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?


John K3MA
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Posted 4 years ago

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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

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.