No Computer Required

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While looking at the info. on the Maestro I saw the phrase "no computer required". I was thrilled, until I quickly realized that's great, but I still need a 6000 and a 6000 series radio requires a computer. I love my 6500 computer and to borrow Gerald's expression it is a game changer. The only heart burn I have had relates to the computer interface. Will it work with the new change to Windows or the next Windows upgrade. Or are some of my random port problems because Windows changed my port assignments and did not tell me. Or I would like to switch to a different computer but is it worth the risk of more hassles. What computer should I buy that will best work with my 6000.

For Father's Day, I would like a Flex 6000 that includes a screen (at least 14inches), mouse, and a Flex Control. No Computer Required it is part of the radio. You could call it The Flex 6000(NCR).
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Tom--W4FAS

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Posted 5 years ago

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Larry - W8LLL

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Maestro will indeed run your your flex 6000 series radio without a computer.

PLUG-AND-PLAY CONTROL CONSOLE FOR THE FLEX-6000 SERIES

Introducing

MaestroTM - an intuitive, plug-and-play control console that directs operation of any FLEX-6000 Signature Series transceiver without need of a traditional PC. Connect Maestro directly or through your local area network (LAN) to any FLEX-6300, FLEX-6500 or FLEX-6700 transceiver and you are ready to operate.

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Bill -VA3WTB

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Yes, if all you wanted to do is run your Flex on the Maestro, a computer is not needed.
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Simon Lewis

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It is if you want to connect to anything else .. like an amp .. its the missing link
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Alex - DH2ID, Elmer

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Larry, I concur - being at the Ham Radio fair at the FlexRadio lecture at this very moment. . Only if you want to work digital modes you need a computer and monitor working in parallel with the Maestro.
73 from Friedrichshafen ,
Alex DH2ID
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Larry - W8LLL

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Will we be able to run Maestro parallel with a pc?

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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Yes, that is a planned feature
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Tom--W4FAS

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Tim,
If a year from now I want to replace my old computer with one that will be used strictly to support my Flex 6500, and were willing to give up logging and digital modes, could I replace my old computer with a Maestro?
Tom
W4FAS
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Walt - KZ1F

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I'm not Tim but the answer is yes. You could put the radio in your basement and just have Maestro in your shack.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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I confirm this answer is correct.
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SteveJ

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But don't you still need a computer to be able to control a linear amplifier using DDUtil?  What about DAX?  Doesn't it need a computer?  If Flex could develop the radio so it doesn't need a computer at all they would have a winner.  Having to use a computerl is the weak link.
(Edited)
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Rob Fissel

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Steve, I have to respectfully disagree here a little.

Saying having to use the computer is the weak link...they are called SDR's for a reason, no? The whole premise of their product line is that it interfaces and pairs with a computer.

That's like buying a Tesla, and then commenting "Well, it should have a gas engine in it as well."

If you wanted a high end radio that doesn't require a computer interface, then a Yaesu/ICOM/Kenwood/Elecraft/TenTec might be a better choice for you. 

Now if Maestro ends up having the capability to decode CW and PSK internally, like the K3S for example, then that would be neat. However, virtually everyone and every radio that does digi modes needs a computer. Flex simplifies this with the software aspect, and DAX. No need for a SignalLink, external hardware & interfaces, VAC, etc. 

There are also plenty of solid state linear amps that RF sniff for automatic band switching, and require no digital interface with a Flex (or any radio for that matter) to function properly. DDUtil provides a number of extra features that make interfacing with an amp easier, but it's certainly not required. 

73,

Rob
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Walt - KZ1F

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No Rob, SDR does not imply anything about an external computer. It simply means the main functions of the radio are accomplished in software. As it appears, Maestro is an application specific 'tablet' running some version of embedded Windows in order to run an embedded SmartSDR. I do not believe one could 'boot' it to Windows. An external computer is required to run logging and ddutil .
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Walt do you think the Maestro could be Linux?
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Rob Fissel

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Walt, 

I guess I could have phrased it a little better. I broadly defined a "computer" in the sense that it runs on a platform that involves computing power. ASICs, FPGAs, and general use CPU's in PC's all fall into this category for me. 

Regarding Flex's platform, pre-Maestro, a computer was essential to the use of the radio. It still is, considering your point that Maestro will run around an application specific tablet or computer encased inside Maestro. 

