Band data for HW peripherals when using Maestro

  • 3
  • Question
  • Updated 3 years ago
I know this band data question has been asked hundreds of times and the usual response is "use DDUTIL", but what is proposed for peripheral communications (amplifiers) when we don't have a PC in the system (e.g. when using Maestro)?
Photo of Fred GLENN

Fred GLENN

  • 54 Posts
  • 7 Reply Likes

Posted 3 years ago

  • 3
Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

  • 9148 Posts
  • 3467 Reply Likes
Right now, I am afraid that your only solution is to use DDUtil.
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
Tim, this is a huge gap in the 6000 as I can see ... I want to remove the PC from the equation in running an amp ... Flex 6000's must support CAT out of the hardware .. this really is a huge gaping hole in the radio's capability .. it should not have to rely on 3rd party software to do what should be out of the box capability in any off the shelf transceiver ... is there plans to plug this hole ... even with a simple USB - RS232 dongle ?   Flex have to fix that for Maestro, its laughable that I need a PC attached to the Flex with Maestro to run my shack :(  
(Edited)
Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

  • 9148 Posts
  • 3467 Reply Likes
Short term is we will allow hardware com ports to be defined in CAT so you can connect it to a hardware device that communicates using the SmartSDR or Kenwood CAT protocol.
(Edited)
Photo of Bob - W7KWS -

Bob - W7KWS -

  • 270 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
Tim,

Hope you will consider using one of the radio's USB ports to support multible serial ports for the long term. There are many quality USB to multiple RS-232 boxes out there. I use an Edgeport USB to four COM ports. They are often on eBay for around $35. I think Linux drivers are available.

If you have a better solution, Great!
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
Tim thanks - that will solve all of the problems very quickly!
Photo of Randy Diddel

Randy Diddel

  • 43 Posts
  • 5 Reply Likes
I am holding off on Maestro for now based on this.  As it stands, I have the same issue with my SteppIR BigIR vertical.  The controller will only work with DDUtil.  I am sure Flex will figure it all out.  A simple USB Dongle with RS-232 would be the perfect solution, especially if it could support a Y connection so that I could control the SteppIR and an outboard amp like the KPA500 simultaneously. 

I will watch this thread in anticipation.

73 de K5RHD

/randy
Photo of Marc Lalonde

Marc Lalonde

  • 354 Posts
  • 86 Reply Likes
Based that radio already have FTDI driver it have no reason to not handle it 
or it keep it for V2 ;-)  but it for sure a huge drawback 
Photo of Fred GLENN

Fred GLENN

  • 54 Posts
  • 7 Reply Likes
Thanks Tim,

Yes it's a big oversight that I hope can be addressed. I operate now via WAN and it's awkward at best. Sitting by the pool with my new Maestro I'll have to go inside to change bands. But maybe I'll grab another beer while I'm up. 

Fred
Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3541 Posts
  • 1396 Reply Likes
I operate remote a geeat deal of the time from so far 27 different countries


I use many different techniques to operate via my iPad.


One example close to the Maestro in functional equivalent is to use. k6TU iPad App which is a stand alone app that does not use the PC


I control my SteppIR MonstIR, my rotor, my Wsttmentere and my SPE Amp remotely
And several other peripherals

How?


I leave DDUTIL running on a PC that is connected with 5 physical serial ports and a bunch of USB ports to all my peripherals. DDUTIL reliably and very quickly obtains Band Data from SmartCAT. Much more reliable and much quicker (1 Gb/s vs 9600 Baud) than the old SLOW serial ports used by CAT


Bottom Line: I just don't use the excuse that my 6000 needs CAT Serial Data Ports to run remote. It's pretty obvious that DDUTIL will easily and reliably carry the peripheral,load for remote operations. In fact, I would still need a PC with DDUTIL unless someone could figure out how to multiplex all my peripherals on the 2 USB ports on the 6000
(Edited)
Photo of Randy Diddel

Randy Diddel

  • 43 Posts
  • 5 Reply Likes
I do not wish to come off sounding like a troll but the OP stated ".. it should not have to rely on 3rd party software to do what should be out of the box capability in any off the shelf transceiver ..." which is a valid point.  I was able to control a K3, SteppIR, and a KPA500 using a cable without relying upon any software to do it.  I think it should be easy to do.  I for one am happy that DDUtil works (most of the time), but would like one less point of failure in the mix.

73

/randy
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
What's interesting Randy, is I've had that very conversation with various people over the last two years. I drew the same conclusion each and every time. The other casualty of this is it absolutely hardens the requirement to use Microsoft Windows. This may not bean issue for most on here but for a sizable percentage of people here, it is a huge issue.

Does anyone know why N6V (direct steppir control) was never productized? That is the singular reason I am not running a steppir 4-ele now.
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
then we have to disagree Howard because in my opinion its a joke that I have to rely on a PC to interface my HF amp, tuners, Steppir etc on a 3rd party bit of software on a PC.

