Thursday, March 5, 2009

Truth in Advertising Truth in Review

I was perusing Larry Phipps N8LP's website today. I own 2 of Larry's fine LP-100 watt meters. When I built my watt meter I realized I could also use the meter as a very accurate field strength meter. It is from that idea that Larry capitalized by making a plotting program so you can actually plot antenna patterns using his meter in field strength mode. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO COLLABORATE, and collaborators deserve to be credited according to their contribution. My novel use of the meter was small but significant, and his levering of my unique perspective turned his product into something much more interesting. If you go to the LP-100 page and look at the beam plot, THAT is the result of the collaboration between me and Larry my small 1% part and his big 99% part.

As I was perusing I went to the LP-PAN pages and saw the QST review of LP-PAN. LP-PAN is a direct conversion receiver that takes the 8mhz IF signal from the K-3 which is picked off before the roofing filter and sends it through direct conversion into base band audio that can then be fed through a sound card and into a program. This is ALL LP-PAN is, and Larry who is an honest guy would be the first to acknowledge what his creation is. To be sure LP-PAN as a front end works very well. It is well designed and constructed from high quality parts. It is a very cleaver levering of the SDR idea to control a legacy radio, and to be sure it is collaboration. The Program it is sent to is PowerSDR and ALL the MAGIC is done by PowerSDR. LP-PAN has a parts count of about 100 parts, mostly resistors and capacitors a couple of IC's and some things like an LED and some jacks. It is not very complicated. PowerSDR has a line count of about 90,000 lines of code. Kind of makes you wonder..... Is this the Dog or is this the Tail? I think it is this exact question that was NOT addressed in the QST review.

"flame on"

The reviewer is Joel R Hallas W1ZR and he carries the title of QST Technical Editor. In my opinion this guy is either technically incompetent OR he is perpetrating a fraud. Through out the article he imparts something directly out of PowerSDR to the "LP-PAN system". For example he shows a couple of dramatic views of a "wide band panoramic view of 20M" (fig 1) and then "lower 40khz of 20M as a waterfall display" (fig 2) Folks this is PowerSDR NOT LP-PAN.

He quacks about how the display can be zoomed and narrowed... PowerSDR NOT LP-PAN. In fact this review is NOT a review of LP-PAN except secondarily, it is a review of PowerSDR. He is not jazzed about LP-PAN he is jazzed about how PowerSDR runs his legacy radio using LP-PAN as a converter between his legacy radio and the future. Frankly this pisses me off. It is clear Mr Hallas hasn't got a clue, or he is just disingenuous. This is typical of what constitutes the ARRL and QST these days, in plain English it is a load of crap. In plain English they are 40 years behind the time in their understanding of radio. If anything is killing Ham radio it is the drivel these morons print. Good Gosh, why not just print another article on how to build a 1/4 wave vertical for 2M if you can't get it right on something like this!!

This is not to demean Larry's creation in any way. Larry is a smart entrepeneurial guy who is advancing the state of the ham radio art. Just take a look at his beam idea, and I think this use of PowerSDR will go a long way to introduce users to the power of truly integrated SDR, instead of Kludge SDR which is what the "K-3 LP-PAN SYSTEM" Mr Hallas is so jazzed about, really is.

I think when novel ideas are combined in technology especially in Ham radio every one wins, but I think the blatant spin of this article is to steal the intellectual property that belongs to the GPL license of PowerSDR and rename it the "LP-PAN system". It is THAT intellectual property that runs the show Mr Hallas is so jazzed about. GPL is not FREE. It is NOT public domain. The intellectual property belongs to the license holder who allows the property to be distributed freely and modified freely. A hell of a lot of hard work went into creating PowerSDR, hard work paid for by Flex along with the unpaid blood sweat and tears of the other collaborators AND ALL OF THEM DESERVE TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED by Mr QST TECHNICAL EDITOR Hallas. A fairer review would call the features he highlights PowerSDR, NOT LP-PAN or the "LP-PAN system". GPL software is not free. NOTE THE PERIOD It may be freely used, not freely misrepresented.

