Is it just me?
Contrary to the joy of FRS releasing nice new products, I feel like we’ve been dumped on from a great height.
FRS have been promising great headline grabbing features from SSDR for over 3 years now. Whilst we have been spoon-fed minor tweaks, we are still missing out on lots of basic must-have stuff. By basic I mean things that almost all radios over $1k had included from shipment of serial No 000001.
For examples: a proper useable S-meter, programmable RX filter profiles, all mode squelch, ability to assign antenna selection by band, ability to assign TX RCA amp switching by band, a lacklustre Noise blanker, a terrible ANF, the ability to quickly and simply do A <> B, A = B, split etc from on-screen buttons without needing numerous mouse clicks. And that’s without my long list of GUI shortfalls that are still lacking elegance, configurability and ease of use. All these things subtract user pleasure from what could be a first class system.
For me just a handful of essential basic features would have been enough to make me happy. It would have enabled the excellent RF deck of the F6k to be used without feeling that SSDR is somehow the limiting factor in an otherwise great product. Even now we have no certainty nor confirmation from FRS that important missing functions will even be included with SSDR v2.0, which of course we will now have to pay for too.
FRS tell us that they are a software company, yet in the past 3 years they have developed the Maestro, co-developed the XL amp, developed the whole USB interface functions, and now they have managed to somehow design and develop 3 new radios! All this time SSDR has lacked fundamental usability features, and has some serious bugs, lock-ups and GUI limitations.
I didn’t want WAN remote or other fancy ideas like diversity and S02R, just a solid radio deck that works as well as, and gives the same operating pleasure as any other radios in the $5k+ class.
If my soon to arrive Icom-7610 had a poor ANF then I’d send it back under warranty, expecting it fixed without charge, not a chargeable upgrade”. But, I suppose if I had to, I’d pay $200 again, even if it was for functions that really should have been included and/or worked properly from the get-go...but it had better have them ALL working A1 this time around.
For the past few months, I’ve been poised ready to decide if I should dump Flex. This would have been subject only to functionality immediately accessible from V2.0, and without having to wait / buy-in to more V2.x/V3 mañana promises.
And now the final nail in to coffin, it looks like my financial investment in Flex has just taken a big hit thanks to the new models. Yes I know those in the USA can do a trade-up but what about the rest of the world? I have been a loyal Flex user since SDR-1000. Are we second best, and does FRS only want our cash without the same level of commitment it gives to the US market?
I feel like FRS have strung us along for way too long with SSDR not moving forward with alacrity. Yet covertly they’ve been developing new radios instead that use up that precious and expensive payroll in other areas.
It looks like my trust and commitment in the FRS sales pitch and F6k has now become old-hat before it’s even reached functional maturity.
I had expected better from a small US company but I ended up
very disappointed. So, no thanks FRS I will not be buying another prototype from
you - I am not going to be that naïve and trusting twice.
I too have been waiting to see many of the enhancements on the long list of SSDR improvements that are on the idea list. Since they no longer provide road maps and only announce changes when they are ready, we don't know how close some of them are. However the number 1 idea on the list by votes is the dockable panadapters and that will be coming soon. It was demoed in Dayton. CONCURRENT clients is also coming in 2.x.
The decisions to prioritise Wan, the amp, and the new hardware were good ones even if they don't address what many of us are waiting for. More customers and growth will provide $$$ that can be used to expand the development efforts.
I am hopeful that with a lot of those efforts behind them we will start to see many of the SSDR gui features coming our way in V2.x . And while it may be 2018 before we see them i'm still impressed with the work they are doing and willing to wait for the features I hope we see in the year(s) to come.
Regards, Al / NN4ZZ
They half finish a product . . . Start on a new product and take in cash with reservations for the new product. I am waiting for the 7610 to come out. I have a reservation in for a 6600m but not sure yet if I will purchase it when my time comes in 6 or 8 months from now.
I don't have an issue with any company coming out with new stuff but finish the current stuff 100%
I am also getting a little tired of radios being "launched" but then having to wait months for one to be delivered. It seems an odd concept, but perhaps I'm a bit behind the latest marketing trends. Seems to me that it is OK to announce a pending new product , but once officially launched I think the supply chain should have a first run production to supply several thousand customers within a few days of placing the order. I am really shocked to read here that there are people waiting several weeks for a Flex 6500.
i knot it may got part sourcing challenge but still may make a MKII model
have expected probably i my dream that FRS what to show new software on hamvention
instead like all other do and show new radio , and V2.0 fall right under the carpet (again)
so flex look now like all other ,doing new "Hardware" every year instead of doing future-prof radio platform , that redefine itself by new software that is SDR definition after all ,and wly we put lot of money for buy a 6700 platform and before that a 6500
so now i just wait for my new ordered 6400 to ship ..... , but have prefer put my money on V2.0
quick Googeling and find old road map that show V2 for 2015 !!!! ,so yup it may easy to tell that it do hardware instead of focus on software .
