Hi I just received my Maestro today and when I installed the batter there is no usb plug for charging the battery as shown in the manual.

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Samuel Strongin

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Posted 3 years ago

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Lewis Cheek

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I think I recall reading, in last few days, charging circuit was left out, and one needed to remove battery to charge. :(

Lew
N4CO
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Official Response
Maestro were shipped without an internal micro-USB charging cable so the one USB A cable that you plug into  is to power the Maestro NOT Charge the battery.  You currently need to use an external USB Charger to Charge the Battery.  Flex will likely issue an official explanation.

and later from Tim:


 I'm wanting to be able to charge the battery while left in the Maestro case while plugged into 120v using the provided wall wart without opening the battery door to change cables.  Is that not possible?  

I am afraid not.

Let me provide some clarity.  We had fully intended for the battery installed in the battery bay to be recharged by Maestro when the unit was connected to an external DC power source (the coaxial DC power connector).  What we determined after extensive complete product testing, is that the battery charging feature was not working as intended and we decided to remove the feature.  As such, you must charge the battery using a charger or the recommended charging method provided by the battery manufacturer.

This business decision was made only after exhausting all reasonable options, meaning that engineering a solution that would work for most batteries would have significantly delayed the shipment of Maestro for a feature that is not mission critical to the operation of the unit.

As Howard indicated, the issue is very, very complicated. In summary, there isn't an industry standard by which these battery packs are engineered from a charging standpoint.  Worse yet, there is a significant amount of variation regarding how a battery behaves when being charged within the same battery model.  These variations in behavior resulted in adverse and anomalous Maestro operational behaviors, such as it would not boot from the battery when plugged into an Ethernet cable).

Battery management is discussed in the Maestro User Guide.  When the battery runs low, you will need to swap it out with a fully charged battery or connect it to an external power source.

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/maestro-battery-charging-time

73

Steve

K9ZW


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Samuel Strongin

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Thank You very much. Sam kf4yox
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John-K3MA

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Whatever happened with all the comments I have read on here that Flex takes the time to make sure something is right before it is released and that users are willing to wait until it is done right.

I saw the post about a week ago announcing that all hands were on deck getting the units ready to ship with pictures of the entire Flex crew packing up the units and the finished boxes on the dock.  Now looking back at those pictures it appears to look like a last minute removal of charging cables and repacking the units so that they can be sent out.

If that is the case then I for one find it disappointing that the same post did not also announce that what was advertised and had set the expectation in the customers minds to be able to charge the battery internally was not communicated but rather it seems to appear to be swept under the rug for the sake of getting the units out and the sales revenue in.

John
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Lewis Cheek

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Be careful John, you may soon drown in Flex Kool Aid. On a serious side it does seem like a lot of stuff has moved to back burner.

Lew N4CO
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Isn't that a bit unfair?

I'd bought two power packs per Maestro as I both never caught the built in charger feature, but more importantly couldn't see why I would operate from battery when mains power was available?

But then I am the sort of have spare ready to go battery packs for HTs, cameras and the like.

Actually dislike built-in non swappable power packs (like that in my RiserBond TDR) preferring units like this where I can be in control.

In the interest of getting a good.y portion of the Maestro capabilities I a comfortable with FRS shipping them now.

Then I was very okay in receiving Flex-6700 #11 and working with each phase of pre-release software.

Some folk waited until version 1.0 was released or until the ever increasing feature set meet their needs.

YMMV but not having an onboard charger cable isn't a deal-killer for me personally.

FRS explained that other than provisioning for the Maestro that v1.7 wasn't going to change much, with v1.8 following with a greater Maestro feature set and some general SmartSDR enhancements. Sounds pretty good compared to waiting months more for initial product.

All best and 73

Steve K9ZW
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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The truth is that after testing for weeks, we (the alpha team) came up with very inconsistent performance with the battery charging. After weeks of trying to see a pattern with the batteries that all of us in the alpha team was using, there just wasn't enough data for a pattern. Batteries of the same make and model would act differently as would different brands.

I understand the direction of the comment but after participating in the alpha testing, I am not confident that a solution was days or weeks away.

If they waited until the cause became apparent, you would all be up in arms about missing deadlines, etc.

