REMOTE -- Is CW via a paddle in scope for the remote enhancement coming in V1.4 and V2.0?

  • 3
  • Question
  • Updated 4 years ago
  • Answered
  • (Edited)
Remote access is coming in V1.4 (for the LAN) and V2.x (for the WAN).  

Will the remote enhancement include remote keying for the CW OPs?  (not CWX but actual keying with a paddle or straight key).  

For me, remote without a paddle won't be useful at all.  As they say,  its never a good idea to assume and for many of us, it is an important question.  

This question was posted in another thread but to avoid getting lost I thought it probably needs to be on its own.....here is a copy from the other thread.

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




Link to Ned's idea for connecting a paddle to the FlexControl:

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/flexcontrol_version2 


Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes

Posted 4 years ago

  • 3
Photo of Ned K1NJ

Ned K1NJ

  • 301 Posts
  • 75 Reply Likes
      I'd love to see a Flex-native solution for this.  My keying is way ahead of my typing.
My XYL  can send 100 wpm. Very embarrassing.

Ned,  K1NJ
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Ned,
I found a video that discusses connecting a paddle to a PC (laptop, tablet, etc).   The connection is via a serial port using a USB to serial converter.    




The video discusses debouncing the paddes in hardware and/or software.  And it goes on to discuss some options for using audio, etc.   Depending the FRS approach for remote keying, it might only require the paddle connection and use their software to handle the rest. 

Ned, I like your idea of an enhanced FlexControl with a paddle jack better.    It would only require one USB connection and I want the knob anyway.  Maybe Stu / K6TU can weigh in on this possibility.

But the USB option could work too.  And it might be something we could get sooner. 

If anyone here has tried the USB option, please let us know how it worked for you. 

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


Here is the video.....





Photo of Stu Phillips - K6TU

Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

  • 642 Posts
  • 256 Reply Likes
There's really two topics here...
- remoting a paddle
- connecting a paddle to a tablet

Both will require local generation of sidetone.

I've looked at ways of connecting a paddle to a tablet...  there are radio modules for both "serial" over WiFi and Bluetooth - with the WiFi version being something that will work over both iOS and Android without needing vendor certification (which iOS & BT would).

I suspect should a box - think WiFi connected version of a FlexControl with keyer/paddle interface would likely sell for $200++ - with Hams being the cheapest hobbyists on the planet, I wonder whether folks would pay that much?

Think of something like Beppe's TMate2 - a very nice box but 260 EUR... 

Interesting design challenge though!
Stu K6TU
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Stu -- I can't speak for others but a wifi connected Flex control with paddle input for $200++ would be a worthwhile purchase.  I would love to have my tablet on a road trip or day at the park and operate CW from my rig at home.

Let me know when you start taking orders!

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ  
al (at) nn4zz (dot) com
Photo of Ned K1NJ

Ned K1NJ

  • 301 Posts
  • 75 Reply Likes
              This would be a unique and attractive product. The more universal
the interface/platform, the better the chance for good return on investment.

Ned
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
One advantage of using USB over wifi is power.  USB provides the power where as using wifi would require batteries in the FlexControl unit.  Power consumption / battery life might be a consideration.  

Laptops and some tablets have USB ports so that's one reason I'm waiting to hear from FRS on the strategy before upgrading my tablet.  (i.e. another iPad or Windows tablet like the Surface with USB)

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



(Edited)
Photo of Ned K1NJ

Ned K1NJ

  • 301 Posts
  • 75 Reply Likes

   Pretty neat.  Packable, portable extension of your home station.   Could also
talk to the home PC for other station controls, like turning the antenna, cycling
6000 on/off, etc.

Ned
Photo of Ned K1NJ

Ned K1NJ

  • 301 Posts
  • 75 Reply Likes

    Flex used a COM port as an optional keyer connection for their SDR-1000.  At the time
it was the best way to do it.

Ned,  K1NJ

Photo of Rick Hadley - W0FG

Rick Hadley - W0FG

  • 554 Posts
  • 118 Reply Likes
Stu - I'm with Al and will be right behind him in line for one!

