Interview with Mark Hanson – FRStack
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Interview with Mark Hanson - FRStack

It’s Radioing, Enhanced

The point of a nice car is all the bells and whistles. That’s how Mark Hanson, W3II, feels when it comes to ham radio. An electronics aficionado from birth, Mark is a recognized ham radio operator and now, a recognized radio enhancement guru. He made operating a FlexRadio with SmartSDR even easier. That’s saying a lot. His product, FRStack, utilizes the Flex API and delivers many efficiency bolstering features for your radioing pleasure. Check out the interview with Mark Hanson, W3II.

Q: Please give me a brief history of your career and your draw to ham radio.

A: I was introduced to amateur radio by my high school electronics program teachers; Ernie Banks and Jim Strauss. Jim owned JRS Electronics, an amateur radio store in York, PA, where one of my duties was to repair Kenwood™ and ICOM™ radios. I obtained a Technician Class Ham Ticket and 1st Class RadioTelephone Certificate while in high school. I continued my electronics education at Ohio Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in Electronics Engineering Technology.

In my career I have held many engineering and business roles that include Design Engineer, Architect, Manager, Director and General Manager at companies like Memorex Telex™, Honeywell™ and EMC™.

Q: Were there any major moments in your life that you recognize as guiding you to where you are today?

A: I realized early on that if you are not growing and learning you will fall behind. I had the good fortune to have many engineering and business mentors. While in Columbus I met my future wife and we started our family in Raleigh, NC. She is an amazing mother and ran our household allowing me to focus on my career. Combining my talents with a fundamental belief in teamwork I was able to realize many career successes.

Q: What attracted you to FlexRadio?

A: The “good old days” of building and repairing radios has been enhanced with developing programs and algorithms on the computer. FlexRadio’s reputation, superior amateur radio platform with API attracted me to Flex. When I met the FRS staff I knew I made the right choice.

Q: How does FRStack work with FlexRadio, and what does it deliver for the operator as far as features and efficiency in operation?

A: FRStack utilizes the .NET Flex API interface component to communicate directly with the Flex-6xxx radios. FRStack delivers many features to enhance the FlexRadio experience.

  • FRStack displays the connected radio’s slices w/ s-meter and allows you to visualize and manipulate its properties. Below the slice list is a collection to tabs providing numerous features.
  • Most Recently Used Memories: these memories are automatically created by listening to a frequency for more than 15 seconds. The number of memories per band is set by the user.
  • Memories and Favorite Memories: these memories are created by the user to capture a slice’s frequency, mode, filter width, etc. for easy recall later. These memories can be labeled for easy recall.
  • Mode Memories: Mode memories are just like regular memories except they do not set the frequency. This way you can create your favorite SSB, CW or digital mode settings then apply them to any frequency.
  • Scan Memories: these memories are organized in 20 scan banks to create a scan list.
  • Meter Level Mute (Squelch): this feature will mute the slice when the meter level is below a user configurable threshold.
  • CWX feature
  • Meter Window Bar: displays power, SWR, etc. horizontally or vertically
  • SPE Amplifier Control: this tab and window allows you to control your SPE and syncs radio tune with SPE AMP tune operation.
  • Global Hotkeys: allow radio control from any program
  • REST API and integration with Stream Deck control pad
  • Mute inactive slices
  • TX follows active slice
  • Tune Detection: will optionally set your PGXL or SPE amplifier to standby to allow your frequency detecting auto tuners (like the HF-AUTO) the opportunity to tune at a low power setting. Once tuning is complete the
  • AMP is optionally set to operate.
  • UDP Radio Information Feature: will send data to 1 – 4 configured IP + Port combinations. Use this feature to drive accessory / companion applications like HF-AUTO Antenna Tuning software.
  • SteppIR antenna controller support
  • FRStack supports SmartLink and V3 Multiple Clients

Q: Tell me about the FRStack application development experience. How did the experience go from conception to completion?

A: The FlexAPI comes with source code and is the same component used by SmartSDR for Windows™. I started by building the MRU, Memory, Scanning and Squelch features to enhance my Flex experience then decided to release the application to the community where it was well received. I am the only developer on FRStack; however, the FRS Community has contributed greatly to the feature set and testing of FRStack. Interfacing with the radio is straightforward and any questions or issues I encountered were easily addressed by FRS Engineering, Alphas or the Flex community.

Q: What were the most challenging parts of the process?

A: The most challenging features to develop were the SmartLink and Multi Client support features due to newness of the features and elongated event timing concerns you have with distant remote control.

Q: What were the most enjoyable parts of the creation process?

A: I have always enjoyed problem solving so when a feature implementation becomes challenging the solution becomes that much more fulfilling.

Q: What has been the major feedback you’ve received about the product?

A: FRStack has been well received by the Flex community. I’ve received positive feedback on its feature set and how it improves their operating efficiency.

Q: What are you most proud of in regards to FRStack?

A: The level of adoption by Flex users and the knowledge that FRStack has improved their enjoyment of the radio.

Q: How do you define the success of FRStack?

A: I measure the success by the number of positive public and private feedback and the number of new feature suggestions.

Q: Where do you see FRStack going in the future? What are the possibilities?

A: I would like to see the SmartSDR ecosystem evolve to where there would be no need for FRStack the standalone program as it would be replaced by SmartSDR plugins that could run on Windows, Maestro and Mac™. Today SmartSDR is based upon Windows .NET technology, however, this technology is evolving at a pace where support for many platforms is evolving rapidly.

Q: What other products have you developed?

A: My family developed two iPhone games that are available on the Apple App Store™ and professionally I have developed applications for Web, Windows, iOS™ and Android™ platforms. I am most proud of my and my team’s architecture, design, development efforts on OpenText (EMC) ApplicationXtender© product suite.

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