I think Flex had to make the call based on what they were most comfortable in subjecting the customers to. I think they made the right call, personally.
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Lewis Cheek

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No, it's not unfair. I think many folks expected more, I know I did. Gee, it's been like a year since FRS announced Maestro. I think as Dayton got closer, lots of stuff moved to a back burner. I'm sure other think otherwise, I don't need all the remote stuff that has seemed to be focus. How many really plan to drag a Maestro to a family reunion? Sure, it's neat and I guess helps with one's ego to carry around Maestro and say look what I can do. 

I don't have much choice other than wait for another software release and see what made the cut. My use of Maestro would be to improve functionally, not show it off.

Lew N4CO
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Like I said YMMV as perhaps each of us has a different idea what they will do with their Maestro.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if you have mains power why other than to bridge any power outages do you need a battery at all?

I did understand that the AC adapter was fully implemented.

At least that is what I expect to find after delivery tomorrow.

I do intend to remote about ten blocks from my home station to my desk at my office to open up more DXing opportunities, and at my Island QTH I'm looking to put the radio gear in a shack near the tower while running fiber Ethernet back to my home there. About a 500 ft run.

Knowing the Maestro would likely roll out with a partial feature set compared to later capability, it is with a cup-half-full view I'll start working with the new Maestro ecosystem .

A person can always wait until the feature set is a better fit for a particular set of expectations.

As many power packs seem to support charging while under moderate to light loads, would it be possible to use the charger from a specific power pack, largely sidestepping this one concern.

As for timing I'd had enough contact with FRS to know the Maestro wasn't ready as early as hoped. So what though? It isn't like there are many other FRS comparable options and until very recently I only had a deposit down. When I had ordered other items for my other hobbies I often had to put down half and then do progress payments. Often with no discounting either.

Here with FRS I put down 8% of list in exchange for a 20% discount at delivery. No bitch from me on my Maestro deal.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Burt Fisher

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I charge my KX3 without taking out the batteries. I am sure someone will tell me why it works for the KX3 and not the Maestro.
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Lewis Cheek

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Burt, I'll bet you'll be told something, maybe not related to batteries. :)

Lew N4CO
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WW1SS - Steve

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It just seems like flex rolls out product with a partial feature set. Bluetooth . . . later, battery charging . . . maybe, software bugs . . . we'll get to it eventually. I think when my invoice comes for the maestro I'll pass on it till they get it right. People having problems with wifi etc. As far as I am concerned the Maestro still is not "ready"
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Elecraftt with the KXBC3 NiMH Charger option for the KX3 decided to use Eight AA NiMH batteries rather than LiPo packs.  

Would Eight AAs be enough power to fire up a Maestro for very long?  

 With Elecraft PX3 (Panadaptor)  doesn't Elecraft supply pigtails for an external power source?  

Guess the simple answer is because of the difference in capacity?  

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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@Steven - waiting until the available feature set meets your personal needs and expectations certainly is a valid approach.

Especially if a specific feature or group of features is on your "mission critical" list and it isn't ready to your satisfaction it makes sense.

There has been enough WiFi issues with every stage of the increasing Flex-6000/SmartSDR capabilities that it isn't surprising there are teething pains.

Given the amount of Alpha Team testing and that now people have had their Maestros only days you might want to just watch for a while.  

But it should sort out as the Community, by design, attracts the problems for fixing and those reported are but a few.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@ Steve 

One would need about 10 AA NiMH batteries to be equivalent capacity to a 12,000mAh Li Battery AND you would also need a separate switching supply to produce the 5.2V DC needed to power the unit as an USB power source. 

As I stated the Battery turned out to be too complex an issue to solve in a reasonable amount of time with reproducible results so Flex made a business decision to eliminate the internal battery charging in favor of being able to deliver Maestro this year. 

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Jay / NO5J

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Just a thought.

Does the lid for the battery compartment have to be replaced?

I'm wondering if charging the battery pack with a USB cable plugged into a spare USB port on the shack pc might be possible. I've got several of these batteries that can be used to power other devices while charging. There are USB charge cables available that are flat and thin. I use those to recharge my android cellphone, while it's in use.

If the cover can be left off, I might be less tempted to clip, or grind off one corner of the lid accidently 

I have no idea, if this is possible, or whether it voids warranties! Just wondering.

