Rod VA3ON joins Mike to discuss the FlexRadio HF architecture for the new HF operator.
An edited version of this webinar’s full transcript has been provided below for your convenience.
Mike Walker VA3MW — Good day, it’s Mike VA3MW from FlexRadio, and welcome to the QSO Today Expo for September 2022. I am recording this about mid-August 2022 with my good friend, Rod. I’ve asked Rod to maybe comment, he’s had a chance to play with things. Anyway, Rod, good afternoon. How are you?
Rod Hardman VA3ON —Good afternoon. Rod Hardman VA3ON in beautiful Oakville, Ontario.
M.W. —Anyway, Rod, so welcome. Thanks for breaking away from the office for a few minutes. So I dropped off a Flex, it happened to be a 6700. Actually, it was a limited edition one, right? It’s got all the signatures on the bottom.
R.H. — It was really cool. When I flipped it over, all these signatures are there. It looked very, very special.
M.W. —I think there’s only 10 of those.
R.H. — Wow. Well, it’s very cool, and I appreciate the loan. It was really fun to play with. I’ve been very much a traditional… In fact, I’ve only recently had a panadapter, so the idea of going full blown SDR was pretty cool, and then to be able to play with the… Because I’d had a chance on friends’ 6400s, that kind of thing, to play with that and see all the pretty screens and that kind of thing, so I’m not new new to it, but man, to have a look at that 6700 was quite a privilege.
M.W. — Is that what blew you away, was just the panadapter waterfall, initially?
R.H. — Well, that’s the shock, right? When you’re first looking on the-
M.W. — The shock and awe?
R.H. — Yeah, very much so. When I got into this hobby, part of the challenge was visualizing where everything is, and you try to build that little model in your head, and I find with panadapters, all of a sudden, you can see it all, and you go, “Oh, right, that’s what bandwidth is all about,” and you know it-
M.W. — That’s what lower sideband looks like.
R.H. — Yeah, exactly. Exactly, so now I’m able to visualize that rather than just construct the thing in my head, and I know for those of you that have panadapters forever, then this is a big deal, or not a big deal, but when I first saw a panadapter, that was definitely a big deal, one of the reasons I think that if schools are thinking about radios to put in, spend the extra couple of bucks, make sure you get something that has a decent panadapter, and we’re probably going to talk about prices today and that kind of thing, at least the ballparks, and one of the things that’s really cool is we live in a time when there’s an embarrassment of riches, that it doesn’t really cost that much to get into this, and I think there is an impression out there, and we’ll probably talk about this too, these things… To get a big old panadapter up on the wall is expensive. Not so.
M.W. — No, not at all, and not just focusing on our product, but you sort of get your feet wet with these hundred dollars dongles, which give you this vision, and it would’ve been easier for me in school with when they talk about VFO frequency and how much radio spectrum you occupy and why you can’t go to, as an American, 14150 and be on lower sideband, because you will be out of band. You can do it on upper sideband, because you’ll be in band… Type of thing, if that’s where your bandage is, and we keep you honest or Flex keeps you honest, keep you in band, because we actually calculate where your out of band is, whereas any OEM radio, it lets you put the VFO there, it doesn’t really matter what mode you’re in. At least I don’t know about the current ones, because I haven’t been one… I should try my 7300 and see if it lets me do that type of thing, but anyway, weird aside. That visual is the first thing I hear from everybody.
R.H. — As people know that know me, I am one of those rare breeds that is a Mac user, and worse than that, I work in the software development industry, so I am a fussy Mac user, and one of the things that really impressed me about the ecosystem available for Flex was the great Mac software.
I think you mentioned Marcus is the developer out of Germany, DL8MRE, if I’ve got that right. I might have busted his call sign.
M.W. — No, you’re good.
R.H. — Wow. Marcus, you know your stuff, buddy. I am super, super fussy. Mac people know that development standards for Mac are really stringent. Where the buttons go, how the things work, how the menu items work. He did a superb job of porting functionality into the Mac, and I can’t find anything in that software that isn’t available on the Windows platform. I’m pretty sure he is pretty exhaustive on it, and man, some of the little features are… We could spend the whole time just going through that, and I’m sure someday you will. I’m sure you have.
M.W. — We have already, there is a video from a couple years ago.
