Welcome to the new FlexRadio Community! Please review the new Community Rules and other important new Community information on the Message Board.
If you are having a problem, please check the Help Center for known solutions.
Need technical support from FlexRadio? It's as simple as Creating a HelpDesk ticket.

Have Other User Intefaces Been Considered ?

2

Answers

  • Robert -- N5IKDRobert -- N5IKD Member ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    The best part about adding our own knobs is that we can define and refine the functions as we wish.( Software defined knobs)
  • edited April 2015
    Paul, I have had that idea for quite some time. But, I have planned to use an old Drake rig I have sitting here that has so many internal problems, that it is beyond salvage. BUT, the case looks nice and all the controls and knobs are there. So, finding a way to interface the controls to an Arduno or even one of the NUC computer modules, and using that as a remote control to SSDR, or even another stand alone app to control the radio, would be a fun project. Just not near enough time to do it. Not to mention all my boatanchor friends would disown me!
    james
    WD5GWY

  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    James;

    While I admire your inventive-ness (I have my R-4B in the closet), do you think perhaps that we are straying perhaps a bit far afield .... from reality ? (I'm beginning to imagine John Cleese in one of his skits working on something like this ('The Bureau Of Funny Control Panels ?') ..... or perhaps a famous canine from that side of the pond ?)

    - Paul, WB5AGFimage
  • edited April 2015
    Only a bit :-)
    But, it can be done and would be different!
    But, straying from reality? Not really. Hardware is there, just requires hooking up all the correct parts and writing some software to go with it.
    And, it's better than throwing away an old rig that still looks good.
    james
    WD5GWY

  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    James;

    After I uploaded the Gromit control panel picture I began to reconsider :

      - plenty of buttons ..... Check
      - some nice large control knobs ..... Check
      - flashing lights .... Check
      - easy access panels ..... Check
      - (and don't forget) that large, green, rotary knob .... Check
      - ergonomically-approved operator's chair ..... Check
      - (and last-but-not-least) headphones ..... Check
      - (but wait !) where's the meter ?! Oh (whew) there on the left .... Check

    See the circular viewport in front of Gromit ? Remember the pictures
    of the round CRTs at Palo Alto Research Center ('PARC') in the 1960's ?
    We could slip one of babies in there - at convenient eye level.
    (This could be the new human interface radio control panel design mantra !)

    re> your comment "Hardware is there ..." That sounds positively 'Zen'.

    (What was it that the guy said when asked why he wanted
           to climb Mt Everest ..... "because it is there.")

    re> your comment "it's better than throwing away an old rig that still looks good."

    You give me hope .... It almost broke-my-heart when I read that the
    National HRO-500 Receiver wasn't-all-that-hot as regards dynamic
    range (its bipolar transistors are somewhat prone to overloading) ....

    Are we finding synergy with the steampunk design ethos ?

    - Paul, WB5AGF

  • KY6LA_HowardKY6LA_Howard La Jolla, CA. Paris and Sablet FranceMember ✭✭✭
    edited March 2017
    Anyone tried the CommCat control panel. Ali 9K2AW sent me a picture of him using it via iPhone Remote

    Here is a screen shot from my iPad. image

    Here is an iPhone screen shot

    image

    Does not show the really cool spectrum display like parallels access but ergonomics for ipad, iPhone look good
  • DH2IDDH2ID Member ✭✭
    edited March 2017
    I took my Fender guitar and I just had to sing this morning:

    I've got a KX3, a SDR with knobs
    it's one of those good jobs
    and then I've got me a Flex-6500
    and I just wondered -
    where have those knobs gone?
    I'm staring at a blank knobless face all day long...

    Yeah I've got the knob loss blues,
    the knob loss blues!

    I feel so bad sending JT nine
    and I wish some knobs were mine!
    Then I went and bought
    on second thought
    a Behringer CMD controller
    My knob loss blues went away
    and this made my day!

    Yeah I've got the knob loss blues,
    the knob loss blues!