73, Jay - NO5J  
(Edited)
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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IMHO the battery should have been part of the Maestro. Tethering the maestro to mains and even ethernet, completely removes the use case I have envision for the device in my case. I want to be completely wireless.
I am disappointed with the turn of events with the battery in the Maestro roll-out.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Sal

Due to regulatory restrictions  on the shipment of Li Battery containing devices, an early decision was made to use an external battery. 

Since the beginning of the Alpha process I have used WIFI and Battery Power almost exclusively for my Maestro.  In fact the one time I was asked to physically connect it to a hard wired Ethernet port I had to crawl behind cabinets to find a free one.

I still continue to use it on WIFI and Mains Free almost 100% of the time.  So your use case is not precluded in any way whatsoever.

I am currently using the 12,000 mAh Polanfo Battery which seems to last 5-7 hours depending on the use ..you can hot swap the batteries due to the fact that there is an internal backup battery... so you would be virtually wireless 

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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I really hope so.

I looked at the polanfo when i was doing my research because it was cheaper than the motrix [sic] and slightly larger capacity but based on earlier feedback I decided to play it safe. I made the wrong choice it seems... I should have purchased the 12000mah one. I find myself unable to use the likes of Amazon and ebay, so I have to purchase things, have them shipped to colleagues in the US and then arrange transportation into the island. I guess it makes me a bit more paranoid about getting the right stuff or making sure everything works before it leaves the states.

Thanks for letting me know that it works... I am sure that we will find a solution to charging the batteries... But finding out that the usb mini was removed doesn't feed my optimism in a future capability to charge the battery... And it feels like an odd choice... Like not having bluetooth from the get go.
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Tony Hateley

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Just like the flex 6000 series radio the products are not ready for the prime time,still waiting for the basic on the radio,never mind anything else
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Chris Tate - N6WM, Elmer

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@Sal..  It wasn't until the very end of the alpha cycle that I found a solution that would charge at all.  I had purchased 2 of the same battery initially and neither worked correctly.  This did not stop me from being wireless.  and since I have 2 I can keep a spare charged on stanby anytime.. total net cost.. $20 bucks.  In fact for a Northern CA DX club presentation I put one in the Maestro, and used the second to power a Rasberry Pi.. and connected to my home network with a T-Mobile hotspot on battery and that gave me the complete untethered circuit to test my flex at the meeting.  I think you will be good to go.. but you may want a couple battery packs.  The Polfano Howard mentioned was the most robust and consistent of the ones I have. 
 
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Dave Dave

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Yea a squelch would be nice..... Echo...Echo
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Welcome to the Bleeding Edge of Technology, 

Every time one attempts to invent something that has never been done before you run into unforeseen issues that no one could have reasonably anticipated.  So it takes a bit longer to get things right.  But that is the price that many of us are willing to pay to be at the forefront of innovation. 

The battery turned out to be one of those unforeseen issues.  Because of regulatory issues it is extremely costly and difficult to ship devices containing Li Batteries.  So it was decided to use a commonly available USB Cell Phone Charging Battery Pack

One would reasonably assume that all batteries of a similar type such as being able to produce USB 5.2V would have similar performance specifications.  One could also reasonably assume that batteries from the same manufacturer with the same model number would act approximately in the same way.   It turned out that neither of these assumptions were true. 

There is no standard for Li USB power packs. The packs are usually but not always 3.2V internally with a switching supply to produce the USB 5.2V. Some batteries start on 100uA draw, some need 500uA and some need a button pushed to start.  Some have protection circuits to prevent shorts and cut off above 2A draw and some cut off very different voltages.  Some do not cut off at all.  To further complicate the issue different batteries need differing charging voltages and currents to even start charging and some will shut down entirely when they get too hot or charge too fast.  Some need the charging cable and the USB A cable connected to charge and some did not. There are a myriad of other variations.. but you get the picture.. no consistency.

To make matters much worse,  the quality control and consistency within a specific model number of the same brand was just too randomly different to be reproducible. 

We spent a number of weeks/months diagnosing the Maestro circuitry and enabling software trying to find a solution to erratic charging and battery performance behavior.  Finally Gerald was the one who actually figured out that it was inconsistent batteries rather than software or hardware that was the issue.  By removing the charging circuit the problems went away. 

We tested all sorts of makes and models of batteries hoping to find one that would work reliably.  None were 100% reliable.  I personally had good luck with the 12,000mAh Polanfo but YMMV.  