R.H. — Yeah, link to… Whatever, but wow, it is really impressive, and first off, it made getting going with the 6700 really easy, because I’d actually spent time… I bought the application, because… I probably know where I’m going with this. So I bought the application because software developers should get paid, and it’s good, and it’s not that unreasonably priced, it’s very reasonably priced for what you get, and it is a delightful application, so if you’re on the fence of whether you’re going to go from Windows to Mac, don’t worry about it. It’s going to be okay.
M.W. — Yeah, and the Windows software, by the way is… I won’t say it’s free, it comes with the radio. But not only that, since we’ll spend a few more moments on Marcus, we have the iOS version as well, so did you buy both, or just the…
R.H. — Yes. Yeah. Well, I’m a freaky iOS user as well, a tablet user, and phone user, and I’m all bought in, and part of that is a work thing, part of it is just I love the platform. That doesn’t mean I don’t have Windows boxes all over the place in the shack, but it does mean that it is nice to work in a native application, and again, really great job on the iOS app, super stable. One of my friends refers to it as Chaise Lounge portable, so he can do- This is Mark, and he’s able to [inaudible 00:07:40] for those of you that know, and sits in his backyard and uses his Flex from the iPad on a regular basis, and again, super stable. So lots of choices. My main point here is lots of choices for folks, and if you’re part of systems that are not just mainstream windows, you have those choices, you’re going to be supported.
M.W. — Which is pretty good, because 90% still, it’s… Sorry Mac users, but it’s 85 to 90, the last time I look, it’s still Windows based world.
R.H. — Certainly in ham radio, and we know who we are, right? So I’m speaking to the Mac users out there right now, but I don’t mean to exclude the Windows ones at all, but we know that we pay for stuff and we pay for it with a smile on our faces.
M.W. — Let me add, too, because I know people will ask, “What about Android? What about Linux?” So here’s the stock answer, and it’s a stock answer, but it hasn’t changed. Well aware of the requirement. We probably won’t write either, and there’s variety of reasons, I’m happy to go in depth, but it really is development costs and post-sale support costs that drive that decision.
R.H. — However, we are more than welcome to help support anybody that wants to write that for either or all platforms make it their own, much like happened in the iOS world, and we didn’t even talk about dog park SDR, it’s another Mac one, and I don’t know, Rod, if you’ve played with it. Great developer, another great developer from Toronto, Don V3VRW. We both happen to know him personally, at least I do, and both are great, but Linux and Android, the box is an open source box.
M.W. — We get, “Why don’t you make the software open source?” Well, I’ll be blunt, as we were talking before, we want to get paid, in a way, and we lost a lot of intellectual property with power SDR. So that was part of that decision. It was sort of a lesson learned, but the box is open source. If you were any sort of developer, you want to write a client for a Chromebook or whatever, all the stuff’s online, you could just email us, and I’d be happy to give you the stuff to get going, or you could be creative and just wire shark it and say, “Okay, if I turn the VFO knob, what happens?”, and the waterfall and panadapter, Rod, you may not know this, they’re just movies generated in the radio.
R.H. — I hadn’t thought of it that way, but that’s a really interesting approach. By the way, I’m a Dawn customer as well. I’m a Dawn customer and a Marcus customer and happy to be so. So the point being, I think that you’re making, is that you want an ecosystem to grow up around hardware… Hardware, software ecosystem so that people get paid, they can make a living. I’m sure Don’s not all that rich. I’m sure Marcus is not all that rich. If he can get a living and continue to produce great software, hey, I’m all for that. I’ll put a few bucks towards that every once in a while.
M.W. — So what type of… Oh, first off, I get a lot of emails saying, “I’m not a computer guru, how do I make this work?” Now you are, and you understand enough about networks, but in your biased opinion, could you have given this to your daughter and had her get it up and running?
R.H. — Yeah.
M.W. — How old is your daughter?
R.H. — My daughter is now 19 and got her ticket when she was 13. My youngest daughter is now 14 and has played with the radio, and no trouble at all. She just gets into it. Now the setups for a new ham, it’s not complicated, but any new ham, the first time they take a radio out of the box, is going to look at, “Where do these wires go? What does this actually do?”
M.W. — Any radio?
R.H. — Any radio. So I have to benchmark that against… Elephant on the table, Icom 7300. If you talk a new ham and took a 7300 out of the box, and they do a good job of being relatively simple, it’s still a learning curve, but let’s talk about reasonably experienced hams. Do not think this is a software issue or a network issue. Unless you’re completely clueless about what an IP address is, then…
M.W. — Even then.
R.H. — Even then.
