Maestro updates = Microsoft Windows 10 updates.

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I am not trying to create a major issue but the removal of the 1.9.9 Maestro version yesterday created some issues and got me thinking.  A good number on this forum would say/have said they do not like the way Microsoft is forcing updates.  It has caused many issues including in my own station.  Heck I know some that still won't update from Windows 7 just because of this forced updating requirement.

Well last night the versions of the  SmartSDR removed from the server just simply vanished from the Maestro screen.  It was left with only the option to upgrade both the Maestro and the radio to 1.9.13 or downgrade to some older version that I do not remember the specific number.

So how is this any different from what Microsoft is doing with forced updates?

What if I saw some rare DX I needed and return to the Maestro that was working just fine an hour ago to work the station only to find out when I turned it on I needed to perform an update of the Maestro and the Radio instead of working the DX.

What if I had my cell phone trigger an alarm to alert me to the DX spotted on the cluster on 160M and it was the middle of the night when the alarm went off.  

What if the radio was not located close buy and required a trip to ensure the update was done properly.

I am sure there are other scenerios in which having a update force to be done immediately without any action on the part of the owner of the equipment can be looked at as inconvenient.

Would it not make more sense to allow the owner to envoke the update when appropriate.  Heck what was the urgency anyways.  I think the message said that two Maestros had been affected.

Taking it a step further if Flex has that much control over the software on the device which I purchased with no alternative what could happen if someday the server with the software crashed or got erased or the company went out of business.  Would I be left with a dumb Maestro?

Thoughts?

John K3MA
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John-K3MA

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Posted 3 years ago

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Jon - KF2E

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I think this was a little different scenario than Microsoft. Given the versions that were removed had the potential of bricking your maestro I think it was a reasonable decision.

Jon...kf2e
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Mike Hoing

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To keep the "what ifs" going. What if the problem they saw effected your radios.

I admire them for seeing an issue and removing the threat from their process


Thank you flex


Mike

N9DFD
(Edited)
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k3Tim

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Running Win-10 Pro here and not a big hassle with the update process. One can hold 'em off for a week or more if need be.  For the large updates a few minutes repairing VSP/CAT is all that is required. I can understand an agree with MS decision to force these as to many people skip them leading to problems. 

Personally I'm overjoyed Flex got rid of the updates that could cause a bricked device. I was concerned of accidentally selecting one of them some late night.
FYI: The effected units were more like seven.

No harm - no foul.

With Regards,
TimPE
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Gary

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Really? A few minutes? I've been unable to use CAT for nearly 2 weeks now due to the MS Win upgrade! I've not heard a word from Flex for 10 days now! I'm dead in the water - no - not a few minutes. I bought a used $6000 radio and can't use it the way it was intended for all practical purposes. My pleas for help have gone unanswered after getting several suggestions - none of which helped. One DOES have to wonder with a radio such as this how vulnerable you are.    Gary, K9RX
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Jon - KF2E

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Have you opened a trouble ticket?

Jon...kf2e
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Gary

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yes - that was what I meant when I said I hadn't heard - last reply from Flex on the ticket was on the 28th ... that stated

I did, yesterday, finally find the solution. There was an "Unknown Devices" in the list on Device Manager with 2 entries under it - deleted those and finally was able to delete FlexVSP.

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Stan - VA7NF

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The original point is valid.  I see a reasonable alternative is to mark the "bad" versions but leave them in the system for a reasonable time (no definition for reasonable).

If I were to see "1.9.9 (not recommended)" on the screen, it becomes my option to change or leave it on for a while.

