How Did My Brand New, Never Out Of The Box 6600M Know It Needed An Update??

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  • Updated 4 months ago
  • (Edited)
I received my Flex 6600M on 26 Feb and I have been busy all week.  At our radio club meeting last night (Thur 1 March) I unboxed it with the intent of letting the club members compare it to a recently purchased (also this week) Icom 7300.  It took about 15 minutes to configure the Icom and laptop to have N1MM display the panadaptor on the 32 inch monitor.  Admittedly the 7300's panadaptor was a bit grainy.  So, lets compare it to my NEVER OUT OF THE BOX, STAND ALONE, NO COMPUTER REQUIRED Flex 6600M.  Problem the first thing displayed and the only that will display is an update SmartSDR screen that wouldn't and still wont go away.  No panadaptor - Nothing!!. FLEX DID NOT LOOK GOOD IN COMPARISON BEFORE 40+ people who have to vote soon on what to buy for a second radio.  All of the good publicity and enthusiasm that Gerald Youngblood developed when he personally spoke to the club in January vanished in an instant.  A major public relations gaff !!

Worse for me, I still can't get past the update screen and I am sitting here complaining instead of working the ARRL DX SSB Contest - one of the reasons I bought the radio for in the first place.  I have been through the manual forwards and backwards and the Simplified start up sheet to no avail.  AND I STILL WANT TO KNOW HOW MY RADIO, WHICH HADN'T BEEN HOOKED TO THE INTERNET KNEW IT NEEDED AN UPDATE??  I guess it was shipped that way which in itself is disturbing.

What am I not doing??
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Gary Johnson

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Posted 4 months ago

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Gary Johnson

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Hey Ed, what did you do to get around the screen??  The only functional button on the screen is LOG IN which just tells me it can't and locks everything up.
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Michael Walker, Official Rep

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Gary

I am not sure exactly which steps you might have run through, however, right after you boot, did you happen to touch the Connect button in the bottom middle?   From there, that will take you to the 'versions' screen which will should show the version it was shipped with.  

This video might help.




When a new version of SmartSDR is available, the Select a Version screen appears when the FLEX6400M/ FLEX-6600M is started.The radio manages software versions automatically. Each time the radio starts, it checks for newversions of the software. When a new version is available, you will have the option to downloadand install it. A number of versions of the software will usually be available for installation, givingyou the option to move forward or backward through the versions. The newest software is listed atthe top of the screen, the oldest at the bottom.

If this is not what you are seeing, let me know.

Mike
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Gary Johnson

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As I explained NONE OF THE BUTTONS ON THE SCREEN WORK except for the  LOG IN BUTTON on the bottom right.  BTW, where in the manual or on the QUICK START GUIDE is this explained.  In fact, after seeing the video, the quick start guide is even less useful , bordering on useless.

I can see where as you say that each time the radio starts it checks for new software, but if I understand correctly, the 6600M is stand alone and need not have either an internet, nor computer connection.  How will it KNOW if I need to update or not until I opt to connect it myself.  If it can somehow connect itself, then there is truly MAGIC in the Ham Radio world.
(Edited)
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KF4HR

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As you found out, Flex radios are not your standard plug&play transceivers.  There's sometimes a few extra steps involved but its not that difficult.  

Getting a message to update the software right out of the box is not uncommon.  The same thing happened with my 6700.  Just do the requested update and roll on.
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Gary Johnson

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Maybe on your 6700 which requires a connection to the internet and is controlled from your computer.  The 6600M is "advertised" as being stand alone not requiring computer and I assume internet.  If I am wrong then the radio is useless at a Field Day where no internet is present.

If I could just "do the update and roll on" I'd be working the SSB contest and not texting you and Flex.
(Edited)
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Mark - WS7M

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I don't have an M radio...

But doesn't this simply mean that the software version on the Maestro part, does not match the firmware version in the radio?

I think the way this could happen is if the radio was connected  via network and used with an SSDR that was a different version than the stuff installed in the Maestro.

