Category Archives: SmartSDR

Quick Flex and Stretch – Update and Testing the Flex-6700

My station (home) needed updates installed, as a series of life-events have limited my operating time over the last few weeks.

Quick and easy upgrade of SmartSDR to 1.10.16 followed by a brief on-air test mini-session.

A very kind 5/9+25dB from Masa JE1LET was rewarding after the upgrade. His startion was rocking into here as well.

Next was Chuck 8P9AL (KG9N) who turns out to be the brother-in-law of a well respected local insurance agent, Steve Ford.

Then caught Silas KL3ZJ from North Pole, Alaska. He has one nice QRZ page sharing pictures of his handsome young family and Alaska paradise. Great QSO too.

Here is a quick rundown of the current version of my home QTH station, microphone to antenna:

Microphone – Shure SM5B boom mounted
External Audio Processing/Phantom Power – Behringer
Transceiver – Flex-6700 running SmartSDR v 1.10.16
Amp – Alpha-9500
Metering – Alpha-4510
Tuner – Palstar AT-Auto (used in bypass today)
RF Switching – Array Solutions RatPAK-6N
Antenna – Tennadyne T-8 log periodic

Supporting gear:

Computer – i7 DXer’s Dream Machine by Neal Campbell
Running Software – K9DUR DDUTIL, FlexRadio Systems CAT & DAX, Hamradio Deluxe
Rotor – AlfaSpid RAK
Headset – Radiosport RS60CF
Foot PTT – Radiosport

Remoting Hardware/Software:

FlexRadio Systems Maestro
Pair of Raspberry PI set up Chris K6OZY style
SmartSDR for iOS on an iPhone 6-plus and iPad Air
DogparkSDR on a i7 iMac

Simple but effective station. Has great ears and can also reach out with a good signal.

While I’ve been typing on the iPad I’ve been running QSOs on the iPhone, though I forgot to charge my phone and am going to have to either tether the phone on a charger or shut down SmartSDR for iOS.

73

Steve
K9ZW

What I took away from the 2016 W9DXCC on the Flex-6000/SmartSDR future

First a quick insight into the gap in posts – since my last post a lot has gone on in my world.  Seven countries visited, eleven states, some life issues, some awards and a lot more.   Highs were unexpectedly being made a Fellow of a business education group I’ve been volunteering at and being recognized as one of FlexRadio Systems “Elmer of the Year.”  Downs include losses of a niece to depression and a work colleague to cancer, and taking unwell while at sea.

So the blog was given a short shrift and let lay fallow.

Forward plans will leave space in my schedule for more regular posts.


The 2016 W9DXCC was in Schaumburg Illinois September 16th and 17th. Included was an excellent presentation by Steve N5AC on FlexRadio Systems products and prospects.

For readers not familiar with the Flex-6000 radio series, it’s SmartSDR software (version 1.9.7 as I type), accessories like the Maestro and 4o3a products, and partner software like SmartSDR for iOS and DogparkSDR for the Mac, you will want to do some catch up reading.

I’m going to presume you have a working knowledge of the present product offering and state of affairs.

Here is what I took away from the W9DXCC:

“We’ve only just begun…” – FRS has some awesome plans for SmartSDR and shared that in the 6-month sort of horizon we will see one radio supporting more than one client, integrated VPN type WAN networking, and much more….

“I’d like to teach the world to sing…” – with with an increasing percentage of ham dollars spent on SDR radio designs of various types.  FRS will continue to lead as an SDR with a full ecosystem.

“Come Together…” – with tighter integration of hardware like the 4o3a Antenna, Station, Rotor and Power Genius products being able to work seamlessly with SmartSDR, very tight integration of some third-party software packages like digital programs and loggers.  N1MM+ was mentioned several times.

“Different Strokes for Different Folks…” – that interfacing to a Flex-6000 by SmartSDR for Windows, SmartSDR for iOS, SmartSDR for Maestro and DogparkSDR for OSX is the groundwork for even more offerings of different ways to run your Flex-6000.

