Friday, 3 November 2017
1) "my callsign" being sent by a caller...I know my callsign! 2) Unnecessary "tu" reply after my "tu" which covers the next caller....thanks for slowing my rate, agn agn?! 3) "579" rx report rather than just "599" ,does it really matter?...arg tab? space? QRX QRX! 4) "/QRP" ...never do them the favour of repeating back this stupidity...not in log more like! 4) "CFM"...thanks for this needless remark and for slowing my rate! Please note DL especially. 5) "?" covering over callers...you impatient f%^k...just wait till I repeat my call every 20-30secs! 6) "ur call?"...why did you call me if you don't know my call? Just wait till my next cq call you muppet! 7) "pse QRS"...no, you called me, you have all the time in the world to work my callsign out. Did you recognise any of these? An additional note: The reason I am going >30wpm is to role off the pile-up...in short I want to lose your Q...don't call me mid pile-up under 20wpm in this situation, just tune on... I'll get you S&P later at your speed.
Hurray! After 4 years and multiple posts/complaints from cw operators all over the world, Flexradio has finally realised that PTT doesn't work in CW mode. A fix came in v2 of SSDR software and now we can use Flexradio in CW mode (non QSK) for the first time! Flexradio seemed too wrapped up in dealing with QSK ragchew operators and only recently (when looking at contesters needs) finally realised that the customer knew best all along. The fix wasn't well advertised and I was most surprised to find it worked when I tested v2. Now when you unkey you don't have to wait for a QSK delay thus missing the prefix of any return callers. This was the last big bug I have in the basic functionality of SSDR. Now hopefully we can get a noise blanker or some noise reduction functions that work for everyone.
After all the bugs I found on the President Lincoln II for cw operation (see this blog), I was eager to try the II+ to see if President had bothered correcting any of them. Nevada had a flash sale and I decided to pick one up. I shall get straight to the point here.... 0 cw changes...I repeat 0 cw changes. What a massive disappointment. Long DAH problem when initial sent cw element is meant to be a DIT - still there Need to use RIT or split to equalise TX/RX frequencies to make any cw contacts - still the case Initial sent cw DAH frequency change due to RIT being off centre - still there Still the crap double sideband receiver mess - still the case And a new one....when you press and hold the up or down scan button on the microphone, you only hear the frequency you started the scan on. The only way to hear each frequency is to continuously tap either button leaving enough time for the audio to recover between each press. The radio sounds awful, I'm never finished fiddling with the RIT, something in the receiver chain blows big time...voices sound weak and dual tone like a dalek (I'm being kind here). I really cannot express my disappointment in this radio enough. It's not even that I bought an early version (both v3) or a Friday pup, I have two of them and both sound crap. I cannot believe anyone out there who owns an original Lincoln could like this radio. RF engineers at President should hang their heads in shame. Your peers really have showed you a clean pair of heels, the young apprentice has tried to take SMT short cuts and been distracted by DSP trickery and the result is a radio only the newbies could want to like (due to the cost). Any company who has been given free testing resource, free feedback and ignores it all and adds insult to injury by producing an update and calling it "+" as if it is an improvement, then just knocking out the same old crap deserves to go bust. I really do not like President Lincoln II (v3) or President Lincoln II+. I am embarrassed to have recently contributed to their coffers..twice!
Saturday, 20 May 2017
I have discovered that the 6300 does indeed hold the output PTT on as requested by the PC. Unfortunately there is a firmware bug which ignores the input PTT to the 6300 and allows it to unmute the rx as if in semi break-in mode complying to the set delay. This leads to hearing rx hiss between transmitted cw words as the linear is in tx mode and therefore the 6300 rx isn't connected to the antenna. This leads to very tired ears during a 24hr contest with audio hiss chopping in and out during transmit. Flexradio support aren't listening even although they have been told about this problem for years now. I myself have had 2 support tickets ignored. Their beta team cw guys must exclusively use full-break-in and probably don't contest much and are happy with the way it is. I know one flex owner who has thrown the towel in over this issue already. I'm enjoying contesting with the 6300 and although the rx noise during tx is annoying, I can put up with it for now...
