I get that SmartLink does some sort of negotiation + authentication + authorization, just like VPNs do. I also understand that for any but basic peripheral switching (and logging) SL won't help and VPN will be needed. VPNs are secure and readily available in many modern home routers. It sounds like a few hams will keep using VPN.
Why does FRS spend time and dev cycles on SL at all (not a core radio or SDR software feature). From the answers to some related questions I feel SM is not done but rather in design or prototyping phase. Why does FRS not focus on the needs of its user base? Or Is there some killer feature coming in SL that will make VPNs obsolete?
VPNs require specialized hardware (router or a VPN server) and a unique knowledge of networking to get it running. SmartLink requires none of that.
Easy and transparent remote access to the radio is the MOST requested feature we have had. Hands down. This is a core feature we envisioned when we built the FLEX-6000s.
SmartLink is just the beginning of remote operation; the foundation. Yes, we envision more to come...
Will the SmartLink feature set make VPNs obsolete? VPNs provide a parallel access technology. We hope that the simplicity and ease of use that is engineered into SmartLink will make VPNs a less attractive remote operating solution.
This will make the connection much easier and work a bit like EchoLink, Skype, RCFORB, Teamviewer or what ever else people are using but ONLY between the Radio devices and not a computer getting in the way.
So to me this is a core feature and is just FLEX fulfilling there promise to us, the owners of a fantastic radio and great to see what Tim said
"SmartLink is just the beginning of remote operation; the foundation. Yes, we envision more to come..."
and MAY "make the VPNs less attractive" and so NO remote computer or special hardware to worry about back at the shack.
73's and all I can say is it's been a LONG wait for this feature, there is light at the end of the tunnel afterall.
That is, the way I look at it, gaining remote access to your radio is of very little use compared to gaining access to the entire station. So is SL going to let you turn on/off the radio and other devices, turn around your rotator, change the direction of the 4SQ, manage the stack, select different RX antennas, etc.?
If the answer is yes, then this would be a killer product. If the answer is no, then SL doesn't really solve anything but for the simplest of simple stations.
Additional boxes (raspberry pi) are needed for vpn use if your router doesn't support them.
Carrier grade NAT may or may not work with a VPN. I had one case in Quebec where their ISP was blocking all inbound VPN software. Smartlink may/may not work.
Smartlink enables Maestro use remotely without additional hardware. I have set up the two raspberry pi combo for some people along with an antenna mod for better wifi on the pi, but it doesn't do captive portal wifi and it's an extra box to carry around. The upside is you can place it on your car roof and run an Ethernet cable down to the radio in a parking lot and work remote radio to your heart's content. But if maestro does captive portal this will be a lot better.
As for me I may still use VPN as I have other stuff to connect but that's my choice, and I have the skills to troubleshoot it if it doesn't work.
I am wondering what the "key" to SmartLink is? Is it dedicated servers that Flex owns and operates? Will it be "free" after the paying for the 2.x software?
I have two Pi's working (with Ria's and Chris's help) but have difficulty with some public Wi-F'is having drop-outs. The two Pi's allow flexible tuning but my best, consistent and steady streaming connects are using my cell phone ($s). I am hoping that SmartLink is reliable and consistent and without a subscription.
By the way, I haven't seen Chris (k6ozy) on the forum lately. I hope he is OK...
SmartLink is hosted on a secure server. You can still acces your local radio on the LAN without connecting to SmartLink but you would need SmartLink to connect via WAN.
The advantages of SmartLink over VPN have been covered in other posts but most noteably is the ability to run the radio into a WAN connection and acces it remotely from a client without the need of a PAC on at the radio. Also the Maestro can access the radio directly over LAN without a Pi or other VapN bridge device.
I also think Howard is right in a different post. The best way to do the things that SmartLink won't do is some kind of a remote access controller.
I started building such a thing this weekend because while my station is quite simple compared to many of you I do have an SPE 1K amp and I want to be able to turn it on/off and set what power on it I want to run. I also invested in a Palstar auto-tuner and I plan to have that under remote control as well.
As a software guy for many years my solution to this is software. This weekend I built a small utility that published a web page. On that webpage are links to turn amp on/off, other amp controls and a few shack specific controls. Since the web server is built in my code I am free to do pretty much what I want with it.
I'm going to put it on a specific port and my authentication will be a simple rolling scheme where the password will change daily. All I will need to do for remote control of these devices is to point a browser to my web address enter the authentication and the next page presented will be controls for the station.
I think this is where we are going to end up. I don't think we can expect that FRS will provide any kind of station control beyond what can be done with the USB cables. So if you have anything unique you will have to have another way to control it.
Once I get my little piece of software working the way I want I will make it available to those that might be interested. The various peripherals for control are easily setup in a java like macro language and the web page layout and format comes from an easily editable template.
I am making use so far of the Digital Loggers web power switches and relays and also will be able to control SPE 1KFA amp. Might work for the bigger ones but no idea. I expect to add basic control of the Palstar tuner to switch antennas etc.