A conversation needed pre purchase

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I am moving into Flex 6600M from being an avid ICOM 7610 user and I feel for people like us, the first time converts to flex,there should be a special selling process. They should ask what amp Antenna and any other electronics we use in our daily hamming. Then they should produce a list of things we will need to get seemless transition between Flex and whatever else we have.

For ex. I used a SteppIR with CI/V control with icom. It was flawless integration and I never had to think twice about it. Similarly I should have been told I’ll need an S12 cable or for my kat-500/Kpa-500 combo I should get a ftdi serial cable with a null modem cable before connecting.

That’d have made my life so much simpler. I wish Flex will be a lot more proactive than the current state of affairs.

Having said that I must say the quality of reception is better than any radio I have ever seen including the IC-7851 and only behind perhaps a K3S. It pulls up signals that icom and Yaesu don’t even register. Specially in noisy Silicon Valley. Love the idea of spots on pan but would be nice to see them on the main device screen instead of computer screen. Oh well.
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Amlan - AI6XN

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Posted 3 months ago

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Bill Roberts

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What you describe is not ham radio. Before making a major upgrade, most of us research, ask our friends or radio club members. Any station upgrades are not without their setbacks.

Flex is still a small company. I doubt they have the resources to sell radios like an automobile dealership. They do provide this excellent forum for exchanging information and lessons learned. If you do encounter problems, they support you patiently and professionally. When have the presidents of IKY gotten on a web forum to address sticky issues?
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Amlan - AI6XN

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Fair enough. I should have been clearer, I was referring to “Ideas” posts, not posts in general.

When a stranger says he is surprised that I didn’t order a complete installation with the purchase of a radio, without having the slightest clue about who I am or what I know about radios or absolutely anything else for that matter, I think s/he forfeits the right to be treated in respectful way that I’ll treat anyone else. Personal attacks are just not condonable.

Just so you know, I have received several emails from long time members of this forum, warning me about such behaviors targeted toward anyone daring to suggest any improvement of the FLEX platform in any way shape or form.

I am also informed that some of them actually stopped suggesting any improvement whatsoever to avoid such personal attacks. Ultimately all this behavior accomplishes is to make Flex the loser in the process.

It’s great to be a fan but not a sycophant.

-A
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Jay / NO5J

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Free speech is everyone's right, Being civil is everyone's responsibility.

#FlexRadio IRC chat

   73, Jay - NO5J

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Michael Coslo

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Amlan - Take this as a friendly suggestion.  You need to contact Flex Radio directly - if you post in a public forum, Flex has no control over people who disagree with you. This way you will not be upset or angry.

But to answer your question - A Flex radio operates on antennas just like any other radio, and can be interfaced successfully to a wide range of amplifiers. Obviously the Flex radio will mate with Flex's power amp, but  I'm using a PW-1 Icom Amplifier, and have it bandswitching outside the Icom environment FB. You need the same sort of peripheral equipment. Your desired setup is going to be unique to your situation, and as a Ham, you have the technicical acumen to figure that out. Enjoy the research, that's half the fun.
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David Decoons wo2x, Elmer

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If you had come here first and asked what you would need to interface everything you would have had plenty of people willing to help.

Dave wo2x
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Michael Coslo

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Exactly, Dave. I can tell someone a lot of info if they ask - I think that occasionally someone will ask for something without completely understanding the magnitude of what they are asking for. So some of our folks will get kinda defensive about it. 
If the question is simply stated you'd get a lot of answers - although antenna questions will get an inundation of conflicting answers. But connecting logging programs or mode programs - heck most of us are her to help.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I suppose we can blame Flex for not asking hundreds of questions and asking about every detail about our stations and make sure we have EVERYTHING we need to make it all work together.
Why not? this takes all the responsibility from the customer to find out what they need for connectivity.
But that is not how our world works most the time. It is prudent for the customer to to read, ask what is needed since they know more about the needs of their own station then Flex does.