M.W. — Because if I asked you the IP address of the radio, would you know it? You’ve never looked it up.
R.H. — No clue. No clue. It works.
M.W. — Yeah, if you plug it into a network and you turn on the computer, you’ve powered it up, you plugged it into your network, you started the software and the software said, “Hey, I found a radio. You want to connect to it?”
R.H. — It is that sort of moment of delight, by the way. It’s like, “Whoa,” and for however many years I’ve been doing this thing, in software in general, I’m always amazed when something is what I call clean when it just kind of pops up, and then you’re scratching your head going, “How did it know that?” Well, I know intellectually how it knew that, but it still is sort of magical in the same way that I think radio is generally magical anyways.
M.W. — Let’s put it in perspective. A lot easier than finding a com port for your radio.
R.H. — Think about those nightmare days, or during a Windows update, figuring out where your com port went, and we’ve got many, many stories of that, and we won’t belabor that, but it is so much simpler. It’s so much simpler for wiring, and we’ve talked about this before, but it’s a matter of a couple of cables instead of a bunch of other cables, and wondering if I forgot to plug something in.
It just works, and that kind of brings me to one of the things that I’d thought about with this of, “Do I need knobs on the device itself, or would I be happy with a box somewhere else?”, and right now, this sits way down my desk, way over by the power, separate away. It’s a lovely cooling area in there, it’s great, but I operate it from my keyboard, and it’s no loss. I don’t miss not having a knob right beside me. I don’t miss all the traditional interfaces. There may be people that would, and then there’s a radio they can look at for that. So what I’m talking about right now is the 6400 versus the 6400M. I’ve got that right?
M.W. — Yep.
R.H. — Do you want to have a display, a standalone display, or do you not really care? Do you just want an RF deck?
M.W. — You may not have known about this.
R.H. — Yeah, I haven’t got one of those, but I was looking at that, I was even looking at… After a while, I actually got used to just doing the keyboard commands on it and just using a mouse. So I probably will look at one of those. What we’re looking at, if anybody’s listening…
No, you’re watching video. So I’m so used to the audio podcast automatically describing things, but this is the knob that you can get, which is just a… Come on, it’s a USB knob. Okay.
M.W. — Things they’ll say.
R.H. — It’s got a couple buttons on it. Oh, now we’re going to turn this into an episode. I may have… Oh, that is good.
M.W. — If we did this on ham radio workbench, we’d be selling them.
R.H. — We’d be selling them like crazy, but my point is not to sell knobs, but if you do miss just that tactile sense, totally doable, and it’s a USB device, it just plugs in. It’s magical. There’s no configuration here.
So yeah, it’s pretty simple stuff, and like I said, I think there is a decision point for most folks onto whether you want a traditional looking radio that’s going to be right beside your operating position, or whether you are thinking, “Hey, I’m going to put this in a rack somewhere,” and then it’s no trouble at all. If it’s in a rack somewhere, I just go turn it on or make sure it’s turned on, and I do think that sort of client server approach… Remember, I’m talking as a network guy. We did this years ago. You put your compute device separate from your interface device, thin clients and that kind of thing.
M.W. — Let me interrupt you here. I’m displaying the 6400M or the 6600M, and if you’re seeing this for the first time, we have this big warning over here, and there’s going to be a pause. By the time you watch this video, we’ll have stopped shipping these, because we’ve run into a supply chain issue, and believe me, it’s not anything you want to make up, because you can’t make money in a supply chain issue. You can’t ship product out the door. Cars have sort of figured it. As long as you order something base model with nothing extra, you can get the car, type of thing. So I guess we’re the same thing.
It’s a tablet issue. It’s very long story. We’ll probably communicate details on it many times by now, but anyway, so you have not had a chance to put your hands on one of these or a maestro, something else that’s hit by actually the same supply chain issue with the tablet, but Rod, I don’t know if you’ve taken a chance and looked at the knobs. You know what you don’t see on here? The 117 buttons on the front of an FTDX 5000. I counted them, each with multiple level of shift.
R.H. — That’s what makes me crazy about changing devices, is because you learn a certain interface from a certain manufacturer, and then I go over to a buddy’s radio, and now I feel like the chimp in 2001: A Space Odyssey. You’re looking at the monolith and you’re going, “What is this?”
