QST Review Comparing the ANAN To Flex-6x00 Radio

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My letter to the editor and writer of QST October 2015 edition.

Hi Martin(AA6E),

Regarding: QST October 2015 Edition
Product: Apache Labs ANAN-100D
I take exception to your review in which you state that the Apache Labs ANAN series radio is based on the technology as the Flex Radio 6000 series.
I have no interest in FlexRadio System with the exception of being an end user of their technology; since the Flex-1000 days. 

To compare an ANAN PDSR software radio to a Flex-6x00 SmartSDR radio is like comparing tube radio to a transistor radio.
To my understanding,PDSR development started under Flex radio CEO Gerald Youngblood K5SDR; your reviewed gives no credit to the developer.

Please let me quote from the Flex Forum: https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio
“The ANAN uses PowerSDR (TM - FlexRadio Systems).  I personally started development of what later became PowerSDR in 1999.  As a company FlexRadio invested for a dozen years in free development of PowerSDR which was later used by the open source community on the ANAN.  Apache Labs has no internally paid software developers to my knowledge.  It is all outside volunteer labor.  We developed the diversity software used in the ANAN originally for the FLEX-5000 five or six years ago.  The FLEX-6000 Series and SmartSDR is a long term and ever expanding platform.” K5SDR
Other things that was not broad out in your review:
 “My biggest "gripe" with the Anan is the poor internal factory calibration. You need to use a calibrated signal source to calibrate the receive S meter. Also the transmit power calibration on the Anan is done at 100 watts. On some bands the power tracks sort of linear but on others such as 12 meters 100 watts is 89 watts out and when set to 10 watts I got 48 watts out!

The Flex on the other hand is factory calibrated and works fine right out of the box. Calibration is very linear right through the whole power range.” Dave wo2x

There were more complains about the ANAN radios that went un-noticed by you and others that reviewed your article before printing.

73, Ernest - W4EG

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Ernest - W4EG

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Posted 4 years ago

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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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I would like to make a few comments that I hope are taken seriously and will possibly prevent any posting behavior that may have to be quashed.

The ARRL, as is anyone, is free to review a product and comment on it any way they see fit.  Their opinions and comments are their own along with any biases, be them positive or negative. Some people will agree with the review's comments, some will not.  As a consumer and an ARRL member, if you take exception with what they wrote and feel strongly enough to contact the author of the article to express your opinions, that is your option.  However, as well intended as you may be in defending what you feel is an injustice or a perceived negative bias, publicizing your personal communication to the ARRL on the Community may not be the best idea as it will no doubt raise the discourse to emotional levels.  If there is anything technically inaccurate in the review, you can rest assured that we will address it directly, professionally and privately with the ARRL.
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Ernest - W4EG

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Advice taken.

I hope other's review or comments conformed to the same standards as you have requested.
My opinions were NOT defending or expressing negative bias or trying to raise anyone emotional levels.
FlexRadio System and this Forum does not need me or anyone else to defend their position.

Not everyone on this Forum subscribe or read QST; that is why I posted it.

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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering / CTO

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I read the ANAN review as well and was disappointed that the author lacked a fundamental understanding of the differences in the radios (which I will discuss in a moment).  I do want to point out that my understanding is that the ARRL selects reviewers for equipment and pretty much lets them do their own thing.  In other words, they are free to express their opinions about particular technologies, capabilities, etc.  Vendors and members do exert pressure on the ARRL and the "independent reviewer methodology" provides them some distance to say that the reviewer wrote the article. As a practical matter, most readers assume that the author of the review IS the ARRL and speaks for them.  Vendors are generally provided a preview of the article to point out any technical misstatements (only reviews of their radios, obviously not competitors'), but the ARRL makes it fairly clear that vendors don't get to dispute the tone, opinions, biases, etc. in the article.

To the naked eye, the ANAN and the FLEX-6000 are both direct sampling radios.  The software differences are too numerous to cover in any detail, but more importantly there is a key architectural difference.  PowerSDR is designed to take raw samples from the radio and perform all of the DSP, spectrum analysis, etc. in the computer. In SmartSDR (FLEX-6000), all of this occurs in the radio.  This has a number of huge, sweeping implications -- if it didn't we wouldn't have wasted our time starting over!  With PowerSDR, the radio and the computer become a system that is tightly coupled and anything you run on your computer can easily disturb the balance.  This is not conjecture -- we lived this in the pre-FLEX-6000 days.  We would discuss how to avoid DPC latency, how to adjust buffer sizes to overcome caching limits in the processor, etc.  And we had to deal with this at 192ksps; imagine what it is like with 768ksps or higher.  NONE of these problems exist in the FLEX-6000 world.  We eliminated them.  Because of this, the out-of-box experience with the FLEX-6000 has far surpassed anything we've ever built before. 

With PowerSDR the samples must be shipped to the computer intact so the bandwidth from the radio to the computer is enormous.  A 1MHz panadapter consumes something like 77Mbps under PowerSDR whereas SmartSDR sends 500kbps.  That's a 150x difference in bandwidth.  Why do you care?  Network operation at any significant distance will fall apart under the load of PowerSDRs architecture. Not only is it impossible to run PowerSDR directly over a remote LAN link, you're likely to have issues just running it over your WiFi at home.

There are a number of other advantages in the SmartSDR architecture including an easy way to control the radio (API) which has been adopted by over 100 developers to date and far exceeds the capabilities of CAT.  

I come from the business or industrial software world and we were often ranked against our competitors by analysts.  One of the analysts regularly investigating products I worked on was Gartner.  Gartner has a methodology called Magic Quadrant (http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/research_mq.jsp) where they discuss the vision the vendor has against their ability to execute on that vision.  The upper right quadrant of this graph, that is the folks that had a great vision and could make it come to pass, were called the leaders.  Our industry is too small to warrant an analyst like Gartner, but I wonder where all the radio manufacturers would end up on the Magic Quadrant if Gartner was to look at the amateur radio world.
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Ernest - W4EG

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Most of your explanation is far beyond my comprehension. 
And my comparison of the tube and the transistor radio it's still valid; if I understand your explanation. 
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Steve,  in light of the numerous misinformation out there on how SSDR compares to PSDR, DDC/DUC and so on, would it make sense for Flex to do a series of short articles for QST on the subject?  Maybe use some of Howard's slides?  I'm sure you-all have already approached QST with a proposal?  I remember K5SDR use to publish articles in the beginning days....  

I was in product marketing for over 30 years and intimately understand how hard it is to market new technology; you just keep hammering on your message....

But, then again, I'm singing to the choir....
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mikeatthebeach .

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Well, my Flex6700 with CW Skimmer is amazing, it like a F-22 fighter compared to
WW1 bi-planes ! Hi ! Hi ! 
73 Mike
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Paul Leach

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Steve, checked this thread 3 years late but, fab explanation and confirms my decision to patiently wait for my Flex6400 to arrive in the UK.
I was starting to look at the Anan apache range but have plenty of other projects to complete over the summer

73's Paul
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WQ2H - Jim Poulette

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Late to the party - but I agree the article was poorly conceived and several points may have been misinterpreted. As a member of ARRL I realize stuff does happen. From a purely technical perspective, it clearly wasn't their finest hour.

To be fair, I looked at the pros and cons of both before purchasing my first real SDR. The process took about a year. In the end, it was word of mouth and recommendations from fellow amateurs that convinced me that Flex was the path forward. It's really that simple. From a business perspective, and regardless of what even the ARRL may say, if you can keep that going - you honestly don't need much more.
73 Jim, WQ2H