So, You’ve Just Purchased a Flex 6000

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Congratulations! Welcome to the Flex SDR community. There are a lot of great folks here, and many opportunities to “rediscover ham radio” using your 6000-series.

A few words of advice, if I may.

  1. You have not purchased a radio. The Flex 6000 Series is a radio SERVER. It is a very high-powered, network-grade computer server. That it provides radio services is almost incidental. Before you get truly comfortable with your new “rig,” you will need to have this epiphany.

  2. This means your shack computer is a client, running client software (Smart SDR). To be effective, your system must be support the client. This means hardware and software. Flex is really clear about the requirements. You must use a supported version of Windows for SSDR, with a computer of appropriate horsepower. It may be time to update more than just the rig. As with all servers, multiple clients can connect. Like DAX, CAT, Maestro, etc.

  3. Learn how to set an IP reservation in your router. Understand how traffic is routed in your LAN. Make friends with MAC addressing, firewall rules, port mapping, and – most of all – Wi-Fi network configuration and management.

  4. The 6000 series is very flexible, but not infinitely so. The difference between having one SCU (Spectral Capture Unit, or a fancy name for “the radio inside”) like the 6300 and 6500, and two (6700) is a big deal. With one, you have one receive antenna port active at a time. With two, you have two. Within those SCUs, you are able to create multiple panadapters (band displays) and slices ("channels"), in numbers dependent on the hardware. Buy what’s right for you. Take a long, hard look at the specifications, features, and requirements before you spend your money.

  5. The best and worst part of Flex radios is the waterfall/panadapter. Best, in that it changes the way you interact with the bands in a profound way. Worst, in that you will see – and almost certainly get anxious about – noise sources, birdies, and just overall radio junk you never knew existed before. It was always there, trust me. Now it’s in your face.

  6. There are a LOT of permutations you can work through using the various settings in SSDR. Take the time to explore and see what they do. This is a process. The 6000-series is a very complicated machine and takes time to master.

  7. It is likely that you will encounter RF-related troubles, either to your transmitted signal, received signals, or to your computer. Integrating a radio server with your station is not the same as hooking up a conventional radio. You’ve invested in a high-performance rig, ensure the rest of your station is very well grounded and shielded. All of your cables should be of top quality.

  8. There is an excellent manual. One of the best I’ve seen. Before you even take delivery of the rig, read the manual completely. I know most of us are men, and worse, all of us are ham radio operators. That doesn’t mean we can’t read the directions.

  9. Speaking of directions – follow all update, configuration, and troubleshooting directions explicitly. Don’t skip steps.

  10. If exploring on your own and reading the manual doesn’t help, search the Community. Use the search tools! Simple searches like “WNB” will lead you to probably thousands of results and quick frustration. Going to a library and asking for a “book on radio” will get you directed to a long bookshelf that will take all day to scan. Asking for “The Radio Amateur’s Handbook, 2016 edition” will get you going much more quickly.

I’ve had my 6500  for three years, now. It has been on the air almost every day, and has inspired me to try a lot of new things in my 40-year ham career. I’m not an alpha or beta tester (although wouldn’t mind being one!), and am not employed by Flex in any way. The comments above are my opinions only, and do not necessarily reflect those of Flex or anyone else.

Hope you have as much fun with your new rig as I have with mine.

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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Posted 3 years ago

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Bob G W1GLV

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George, that's the best description I've ever read about the Flex. Fine job.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Awesome!!! With your permission George, I would like to translate your post into Spanish and post it in a different forum. Let me know.
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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I'm flattered, Salvador. Of course, you're very welcome to share. Hope it helps!
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spopiela

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George, I follow your posts diligently and have benefited from them. This post sets the stage for any HAM starting with an SDR and specifically the FLEX. So many other items enter into understanding the FLEX installation and use. The biggest shortfall is the lack of reading the manual to learn the radio. The second is knowing the network that you have and its limitations.
Stan
N1THL
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Nice work George, you put a lot of time into that.
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K1UO - Larry

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Excellent read....  and re-read...  Item 3 for me has been an eye-opener.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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It would be good to understand the IT stuff #3 when and if something goes wrong. And to get the best out of the system. An area I'm not really good at.
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KC9NRN

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Very well written piece.

The Flex 6300 has caused me to rebuild my network, not because it had issues but because I wanted it to work remotely now, not down the road.

I'm in the middle of redesigning how everything is hooked up, I converted my Netgear R7000 back to a router (I had it configured as an AP because of the Comcast WiFi Modem). Turned on its VPN, configured OpenVPN, heck, the 6300 forced me to finally do what I wanted to do with the network 3 years ago!