As far as I believe many to be concerned, an external computer is part of the package when it comes to most understand SDR to be. Flex, Anan, Perseus, HackRF, RTL-SDR's... they all pretty much need a PC to be functional to the end user. At least as of right now. 

I guess I just didn't understand Steve's comment about how a computer in the Flex equation is a weak link. 
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Walt - KZ1F

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At the risk of being boo'd again. Here is where I think Elecraft is going. (I pay no more attention to Anan than I do Alinco). Elecraft is currently making hybrid radios, part of it is software and part of it is tuned circuits and coils and etc etc. Over time, more of it will migrate to software controlled. Note: no computer mentioned, just components of the radio that are microprocessor controlled. Is the Alpha 9500 a computer? Of course not but it has, I believe 5 internal microprocessors each managing a separate subsystem of the linear.  Is the 6500 itself a computer? Yes, it is an embedded Linux OS running the flashed SDR software. SSDR isn't the radio, it is only the interface to the radio. Going back to the K(X)3S, you can attach a linear and external ATU that will seamlessly interface with the radio, and the 3 will 'talk' to each other, but it still isn't a computer. I am running the KPA-500 and KAT-500 here, they work fine with DDUtil, just not quite as fine as it would directly connected to the K(X)3S with no computer required.  So when people say Maestro won't require a computer, the sole reason for that is, it IS the computer, but rather than being able to also run Firefox or Bing or Angry Birds, it can only run SSDR.

In the context of 'the other announcement" made in Dayton, will that amp run with other radios or will it be a single product linear? When you buy Maestro, you will get a Windows tablet with some hardware attached but it will be a dedicated tablet (+ switches knobs and dials) that only runs SSDR, at, what, 3-4  times the price? As for the switches, knobs and dials, are they all plastic or metal? The dials extend, what, 2" or so from the chassis? How much torque is required before they snap right off?  Hopefully they are metal, it just looks like plastic to me.
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Walt - KZ1F

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Bill, sry, didn't see your question. To my knowledge I am the only person one the planet with a control surface running on Linux. There are other reasons I 'know' its Windows.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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They do have a winner. What would you see the panadaptor with if there is no computer?
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SteveJ

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You would see the panadapter with the Maestro.
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Yes that is our point,,with that, you don't need a computer to run the Flex. You said the computer is the weak link. but without it we can't see the panadaptor. Unless we use the Maestro.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Steve,,As i understand the latest news letter, Flex is working with a company to bring along new products to seamlessly automate the Flex line. I call it the SMART SHACK. So all the things you mention should take on a roll over the next few years.
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k0eoo

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Tom, I have had ZERO computer interface problems with my 6500 since I got it 2 years ago...  The Ethernet connection works extremely well and eliminates the port assignment problem you mentioned, as there is none with SSDR!
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Bob - W7KWS -

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It seems to me that a Webster's Dictionary review of the word Computer is in order.

"an electronic machine that can store and work with large amounts of information."

Pretty much every tranceiver made in the last twenty years has at least one circuit that meets this definition and almost all of them require a "PC" to run most of the digital modes or for logging. So will a Maestro as it is currently being presented by Flex.

Maybe what is actually being expressed here is a desire for "No PC Required", especially a Windows PC, although I find them to be wonderful & mostly trouble free.

I was expressly told by Flex management at Dayton that Maestro was running on embedded Linnux. This would be just like all of the 6000 series radios, many cash registers, data terminals & millions of other dedicated devices.

There is NO radio in the Maestro. It is just a very adanced control head. Despite its obvious power and capabilities, its fundimental structure is not a lot different than the control head for an Icom IC-7100 or for that matter an IC-706. 

From everything I have been told & read, the Maestro will run a Flex 6000 series radio without need of a PC unless you want to do logging, run a mode that isn't in the radio such as digital modes. Flex just added FreeDV as a mode in the radio so I suspect others will follow such as RTTY and PSK-31.  And just think, it's only software, no new radio purchase required.

73
(Edited)
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Walt - KZ1F

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It used to be Webster's Dictionary was a definitive source. I believe that ended two or more decades ago. While that is a colloquially definition, it is not an accurate one. There are analog and organic computers, so electronic can not be part of the definition. One could make the definition so broad that anything taking input in one form, processing it, and producing output as a result of that processing could be called a computer. Like a human digestive system. Clearly nobody considers that a computer.