Now you may say "well PowerSDR and even Flex is mentioned". That is not the point. Above I stated I put in 1% and Larry put in 99%. Suppose I added a resistor to the input of Larry's meter, could I then claim that Larry's meter is the "W9OY system"? How can this article therefore even purport to tell the unspun truth when LP-PAN is just a direct conversion RX (remember the 100 part count mostly resistors and capacitors), basically behaving as an IF, that outputs base band audio into a sound card? PowerSDR not LP-PAN even controls the sound card!! LP-PAN's contribution to the sound card is the 1/8 inch plug that connects the base band AUDIO to the REAL guts of the "system". He says any SDR program CAN be used. THEN WHY ARE NONE OF THE OTHER PROGRAMS BEING USED???? Simple: PowerSDR is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. By now it is well over 10,000 man hours in its development, and about 90,000 lines of code.

I think the real problem here is a true misunderstanding of how SDR works, by our technical editor. In this man's opinion LP-PAN is the receiver and PowerSDR is just some code that controls the receiver, like ham radio delux is some code that controls a CAT enabled legacy receiver. In fact PowerSDR IS the receiver and LP-PAN is just the front end. This makes the K-3, Man's Best Radio just the front end, of the front end!! OH MY!!

As to the bridge program, It joins LP-PAN K-3 and PowerSDR as a team via the CAT command line, but DDUTIL is a far more full featured program that does all Mr Hallas quacks about and ten times more. It will listen to 4 different programs and allow then to address the radio and each other, it will run your steppir antenna, it will run your Alpha 87, Acom 2000A or Icom PW-1, it will link to your LP-100 wattmeter PowerMaster or Wavenode meter, It will run your rotor (7 different brands and counting). Type in a prefix and your steppir is tuned on freq, your amp is tuned on freq and your antenna is aimed at the DX. Its like the swiss army knife of interfaces between software and ham radio hardware, and I can't rave enough about it.

A beta test is implementing a means to use any PowerSDR radio (I guess that does not include PowerSDR-IF) as the nidus of a big time VHF/UHF/SHF/Satellite/EME station. In addition BCD band data is available to run coax switches, and I am working on a means to be able to switch other relays from DDUTIL for example using the program to switch a 4 square or to switch remote beverages. This would allow the RX to be placed remotely connected to a remote computer and you could control that RX and antenna system via WIFI from the shack using this program. If you" low power" every thing (like use a Flex 1500, a laptop or an Atom 330 mother board and a battery and solar cell), you wouldn't even need power at the remote antenna site, or need to run any cables, or suffer any cable loss. In fact if LP-PAN wasn't stuck listening only to an IF frequency IT could be stuck out in the field as the ears!!

Sorry about the rant. I'm sure W1ZR loves his K-3, and I'm sure he loves his LP-PAN, but what he really loves is his PowerSDR. What he really loves is all the 3 dimensional functionality that PowerSDR provides to his other wise legacy locked one dimensional radio of yesteryear. It is that pure and simple and if he loves his PowerSDR then he really ought to just say I LOVE MY POWER SDR, or maybe he should just break down and buy a Flex!! Then he wouldn't have to worry about those greyed out features in "PowerSDR-LP-PAN system" He would have all the features!! SO MR HALLAS TECHNICAL EDITOR QST, WHERE IS THE TRUTH IN REVIEW?

You know the thing I find most entertaining, if you look at the LP-PAN docs the SDR radio Larry built, using LP-LAN as his front end and PowerSDR as the back end is DIMINISHED in its performance when he hooks it to the K3. The K3 craps up the performance, I love it!!!! Man's best radio introduces phase noise and spurs into an other wise very quiet SDR receiver the "LP-PAN PowerSDR system" represents. And how do you know this? YOU CAN SEE IT ON THE LAB GRADE RECEIVER CALLED POWER SDR for goodness sakes!!!! Here is a pic off Larry's website One pic says it all The Top without the K-3, the bottom with the Man's Best Radio connected to the "LP-PAN system"

"/flame off"

Now you know why I no longer subscribe to that rag. They left the technical part out a long time ago in favor of selling add space. Below is a QST style review of some Perrilli tires by some QST styled "technical editor". Is Perrilli an advertiser? You tell me.

The" Perilli system" allowed us to glide through the corners and zip down the straight away at nearly 200mph. The system handled like a dream.... It was sooo exhileratinggggg.... And what was our "Perilli system"? We put the tires on a Porsche!!