Maesrto

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Maestro,  I purchased the Maestro primarily for local remote operation around the home QTH.  While it preforms OK, there are quite a few short comings for the use I thought it would provide. It appears that the device was mainly designed to operate at the local station as it really provides a lot of flexibility in control, apparently for a contest station. 

I find that I use a laptop computer most of the time rather than the Maestro for any operation around the house as I can turn on and off the radio, control the amplifier and so forth.  As my station is in another building, remote from my home it is inconvenient running back and forth to turn the station on and off.   Needing two control devices at, [Maestro and a computer] say the easy chair in the family room is really not convenient..........................>

While I may be ignorant  of all the Maestro operation details, here are some short comings that I see:

1) The display lacks a clock.  It would be nice to have both, local and UTC time.  While time is available from the 6700 GPS it's really not convenient to keep switching between screens. There appears to be lots of spare real estate on the display for two clocks. What about the other 6XXX devices?

2) Lacks Bluetooth connectivity.......More "Stuff and wires" around the remote operating location.  Almost every communication device offered has Bluetooth connectivity which is supported in the windows platform.  Chained to the device by a cord is really "obsolete"

3) Lacks the ability to control the 6XXX series on and off.  As a windows based device, access to remote switching devices should not be difficult.

4) Battery operation and charging.  I have a hard time believing  that Flex software engineers cannot provide a charging feature.  Again just about all user communication devices allow the refreshing of  the battery.  As an absolute minimum, provide a charging port that does not require the removal of the battery access cover and battery removal to charge.

I also note that the battery charge indicator in useless using the current battery packs.  Just about the time I wish to use the Maestro, the battery is dead, then need to find a refreshed battery or a power cord.  Fumble with removing the battery cover, unstrapping the fragile securing straps, removing the usb connector then reversing the process. Every 4 ~6 hours of battery operation, this is really not very acceptable as the maestro is a portable device...........Now  where the heck is the refreshed battery? Cord?

For  the contesters and others, these issues may be minor, for my expectations these features have really impacted my enjoyment of this device.

Ken K7YR        

  
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Ken K7YR

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Posted 3 years ago

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AH0U

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I agree totally... Re-reading the Maestro ads after I got mine, I can see it is a contest device and not really suited for general hamming. You suggestions would make it better for general hamming but there are more that seem missing
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Official Response

@Ken K7YR


All four ideas are good one that have been discussed.

If you use the Google Search trick on the community ( "search term(s)" and then add  "site:community.flexradio.com" in your google search window) you may be able to find discussions of all four suggestions.

Quick summary as I recall:


Clock - being considered for a later "SmartSDR for Maestro" release.  I've been guessing there are some decisions on what time to display here? (which CPU time, radio time, GPSDO time, calculated time based on last WWV time synced, or?)

Bluetooth - Hardware is there, the implementation will follow in a later version of "SmartSDR for Maestro" after resolving a number of decisions. (my guess is security, lost/hinder connectivity logic, and general Bluetooth fun & games to implement.)

Remote Hardware On/Off - has been mentioned that it very likely a later release of "SmartSDR for Maestro" will include this feature. (As there are more than a binary single on-off pair of "off states" - each compounded if the unit has the GPSDO option installed it hadn't made it to a production release yet.)

Battery Charge/Indicator - there is lots of reasons why it could only be safely and competently done if battery selection was sharply limited, perhaps to a proprietary offering.  Even Gerald has spoken about why what we have is the way it has ended up.  (Since the LiPo packs are cheap, hot swappable, HIGHLY variable in actual performance and draw down is only loosely measured even when you see a pretty display the $20-30/pack option picked is not all bad.  A dedicated pack manufacturer I spoke with thinking I could offer a dedicated pack suggested a nearly $200/pack if ordered in some quantity for what amounted to about 1-1/2 generic LiPo packs of power. I dropped the project at the earliest of stages with the estimate.)

73

Steve K9ZW

http://k9zw.wordpress.com 



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KF4HR

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Let's hope FRS has plans to add these and other features to the Maestro as time goes on. 
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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From what they posted, FRS was considering or has plans for 1, 2 and 3.

Number 4 (Battery Charger Indicator) they suggested is not a good idea, and Gerald suggested it is unlikely to happen.

If you look through the Maestro threads there are other features and update FRS has discussed, dropped hints about or promised.  They range from a onboard VPN client to control of partner products from within "SmartSDR for Maestro."

I'm finding I use "SmartSDR for iOS" for very casual operating and a Maestro with its "SmartSDR for Maestro" for the majority. 

Not using "SmartSDR for Windows" very much at all at the moment, though that will change when the weather encourages more time inside than summertime's privilege for outside operating.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Bob - W7KWS -

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I think you're pretty much on target Ken.  I've tried my Maestro all over the house and yard and it's more trouble than it's worth while away from the main station.  I now use mine in the shack exclusively where I have easy access to all the other important station controls. 