“Picture yourself on a boat on a river…,” “I’m leaving on a jet plane…,” “Somewhere, Across the Sea….” – remoting to  Flex-6000 unit will become a norm. Whether from your office desk to your radio shack downstairs or from an airplane in flight over another continent to your home station, it will be easy.

Steve N5AC did shated some awesome clips demonstrating the effectiveness of the Filters and algorithms behind the WNB filter and the CESSB TX audio.   I hadn’t understood why my 6700 barefoot got out better than non-flex radios with a small amp until the benefits of the algorithms putting nearly 3dB effectivity in the Flex-6700’s output was graphically shown.

The cost effectiveness of using a Flex-6000 was shown, and will greatly outdistance the competition when the Flex SOnR box launches with the Flex-6500 w/SOnR box and Flex-6300 w/SOnR box really being cost effective setups.

There was more shared and hinted, but I’ll leave it to FRS to put legs to   future plans when it is right for their purposes.

73

Steve K9ZW

 

 

 

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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Planning incorporating the Game Changer technologies of the Flex-6000, Maestro and SmartSDR

From a thread I started at the FlexRadio Systems Community:

It is really interesting what the Flex-6000, Maestro and LAN (and eventually WAN) versions of SmartSDR do to allow for significant differences in station design.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been putting together the design and gear for a second summer home QTH that happens to be out on an Island.

Initially the concept was to put a heated ham shack space in the end of the new garage/workshop project.  Several generations of drawings and three sets of proper architectural renderings & plans (part of the packet eventually to pull the permit and for the builders).

The Maestro led to a rethink where the main operating point could be separate from the radio room, and the result was thoughts moved to the idea of to place all the radios in the main house’s lower level utility room (a room basically blasted out of bedrock and concrete lined) and my where the Maestro & Laptop set operating point to a desk in the main living space.  The lower area would get the non-Flex gear and might be where I would contest from.

That seemed a decent idea and drawings showing the numerous feedlines, other wiring to a multi-antenna layout were completed.

Enter the potential to seamlessly use the 4O3A Antenna Genius for 8×2 remote switching and the 4O3A Station Genius to automate a couple loose ends and there suddenly is no reason to bring all the feedlines to the main house – rather a star configuration for HF TX/RX antennas to a Shed – a true “Ham Shack” – would reduce the feedlines to two HF, one VHF and a special 72 Ohm set of lines for the Reversible Beverage On Ground RX-only Antennas.

Potential is there to further move the Flex-6000 itself and the Amp (though this would be simpler once the 4O3A Flex-Ready Amplifier launches) also to the Heated Shed, basically tethering back to operating desk by internet (Cat6e or Wireless)!

Certainly if we build a larger retirement home on the property the infrastructure increases, switching gear needed and all the headaches could be simply putting in a solid internet link between the retirement home and existing summer house and/or Ham Shack Shed.  The anticipated distance will be 1200-1600 feet, so internet can replace expensive ultra-low loss feedlines.

Very attractive compared to trenching into rock to lay heavy duty conduit for hundreds of feet.

It is simply boggling the differences in designs that are now possible, and the increases the next couple hardware and software launches will bring.

On another area the potential improvements in ergonomics may be huge.  I have one of those treadmill/desktop “walking desks” that I enjoy, but never got any radio time when at it.  That can change!  The contesters several ducks in a row counter with shelf above might metamorphose into a different configuration.

Truly a series of Game Changers!

73

Steve K9ZW

W9DXCC Wrap-Up… Hams be prepared just in case, and Buck Rogers Radios

Sitting in our hotel room at the end of the 2015 W9DXCC in Schaumburg, Il.  An excellent experience all around.

The generosity of ones fellows in the hobby cannot be overstated.  I really enjoy these events as the expertise of those with time and resources are shared so willingly!

Keynote speaker was ex-FCC General Counsel, Riley Hollingsworth K4ZDH, who as always spoke well and to the point.  Main take away were two somewhat unexpected things, one about shared humanity and another larger on why the world needs hams even more with the Internet of Things.