Finally Flex had to make a very difficult decision... Delay the release of Maestro for possibly several months while dealing with Battery Manufacturers to find one could make one with reproducible performance characteristics or just remove the charging circuitry that the different batteries caused to malfunction and ship now.   Since the Maestro worked well on battery AND the battery can easily be charged externally, the internal battery charger would have been nice BUT it is not a deal killer.. nor was it important enough to delay the deliveries any further....


Now you have the rest of the story.....

Bottom line;  Nothing much to get your shorts in the wringer...

For the most part we have been rewarded for our perseverance on the Bleeding Edge of Technology with best of class performance and outstanding features that are not available anywhere else.

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Winston VK7WH

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Thanks for the detailed explanation Howard
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I guess you had to be there to see the issue first hand , and i don't doubt the difficulties you explained Howard. But completely removing the charging circuit means my unit will never charge a battery, not even at a later date. Any little plug in the wall pretty much charges and does what couldn't be achieved in the Maestro... It is difficult to wrap my mind around that concept, a $5 wall charger can do what the Maestro charging unit couldn't...
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Burt Fisher

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Howard you said, "We spent a number of weeks/months diagnosing the Maestro circuitry " You were there in Texas and participated in the engineering?

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WW1SS - Steve

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Lithium Ion batteries are NOT bleeding edge technology. Every manufacturer in the world that uses them charges them. They are in cell phones,,ipads, computers, laptops. Imagine if I had to change the battery on my laptop every 4 hours because HP can't figure out how to charge a battery . . . . Give me a break.
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Jay -- N0FB, Elmer

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You are not thinking this through Steven.  The cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc all have written specifications that the battery companies must adhere.  As long as they build to their customer's specifications, these large organizations will buy tens, or hundreds of thousands of units.  That's a lot of leverage.  
These packs being used in the Maestro were meant to be sold directly to the public. They were not designed for any specific product or company.  Therefore there is no requirements.  There is no contract verbiage for defining what constitutes breach of contract or its remedies.   No major customer with deep pockets and attorney's on retainer to help hold the battery manufacturer's feet to the fire.
There is also a tacit liability when charging these batteries within the Maestro not being spoken here.  LI PO batteries are known for catching fire and sometimes exploding, especially if charged incorrectly.  I'm sure this exposure to litigation was not lost on our good friends at Flex Radio.

Of all the things that one might get upset about...this ain't one them.   Open up the battery door, take the battery out.  Charge it.  Put it back in.  Enjoy your radio.  Get on with life.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Burt

As part of the Alpha Team, I along with many others, participated in the testing of different batteries and different hardware and software combinations. Since much of my operating is done via remote operations, I was more sensitive to battery issues than many others may be and spent a lot of time testing different remote scenarios for the battery.

The final configuration now seems to be workable for battery operation and the absence of an internal charge cable does not preclude successful untethered operation.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I believe Jay gave a lucid explanation of the issue.
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G8ZPX

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The alpha testing sounded like great fun. Personally, I will wait until the beta testing is over!  

I get the impression more and more from your posts that the alpha team are too much in love with their technology/new baby and less concerned about user acceptance.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Your choice

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Steve (N9SKM)

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I find it comical how many people were bitching to get them to ship them 3 weeks ago and how quick some people are jumping on some stuff now that they are shipping. (Not specifically talking about the battery thing here as that came as a suprise that the news was so late. But remember there is an internal battery so it wont die when swapping packs)

Its a brand new to market product and there is gonna be bugs, But they will fix stuff based on the precieved need from the community i am sure. Lets all remember we are dealing with a small company here not one of the big 3 in Japan with unlimited budgets. part of the reason i bought the flex is how responsive they are as a company and the fact that there is always something new around the corner.

Im patiently waiting for my invoice as i ordered early July, and am prepared to recieve an extreamly well put together product even if there will be some bugs that have to be fixed. At least with our stuff its a software change instead of a rig having to go somewhere to have a mod done.

Keep it up FRS

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ka7gzr

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Howard,

I guess the problem is the Li batteries and chargers are not considered to be the “bleeding edge”  technology. They were 10 years ago. I bet that most people reading this have had Li Batteries for some years with wall warts that charge them without many problems. The FRS recommended batteries have a very simple charging system derived from the USB standard. So why-o-why suddenly this became an unsurmountable problem?

