Dissenting Opinion

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  • Updated 2 years ago
This is all just speculation, conjecture, wondering out loud and ya, some plain ole griping. While I'm a bit frustrated about my situation with SL I'm trying to keep an open mind. I never quite succeed.

I think FRS kind of lost their way. Maybe because they listened to too small a subset of their customers. Maybe because they didn't listen at all.

We have 2.0 with all its SmartLink beauty and a pop-out or two. 6300 owners apparently got an improvement to their receiver - or was that a bug fix? Hams can operate their rig remotely from their VW or a French cafe. Voila. I'll have an espresso with that dropped packet. Assuming they have a network at home that can support SL they are in a state of bliss. I can see people racing for the local Starbucks or Peet's with their iPads and laptops. Lots of people seem happy with what they have and that's great. So you don't feel too uncomfortable with the new version they give you the same, tired interface with plenty of the warts from 1.x. Tried moving the volume slider on the RX panel in the stack? That's getting pretty old. 

But now what does FRS have? Multiple versions that they promise to support. Ages to get bug fixes for one version and now there's two. I'm concerned. 

Instead of fragmenting and having to support multiple versions I wonder if it might have made more sense to develop v2 as a true next step in the SSDR evolution. Version 2 was the perfect opportunity for a GUI update and bug fixes. Skins, real pop-outs, logical controls (without silly redundancies), well thought out persistence and profiles, real, open API with incentives for third parties to join in and a whole lot more could have been done to make v2 the version for everyone. This is why so many see all the work on PowerSDR and wonder, why not SSDR?

Then, to make money because that is what this is all about, super duper tools like SL and spots and all sorts of cool things could have been implemented as modules in good time. There could have been a Flex store for downloads! Want SL? Download it any pay a fee or subscription. Want spots? Download it and pay. Third party alternatives might have been available. Now we are truly talking about just getting what we want and maybe even getting some good choices. 

How long do you think it is going to take for FRS to drop 1.x. I mean OK, maybe they might do bug fixes for a while (Lord knows they have plenty to work on) but features from 2.x flowing down to 1.x? Not long. They'll say they have to move on or 1.x doesn't have the infrastructure to support anything new or whatever. 1.x is dead. We know that, right?

Next comes all the marketing, engineering, and programming professionals telling me I don't know what I'm talking about. I don't. I'm OK with that too. I'm a consumer. I have a vote. It has to feel right to me for me to be satisfied - not to marketing, engineering, IT development or even you.

So here I sit with v2.0, no SmartLink, no espresso and no help (unfair, Tim and team tried their best). I have the exact same tired looking GUI with the radio stack popped out just because I need to feel like I got something for the money. You guys know me from my posts. If I like something I'm usually quiet about it and if I don't like something I get all verbal and obtuse and stuff. Well let me refer another post and say Paul nailed it in "I'm A Bit Disappointed in V2.0". My translation, same old pig with new underwear and a new trick or two. Same old clothes, same old smell.

Did I say I love my 6500? Always have. It ain't for sale. It is the best rig I ever owned. I just wish I didn't have to deal with SSDR.

73,
Kev K4VD

P.S. Did they really leave DAX off of SL because some people are on metered services? Really? That was the reason? No on/off switch? Just - you don't get DAX because some people are on metered services? Eh?

P.P.S the profile listed in the P/CW panel - is that the mic profile I think? It has an asterisk. How can I tell what changed between the current setup and the saved profile?
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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  • a bit screwed.

Posted 2 years ago

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Michael Starkey

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I took a long look at the ideas list as suggest in another thread about v2. The top-10 on the list indexed by me-too's are mainly GUI, general usability and ergonomics improvements. I look forward to some effort going in to implementing these features in the near future - some of the high scorers have been on that list 3-4 years. Can we expect to see manyof these getting implemented in v2 over the next few months?   I nice Christmas present from Flex maybe.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I would love to see the GUI enhancements being opened up to third parties, because in my world they just ain't that important. So let the community have at them. Make SmartSDR skinnable and pluggable. Let people have their DX spots in the cluster via third party plugins, or changeable colors so that the devs don't have to waste time on it and can instead devote time to multi client and improving receiver performance. 