I will tell you categorically, and maybe this fits well with the whole supply chain issue, is, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss it at all. I am probably in the middle of a shift towards more and more software based. Why? Because I need to do logging anyways. So that’s the interface I’m going to be in. I need to do all my operating. I like seeing the status, and oh, by the way, I also bought a great big… From auction. I got a great big television panel that hangs over my workspace that I can actually slide the interfaces up on and see what’s… While I’m doing something else, I can see what’s going on on the bands, and that’s really, really cool.
M.W. — So we’re talk about two different types of mother models of radios, and in our case, we’re talking about all the 6000 series, which have been built since 2013, and the current models, the 6400 and the 6600, and we’re still building the 6700 of it. That’ll be in limited quantity, so let’s just skip over that.
You may or may not be aware, there’s two key components. The first key component in all our radios is something called the spectral capture unit, where we take all of the RF energy coming down the antenna. That means everything from 30 kilohertz to 54 megahertz. That’s a lot of spectrum, and we sample that, and Rod, just for you, that’s 16 bits real time, which turns it, and for the geeky guys, that turns it into a stream of about four gigabits. Okay? Four gigabits. Well that’s 4000 hundred meg home networks. There’s a lot of data flying around in that radio.
R.H. — That’s a lot of data, yes.
M.W. — So some radios have one of these and an antenna switch.
So you can use… I don’t know, my tri band beam or my 8040 trap dog pole, but not at the same time, and I’m not going to say this is the biggest difference between the 6400 and the 6600, but it’s the one that seems to work to explain to people, “What would you do with two spectral capture units in one radio?”, and it’s like having two 6400s on your desk, because now you can use two antennas at the same time.
All of them are main receivers. We call them slices. None of this sub receiver thing, which is sort of… the mic world a “half-assed receiver”, and not quite that bad in today’s world, but certainly in earlier worlds, and so you could be on by listening to… Say you’re on an 80 meter rag chew in the morning and you’re still doing six meter meteor scatter on the other antenna. This is the things you can do in a 6600. Rod, if you ever wanted to take up satellite work on the linear birds, which means you use sideband with the advent of some transverters, you can be listening to your down link on the same radio. I don’t know any of the radio does true full… well, I cautiously have to say that, because I haven’t played with the latest K4 yet, but full duplex on one radio, it used to take two. Now you can do it in one.
R.H. — Exactly.
M.W. — Less bench space.
R.H. — More use of the… I end up using more of my workspace for displays. You end up with multiple screens, and I can get more useful information out of them. So that becomes really, really interesting for me. Not only when I’m working on… Saying we’re working on something on workbench, getting a show outline done, and I’m still watching the bands up there, but as you say, you can use those multiple slices to have a look at it. Now I’m a terrible cont. Mike knows I’m a terrible contester. I’m a contester that dabbles, and would I make full use of a 6600 in a really aggressive contest? I could visualize how a person that was more skilled than me would.
M.W. — Oh, we can teach you that.
R.H. — Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Well, welcome to the slippery slope, but my point is in a kind of backhanded way of saying, “Hey, that provides some really interesting value. As you know, in a contest. You want to watch different bands to make decisions about when you’re going to switch. So when do conditions change? Isn’t it cool that you can watch the other band and be able to switch over and make that conscious decision to switch based on good data, not just a feeling. So like I said, if I was more active in contesting, I am sure that would be definitely a plus plus for me. Now, that said, there’s no reason that you have to not use a 6400 for contesting, from what I have seen.
M.W. — Great contest review, and we haven’t even talked about a lot of things yet. By the way, this is the gooey you haven’t seen or haven’t used yet. This is the Windows gooey.
Let me throw some numbers at you. You could zoom in on a signal. Now I’m just showing the emu. It’s actually the webpage, just to be easy, but you could zoom in so that your resolution is four hertz per pixel. Four hertz per pixel. Well, I mean you could drill right into somebody’s signal and tell them whatever they wanted to know about it, but this is why these radios are actually using some medical science projects as well, is for that sort of resolution. You end up with a piece of test equipment, okay? Not to scare you, but Rod, did you find birdies all over your house you didn’t know you had?
R.H. — Did I ever? It was frightening, and the really cool part is, because you can get down to that resolution, you can get very, very specific and even watch patterns. When you see ones that move, you’re going, “Oh, that’s something heating up. I wonder what that is,” and then you go hunting for it. So I do guarantee for people that once you get sucked into the interface, you’ll start looking for other things around your house.
M.W. — Yeah, I have one to find. Look at that. You can almost read the CW on this one.
