Saturday, February 21, 2009

F3K update (and other ramblings)

I was at Orlando and had a chat with Gerald. The new F3K was displayed, what a cute little radio. Its about the size of a laptop, 100W with built in antenna tuner. Of course the talk turned to performance. The radio is in beta production, just barely, so there aren't a great number of units available, but at least one unit at that time had been put through the numbers ringer. One of the beta testers (one smart cookie and a friend of mine) has agreed to guest a review of his "out of the box to operating" experience on the blog. So those of you interested in the new radio should stay tuned.

Dynamic range on that radio was apparently in the low 90's. Gerald would not commit to a number but it clearly is above 90. I heard yic yak of 94 but don't quote me or them on that, it's just what I heard. I'm sure they want to test more radios before they commit to a number. Gerald was very clear he expects in the "low 90's". At what spacing? The Flex radio is independent of roofing filters for its performance, so the spacing can be 50hz as far as this architecture is concerned, as long as the signals in the pass band have the kind of purity such that, the 2 transmitted signals would not mix with each other due to other than transmitter crud. You could never use a couple of Yaesu's to perform this test. In other words if you have pure enough test equipment the SDR is capable of dealing with the load. 94dB would put it even with the two Orions (man's best radio from a couple of years ago) in Sherwood's list. That 94 dB would be good at 100hz or 10khz. It is independent of the "roofing filter".

The F5K is in the 100dB range, and is not phase limited.

The reason I bring this up is:

1. It's exciting

2. The introductory offer of $1499 expires on 2/28 so if you have any expectation to try a Flex radio this is a most bang for the buck offer.

I already have mine on order for just these 2 reasons.

There is also the F1.5K which is coming out later in the fall. This has been upgraded to a 5 watt radio from a 1 watt radio, with an RX capable from 11khz to 60mhz and ham band transmitting from 160 to 6. It will have a 48khz panadapter and operate through a USB cable. The intro price is $499. Lemme see: (put finger on chin and eyes looking up to the ceiling) put a 50 buck laptop and this sucker on the back 40 where all the beverages or that quad of W8JI rx 4 squares are located, and wifi back to the ham shack as a remote RX. The software and hardware to remotely control the relays for that brace of 4 squares, from software (ddutil) is in beta testing as we "speak". You will pay for this set up in saved cable cost alone, and you can run it off a battery and solar cell. I have a buddy K4ESE who is looking into just this situation. Its easy to set up WIFI to cover even a few miles if you can "see" the remote site. I've done over a mile down an open road, and 3 blocks through the trees. I have done remote operation of my SDR-1000 using tight VNC as the remote protocol between a Linux box and a windows box over wifi, and using something like Skype to do the audio duties. I was able to make CW and SSB contacts using the keyboard and mic in the remote computer using this set up. I was also able to start all my favorite ancillary software like Skimmer and DXlab. The setup was on my LAN but there would be no problem sending that through the firewall if I wanted. Hey Baby welcome to the future!!!

The Flex software is being rewritten. The new software is expected to be platform independent AND distributed, so you can have the back end, the end that does the DSP on the remote laptop for example, and put the front end, the end that has the panadapter and controls etc on your station's console. Each button on the present software has associated with it a lot of code. The new software will have the buttons connected basically to a bunch of links, and operate more like a browser in a server client configuration. My remote setup was fairly crude and there was a lot of overhead required to connect the 2 computers, but the new software should make things much more integrated and transparent, sexy and svelte. What this also means is you can run a Linux box with its decreased overhead at the radio, and run a PC in the shack so you can have all the PC related third party software like logging programs or PSK programs that you want to run to have your radio fun, and after all this is all about having some radio fun.

This brings up a question how much is enough? If I have a radio that will do 150dB dynamic range is that any better than a radio that will do 95? I'm sure there are certain fairly artificial conditions that might require a 150dB dynamic range, but does my station ever encounter something that needs 150dB? I corresponded with a ham from the northeast that was involved in some contest effort where the station had something like a 4 el 40M quad (bet that sucker is hard to keep up in the winter), and with that antenna SWBC was apparently an issue on some radios. I'm trying to acquire some data from some European Flex owners to see what it is like on 40M in places like Germany. I figure the best way to look into this is to go to the horses mouth. Its an interesting question. I have a car that will do 155mph before the computer shuts it off. It's got a fancy tuned up chassis, 19" wheels, and is a lot of fun to drive, but I haven't found a venue yet where I can go 155 and not be begging to be killed by some rat carcass in the road. How much is enough? Are we there yet?