorge the new FlexRadio System gear

The boxes disgorge the new FlexRadio System gear

And a quick setup and it was QSO making time!!!

Quick setup/configuration

Quick setup/configuration

Hello Waterfall and Radio

Hello Waterfall and Radio

QSO time!

QSO time!

Simply having a blast exploring the capabilities.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Maestros Coming – FlexRadio Systems starts the roll-out process

FlexRadio Systems Maestro

FlexRadio Systems Maestro

Starting Monday April 25th FlexRadio Systems started the fulfillment process for Maestro pre-orders confirming invoices, ship-to information and payment arrangements.

When my automated invoice arrived it was actually a second go, as I had updated my order by phone a week earlier as my order for several units had messed up the automatic system.   (I wanted a unit for each QTH).

There are a nice variety of accessories available, which I added what I felt would be useful.  I’ve already acquired a couple of the recommended batteries for each unit.

When they arrive each radio and any related computer running SmartSDR will need to be updated to v 1.7.xx. I don’t know if the arriving units include the software, information to a dedicated link, or if their will be a wider release.   Wait and see.

Really looking forward to working with a Maestro and a small laptop for logging, as if performance is where I hope it is there is a lot more operating time going to open up for me.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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