MaestroControl - the next generation FlexControl

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FRS has announced that a version of the Maestro software will eventually be released that will  operate as a control surface and run concurrently with SSDR for Windows.  The screen would not display the current panadapter and waterfall but rather it would have some additional radio data and touch buttons.

Here is a different idea.  How about creating a new device that is just 1/2 of a Maestro (no display or SSDR client).  It would be a smaller package with the knobs, buttons. winkeyer, paddle jack and a USB port.  It would function like a FlexContol on steroids and provide a paddle / key input as well as more knobs and buttons than the current FlexControl.  

It would be a compact device we could connect to a laptop for remote and allow us to run CW Skimmer, loggers, spotting programs etc.    It would address the enhancement to add a paddle to a laptop.  

It could be connected to your PC in the shack in place of your FlexContol.  



Add your votes and comments if interested.....

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 - HW.................... V 1.6.21.77
SSDR / DAX / CAT...... V 1.6.21.159
Win10
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Posted 3 years ago

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Al / NN4ZZ

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Here is a link to the enhancement I referred to about adding a PADDLE to a laptop for CW.  Steve commented they have plans to do this but that was 2 years ago before Maestro.  I haven't heard any comments to the contrary but this idea could be a solution also.

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/remote_is_cw_via_a_paddle_in_scope_for_the_remote_e...

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 - HW.................... V 1.6.21.77
SSDR / DAX / CAT...... V 1.6.21.159
Win10
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Not to hijack your thread Al, but I would be more thrilled if FRS came up with a device that adds Band Data, Relays and remote functionality. Something that you can plug to the back of the Flex Radio that connects to the Ethernet port and provides a bridge to the LAN (so you don ́t need to have 2 ethernet cables), controls rotors, amplifiers and relays and will communicate with SmartSDR and Maestro and has WiFi and Bluetooth.

I also think that an opportunity was lost by FRS by not making the Maestro what it is plus a replacement for the Flex 1500. If the maestro was an HF QRP (10w) radio by itself a lot of people will buy it as an entry into the Flex line of products. It could have been a 500 Khz to 1Mhz single panadapter. If you love the device you can then buy a 6300 and add a full feature 100w HF radio that you can control with the Maestro.

Just ideas...
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Salvador,
Agree, it is different.  Here are some links from about 3 years ago to add an external box for shack peripherals.  There are other posts about it as well.  Seems like it is also being considered but not sure if any recent developments have changed the direction or plans. 

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/looking_all_over_for_band_data

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/band_data-3xef1?topic-reply-list%5Bsettings%5D%5Bfi...

There is no shortage of enhancement ideas (hi hi)

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 - HW.................... V 1.6.21.77
SSDR / DAX / CAT...... V 1.6.21.159
Win10
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W7NGA

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I am wishing for something as simple as I2C data, well-defined, on the data port for me to consume via Arduino and do what I want with it. As an amateur radio operator (and electronics engineer) I can actually solder, wire a harness, program for most any add-on do-dad, and experiment. I'll be the judge of the insanity of the notion .. I have fun playing ham radio and enjoy having options available to me.

W7NGA  dan
Pont Aven, France
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W7NGA

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I love your idea AL .. it is exactly how I would use it. 
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I0JBL - Luc

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Be patient because my English is not very fluent. I agree with the Salvador's opinion. We are still far from a system capable of being able to be easily interfaced with the rest of the devices that compose a modern ham radio station. We need to use third-party products and the "sherpa" IT advice seeking, and fortunately, found the path to the light. My 5 cents. GD DX to all
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Roy Laufer

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I am sure that some of you are aware of this, but for those that aren't, there is a great little piece of hardware, called a Tmate2.

 Unfortunately, it doesn't have any "driver hooks" that directly interface with SSDR, but I use N4PY's Pegasus Plus software to accomplish this!

Not quite as many knobs, buttons, and dials as the Maestro (which I own as well), but it is a nice gadget when you're in the mood for twiddling a couple of knobs...
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Roy,
Thanks, have seen it. But I'm looking for a device that is directly supported by FRS (no additional software application) and that has winkeyer support and a paddle/key jack.

All in one unit....the MaestroControl would do it all.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ
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Walt - KZ1F

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Does anybody know if the Elecraft wharever-they-call-it will work with the Flex?
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Jeff Griffin

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Don't know. But I do know it actually works remotely without a PC on either end...