In the design of the Flex products connectivity is what Flex is all about, station integration is what Flex is built on, there really is nothing simpler then Flex connectivity.

Some time ago I bought a new TV, It uses HDMI connections instead of the old TV coax and RCA plugs for audio. It is a good thing I asked questions about how I would connect things up at home and bought the HDMI cable when I bought the TV. It saved me a trip back to the store 10 miles away to get things I needed. But I did my research and knew what I needed before buying it. And if I had asked a few more questions I would have found out an HDMI cable came with the TV in the package.

For many of you coming from other radios, it may take some time to understand how Flex helps their customers and the level of details they cover. But at times as much as they try sometimes things go wrong
Hear is something to ponder, Flex is such a small company, every posting with praise or critical comments ripples through the company. Every worker hears about it and wears it. Unlike some larger companies where communications drop on a desk somewhere and is misplaced.
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Amlan - AI6XN

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Bill

Not sure how you imagined the idea of blame. It was posted as an idea and a suggestion of a potential improvement of sales process for a very specific set of users encountering this platform for the first time.

If I buy a $5K or $8k Radio from any manufacturer I expect a certain smoothness of on boarding and in my experience it wasn’t there in terms of integration. I feel the onboarding experience has some room for improvement. That’s my opinion and I think it’s my prerogative to have one.

When I buy an icom or Yaesu I always have to buy it from a dealer, who normally takes care of answering most of the questions of how to hookup everything. Here there is no dealer, so flex have to go the extra mile to preempt a customer service call. However to be honest I have so far not needed to call customer support even once and got my answers from some extremely helpful forum users. That’s in itself an unique and pleasant experience.

People only suggest improvements if they care.
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N3RC

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Amlin 
 As a  K3 owner who has moved to a 7610 and considering a 6600/6700, I agree with your points. Seems as if Flex could get some knowledgeable users to put such a program together with a few incentives for doing so.  Elecraft  has much clearer instructions on how to hook everything up compared to Icom and Flex. When you throw in the applications(N1MM+, WJTS-X, Skimmer, DXLab,
Steppir, Green Heron, etc.) and amps it can get a bit confusing. The 7610  has convinced me that SDR is the wave of the future.

73 Roger N3RC Sebastopol, Ca.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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The K3S is a Legacy Radio NOT a SDR. It uses a multi conversion Legacy technology front end and is not either a First Generation Direct Coverwion or a 3rd or 4th Generation Direct Sampling SDR The KX3 is a first genration SDR Direct Conversion SDR.

The K3S is a fine example of how far you can push Legacy technology to almost achieve the performance of a modern SDR Realistically Legacy technology is approaching End 0r Life As digital components get more cost effective. Even Elecraft will have to switch to SDR to sTAY COMPETITIVE.

The 7300 and 7610 are Direct SAMPLING SDR Front ends but unfortunately ICOM chose to use cheaper lower performance digital parts to increase profit margins They are primarily targeted to appliance operators who buy brand names not performance. (Toyota vs Tesla) Their backend processing is virtually the same as the old Legacy radios so they lose much of the benefits of SDR by reusing older technology.

By the way AMLAN. Your suggestions of a more centralized and efficient information source for Flex is a really good idea as the current Community and website are hard to searchl
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Amlan - AI6XN

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Howard, I don’t know much about K3S, except about its incredible sensitivity and selectivity. I saw on their website it says http://www.elecraft.com/K3/K3.htm SDR architecture so I took it at face value. Wayne (their CTO) is a very honorable man and wouldn’t lie about something like that. Interesting you mentioned KX3. I have the KX3 and I absolutely love it. Its a brilliant little thing.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Wayne is deliberately conflating the use of software defined parts in the back end of the K3S so he can call the K3S a SDR for marketing purposes to less technically adept hams. The K3S has a LEGACY FRONT END and by any generally accepted industry technical definition is NOT a SDR.

