SmartSDR 3.0.19 - No-Go over VPN

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  • Updated 4 weeks ago
I have been running SmartSDR 3.0.19 locally at both home and my remote station site for weeks without incident. Today, I decided to do some remote SSB from home to the remote station...

The 3.0.19 SmartSDR client with Multi-flex absolutely craters my VPN connection (similar to how DAX does). My VPN connection has just 540Kb of (DSL) upload bandwidth available. Something in 3.0.19 is abusing upload bandwidth, making this version unusable over the VPN.

As a result, I have dropped back to 2.4.9, which works perfectly across the VPN and has for years.

I suspect it may have something to do with Multi-flex, but unable to determine for sure what's chewing up so much bandwidth.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Posted 1 month ago

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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Hi Rick

I have a question for you.

Are you running the same frame for second and rate settings as you were on version two?

Please let me know

Mike
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Rick - W5FCX

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Yes. 3 FPS and 45 rate.


It appears the uplink from remote station is saturated, as link latency goes from 30 ms (no load) to more than 3,000 then SmartSDR disconnects. Normal operation with v2 bounces between 30 and 120 ms.


Using iperf, I see 540 Kbps from remote site and 1.5 Mbps to radio at remote site. It’s DSL, which isn’t great, but it’s always worked well for SSB on v2 and v1.
(Edited)
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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I have had this happen to be when some other laptop I had forgotten about also had a DAX stream running.

Is there any chance another client might be connected?


You got me thinking, so I went to measure mine, and this is what I see with 1 slice, FPS about 25% and Rate about the same on my Maestro.

Is there anyway you can dig deeper and see if it is all going to the same client?

This is on V3.

 
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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I only have the single client running on Windows 7 at home, with the 6700 remote through the VPN connection. V2 works perfectly, V3 does not.
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Official Response
I talked to Engineering

The audio is set to compressed only when using SmartLink.  It is uncompressed when operating on a LAN (which VPN simulates).  This is a change between v2 and v3.

Mike
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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Is there a way to configure and control this? It's making v3 unusable.
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Not that I am aware of.  Are you able to run SmartLink at all?
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Rick, assuming you are using SmartEther, in the client settings, there is a flag for compression.  Can you give that a try?

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Rick - W5FCX

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Yes, compression is on. I have noted that in V2 compression is already required to minimize the data transfers and avoid excess latency due to overrunning the 540 Kbps limited upload bandwidth. Thanks for the idea - it's a good one.

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Doug Hall

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Mike,

Why did Flex make this change? I also use a VPN from time to time. There are situations where it is preferable to SmartLink. I have not upgraded to 3.0, and I am concerned that doing so would hamper my ability to operate from some of the places I currently do.
73,
Doug K4DSP
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Hi Doug

They removed the compression for a standard LAN connections since there was no requirement to have it compressed.  For none LAN and remote connections we have SmartLink, so that remains compressed.

Mike
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Doug Hall

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Disappointing.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Agreed. We need an option to configure Compressed or not for LAN (VPN) operation; otherwise, all of us (many) VPN users are stuck on 2.x. We have other reasons for using the VPN beyond SmartSDR (rotators, amplifiers, remote desktops, etc.) and one cannot use both SmartLink and VPN at same time (due to routing conflicts in /16 CIDR block).

Please provide a way to configure compress/decompress.
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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I will pass on your comments to engineering.  

That being said, having run remote for about 15 years, I did find that leaving all the controls on a local PC less painful.  :)  There was years that I remoted everything back to my home qth, it worked but I found it really limiting.  I did this long before starting to work for FRS.


About 6 years ago, I went back to a local PC with all the antenna, amp and everything else control on a Local PC and then I RDP'd to that computer for normal computer work and then I use my Maestro to do all the audio work on SmartLink.  In fact, my SoftEther PI that was on the Maestro died about November last year and I never rebuilt it as I went to SmartLink for 100% of my usage.  