I think that leaving off DAX was a mistake, but I gather that DAX over SmartLink will come in the future. For now I still use my VPN. I use SmartLink occasionally when I want to check the band without having to login. From what I understand the point of leaving out DAX was twofold - most people don't have the bandwidth to support DAX over WAN, and the latency would kill the possibility for digital modes like FT8/JT65. I think the former should be left up to the end user to decide and I think the latter should be improved upon, latency wise but users should still be able to use DAX for things like digital voice keyers. 

AS for 1.x, it is feature complete. After 1.11 it will be fixed on an as-needed basis. I don't think anyone reasonably expects the kind of attention being paid to 2.0 going to 1.0, or even a small fraction of it. What I see is the 1.11 maintenance release, and if anything serious is discovered down the line they'll fix it.
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G8ZPX

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Ria, I don't think there is much new "radio-performance" to be gained as most of it is locked within hardware limitations to some extent. that being said, the NB, NR, and ANF could certainly do with some work to get them to the standard of cheaper rigs.

However, some of the GUI stuff is way more than just cosmetic. We can probably all live without spots in the panadaptor!

Others stuff is plainly wrong and "operator-performance" limiting, .e.g. having to look at my $100 external meter to get precise power out and SWR figures, having to guess a signal report because the S-meter bar is too small and poor scale to read quickly - digital readout of precise values needed on all sliders. As an aside, when operating remote we need a status information panel to provide the feedback that we normally get when in the shack, SDR, Power out, PSU (battery) volts, temps etc. this data is even more important when you are not in the shack in person to observe problems first-hand.

Auto or on-screen precise AGC setting markers will aid proper setup of the AGC and therefore better RX performance parameters for some users.

How many other radios can we name that don't have a split or A/B swap VFO button.

The ability to create custom audio passband filters (like in PSDR) - a real issue to lowband and weak signal DX chasers.

Some of the needed improvements are a direct complication from being able to run 4/8 slices, so that is a unique problem for Flex to solve and one that must be addressed. No point in multi this and that if its is a PITA to use. Clear and obvious delimiting of on-screen receivers (by color ?), and intuitive feedback as to which one is actually TX enabled without having to look for that little marker tag.

The radio has the data and the software can do this stuff easily, its just not presented very well to the user. The GUI is the driving position and primary dashboard to the radio.

The basic software is okay now, but it can go some way yet to improve operator speed, workflow, accuracy and ease of use. As we all know the software is THE radio. After all these years of development its maybe time to apply some spit and polish before moving on to that next big thing.

The best way to shelve v1 dual-support problems quickly is to put enough great stuff in to v2 to ensure that *everyone* wants it - to see the clear and obvious improvements and user benefits for them specifically. Remote only applied to a subset of operators, the GUI applies to everyone.

Looking forward to that "like having a new radio"  experience.

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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Ria,
RE: "I would love to see the GUI enhancements being opened up to third parties..."

FRS has previously said that would not happen, SSDR is proprietary and they don't plan to release it or make an API available. 

So bottom line is that any improvements to the GUI, either cosmetic or for new functional features will have to come from the FRS team.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
SSDR / DAX / CAT/ 6700 -  V 1.10.16
Win10
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Al, they can do this without making it open source. Also there is an API already available for radio functions.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Ria,
Yes I know about the api to the server but they said they will not release the ssdr source or an api to ssdr.

So either you would have to build ssdr from scratch or wait for FRS to add features.

Regards Al / NN4ZZ
(Edited)
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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Things can always change.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Ria,
Anything is possible --- It would be nice and make it easier for someone to take up the challenge of building an SSDR client for Windows if FRS provided the source.  

Recreating it from scratch would probably take a year or more...not many folks have the time to devote to that.  And there are likely some things that would have to be discovered along the way so it would help to avoid some of the pitfalls and bugs by having the source. 