When he brought out the KX3, I thought he would soon follow up with a true SDR K4 but so far he is sticking with his Legacy Technology. K3S fixed the poor phase noise performance of the K3 So he could stay competitive with SDR.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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By the way. Used K3S and K3 in contests so I have lots of first hand experience.
Personally hate knobs and deep menus onK3 as they are so easy to screw up but ergonomics are very quick for contests as long as you don’t hit the wrong button too long.

Filters much sharper on Flex. On the K3 you need to spend a lot of $ to buy filters. K3 was definitely not sensitive due to internal phase noise masking signals K3S fixed that issue and brings phase noise down almost to same level as 6700. Not used a 6600 so can’t comment
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Michael Coslo

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Used a K3S during Field Day. I prefer the "lowly" 6300. 
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Doug

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Amlan - AI6XN Let me give you some friendly advice. People here don't want to hear any negative about their radio's. Sad but true they can't stand the truth. That's not to say they are not good people and most will help you ................ just sayin
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Roger J. Buffington

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I assure you that I am less technically inclined than many hams.  I'm embarrassed to say it, but I'm not sure that I could adequately explain Ohm's law any more.  And as a practicing attorney, I am pretty likely to have less free time than most.  What I found about getting the Flex set up is that Google is your friend.  Usually Google led me right back here to this Flex site.  If it did not, in every single case I got my direct questions answered right here on this forum.  I'll agree that understanding DAX and SDR takes a little figuring out, but really, it is not nearly as daunting as you may think.  It is made easier by the fact that these programs just plain work well -- I have had zero bug issues (not that there may not be some).  You can do SSB/CW right out of the box by just hooking up power, a keyer paddle, a microphone and an antenna (and a computer if you have a non-M model). For digital modes WSJT-X and Ham Radio Deluxe were quite easy to configure, and required no cables and no connection to the computer sound card at all -- nada, because the radio uses DAX as a virtual cable and has its own soundcard.  Pretty darned slick and easier to figure out than those cables that all my earlier radios required.   I agree with you that the Flex system is different, but once you figure it out, and trust me, you will, you will likely find that it is different simpler/better not different as in more complicated.  I will allow that it may not seem that way as a newcomer -- I get that -- some new terminology and so forth.  But there are lots of hams here on the forum that will talk you through questions -- ask me how I know, grin.
If you have any questions we are all here to help.  Even noobs like me.
de Roger W6VZV
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Roger,,Was just mentioning you on 40m just now..lol
7.192 with the group
(Edited)
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Roger J. Buffington

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Favorably, I hope, grin.  
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Bill -VA3WTB

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it was,,lol
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Roger J. Buffington

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BTW I worked you this weekend for Canada Day.  Good 20M SSB signal.  WOrked you on FD too.  Hope you had a nice Canada Day.  Unfortunately my 40M dipole is tuned for the WSJT-X freq of 7.074 and has a high SWR on the phone portion of 40M.
(Edited)
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KK9W - Steve

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It might be easier just to ask the question when purchasing . . . " I run this, this, and this. Are there any special cables or accessories I need to connect the radio, etc."
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Amlan - AI6XN

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True. And I had done some of that. Most of the answers I got was we have a very helpful forum and they’d help you out. Which definitely turned out to be true. I never had to call their customer support. I am not saying it should be customized per customer. Generally some broad guidelines on migration from different major radio families like ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood, Elecraft etc. I know it can be overwhelming quite fast, but may be even a simple app that keeps such a database might be the answer.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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@Alman - AI6XN - you've asked in the right place!

I think it is pretty cool and I have personally gotten a lot of great advice from the members of the Community.

Wish other products I've bought offered a healthy user community.

Other resources are the extensive Knowledge base and the many official and non-official videos.

Transition guidance of a customized basis is a bit tricky though.  I've thought about how receptive hams might be to paid-service on station building, and haven't found a way that I could see it working.

Building in a similar service into a new product is close to the same economics & logistics.

Working from your idea it might be helpful to have a sort of "transition guide and checklist" that would bring the best thoughts and videos into a structured form.  Because the nature of SDR is that it always evolves, perhaps the main form of the guide might be on-line, with dated printouts?