73 Jeff kb2m
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Walt - KZ1F

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I meant their KPod. It's like, I believe, the FlexControl but a weighted knob, metal, and more options. By default I believe it wants an RS-232 connection to the radio direct,but it also has usb. I am guessing it'll work just like the FlexControl does but be metal as opposed to plastic.At $250 or so it's a tad pricey as an experiment.
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IW7DMH, Enzo

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Hello,

a lot of good comments here! If you search in the community older posts, you'll find a similar device already exists and, for what I can say, it works very well. But... while I am a firmly supporter of the standalone Flex usage, I have to admit that without a pc you can't get the best from our rigs.
My idea, and experience, is that adding such a new device will not satisfy real people needs.
This is my idea for a new controller.
 
 
It is a 4,5x3,5 inch device and it should be connected to the PC via RS232 port. It is modular so you can add another of it and have A and B slice control (they should fit in in some way). A host software should pass-trough commands to the Flex while a small oled display (128x64 pixels) should give minimal slice informations.

Of course at the moment this is only a wish but I am pretty sure it can be done. 
Of course my first wishes are that Flex will implement PSK, RTTW and CW on Maestro and my last hope is that they will decide to open at least SSDR GUI APIs or better the Maestro GUI API.

73' Enzo
iw7dmh
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Simon Lewis

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I'd buy one if it worked as nice as the Maestro controls :)

I have a Maestro but I still like the big screen on a PC with ext controls
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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I had the chance to try a Maestro this weekend. Currently evaluating it during Sweepstakes SSB. The concept is nice for those who want a traditional radio feel but for me I like my radio display on the main screen or 2nd monitor.

But I would absolutely love to have that main tuning knob for the flexcontrol. It feels pretty nice and heavy like a REAL radio knob. I love the flexcontrol but I feel a heavier knob would make it better. I am not really interested in any fancy display or anything although that would be nice. A subRX knob would be nice but not necessary. 
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Ria,
I'm also a fan of having the SSDR display on a large monitor.   And I also like having a few nice knobs for tuning, XIT, AGC as well as the buttons for macros.   Here is a picture of my current setup with 3  27" monitors and using 2 FlexControls.   If the Maestro type control ever is available I would definitely look at it.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 - HW.................. V 1.9.7.85
SSDR / DAX / CAT...... V 1.9.7.169
Win10


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John Molenda

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nice shack but too orderly for me Ha Ha 
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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I'm glad this thread resurfaced. I think I ignored it first time around because I saw "Maestro" in the title and wasn't interested in such a thing. But, since my purchase of the FlexControl, even with its minimal functionality I can see a lot of value in having a focused radio control working in conjunction in front of computer  monitors. Regardless of where my focus is on the computer a short reach to a "MaestroControl" would allow me make adjustments to the radio. 

This seems like a prime opportunity for a third party developer whether a commercial or homebrew (kit) project. It also seems like a logical and missing next step between the FlexControl and Maestro.

Some features I might also be interested in include:
1. A bar graph showing power out, SWR, ALC. A single or double row multi-function meter. (A multi-function meter application would be just as nice.)
2. Slice A and Slice B controls to be symmetric. Common controls to be centered. (Some sort of intuitive layout.)
3. Single press controls for all main operating functions. Minimal functions hidden behind long presses or double presses.
4. The device's focus must remain on the radio even when other applications have the focus.

73,
Kev K4VD
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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After using the Maestro and seeing the amount of time it took to be in the Market and the number of iterations of the software, so far, to make it work, and the lack of features yet (no wan, bluetooth, tnf, dexp....) I would prefer if FRS focuses all of its efforts in improving SmartSDR (ANF, NB, NR, GUI improvements, etc...) which is beneficial to all, as opposed to accessory development.

I find that knob usage is to a large extent personal. Someone might want quick access to XIT RIT while someone else might want Filter Width, volume, etc... I find some of the design decisions on the Maestro odd (i.e a dedicated button for tuner when the tuner is an option on the 6300....) for my personal taste and practice... not really questioning the design, it just doesn't match my own priorities.
In my case, the Maestro will not get used much until WAN happens or once I can use the Maestro in combination with SmartSDR, this last one I really hope it happens soon. At that point I will have more external controller than I need.
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Walt - KZ1F

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I totally agree Sal. However, fixing what doesn't work, properly, in SSDR is an expense whereas a new toy is a capital expense.
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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You can join the dark side with instant gratification and set up a VPN. :) 


(I'll even help you if you wish, just saying)
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W9TVX

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I would definitely buy one
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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If you'd commit to an additional 9999 units, I bet Gerald would seriously consider doing it ;-)
(Edited)
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Ria - N2RJ, Elmer