So Gary, I release you are frustrated and it is maddening that a "new" thing arrives in this condition.  I will say that I think Flex is really rushing to get radios out the door.  That's no excuse for quality but I do not think you are "broken".

I will say that expecting to use the radio in the SSB contest might have been a little optimistic.  I would also say that expecting to unbox a complex device and believe me, the flex is FAR MORE COMPLEX than a 7300 at a meeting could end up disappointing as it did.  I am sorry it worked out as it did though.

But lets work on getting you fixed:

So if you boot your radio up from the front panel what version of software does it show you on the Maestro screen?   I'd bet it is saying either 2.1.30 or 2.1.32 or something like that.

But then it appears that if you try whatever is shown it says you need to update right?

So here is perhaps the quickest fix:

On your computer, download SSDR from flex.  It will probably be version 2.1.32 (the latest).  Install it.
Connect your flex to your network.

Turn on the radio and let it get to the start screen of the Maestro.

Now run SSDR installed on your computer.  Hopefully it will find your radio on the network.  Try to connect to it.  I think if you can see it one of two things will happen:

1) It will connect and you will see a pan adapter.  This would indicate the radio is on 2.1.32.

2) It will say you need to update.

If #1 happens then I think your radio is on 2.1.32 and somehow your Maestro is not.  In this case, not having a Maestro or M model radio I think you will need the help of someone that does or perhaps Flex.

If #2 happens then we know your radio is NOT on the latest version.   You could try running the update via SSDR and hopefully after that is successfully complete  maybe, if we are lucky, your Maestro will be happy and connect.

Mark - WS7M
(Edited)
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Rich McCabe

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Gary,

The log in button is not to log into the radio. That is for Smartlink.

You seem to be missing stuff. The first screen you should see looks like this.



If I am understanding you correctly you never see anything on the first screen except Log in?

I agree with Mark. I would plug it into a network and fire it up with the latest SSDR software.  Try running than and see if its current.  If it is, I would download the version prior and downgrade it see if it works and then go back to current after that. 

You might also try the reset method with the power button as described in the manual.

If that doesn't work, fill out a help desk  ticket.

Rich
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Gary Johnson

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Yes Rich, I get the screen just like you show.  See those 3 buttons under the large dark gray box??  NONE OF THEM WORK!!!  I PRESS THEM AND NOTHING HAPPENS.  The only button that does a thing is the Log In button on the right hand bottom screen.  To compound the problem, the quick start up guide, etc that I have found address this screen at all.  Trust me I have read the manual, spent $32.00 having it printed and bound.

I will try the complete reset using the power button.  What have I got to lose.
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Gary Johnson

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Mark,

How can the programming on the front of the radio be different than the programming on the back of the radio.  Are you trying to imply that the radio truly is just a maestro glued to the front of a large box, each running separate programming??  ??  I surely hope not as Gerald and others have said that the M versions are completely new design.  That said let me explain the following again.

1.  I have connected the radio to my router (which seems to work fine on all of my other devices).
2.  I boot the radio and I get the Maestro screen and it has buttons on it - 4 in fact and NONE WORK EXCEPT THE LOG IN BUTTON which once pressed gives an error screen which says I am unable to log in (probably since I have never set up an account on the Flex server - I can't since the connect button, the info button and the Set up account button will not work.).  If I press the Log In button I get the error screen it locks up the screen and nothing I do works except for shutting the radio down and restarting.  
3.  Once I restart I get the same problem and I am in the same place as number one above.

I am not and I repeat not going to run this radio using SSDR from my computer.  If I have to then Flex owes me a $1000.00 refund.

And I ask Flex again, how does my brand new radio, never (supposedly) out of the box and therefore never connected to the internet know that it needs an update??  And why would they not do the update BEFORE sending it to me, especially if they KNEW it needed an update??  It's not like the radio has been sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust.    Doesn't make sense.

I have never purchased a Flex before the 6600M became available because I refuse to have my radio dependent upon the BORG (aka Microsoft) and be at their mercy for operating my radio.