Truth be told navigating through the Community, Knowledgebase, Special papers, and videos is clunky at best.  Something that might provide a unified experience would be slick and helpful.

Food for thought.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Amlan - AI6XN

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Thank you for your comment. Yes transition guidance is tricky. However I was asking mostly for something like a integration requirements document or something similar that can be a even a simple app or as document which depending on area tries to suggest some integration devices or cables or connectors and such before hand. For ex. If you are an Yaesu or ICOM or Kenwood user there are certain ways you key your amp, send data for band and freq to your antenna or other devices etc. So perhaps it may be possible to have a broad category of such users in a group. Then again, it wont of course apply to each and every case, given the number of models and the idiosyncrasies of the large manufacturers. A paid integration service or transition guidance is indeed very hard to rationalize given the diversity of systems we have. Mostly I think a simple chart will do the trick.
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Roger J. Buffington

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All the info about how to key your amp is in the 6400/6600 manual which is on-line.  When I bought my 6400M I had one question about it, I asked it here, and people answered it within minutes.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Amlan, and to all seekers. I was not intending to attack you. You said you had so much pain and frustration because Flex did not give you guidance to connect your shack up. Simply ask, here. As you know Flex employees read the comments all day on this forum and will answer. Then their are hundreds of customers with experience in so many areas that help here as well. It is clear that more research was needed that would have saved so much pain.
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Amlan - AI6XN

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I did Bill, and as I mentioned the forum users were extremely helpful and I solved my issues. That is exactly when I thought it’d be a great idea to pre-empt the exercise altogether. Like I said it was not a complain about Flex being unhelpful, its more for an idea to be more helpful than they are already for certain things. Not sure its worth this much attention :)
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Amlan - AI6XN

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Roger you are absolutely right. There is the information in “USB cable guide” or some such guide not in the user guide or quick start guide but they both have pointers to it. Now a days when I see an USB connection I think it’ll simply use the USB 2.x or 3.x to directly talk to the other device it connects to. Just like thousands of devices do in iOS, Android or Mac realm. I’d have never thought they use FTDI to drive serial pin out on the other device. Again, thats not as complaint, I can see the standardization via serial but just a little odd that’s all. Anyway, i found that a bit confusing. Similarly for Steppir, if you know you need a very special connection (S12) in the serial port, why not sell it? Just like Steppir does for various radios.

That’s the kind of thing I was asking.
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G8ZPX

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I know plenty of the Flex fans on here hate any kind of criticism, but Amlan’s comments were not a criticism in a way.

Having had to find out the hard way, he simply wanted to help others to make the transition from non-flex to Flex, which for many is an horrendous leap of both technology and faith in the unknown of SDR. To belittle his comments is just plain sad and small minded. Those concerned do Flex a grave dis-service and make themselves look thoughtless too.

Many would-be customers come to this forum first for information and clues about what may lay ahead. Okay, maybe he could have done more reading first, maybe he could have gained more help on here pre-purchase, or maybe the ego crew actually prevent sharing, help and compassion towards new users which can ultimately only hurt your favourite radio company. Sickening.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I expect the same respect as well, I feel there is already a good system in place and some of you wish I had not said that I'm sure.
I think were the breakdown is. is when people buy a Flex coming from other kinds of radios they don't always know or not understand what this community is here for.

The community is for just what has been asked for, INFORMATION and help. It's all here, and if you can't find it, just ask. To me I really don't think anything needs to be done.

No, I am not defending Flex or against criticism, I just feel this forum covers most everything a new Flexer needs.
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Roger J. Buffington

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I concur that the info is all here.  I do sympathize with the OP that initially the new vocabulary and so forth with the Flex can be a bit overwhelming.  Good discussion by all and hopefully no one's feathers are ruffled.  Having just ascended (and continuing to ascend) the learning curve, I know where the OP is coming from.  One point I want to make that I did not see anyone else make: when I bought my Flex I discussed my requirements with the sales rep.  I ordered exactly the Mic adapter cable and power supply I needed such that when the box came I had absolutely everything that I needed.  Pretty much what the OP said he wanted to have happen.
de Roger W6VZV
(Edited)
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Stan - VA7NF

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Amian, thanks for your post and idea, and apologies for many of the responses you received on this forum.  Just returned from a day operating a sponsor station (VE7RAC) on the RAC Canada Day contest (Happy birthday Canada and thanks for participants).