    Why oh why did I have to buy
    an Android tablet, yeah that tablet!
    it's got no knobs, no knobs it's got
    that's my blues and my lot
    It controls my Flex just fine
    but I have to pine:

    Yeah I've got the knob loss blues,
    the knob loss blues!

    by DH2ID
  • IW7DMH, EnzoIW7DMH, Enzo Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    @Robert: you hit the target talking about "Software defined knobs". I think we only need some kind of K3-0 device with open programming APIs. I don't think we need more buttons: if only SSDR would give detachable panels we could position all controls in a very simple touchscreen display and position a panafall for each other big monitor.

    @James: I am going on with my arduino projects and now I have programmed most of the SSDR controls. The ones I prefer are the two dedicated knob for filter bandwidth: they can work in HI/LOW or SHIFT/WIDTH mode; you can toggle between with a short click on any of the two knobs and you can reset (normalize) filter bandwidth (400HZ CW, 2400Hz SSB) with a long click. It is the same behaviour you can find in a K3 rig and I think it is the best I ever found. You can use it without having to look at the monitor nor to deal with mouse. Simple use it while you are looking signals on the panadaptor.
    This part of my code is still not very stable, but there is a part of it, that give you the opportunity to program your own knobs and that works fine.  You will find my libraries at this link https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/arduino-library-and-examples.

    73' Enzo
  • IW7DMH, EnzoIW7DMH, Enzo Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    @Robert: you hit the target talking about "Software defined knobs". I think we only need some kind of K3-0 device with open programming APIs. I don't think we need more buttons: if only SSDR would give detachable panels we could position all controls in a very simple touchscreen display and position a panafall for each other big monitor.

    @James: I am going on with my arduino projects and now I have programmed most of the SSDR controls. The ones I prefer are the two dedicated knob for filter bandwidth: they can work in HI/LOW or SHIFT/WIDTH mode; you can toggle between with a short click on any of the two knobs and you can reset (normalize) filter bandwidth (400HZ CW, 2400Hz SSB) with a long click. It is the same behaviour you can find in a K3 rig and I think it is the best I ever found. You can use it without having to look at the monitor nor to deal with mouse. Simple use it while you are looking signals on the panadaptor.
    This part of my code is still not very stable, but there is a part of it, that give you the opportunity to program your own knobs and that works fine.  You will find my libraries at this link https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/arduino-library-and-examples.

    73' Enzo
  • Steve-N5ACSteve-N5AC Community Manager admin
    edited March 2017
    We actually had a lengthy discussion about skeuomorphism when we started work on the interface.  Apple had started down this path several years ago as did many others, but the thinking in the industry (software/UI) was leaning away from these types of interfaces.  Apple is a perfect example as they altered out most of the skeuomorphic elements of their applications as time moved forward.  I think for Apple, most of these elements are gone.

    I actually like skeuomorphic design, but one issue with it is that it tends to be a fashion-style thing.  What looks good today will look tired tomorrow.  Also the skeuomorphic elements I may like might remind you of something you really dislike.  For example, I might make a Collins looking knob and lots of folks might like it, but someone with a Collins that didn't work well for them (ok bad example) might dislike the trip down memory lane.  In the early SmartSDR days we talked about it on and off for a couple of weeks and decided to go with simple design elements with an emphasis on trying to provide an intuitive and clear interface.
  • Ernest - W4EGErnest - W4EG Member ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    Paul,
     No thanks.
    If I wanted a radio "that looked like the Elecraft KX3 plugged into a FLEX-6000."         I would buy it.
    That's why I buy Flex!   No knobs in my house.
    Ps. I go to radio museum to see those knobs antique devices.
  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    Ernest;

    To each their own .... :)

    I even have one in my car (the 'UI' to the 5-speed manual transmission)

    - Paul, WB5AGF
    image
  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    You can't do good work without plenty of knobs-and-buttons :

    image
  • Ernest - W4EGErnest - W4EG Member ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    LOL
  • AE0MWAE0MW Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    I've considered this, and often joked with my local friends that I could interface a Elecraft K3/0 Mini to work with the Signature Series via a BeagleBone Black or Raspberry Pi translator. Now that the remote audio codec is in place, it could be made to be a seamless experience.

    I actually thought about building it but the $700 for a K3/0 Mini was more than I was willing to spend for a novelty item I didn't really care about.

    I figured I could unveil it at Dayton and then run around Benny Hill with both the Elecraft and the Flex people chasing me with pitchforks for committing an act of heresy.

