Physical computer-less head for flex

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  • Updated 4 years ago
I had a 'reshuffle' on my desk the other day and ended up having my flex 6300 up and running before the PC that was connected to it. I used an iPad app to control it and it got me thinking. I would love to have a physical 'head' for the radio for occasional computer-less use much like the elecraft k3/0 but despite some time searching I couldn't find anything. I already have the flex control but it still requires the pc to be running and I guess the same would be true if they ever get the tmate 2 working natively with smartsdr too.

So have I just been really bad at searching or is this a potential gap for a new product?

Thanks.

Ian.
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Ian - M0IAD

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Posted 4 years ago

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Walt - KZ1F

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I would encourage folks to 'like' this idea. I've had several conversations with folk on here about what would constitute a good, professional, physical remote head for the flex and I always use the KO-3 or K-3/O as an example of a professional looking head.  I 'liked' the idea so perhaps rather than or in addition to people adding a post to this thread which makes it hard for FRS to judge interest among it's customers, the number of likes should accomplish that AND be readily visible.

The radio is an internet device, if a computer is required to connect to it, something is wrong. Yes, Ian, I personally think it's a gap. But, in fairness, it was not a design goal, "if a radio has knobs and buttons and switches can it really be called software defined?" I realize that was issued as a rhetorical and product differentiating question but my answer was, of course it can. Anyway, yes, there is a philosophical component to this issue.


Walt - kz1f
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Robert -- N5IKD, Elmer

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If you search this forum for "MIDI" you will find a lot of the work is already done. Maybe just add a display for frequency readout or a panadapter.

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/hercules-midi-with-6300
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Steve - KD8QWT

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People are working on very capably midi controllers and arduino based front ends.  I'm working on a raspberry pi version myself.  This is a gap in the product, but one the user community will need to fill.  

I'm not a big "knob" guy, but I do see a need to operate the radio without a "PC" or network infrastructure with a router and wifi.
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Ross - K9COX

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Steve W6SDM

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Ross, now why did you have to go and post that link?  Now I want one for Field Day.
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Walt - KZ1F

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Ross, isn't that an entire radio, not simply a $200 control surface to a Flex?
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Ross - K9COX

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That is correct Walt, it will operate stand alone with just a few knobs or with a PC. Just wanted to make the point that those choices are out there. There is a guy (N9RSY) on 7.200 everyday that uses one. I am very content with my Flex products.
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Robert -- N5IKD, Elmer

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I think physical knobs can be an enhancement to a good SDR. as long as they are software definable. (Software Defined Knobs).

The Arduino / RaspberryPi / MIDI controllers are all good resources to accomplish this. The iPad app is already a good solution minus the knobs.
(Edited)
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Steve W6SDM

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Flex is a BYOB radio - Bring Your Own Buttons.
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John n0snx

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BYOB....Good one Steve.... If you want a "knob" radio why buy a Flex.... After being a Flex guy for over 6 years I myself will never have a Knob radio again.... Way too boring..., "Once you have the Best you never go back to the Rest"
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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The point is not knobs or no knobs.  The point is the flexibility brought by having the radio's transmit and receive routines defined by software, not by hardware.  The actual control mechanism is purely secondary to the basic "guts" of the system.

There are some functions that bode well for mouse only users, others find more precision in adjusting a control that you can turn (which is why I don't think I will be driving my car with a joystick any time soon, though my son may do so in ten years)

Granted, one of the extremely useful parts of the 6000 series is the awesome panafall and the GUI, but even if someone merged a MIDI DJ Controller with a simple LCD that didn't need a large computer to access the rig, it would still be an exceptional rig.  

The flexibility and creativity spawned by the Flex Radio and others has just recently begun to break out of the box.  MIDI controllers allow custom control layouts, iPad applications promise great innovation, and many, many other utilities are popping up like mushrooms in the spring.

There is no "blasphemy" in SDR.  What is most important is the modulation/demodulation and DSP functions that allow effective and cutting edge communications.  How individual users decide to control those functions is increasingly going to be a matter of personal preference.

Ken - NM9P
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Walt - KZ1F

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Ken, well put. However, in ten years your son will hop in, tell the car where he wants to go and then log into his favorite social media. This summer Tesla is downloading to all S series owners autopilot software. For the other manufacturers, it'll be rolled out like power steering, automatic transmissions, and cruise control.

There absolutely IS blasphemy on this forum. I have seen people shouted down, ridiculed, and  scorned for simply not being a 'true believer' in the Glory that is FlexRadioSystems and Flex 6000. It is likely the most embarrassing aspect of this forum.
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Walt - KZ1F

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I believe Ian was referring to this, which I concur on.

which is radically different than what was lined to above. This looks professional, a real mic, a real keyer, filters, Slice A Slice B. The community is unlikely to produce this. Yes, I am sure the cry from the gallery will be then go buy a K3. That is not the answer as that was not the question.
(Edited)
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Steve - KD8QWT

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It would be interesting to build an interface between this control head and the Flex.  Might be blasphemous however.  Stuff probably wouldn't map well anyway.
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Walt - KZ1F

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Interesting choice of adverb (or gerund). Owning a Flex should not require a religious purity or Litmus test.
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Steve - KD8QWT

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There are always purists.  Personally I could care less.  I tend to go with whatever sticks :)
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Ian - M0IAD

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Yep that's what I was thinking of. Doesn't need to be so comprehensive and could even plug into the flex directly (which would help at field days etc...) and not require any network. You then have the benefits of the flex without needing to run or access Smartsdr which, when using a laptop in a temporary location could be very advantageous, with small screens and logging software.
(Edited)
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Andrew Russell

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Not a solution for the 6300 but the 6500 and 6700 have a display and enough buttons on the front of the radio to run a basic menu and display system. More for emcom or basic function in the field.

Andrew de VK5CV

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Steve - KD8QWT

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Adding those to the radio would increase the cost for those who don't want it.  If FRS decides to provide physical controls, it should be a remote head that plugs into the ethernet port of all three models.

Open source control head projects are just starting.  How cool would it be to use the same control head for a Flex or Elecraft?
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Walt - KZ1F

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Or talk to whoever designed the K3 remote head. I doubt it was Elecraft. Could have been but I doubt it. Someone like Stu or Howard if not know how to do it would know who would know how to do it and have the finished product look like the K-3 remote head. Yes, I believe it should be RJ-45.
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Ian - M0IAD

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Glad someone had the same idea. Looking forward to the Maestro.