Category Archives: Hamvention

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.

73

Steve K9ZW

 

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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!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Reflections on Hamvention 2017 by K9ZW

Reflections on Hamvention 2017 by K9ZW

I wanted to wait a week before doing an accounting of my 2017 Hamvention experiences. Needed that long for the wasp sting I somehow got, the impact of the hot weather, the soreness from the long drive and all the mud on my car to all become just memories.

First I cannot overstate how little I miss the nasty old Hara. Though I knew where things were and like an old pair of shoes, there was a certain comfort in familiarity the place simply sucked.

Xenia Fairgrounds is a nicer than typical small town multi-purpose fairgrounds. I happen to love small town America, and personally value the “Norman Rockwell” characteristics of real America.  I’d never been to Xenia but I’ve been a hundred places like Xenia.

This year I traveled with my wife Alison KC9MPL and with friend & neighbor the venerable George Ulm W9EVT. George’s wife Susan had to cancel on short notice as their dog needed special care which was going to go better if one of them stayed back at their farm.

We stayed in a new complex in Miamisburg, Ohio, at the Hilton Garden Hotel that also hosted the FlexRadio System Banquets. The hotel was four years old and basically a better grade traveler’s hotel.  Rates were typical and the surrounding amenities were awesome.  George said he had a couple small problems with his room, but ours was flawless.  The staff was super helpful.

We arrived in time to make the FlexRadio Systems Contester/DXer Banquet on Thursday evening, where the new Flex-6400, Flex-6600, Flex-6400M and Flex-6600M were launched. Very good banquet with lots of news, and with lots of people to talk to.  I was a bit road-weary and did not do my best at talking to all the people I had wanted to meet up with.  Did have a great chat with AB5ED Abed, who is a longtime FRS software engineer.  Abed impressed me asking after my son Winston KC9FVR as they had met at a FRS banquet five years prior.

Friday morning after breakfast in the hotel we set off for Xenia, aiming for the main parking. Unfortunately we were a long time in traffic, due to what we later found out was a traffic accident.  We’d dropped Alison off at the K & G Bicycle Shop where she went off on her own to rent a bike and do the area trails.

Parking went smooth once the accident was cleared (hopefully nobody was hurt) and a fellow with a golf cart came over to help George W9EVT to the Scooter Tent. At 86 years of age George will out lift, carry and outwalk younger hams, but unfortunately not for all day anymore.  So George starts the day using the Scooter to get to the end of a row or to a building/tent and then walks the area, but by lunchtime he needs to ride the Scooter more.  The Scootermobile people are super nice and took care of George.

Now inside the gates we faced having to learn the new layout. I had of course left in the car my annotated “must see” map of exhibitors I wanted to catch up with.  Some things seem to never change when it comes to self-inflicted chaos.

Finding our way into the tents we had a really good long talk with the new owner of TenTec and Alpha Amplifiers. Owner/President Mike N8WFF is a US Navy veteran and we had a really great talk about his plans for the companies.  Talk about a rescue, as both Alpha Amplifiers and TenTec were on their way to disappear having a “can do” fellow like Mike N8WFF pick up the pieces is inspiring.  We did leave with the impression that if Mike N8WFF were to team up with a partner who was marketing & sales orientated the recovery would be quicker.  But that is arm chair quarterbacking at best. BTW the Alpha 4040 Mike says will be finished this year.  Yeah!

On the tents, they were too tight for supersized hams, scooters and people carrying ham sized gear. Hoping the spacing is improved for 2018.

The big exhibition sheds are multipurpose agricultural type metal buildings on concrete slabs. If you live in a Midwestern small town like I do, you’ve been in these sorts of buildings for everything from seeing the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Animal Judging at county fair time, to Craft Beer Brewing events to quilting shows… and everything in between. The lack of Air Conditioning was a bit ugly on Friday, with outside temperatures perhaps getting into the 90’s.  In fairness we’d had bring some outside plants in the house when we left due to frost warnings, so some of temperature complaint was my not being accustomed yet to warm weather this year.

Visited FlexRadio Systems, DX Engineering, Icom, Arlan Communications (RadioSport), RadioWavz, Array Solutions, Amsat, and dozens more that I had marked in my program as “must see.” Spent some time talking with Ranko 4o3a and other celebrity vendors.

It was hot enough that the Beer Garden was of more interest than eating. There was a Steel Drummer playing and an endless choice of foods vendors. Of course huge rain storm had to move in, so we retreated to the sheds. In the end we waited to have a late lunch in the hipster village of Yellow Springs, as Alison had put in their hiding from the rain & lightning while bicycling.  The area trails are really excellent she reports, having done about 40 miles in her casual ride.

While our exit from the fairgrounds had been smooth and quick, I hadn’t let myself get caught in the wrong lane leaving Xenia requiring a 2-3 mile backtrack as a result, nonetheless our ride back to the hotel was quick if very wet.

Friday evening we dressed up and took in the Collins Collectors Association Banquet held at the Miami Valley Country Club. The country club is about 4 miles south of the old remote parking at the former Salem Mall and is a wonderful retro-swank old style club.  At the table I was sat next to Mike March K4QU of Morse key making renown.  He does some keys in conjunction with a master engraver, and once she is done these are fantastic works of art that also rock for sending code.  https://sites.google.com/site/marchmagneticpaddles/ is his website.

Saturday saw George W9EVT and myself off to the show early, meeting with my cousin Dale N6JSX for a final morning of looking around. Heavy rains dampened out enthusiasm and we headed back to the hotel early than planned.  Alison spent the day touring with Dale’s wife Becky N9KUV.