Rick, W0FG
Photo of Jay / NO5J

Jay / NO5J

  • 1402 Posts
  • 209 Reply Likes
I still connect my keyer, paddles or key to a serial port on the PC for both My Flex5000a or SDR-1000. It lets me switch radios without having to unplug/replug anything behind the equipment on the desk. I only have to restart PowerSDR then select Com3 in Setup/DSP/Keyer. It worked the best for the SDR-1000. and I just left it that way when I got the Flex-5000a. I may build a new PC for the 6500 I plan on ordering next month, and will move my Parallel/Serial PCI card to the new PC so I can use all 3. I'm hoping.  
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Hi Jay,
Currently on the 6000 you have to connect the paddle, straight key, external keyer  to the radio.    PC driven keying is via a serial port to data lines on the ACCESSORY connector on the radio.   The interface requires a few parts also.  If you are interested, I have a document with the schematic, parts list, etc.  

No way to connect a paddle to the PC at this point.   This is another reason to see what FRS has planned for remote keying, it could also address your interest in keying via the PC in your home station..  

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

Photo of Jay / NO5J

Jay / NO5J

  • 1402 Posts
  • 209 Reply Likes
Ok so SmartSDR doesn't have an option to select a serial port for keying. Guess I need to do some more reading after all. How does say, Fldigi send CW?  I assumed wrongly, that it would just use CAT commands like it does with PowerSDR. Oh well no problem, my keys and keyer all use a 1/4" TRS termination which plugs into a 1/4" female jack soldered to the serial cable I chopped up thats connected to the PC, that end of cord can just sit up front too, so I still wont have to  reach in back of the PC to move it to the 6500, I don't think the older rigs will get used anywhere near as much if the 6500 is on the desk too. 
Photo of Al K0VM

Al K0VM, Elmer

  • 566 Posts
  • 93 Reply Likes
Depending on the PC hardware and how heavily it is loaded, there can be timing delays when generating CW via serial ports using bit-bang techniques ( DTR/RTS ).   PC's running windows are subject to delayed procedure calls (DPC's) that can cause CW elements to be streched, truncated or missed..  In many cases, these timing errors are not noticable, but in extreme cases occasional ly a character are turned into a different character.

AL, K0VM
(Edited)
Photo of Jay / NO5J

Jay / NO5J

  • 1402 Posts
  • 209 Reply Likes
Yes I've seen some of that. When I get the 6500 I think i will just use the radios key jack and leave the com port keying for my old Flex's. I don't need the 6500 for it's remote capabilities, Life is more peaceful in the shack. Fish might spook if if I cast and QSO at the same time. It's nice having 2 hobbies and no social life, and a wife that lets me get away with it.
Photo of k0eoo

k0eoo

  • 577 Posts
  • 78 Reply Likes
My vote is for a FlexControl knob with a keyer jack (1/4" or 1/8" stereo jack) that would generate the tone locally...  Less expensive and would allow everyone's keyer to play....
Photo of Greg

Greg

  • 656 Posts
  • 63 Reply Likes
Some time back I suggested Winkey USB working with CWX.  SmartCat would ask what COM port the Winkey is connected to and would read its input and key the radio.  Use the Winkey sidetone to eliminate latency issues.  SmartCat would need to be able to split the winkey port so that it could also be accessed by logging programs.  This way you have remote keying from one WinKey USB, no latency issues and logger keying with no issues.  

73
Greg
AB7R
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Thanks for all of the input and ideas. I think the first thing we need to know must come from Steve and FRS. Is paddle driven CW in scope for the remote releases 1.4 and 2.0 ?

The answer could be yes, no or we haven't figured that out yet...

Once we know it is in scope, then we can ask about the strategy and any potential limitations. ( speed limitation, sidetone, qsk, etc)

Regards, Al / NN4ZZ
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
It's been a week so checking back to see if someone can answer the question about whether paddle driven CW is in scope for remote access.    

Yes ?
No ?
Haven't figured it out yet ?

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


Photo of Steve - N5AC

Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

  • 1007 Posts
  • 969 Reply Likes
We believe there are two basic kinds of operation: casual and serious.  The serious operator needs access to all of his usual hardware components (favorite mic, CW paddle, etc).  The casual operator is generally operating in less-than-optimal conditions and is willing to make compromises in operational capability provided that the convenience factor is high.

Example:  The serious operator might be someone who has a shack in one part of the house near where the antennas are, but has an operational point somewhere else in the house.  He wants to setup a boom mic, a paddle, etc. and be just like he's in front of the radio.  Serious operators can be local (LAN) or very remote (WAN).

Example: The casual operator might be a guy at work that just found out there is rare DC he needs.  He's OK to whip out an iPad or run the software at the office knowing he doesn't have a key/professional audio mic, etc. because he needs the DX station.  In fact, even if he could, he's not likely to keep a nice mic and a CW paddle at the office.