I could imagine the howls from owners if Elecraft, Icom, kenwood or Yaesu tried to suggest such a thing.

I want to ditch the PC's not add more complexity to them.

My Microham kit needs a CAT port from the radio .. thats it done

Not ....attach the Microham to a PC, run some software, configure it, mess around configuring it, running the PC all the time I want to operate.

It's a great big glaring gap and looks ridiculous - I like my flex too but relying on a 3rd party software to do something it should out of the box is an excuse and work around that is unacceptable
 
(Edited)
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
direct from the Maestro sales sheet.....

Maestro Control Console for the FLEX-6000

The FlexRadio MaestroTM is an intuitive, plug-and-play control console that directs operation of any FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver without need of a traditional PC.


Flex should caveat this with ... AS LONG AS YOU DON"T WANT TO INTERFACE INTO ANYTHING ELSE

because this is NOT true you still need a PC to connect any device that needs CAT control .. pretty much everything in my shack is controlled via CAT!

Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
Maestro does not need a PC correct and does not need it from the panel .. but you still need a PC if you want to integrate anything ... now if the F6K did CAT direct out of the box the PC literally disappears ... the CAT's whiskers :)
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
Maestro IS the PC, so actually you'll need two of them. This is why I cancelled my order for it.
Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3541 Posts
  • 1396 Reply Likes
A couple of points.

1. The 6000 series only has 2 USB Ports which is clearly not enough ports to control all the peripheral devices found in a typical ham shack

2.  Many ham shacks have multiple CAT Interface control devices (such as Microham and Array Solutions Stuff) hanging off their Legacy Radios...

I suspect that Flex will introduce something like the 4O3A Station Genius which has a LAN interface to provide integrated CAT control of all your peripherals rather than the much more limited SLOW serial CAT port. 

This would allow for a PC Free Environment

In the longer run, (we are seeing a lot of this already)  I expect that most if not all ham peripherals will be controlled directly via LAN and NOT CAT.
Photo of Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis

  • 495 Posts
  • 117 Reply Likes
For most people they only have 1 or 2 devices that use CAT .. an amp or tuner for example. They don't need more than 1 output !

In my shack the SPE amp's use one CAT port .. I don't know why you are so hung up on SLOW serial CAT .. my amp follows my TS590 as much as fast as I can tune or change bands .. there's no reason for hyperspace speed of CAT for anything tuning wide .. even the steppir won't change faster than I can tune!

The Microham is great .. 1 CAT line in .. and it talks to the other microham units over CAT5 (not IP though - but as good as for this purpose .. that controls antenna switches, rx arrays, beverage etc) and I doubt (unless your a big contest station) that most hams would need more than 1 output .. .my TS590s have 1 CAT out ... perfectly manageable and not a PC in sight. Same for the K3, 7600, even my old 706!

Long term .. sure we are seeing a move into a world of IoT .... a lot of this is still ham vapourware ... hmm well I see news of a 4O3A antenna switch controller in test .. some station controller and another funny rotator controller that use IP ... and a few other home grown bits using Arduino's etc .. But that's it .. hard to quantify that as lots.

But I think we are 5 years+ or more on seeing large scale rollouts of peripherals that use IP... and a requirement for serial CAT for a long time until the legacy devices disappear ... but that's going to be a while as even the latest transceivers from the main suppliers still use it .. as do a lot more peripheral devices such as amps etc, even the latest ones at Dayton or Tokyo .. so an all IP driven shack is still a LONG way off!

And even mid-long term does not remove the need now to support current serial driven CAT devices from within the Flex hardware - If and when devices like the IP driven antenna switches, SO2R controller and IP driven amps appear then great but - buying a 1000 dollar station controller to provide CAT output does not wear with me ... and I am sure that many are sitting waiting on the same from the comments.

Maestro is 'supposed' to remove  the need for a PC .. it's a bit off to suggest that is the case when you are then told, no you need a PC to connect your CAT commanded amp to the Flex! That is pretty fundamental in  my book. Even my ancient 706 and 857 offer that!   
(Edited)
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
I have two usb2 ports on my laptop. In order to run my kpa500 and kat500, I added a USB expander. It took one port but added 4 (or5), more than enough for my current requirements.
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1706 Posts
  • 580 Reply Likes
About 2 years ago FRS indicated that band data was eventually going to be provided.    Here is some of the commentary.   See Steve's post about providing band data from the radio

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/band_data-3xef1?topic-reply-list%5Bsettings%5D%5Bfi...

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/looking_all_over_for_band_data

Here is one of my posts from back then....maybe we will see a dedicated controller at some point.   It might take the form of the "station genius" that Howard mentions.  

2 years ago
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ


Hi Sergey,
I also use DDUtil currently to control my amp, bandswitch, etc.   It is a good program, works well and I'm glad to have it.  But there is a drawback.  It requires a local PC running Windows.   PCs can lock up, need periodic rebooting, and may require remote logins to manage them or launch programs.    