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Bill -VA3WTB

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What is the advantage to leaving a possibly bad release on the server? And why use it if it could damage the radio.
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John-K3MA

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Bill, so what about bad version of the software on the computer.  They are not automatically removed.  The owner of the radio and computer has to remove them.  Why should it be different for the Maestro?
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k3Tim

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The comparison falls flat for two reasons:

1).  If the versions on PC were to cause a device (PC or SDR) FRS would  remove these.
2). FRS does not have enough hooks into the users PC based system to do the removal.
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John-K3MA

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@K3Tim....no it does not fall flat.  The point was why does it need to be different for software on the Maestro or the PC.  I am not referring to Flex removing software from the server so that it cannot be downloaded by new people.  I am fine with that process.  But rather the software that is already on the Maestro or PC.  If Flex has to leave the responsibility to remove bad software from the PC in the hands of the owner of the PC what is the argument that the same user is not competent enough to also remove it from the Maestro.
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Phil m0vse

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I think this was an unusual situation and rather than risk bricking more devices, FRS took the decision to remove 1.9.9. I have no problem with this as long as it doesn't become the norm.
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John-K3MA

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Is no one concerned about the loss of the server and if your $1000 Maestro then becomes useless?
I do not know if that would happen but it seems the possibility exists.
(Edited)
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Phil m0vse

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No, if there is no server then Maestro will just work with the latest version that it downloaded. This is how it works for people with no Internet access.
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John-K3MA

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Are you sure about that there is nothing that could happen to the server that will not possibly impact the future operation of the Maestro?  I guess my post is to pose the question to Flex so all can see the answer.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Version Management Policies have no perfect answer.

Does FRS play roulette with Maestros once they learned a version had serious issues?

Now if you have a version already downloaded, and a serious problem is found, the issues are even more intense and complex.

We've seen the struggle as Amazon with their Kindle and Barnes & Nobel with their Nook worked out issues like this, with the added fun of copyright issues, including regionalization/localization copyright issues.

So in the not yet downloaded update scenario, does FRS simple remove unsafe versions from the server and leave just known safe ones?  Seems to make sense.

In the Already Downloaded and Installed scenario the decision tree seems to be a touch more complex, with the short-term & long-term negative impact of using a risky unsafe version the big factor. 

At what point of risk does FRS "pull" the danger off Maestros in the Field vs a "push" to update to a safe(r) version?

If the flaw was so dire that your Maestro could brick, would you be happy as an end user to take that risk?

If it was a problem was so severe that could get you an OO Warning or even an FCC action, what should happen then?

At what point is the risk of inconvenience of a forced version changed offset by brick, OO and FCC issues?

Such is the complex decision tree.

A friend who had been working in telemetrics pondered one evening when user action to update or a forced update process was warranted for large scale commercial kitchen equipment? 

If a 30% power savings was available my remapping, should it just happen? 

If temperature overrun safety was improved by an update, should that one be user action or forced? 

If a high risk temperature overrun existing hazard would be eliminated should the update be user action or forced?

Welcome to the Internet of Things and a Software Defined World!

My guess is there is no one-size-fits-all perfect answer.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Ned K1NJ

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   Maybe I worry too much.  But-  if Big Refrigerator Co. can get through to my refrigerator,
even tell me if I'm running low on milk, what else can it do?  What mischief might be next
when our personal networks can be accessed by someone who is merely able to crack
the refrigerator code?  Might the 6000 become incommunicado or the washing machine
explode?

  Apologies in advance,
  Rambling on,

Ned,  K1NJ
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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@Ned K1NJ - these are really valid concerns, but nearly unavoidable as a condition of having current technology.

Hopefully our Flex-6000 and Maestros will never be taken over to be part of a DDOS Zombie Army or Spam generators.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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John-K3MA

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Steve, valid point and I suspect that not many if any of the purchaser of the Maestro thought about the issue of version management.  I do not know if Flex even though about it in advance.  Obviously now they have a policy since they took action.  I am not saying the action is good, bad or otherwise.  But the policy should be shared with the owners or be available to read.  Pre-Maestro world there was not a need as the owner was incontrol.  Flex could not reach inside and take back an update.  Only remove it from the server and even that is not 100% as already downloaded version are out of their control.  So now that the game has changed what are the new rules?
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Jim Runge

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Just buy a Heathkit 101 and sell me your flex.  Problem solved.
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John-K3MA

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What your point Jim?  Is it that you cannot afford to buy a Flex on your own? Or is it to make a smart ass comment on a post that is not all roses, kisses and hugs regarding Flex policies and procedures?
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Eric - KE5DTO, Official Rep