Our current thinking is that we must support both casual and serious operating (one person can be both at different times) for both local (LAN) and remote (WAN) styles of remote operation.  But what exactly we support, when and how are still under discussion.
Photo of K1UO - Larry

K1UO - Larry

  • 730 Posts
  • 119 Reply Likes

LOL....  I really enjoy reading your responses Steve...  Are you sure you are not a politician disguised as a Flex Engineer VP? 


Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Hi Steve,
Thanks, I'm glad to see that "CW paddle remote" is in the plans.  

I'm CW only (and I know a lot of others that are primarily CW).  Actually I would keep a paddle with my tablet/laptop for casual operating too.  And I'll bet others would too.  
- on the back deck
- at the office
- in the car
- at the park
- on the boat

And if the FlexControl with a paddle jack is the interface, no problem that would be great too.  I have 2 FlexControls now and will gladly buy another.  

That brings up the next big question --- how will we connect the paddle to the tablet / laptop.  (USB, FlexControl, bluetooth,etc).  It sounds like you haven't figured that out yet.   Hopefully when you do we will get some notice so we can plan accordingly.  I'm holding off on a new tablet purchase until I know the direction.  

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






Photo of Steve - N5AC

Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

  • 1007 Posts
  • 969 Reply Likes
Actually I do have a pretty good idea for how to do it. The real block is a belief that few are going to carry just a tablet and a paddle but not a PC. In other words, I don't believe that the group that says they "will carry a paddle everywhere they go, but will not buy/have a laptop and instead demand using a tablet" is a large group. If I'm wrong about that I'd like to know. Under the current thinking, if you want a paddle to operate, you would need a Windows device of some kind. So here are the operating scenarios we would plan to support with today's thinking:

- desktop PC with a CW paddle (great for the lake house, across the house, DXpedition, etc)
- laptop PC with a CW paddle (great for the road warrior if you want to carry a 5# BY-1 or suitable replacement)
- iPad with keyboard CW for the person that wants to do CW from anywhere and is willing to use a keyboard (incidentally, we are not planning to do the iPad implementation directly, but imagine that partners will do this)
- Surface with a CW paddle for the person willing to sacrifice ergonomics of operation because they want a tablet and a CW paddle on the road (again we have no plans to support the surface directly, but imagine that SmartSDR will run on this platform as it does today -- it a less that ergonomic ally preferable way)

Our thinking today is that this will cover 98% of our customers' needs. We have a plan for hooking a CW paddle to an iPad, but suspect that few will want it -- the iPad purchase says the individual wants a lightweight convenient device to carry and a CW paddle doesn't seem to fit into that. If you have to have a paddle, our thinking is that you will get/have a lightweight PC you will carry along with the paddle.

You are making the suggestion that the FlexControl be redesigned to allow connection of a CW paddle to it. It just seems easier to connect a paddle directly to the PC to me (using a serial port as someone pointed out earlier). This is what our plan is at this point.

In general, if we have the option of sending an engineer down the path of developing a new piece of $200 hardware or using a software solution, we're going to invest in software so neither of us have to buy new hardware. We're all about "the most capability for our customers with the least investment from either of us" because it advances the art quicker and costs you less. If there are significant advantages to new hardware, we will of course build new hardware -- the FLEX-6000 is a perfect example. There's no deep-seated aversion to a FlexControl change, but if it can be done in software on the PC without obsoleting the existing FlexControls in the field, we're more likely to do it that way.
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Hi Steve,
Actually the tablet I'm thinking about is the new Surface Pro 3 (with optional removeable keyboard and USB and Windows), so that fits with what you mentioned.  

I'm fine with either USB or the FlexControl option.   Actually Ned / K1NJ suggested the FlexContol and paddle jack option which would be nice also.  (One less USB cable to connect, but agree some engineering work)

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





Photo of Steve - N5AC

Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

  • 1007 Posts
  • 969 Reply Likes
Ok I do want to say that to date the Surface has received a luke-warm market response. If a large group of our customers buy Surfaces, we would probably extend support to the platform, but today it is just however it works running the PC application. I say this because I believe the ergonomics of the iPad application will be better -- you will be able to tune with your finger and it will be easy. Today, SmartSDR on the Surface is more cumbersome because it is built for a mouse and not a tablet. We WANT to run everywhere -- we'd love a beautiful application on an Android tablet too. Anyone wanting to develop that app will have our support. Today we're focusing on the core remote solution that will enable remote for most of our customers and resources willing (or third parties that want to do it), we'll be on other platforms later.
Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3467 Posts
  • 1328 Reply Likes
As one who remotes all the time from my ipad. ..like now sitting in a bar in Paris, I really am anxious to see a Native IPad App so I don't have to use this awkward Skype, Parallels Access combo. I personally have no interest whatsoever in CW but I do a lot of SSB and digital from my ipad. BTW. SSB via the iPad really impresses the other people at the bar especially looking at the waterfall. Curiosity is great way to get people to buy you drinks. Running DX from the bar is a great way to pass the time when the XYL is down the street shopping.