  • Duane  N9DGDuane N9DG Member
    edited April 2015
    I always have to chuckle whenever this topic comes up, and that the comparison to the controls for a vehicle or various other mechanical types of machinery is frequently brought up.

    Basically the premise being that those items have physical controls and never software only controls. And they do so because physical controls make more sense, and yes, they basically do for mechanical things like vehicles and machinery. But that notion fails to consider that those types of objects are all "touchable" physical entities to begin with. And the controls that evolved to drive them are derived from that. In the case of our radio spectrum, it is mostly in the abstract. Nobody has every physically "touched" the radio spectrum with their hands to manipulate it or otherwise control it. So knobs and buttons of our radios are not just natural extensions of existing mechanical properties of the object being controlled like the controls are for vehicles and machinery.

    So basically the knobs and buttons control interfaces that have dominated radio hardware user interfaces for 100+ years now were by virtue of necessity and cost considerations, not because they were ever the "optimal" way to do it.

    The SDR technology of the last 10-15 years finally provides the opportunity to cost effectively do things that are truly more optimal to get around around the radio spectrum. Our beloved waterfall and pan adapters are a big piece of that. Those who "get it" when it comes to all this SDR stuff already know this.

    But there certainly is legitimate debate for how to best design the interface to allow the user to get closer to the radio spectrum itself in various scenarios. But also there isn't a single best solution, there are differing operating styles and goals, with differing operating needs. So just one user interface is not appropriate for all use cases. And yes, physical knobs and buttons control panels do also have a place for certain operating regimes.
  • Duane  N9DGDuane N9DG Member
    edited February 2017
    I have never been a fan of skeuomorphic software UI designs at all. All too often they severely constrain the usability of the software by making the user try to use a "picture" of a physical object on a computer screen that in reality cannot actually be physically touched and manipulated. And to then attempt to control it using a proxy device such as a mouse and mouse pointer. Horribly inefficient, and not user friendly at all.

    Clear back in circa 1997 Kachina did seem to basically understand this with the UI they had for the 505. They made no attempt to draw circular knobs at all. And the control panel that they designed wasn't just a picture of a traditional radio on a computer screen. Though the UI certainly could have been improved upon. But for what was arguably one of the first efforts in this area, they did actually do a pretty good job of it.

  • Steve W6SDMSteve W6SDM Member ✭✭
    edited March 2017
    Ah!  Now I know what to do with my Hammond **** now that I haven't played in a while.

    image
  • Timo - OH5KWTimo - OH5KW Member ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    Panadapter background is kind of skeuomorphism also.

    I mean the lighter area in the center.

    My first impression of it was and still is, tiring eye candy. 

    73, Timo OH5KW

  • DH2IDDH2ID Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    Steve, you can play my "Knob Loss Blues" on it, see above.
    Notes/sound best taken from John Lee ****....
  • edited April 2015
    Thank you Enzo! I have downloaded your libraries. I do appreciate all your hard work. I have thought of using different devices as a control surface for SSDR and the idea I have for recycling an old transceiver keeps coming back to me. It would be a fun project in my mind. And using something like an Arduno to interface the controls on the old radio to my computer would be a challenge but, doable.
    Thanks again.
    james
    WD5GWY
  • Walt - KZ1FWalt - KZ1F Member
    edited February 2017
    It's an interesting subject. I can say that Google and Oracle are not abandoning the 3D look and feel. No, they don't simulate wood grain or rich Corinthian leather but subtle  raised buttons with recessed labels, Android's Material look. Background that are, rather than white or light blue have a subtle linen texture. Very subtle stuff, just not boring Windows API buttons boxes and labels, ala 1989.Isn't Microsoft's new Word doing an open book look and feel with 'pages' that can be 3d flipped and have real dogear page corners?
  • Steve-N5ACSteve-N5AC Community Manager admin
    edited December 2016
    relevant ad courtesy TVLAND: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfKHBB4vt4c
  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    Duane;

    My view is that people basically have not changed in a long (long) time. If you take a healthy human baby (at the right age for this sort of thing) and hold something bright-and-colorful in front of her-or-his face the child will reach out to grab it (and then they usually try to stick it in their mouths .... doubtless for further 'analysis'). If we had access to a baby from a thousand years ago (in good health) and ran the same test then I'm confident that the same results would be noted.

