Possible "Travel Sized" Flex-6000?

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Packing for the fourth of roughly fifteen air trips for the year, the opportunity to take a complete HF rig with me is again compelling.  

Work needs already has the laptop in my travel load, making adding a rig, power supply, antenna and all the needed bits the limiting factor.

Once Maestro is VPN and/or WAN capable some of the desire to be on the air can be met removing, provided adequate connectivity is available.  

Still that is different than independently operating from the destination.  Ultimately K9ZW/OX, MM/K9ZW and such are more exciting than K9ZW/Remote.

I did purchase a Flex-6300 originally as a back-up radio to the Flex-6700 and potentially for these portable operations.  I've used it for a few US/CDN Island operations where the gentile conditions allowed.  

Is there room for a more compact all-weather dust-proof travel-ready form factor Flex-6000 variant?  Perhaps with a small router onboard and a piggyback option for batteries or a power supply. (With a battery type that is unrestricted for air travel please). 

If functionally equivalent to at least a Flex-6300/ATU this radio could serve as my backup radio when not traveling as well.

Or perhaps an Otterbox type overcase for a Flex-6300?  I have a rather butch one on my iPhone 6s that has taken massive impacts in stride while making the phone much more weather resistant.  

I've even contemplated asking our metal fabrication folk do a replacement case in high strength aluminum alloy incorporating the weather/dust protection I'd like to see, but realize the hours spent for a one-off would be excessive while potentially creating all sorts of problems in the process.

So I come back to a brick-shaped, possibly fan-less, form factor.

Anyone else feel such a need?

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Posted 3 years ago

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Scott - WM7C

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I'm hoping for a Flex 2000 to replace the 1500, but with a tuner, for $699 and it can use Maestro.  15 watts with easy to add 100 watt amp option.  
(Edited)
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Unlikely and different other than general form factor to a DXpedition Ready unit.

Doubt if a price point below the current Flex-6300 would allow delivery of the robust unit I've in mind.  

Actually don't mind paying a premium for a ready to travel configuration.

Would like to see at least 40w to allow use as an exciter for an off-the-shelf large amplifier, especially in its main shack back-up unit role. 

A new generation Flex-1500 replacement is a different end goal all together.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I have done the schlep a station portable thing from over a hundred countries since 1965. I still have a portable IC-706 in a travel box suitcase for just that purpose. But with airline weight restrictions, more customs bureaucracy and advancing age it has become too much of a PIA so I opted for. Running remote via iPad.

Unless you are in a really rare DX location anything less than 100W will be very frustrating. Antennas are always an issue. Although it can be easy to make a dipole by splitting locally obtained Zip Cord and Soda bottles as insulators. A good trick for DC power supplies if you have a rental vehicle is to borrow the car's battery. ....just don't run it completely down as I have done a few times. If you know you are heading to a specific city try to work local hams from that area before you go. Most locals are quite generous about showing off their stations, inviting you for drinks and lending your heavy stuff like coax. With the CEPTagreement it is pretty easy to operate legally from most places that are CEPTAGREEMENT. However, if not, licensing is a real PIA.

Would I take a ruggedized FLex with me....NO...just too much weight for too few Q's.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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A lot depends on where you go.  So often I end up in places without the connectivity to do remote.  

Examples would be my firm was hired to help with a remotely located historic building, where we charted a landing craft type ferry to transport the heavy equipment.  Lousy cell coverage with perhaps 1x data if you were in exactly the right place.  I didn't take the 6300 and gear out as the weather forecast wasn't good, though it would have been fine if I dragged say one the SGC-2020s out of storage.

Just fun places.   On some of these Islands we have hit a couple hundred QSOs in a visit, but you are right that often they are in the dozens.

I've even had to go back to qualify an Island because things didn't work out well.

But doing remotes wouldn't qualify at all for what I wanted to do.

So yes it is a challenge to drag what is needed along and do the setup while traveling.

I wish I had dragged gear along while walking Hadrian's Wall a couple years back, as my plans to operate from area clubs mostly were brought with schedule & logistic issues.  If I had my own setup I would have a lot more M/K9ZW and MM/K9ZW QSOs in the log.

I have some trips coming up where I do hope to take a Maestro and PC, as they are destinations that are nothing special and I'd never get setup if I brought my own gear.  Eight floor of some fancy hotel in say Columbus Ohio is not a portable station worthy destination.

Such exciting possibilities and a Travel Ready Flex-6000 would add even more.

YMMV of course,

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Walt - KZ1F

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But you bring up a salient point Steve. Your station isn't remote. A 1500 would fit nicely into a carry on, as would a 1/4 wave 10 or 15 meter dipole.
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Lee, Elmer

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Just get an Anan 10 or 10e since you already have the laptop.  True SDR, 15-20w, built in ant tuner, good software, built in keyer, light, cheap, pretty rugged, fanless, easy to power off a 4 amp 12v brick.  I have one specifically for this use and it's quite a good radio.   You could also try a kx3 but I think it's far inferior due to poor design on several fronts.  I have one of those also, not impressed.