The benefit was that I only had 1 computer to keep updated and it was very very easy to use my remote from anywhere in the world from a PC, MAC or even an iPad.   Just RDP to the local PC using what ever RDP solution you like. 

A side benefit was that it was also easy to lend my station to a few friends and they didn't have to worry about configuring anything.  This is how I contest as well.  N1MM runs on the local PC and this keeps more streaming data off the internet.

I also run WSJTx for 6M work on the local PC and no chance of any audio stream corruption or latency due to the internet part, something I can't control (bad internet).  

What drove me down this path was my 1mb/sec upload and everything that got streamed out got measured.  Internet upstream had to go on a diet.  :)  Rick, you may want to seriously consider this solution with your 500kb/sec upload.

It was by far the best remote setup ever and I physically don't see my remote station for months at a time.  

Is it 100% perfect?  No.  But, given the tools we have available, I am very happy with it.  

Mike 
(Edited)
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Cal Spreitzer

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Will this  issue also happen if a user updates from SSDR V2.4.9 to V2.5 ?? 

Cal/N3CAL
(Edited)
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Chris Tate - N6WM, Elmer

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I have been watching this thread carefully. At the rate of your upload speed, using the VPN is going to be difficult with V3 as it stands currently..  N6NU did some tests while I sat back and observed, we measured bandwidth and latency. in almost every respect we were exceeding your .5 mbit..  a big question is can you utilize smartlink to achieve what you are trying to do? as it does employ compression.  If on the other hand you are able to get an improved upload speed on your circuit, the good news is we were able to still use VPN, but it was running at least a couple of mbits on average.  typically broadband uploads are around 5 mbit (xfinity/uverse) but distance from the local CO etc. can affect dsl rates in particular.  There are other 3rd party options available if you cannot improve your circuit or leverage smartlink.
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Doug Hall

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In my case it's not *my* upload speed I am worried about. It's the quality of the connection at the hotel or convention center or wifi hotspot that I might be using to VPN back to my hamshack. Having compression off when not using SmartLink simply reduces the number of places where my VPN connection will work properly.

I have web interfaces for my rotator, my antenna switch, and my amplifier. I do not wish to expose these devices to the Internet. Using a VPN they simply appear as web interfaces on my LAN, and only on my LAN. So does the Flex. There is only one port to forward (to the RasPi running the VPN) and no PC to worry about.

I think it was a poor decision on the part of Flex to quietly make a change that could allow existing connections on 2.4.9 to fail (or perform poorly) on 3.x. I don't need MultiFlex capability, but it's generally nice to be on the latest code base, and my plan was to upgrade to 3.x after it had been out for a while. That is no longer my plan.
73,
Doug K4DSP
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Rick - W5FCX

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Unfortunately, my remote station is in the country and only DSL is available.

I don't think SmarkLink will route properly because my home and remote station network are on the same /16 network (mask 255.255.0.0). I may be able to change that and use NAT at the remote site instead of bridging as I am now with the VPN.

Sure would be easier/better if V3 was compatible with V2 in this regard.
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Chris Tate - N6WM, Elmer

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Ya it sounds like you may need to do some net slinging to get yourself an environment where V3 will work for you given the local dsl capability..  probably split those networks up.  sorry.. wish I had a better answer..
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Rick - W5FCX

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I need an answer and commitment on IF and WHEN my paid upgrade to 3.x will support my existing VPN connection and use cases on my existing network. I'm not going to redesign my network to support 3.x.

If the Official Response and final answer is tough luck, I'm supposed to be using SmartLink instead of my own VPN and engineering knows best by permanently disabling compression on LAN users, and what used to work in 2.x will not be properly resolved in 3.x, that's fine. Consider this my refund request for the $400 worth of upgrade fees on my two 6000-series radios.


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Eric - KE5DTO, Official Rep

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First, I want to be clear -- VPN has NEVER been an officially supported configuration for operating a FLEX-6x00 radio.  This doesn't mean that it isn't a good idea.  It just means that it isn't something we are going to handle from a support perspective.  It also means that as a use case, it represents a much smaller percentage of our users (case in point that this came up 4 weeks after v3 launch with thousands of users now on v3).