Lastly myself and a couple of other people in the radio club are trying desperately to convince other members that owning a Flex 6600M is in our best interests.  We have sold all of the clubs other radios and have the money in the bank.  This failure to operate the other night did our cause no help.
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Mark - WS7M

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Hi Gary,

I'm not suggesting you MUST use it via SSDR I'm simply trying to find out what version of software it has and I thought that by connecting using SSDR we can confirm that.

Steve below has a description. 

I realize you are frustrated and unfortunately it is the weekend.  Had this been week day I'm sure you could call Flex.  Get Dudley on the phone and he'd have you figured out pretty quick.

It seems like something is FUBAR so I think at this point contact flex via phone on Monday or create a help desk ticket now:

https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/

I am sorry for your first experience.  I had a much different experience with the Flex but then again I don't have M radio or Maestro.
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NX6D Dave

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Looking at Michael's video, and comparing to my Maestro and 6600, I think this may be a situation in which the front panel is not making contact with the radio "back end", so it is sitting there hoping it will show up.  That would explain why the Connect button doesn't work -- nothing to connect to.
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Rich McCabe

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"How can the programming on the front of the radio be different than the programming on the back of the radio.  Are you trying to imply that the radio truly is just a maestro glued to the front of a large box"

Its not glued, but you are on the right track.

Actually the front of radio is a windows based "client" just like your computer talking to the "large box"

Your M radio is NOT operating as intended. It should run without the update. We are just trying to help you get going because something is fubar.

Rich
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Gary Johnson

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Something is definitely "FU".  Hopefully NOT "F'D UP beyond All Repair - FUBAR.".  Once the morning tasks are done - breakfast, feeding the sheep and dogs I will attempt a Full Reset.  Do I need to be connected to the internet to do this reset??  This is like buying a new truck and finding out it needs service before you can drive it home.  Doesn't make for warm fuzzy feelings.  In fact Thursday night it led to significant embarassment.
(Edited)
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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Gary,  sometimes when you press the connect button, if you are above the radio physically it looks like you are pressing right on the button, but you are, in fact, way above it.  Have you tried tapping the button looking straight into the screen?  I know this sounds weird, but I've seen people miss it before and think that they hit it.
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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Howdy.  First, I'd like to apologize for those that have encountered this -- I completely get that it's frustrating and it's 100% our (FlexRadio's) fault.  I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses for how we got here, but I think the explanation will help you understand why this happens and why "we let it out of the building like this."

When we released the Maestro, it was designed to connect to not only the radio on your desktop, but any Flex radio, anywhere.  In the early design stages, therefore, we knew we would need a selection screen that lets you pick which radio to connect to.  We discussed having it bypass this screen if only one radio is visible and it does act this way under some circumstances, but we also hated to make the interface unpredictable by showing it sometimes and not others.

Since the radio is a software defined radio, we can load a number of different versions of software into the Maestro.  We decided that there could even be scenarios where you would want to switch software versions while on a remote island somewhere.  For example, if you upgraded just before leaving on a DXpedition and then realized when you got there that you preferred the "old look" of the panadapter or the location of some setting, etc. we wanted to allow you to "go back."  While not widely known, the Maestro stores up to five different COMPLETE versions of SmartSDR including all of the software required to update the half-dozen processors in the radio and the Maestro itself.  As a result, the second screen we put up shows the version of software you can run along with a set of arrows explaining what will happen when you click on a version:  The one version with no arrows (if present) is the version that can run immediately with no updates.  The one(s) with one arrow signify which can run using the local software already present, but not loaded.  The other arrow shows those that can be downloaded from the cloud automatically without any additional cables, etc.  It's a fully automatic procedure, but it takes 5-10 minutes to complete, so you might want to wait if you were trying to get on the air to work some DX -- like NOW.

Fast forward to the 6400M and 6600M.  We had long discussions about the design of the radios but decided that a uniform interface to the customer was best.  I won't bore you with all the details, but we wanted to make it the "same" operating one of these radios if you'd operated a Maestro before --and-- we want to make it easy to switch between your station and someone else's with the same family of hardware.