On humanity Riley reminded us that those few hams who are awful on the air are largely troubled souls that the system isn’t or can’t help.  Not a few are veterans dealing with those issues.  While not specifically asking for anything from the audience, he brought home that these folk are people too.  Kind of a reminder that we can do better.

The bigger statement was in many ways a vision of a post apocalyptic mission that hams can fill.  As the Internet transitions to the Internet of Things, the risk of systemic failure increases, but worse the risk of system denial (cyber terrorism) has profound consequences that the ham services may help mitigate.

The TEOTWAWKI scenario wasn’t expected, and I have to admit I agree with Riley, including the decentralized ideas he expressed which are the same as those behind the  FREECOM supplement/replacement for EMCOM.

I will return to the FREECOM theme in a future article.

The other huge takeaway for me is again an admiration for the technical excellence and elegance of the FlexRadio Systems Flex-6000 series.

Gerald K5SDR the founder of FlexRadio Systems and Craig K9CT as a member of their advisory team, shared much time showing off upcoming features intended for SmartSDR v1.5, a prototype Maestro unit, and an unreleased hardware accessory.

The intergration and smoothness of the massively expanded capabilities impressed me as much as the feature set.  The feature set had been slowly leaked by FRS so for 80% of the upgrade there is nothing unexpected.

What amazed was how the improvements flowed as if they were always there all along.

I also loved my quick touch and feel chance to play with the Maestro.  Somehow I can imagine a ham not wanting one.  The touchscreen really appealed.

Another fine event- congratulations to NIDXA for putting on such a fine ham gathering.

73

Steve

K9ZW

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Dividing Up Gear between QTH’s – Second Look

Did the first update on my radio matrix splitting gear between home and the Island:

HF (Modern)
QTH          Main Rig       Knob Modern Rig   Amp (for Moderns)
Home        Flex-6700       TenTec Jupiter              Alpha 9500/QSO King 6m
Island        Flex-6300      TenTec Paragon II        Expert 1KW
HF (Vintage)
QTH          Vintage Rig           Amp for Vintage
Home        Collins KWM-2A            Collins 30L1
Island        Collins Full S-Line(1)    Collins 30L1
HF Antennas
QTH         Antenna 1           Antenna 2               RX HF          Vertical
Home      T-8 LPDA           W9INN 1/2 Sloper     Pixel Loop     TBD – 1
Island     Hexbeam   $$     W9INN 1/2 Sloper     n/a                 GAP Titan DX
VHF/UHF
QTH            Transceiver   Directional Antenna    Omni Antenna
Home          Yaesu 1800         T-28 LPDA              TBD – 1
Island          Yaesu 1900    #  TBD – 2                     N6JSX Copper J-Pole
TBD-1 – looking at a “flag pole vertical” which may cover both needs
TBD-2 – Initially not a priority
# – may have an Uliboard Interface added
$$ – island will have a W9INN Spacesaver 160-10m dipole as well.
(1) Full Collins S-Line setup consists of:  32S1 Transmitter, 75S1 Receiver, 312B-4 Station Monitor, 516F-1 Power Supply, 30L-1 RF Amp, N3ZI Digital VFO with Memories, Autek QF-1A Audio Filter, SM-2 Clone Mic, Collins Speaker
The Hexbeam is a SP7IDX Mark II HD that Waldi is building for me.
The Island feedline is on the way – between the shack and the tower I have enough 1/2inch Andrews Superflex hardline coming to do two separate runs.  Feedine will transition to DavisRF’s Buryflex for the vertical run (as the tower is a crank down, the hardline is not the right material for the whole feed), a combination which should bring the feedline losses quite low – adding in the vertical run up the tower and the jumper into the shack proper I calculate total system loss less than 1.5 dB loss for the entire feedline at HF and a loss just over 3 dB at VHF/UHF.    These losses are about half of what I have at the home QTH due to the very long feedline runs there.

Note the Island would also gain a Pixel Loop RX Antenna but only if I added a rig that would use it to do diversity reception.  The Flex-6300 cannot do this.

73

Steve
K9ZW