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9998. I'll buy one. :)
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W9TVX

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And here I was hoping for a one off!
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Tim,

RE: If you'd commit to an additional 9999 units, I bet Gerald would seriously consider doing it ;-)

LOL, but seriously I'll bet they would really sell if you could price them in the $300-$400 range.   I like my FlexControl but this would be so much better and match the 6xxx series.  If you are taking reservations, I'll send my $$$ in now.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com

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Paul Bradbeer

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Yes Al, I think you're right. I bet people love the utility of SSDR on a big screen but just wish for a few key buttons and knobs to twiddle.
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Clay N9IO

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Tim, lets say for the sake of not messing with current SSDR development this new device were set up to work with ddutil does that make any better sense?

I have not ventured into using ddutil yet so don't know if that's ok to suggest or even remotely desirable.

9996, getting closer.
You know, this really is a good idea, I too miss the big screen.
I suspect there is just too much going on right now to gather steam.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Tim, lets say for the sake of not messing with current SSDR development this new device were set up to work with ddutil does that make any better sense?

That is not up to FlexRadio.  DDUtil is a third-party application.  If Steve wants to add support for any multi-function controllers, be them from FRS or someone else, that is his prerogative.
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Russ GUIDRY SR

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When will multi client be due out so SSDR remote and Maestro going to be able to concurrently control a 6700 WAN attached? Thanks
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Flex does Not Publish expected release dates for future software release.  

They wisely, in my opinion, stopped doing this several years ago after a very uncomfortable user backlash about being late on a date.

The reality of software development of complex systems is that it is almost impossible to predict when a program will be finished.   Even when coding is done, things need to be thoroughly tested to discover any interactions which break other things that in turn need to be fixed.  So it is not as simple as just writing code and throwing it out there but rather they need to go through a very thorough testing process to make sure everything still works

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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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The reality of software development of complex systems is that it is possible to predict when a program can be released if it is managed properly. Wasn't there a post a while back that FRS uses agile development? Or was this just someone throwing around buzzwords? Agile has a very specific meaning as it relates to releases. "It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change." Even if not Agile, each development method includes predictive tools for release management. Well except maybe the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants development but I don't think that's the case here, right?

Do they really "make sure everything still works" before "throwing it out there"? Flex Agile (Flagile) maybe. 

Sorry Flex felt uncomfortable about user backlash. I hate it when someone is uncomfortable.

Do right things for the right reasons.

73,
Kev K4VD
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IW7DMH, Enzo

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The reality, or what we feel from this side, is that Flex has almost completely stopped SW development when the new models were announced. The "7610 effect" has messed up what in the beginning was a very good plan. Today we have a 2.0 version that does not support the DAX using the great SmartLink system, a sw that needs a very powerful computer to properly handle the CW tone generation and a radio that is practically useless with a 1-Mbit network. The last one against the "thin-pipe" techonologies benefits.
While I firmly believe in the Flex sdr approach, today I'm a lot less enthusiastic than two years ago. Going around the world and playing with a $3,000/$7,000 Flex with my tablet is not my greatest ambition. I would be much happier if only I could have, just to say one, panadaper spots and be even more competitive during the contests.
We will wait for better days, for the moment I wish you a great 2018.

73'
Enzo iw7dmh
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Ross - K9COX

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Just DO IT
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Sergey, R5AU

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Al, nevertheless, not need to wait and i use my Behringer CMD Micro DJ Midi Controller right now:
>https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/behringer-cmd-micro-dj-midi-controller-for-use-with...
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Sergey,
RE: why I prefer waiting for a MaestroControl over the Behringer CMD Micro DJ Midi Controller.

My dual FlexControls are working for me now but IMHO the Maestro control would be a better option for a number of reasons:

  • It would be an FRS supported product
  • It not require another third party helper program but be supported in the SSDR software
  • It would be hardware supported by FRS
  • It would "match" the look of the 6xxx product line
  • It would be familiar in terms of button and knob locations to anyone with a full sized Maestro
  • It would have the same ergonomics for contesters as the full sized Maestro
  • It would fill the gap between the older FlexControl and a full sized Maestro and likely make other devices less popular (and less supported)


Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
SSDR / DAX / CAT/ 6700 -  V 1.10.16
Win10
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Sergey, R5AU

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Fully agreed Al, native is always native !
i have my Maestro and wait for SSDR multi user capability :-) to realise mentioned above.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Rich,
Saw your comment (excerpted) in another post today.     



I think this may be what you want, maybe if we get enough votes and interest  FRS will build it.  

Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 & SSDR-W  V 2.1.30
Win10
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Elliot Skultin

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I find the Smart SDR interface with a mouse and thumb wheel so fast and efficient, I can’rt understand why anyone would want to go back to knobs. If my iPad could use a mouse, it would be excellent. More junk on the desk isn’t attractive.
(Edited)
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Elliot,
There is definetly still a desire for knobs and buttons. And glad to see that Flex offers options like the FlexControl, Maestro and M model radios. They have all been popular options.

When the “concurrent client” feature is implemented, some may want to use the Maestro along with their SSDR client on the PC. I’d prefer a smaller footprint like the Mega-control suggested here. I currently use 2 FlexControls and it would be about the same size bur have more knobs and buttons.

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ
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Sergey Abrikosov

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Hi All,
I am following Flex forum and debating, debating, debating if I am ready to switch from FT5000MP fo Flex 6xxx series radio.
Few things that bother me not related to this thread (mostly funstionality and SW), but for control, I would be interested in your proposal with some tweaks.
Looking into Legacy radios vs Flex , I do not like idea of extra clicks - change band-tap on the screen and than click band,
most of the settings on my FT5000MP available from the front panel. So, band switch buttons is a must in my opinion. 

I was thinking about other idea, but not sure if anybody would develope it or would be interested. Most of us have tablets in different sizes. I have iPad 9.7" and I think it would be cool if I would have controller with just few buttons and by click on any slider on the Tablet screen make my Knobs active for tuning this specific slider. Yes it still 2 clicks and extra box for control, and I think I saw some prototype a year ago from somebody, but do not remember who it was and I think it never came to life.
Sergey, KN7K
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I0JBL - Luc

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This discussion does not concern necessity but habits.

With the mouse in SSDR everything can be done. Can everything be done quickly and accurately?

My opinion is no.

Since the 6500 has arrived in my shack I have always used it with Pegasus Plus and Tmate2 and I immediately had some options to manage the equipement that in the development of SSDR come years later and some features that are in PP there are not still in SSDR.

Two years ago I was bitterly criticized, I do not remember from who, because of a further program on the desktop was useless and generate confusion.

For me it was not so thanks to Carl N4PY and his Pegasus Plus.

I also have Maestro, but I find it superfluous useless if it can not be used simultaneously with SSDR on a PC.

PP and Tmate2 cost a third of the Maestro and do more things.

My 10 cent.

Best 73

Luciano I0JBL
(Edited)
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Will V3 support the "control surface" idea we talked with Steve about a few years ago at Dayton?

Maybe not at first but is it still planned in V3 with MultiFlex?

Regards,  Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com







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W7NGA

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If I am reading between the lines correctly, this function will NOT be implemented in this version of multiFlex. I would have purchased a Maestro if it worked as you have specified.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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I have also seen a few unofficial replies that suggest it is NOT in the initial release but some hints that it "might" be coming in a later 3.x version.   But again that's unofficial (not from FRS directly). 

Regards,  Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
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W7NGA

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I would be happy with an enhanced FlexControl ... a subset of the Maestro front-end (as with the latest Icom). I am surprised this functionality is not being offered with multiFlex. Guessing, again, but I think I should be able to monitor multiple bands or segments of a band with my 6600 and SSDR, select a specific band or segment with the Maestro and operate in that fashion. 

I currently do something like this with my Surface Pro 4 laptop and 43" monitor running SSDR. I can 'pop out' a panadapter to the laptop and yet still monitor other bands on the large screen. I am without a knobbed interface, but honestly, the mouse control works very well and probably faster in many instances.
(Edited)
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Matt NQ6N

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When I first got my 6600 I didn't know whether I would decide to purchase a Maestro. My first experience using 6000 series equipment was with a Maestro and I found it very solid and intuitive to use, but I was curious to try SmartSDR on its own to compare. 

So I ordered only the FlexControl knob and use it with SmartSDR.  

My takeaways are as follows: 

Needed Improvements to the FlexControl: 
  • PTT should be available in addition to MOX. 
  • Ideally any button could be made to initiate or toggle through a list of CAT commands.  That would make the unit much more useful.  Even better would be linking the pressDown, pressUp, press, double press, and "hold" interactions with specific CAT commands.  Things like QSY UP 5 KHz, set the filter back at 400Hz, toggle through a few filter settings, etc. 
  • The ability to lock the FlexControl to a single slice
  • The ability to use more than one FlexControl and have each locked to a separate slice.