Once again we decided there was probably a special case where the radio should just come on (no select screen and no version screen, rolling directly to the panadapter).  This is the "I've not seen any new versions" mode.  We did extensive testing of this and it works well in our offices.  We tested with the Ethernet cable "in" where a network was present and "without."  For some reason, we missed a timing problem where, on occasion, on startup the conditions fool this algorithm and it believes it should show you the connect and version screens even with no new version (this is my conjecture at this point).  The issue pointed out to us last week and I immediately went to the docs and realized it was not clear there either.  For anyone that has run a Maestro in the past, this interface is clear and folks just click through and run the radio.  While I can't say, yet, if the Alpha team or our employees saw this and just clicked through like we would on a Maestro or whether the algorithm that skips this worked every time, it does appear that for folks that have used our products for a long time this doesn't feel like a "problem" because it's really in their muscle memory.  It's a little like driving a Peugeot after driving a Chevy for years and not being able to find the wiper switch.  For the Peugeot driver it's just muscle memory and he just thinks "I'll turn on the wipers" and it happens.  The other guy, the Chevy driver, is hunting through the controls, frustrated, thinking "I should just push HERE and it should work."  I'm intimately familiar with this problem because I travel to a lot of ham shows and end up spending about 5 minutes in each rent car trying to figure the silly thing out (as a side note, it's nice the there is now some standardization on the multi-function lever, but I digress).

The thing that really confounds the problem for the first time operator, again completely our fault, is that both our internal folks and the Alpha team generally have LOTS of versions on their radios/Maestros.  They see a half-dozen Alpha versions, a couple release versions, etc.  In this case the second screen, the "pick a version" screen has the dark grey box in the middle that houses the versions and our brains say "that's a list!" and we know to go click on one of them.  These guys routinely switch versions to test things in different versions and the interface is totally familiar.  But since v2.1 is the first and only release shipped from the factory that works on the radios (even though now there is a v2.2), the radio will show that single version in the grey box.  To the Chevy driver looking at this Peugeot (darn, now I think I should have used Ferrari instead of Peugeot in my analogy), it's a non-sequitur.  There are clear buttons that he tries pressing and there's this box with a version.  Is that the current version?  Is it an update?  I'm not plugged into the net -- how does it know there's an update?  Confusion ensues because there's no visual indication to click on the version.

So this is, again, our fault.  It's a mistake totally born out of familiarity and good intentions, but a user interface mistake, none the less.  So for that I'd like to apologize.  I feel especially bad for anyone that is showing off the radio not just because we want it to show well, but because I've been there.  Im my career I've had about 15 years of jobs that required presentations to an audience and I loathe the demo that goes wrong.  I generally do a lot to protect myself from that because the sense of frustration and powerlessness is just unbearable, but it does happen.  I had it happen with our Alpha team a few years ago at Dayton where we could not get a teleconference (to include our remote guys) to work.  It took FOURTY minutes to get it working while a few dozen folks cooled their heels in person and on the phone.  I was very aware the amount of time I was blowing, en masse, for everyone and was totally embarrassed.  I walked away muttering "that's NEVER going to happen again."  So I've been there and I know the feeling and I feel just awful that we did that to some of you.

I'll discuss this with the team next week and we'll figure out how to make this work better where it's more understandable and don't leave folks wondering what went wrong.  I know that doesn't help those of you that have already been across the snow-covered pass in your t-shirt, trying to  explain to the family that the map says this is the right route.  For those -- please accept my sincere apology.
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Gerald - K5SDR, Official Rep

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Mark, Gary and Steve are in touch off line to resolve his issue.  
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K3SF

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This is what i like to see, people getting together to works things out.


I am a long time flex user and recently received a 6600M. I received it on 28FEB and spent the whole day just getting familiar with the the controls both touch screen and knobs.

Initially a bit overwhelmed even though i have read the manuals over and over and even though i have used a 6300 for years. This was a totally new experience.

Being a retired engineer who has done SIGINT thingees in a previous life, i have come to appreciate the work Flex has done with these radios.
They are complex machines both inside and out.