    How many of us 'suffered' as we grew up being told, by those-in-charge, "don't point" ? (Is skeet-shooting an extension of pointing ? Seems likely.)

    When NASA was gearing-up to send a few guys to the Moon 50 years ago what did they come up with for significant instrumentation changes ? A lot of the round gauges that populated aircraft got changed to vertical **** indicators - When the tape went 'up' the quantity was increasing .... When the tape went 'down' .... you get the idea.

    What's been the big craze in aircraft instrumentation for the past 20 (or so) years ? Glass cockpits .... But have the engine throttles changed ? I don't believe so .... you still push them forward for more **** or pull them back for less.

    (Comment - several years ago I was in a western European country on business. The light switches in my hotel room were toggle switches wired so that up-was-off and down-was-on .... Gave me fits. I'll give-a-hint - the toilet was in a little room all by itself; when I first walked into the bathroom and looked around - I became concerned.)

    The point is .... If something is familiar to us, and it works well, then making a change is risky as it may introduce unforeseen difficulties. (Has there ever been a major software release that was well tested beforehand ?)

    - Paul, WB5AGF
  • Asher - K0AUAsher - K0AU Member ✭✭
    edited March 14
    Good discussion.  A really interesting frontier is to shift toward activity-specific interfaces and away from mapping buttons to hardware features.  With the APIs it's pretty easy to purpose-build interfaces for contesting, DXing, digital or whatever you like. You can interact with them on a computer or tablet screen or on 3rd-party control surfaces.  

    Simple example: why would a contest interface offer you a WARC band - or a band you don't have an antenna for?  Better example: a pan showing an entire band with a fast tune knob and a second gang-tuned pan showing +/- 10 or 20 khz centered around a cursor with a slow tune knob.  This is about an hour of coding in the FlexLib API once you've built the frameworks.

    I'm excited with what we'll see in the next 12 months,
  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    Asher;

    I've been wondering if it's feasible to put a UI together that would provide graphic appearances of all commonly accessed radio controls and that, as part of the configuration process, you then selected how many of those appearances you wanted and where they went on the UI screen ?

    I can't remember which one but back about 20 years ago there was a very high-end ham radio transceiver that had so many controls on the front panel that, the one time I got to use one, I had trouble finding the receiver volume control.

    Many years before that there were some ham transmitters (the Hammarlund HX-Fifty and the Central Electronics 100V & 200V) that had little swing-open doors on the front panel that covered controls that were mostly set-and-forget.

    I like the idea of being able to put the set-and-forget controls out-of-the-way so that the remaining screen real estate can be used for the controls that get constantly adjusted.

    - Paul, WB5AGF
  • Joe, KQ1QJoe, KQ1Q Member
    edited April 2015
    N9DG: "I have never been a fan of skeuomorphic software UI designs at all. All too often they severely constrain the usability of the software by making the user try to use a "picture" of a physical object on a computer screen that in reality cannot actually be physically touched and manipulated."

    Yes, that is one argument against skeuomorphic design. There have certainly been mindless excesses: e.g, graphical leather stitching on the Apple calendar which conveys no purpose. Likewise complaints were raised (from designers, not customers) about the iPod player app modeled on a reel-to-reel tape deck. They said most people haven't even seen a tape reel, using that as a metaphor is anachronistic. 

    That said, the reel-to-reel metaphor worked very well. It instantly communicated visually what the app was, what speed it was running, whether rewinding or playing, etc. By contrast the non-skeuomorphic replacement takes longer to visually grasp, and the stripped-out drop shadows makes it unclear what is a pushable button vs what is not. In essence it is a digital speedometer vs an analog gauge: http://www.kammcs.com/img/podcast.jpg

    The very desktop metaphor of computer UIs is by definition skeuomorphic -- folders, trash cans, etc. These were chosen to rapidly convey function to users, so they don't waste time blundering around an unfamiliar interface.

    As in all debates there is a logical reason to non-skeuomorphism. In a properly-designed UI, users may no longer require the visual hand-holding of a real-world metaphor. Cutting the shackles to that can free the designer to produce a "digitally authentic" interface which is (theoretically) more effective.