But on several occasions FRS has said they were not going to do that.  (it is proprietary IP, etc).   One place that I remember was in the thread about adding skimmer and DX spots to the GUI.  It was suggested that a third party could add that feature if FRS would open up an API for SSDR for windows or provide the source code.

So unless FRS says they've had a change of heart, I don't see a reason to think we will see them release the source or create an api to the client.  

It would be risky for someone to start recreating the GUI now only to find out that many of the requested features start showing up from FRS in V2.x or 3.x before they could even get their version ready.  

Back to my previous comment....the bottom line is that any improvements to the GUI, either cosmetic or for new functional features will have to come from the FRS team.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
SSDR / DAX / CAT/ 6700 -  V 1.10.16
Win10






  
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Rick WN2C

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Complain, complain and complain. What we have here is 3 of the best radios on the market and soon to be 5. I for one do not need spots in the panadaptor or pretty skins to look at on my computer screen. What I want is the features offered to be the best they can be and the equipment to work like it should. The power meter is not a big deal as I did not rely on the power meter on any radio I have evered owned. I would always use an external meter especially since I run an amp. 
Buy vers 2 or don't. Version 1.xx will continue to work.
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Kevin N9JKP

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Rick,  I don't see their criticism as being complaints.  I have bought Ver 2, not for the SL, I will never use it but to be supportive of future development, bug fixes, and I am hopeful, some of the enhancements cited above.

I suspect that to drive new sales (interest new customers into buying a flex radio) FRS needed something with sizzle, SL is that marketing sizzle.  I have no problem with that strategy.
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Dave - W6OVP

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The worst part seems to be the ever vigilant "fan boys" who just can't leave other peoples posts alone to let them stand or fall on their own insights and merits.
(Edited)
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G8ZPX

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agreed
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Joe N9VX

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Agree.
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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I think if someone posts something publicly on this forum as a complaint, criticism or praise should be "man" enough to handle any replies to it. To dismiss reply posts from what you call vigilant "fan boys" is like the democrats demonizing anyone who disagrees with them. If you can't handle the "fan boys" then don't post. If you can't handle being called a complainer, then don't post. Keep it civil.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Michael,
Here is a copy of the post you mentioned that shows how to list the popularity of ideas by the community users.  It seem to fit here better and might help other see how they can vote up ideas they like.  

For example while including CS skimmer spots and DX spots in the display may not be high on some peoples list it is the number 4 most requested idea on the list by votes.  

Like others have also said, the 6xxx is a great radio, and we are looking forward to seeing these popular ideas to make it even better. 


**************************** How to see the IDEAs listed by popularity ***************************

You can see the list of ideas submitted on your community screen with just one CLICK.  You can set it up to list them by the number of user votes to see how they rank.  In the lower right on the community is a section that defaults to showing "problems."  But you can change it to show the idea list.   I have it set up  and saved to display that way.    See the snapshot below.  

BTW, "WAN Remote" does not come up on the list that I could find.  There are 1,000+ ideas so maybe it's down there somewhere but not near the top.   FRS announced WAN remote way back in the early days.  It is a feature that is likely good for business and everyone benefits in that way.  WAN Remote is popular but I haven't seen any quantitative data comparing it with the other enhancements that are ranked by user votes.  I think it was something they committed to and a feature that the 6xxx  "thin client" architecture would support better than others using a "thick client" architecture so it would be a competitive advantage.  


If you would like to see the details on an idea,  you can click on it,  add a  comment,  and add your vote. 



When you CLICK the REFINE button you can select what you want to see.  Here is how I have it set up so I always see the idea list displayed. 



Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
SSDR / DAX / CAT/ 6700 -  V 1.10.16
Win10
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Rick - W5FCX

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We have seen it before... Engineering driven vs. market driven. Who is the Product Manager for the Product? Can we have an NDA roadmap briefing and provide constructive feedback? Lots of evidence of too much inside-thinking and not enough responding to customer feedback to go around...