Sunday, 5 March 2017
Could it be that we are finally there? The focus return issue between SSDR and N1MM+ was my finger trouble and I was helped by an flex elmer to get it working. The experience of using this functionality for contesting filled me with hope that there was a future where SDR would take over from conventional rigs for contesting. The automatic focus return functionality is essential in SDR contesting as this allows you to make adjustments in SSDR (such as RF gain) and then not have to point the mouse and click back into the N1MM+ call field before you can type in a call sign. This functionality seems fairly benign, but it is essential when under pressure to efficiently work through any pile-up. I'm using the current version of SSDR v1.10.16 (at the time of writing) and have completed several contests (including the ARRL DX CW as MM3T) with it, without being able to complain about funnies. Ok, that's not quite true, I reported a bug (lack of PTT in CW) about 5 months ago and then lost interest for a while. When I realised it still hadn't been fixed in a recent update, I went back and asked the question again only to be told it had been fixed (which of course it hasn't). Here's a quick resume of the bug - Using N1MM+ to pass PTT to SSDR CAT which then should apply PTT on the radio doesn't work in CW mode (whilst using SSDRs winkey emulator functionality). Instead, the Flex is in semi break-in mode and ignores the PTT command allowing the tx to rx switch-over after a predefined delay. To avoid this happening, you have to increase the delay which has the annoying side effect of holding tx on after the message has been sent (effectively masking the first letter of any fast returning stations). If you set up the delay to avoid tx/rx switch-over at a specific key speed (say 32 wpm) and you get a slow speed caller and you reduce the sending speed accordingly you are rewarded with tx/rx popping as it switches to tx on every letter. The practical solution for the meantime is to never play with the sending speed and just put up with missing the occasional fast return. You'd imagine this would be a simple bug to identify and fix if you were a radio ham and a developer of SSDR but alas no... After my last finger trouble (ahem!) I'm still hoping that some kind elmer will show me the error of my ways, but still no fix 8 months on). However, I have to honest with you, I am so much happier with the stability of the basic functions of SSDR (the NR, NB etc still don't function as well as the big three) I am beginning to enjoy the experience of contesting with the Flex. An opportunity came up to purchase a 6500 and in a moment of sheer madness (due to it being a bargain) I sprang the cash! The good news is that this is the radio I should have got in the first place. I'm very much happier with the receive performance during contests (note: not worth the price difference between the 6300 and the 6500 however) and the K3 now hasn't been out the box in a few months. I guess I would now have trouble going back to a conventional rig without a good panadapter. I still wouldn't trust SDRs in a multi-multi contesting environment with RF flying around, but for casual contesting from home, I recon it now could beat conventional set-ups.