M.W. — Type of thing, and then I’m sure… Well 1409… Tell you what, if you’re a digital operator, FTA, amazing… It’s got to be the best RTTY radio I have ever used. If you’ve ever done an RTTY contest and you’ve had an average super hat radio, you have dealt with being swamped by the station beside, and you could never copy a weak signal beside a strong signal. Rod’s heard this lecture before. Blew me away.
I’m a couple hundred miles, 300 miles probably from K3LR, big gun here in the northeast. I’m a little better than a little pistol, but not much. They have huge 80 meteor RTTY signal, they’re out doing their thing, and on their slope, I could see their slope on the waterfall. I could see these two bars up and down from another guy, and I called the guy, was running a hundred watts a wire in Argentina on 80. Worked him. First time.
R.H. — Yep. Yeah, you can get very specific.
M.W. — No more AJC pumping. Remember those days?
R.H. — Well, exactly, and based on your prompting, I started playing around. It’s like any other new toy. You play around, “Well, will it really do this?”, and then I started playing around with the filters and cozying up against a strong signal to look for small signals. It’s not just effective, it’s really, really fun to say that, “Oh wow, that completely goes away,” or it relatively goes away, because you’re looking at… You’re also clicking between things. You can move very, very, very quickly. You’re not moving a knob up and down. So that’s another nice thing I like about the interface, is that you can end up pulling things together that you would think there would be a lot of buttons to push to make it happen. No, I’m sliding stuff around. It works really, really fast.
M.W. — So Rod, not to go on forever, We’re actually further in this at this time than I thought, but that’s okay. I’m going to bring up a comparison chart, and we can both have a look at that, and I can ask you to maybe ask some questions, but this keeps it pretty straightforward. There are more features. So we talked about the spectral capture. So you got that one, you understand that. Then the ATU, if you need an ATU…
R.H. — I’ve always had a sense of, “Well, if there’s an available ATU, I’m probably going to buy it.”
M.W. — For the next guy.
R.H. — Yeah. Now, funny you say that. That’s exactly why I do it, because of the resale value of the unit, is I was thinking, “Okay, if it’s available, why not have it?”, because however it passes from me to somebody else, then it’s probably going to be a positive thing. So make your own decisions. Boy, if you use resident antennas, of course you’re fine.
M.W. — You brought that up too. Our resale value is incredibly high. There are people who bought Flex 6300s in 2013 and are still getting a respectable dollar for them in the used market, because they’re a great starter, you don’t give up any feature functionality. It’s a great radio to put in a remote station, and we didn’t even touch about remote, but remote is truly, truly plug and play. I’m going to summarize really quickly, but you haven’t tried it yet, or have you tried your iPad remote?
R.H. — I haven’t tried yet. I’ve been giving it some serious thought, yes.
M.W. — So it’s a pretty basic setup. You don’t have to worry about static IP addresses or IP reservations or anything. As long as your router does one feature, which most of them come with, it should just work right out of the box. Little caveat. Currently, and may not ever, but we’ll leave that one alone, work on Starlink, at least in its current consumer that uses something called carrier grade NAT. This is where… Why I mean doesn’t work, it means that the radio is on that end of the internet connection. On a carrier grade NAT connection. Very common with wireless ISPs. They give you not a real outside address, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So if you’re thinking that way, ask us. We can work with you on that.
R.H. — Okay, so we’ve talked about slices, which are a function of how many trans converters you have.
M.W. — Actually, we didn’t even get the slices. Front panel display. So the M models have the maestro display. By the way, that’s a big display. If you’ve seen.. That display is eight inches diagonal, not seven. So blind people like me can see it.
R.H. — These are little tablets.
M.W. — We both wear glasses. Slices are receivers, they’re virtual receivers. Consider them like VFO A, VFO B, C, D and then the 6700, A B C D E F G H. It didn’t need a calculator for that.
R.H. — There you go. Alrighty. So as we look at it, we’ve got couple transverters versus one transverter as we move up from 6400 to 6600. The slices function of that, that’s great. Front panel display or not, both available for both levels. The thing that jumps out at me, and I want to know more about, is the difference in the bandpass filters.
M.W. — Sure. So the 6300 came with no bandpass filters. It was a cost saving feature to make it an entry level radio. Once you add the bandpass filters that came out in the 6500, the 6700, and even better in the 6600, makes an amazing field day radio, and these are band reject filters. So I could be operating on 20, and I have a guy operating on 40, and as long as you give a bit of antenna thought, about… Don’t running their diet poles parallel, you’ll find you will not even hear the other guy.