I bought my own Motorola modem, bought a new 16 port switch I mounted on a 2x4, new cables and I'm deciding where my monster desktop is going to reside because next to the radios isn't going to do.

I also have to make room for the Maestro, as for the manual, yep, skipped right on by but I'm going to be reading that as well.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Texto traducido del inglés, originalmente publicado en el foro de Flex por George Molnar, KF2T

https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/so-you-ve-just-purchased-a-flex-6000

 

1.       NO te has comprado una radio. Un Flex de la serie 6000 es un SERVIDOR de radio. Se trata de un servidor  en red muy potente.  El que proporcione servicios de radio es casi incidental. Antes de que llegues a estar realmente cómodo con tu nueva "plataforma",  tendrás que tener en cuenta esta revelación.

 

2.       Esto significa que tu PC del cuarto de radio es un cliente, que ejecuta el software cliente (Smart SDR). Para ser eficaz, el sistema debe ser compatible con el cliente. Esto significa hardware y software. Flex Radio Systems explica claramente los requisitos. Debes utilizar una versión compatible de Windows para SSDR, con un PC con las características adecuadas. Quizá sea el momento para actualizar algo más que el equipo de Radio. Al igual que con todos los servidores, varios clientes se pueden conectar, como son DAX, CAT, Maestro, etc.

 

3.       Tiene que aprender a configurar una reserva de IP en el router. Entender cómo el tráfico se encamina en tu LAN. Hacer amigos con direccionamiento MAC, reglas de cortafuegos, la asignación de puertos, y - sobre todo - configuración y gestión de la red Wi-Fi.

 

4.       La serie 6000 es muy flexible, pero no infinitamente. Hay una gran diferencia entre tener una SCU (Unidad de Captura espectral,  el nombre pijo para decir "un receptor") como es el caso del 6300 y el 6500, y dos como es el caso del 6700. Con uno, tienes un puerto de recepción de la antena activa a la vez. Con dos, tienes dos. Dentro de los SCU, que son capaces de crear varias panadapters (pantallas de banda) y cortes ("canales"), en números que dependen del hardware. Compra lo que sea adecuado para ti. Analiza detenidamente  las especificaciones, características y requisitos antes de gastar tu dinero.

 

5.       Lo mejor y lo peor de las radios Flex es la cascada / panadapter. Mejor, porque cambia la forma de interactuar con las bandas de una manera profunda. Lo peor, que se pueden ver - y casi con seguridad te empezarás a preocupar de - las fuentes de ruido, chirridos, y basura en general que antes nunca supiste que existía en la banda. Siempre estuvo ahí, confíe en mí. Ahora está delante de tus narices.

 

6.       Hay un montón de permutaciones en la forma de operar y trabajar mediante el uso de los diversos ajustes en SmartSDR. Tómate el tiempo para explorar y ver lo que hacen. Este es un proceso. La serie 6000 es una máquina muy complicada y requiere tiempo para dominar.

 

7.       Es probable que te encuentres con problemas relacionados con RF-, ya sea a tu señal de transmisión, las señales recibidas, o al ordenador. La integración de un servidor de radio con la estación no es lo mismo que conectar una radio convencional. Has invertido en una plataforma de alto rendimiento, asegúrate de que el resto de tu estación está muy bien conectada a tierra y protegida. Todos los cables deben ser de calidad superior.

 

8.       Hay una excelente manual. Uno de los mejores que he visto. Incluso antes de aceptar la entrega de la plataforma, lee el manual en su totalidad. Sé que la mayoría de nosotros somos varones, y lo peor, todos somos radioaficionados. Eso no debería querer decir que no podemos leer las instrucciones.

 

9.       Hablando de instrucciones – seguir a rajatabla todas las instrucciones para la instalación de actualizaciones, la configuración y la resolución de problemas. No te saltes pasos.

 

10.   Si explorar por tu cuenta y leer el manual no ayuda, busca en las comunidades de usuarios y foros. Utiliza las herramientas de búsqueda! Las búsquedas simples como "WNB" te llevarán probablemente a miles de resultados y a frustrarte rápidamente. Es como ir a una biblioteca y pedir un "libro de radio". Conseguirás  que te dirijan a una larga estantería que te llevará días para escanear. Pidiendo "El Manual del Radio Amateur edición2016 " lo conseguirás mucho más rápidamente.

 

11.   He tenido mi Flex 6500 tres años. Ha estado en el aire casi todos los días, y me ha inspirado a probar muchas cosas nuevas en mi carrera de radioaficionado de 40 años. No soy un probador alfa o beta (aunque no me importaría ser uno!), Y no soy empleado de Flex Radio Systems. Los comentarios anteriores son sólo mis opiniones, y no necesariamente reflejan aquellos de Flex o cualquier otra persona.