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
A repeat review (last time 1/5) after waiting another 6 months for SSDR to evolve and after sending my 6300 for repair due a cpu fan failure. The main problem with the software (Smart SDR) is that it evolves very slowly. I'm not talking about new features, I'm talking about fixing bugs which have plagued users for years. The trouble seems to be that different hardware units behave differently with the same version of SSDR software/firmware mix. This means that sometimes the bug needs several fixes before being fixed for everyone. Different sets of users cry with every version of SSDR so much so I wonder about the quality of the development process. The time between a bug being reported and it being fixed is not dependant on the complexity of the bug, but rather on Flex's own internal development prioritisation. An example of this was the maestro being developed despite a long list of outstanding bugs in the original system. Of course the new Maestro SSDR version caused new bugs and these are being fixed now. New features are rare however, as the job (even after all these years) is still to get the original promised features working effectively. The main problem with the hardware is the racket of the fan which runs constantly. If you imagine putting this transceiver on a desk beside your operating position you'd better have a good pair of noise cancelling headphones ready. This is not just my unit (yes I do own one ;-)) but most other users I have spoken to on air agree. I feel the company are getting there and they definately care about the user base (being radio hams themselves), but they do not seem to have the development talent to get things right first time on time. I'm sure that given time (near future) new users will enjoy a fully working product (I'm still hoping to get an effective noise blanker). The receiver is sensitive, but the noise floor tends to bounce up and down covering weak stations during contests etc. The transmitter tends to output less than 100w and SSDR shows worrying large repeating off frequency spikes (admittedly of a low level) during cw transmission (this effect seems to grow with frequency, 6m being worst). The stability of the system is very much dependant on your desktop PC and home network and your knowledge of it's operation eg. CW transmission starts misbehaving, access your windows task manager and increase priorities for SSDR and decrease priorities of any other software running - of course!). If you are operating remotely, panafall freezing and audio "motor boating" are commonplace, due to latency/buffering, but be assured it is your faithfull wireless routers fault... However the architecture of the 6000 series would suggest these kind of problems are less likely than in some of the competitor products. I am gratefull to Flexradio for bringing us hams these cutting edge products and in the true spirit of ham radio buyers be ready and willing to learn new skills in computer operating systems and networking to get the most out of it. My score of 4/5 is based on an excellent transceiver performance for modest antennas setups (simple wire antennas) in non contesting conditions. It doesn't get a 5 due to the effectiveness of some of SSDR's facilities e.g. NB, NR etc all of which are bested by the big 3.
Sunday, 24 January 2016
Some findings from my first contest with the above setup: 1) No focus return to SSDR from N1MM+ despite have the having this set to N1MM,UDP port 12060 and 1000ms in radio setup dialogue box? I'm new to N1MM+ and SSDR (usually use K3 and WinTest, but the soft winkey doesn't work properly with it) so found it really frustrating having to use the mouse to constantly have to click in the N1MM callsign field every time I touched a control in SSDR. Learned the up/down arrow keys were RIT in N1MM which helped. This is mad as took a few Qs to know that up key was RIT down??? It occurred to me that successful contesting with a Flex really lies in knowing all N1MM+ key strokes to control the radio (need to look into this to see how much of the flex can be controlled from N1MM i.e. filter width etc). 2) The soft winkey seems to work 95% of the time. When it doesn't work it always seemed to have a glitch on the first letter of sending. Every 20 qs or so would mess up causing me to hit the esc key and send again. Setup shouldn't cause varying results? What I was hearing seemed representative of what was being sent as it almost always resulted in them sending their call again. This was hampered by the sidetone sounding distorted and gravelly during the switch from rx to tx (noisy contesting conditions) so it made it hard to determine if there was a sending mistake with the first letter. 3) Noticed on several occasions that I could see better than I could hear. I could see the blip on the screen but couldn't hear it (despite it being in the passband but slightly off center). After a while I noticed that small differences of RIT would then allow me to work them??? So without the bandscope I wouldn't have known something was there to alert me to fine tune RIT. I've never noticed this with the K3 and P3 combo, I could always hear what I could see in the bandscope....amazing/hole in hearing/problem with FFT taps not overlapping and factored properly???...I don't know! 4) One of the massive advantages of this radio is that controls in SSDR work during TX. This used to frustrate me with radios like the K3 who's implementation locked controls during tx. Its been a long and rocky road with the 6300 so far. The latest sw/fw has given me a working radio for the first time in my 4 months ownership (broadband tx splatter fault, hardware fan failure, sprung bpf filter board etc etc). There is no comparison with my K3 rx performance however, with blocking and noise level bouncing up and down evident on the flex with strong adjacent stations (contest conditions). I know its not a fair comparison, the 6300 was my toe in the water with SDR and I'd need to now move to the 6500/6700 so as not to compare apples with oranges? I think I need to do some reading on N1MM+ and determine its extent of control of the flex. This will be the deciding factor for me of whether or not I can use it successfully for serious contesting. Maybe also I need to purchase the flex control tuning whee,l but whether app focus works with that now worries me.