73  W9OY

 
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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This year and the years to follow I plan on doing more and more motorcycle camping trips. If Flex had a portable unit I'd seriously consider loading that onto the bike for these outings. My plan is for some commercial campsites as well as some wilderness camping.

For an antenna, wire suits me fine. I hang on 40 and 20 mostly. A buddipole is a decent setup but it has its quirks. I have an old Small Wonders Labs 40 digital radio and a MS Surface Pro 3 I'll be trying out. QRP is fine by me and PSK is made for QRP.

Lots of options out there for ultralight hamming I think. QRP suits me just fine as my early days started with the HW-8, Argonaut 515 and FT-817. In fact, the 817ND might just make it on my shopping list again.
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Lee, Elmer

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Kevin look at the Alpha EZ-military ant.  It'll clip right to your bike and maybe string out a radial.

73  W9OY
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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Will do. Thanks for the tip!

Kev
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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On the PowerSDR/SmartSDR options, my desire is to remain solidly in the SmartSDR family of radios.

This offers me interchangeability, as basically SmartSDR and all my other software only need select the Travel-6000 at startup for the most part.  

It would allow use of a Maestro and other expected accessories.

And the bonus part is it could serve as a backup rig if I sent one of my main Flex-6x00s in for upgrade or service.

Really not that interested in alternative rigs for these reasons, though obviously I do drag other radios out of the field at the moment.  My usual field radios are either one of the TenTecs (I have Jupiter and Pegasus rigs for this) or a SGC-2020 (I have some of these too).  

So again the focus is keep within the SmartSDR Flex-6x00 family if it were offered.

73

Steve 
K9ZW
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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It seems limiting the idea to SmartSDR means a laptop has to be part of the package. I wonder if there could be a SmartSDR lite for tablets and phones but the Travel-6000 still remain fully SmartSDR compatible for the desk? Or, embed a web browser and wifi for control. Doesn't have to be too fancy for portable use.
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Andrew Russell

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SSDR on 6500 with WiFi and PSDR on 1500 with USB OTG work well enough on my Toshiba 8 inch tablet with 4 core atom processor and W10. Better by far than my laptop for weight and battery endurance. Touch control not so good but a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard help a lot. With a 1500 and a small tuner it is very portable.
Andrew VK5CV
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Kevin

K6TU iPad app already gives you full control of the 6000 both local or via VPN Remote

So by shlepping a 6000+ iPad you can avoid taking a laptop or PC

Alternatively several people are running SSDR on a MS surface tablet

Yesterday NN6X and I tried Remoting via a small size of a card deck Kangaroo Mobile PC.
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Lee, Elmer

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Problem is you need some way to connect the 6000 and the ipad.  Not sure how you plug ethernet into an ipad

73  W9OY
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Take a small portable wireless router or wireless media bridge along with you?

Ken - NM9P
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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I'm in an Android world. Not seeing anything similar.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Should a travel-ready Flex-6x00 have a multi port router onboard?

Power supply onboard too?

And what about ATU ?

Bluetooth?

Digital interface?

I'm thinking about everything other than PC/ Maestro, key, mic, headset and foot switch all rolled into a dense form factor.

73

Steve K9ZW
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Concept Update:

Likely to do a one-off for myself based on a 6300, but willing to collaborate with others with like interest. 

Not intending to build for others though. At least not at this stage.

I'm good at QRZ if anyone has an interest in doing parallel projects, or in becoming a lead-builder of a group build.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Rick Hadley - W0FG

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How about a 1500-class radio built into an extended Maestro?  That'd make a perfect QRP rig.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Different project with different merits.

Will be working from the existing platform on this one, basically hardening and extending it to a travel/weather ready unit.

Thinking a likewise ruggedized pad for control, while basic I/O would be direct to radio.

Interested?

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Norm - W7CK

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I just use Remote Hams go get back into an IC-7100, KAT500 and KPA500 that is at my home QTH.  Due do storm activity, I disconnect and store my Flex until I return.  I could loose my 7100 but not the 6700.

Most of the time when I'm traveling, I just don't play with the radio much.  There are far too many other more fun things to be doing.  Other times, I may be in a remote location for weeks on end.  During those times, running Remote Hams software works really well and is more than adequate for me. 

I wouldn't ever consider taking a rig, tuner, antennas, power supplies etc. on a vacation or business trip.  Too much crap and most of the time I'm traveling on really small local commuters which really limit what you can bring along with you.

Leave the junk behind and enjoy your vacation.  Go out and see the sites, do something fun and outdoors.  I guarantee if your outside all day, that last thing you'll think of doing when you get back to your lodging is play on the radio!  A good meal and that bed is going to look pretty inviting!
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Respectfully a fantastic and streamline option, this isn't what I am interested in doing.

I have opportunities to travel where you roll-your-own everything. Want power, you bring it, want Internet...well most likely going to be a struggle unless you drag out satellite gear.

Know you mean well, but your thoughts apply to a different set of circumstances.