I suspect it was a time and monetary problem. My experience has been that typically the battery and charging system are considered at the end of the design process and don’t get proper attention and I understand that. But that’s not because of the “bleeding edge technology”

Jim

Ka7gzr

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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I believe Jay gave a lucid explanation of the issue.
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Cal Spreitzer

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This is actually disappointing news for me.    I was expecting the MAESTRO to be my stand alone computer which would replace my laptop for portable use!   The MAESTRO demo I saw in February at the Richmond FROSTFEST had the charging cable installed and I was led to believe there were no issues with charging.   Without a charging circuit it appears that there is no way for an operator to tell how much battery life is remaining if running on a battery?  What happens when you run out of juice?  Will the MAESTRO be able to power down without corrupting the OS?  I wasn't expecting to have to be tethered to a power cable. 

Cal/N3CAL

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WW1SS - Steve

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The whole point I am trying to make is for the money paid there should be no issues. NONE. It should work out of the box. When you buy a radio from other manufacturers it works and works as it should. I plug in my kenwood to my router and I can do remote on my pc anywhere in the world. It just works. With all this testing done it should just work. We are always promised things with flex and it does not materialize. Always get Future update . . . In bug tracker, how about a noise blanker that works. Bluetooth with Maestro . . . Don't hold your breath waiting. Everything is 1/2 completed. Don't get me wrong I like my 6500 but it seems they forget about us and the little things that make a good radio great and are looking for the next BIG BANG. So now I'll sit and wait for the small things like the dropping the dit. But that fix is in the works . . . Nuff Said
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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@Steven - There is a "Chicken and Egg" problem that becomes insurmountable in your take on how FRS should run their business.

As they have been very clear that the whole idea behind a highly updatable ecosystem is that user features will become available when they pass FRS's building, testing and debugging - crystal clear from the very start with the SDR-1000, crystal clear with the Flex-5000/PowerSDR I bought from them, and crystal clear with the Flex-6700/6300/Maestro/SmartSDR I currently use - that I never had an expectation of a final product.  Not ever.

Actually I think your take that their be a final product and the FRS model that products/product features will be issued in waves as available are at odds.

Pejoratives like "don't hold your breath" "always promised things with flex" "everything is 1/2 completed" are a reflection of your buying in to a developing product ecosystem before items you feel are mission critical for your style, use and expectation were available. 

If there were proven settled features you absolutely wanted/needed, why would you buy in early, and even more so why would you then moan about it?

Over and over folks on the community, the various reflectors and in person have said "you always can wait until the evolution is where you are comfortable" - that sage advice remains rock solid. 

I happen to very much like participating in the evolution of the product - I find it exciting what is being added.  I am really intrigued what will be the FRS buzz at Dayton, especially if there is more than the Maestro roll out.

Basically Steven, are you too having fun?  As it sure comes over that you are not, and if there is no joy in mudville perhaps switch up to something else until what you desire is out.

Catch you in QSO sometime to chat?

73

Steve

K9ZW 


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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Cal

The Maestro runs fine on battery. As I said, I seem to be getting 5-7 hours on the 12,000 mAh Polanfo. When the battery runs down you get a low battery indication telling you to swap batteries. There is a small internal battery that holds you while you swap batteries or plug in a DC source.

YOU ARE NOT TETHERED TO A POWER CABLE

The only thing that has changed is that when you are tethered the battery does not charge as it needs an external charger.
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Samuel Strongin

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What low battery indication do you mean half the maestro shutting down and intermittent operation .
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N9VC