Equally, I would not consider the control head of an Icon radio a computer. However, all Flex radio's require software to process the output of the radio into a human understandable form. At least to date, that has meant the use of an external consumer electronic computer.
(Edited)
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Yes Walt but the Flex 6000 series does all processing "into a human understandable form" in the radio not the PC.  The PC merely acts as a control & display unit.

A "Consumer electronic computer" is not required if a substitute control/display unit becomes available whether it's a computer or not..
(Edited)
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Walt - KZ1F

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No Bob, you are absolutely wrong. The Flex 6000 series converts analog RF signals to digital signals but those digital signals require a digital program to convert to AF or panfalls etc. To date, a human can not process digital signals. Something akin to part of the PowerSDR program that ran on one's consumer electronic computer runs internal to the radio. The reason one needs an external consumer electronic computer is to convert the digital information into audio and visual and to generate digital commands to tell the software running in the radio to change bands, raise volume, move frequency, equalize the audio etc. Maestro is a computer that runs a single program SSDR or a variant of SSDR.  Bob, I've spent about half a century doing this stuff. You are down to arguing whether a computer that cannot run Angry Bird is still a computer. Bob, what comes out of the black box requires software to interpret. To my knowledge, Stu Phillips and myself are the only two people that have rewritten flexlib. This leads incredibly good support to whatever is running in the radio is using the original flexlib, that means what is running in the radio is Windows and SSDR on top of it. I suggest you look at:
https://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/windows-embedded.aspx

Windows is a general purpose operating system for a computer. The difference between how it loads on a Dell or a phone or a tablet is whether the code resides on disk or is burnt into a solid state device.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

Are you processing the data that is delivered over DAX on the Ethernet.  If so, I think that what you are doing is duplicate to the processing being done in the radio.

You might want to review the literature on this as I have.  Maybe ARRL & QST have it wrong & some evidence other than your resume to the contrary would be helpful in correcting what they published in their April 2015 review of the 6000 series or my understanding of it.

In that review QST states:

"The DaVinci processor accepts data from the FPGA and provides further filtering and signal demodulation. Audio inputs and outputs are provided directly on the Flex box or remotely through your PC.'".

It's clear to me that for local use the modulation/ demodulation can take place in the radio requiring only a control panel & display connected directly to the radio via Ethernet.  If a remote PC is chosen for this, then audio processing could take place in that PC as an added option but that would not be necessary from what I can see.

Further evidence of this arrangement are the speaker & Mic connectors on the back of my 6300 which according to the block diagram, are connected directly to the DaVince processor in the radio.

Below is the block diagram included in the review which was presumably provided to QST by Flex.

73



an
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Walt - KZ1F

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DAX is not relevant to the conversation. Yes, when I received the radio I couldn't help noticing on the front panel were plugs for mic, headphones, and key. On the back for external speakers. I am sure it didn't escape you there was no band selector, frequency selector, or CW/USB/LSB selectors. Today it requires a computer, in 6 months it will still require a computer. But, you are going to believe what you want to believe so....party on Garth.
(Edited)
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

I offer this in hopes of clarification to other readers wanting to have eventual operation of Flex 6000 radios without a computer.

Band selectors, frequency selectors & CW/USB/LSB selectors are control functions which could all be done by an IC-706 control head which you have characterized as not a computer.  In other words, a simple control panel & display.  A simple Arduino data command translator from asynchronous serial data to Ethernet would be all that is necessary to interface it to the Flex 6000. Audio would come from the connectors on the radio resulting in "no computer" operation of the flex.

Of course, such an old control panel controlling such an advanced radio as a Flex 6000 is absurd.  A more advanced "non-Windows" controller might be a good consideration. I believe this is what Flex has in mind with the dedicated function, non-Windows Maestro.  At least, that's the way the Flex engineers in Dayton described it to me.

I was hoping to learn from additional engineering specifics that you might offer but it looks as though I'll have to rely on the block diagram and let it speak for itself until there is more information available.  Maybe someone else will elaborate with something more useful.

Best regards
(Edited)
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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G
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

Thanks for last,  It is a good basis for discussion of interesting Flex items.