 

Espero que te diviertas tanto con tu nuevo equipo como lo he hecho yo con el mío.

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Walt - KZ1F

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George? What's up buddy? After 3 yrs? I was thinking a song was coming, you know, picture Julie Andrews singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of <crackling RF>.  For those too young, Julie Andrews was the nanny in The Sound of Music, 51 yrs ago. GM, I hope you accept that in the good nature it was given!
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Ahh, Walt, I can honestly say that if you heard me sing, it would NOT be one of your favorite things :-)
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Walt - KZ1F

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It seems there really are two cohorts on this forum, the first and most obvious, those of us OT that likely watched SoM in the theaters vs the young bunnies that maybe read about it or heard about it from parents, or had to Google the reference. And, those that preordered their flex 4 years ago, perhaps having owned a 1, 3, or 5, at any rate having gone through the last 3 year of its evolving, and those that are recent purchasers. This likely represents a highly correlated factor in what Bill was referring to yesterday.
(Edited)
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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It is possible that I saw it in the theatre when I was 6 years old, but I don't remember it.  I DID see it the first time it was on broadcast TV several years later because my mom took over the TV that evening.  (Yes, back then we only had ONE TV and it only had 4 channels.  And the "Remote Control" consisted of mom and dad saying "go change the channel!")

Memories...memories.....I have fond memories of my Globe Scout 65 and Allied Radio A-2516 (made by Trio).  But I wouldn't want to go back to the days of ten-minute band changes that required tuning multiple stages of the transmitter, tuning the manual pre-selector on my receiver, and manual TR Antenna switching....

I am really hooked on the big panadapter and unmatched receiver filtering!

Ken - NM9P
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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#5 struck home for me. At first the waterfall provided an excellent method of visualizing local noise sources and knocking them out. I was able to knock out a few things I had just gotten used to hearing in my old rig. Then, of course it got to the point where i was trying to hunt down noise sources on the waterfall that I couldn't hear in the headphones. That got to be a bit of an obsession for a while.

To me, the waterfall is the absolute best feature of the Flex. I don't think it is about knobs vs. mice, analog vs. digital, hardware vs. software. I think it's all about hearing vs. seeing and hearing. Seeing the band spread out before you gives a sense of control not found within a 250 Hz CW filter. Seeing a DX pileup +1 KHz above a weak DX signal - priceless.
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KC9NRN

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Couldn't agree more! 
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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YES!
I would like to add that the way SmartSDR treats the panadapter and waterfall make it a pleasure to use. If you try "other" SDR applications you will see the differences. Starting with the QUALITY of the waterfall to the ability to move and have both Panadapter and Waterfall follow you.
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W5XZ - dan

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another vote for moving #5 to #1, george...nice job
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Excellent article, George!
A few things I might add:

11) With SSDR, Raw CPU power may not be as important as the abilities of your Video Graphics Card.  If you have a killer CPU and a sub-standard Video Graphics card, you will experience frustration.  Make sure your Video Graphics Card has a passmark rating as high as you can reasonably justify for your system.  At least 400 is preferable if you plan to do multiple pans/slices with high update rates.  Even higher is better.

12) while you wait for delivery, of shortly thereafter, read the articles in the Flex Community, the Knowledge Base, and YouTube videos about proper Transmitter Gain, EQ, Bandwidth, Processor, and Downward Expander settings for the various purposes - Rag Chewing, DXing, Contesting, Weak Signal, etc.  and learn how to properly adjust your audio.  You will be glad you put the time and effort into it!  A well adjusted audio passband can sometimes be more effective than adding an amplifier when it comes to weak signal work.

13) Become well versed in the best practices of adjusting receiver enhancements, such as filter bandwidth, AGC-T, AGC Speed, WNB, NB, NR, APF, ANF, RX EQ, and TNF.  Learn when to use each feature and how to adjust them properly... Beginning with AGC-T.  Many of these controls interact with each other.  for example, a change in CW bandwidth or NR may require tweaking the AGC-T level.  Once you learn how to make these functions work for you, the 6000 receiver is an amazing receiver. 

14) Make room in your future budget for multiple video monitors.  Once you become addicted to the panadapter display and begin using your new rig with logging programs, contesting programs, digital communications programs, and more, you will run out of real estate very quickly.  Even though a single monitor can have wonderful performance, once you have run a 6000 with two or more monitors, you will not willingly go back to a single screen.

My 2 cents!

Ken - NM9P
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KC9NRN

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CUDA power! I have two EVGA GET980 Classified GTX's in SLI, one is dedicated to SDR. Never see more than .08 to 1% utilization.