I confirmed this the other day with Flex.
It is downright ridiculous
Hi Steve. Nope, I don't think it will be just you that is feeling a bit bruised/bewildered etc by recent events. Here's my thoughts - hopefully readers will see this as it is intended...a piece of reflective thought, not a rant.
For my own part I have just realised that owning a 'proper' SDR means that my investment is more like a PC than a radio....what a fool, I should have seen that coming. Afterall, it has always been referred to as a Radio Server.
Yes, I get it that my 6500 will still work with SSDR 2.x etc but that is cold comfort when the value of my investment takes the inevitable tumble and the 'cost to change' becomes so high. It would have been easier if I had high confidence that SSDR2.x will deliver the changes that many of us are hoping for, but I'm not sure it will. I know that the platforms are different, and that FPGA programming brings different challenges, but my long ownership of an Elecraft K3 (and K2 before that) has spoiled me in terms of what to expect from software updates - yes, Elecraft not only fixed the bugs, tweaked things to customer requests, but with every new release there always seemed to be some excellent new functionality. By comparison, FRS' updates seem to be advancing the platform at a much slower rate.
The US-only trade-up programme will surely make it easier for US-hams to stay brand loyal and trade their 6300s and 6500s for 6400s and 6600s. Here in the UK I guess that only the hardiest of FRS supporters will stay brand loyal; afterall, it appears we're in a different paradigm now in terms of 'rig' longevity and resale value. I'd have thought that this was something that FRS would want to address by extending the trade-up programme....I wonder if the business case stacks up?
Paul M0CVX (and ex-AC5NO....I used to be an honorary Texan ;-) )
Steve, just thought...maybe we should just chill out, Listen to some music...
Let's see, how about a bit of The Who? (selects appropriate album on British-made Cyrus HiFi)
(sound builds up - wailing guitars...loud screaming..)....oh hang on, what's this?.... 'We won't be fooled again'.
It's just not my day.... (dons flameproof suit...)
Perhaps the platform of the 6000, though innovative, is much too difficult to maintain and improve with a reasonable profit margin. We forget those guys have to "eat" too. Perhaps this has been a market decision so Flex can maintain a profit to continue the task of firmware/software updates.
One major difference is that Kenwood, Yaesu and Icom while Japanese have pretty much setup infrastructure world wide so they don't quite feel foreign. FRS has only done a little of this so the support and programs don't reach overseas.
For Steve, the main thread starter, I hear you. It seems like SmartSDR has been in small bug fix mode for a very long time. Had they addressed basic functionality you mention people like yourself could be much happier.
I hope you decide to stick it out and see what happens as I've enjoyed reading your forum interactions. Same for the rest of the group here. But I do get it.
For me it comes down to choices:
I'm not a power user ham. I don't do SO2R, diversity, in fact I don't even use all the features my 6500 has. In my HOA I can barely put up an antenna and the idea of having two for diversity receive makes me laugh. The HOA Nazi would be here in minutes. How I've skated by with my end feed 130 foot wire is still amazing.
I am a professional software developer, so the Flex API intrigues me. It means I can solve some of these issues myself if I could ever find the time.
I do believe and at least it was this way in my experience that when you by a knob radio from one of the big three you might plan on 2 or 3 firmware updates but whatever features the knobs support is pretty much all you will ever have.
A short time back I had some very bad family news and decided I need to sell my flex gear and amp. I sold my flex 6500, put my SPE amp up for sale and ordered an icom 7300.
The little icom was cute and the little panafall was pretty useless in my opinion. I also had to be in my shack to use it at all which was in a dark corner of my basement. In 2 weeks I began to regret my decision. Also my family news turned out not to be so bad, so I ordered a 6300, then a month after getting that I took advantage of the trade in (getting full price) and traded other gear back to a 6500.
At that time I ordered a maestro but later cancelled it because I realized I can just use my laptop. From what I read about some maestros I am glad I did. I am not convinced it is a stable product yet. But then again, I'd probably not even have mine due to the part and board re-turn issues.
Anyway just rambling here. I like the flex API and that is what keeps me on the radio. I hope Flex listens to everyone here and does put some effort back into software. It could sure use it.