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Steve K9ZW,

I agree with you. All these arm-chair quarterbacks
who, somehow, have the feeling they know better
how to run a successful company. I have had Flex
radios back to the early days of the 1 watt Flex
SDR-1000. I remember calling back then to talk to
Eric about a problem I was having. I was told he
had the day off. I understood and gave them my phone
number at their request. I expected to hear from
him the next day or so. A half hour later, he calls
me on the phone, on his day off, from home, and gets
me straightened out. Get that service from the big 3.
Look at the problems Icom had with the 746 displays
and losing transmit, due to overheating. What about
Yaesu with the FT-5000 with the OLED displays. All
can have problems.
The fact that some are having problems with the Smart
software and others are not leads me to wonder what
might be a local problem, due to how their computers
are set up. Do they follow the update instructions
to the letter? I'm sure, all will say YES. I had
some problems because I took shortcuts and started
to just do the update without reading well-written
instructions. I cannot blame Flex for my negligence.
Look at Icoms update instructions. Don't do it right
and the radio will be rendered useless and then have
to be shipped in. Think Icom will pick up the tab on
that?
The Steven, you reply to, 2 months ago posted on a
different thread. 'Get the Maestro out and then issue
updates.' Now he says they should not have shipped them
till they are right. No matter what Flex does, some will
be very unhappy, which must be a joy to sit around
the dinner table with those types.
Read some of the comments on Eham about some of the
problems with the other manufacturers. To say they do
it right all the time can be flawed.
I cannot understand purchasing something if it does
meet your expectations. Flex has met all my expectations,
plus my wife's. She hates computers, but now picks the
Flex 6500 over her FTdx3000. Thanks Flex for doing a
great job. You deserve a round of applause.

73, Jim N9VC
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Samuel

When my battery runs down I have been seeing a low battery message saying the unit will shut down soon - connect to a power source..

Currently running other tests but I will run the battery down later today or tomorrow and try to post some screen shots

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N9VC

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I have to correct my last paragraph of my comment. It should have read
'does NOT meet your expectations.'
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Burch Akin

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I can verify the low battery message.  I was just in a QSO and I got the low battery message.  Something to the affect of change your battery or plug in power.   I quickly finished my QSO.  I had a spare battery on the table and was able to change out the batterie and the radio kept going (never shutoff).  Very cool!  
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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I found throughout usage during the alpha testing that the Maestro had neat little usability tweaks like this. I was usually impressed how usable the device was for such a new class of device. When I didn't know how to do something (and this was before the tremendous manual was available), the device did things better than my original idea.
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Cal Spreitzer

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Can the MAESTRO use wired Ethernet while operating on internal battery power?  Page 11 of the user guide currently states: 

 "It can operate in a fixed mode connected to external power and wired Ethernet, or in a portable mode using internal battery power and a Wifi connection."

Is the manual correct or is it misleading?  My hope is either Wired or Wifi  with or without external power.  Please clarify.  Thanks...

Cal/N3CAL



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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Cal -  yes, it can operate on battery with a wired Ethernet connection.  In general, if the unit is not being operated portable, you should be using a wired connection with DC power.  This will provide the highest performance configuration.
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Greg - N8GD

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Even though some of the more knowledgeable posters here (e.g. Howard) have briefly but incompletely touched on this issue, I would like to point out a very important fact to those on this thread who think this battery issue shouldn't be a problem, since other battery types are easily rechargeable while in service.  ALL Lithium type batteries have electronic circuitry embedded in them to control the charging and discharging of the battery, as well as protect the battery from environmental issues, such as temperature and high discharge rates.  As mentioned, some won't even turn on until a particular load is applied.  This is in addition to the voltage conversion circuitry required to get the 3.4 V native level up to the 5.0+ V USB level.  Since Flex had to deal with regulatory issues with shipping 12,000 maH batteries, the decision to use a consumer grade battery pack was made, as documented in this thread, which introduced the uncertainly of those battery packs and their widely varying circuitry and specs.  These batteries are far more complex than sealed lead acid, NiCd, or NiMH batteries.  Yes, Li batteries have been around for several years, but for their benefits of power density and light weight, they are very fragile compared to other battery chemistries, not to mention their propensity to explode or catch fire, especially in these large capacity versions.  If you think it's easy, just look back to the problems Boeing had last year with Li battery technology in their new 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  Flex made a decision that had to be made to ensure timely delivery of their product, safety, and compliance with shipping regulations (again to ensure safety).  I am not a Maestro owner, but I applaud Flex for its development and ultimate availability to the Amateur Radio world.

Greg - N8GD
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Steve (N9SKM)

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I agree with everything besides this :"ALL Lithium type batteries have electronic circuitry embedded in them to control the charging and discharging of the battery"

All quality ones do. But i have seen some 5v packs that are very marginal in this situation an example was one that turned the boost converter off but left cell voltage directly on the output so that particular unit could cause low voltage hazards.

But any quality pack will have proper battery management to minimize any safety issues. Heat,over and under voltage as well as current is what will kill them. This is the reason that i use LiFePo4 packs with my kx3. they are much more tolerant of abuse than Lithium Cobalt cells.