Missing features in the 6600 without Maestro: 

Using the 6600 without a Maestro leaves one glaring issue, which is the lack of CW Sidetone when operating remote. It's also a pain to connect a foot switch. 

Nice to have features of SmartSDR without Maestro: 

The panafall windows can un-dock from the main MDI window, but the logging software focus helpers do not work when they are un-docked.  This is a minor bug but it forces me to leave the MDI window open which makes it much less useful to arrange the panafalls in the kind of intuitive left radio / right radio arrangement on the screen that undocking the windows makes possible. 

Must have features for an updated control knob/box: 

  • Winkeyer chip and audio mixing for locally generated sidetone when operating remotely. Why not also add a connector for PTT (foot switch) as well. 
  • Separate VFO knobs for each slice (I'd personally prefer 4 large knobs arranged horizontally, one for each slice, or one large knob per box if more than one box can be connected to one instance of SmartSDR)
  • The rest of the knobs and buttons on the device do not need to have pre-defined functionality, why not just let them all be customizable so that the user can map them to whatever features of SmartSDR he/she wants? Each large knob should have a few concentric encoders and a few buttons, but labeling them and restricting them to only one use seems quite limiting. 

SmartSDR is very well done and it looks beautiful on my 4K and 5K monitors that I use in my operating position. I have come to prefer SmartSDR to using the Maestro because of how good the panafalls look and how easy it is to visually spot the weak signals.  The only thing missing is a small hardware box that makes CW keying and foot switch connection plug and play via remote.  

73 and thanks for the great products.  Really looking forward to downloading V3 in the coming months. 


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W7NGA

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I agree Matt. SSDR looks gorgeous on my big screen monitor and laptop, and I find that, generally, mouse control works very well. Oddly, the turn-off for me with the Maestro is the inability to disable the waterfall. I typically do not use it and would find it a waste of precious real estate.
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Asher - K0AU

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Matt, I solved the CW keying, PTT/footswitch AND the sidetone problem for LAN remote by using a RemoteRig 1258. RemoteRig has worked flawlessly for 5 years.

A real mystery for me is why Flex doesn't send CW sidetone back over remote audio. I have 1ms of network delay. No idea if that would interfere with paddle keying, but sidetone for remote-emulated-WinKey CW should be a no-brainer for contesting. So I use a RemoteRig and an external WinKeyer as workarounds. And the RemoteRIg supports paddle CW for everyday Dxing.

I use DAX channels for digital modes to remain in the digital domain. Works great except for the occasional DAX distortion bug.

I've been patiently waiting for a way to use SSDR concurrently with a Maestro where the Maestro is more of an advanced control surface and an interface hub. Maybe in V4!
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Matt NQ6N

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Asher -- thanks for the recommendation. I've been reluctant to buy one of those in case the issue can be addressed with software or Flex hardware, but it's nice to know that it is working flawlessly for you. 

I think there are probably a few different approaches to side tone (including sending the audio back slightly delayed) which would work but which wouldn't fully make operating remote just like sitting in front of the rig.  

The other day I turned on FDX and listened to my second harmonic to get some side tone :)
(Edited)
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Asher - K0AU

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Matt - for cw contesting I use a numeric keypad and AutoHotKey to command N1MM+ macros. I need to hear the generated CW because I want to know if I fatkey the wrong macro. Bit of latency would not matter at all.

I suppose I could write a WIndows app to the FlexLib API to track a slice on the second harmonic of the TX slice... On second thought it would be hard because I can't control Pans with a non-display API app. On third thought I might be be able to do it with V3 if a client can see another client's slices. Won't know until we see the V3 API.

I'm not complaining; I'm happy with the solutions I've developed and I'd appreciate learning if I missed something in station design for LAN and WAN remote operation.
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Zack Schindler - N8FNR

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Getting back to the original post, if Flex came up with a device that looks like the image at the top of the page for $300 or so I would place my order right now. Would be sweet have a control surface like that. I know I could get a Maestro but I only operate from my PC that is next to the rig and feel that I have no need for the Maestro. I never operate remotely.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Zack,

Me too!

Even $400 would be a good deal.

Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
6700 & SSDR-W  V 2.4.9
Win10
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Asher - K0AU

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I'd buy the current $1200 Maestro if it had a control surface mode and I can retire my RemoteRig setup. It would be one fewer box and eliminate an extra A/D conversion for mic and headphone
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roger na4rr

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As per one of Tim's comments FRS still waiting on selling 9999 units.  They are not Icom. I dont think they will ever get there.
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Al / NN4ZZ

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Hi Roger.....I thought Tim was just kidding....maybe not.

Regards,  Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com