George W9EVT bowed out for our third banquet of Hamvention 2017, the general audience targeted FlexRadio System Banquet. This was an excellent event as Mac W4AX did an outstanding presentation on use of the USB control from your Flex-6000 to automate your station – https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/flexradio-usb-configuration-possibilities has some of his charts.  Basically a Flex-6000 has a programmable interface by USB that can control about every aspect of your station, right down to an “On the Air” sign!

We had a really good chat with fellow NEWDXA member Jerry K9USN. Again I think I missed talking to quite a few people I had intended to catch up with, but that happens when your XYL’s feelings need to be taken into consideration.

Very early Sunday we hit the road, and dove first home, then with another of my sons Victor KC9NWB drove George W9EVT the last 115 miles up to the ferry that takes him to his Island.

Was Hamvention 2017 better for all the changes? Resoundingly YES.

Was it all worked out and perfect? No but it wasn’t bad either.

The swap mart got all muddy – that isn’t bad compared to sewage volcanos bubbling up in the swap meet area like at the Hara. The exhibition sheds were hot – but they were despite claims of A/C at the Hara. The beer garden was outside compared to the ice cold bar room at the Hara, but also it was possible to get a beer instantly compared to the Hara 20 minutes in line.

Different Hamvention – some stuff better, some stuff worse, and all things Ham!

What are our 2018 plans? Undecided, but not for Hamvention reasons, but because of other travel opportunity reasons.

Glad we went, good time had by all and a tip of the hat to the DARA team for making a difficult transition work out.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Other Hamvention 2017 Predictions

Other Predictions for Hamvention 2017

Not secret at all are the pre-announced series of new Icom transceivers, the return of the IC-7200 and a new SWL Receiver.

Yaesu is a bit harder to predict, as in general one would think they will expand their C4FM/WIRES-X/Fusion products, but just like the three lables are similar but not the same, it may be hard to pick out what is what.

Will Kenwood have more D-Star offerings? Likely, as they have entered that camp.

TenTec will be back with improved product (anticipate the Omni-VII and Eagle), a possible redesign (Jupiter Mark II) and if we’re luck some news on whether an Orion-III will ever happen.

Same owner will be there with new Alpha-9500 and manual tune Alpha amps, and with news on the Alpha-4040 Auto Tuner.

Jeff KE9V told me he expects to see more portable “weekender-type” gear – antennas, radios and other operating components, and I wholly concur. KE9V is also predicting items tailored for the Sprint Type Contester, as so few of us can block off a couple days for major contests.  I’m thinking again he has this right, though I think it will be less gear than revised/new contests.

Remote Operations is a hot button, as our ever graying hobby membership move to sheltered living they appreciate the opportunity to stay active remotely. Improved and lower cost technology make this a product class, rather than something special.

Another trend I am predicting is more offerings in the Premium End of the hobby. The retiree’s wealth often allows a Bengali Key and other top-shelf high performance station components.  Thinking we will see more.

The Hamvention itself will be a rewarding chaos. There are concerns with record attendance forecast and limited parking that Xenia & surrounds could become grid-locked.  I’m guessing this is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride as logistics get sorted out.

With only one building Air-Conditioned the 80 degree weather is a bit concerning. Again with the age of many hams this is a wellness as well as comfort issue.

73

Steve K9ZW

What we will see at Dayton 2015?

Hard to imagine that Dayton Hamvention 20115 is just over a week away!

Planning to take in the Collins Collectors Association Dinner on Friday Evening and the FlexRadio Systems Banquet on Saturday evening.

Of huge interest is what new thing(s) will Hamvention 2015 bring?

The first generation of Touch-Screen HT’s is here, adding soft-key functionality to the HT format.  If having your HT act like your Smartphone is you bag, you will love these new HTs.

More Touch-Screen & large enhanced display Mobile radios are also announced.  Several look very fine indeed in early ad copy, and could look very nice in a modern vehicle compared to the graft-in industrial-appliance look & feel of many radios now.

There a a raft of new exciting small-SDR receivers and transceivers, many at low enough price points that most anyone can join the SDR game.

Though there is no announcement and as usual FlexRadio Systems’ information release discipline impressively has not put legs to any buzz yet, I am expecting to at a minimum a major point release of SmartSDR even though the 1.4.x release is still only weeks old, and I’ll go on a limb to predict at least a public beta of the functionality of SmartSDR 2.0.x if not a release.  This will be the long awaited WAN-enabled version that lets scenarios like working from my home station from my office desk miles away become routine rather than technically advanced.  I am also predicting a QRP/low-power single slice radio either positioned between the last production PowerSDR radio the Flex-1500 and the current value leader SmartSDR Flex-6300, or as a replacement to the Flex-1500.  We may see significant either third party produced or FlexRadio System marketed additional software options and/or hardware options.  Wondering if a native-OS-X version of SmartSDR might be at least shown?

The mainstream radio producers will continue to push evolutionary improvements of what is largely their present platforms, but don’t be surprised if at least one or more either show or are talking about a new SDR version.

Hoping that some of the rumored shack-integration developments are seen in real products.

Unanswered is whether the recently corporately reconfigured RF Concepts Alpha & TenTec ownership will be ready to offer new radios and the long overdue Alpha 4040 Autotuner?  The recent ownership change may push off expected launches, or again may not?  We will have to wait to see.

The market for high-end designer CW Keys seems prime for some new product launches.  With some of the consolidation with Bencher folded into Vibroplex, perhaps they will have new models to show – maybe even a new premium line product?

The strong dollar may bring in some more of the excellent Euro_Gear we read about but seldom see.

More thoughts will be posted over the run up to my travels to Dayton.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Dayton 2014 – a recap of K9ZW’s Hamvention

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

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