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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Well said Greg.

I did run the Maestro power pack by a business friend who's firm makes custom packs for mainly the medical industry.

Can be done, but the cost control didn't seem to make it an economic option (I had thought to have special packs made to market as a non-FRS provided accessory).

He is going to have a look at a Maestro to reaffirm his initial take that FRS made a good decision to use the mass market LiPO packs for a decent cost/benefit option.

73

Steve K9ZW

(Edited)
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Steve (N9SKM)

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I was looking at cells and what a circuit would cost to home brew a pack and i dont think the cost would be worth it either. Although you could get 6 18650s in there which could get you over 20AH it would be far more expensive than an off the shelf unit. The Li-Po cells i looked at were either small or akwardly sized for the unit but you could pack alot of capacity in there.
Let us know what your Friend says if he find anything that would be viable, I would probably be interested if it was all constructed with name brand cells instead of what comes in most usb packs.
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Lawrence Kellar KB5ZZB

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Jackery Titan 20100mah $39.00
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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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Official Response
Bottom Line:  

You charge the optional customer supplied power pack for Maestro exactly as you charge your smart phone or tablet.  You can even plug it into the same charger.

Maestro is designed to accommodate a customer provided cell phone LiPo power pack available through high volume consumer channels such as Amazon.  Charging and operation of the power pack for use in Maestro is accomplished in exactly the same manner you would for use with smart phones or tablets. Charging of the power pack is done by plugging its charging port into a standard 5V USB charger.  A charging cable typically provided in the package with the power pack.  To work properly in Maestro, the power pack must automatically turn on when it senses that a load is applied to its 2.1A output port.  This is easy to test by plugging it in and watching its LEDs come on to show it is supplying power.

Maestro is designed with a snap open battery compartment door (no tools required) that allows you to swap power packs in about 15 seconds.  The software will give you 2 minutes to change batteries when it detects that the power pack is dead.  A good 12000 mAhr power pack will give you 6-7 hours on a charge for around $20.  Buy two and you can run all day. 

History:

We chose to incorporate off the shelf LiPo smart phone power packs because they offer very high power density at ultra low cost.  Their availability is driven by the high volume consumer products industry.

Our power control circuitry was developed and tested using Mogix and Sony batteries purchased last year.  In our internal testing they operated and charged flawlessly.  We demonstrated battery operation at many hamfests where we were able to charge the Mogix batteries inside Maestro.  As we expanded our beta testing over the last couple of months, more of our testers started to purchase Mogix batteries.  Suddenly we started getting reports from some but not all testers that they were having problems getting Maestro to boot on battery or to swap from DC to battery.  

At first we were not able to repeat the failure at FlexRadio because we were still testing with the original Mogix batteries.  Then we purchased a large number of Mogix batteries to use at hamfests for demo.  When we started testing the new batteries we found that some worked and some didn't.  For example the unit I use at home worked 100% of the time.  

A significant portion of recent delay in Maestro delivery can be attributed to trying to find the root cause of the problem.  We bought more batteries from different manufacturers and most seemed to exhibit similar problems.  Either they would not boot or they would not charge when placed in Maestro.  

We thought at first that we might have a software or hardware issue in Maestro.  We did extensive work to look at the power management software operation without success.  We looked carefully at the hardware power switching design and could find no fault there.  

Sometimes the root cause is the last thing you think of.  On April 28, I was personally testing every battery we have to look for some correlation that could be used for diagnosis.  I was showing Matt what I was doing and he asked, "What if you disconnect the charging port?"  I tried that and suddenly every single battery that was failing to boot Maestro now worked.  It seems that many but not all of the batteries we tested do not function properly with both their input and output ports simultaneously connected to Maestro.  Why?

That began a comprehensive digital scope analysis of the circuit along with a search for batteries that might function properly.  We tested a variety of software switching scenarios as well as potential circuit modifications.  None improved the reliability.

We actually found another pack that did work with both input and output connected but it charged very slowly and there is no assurance that the same brand will work the next time you buy it given our Mogix experience.  We came to the conclusion that there is no way for us to know if a given power pack purchased by a customer would allow both connections at the same time.  