R.H. — This is one of the things I’ve really turned around on.
M.W. — Because you’re a big field day guy. You’ve organized field day, you’re a field day person. You’ve invited me down, I came down once. Well run event down in Oakville. You didn’t think this was a field day radio at all?
R.H. — Not at all. I was like, “Well…” That’s not a flex thing. It’s like an SDR thing in general, is it just doesn’t feel like a field day radio. At least that was my biased perception, because of proximity, and I was thinking, “Oh, this is going to get trampled.” Well, I was wrong. With those built in filters, you can tune out the guy that’s beside you. I don’t have to hear Harry over on CW.
M.W. — Poor Harry.
R.H. — It’s a mutual friend of ours. Sorry, Harry.
M.W. — Actually, he upgraded, he bought a 6600.
R.H. — Well, we’ll get them to bring it out to next field day. That’d be awesome. So yeah, so it really changed my impression of that, and then layer on top of it my positive experiences with the displays, and you go like, “Yeah, this makes field day a lot easier,” rather than the traditional field day turn… Go up the band, go down a band. Now you can kind of literally pounce all over the place, which is a perfect field day thing, and again, because another function of field day is education of relatively new hams, what a great opportunity.
Now, granted, if you want to run a great big display to show off so the audience can kind of see what’s going on, you might have some sunlight issues and you’ve got to worry about a canopy to kind of shade it a little, but that’s just planning.
M.W. — It’s going to rain anyway.
R.H. — Yeah, it’s going to rain. You want to keep it dry. So yeah, I really turned around on this thing, because I’ve been the kind of guy that was, you bring your 7200 out, your Icom 7200 that looks like an old army set, but no, if you want to be competitive, and the Oakville team has been very competitive in the past, then it’s a really great idea to run flexes or to run an SDR of some sort.
M.W. — You’ve heard about SO2R. I’m sure you’ve seen an SO2R set up, and you’ve been presented SO2R, and every time that happens, you get this wonderful presentation that looks like this.
R.H. — Yes.
M.W. — Not to pick on Yon…
R.H. — We’ve had friends that have this configuration, that have wire… This doesn’t even show the number of wires that they’ve got.
M.W. — No, not by a long shot. There’s no power wires, there’s no wire… There’s no control wires, there’s RF wires. This is just the RF wiring in a little bit to show the… This is relationship wiring.
R.H. — This may be counterproductive relationship wiring, now things considered, because you’ve got wires everywhere, and how many shacks have we been in, especially SO2R shacks, when I’ve gone to visit, where there are wires hanging up that have been replaced, but they didn’t go away?
M.W. — You know what? That’s a good point.
R.H. — People are afraid to take them out.
M.W. — Those are RFI issues as well as… For two ways, both transmitting RFI and receiving RFI. The more wire you get rid of… The quieter you are, the more you can hear.
R.H. — Exactly.
M.W. — Not to pick on Yon, because this is from Sierra Echo 3 X-Ray, this was his station, and well laid out, excellent stuff he’s put… At the time he wrote it. You want to know what his station looks like now? Not quite, but this is what is replaced. This is a complete SO2R station showing everything but the DC cables and the computer, where you’re sharing eight antennas through two users, and maybe this is just a single person, but in some environments you could replace… Oh, move my mouse up here. You could replace the 6600M with two 6400Ms and have two operators at the same time sharing all this equipment and all these antennas.
R.H. — Had I talked to you when I first… Well, I did talk to you when I first became a ham, and this is the diagram I was expecting when I got out of the radio.
M.W. — Surprise.
R.H. — Then the horror show of trying to go through the old way of doing this with serial cables and such. So yeah, grossly simplified, and as you said, credit where credit is due, that previous diagram is a really well set up shack. There’s a lot worse out there than that, but this new model of using the ethernet for everything has grossly simplified things, and, oh, by the way, when you go to upgrade something, it’s going to make it a ton simpler.
M.W. — Your com ports don’t change.
R.H. — Oh my gosh. Yeah. All the way from software updates to changing a piece of hardware out, it’s not as big a deal. So I really… From an architecture perspective, this is coming from the guy that used to deal with wiring closets and all this other stuff. Anything that simplifies that has got my vote right out of the gate, and this is something you can do across the product line. This isn’t some special feature of the high end.