By the way, I run an IC-706 control head in my pickup which operates its companion radio at home remotely over TCP/IP.  Both the radio and control panel are hooked to translation processors which convert the 56-kb/Sec. duplex control data and encode/decode the analog audio for transmission over TCP/IP.  At home the data is received/transmitted via Ethernet to/from the system where the asynchronous 56-kbp/Sec. control data is restored/encoded and the audio is decoded/encoded for the radio.

I could use a more modern radio than the 706 but the control panel fits my dashboard better than any of the others.

I have my Arduino Ethernet LC-068 board with plans to interface these control functions to the Flex via Ethernet but I just haven't been able to bring myself to go back to work.  I retired from cellular & Telephony engineering in 1998.

73
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Walt - KZ1F

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Bob, NP. Just so you'll know. I try very hard not to say stupid sh?t. I have been working with all types of computers and software for about a half century. The Webster definition is hideously incomplete. You could look at Oxford's def with is much more complete or, ironically, wikipedia which is quite good. At any rate, I decided to look up the Icom 7100 as,in my mind's eye I envisioned the decade's old remote head found on many 2 mtr mobile rigs. I thought, rather than talk about something I wasn't familiar with I'd do some research. To be sure, the 7100 is internet accessible or it appears to be. Icom does not do the software running the radio, that would be rfsystemsinc.com. The cable from the head to the radio is not a standard internet cat-x cable. This sort of implies to me that there is not a client / server internet connection between the two. For instance, the FRS 1500 has what looks to be an  RJ-45 cable to the mic but that doesn't make the mic a computer. On the back of the 7100 there is an RJ-45 to connect the radio to the outside internet world and another similarly looking female connector (RJ45-like) to connect the control head to. So one can conclude from that the control head is not a stand-in for an internet connection and if the radio can be controlled from the internet, but that isn't how the head connects, then the head isn't where the software is running.

Definition of computer: Just because something is software controlled, that doesn't make it a computer. The Alpha 9500 is software controlled, 5 separate microprocessors to govern 5 separate functional areas of the linear. In the 6000 there are two software pieces running, one is Linux to control the SDR itself, the other is Windows to control input and output to the software running the SDR, like freq, band, volume, mode, meters, output, swr, compression et al. Here is what wiki says,
"A computer is a general-purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem."

Clearly, by virtue of the fact this thread has gone on as long as it has, we are talking about a fine distinction lost on most people. While I am sure there are some people on here who had or are spending a career in Information Technology or Software development (the two are not identical) the vast majority haven't. So when you said 'this is (or isn't) a computer', um, no, which at best is differentiating something software controlled and a computer, at worst, comparing apples with oranges.

I have a flexlib equivalent that will run on Linux, Windows, Mac, Raspberry Pi, etc. I am well into a SSDR equivalent that, IMHO, will provide better functionality and also run on Linux, Windows, Mac, Raspberry Pi etc. SSDR can not talk to my XPFlexLib as SSDR is married to the Windows OS version of FlexLib. So for Maestro to be anything other than Windows running SSDR, or a variant,for a variety of reasons, that doesn't make sense, when a Windows, SSDR solution is the fastest and least expensive path to providing the Maestro functionality as that technology not only already exists, it has been in the field of over a year now.  So, as I said in the post, I think I deleted, yes, there could be a hardware/firmware control head that was simply a dedicated control head, what Maestro appears to be reusing all the previously developed FRS technology and adds knobs and dials. 

Having said all that I am pretty much talked out. Again, for the vast majority of readers, the distinction we are discussing would be lost on them. Computer controlled implies software controlled, software controlled does NOT imply computer controlled. The two are not transitive.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

The 7100 & 706 have the same control panel to radio interface. Only the cable is different & of course it is not Ethernet.  See my above post & I'll be more detailed later.  My kids just showed up for the day.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

The only thing that I have to add is that my project for controlling a Flex with another brand control head envisions a CAT interface over Ethernet. Audio will be handled separately via SIP using the audio interfaces on the Flex. I have no interest in reinventing the wheel as you have done.  All I want it to do is work reliably and fit in my truck while it controls my 6300 at home instead of an IC- 706.

N4PY does a similar thing with Pegasus using a TMate2 to control the Flex 6000 radios. The real difference between his project and what I want is that his translations to Flex cat are done on a Windows PC and I'm looking to do it more simply on a single board computer. I'm prepared to also run the Maestro in parallel at home to keep radio alive unless I can figure a way around it.

