2022-08-12 - Engineers on the Brink of Extinction Threaten Entire Tech Ecosystems, New ARRL Radio Lab Will Inspire Your Ham Shack!
RE: Remote shacks and software. It seems like we hams are extremely software adverse, quite the opposite of the rest of the tech universe. When it comes to remote control we hams will go to incredible lengths to avoid having to come up with an original software solution. And the default for remote control is just using the same software, only without access to the physical radio. The authors of most of the software assumed it would be used in front of a radio, so actually controlling the VFO from the program is an afterthought. As I look over at my MIDI keyboard controller, my Shuttle Contour jog wheel and iPad, all superior (and inexpensive, compared to the Maestro) interface options, I have to wonder just why having to cobble together 10 different proprietary and insecure software components is necessary. This should have been solved years ago.
We hams could build control surfaces using Arduino or Raspberry Pi SBCs with all the switches, displays and encoders we need. Or just adapt MIDI control devices. Even if you're only going from one end of the desk to the other, imagine having access to all your favorite knobs without needing to dive into the menus. Or tunneling your iambic key to the hiltop site using MIDI over IP. Sure, it would probably have to deal with a lot of buffering and latency so might not be the best solution for contesting, but all the more reason to set up high bandwidth HAMNET nodes in your area. We already have a good VoIP solution with Allstar. We could probably have a better one if we would stop bickering about HTs too.
I had some hope that Icom might be better at remote control than they are, but the seem to be going backward. Windows only, no API, mystery to reverse engineer. Not at all ham friendly. With their current track record I'm not even considering their SHF radio, even though it is 100% remote controlled.
The bulk of the amateur radio operators that spend at least an hour per week (typically a net) are lacking in the deeper understanding on how the "radio" electronics work, let alone understand the software or how propagation works. I am not even talking about those who have a license but never operate a radio. The focus of the article is about the "electrical" engineering and not the software engineering of amateur radio. It was a huge shame when school radio clubs were shuttered in the 1960s for "budgeting" reasons. Nobody to act as an elmer for fresh young minds has led to a world where those older than my 62 years scoff at being an elmer to others. I have taught Tech and General classes since I was 33 and am still elmering new people, from the new Tech in their late 60s down to a 14 year old in Manhattan. Dust off the books, watch some technical videos and SHARE the knowledge with those who need it. That is how we look forward towards the future.
I appreciate the information you provide in ZR. I was quite interested in the section: Beware “Signal Enhancement Setting” on Windows 10. I just purchased VARA and set it up on my Windows 10 and IC-7100 digital station, and tried it on Windows Express with both VARA-HF and VARA-FM, both of which worked great, VARA-FM at 9600 baud, without my having to do anything to Windows 10 to make them work. The enhancement setting did not appear on my ASUS laptop so this was a non-issue. In fact, I have had far less trouble setting up digital comm on Windows than on a Raspberry Pi. I participate in two weekly Winlink nets, and I find myself using Winlink Express on Windows 10 rather than PAT on Pi OS and Raspberry Pi because it is much more reliable and consistent. I think the Windows bashing is a little much, and rather annoying to me when it works so well for me. Thanks for pointing out the possible problem but let's not assume that it is a universal issue.