Being a ham for over 55 years, i have come to realize they are not like any HAM radio of my past. If you come looking for that experience of 'vintage ' radio then this might not be the radio for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking to experience a whole new direction with expanding potential and possibilities, then this is the radio. Whether running as a stand alone or as connected to computer for simple logging and even more to station integration and even more expanding digital modes and even more for remote operations and even more.....

To a place where your imagination and this radio can take you.

BUT
To make it happen still requires people to get together and work together.

My best to Gary, Mark and Steve to work thru this issue

Paul K3SF
(Edited)
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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Mark, absolutely — I sensed the frustration and figured a phone call would work best. Right after my post, I got Gary’s phone number and called to talk. We got off the phone about an hour ago and it appears that there is an issue with his touch screen, from what I can tell. I offered to do same-day service or replace the radio on Tuesday when it will be at our offices. I’ve never seen this issue, so I’m not certain what it is, but could be as simple as a cable that didn’t lock in place and came loose in shipping.
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Mark - WS7M

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Good deal.  I am glad he has some help.  The frustration was pretty evident.
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Jd Dupuy

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Another thoroughly explained answer to an issue. You stepped up to the plate and hit a good one. Try getting that sort of explanation from any other non US manufacturer. I was going to hold off until May to order a 6600M. But now I'm going to order on Monday and get in line!
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Gerald - K5SDR, Official Rep

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Gary, I just found and sent Steve your contact info so expect to hear from him soon.  I show you as N5BAA.  He will be glad to get you sorted out.  I don't think he read the entire thread the first time through and missed some of your points.

I apologize for your difficulties.

73,
Gerald
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K4ELO

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As usual, excellent support from Flex!  You guys are great.
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Rich McCabe

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Gary one thing you might mention at the club for those comparing the Flex to Icom.

You just got a response ON SATURDAY from the President/CEO and Vice President of Engineering of Flex

Try getting that from Icom.

Rich
kd0zv
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Gary Johnson

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Steve and I determined that it is a HARDWARE problem, not a software or operator problem.  Plain and simple the info button and the connect button on the screen don't work.  It will be hand carried back to Flex on Tuesday for Steve to correct the problem or replace the radio.

As for commenting on Customer Service - absolutely I will mention it when I next show it off to the radio club.  However I am used to excellent customer service - one of the radios I sold to afford the 6600M was an Elecraft K3.  With Elecraft I had a direct email to their techs and received responses, even on Sundays.  That is a bit much to expect.

For Gerald, thank you again for coming to speak to HCARC back in January.  Our club has sold all of its old legacy radios and miscellaneous equipment to generate enough money to upgrade to SDR technology.  The first radio they got was the previously mentioned Icom 7300.  If Dale K4DG and I along with others have our way we will get either a 6400M or 6600M.  Its our best chance to join the 21st century radio wise..   If I might be so bold as to make a suggestion, I ask you to take a look at your 6400M/6600M Quick Start Guide and produce an addendum that explains what the operator will actually see when he powers the radio on.  It says nothing about this connect screen nor does it even lead you to expect to see this screen.  In my case,  it was disconcerting to have a screen pop up that indicates that an update is needed and then in my case have 2 of the four soft touch buttons fail to work.
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Bob- W5TX

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Gary, As Steve said, it looks like you have a hardware issue of some sort. According to your description, you have yet to see the ‘update’ screen as it appears after you hit the connect button (not working apparently). I too have a 7300 and it’s a shame the 6600M had a hiccup cuz there’s no comparison between the two. Ferrari vs Ford. Flex will get it sorted out quickly and you can relate your service experience and also show off the box to your buds.
Bob W5TX
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WH6HI - Pat

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While you are evaluating the start up interface, could you please add a button to the setup page that will alow direct login to SmartSDR. For us who will never own more then one Flex 6000 radio, we will never need a selection window on start up. Thanks.....
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Andrew Russell

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I use my F6500 with multiple clients and have seen a number of behaviours with the Maestro. The M series are another usage case.
There should be an option for a fast boot to the last stable state or some such.
Just like legacy radios.
I suggest a short push on the power button with a longer one for get update etc.
There are ultrasound machines where holding a button down while turning it on gives  faster access to imaging for emergencies.
Andrew de VK5CV
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NX6D Dave

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As an alpha tester, I can tell you that we did just as Steve suggested.  We're so used to seeing the various chooser screens on startup, and we use them so much, we didn't think much about what it would look like to others.