When I'm in other locations, I use a Windows eight inch tablet.  It is much more convenient and the battery is easily recharged.  I run SSDR on the tablet but I also run several secondary windows where I can turn my 6300 on and off, switch antennas, turn the beam and control the linear amplifier, Etc.  A Bluetooth mouse makes fine wheel-tuning quick and easy.  Ham Radio Deluxe gives me two additional slider controls at different step sizes without having to cycle through those on the Flex window.

Hopefully Flex will take our type of operation into their thinking and open up Windows on the Maestro so we can do these things without the need of a separate computer.

The four points mentioned above in the Steve's "Official" response to your post only touches on the most minor of the difficulties with the Maestro outside the shack.  The big one that isn't discussed is the overall ability for complete station control from a single, portable device as shown below in a screenshot of my tablet.

Best regards!

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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Wow - I've never had a reply endorsed as "Official" before.  Must be the mind reading classes I took, as I do not work for FRS and live 900 miles away from their HQ. 

I mentioned I use my Maestro a lot - I do this with an iPad or a Toughbook is parallel. 

So I guess I'd describe my Maestro use as a major upgrade to a iOS or remote Win7/10 controlled Flex-6700 station.

Sometimes I do use the Maestro alone along with a paper log, but that has some serious shortcomings.

Like you I love having it available in the shack as well.  I wish I had planned more desktop space though, or I need to move the 9500 somewhere else.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Bob - W7KWS -

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Steve,

It seems that your Elmer status causes all responses other than yours to be hidden and you response to be tagged as "Official".

73, Bob
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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I'm thinking FRS must have stamped it official, as it hasn't happened before to my other posts, nor do I think it happens to other Elmers' posts.

Must be I actually recounted what they wrote in various threads close enough that restating it wasn't needed? 

Flattered if they picked this one message to stamped, and likewise concerning if your theory is correct as I cannot claim to speak for FRS as anything more than a owner.

A mentioned just below the onboard VPN will be really nice to have.  I use the Raspberry Pi VPN setup that K6OZY was so kind as to help the community learn how to do.

While setting it up was a natural to the Computer Sciences major who helped me (my middle son, Winston KC9FVR) it was non-trivial for my available time to set up on my own.

Having Winston KC9FVR's help to troubleshoot along with excellent advice from Chris W6OZY made it a success.

A self-contained VPN client will be a treat in comparison!

73

Steve K9ZW


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K1UO - Larry

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I'll chime in and mention that until the onboard VPN feature is added to the Maestro software it is too cumbersome to try and connect up to my remote 6700 over VPN and use it as my extended radio .  Only after that can I know if I would miss items 1-4 above :-)    Meanwhile it sits and I continue use the Ham PC with Windoze VPN client to connect and control the remote located 6700 along with Amplifier, Antenna switching, RX Array switching  etc.    It will be great to actually be able to use a local mic/headset (via Bluetooth?) ,my cw key and tuning screen and control knobs on the Maestro.   I know there are things coming in 1.9 maybe around mid Sept but still not sure if VPN client onboard is one of them. 

Did work VP6J on 160meters CW  with the 6700 using CWX and100 watts this morning so I can still manage a little fun with the more cumbersome method.

(Edited)
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Ken K7YR

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Hi Steve, K9WZ

Not to be disrespectful, I have noted your "Official" comments on items 1,2,3,4.  Yep, there may or have been previous comments on these subjects before. I even queried Gerald on a couple of the items.  However you have only repeated the official line relating to some nebulous occurrence in the future.   

I include a quote from the official Flex advertising document.

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

I can and do operate my 6700 and 6300 from several computers.  My portable computer is usually a  "Surface 3" and it works just fine. Turn on and off each radio, use Bluetooth, Have Local and UTC time, Have a 10 minute timer, and so forth.

From the above sales pitch Seems to me that I should be able to operate, at least the basic radio functions from the Maestro that I can from a computer, but I find that I can't even turn the radio on or off remotely. Can't charge the battery without dissembling the unit, and can't use some of the regular features found on the computer.

 I  look to a computer or TV station for weather predictions, sometimes, maybe a week or so out.  I then search different sites or TV stations for deltas in these predictions......... I wonder why, at my age.  Having purchased my Maestro shortly after the first announcement, some time ago I sometimes have the same thoughts about Flex predictions.

I note that after your initial comments,many of the following comments digress into other areas not germane to items 1,2,3.  I am disappointed about item 4, but realize that what it is is what it is.