I guess you could put me in the minimalist category. I want to carry as little weight as possible in my travels. That is even true for DXpeditions. Yes I have a small laptop (MacBook Air) back at the apartment but I would never carry that weight around with me all day and to,be frank, I have never used it to remote as the iPad is just so much easier to use.

I also think a lot of remoting is wishful,thinking by these who have never done it. Even a light laptop is heavy, awkward and needs local power. You might remote with it once, but after that you will quickly want to dump all that weight and awareness in favor of a tablet.
(Edited)
Photo of Jon - KF2E

Jon - KF2E

  • 620 Posts
  • 179 Reply Likes
I agree with KY6LA. I too have zero interest in CW. I would however, like to see an iPad app that would do seamless remote SSB, digital modes and perhaps CWX. Hauling a key around seems a little silly to me but hey, I'm not a big CW guy.

Jon...kf2e
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Steve,
It looks like the Surface Pro 3 tablet may do a little better in the market than the previous versions. (often takes MS a few tries, so time will tell)  

I was guessing that a Windows tablet friendly (touch and swipe) version of SSDR might be an FRS product. (to leverage your code base and dev team client side skills)

I'm assuming that an iPad version of SSDR would be a third party effort.  That is not necessarily bad but its  just not clear if that is happening, who, when, how complete it would be, etc

But if there is a better interface on the iPad and CW paddle support, I'll go that route.  

My current iPad is a few years old so I'm going to replace it this year.   iPad, or Surface, or Android will depend on what direction you go with the CW support.

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



  



  


Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3451 Posts
  • 1320 Reply Likes
I understand Al's desire. I also know from a marketing point of view it is much easier to sell people on a dream vs the cold hard boring reality of fact and experience.

I have been traveling internationally with ham radios since 1965 In those days we converted surplus military tube sets into the ham bands and built them into the panniers of our motorbikes. These evolved into the smaller more portable transistorized Japanese radios. But it was always a major PIA to drag cables, connectors antennas and all the other Stuff. The weight was almost impossible.

Fast forward to 2011, the Flex5000 and an iPad. It was like a miracle. I only had to carry an iPad which I could use for a lot of other stuff. I could get on the air from my big station with 2KW and a MonstIR antenna in La Jolla and not be bothered with antennas, and local issues

Of course, the 6700 is even easier to use remotely via the iPad.

Reality Check. Al and many others want to schlep their paddles with them. I guarantee that they all will try it once. I also bet they will quickly learn what an incredible PIA it is to schlep even a pound of extra weight. So there is no doubt that you can sell them the dream of a CW paddle. But in reality most people will do it once and never do it again.
Photo of Al / NN4ZZ

Al / NN4ZZ

  • 1678 Posts
  • 573 Reply Likes
Hi Howard,
I'm a CW only OP and currently take my K2 on the road.  An iPad or other tablet and a paddle is not a problem and less to carry than I do now.    Also, I have a number of paddles so it would be easy to leave one in the office, car, etc. 

Lots of QRPers and backpackers also prefer CW.  And they are also used to carrying a rig and paddle.  So there may be more folks interested in the paddle option.  

That's a nice thing about the hobby, different stokes for different folks.   It sure will be nice to access my 6700 instead of having to carry a full rig around.   

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


Photo of KY6LA - Howard

KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

  • 3467 Posts
  • 1328 Reply Likes
Al
Over the past almost 50 years of international ham travel, I have met dozens of Ham Road Warriors in my travels around the world. With the exception of DXpeditions where CW is a major necessity, NONE I have ever met carries a paddle or seems to miss CW via paddle. Maybe it's because you can do CW by CWX.

Maybe I am jaded by my real life experience.

Again. I think the demand for a paddle is a dream not a burning reality that will survive first contact with the enemy....travel weight and bulk.
Photo of Tim - W4TME

Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

  • 9017 Posts
  • 3418 Reply Likes
I am going to close this thread because (a) it has been answered and (b) it is becoming a personal operating preference debate which is off topic from the original question.  Thanks for everyone's input.

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.