I run a Maestro on a 6600.  We're currently testing version 2.2.0.  I saw something (minor) that looked wrong, but wasn't sure if it really was a regression.  So, I switched the system (Maestro and 6600) back to 2.1.23 and sure enough, it was an error.  Wrote up the error for fixing and switched the system back to 2.2.0.
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Gary Johnson

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Steve had me try the tap the radio picture with negative results.  It seems that the section of the touch screen in the area of the info and connect soft buttons in inoperable.  I don't even get the little electronic "dimple" that shows where you are touching.  It will be back in Steve's hand to correct on Tuesday, hand carried by a friend who will physically pick up his new 6600 because he chooses not to subject it to UPS/FEDEX.
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mikeatthebeach .

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i hope they "Flex" are shipping 6600M's with the bug free version of SSDR
v2.1.30 instead of v2.1.32 
73
mike
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Gary Johnson

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Wasn't the latest version of the software supposed to correct bugs not create them??  Maybe I need to read closer, since I asked Steve to ensure my radio was fully updated prior to leaving Flex next Tuesday.
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K3SF

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Must be, i received my 6600M on 28 FEB and been running it 24/7 most of the the since i received.It is running v2.1.32 Only down time was due to N'oreatser that blew thru here with 60+ mph winds.Enough force to know over tonne of trees, a freight rain just a few miles away and knock my power for over 12hours







During arrl ssb dx contest, i have been mostly playing around testing as many features as possible over and over. That is necessary to build up muscle memory so i dont reach for the wrong knob. A contest is perfect time to get is as much practice in the shortest period of time.



my station setup..the two world maps show 15m spot on left and 20m spots on the right, the top center show spots on all band. I can put whatever views i want on each of the monitors.

yep...this is an all mac setup running two mac minis running mac native s/w. However when needed i can run win10 or win 7 or both as virtual machines on each mac and still have macos running atthe same time.

oh yea..v2.1.32 is still running OK here....guess i got a good one

Gary...i am glad the you go to talk to someone who could help you out with the hardware issues. When people have working systems it is hard to understand why something doesnt work and it takes a lot more investigation and data  and talking to get to the root problem.

as you can see above my 6600M is doing just great and so far no issues. Hope you can be in that state of bliss soon.

Paul K3SF
(Edited)
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Jd Dupuy

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That looks sweet!
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Rick Hadley - W0FG

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No such things as “no bugs”. The question is whether you want to deal with old bugs that may have been fixed in the new release, or new bugs that will be fixed in coming releases.
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Gary Johnson

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Yeah all things have BUGS, but locking up and needing restart over and over (as reported here) is something I don't need.  Unlike some of you with older versions available, a new Flex with new software has no other place to go to find a stable platform.
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Jim Runge

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Gary. You can go to the flex download site and download older versions of the software. I switched back one to 30 instead of 32.
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Rich McCabe

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Gary,  I am using my 6600m via front panel and SSDR and the hiccups are pretty minimal. Course I am on radio #2 :) 

I think you will be fine.

Rich
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Gary Johnson

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Rich,

Which version software??  The newest ending in 32 or 30.
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Rich McCabe

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Gary,

2.1.32.104

Not saying the radio is perfect, but best I have owned.

Rich
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Dale - K4DG

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All: I thought I'd close out this thread to let you know the outcome of the saga of Gary's non-functioning radio.

I visited Flex's offices today to drop off Gary's new 6600M for repair. Steve, N5AC, personally took charge of the radio. After a leisurely lunch I went back to Flex and Gary's radio had been repaired. From what I understand it was a bad display that had to be swapped out. Thanks to Steve and everyone at Flex for their great customer service.