Would I have ordered and purchased the Maestro then, knowing what I know now, possibly, can't really say, but it does seems not to be a worthwhile $1K investment when it can't accomplish some of the basic control that a regular household computer does. [Understanding that it really enhances some of the 6xxx operational opportunities]

I'll not be holding my breath here for "In the future"

Ken K7YR  

          
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WW1SS - Steve

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I won't hold my breath either for "in the future". My Maestro sits in the closet. I take it out once in a while to use. I have it about 2 feet from my network and it always goes from green to red on wifi. Not worth the aggravation. Sorry I spent the $1000 for it. FOr that money I could have bought a nice laptop with 4k display and ran Smart SDR that way. I run it on a surface pro 3 now.
(Edited)
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AH0U

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You missed another... and to me critical point.....lets talk about the Antenna Genius... Without a computer you can't turn it on or connect your antennas to the Maestro... P.S. Still waiting for the updated software for the Genius so I can do a little SWLing with my 6700...
(Edited)
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Gents, as a general guideline in buying into an ecosystem product the right timing is when the delivered feature set meets your "must have" expectations.

All very valid points, especially if a feature you really need or won't be happy waiting for isn't ready yet.

Will there be complete feature set synchronization between the four current commercial HUI to a Flex-6000? Doubtful as each of SmartSDR for Windows, iOS, and Maestro along with DogparkSDR would have to trim their feature sets respectively to become lock-step equivalents.

Team partner products may depend on the partner team to integrate, and for various reasons may not integrate equally with the three different SmartSDR favors and DogparkSDR.

Without the vast improvements in the operators experience from when my first Flex-6700 delivered (it is serial number #11) I wouldn't have bought another 6700 for my weekend shack.

I've only put into service three Maestros on three different networks. I stubbed with a internet extender, needed my son's and Chris K6OZY's help to make the VPN workable, and with my 6300 and Maestro in the W9EVT shack had to add a dedicated router as both the Frontier and DCWis modems were not workable with the Maestro. W9EVT so liked the results that his IC-7800 and Hilberling are often turned off in favor of the Maestro Flex-6300. Combo. He so liked the demo setup that he insisted I sell the setup to him rather than wait for his own.

And what is doubly cool is how the features have become richer with newer software versions.

Will Ranko add SWL antenna switch controls to the 4o3a Antenna Genius? I never asked him, as like everyone else I am first interested in controlling the Antenna Genius from within SmartSDR for ham bands.

Impatiently I wait too for features that deeply interest me.

I guess I never expected to control every aspect of my shack automation from a Maestro, hence I'm not unhappy with getting started with each shack having a Maestro knowing more features will come.

Have to say it, as I simply don't understand the negativism. None of the things mentioned that are pending were deal-breakers for me personally.

And the moaning about batteries is boring. I certainly couldn't justify an additional $400 for a pair of custom batteries.

Leave the cover off or do the pigtail to an external pack. I've wired up a gelcell from a plane to run a Maestro. My calcs suggest it would be months before the battery would be down too far to support the Maestro.

Given that we each have favorites we want to see added to the ecosystem sooner the better, I think we can all think of times the Flex-6000 isn't quite what we want. In my case a session with a conventional radio, even a really nice one, leaves me ready to get back to the 6700.

YMMV but just an my enthusiastic use of the Flex-6000 ecosystem is not everybody's experience, the pining for future updates now negativism isn't everyone else's experience either.

Respectfully 73

Steve K9ZW
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AH0U

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The SWL antenna problem comes about because the Flex SSD software has a WWV and General Coverage band but with the Genius there is no way to use it.
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K1UO - Larry

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Go to the 4O3A.Com website and download ver 3.0 of the AG
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Thanks. I either missed 4o3a's announcement of the new version or he didn't do it very widely.?

Appreciate the heads up as like everyone else I had expected more to be ready out the gate with th Antenna Genius.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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AH0U

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Thanks... It wasn't there Saturday hi hi... Any word when documentation will be available??
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WW1SS - Steve

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I still wonder why someone can come out with a Smart SDR iOS app an add features and get a lot of the bugs out it of it in a few weeks and it takes Flex months and months and months to fix bugs and "possibly add new features. Of course I am no programmer but it would seem that Flex would have more resources than Marco to do this sort of thing.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Ask them?

"Are we there yet" in moderation is a decent question.

There has been hints made of some SmartSDR ecosystem updates perhaps even next month.

As usual Alpha Team testing results control a lot of what makes it to a release and when.

Marco's work on SmartSDR for iOS is impressive. One of the few paid apps I've felt were worth every penny.

Doing the whole underlying SmartSDR ecosystem updates is obviously a much more complex task - just the parts we know and name (SmartSDR for Windows, SmartCAT, DAX, SmartSDR for Maestro, SmartSDR in Rafio software/firmware, SmartSDR in Maestro software/firmware, the driver sets for flavors of Windows OS, the integration of partner products, the API hooks, then the hardware itself that is out and the hardware in the pipeline like the SO2R/SOnR box, the Power Genius and whatever else is being developed) is much more difficult to advance.

It is all really cool, and the results have been rewarding and fun to use.

It is also fun to anticipate the next steps!

73

Steve
K9ZW