How about sending us a survey to determine what we are satisfied with, to rank and prioritize development items? That's how it's done in more mature companies.


Perhaps we will get there someday. In the meantime, I'm Very Satified with my two Flex radios and won't trade or sell them (except perhaps to upgrade to the new models someday).


And I'm not a "fanboy" just because I like the Product . Just a reasonably happy customer who can get what I "need" done with the Product today.


There's a tremendous amount of feedback (and noise) here in this forum. My advice is for Flex to hire a PM, survey its customers and give us what we "want"... before a competitor who's reading this same form does.


Rick / W5FCX
(Edited)
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Mike - VE3CKO, Elmer

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Nope, don't agree, the decisions made by the team have been great thus far. Spend the resources on programmers instead to implement those new features decided on  with the goal to reduce development time to get the code to final testers sooner. Can't do much about the testing phase as they will need to continue to test the code in as many different setups before a release candidate is ready.
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G8ZPX

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Rick could there ever be a convincing business argument for anything but market driven products? 

Market driven = pleasing to customers = more recommendations = less churn = more sales = long term customer retention = brand loyalty for the next product line = happy CEO   therefore we all benefit from customer-focused development.

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Kevin N9JKP

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I have been surprised that they haven't done surveys (at least not since I have owned a Flex). Certainly this forum is one way, as well as conferences and hamfest. However market research will yield much more than what are the next features to be added.

No one can take away from the great engineering that has gone into the hardware and software.  With some marketing intelligence their products will benefit both existing and new customers.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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I just came over from using PSDR for 10 years with all the updates in it to date. Yes it has more features than most people could ever use. But PSDR is cluttered and clunky. I am so happy to move over to SSDR.  For some, SSDR is all they know, some people have never owned a Flex 1500, 3000, or a 5000 and went right to the 6000's and do not realise how slick and nice SSDR realy is. It can have improvements, but but it is not such a mess as some say it it is, to me anyways.
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Clay N9IO

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Best comment I've heard all week!
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K4MT

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PSDR has configuration options that make it superior.  Dont like dumb down software and I enjoy being able to change settings to optimize my radio operation.  
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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Ya. You're right. I never used PSDR and probably shouldn't stand it up as an example without experience. However, the posts I see here about make me jealous for the flow of new features it seems to bring to its users and how the developer seems to listen to and respond to requests. I put development of PSDR in the same category as DXLabs, FLDIGI, JTAlert... a constant two-way flow of information and quick implementation of new features and bug fixes. In a word, responsive.

I put SSDR in a different category. As flattering as it may sound (it is not) I think they are right there with Google and Microsoft. Check their forums. Page after page after page of bugs that last for years while some new feature shows up from time to time. To me, that's OK for Google and Microsoft. Not OK for FRS. Not yet and hopefully not ever.
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W9TVX

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I definitely think there are some important usability improvements that would go a long way in making SSDR easier and more friendly to use. I hope now that Flex has released v2 they will have time to make a pass on usability .

That said great radio and great end user support
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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Here's another thought that popped into my head based on Ria's and Al's discussion above. It's not something quickly done, just a concept.

What if FRS separated the panafalls and their development from the rest of SSDR? Then someone else (internal or external) continue working on the control GUI functions concentrating on presentation and workflow. This control is nothing so special that it has to be locked down tight like maybe the outstanding panafall presentation. It could be opened up for others to develop modules.

Take DDUtil for example. While it is not the prettiest thing to look at the function is absolutely amazing. Not only can you plug in modules (kinda) for different devices from Flex and other vendors but you can create conditions to support your own workflows. For example, setting your amp from standby to operate automatically makes the radio go from 100 watts to 5 watts to drive the amp. Switch the amp back to standby and boom, the rig is set to 100 watts. What is super amazing about this is that you can do this with a button on DDUtil or you can press the standby button on the amp (KPA500) and DDUtil recognizes it and still sets you up properly. Another example, switching from 40 meters to 20 meters sets the antenna from the dipole to the beam. And, macros galore! Extended support for the knob, all sorts of cool things that could maybe be polished a little in function and maybe a lot in presentation but really lean towards full station integration and a customizable workflow.