Your thoughts do bring the YMMV idea out as an important consideration.

My build is not for everyone and a lot of folk would be well served by alternatives other than a hardened 6300. That's cool though when I go off grid remote I'd like this sort of setup. Would also work for US Island activations and other rustic operating QTHs.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Lee, Elmer

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The issue I think will be thermal management

73  W9OY
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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@Norm

You obviously do not take your XYL who spends hours and Days in every shoe store in Paris

I probably would have gone insane years ago (Maybe I did) if it were not for my trusty iPad and being able to work DX while she shops....really kills shopping boredom....

Yes.. I have to go along.. because I am the French Translator...

But I totally agree with you the last thing you want to do is schlep radios, cables, etc, etc. Been there done that... far too much pain and weight to carry...

Long live remoting via Flex


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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Not envisioning a build to drag to Rodeo Drive or the shops of Paris.   

Rather as an example - last October my group chartered a landing craft type ferry, loaded equipment and took it out to seldom activated island to do repairs on a historic structure.  I had my usual "picnic table" Flex-6300 setup ready to go, along with a second generator (the repair team needed the main one and its backup).

But alas weather was foul and I didn't trust the travel cases of the setup and the setup wasn't weather rated for what we could face.  So it stayed back.

Missed out activating a seldom active island as a result.

Earlier in the year had gotten permission to land on several other islands that have be activated only once to twice before, and have done the ahead work to plan to visit them later in 2016.

(These particular Islands are in the US/CDN Island program and being inland are not IOTA qualifiable).

Yes, if you stay overnight you tent it in sleeping bags, or if it is fair on a ground pad.  Yes you cook for yourself and everything brought in has to be taken back out.  Yes you use a pit latrine (if you are lucky) and after the first day or so you won't have any ice left for your Manhattan.  

But you will see nature, you will see the stars so thick they look like there are a 1000 to every one on a start chart.  The fishing is good, hunting fair (game tend to be small on these islands) and the birding world class.

@Lee Thermal is certainly an issue but in now way a design breaker.  As we take generators I'm looking into Junction cooling/heating and have a couple I brought in to play with.  I didn't find much information on whether the junctions have RF/Electrical/Magnetic fields to deal with, so i figure I'll do the measuring myself.  On the flip side very well may need the heating to keep things dry and deal with winter activations.

Was hoping to find more than the one or two folk who have expressed an interest to work through the project, but truly this is more about a true rough conditions hardening than traveling to an all inclusive somewhere (which don't get me wrong, I do enjoy too!).

EDIT - I forgot to mention that not only are these Islands seldom activated the Grids they are in are in the top 40 Grids needed by Grid Hunters. 

73

Steve
K9ZW
(Edited)
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Wow, Steve. You're talking some real mil-spec portability stuff there!
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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Thinking about it true Mil-Spec goes places in engineering and survivability way beyond "DXpedition Hardened" would.

I've attached a photo from one of the remote State Park service calls.  This particular one is Rock Island, US Island WI014L and is about twelve miles past other islands from the mainland.  It is a no-vehicle island with season transport for the campers.  Typically this island is activated every couple years.

No power (bring your own), very marginal cell coverage (we got some when we went up in the lift), state park style pit latrines & hand pump water from wells, camping only except for the ranger's lodge and the lighthouse, and simply a fabulous place.

This boat house was also the main dance hall for a Tesla/Edison era contemporary Chester Thordarson who was the transformer guy in their worlds.  The lighthouse on the island is 180 years old (Wisconsin's oldest still existing one).

The ferry is Washington Island Ferry Line's "Robert Noble" which we chartered to bring our equipment to the island.  If the weather would have been better I was going to bring out the radios and also a Harley, as AFAIK there has never been a Harley on this Island!


73

Steve

K9ZW

(Edited)
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Ha. Not being precisely technical there. But it sounds very cool. Your island hopping sounds like something I might have considered doing twenty years and a hundred pounds ago!
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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For those not familiar with the inland US Islands Program the link is:


http://www.usislands.org/

Nearby from the project in the photo is Washington Island WI-001L where I have my summer QTH.

Also nearby are:

  • WI-033L     Pilot Island (restricted access)
  • WI-032L     Plum Island (restricted access)

  • WI-005L     Hog Island (restricted access/not yet activated)

  • WI-003L     Detroit Island

  • MI-040L     St Martin Island (restricted access/not yet activated)

  • MI-043L     Poverty Island (not yet activated)

  • MI-044L     Summer Island (not yet activated)

  • MI-045L     Little Summer Island (not yet activated)

So I've ten islands in the program, and there are a handful that I think could be qualified, all within an hour by boat.

Many have Lighthouses, some state and national parks and more.

Not hardcore by any means, but activations a working stiff can do on weekends!

Hence my interest in a grab & go Flex-6300. 

When closed-up or cased I don't want to worry if someone drops it in the drink or it starts raining.  When deployed it has to still have some protection from the elements.  Bounce and bump shouldn't be enough to put it down.

73

Steve

K9ZW