The stated long term vision for the 6000 is to connect to the internet for remote capability and to remove the need for a local PC, (i.e the "computer in the middle").   See snapshot.  Most of us have station peripherals like amps, band switches, etc.  If we are not going to use a PC then we need some other way to control them.   Even if you just want to operate your radio from another room or out by the pool, it would be better to not have to rely on a PC to control your peripherals. 

Eventually (maybe many years away) I think most peripherals will support being network attached.  In the mean time I think a good solution is for someone (FRS or some enterprising third party) to build a dedicated peripheral controller.  It could attach to the 6000 via the network or the usb port or the accessory port.  It could provide all of the various protocols and connectors (usb, serial, CIV, BCD, ethernet, relay contacts, etc).  Rather than put all of the legacy protocol software in the radio, put it in the external dedicated controller.  Rather than building a number of dedicated hardware solutions in or attached to  the radio, put them in the external dedicated controller.  

Sort of a like having "DDUtil in a box."  
 
Sorry for being long winded....hihi 

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com

Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
If it weren't for all the 'is it soup yet', 'are er there yet',, 'hows the coming in the scedule', etc etc, FRS might be more inclined to share some of there intermediate range plans. But no, we had to relentlessly badger them over things they shared with us. I think we own some of the downside of that. Consequently, if the radio isn't quite what you thought is would or should be...well, we all have a decision to make. Maybe Steve Nance should charge for ddutil.
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
Al, two years is an awfully long time ago. I wouldn't hold frs's feet to the fire over what they initially envisioned.
Photo of Peter K1PGV

Peter K1PGV, Elmer

  • 541 Posts
  • 315 Reply Likes
It's hard to know what the "right answer" is here.  Over the years, ham peripherals have (mostly) tended to devolve to supporting the "least common denominator" interface, which was either BCD band data or some sort of hideous serial-port CAT scheme.

As other have suggested, the most attractive answer is for somebody to create a box that sits on the network, interfaces with the radio, and provides "value added" relays, BCD band data, and/or legacy CAT interface or whatever.  What NN4ZZ called "DDUTIL in a box".

Windows 10 IoT is free... You write control software in any .Net language (let's hear it for C# !) talking to the radio through FlexLib. Put it all on an RPI 2 with a 4" LCD touch screen.  It's a relatively simple project in the end.  I've even experimented with this myself.

It would be a nice little opportunity for somebody to capture a niche market.  Or even for Flex... they've certainly got the in-house expertise.

And, yes... I realize that doesn't help anybody who wants to run their Maestro in January and who doesn't want to engage in a software development exercise.

Peter
K1PGV
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
While this isn't something I am particularly interested in debating. One of the 'handicaps' with Flex is it IS written in C# making anything they do immediately vendor lock-in. And yes, for maybe 80%-85% of the people that is a non-issue. For the other 15%-20% it is a big issue. It's a small market. I believe there was a discussion about that not too long ago. Flex has a small piece of a small market. I tend to agree with Simon on this, it'll be a long time before the ham hardware market is software based, in numbers big enough to attract attention. In the mean time, for those wanting to run Maestro and have the functionality of the full Flex suite, they'll have to run ssdr to do the dax stuff and maestro for the hardware controls.
Photo of Peter K1PGV

Peter K1PGV, Elmer

  • 541 Posts
  • 315 Reply Likes
SSDR had to be written in SOME language, using SOME set of system services.  It would have been unnecessarily difficult to write such a complex network-based GUI application in a way that made it entirely system independent.  Add to this the additional burden of testing and supporting the software on multiple operating systems, and... forget it.  No way is it worth it for a small vendor.

You wrote:

for those wanting to run Maestro and have the functionality of the full Flex suite, they'll have to run ssdr to do the dax stuff and maestro for the hardware controls.

I agree with you that this is unfortunate. I can certainly see how people who not want to have ANY general purpose computer running at their radio site (regardless of the OS in use).  This has nothing to do with religious preferences, but rather to do with not wanting the bother (or lack of reliability) of running a general-purpose PC in order for your radio and outboard amp and tuner to be usable. I totally get this, and I'm sure Flex gets it too.  It's kind of an "ooops" right now.  But I bet there's a solution somewhere in the pipeline (no, I have no advance knowledge of anything).

Peter
K1PGV
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
Peter, I agree with that, except for your premise and conclusion in your first paragraph. As for Flex's initial decision, spilt milk.
Photo of Marc Lalonde

Marc Lalonde

  • 354 Posts
  • 86 Reply Likes
Howard  Linux Kernel handel USB HUB  naively

so no care you may ad USB port as you need ...   
Photo of Walt - KZ1F

Walt - KZ1F

  • 3040 Posts
  • 643 Reply Likes
And Linux recognizes the usb devices plugged into my external expander (hub). And the Elecraft amp and ext atu control programs exist in Linux as well.