Back to business:  I totally agree with your idea - A great one.
Sales could reference a simple download, if they had one, from which "add-on" sales items should be added to an order; especially since the paradigm change to pure digital is foreign to most hams.  For example, our club owns a 6600+Maestro and a 7610; most members are "afraid" (i.e. don't understand) of playing with the flex.  Why - It is mostly digital and a change.
As a long time owner, many new hardware features are new - I would like a simple page that tells me what hardware (cables, dongles, whatever) I need for adding, for example, a StepIR DB-42 to my system.

Members of the forum:  Please maintain the latitude to hear ideas from new owners - they are free from learned bias.
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Michael Coslo

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Okay - let's look at all of these suggestions. I am going to provide some basics.

What should be included in the Research that Flex needs to to do? Let's take some of the suggestions offered for Flex to improve their service:

Document the processes to interface Flex Radios with oter digital programs like N1MM Logger, fldigi, HRD, and LogM40. DDUtil, SliceMaster, and others.

Document and offer instructions on how to move from other radios to Flex Radios. 

Provide the updated instructions as programs evolve. Provide the personalized instructions for all radios. 

Add every new radio, and have a comprehensive listing. 

Provide detailed instructions for as many possible situations as people can provide.

Okay, first let's get the legal beagles POV. If Flex provides these instructions, will they then become liable for inaacurate information or if a disgruntled customer believes they misled them?

Next up, Are there examples of other Radio Manufacturers provided this service? This would provide a nice template for Flex to emulate.

Next up, who will pay for this service? I've written a lot of information packets, rules and regulations, and instructions. This sort of thing does not come cheap - and of course, the obvious answer is that the Customer will pay. 

Next, each person at the Flex Booths and on phone sales will need to be well versed on many different platforms at a very in-depth level. I could speak with knowledge about Flex Radios and Icoms, but less so on Kenwoods and Yaesu's, and am at this point a neophyte on Elecraft. But to provide the service demanded, I would be required to provide an in depth crossover from possibly hundreds of different radios.

Each person will need to be really well versed in the new person's location, the surrounding terrain, the possible support mechanisms, and the desired operations. Some of these things will simply have ot be very very generic. And how do we filter for individual preferences, and if say, a Flex Salesperson didn't like say, Steppir antennas - it makes for another whole level of complexity, including what Steppir might have to say if they perceive themselves as not getting a fair shake at the hands of FlexRadio Systems.

Now it is pretty obvious that I'm quite skeptical of such a thing. It won't work very well. It will increase the price of the radios, and is a whole pile of headaches for all the maintenance required. And in addition to the massive increase in knowledge for all sales personnel, it will require at least one fuul time person to do all the research and writeup.  Now all that being said, that's a job I would Looooove - Imagine getting to play with all those radios, software and antennas! I already offered to do it 8^) And still Flex hasn't taken up my request to have my radio grill a nice beef brisket. 8^P

Hopefully I have not insulted anyone - I just gave what I believe is a pretty good analysis of trying to accommodate the recently made demands to document how to use software and now other manufacturers hardware and recommend setups as a service provided by FlexRadio Sustems. 
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Rick Hadley - W0FG