    However -- in reality anti-skeuomorphism has produced interfaces which many users find sterile, unfamiliar, puzzling, ugly and (worst of all) inefficient. This design trend has ironically materialized at the very time hardware and software are more capable than ever of showing helpful gradients, textures, etc with little to no performance penalty.

    The chief UI designers at Apple and other companies pay lip service to Bauhaus design, which says "form follows function". However their actual implementation of flat UI design often repudiates this. It prioritizes form (the flat non-skeuomorphic look) over function (readability & intuitive elements). In essence, it is a new version of the much-maligned "chrome", no different than other fads of the past like automotive tail fins. It reality it is "chromeless chrome", non-functional flat design elements which adhere to an austere UI doctrine, yet interfere with and obscure the underlying function.
  • Paul, WB5AGFPaul, WB5AGF Member
    edited April 2015
    (FLEXdroid video on YouTube)


    Oh Wow .... Look at this :


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxaVPvTyjaA

  • Robert -- N5IKDRobert -- N5IKD Member ✭✭
    edited April 2015
    When I speak of Software defined knobs I am not thinking of skeuomorphism. In fact I would rather see the computer UI designed around the available input devices for the computer.

    When I think of Software defined knobs I am thinking of knobs that can be configured to the taste of the user. Having such knobs can be a great enhancement to the existing user interface. It doesn't have to be a knobs or no knobs world. Such an interface is useful not only for contesting, but can be used as an interface when you are on battery power.

    Flex Radio can continue to provide the world-class interface as they are doing and we can add our own knobs as we see fit using the provided API.
  • Duane  N9DGDuane N9DG Member
    edited February 2017
    One of the things that I personally find about skeuomorphic designs is that they are generally distracting to what I'm actually wanting to do with the software. My mind has to process and then summarily ignore all of the visual "detail" of say something like a button graphic, its glossy texture, its embedded LED, and all the various other treatments done to it that seek to make it look like a real physical button. Then multiply that mental effort by a whole screen full of them.  Same story for the panadapter window having the look of a room light shining on it.

    Adding the look of a glossy surface to the spectrum display area to emulate the look of a light shining on it is also distracting. It is simply built-in visual QRM, and is the visual equivalent of adding a tone or some other kind of non-radio spectrum audio to the radio's audio output just because. When I look at the panadapter / waterfall I want to see nothing but a graphical representation of the otherwise not visible and abstract radio spectrum. And nothing else.

    When the "Pretty Betty" graphics came out for PowerSDR awhile ago I did not like any of them, not a one. So I simply created my own set of graphics, they certainly won't win any awards for their artistic qualities. But I sought to make them be very clear, and to have very clear edge definition. The various button looks of the available default choices in PowerSDR with all their polished graphic treatments were all tossed. All of that graphic polish to make them to make look like "real" objects, also made the whole UI look like "mush" to me, everything on the UI screen sort of just ran together. My brain had spend considerable energy trying to ignore all of the UI controls graphic details that made them look like physical objects.

    So for example with my customized PowerSDR skin, when a button is clicked on, the entire button turns green, not just a simulated LED in the middle of it. Some treatments were necessary to enhance the clarity of the edge boundaries between the buttons etc., but that was basically it.

    Bottom line is for me I want to see "radio", the otherwise not visible RF spectrum, not the "radio hardware". And ideally, would love to get to the point where when I'm operating the radio's UI, that it is almost as if the UI isn't even there at all. But the whole notion of skeuomorphic radio UIs is the exact opposite of that, they deliberately seek to have you see and focus on the radio "hardware", so in that kind of UI the radio spectrum presentation provided by the panadapter / waterfall area then becomes secondary.

    Again, I want to stress there is no single UI that is right for everyone, and every use case. That's beauty of SDR, there can be a multitude of designs. And the UI design choices to drive the radio hardware no longer need to be mutually exclusive of each other. The radio hardware can accommodate them all.

Leave a Comment

Rich Text Editor. To edit a paragraph's style, hit tab to get to the paragraph menu. From there you will be able to pick one style. Nothing defaults to paragraph. An inline formatting menu will show up when you select text. Hit tab to get into that menu. Some elements, such as rich link embeds, images, loading indicators, and error messages may get inserted into the editor. You may navigate to these using the arrow keys inside of the editor and delete them with the delete or backspace key.