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Official Response
I would like to personally apologize on behalf of the entire organization for the inconvenience associated with the removal of the recent Maestro v1.9.7 and v1.9.9 software.  When faced with the decision of whether to leave software available to a customer that could brick their Maestro hardware or to pull it from the server (thus removing it from the list available to the users), there seemed to be a clear choice that led to a better customer experience.  The trade-offs of potential bricking vs a forced version change were discussed and we made the best decision we knew how given the information and resources that we had available to us -- the lesser of 2 evils.

This is not something that we enjoy doing (forced updates), nor is it something we plan to do often.  But I am glad that we were able to find the problem and fix it without more failures in the field.  

As others have pointed out, having our server not be available or just having a network outage will not prevent you from using your Maestro.  It will work using any of the versions that are already downloaded on the unit.

Thanks to all of you for your support and happy flexing.
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering / CTO

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Official Response
John,

Thanks for your note and bringing up this issue.  We have the same concerns you do and we actually talked through some of these scenarios before pulling the trigger on this.  The one that was most troublesome for me was the "I got up in the middle of the night to work 160 grayline and had to wait for Maestro" scenario.  There were wrinkled noses at this suggestion as everyone thought through it.  I believe that removal of a version will rapidly decrease as we move forward, but we had a fairly serious issue that could have resulted in the return of Maestros to the factory and it seemed the lesser of two evils to remove the culprit software.

I don't follow things terribly closely, but my understanding is that Microsoft is embarking on a path to 1) push updates in as close to automatic/mandatory fashion as they can, 2) send telemetry back to Microsoft on what is happening on your computer including the context of your Internet searches, etc.  All this is being done in the name of providing you with better service.  In fact Microsoft has begun using the terminology "Windows as a Service" in some contexts.  I have not done the research to determine the real goal here -- is it ad delivery?  Is it to build a recurring revenue model?   Microsoft has pages that deny it is for ad delivery, but there is considerable discussion and concern about what is being collected and how it is being used.  Here's an example of the discussion.

It's interesting that when compared to Google, there are a lot of similarities: Google Chrome automatically updates.  I bet most of you don't even know this, but it downloads updates and mysteriously updates itself in the background.  Google Chrome is currently on version 55 and I've seen graphs that show which versions are detected on the net and it is heavily populated with the most recent versions because of this.  No one gripes and no one complains because it just works.  Google itself is inherently an ad delivery system, yet it is not irritating nor intrusive and is mostly benign and helpful so most people I know have a very favorable opinion of Google.  The corporate motto of Google used to be "Don't be Evil" -- seriously -- although it has changed to "Do the Right Thing" now under Alphabet.  These mottos recognize the possibility that they could do lots of bad things with the "information power" they possess, but they have stated they want to be a good steward of the data they receive.

Going back to the ham market, some products deliver with rather rudimentary functionality and do not add to this rapidly over time, either because that's not their model or the hardware simply doesn't have the capability of being enhanced much.  This is not the way we see Maestro.  We see it as a platform that you will be able to use to control your station (hence the name).  This is very different from what other manufacturers are currently doing and it requires updates as we move forward and there are risks in those updates.  There are plenty of people, we suspect, that are still on older versions of the Maestro software.  We do not collect information on the version people are running nor do we collect information on what our customers are doing with their radios or Maestros.  Personally, I'd like to have this information to help with product development.  Knowing how your customers are using or want to use your product would be very beneficial in prioritizing what you're going to do next.  We've discussed whether we would want to have an opt-in program so interested folks could allow their radios to "phone home" and provide this data, but we have not gone beyond discussions.  If we did this, it would always be an opt-in program and you would have control over whether you provided the data.

I hope this helps you understand where our heads are on the whole idea of telemetry, automatic updates and the removal of bad software.  We want the control to be in your hands except in cases where you would unwittingly be able to cause harm to a product you own.  In these situations, we feel the need to act swiftly to prevent this.