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This has been an interesting thread.  I came into the Flex world 4 years ago after a prolonged absence from ham radio.  My last new main station radio was a Yaesu FT-757 I bought back in 1982, though I did pick up an FT-817 in about 2000 when they first came out.  I was off the air from 2003 until late 2013 when I decided to get back into the game; a then 68-yr old retired banker and hospital CFO.  After seeing the Flex dog-and-pony show at the ARRL Midwest Convention, I bought a 6500, assuming it would be my last radio, with at least a hope of it not becoming obsolete in the foreseeable future.  I think it took me 15 minutes from unboxing to being ready to go on the air.  There are no special cables or connections required for a basic, ready to go station on SSB or CW. I didn't even have to learn about CAT & DAX until I began integrating HRD Log and 2 years later when I added a directional antenna and wanted computer controlled functionality.  The point of this diatribe is that there is nothing inherently difficult about setting up a basic Flex station.  If one is migrating from an advanced station, it might be assumed that the operator has already had to undergo a learning process.  I know my Yaesu's didn't come with any instructions about adding a Signalink, or implementing 3rd party programs, or what additional cables might be required.  This community has been a wonderful resource when questions arose, and I never expected Flex to provide the answers themselves,even though Tim and others have done just that.  Google is your friend, RTFM, Keep Calm and Carry On, YMMV, etc...
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Bill -VA3WTB

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That is one thing about my 6500, it never became obsolete  , but discontinued. Heck even my Flex 3000 never became obsolete.
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Jay / NO5J

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My SDR1000 continues to work better than when I bought it, and will probably outlast me.

#FlexRadio IRC chat

   73, Jay - NO5J

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Michael Walker, Employee

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I think that Rick Hadley pretty much covered it.   I'm on vacation this week, so I get to respond like a Ham who loves the hobby!  :)  But, then again, integration is my game.

The integration of a 6000 series radios is in a lot of ways the same it was for any other HF radio and in a lot of ways so much more streamlined.  

  • Amplifiers still need a PTT/RCA cable - still the same.  It was the advent of new band tracking amps that make this more integrated.
  • Antennas connect the same way - PL259s
  • Band tracking - ok, a bit different but so much more streamlined.  Yes, you can still use the 1/2 century old RS232 technology or move ahead to using a LAN.  Not really complicated if you have your basic home LAN/Router setup, but just a different perspective.  Some programs have already made this move, WSJTx for example.
  • Steppir Tracking - From a Steppir, a 6000 looks like a computer except we actually send band automatically and you don't have to do an archaic 'sniff' of someone elses RS232 communications in order to have it track.  Arguably this is so much better.   Just a null modem connector required and the FTDI RS232/USB adapter.
  • 1 6000 Series radios can drive so many external devices on its own without have a PC do it.  Antennas, Tuners, Amplifiers, Bandpass filters, transverters and do it all at the same time.  All you have to worry about (in most cases) is 3 wires, Ground, RS232 TX and RS232 RX.  Instead of having your device connect to a Windows computer, it now connects to the radio.  Just add the same RS232/USB adapter to the radio instead of to the computer.
No matter what HF rig you buy, you do require some integration adjustments if you change radio vendors.  Heck, I bought 3 ICOM's in a (IC-756 pro series) just so I didn't have to make a bunch of new interface cables

That being said, the hobby has migrated from one of people of who love the science and the technology to that of an appliance.  A majority of today's  operators want to just get on the air and not care out how it actually ticks.  

At least today we have forums, YouTube, Google and social media that we can reach out to for help.  20 years ago, we didn't, so we 'tried things' and broke things and we learned lots by breaking things.  Yes, there is magic smoke.

This community has some amazing people who have pushed the 6000 series radios to the limit and more.  And they continue to do so.   

This RF Server that we all use is blazing the way to greater and better things.  

While I have been off this week, I have been ripping apart my Remote Station that started its life as a TS480 and RemoteRig.  I am amazed at the stuff that is landing on the floor that won't make it back into VA3MW's remote station Version 4 (version 1 started in 2005).   It will now be a 6600 and a 4O3A's 2x8 switches plus a RemoteQTH server to handle some of the basic on/off stuff.

Amlan, welcome to the community.  I know you and exchanged a lot of emails discussing your station.

Mike va3mw
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I think a "switch" guide like what Apple does would be helpful. But that's just me.