Having said all of that, we do recognize that there are a number of situations where it would be preferable to have control of whether the audio is compressed or not.  Even some Wifi setups will perform better with the lower bandwidth of our compressed audio.  As such, we will likely go back to defaulting to compressed audio even when on LAN with perhaps an option to make it uncompressed for those that prefer the full bandwidth.  For tracking purposes, this is #7472.

I feel compelled to mention that the recommended way to connect to a FLEX-6x00 remotely for most customers is via SmartLink.  If you have the technical chops for running a VPN or the ability to manage a more complex network, more power to you.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Thank you
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Tom - N3VM

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Hi Eric - I'd like to encourage Flex engineering to expose controls in the UI to enable or disable audio compression. Yes, I know it's a continuous goal to keep the user experience pleasant (and uncluttered). This one option has such an important impact on guys that operate using remote stations, which Flex Radio IS the defacto market leader.  Thanks and 73, tom
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Cedric HB9HFN

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I can confirm this. I'm behind a double NAT and the bandwidth is not that much...
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Asher - K0AU

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Eric,

Is there a supported SmartLink approach to control a Green Heron rotator, an AntennaGenius switch or an Alpha amp? Asking for a friend... A serial pass-through CAT mode would be a big help along with a local agent for the AG.
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Hi Asher

Short story, no.  

The story that I presented at Dayton Forum on Sunday was to have a small Windows PC local to the radio that you do an RDP session to to run all those applications.   

Personally I think this is about the easiest idea today as you are not then dependent on a vendor at all and you then have full control of your station.  Once I get caught up on sleep, I'll record my presentation on why I think this works so well and allows the operator to easily scale their remote operation.

Mike 
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Asher - K0AU

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Understand your point of view, although I have never been a fan of RDP. It's just one more Windows machine to maintain. Kind of undermines the "thin client" argument for the Flex if I need to plant an extra PC in the rack. And don't I need a VPN for a safe RDP?

I've been running LAN remote for 5+ years now - and happy to share offline how I've worked around all the "features" to make it work.
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Doug Hall

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I understand that VPN usage constitutes a tiny percentage of Flex users, and I also understand that VPN is not a supported configuration. That's acceptable. Having to support VPN users would probably open a big can of worms. But I would be grateful if Flex would at least not penalize the use of a VPN for those of us so inclined, which is essentially what disabling compression does. I am still on 2.4.9, so I can't prove this, but I believe that operating using my hotspot or operating from my son's house would not be practical (or even possible) without compression enabled.

In my case using a VPN offers some advantages. Controlling my amplifier, rotator, antenna switch, and AC power relays is much simpler when they all appear to be on my LAN. No PC needed at the radio end. I don't have to fiddle with router settings or open a bunch of ports, and there are no 3rd parties to rely on. SmartLink is a laudable achievement, but in my case a VPN is a better solution.
73,
Doug K4DSP
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Chris Tate - N6WM, Elmer

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Doug, I am with you on this.  During the flex banquet, the question was asked and Eric mentioned that they are aware of this issue and are going to look into correcting the compression issue, and I think he mentioned this as well somewhere on this forum. so we can expect that to be something they will be working on.
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Cedric HB9HFN

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Hello. Now that's SmartSDR v2.5 is almost here. What about audio compression over a VPN tunnel or in a LAN. Is it like 2.4.9 (compressed) or like 3.0 (uncompressed)?
73, Cédric HB9HFN
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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I did ask engineering about this.  Yes, 2.5 will have the compression turned off on so this will affect VPNs at this time as discussed earlier.

The VPN and compression is still on engineering's radar as Eric  mentioned above.
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Cedric HB9HFN

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Ok. Then 2.5 is a no go for me as I must have a VPN as my mobile provider is using double NAT at the transceiver site :-(
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Cal Spreitzer

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2.5 is also a no go for me! 

Cal/N3CAL