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Re: [CQ-Contest] Radio appliances (long and OT)

To: <cq-contest@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Radio appliances (long and OT)
From: "Robert Naumann" <w5ov@w5ov.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 08:37:22 -0500
List-post: <mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>

Which modern radios have standardized USB connectivity built into them?


Even the new TenTec Omni 7 that has Ethernet capability (pretty cool) has a
DB-9 serial port on the back panel. The new EleCraft K3 also has a DB9
serial port on the back.

You are right - all manufacturers should use a standard hardware and
software interface - but they don't.

I agree that it all should be better, but the fact is that it is not. There
is no plug and play in ham radio interfacing of radios, computers, sound
cards etc. The user must, and I repeat, must assume responsibility for doing
some work to make these dissimilar, non-standardized devices work together.
An expectation otherwise is just unrealistic and unfair to those who are
trying to help make these things work together.


Bob W5OV

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Chudek [mailto:k0rc@pclink.com] 
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 11:11 PM
To: Joe Subich, W4TV; cq-contest@contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Radio appliances (long and OT)

First, let me say I respect your technical skills and depth of knowledge
Joe. But I'm afraid you are carrying way too much American Tourister
(baggage) in this case. What is the reason I "need to know" serial
communication protocols and idiosyncrasies if this old technology can be put
to bed? How does this help develop my skill as an operator?

I do hold the knowledge that most Kenwood radios operate at 4800, 8, n, and
2 stop bits. Many users have been frustrated by interface failure. Certainly
I get a small amount of satisfaction in Elmering with the correct
parameters. My point is, these failures and frustrations should never be
there in the first place!

(A case in point: 7 messages have been exchanged so far on interfacing an
FT-2000D to N1MM on that reflector today... a total waste of time and
bandwidth, in my context.)

I'll admit my previous baseball scenario was a stretch for a comparison. But
here's two others that are more relevant and support my perspective.

I am a musician. I enjoy playing a variety of styles of music and have
various keyboards, synthesizers, and effect generators that interconnect
using the MIDI interface. Prior to 1983 equipment interfacing was in a
similar state of affairs as our ham radio gear is today. It was proprietary,
unique, and used inconsistent interconnection protocols.

Dave Smith published the MIDI specification in August of 1983 and the
manufacturers quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Technically you only need to
know how the "In", "Out", and "Thru" jacks are supposed to be connected when
daisy chaining equipment. Yes, you do need to know how to operate the
individual pieces of hardware... but that's not my point.

I personally know how the MIDI interface works (event driven commands,
syntax, timing, voltages, pin-outs, etc.). Having this knowledge has
absolutely no correlation to my musicianship. As a matter of fact, it can be
a hindrance to the amount of time I practice and perform songs vs.
"fiddling" with the underlying technology. My goal is to be a good musician,
not a technician.

Another technical hobby (and profession) is the digital photography world.
As you know, you plug the USB or FireWire cable into your camera and the
computer almost instantly knows the manufacturer, the model number, and all
the features. In addition, take a picture and the computer now knows the
Resolution, ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Date and Time, because the Exif
standard (with metadata tags) has been adopted. This is another instance
that knowing the intricacies of the technology has no benefit to the end
user. The goal is to be a good photographer, not a technician.

Maybe if the Kenwood purchase of the JVC company materializes we will see
fresh ideas brought into the radio line from JVC's consumer products
perspective? It would be nice...

I agree with you, ham radio is considered by most people to be a technical
hobby. But all recent indicators are pointing in the other direction. We
don't build gear anymore, the level of technical competence required for a
license is declining, the ham radio population is graying, and a driving
interest in the mystery of "wireless" is waning now that every family member
has their own cellphone with instant, world-wide communication capabilities
in their pocket.

Yes you're right, some basic knowledge is required to connect coax,
microphones, and accessories. My point is technology should be moving faster
toward "Plug & Play". The road to becoming an effective operator should not
be littered with technological "pot holes" that hinder a smooth journey.
(Oh, now I see there's an FT-450 CAT thread warming up... more wasted
To become a proficient pianist, you don't need to know how to build, tune,
or repair a piano. The pianist, fighter pilot, and Formula One driver are
most often an appliance operator. Many fellows enter the ham radio hobby to
become good operators, not technicians. There's no excuse to keep old
technical hurdles in the path of achieving that goal.

Serial communication technology needs to be relegated to nostalgic
discussions along with Hollerith cards, paper tape readers, boot strap
loaders, and 8" floppy disks.

So my question still remains... if USB technology is 10 years old, why don't
we find it implemented in our gear? Instead, we're kludging our USB only
computers with protocol converters and Far East drivers to interface to our
MODERN transceivers. It makes no sense!


73 de Bob - KØRC in MN

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Joe Subich, W4TV 
  To: 'Robert Chudek - K0RC' ; cq-contest@contesting.com 
  Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 5:09 PM
  Subject: RE: [CQ-Contest] Radio appliances [was: CTU Survey Results]


  You're off base here ... 

  > I respectfully need to take exception to your statement that 
  > hams are wrong thinking computers should be able to integrate 
  > into a hamshack without knowledge of their (computers) 
  > operation. I believe we DO have the right to expect seamless 
  > integration. This expectation is what pushes technology 
  > forward. Are we there yet? Absolutely not! Is it a worthy 
  > goal? Absolutely, yes!

  Amateur radio is a technical hobby.  Those who engage in it 
  should at least know how their equipment operates and how to 
  operate the equipment.  That goes to being able to turn on 
  the computer, connect the proper cables (and understand what 
  the proper cables are!), as well as install and configure their 
  chosen software.  For a user to expect a developer to create 
  default configurations to handle every possible combination 
  of computer hardware, transceiver and accessories is hubris. 