We simply exhausted all of the practical near term hardware and software modifications to the design that we could make to assure reliable operation with the charging cable connected.  It turns out that the majority of these power packs are simply not designed to charge and discharge at the same time and thus their protection circuitry prevents such operation.  If they are, there is not assurance that the circuit will not change for cost or other reasons.  Therefore we made the difficult decision to remove the charging cable to prevent significant support issues due to customers plugging in both cables on batteries that won't work in that configuration.  That made no sense whatsoever.

So again, the bottom line is that you will charge the optional power pack exactly as it is designed and marketed - on a USB charger just like your cell phone.  In fact, I am using an old iPhone charger to charge mine.  Takes just 15 seconds to hook it up.  

If you are going to operating extended time on batteries you will want to have multiple charged batteries ready at all times.  The capability of swapping high density power packs in seconds allows you to carry a number of packs for extended operation that would not otherwise be possible.  You should be able to purchase 24 hours worth of batteries for under $100.  That's a bargain.
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Gerald,

Thanks for the note, it explains the hard work that everyone went through to solve a problem that isn't immediately solvable.

I feel that Maestro is a completely new product, once I got it my mind was blown. Its the best product I have purchased in the last 3+ years, so it pains me that we are having to hash out something like this.
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John-K3MA

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Thank you for the complete and thoughtful explanation.  Greatly appreciated.  My only observation is that it would have been better to have proactively shared this with the customer base in advance of the modified units getting in the hands of the customers.
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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There are very few perfect people out there and likewise perfect companies. The Maestro is such a killer device that you can understand the desire to get it into the hands of customers asap. Live and learn.
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John-K3MA

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Agreed.  Only constructive criticism not a personal attack.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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John - the decision to remove the charge feature was made the morning the first Maestros shipped.  We are not a big company and there was a bazillion things going on (see the pictures we posted).  We're sorry that an announcement of a proposed feature not making the final product configuration did not get communicated the same day.
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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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We also updated and posted the manual online with the change the same day the decision was made and we simultaneously started shipment.
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Winston VK7WH

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Thank you Gerald for taking the time to explain the reasons for the change. I suspect almost all Maestro owners would support your decision. I certainly do.

73 de Winston VK7WH
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Norm - W7CK

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I may have missed this in previous posts, but I was wondering if this feature will be added back into the product at a later date?
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Being the total lack of consistency among reasonably priced batteries of the same make and model, I seriously doubt that there is an inexpensive way to add back the charging cable without causing other battery issues the battery inconsistencies caused during Alpha Testing.

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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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Highly unlikely it will be added back ever. There are product liability reasons as well. We cannot control the design of the third party products.
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ka7gzr

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Gerald,

I'm scratching my head over your comment about not being able to "control the design of the third party products". What makes the difference between a standard LED you purchase and the battery?

I suspect you get what you get with the battery with no controlling requirements/specification and the LED has a datasheet that gives you a warm feeling.

You might try putting out a "requirements" document to the industry and cost target.to control the third party. It might make it unaffordable or get the manufactures to bear some of the cost burden. Probably too late for that.

Also, believe me, you all have designed, tested and manufactured a great controller. That is the most amazing aspect of the Maestro. Although not bleeding edge, you have made it affordable within the budgets of hams and that's what I stand in awe of.

Jim

ka7gzr

(Edited)
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Jim

Since the battery is enclosed in the maestro, any severe heating problems due to a batch of batteries that charge way too hot, could ultimately damage the Maestro or worse (just as an example). Its possible an LED could also overheat but the likelihood that it could do so at an extreme to damage your Maestro is pretty small.

The implications are just much different with the battery than the LED.
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Steve (N9SKM)

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A component with a datasheet is a far different thing than a battery system that comes in a million flavors of varying quality control.
The whole point of the USB supply was to save cost and very unlikely that a company would custom tailor a product when the majority of the market doesn't care.
A purpose built pack is another option but in smaller quantities you are talking 75 bucks or so for quality components.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Low Battery Indication:


HOWEVER.. you sometimes get this indication when you hot swap to a battery as the Maestro reacts to a change in condition.  So it is usually best to confirm the battery charge level with the charge indicator found on most of these batteries.

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Randy Pence

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"no usb plug for charging"

Very disappointing
n4jzy
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Steve (N9SKM)

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Gerald explained pretty clearly why it had to be done.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Since the question in this topic has been answered by the most authoritative source in FlexRadio, I am inclined to close it.

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.