The photo is of my current remote mobile. It works very well over Verizon 3G or 4G.  The dual bander below is using a local radio in the truck.

(Edited)
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Bob G W1GLV

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Tom, I live in Gainesville, FL. I've owned a 6500 for 2 years now and never had a single issue between it and the computer. At present I'm running it on Windows 10 Beta, no issues. All digital programs work as advertised. No I'm not employed by Flex, just enjoy a fine piece of engineering above and beyond what the Japanese boxes can do.
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Bob G W1GLV

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I'm sure the Maestro will be equally as good as the Flex radios are. I trust FRS because they never let you down no matter what the problem is.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Right on Bob!
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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The Maestro is a DEDICATED WINDOWS COMPUTER running SSDR under embedded Windows

In the first instance it is intended to replace the client computer running SSDR under windows and add knobs

In a future instance it is planned to run in parallel as a second client on SSDR

The QST diagram is not totally accurate as the remote audio is not DAX
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Howard,

Your input is appreciated.  Can you direct me to a correct block diagram I could study?  I'd like to get beyond the "he said, she said" information I currently have as some of it, although from seemingly credible sources, is in conflict.

The reason that I'm trying to pin this down follows: 

I run SSDR under Windows on three different tablets with varying degrees of success. Two are very sluggish & one is OK but runs at the margin.  All three use different Bay Trail processors. The two poor performers use a Z3735 & a Z3740 CPU.  The one that runs OK but at the margin is a Z3775.  Of course, I have ended as many unneeded Windows services as I've been able to identify.

At Dayton, a Flex engineer told me that Maestro will run a Bay Trail CPU. When I expressed my experience running SSDR under Windows with Bay Trail, he suggested that I not worry since Maestro would run Linux.

Of course I agree that Maestro is a computer just as I believe the microprocessor  coupled with memory & I/O in an Icom control panel is a computer, just not a PC.

Thanks for any additional documentation you might suggest I look at.

73
(Edited)
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I am currently on a post Friedrichshafen Dxpedtion to OK1 Contest stations helping set up 6700.

I have limited access to docs until I get back to the USA in July. I have already stated the known facts about Maestro above. There is no conflicting information. It is not a dumb box with dedicated hardware/firmware such as the various favors of Icom control head but a dedicated computer running embedded windows and SSDR.

Frankly Flex is still designing and debugging the product so some things will change. it would be premature for you to be asking your questions until everything is finalized by Flex and they publish Official Documentation

If you need more information I suggest that you study FlexLib so you can get a better idea as to what SSDR does.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Howard,

The only information conflict is what you &  Walt have stated in no uncertain terms, without backup,  versus what I was told by a Flex Maestro designer.  Who has is right? Either you are or the Flex guy has it right.  As you suggest, it could change.  It appears that there is no way for me to know right now.

Maybe I won't know anything until I get my Maestro. I'm kind of sorry I asked the question as I'm used to getting information with some references or sources, not just statements presented as fact.  I'm sorry I can't be more definitive as to my source.  I can't remember his name.  Maybe that will  come back to me.  If it does I will let you know.

When you get back & have your docs at hand, I would appreciate hearing what you have.  Until then, best regards.
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Walt - KZ1F

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I suspect what happened, as I wasn't in the conversation, the flex guy was talking about SDR (in the radio) and you were talking about SSDR (in the control surface). Or the flex guy thought you were talking about the radio itself.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Walt,

That's certainly a possibility.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Walt is correct. The 6000 is a Linux box. The Flex client SSDR is windows. Maestro runs the Flex client I'munfderembedded windows. There is no point in wasting anymore time on this discussion until,Flex finishes Maestro and releases Docuemnaion. My source is Steve Hicks
(Edited)
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Dennis Terry W4SG

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I see all of the discussion about running a Flex 6x00 without a computer and using the Elecraft KAT500 & KPA500 cabled properly will work just fine without DDUtil and another computer.  My question is what does Flex Radio have in mind for powering up the Flex 6300 in my case?  I saw all of the discussion about the WOL (Wake-On-Lan) protocol in another thread and came away thinking that it was not implemented in the 6000 series. I guess a separate computer, however small (Beaglebone, Arduino, Raspberry PI) might be required "to light the fires".  Also, any ideas about rotor control in the remote environment?

73, W4SG Dennis