  Even today, anyone who has progressed beyond the shack on a 
  belt level needs to understand how to connect a microphone 
  and antenna to a radio - and determine if the antenna is for 
  the correct frequency/band.  That same level of knowledge 
  must be applied to the computer applications.  Users need 
  to understand the basics of serial port communication - 
  data rate, parity, stop bits, and the names/functions of the 
  handshake signals.  


     ... Joe, W4TV 

  > -----Original Message-----
  > From: cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com 
  > [mailto:cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com] On Behalf Of 
  > Robert Chudek - K0RC
  > Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2007 1:17 PM
  > To: cq-contest@contesting.com
  > Subject: [CQ-Contest] Radio appliances [was: CTU Survey Results]
  > Bob,
  > I respectfully need to take exception to your statement that 
  > hams are wrong thinking computers should be able to integrate 
  > into a hamshack without knowledge of their (computers) 
  > operation. I believe we DO have the right to expect seamless 
  > integration. This expectation is what pushes technology 
  > forward. Are we there yet? Absolutely not! Is it a worthy 
  > goal? Absolutely, yes!
  > Here's an example of what I'm suggesting:
  > Serial ports... Have your mother try to hook two pieces of 
  > gear together using serial ports. She will need a knowledge 
  > of protocol, speed, connectors, bits, parity, null or 
  > straight thru cable, etc, etc, etc...
  > Compare that to USB. She needs to know basically, nothing... 
  > She plugs her camera, scanner, external disk drive, mouse, or 
  > whatever (radio?) into the end of the cable and the computer 
  > automatically detects the device and sets itself up. She can 
  > get right to the task at hand (using her new device).
  > As time passes, our radios will become even more of an 
  > "appliance". We should expect, better yet, demand the 
  > manufacturers accelerate the integration of radio and 
  > computer technology. USB ports have been available since 
  > 1996. Why wasn't USB integrated into our radios a long time 
  > ago? Hams are supposed to be using leading edge technologies 
  > (so "they" say). So why do I need a level converter and know 
  > the serial parameters for my radio? And why is every other 
  > radio different? And why isn't there a standardized 
  > communication protocol, similar to ADIF, that will control all radios?
  > Answer me this... Why?... huh, just why?  :-)
  > One last shot at this concept... when you go to play a game 
  > of baseball you're really not interested in how the bats and 
  > balls are made. Although it might be interesting to some, it 
  > is not relevant to the task at hand... playing baseball.
  > <soapbox=stepdown>
  > I do realize you are referring to integrating OLD technology 
  > and new computers. I agree we are in a "transition period" 
  > where all the old stuff hasn't found its way to the landfill 
  > yet. And as frugal as hams are, that may take more than a few 
  > more decades.
  > 73 de Bob - KØRC in MN
  > ...I'm turning into my father and I can't stop it...
  > ------------------------------
  > Message: 2
  > Date: Wed, 4 Jul 2007 11:52:27 -0500
  > From: "Robert Naumann" <w5ov@w5ov.com>
  > Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] CTU Survey Results
  > To: <cq-contest@contesting.com>
  > Message-ID: <000f01c7be5b$b59041e0$0301a8c0@SONYRB42G>
  > Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
  > Bill,
  > I presume that you are referring to my comments so I will respond.
  > My response was to point out that Andy N2NT's summary was 
  > correct when he
  > said TR would not work on a Windows machine. Anyone trying to 
  > run TR on a
  > real Windows (WinNT, 2K, XP, or Vista) machine will NOT have 
  > success. If
  > someone was considering running TR on a new Vista machine, he 
  > or she should
  > know that it will not work.
  > I think that many wrongly think that they have a right to 
  > incorporate a
  > computer into their ham activities without needing to understand how
  > computers work. I could go on, but I think that says all that 
  > needs be said.
  > 73,
  > Bob W5OV
  > -----Original Message-----
  > From: Bill Parry [mailto:BPARRY@RGV.RR.COM] 
  > Sent: Wednesday, July 04, 2007 10:21 AM
  > To: 'Zack Widup'; cq-contest@contesting.com
  > Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] CTU Survey Results
  > I think these posts point out some of the problems that a lot 
  > of us face
  > with computer logging, computer interfaces, etc. My son is the in the
  > software business and, although this certainly doesn't make 
  > me an expert, I
  > have had some insights.
  > I don't care if Windows 3.1, 98, XP or Vista is or isn't a 
  > real Windows OS.
  > Bob, this doesn't mean that I am trying to put you down, what 
  > it does mean
  > is that many of us want to USE computers not understand the 
  > "insides." I
  > love my computer but my hobby is ham radio. I learned right 
  > away that asking
  > a "knowledgeable computer guy" for instructions was likely to be very
  > frustrating. The verbal instructions are likely to assume 
  > that you know far
  > more than you know, and are given much too quickly. Sometimes 
  > (not always)
  > there is a little bit of an attitude (this is really simple 
  > and if you don't
  > get it, you are either stupid or you should not have bought 
  > the piece of
  > software!)
  > Unfortunately, some of the hardware that is being sold has those same
  > attributes. The instructions are unclear, and the computer 
  > interfaces with
  > that equipment are OS dependent, maybe they work with a 
  > particular computer
  > and maybe not.
  > I realize that writing clear instructions is not a skill that 
  > many software
  > programmers have. The "help" files are good example of that! 
  > I have become
  > very careful about what I buy. The very best piece of 
  > software without clear
  > instructions and support is a waste of money, no matter if it 
  > costs $25 or
  > $2500. When I install a piece of software it should work, I 
  > should not have
  > to make revisions in the registry, or reinstall windows to 
  > make it work (I
  > have had both of these scenarios this month).
  > Bill, W5VX
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