M.W. — No, no. We’re seeing more and more vendors picking up ethernet. For those… If you’re new to this or you have a bit of an inkling, we’ve actually integrated… Thanks to an IBM free product called Node Red, we’ve actually been able to tie in pretty much any peripheral now into the ecosystem, and there’s a group, you can go find it on groups.io. Actually, it’s the only node red group on groups.io, of about… I think we have 1500 members all building and trying and Elmering, so that you could say in, “I just want to do one thing and learn about it.” We’re happy to help. We’ve done a ton of talks, number of talks on YouTube, on ham radio, either done by Kyle, whose call sign escape… You remember Kyle’s call sign off the top of your head?
R.H. — No, I’m going to break it. Nope. Sorry.
M.W. — Nope, but you know Kyle and met him, and an amazing teacher, or Dave WO2X, or Ellen Blind, whose call sign escapes me. Amazing people to help. You’ve got something strange going on in your station, and we’re about done, but case in point is, I have a stepper, which is a multi-band HF antenna. It’s electronically driven to change its length and stuff, in case you don’t know why a stepper is. See, I did listen to George the other night, to explain the term. But I put up a six meter beam, and when I go to six meters, I want to automatically switch antennas, not use the stepper and use my six meter.
So thanks to a couple of very simple node red… It’s programming, but I’m going to call them rules, because it’s easier. It’s much better than trying to read code. It’s visual, and it will retract the elements and flip the antenna switch over to the other antenna.
Rod, we’re about done. Anything else you want to share? Let me wrap up a few things. Probably have friends that have radio, so it’s easy for them to share your radio online without having to go to them. The remote we talked about, it’s easy. It’s a great teaching tool. Remote Inc’s been an amazing tool, by the way, and think about this when you’re old and grayer, being in a home or an apartment and sharing a buddy’s radio… Hopefully someday, when I’m lying in a bed in some room that somebody brings their iPad in, so I can just get on the air one last time. Anything else you want to impress us with?
R.H. — One of the things that… There is huge play value in all of this, and one little story I’ll bring out is when I got my hands on a Flex, one of the first things I started talking to about… Actually with George, a friend of ours, is we immediately started talking about, “Oh, I’ll log into yours and you log into mine,” remote operate each other’s station. By the way, within your license restriction. So work that through, but the idea that you can… Once you’re familiar with the interfaces, the idea of using a remote station somewhere is pretty easy.
M.W. — Okay. When you did that… Forget the radio, you were in a whole different part of the world. You learned propagation was different, right?
R.H. — Yeah, exactly. I get to listen.
M.W. — To Japan.
R.H. — Yeah, West coaster. Way to go, guys. Yeah, it’s really, really fun, and the thing I’m noticing with the Flex community, it’s a pretty tight community. It’s like any section of a ham radio in this hobby of hobbies, but there are just so many things once you learn the UI and that you understand the principles of how this is all working, and the fact that I’m kind of remoting to the machine that’s six feet away from me in no different a way than I’m promoting to George’s machine. So yeah, trivial. I really was expecting the setup for this to be a little more substantial than it is, and was delighted. So I’m always happy when a product delights me.
M.W. — Imagine if you were a 40 meter net controller. Now you’ve been on a 40 meter net. Takes two people to do a 40 meter net, right? The east coast guy in the west or the north and south. You could do both.
R.H. — You could, and how cool is that? I often think of it, because as some of you know, I do a fair bit of instruction for new hams and that kind of thing, and I’ve been thinking about how I would incorporate all this in with a new clast, and not only show spectrum displays as a teaching tool, but also show multiple nodes at multiple physical locations and how the same signal sounds in those different spots and that would be really, really cool.
M.W. — Excellent. Well Rod, thank you so much. How do we get hold of you if people don’t trust me, which, that’s just fine, because I’m… I’m the smiling face. How do we find you?
R.H. — Anytime on Twitter, just ping me at @VA3ON.
M.W. — Okay, and if you need us, you can reach us at info or firstname.lastname@example.org. Okay. I have to change my stuff over, and that’s for… Well, we’re happy to help sales wise. We have a dealer list worldwide from a lot of the U, Australia, Canada, et cetera, so we can leverage that.
Wanted to thank everybody for joining us today, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the expo and other presentations on the expo, and we’ll say 73. Rod, thanks for joining us. Pleasure to do it during daylight hours. My pleasure.
R.H. — 73. My pleasure.