I think something like DDUtil is not given the credit it deserves. Off the shelf it is pretty raw and has a few quirks maybe but the concept and the current abilities make it a whole lot more desirable in a hybrid station than having to punch buttons on equipment and move things around in a GUI just to change bands. I can say that since I've been using DDUtil with my 6500/KPA/KAT setup it really feels like an integrated station.

Then add in DXLabs software. I can click on a call in JTAlert and DXLabs is notified of the pending QSO and brings up the QRZ.com page, a map showing the beam heading and current propagation conditions (with Ionoprobe and Hamcap), a Google Earth map showing the other ham's general location and even (with JTAlert) a facility for a chat window to the other ham.

Ya. I'm probably going a bit too far now but you can see how things can be tied together as a system with the Flex dead center if FRS would embrace the concept. You could control your workflow and have your multi-vendor ham shack working together as a cohesive system.

Hearing about lack of resources and having to concentrate on one product feature at a time and priorities that cater to what a minority desire (maybe SL excluded - maybe not, jury out) waiting forever for minor bug fixes and tweaks makes little sense when you and I paid thousands of dollars for these radios and now an additional $200 for the latest software. And if you want to remind me that if I spent those thousands on a rig with knobs (such a weird distinction) and the fact I would get no updates - Icom didn't promise me any. Flex did - explicitly and implicitly. It is an expectation.
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Mark WS7M

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I think there is zero doubt that 1.x will at some point cease to be supported and added to by FRS and I don't think it will ever become open source either.

So what happens at that point?  Well as FRS has said you can continue to run the last version of 1.x until the day your radio meltsdown into a pile of slag.  It will continue to work.   I also think FRS will continue to repair your radio too.  There is absolutely NO REQUIREMENT to upgrade.

But I wonder why so many people that have spent more than $2000 for a radio are so upset about $199 (+VAT in Europe) for a new set of versions?

There is a lot of arguing about "if it is worth it" or not.  Quite frankly you will not get anything new with 1.x.  So if you want new features the only way is to pay the price and upgrade.

Now there are also those that have been here a long time and said in say 4 years I never got new features I wanted.   That argument can be said about anything.  I've had my new Subaru Outback for 1.5 years.  I desperately want the GPS map to give me a beep if I go over the speed limit.  My old Pioneer unit in my truck could do that.  Why can't my new Subaru?  Well I emailed, requested, asked for an probably will never get that feature.   So am I selling my Subaru?  No... It does everything else just fine.  I just adjust how I work.

The same logic can be said about FRS and 2.x.  Maybe the feature you most wanted did not get into 2.x (yet).  But are you blocked from operating?  Can you still do what you want to do some other way?  The answer is probably yes.  Perhaps if your biggest need is squelch then I could understand maybe more frustration.  But even for that there is a way around it.   Use DAX.  Give each slice a dax output channel, then write software to decode each DAX channel and provide the squelch you want.  It would work.

So I can hear you now saying... I'm not a programmer?  I can't do that?  Well sure but maybe someone will or maybe 2.x will get squelch.  Who knows.  The point is, it is not a "disabling" missing feature.

I am not trying to create contention here but I think it comes down to this:

1) If you spent more than $2000 (which you probably did if you own flex 6000 radio) then why is it so hard to consider spending $200 more?

2) If you are not happy with the features or feel something is missing then either learn to fix it yourself, be patient and wait or perhaps work with people on the forum that do program to solve your problem.

3) Lastly if FRS is giving you a bad taste in your mouth then it is time to go by an Anon or perhaps an Icom 7600 whatever.   

Try to remember if you can or if you were alive back then when radios like the SB-101 from heathkit did what they did and if you didn't like it you set to solving your problem by modifying or building new parts.   In the case of Flex they have given us through software the ability to do all this stuff.  We either need to be patient or do it ourselves or move on.