Mark - WS7M
Try an XLR to USB converter. Works great and can't see any difference plugging the microphone in directly to the radio.
Keep in mind that the software in an SDR is as much a part of an SDR as hardware is in a conventional radio. With that in mind would you expect other manufacturers to provide hardware upgrades for free?
I really think some of you are so used to conventional radios that you simply cannot break free of the knob dependency and cannot adapt to SDR. Perhaps SDR is not for you.
I love my 6700 and will never go back to conventional radios again. Every single knob, meter, switch and dial is a potential problem. The more you depend on hardware the more restrictive upgrades will be. SDR offers far more opportunities for expansion. Show me a conventional radio with the ability to monitor 8 different band/modes at the same time.
Have had my 6500 for three years - was hoping for a different type of Dayton presentation - less hardware and lots of new software features - like a finished version 1.
Time to cut the losses and move on.
Good luck to Flex and their contest radio path - I hope they do well. Just not my cup of tea.
One of my biggest fears of spending $7,000+ on my 6700 in late 2015 I that the hardware platform would be superseded in a short period of time, so I specifically asked that question before purchase. I was assured by FRS that the cost to develop of their three 6xxx hardware was very high and I could expect this hardware to be around for several years.
Fast forward 19 months and now I'm hearing the 6600 will have better receiver performance than my $7,000+ FLEX-6700?! Sure I can upgrade (upgrade?) to a 6600, but I'd loose 4 receiver slices, which is the main reason I bought the 6700 in the first place. Talk about a sick feeling! It's probably wishful thinking, but I'm hoping FRS rewards its 6700 series customers by offering a receiver hardware improvement retrofit package.
As for the new larger 6400/6600 larger hardware, personally I think FRS has ventured down the wrong path. One of the main aspects I enjoy about the original 6xxx series transceivers is its slim size so it can be hid away and a PC or Maestro could be used for control. And I'm curious how the 6600M will display 4 slices on the small Maestro screen? Two slices sure, but four? If this built-in Maestro platform is the path FRS has decided to go, I suspect the 6700 model will eventually get dropped from their product line up, especially now that the 6600 has better receiver hardware.
While there are certain operational aspects of my Flex I enjoy, I feel this latest hardware release has let this 6700 owner down. FRS's disappearing road map and their wait-and-see business model has me now wondering if I went down the wrong path.
And my neighbors Plasma TV , I'm considering selling everything as being retired and on a fixed income and keep a portable HF rig when away from home.
No resolve from the ARRL when I originally sent a complaints to Ed Hair ARRL or the FCC back in 2001 and on and of thru the years
Licensed since 1967.
If something else trips your trigger, go for it.
If you are too impatient or something in the works is critical for your station, then fill that gap.
The present products are awesome fun and the new ones simply rock.
Glad I've a 6700 and Maestro at each QTH.
I have been with Flexradios since the 3000. I pre-ordered the 6300 when they were announced at Dayton. I waited 15 months before the delivered a nice radio but with horrible rudimentary software. A had assumed it would be an upgrade the PowerSDR, not a stripped down software lacking even a panadapter. Though they have obviously improved SmartSDR since it lackluster beginning, it still lacks many useful features of PowerSDR, which even now is being improved by a third party and far surpasses the features in SmartSDR. Even something which my Icom 751 purchased new in the 80's had, like squelch.
When I voiced some skepticism about FRS delivering the 66oo/64oo in August, someone on this board jumped on me as being so negative. I replied that I was not being negative...just being realistic based on past performance.
There is obviously a lot more profit in bringing out new radios than there is in bringing out state-of-the-art software for existing radios.
Even the IC-7300 radio has been operable natively over the internet for a long time.....time in which FRS has yet to fulfill that expectation, let alone bring SmartSDR up to even the level of PowerSDR. IN fact, FRS has gone backwards and removed such basic features as keyboard shortcuts and CAT control for many features that were/are in PowerSDR...like being able to adjust the TUNE STEP. WHen I asked to have the features returned, I was told "it's not a priority" by Tim.
I like my 6500, but am sorely disappointed in the pace of fulfilling expectations about the software, which is, after, what the radio is.
73 de Arnie W8DU
I personally think FRS underestimated the cost of developmentTo the extent that they did any estimating at all, I think Mr. Watts is probably right.
Running a software company is difficult. Running one in which you're trying to fund both your bug fixing and your forward development solely with current sales requires *lots* of current sales, and *very* healthy margins.
In my own, personal, experience, I have never been able to make this model work. Maybe it works for others who are more talented or who have products of different levels of complexity.
It is *my* view that the only thing that can save you in this model are periodic "re-ups"... people paying to trade-up to your new version. So you need a rapid (almost annual), compelling, paid, upgrade path.
Just as an example, my company develops and licenses some highly complex (another way of saying very expensive) software packages. We charge about 20% of the cost of the initial license fee per year for support. That support ONLY includes bug fixes. It does not include upgrades to new versions or new features, on which licensees get a 70% discount if they're under support at the time they want to but the upgrade.
Some years we break even on support costs...some years we lose money... some years we lose a LOT of money.
Software engineers are expensive. They are craftspeople, not really engineers at all. Their care and feeding is complex. Despite all the hooey about project planning, it is difficult if not impossible to know when they will deliver a feature that has been properly finished and if that feature will meet with near universal acclaim.
And software product planning and management is almost as hard as software engineering.
Flex are unquestionably good people, smart engineers, and dedicated to doing right by the community... even to their own detriment sometimes. Of this there really can be no doubt. Those of you who think otherwise really haven't been paying attention. Flex have stuck to their fundamental promises and continued to deliver free software upgrades in V1.x for years. Enough upgrades? Probably not enough to satisfy some of us... including me. But upgrades and fixes, nonetheless. And these haven't cost any of us a penny.
Now comes V2.x -- for which they've unfortunately boxed themselves in to charging $200. This isn't NEARLY enough money.
Having a bunch of nice upgrades isn't optimally helpful if it puts Flex out of business as a result.
If I was Gerald, I'd announce the cost of SSDR V2 was $550... just under the cost of an entry-level transceiver. Because that's what you're getting: A new radio. I might also considering individually licensed features (you want WAN? That'll be another $200, thank you... multi-client? That'll be $75 per simultaneous client attachment, please pay the cashier, thanks).
I'd also institute an annual support fee... say $110 per year. Heck, that's less than the $10/month people pay for their streaming music service... it's GOT to be worth it to folks.
Let's be clear: For this kind of cost, there would HAVE to be *really* good SSDR releases happening frequently, with lots of forward-moving, cutting-edge features.
But I bet you won't see any of those changes. Because Flex long ago told the community they'd do something else and they want to be good to their word.
Here's the bottom line: Good software costs a lot of money to write. The current model used by Flex almost certainly does not allow them to aggressively move SSDR forward and give us the chrome we all would like. They should value, and charge more for, their software -- and issue periodic, for cost, upgrades.
That's probably not the answer most want to hear. And, ultimately, it's really neither our problem nor even our issue to solve. But I bet that's the underlying reason you see for what happens at Flex. Somebody's got to feed the beast.
I had a chance to talk to Eric (Software) at the Flex Banquet Thursday night at Dayton. I mentioned to him that the average ham pays the bills so they can do all the new R&D and add special features for the "Specialists" Hams
I hope that the message will be voiced back to the top. Take care of the Regular Ham .... Features = Benefits --- Who (and how many) will benefit from this feature?
For Example -- AMSAT missed the boat on Phase III / IV satellites and the average Ham walked. They did not want small micro sats with 3-10 minute orbital passes, but a bird in a fixed spot in space and long talk times, that promise was never filled.
Our purchase was made with funds provided by the Department of Homeland Security a grant. FlexRadio Systems sold us a bill of goods that has never come to fruition. They sent me a set of SSDR V2 cards with serial numbers so that we could upgrade when the software comes out. It has been almost three years and still we have not received what we paid for.
We also ordered the Maestro because the way we were sold on it was that it too would be able to utilize the remote options to work anywhere an Internet connection was available. Let me tell you this Maestro is pathetic. Basic features that should have been included with a thousand dollar computer would be the: battery pack to use as intended, an adjustable foot, and an adapter cable so that you could use purchased accessories for your FlexRadio with the Maestro. By the way I still have not been able to use the Maestro or the computer with the radio without having to first upgrade or downgrade the software in the radio. The computer and the Maestro are both running Windows 10 there is no reason for this.
I thought it would be awesome to drop a cellular card on the Maestro and take it anywhere cellular service is available and have access to the radio, but who knows if that will ever happen.
As it happens to be, we purchased a lot of promise and learned a few lessons that we will not repeat again. I am now very cautious on purchasing from companies that can not show it to me before we purchase. The vapor ware has got to stop.
Finally, three of our Flex 6700 radios and Maestros are still sitting in their boxes awaiting deployment all because the software we paid for is not yet available.
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