Category Archive: General Commentary

Why I hate FT8

Operators who jump in on top of a QSO you’ve already started with SOMEONE ELSE should be shot.

That’s happened twice to me today on 20M.  I mean, you CQ, they come back with their grid, you shoot them a report, and BANG some other operator with a more powerful signal jumps in with a grid like they didn’t even know you were talking to the other guy — which is BS or why would I be sending him a signal report?

I’m going back to JT modes and maybe some Olivia.

[Edited for language.  Apologies if you read the original.  I was rather put out.]

Taking the zoom out of ZUMspot

So I see that the ZUMspot folks have hit another speed bump on their road to general availability. Apparently the two-man crew that was the design and build team for ZUMspot have split up. HRO say they are still repping them (but aren’t taking any orders at this time).

(Click to embiggenate.  Link to page is https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-015994.)

I’ve seen this problem time and time again in industry. Just one more tweak…just one more added feature…we promise we’ll release Real Soon Now.

That was an approach that worked (to some extent) back in the old days. With the Chinese ignoring IP rights, and beating legitimate technology owners to the marketplace with their own copycat versions of the legitimate product sold through eBay and other dodgy suppliers, you have to be quick on your feet to make money on a product today before someone steals your idea.

For all the mouth noises being made in recent weeks (thank you, Donald Trump, even though I suspect this will end up being a nothingburger) by the Chinese government about protection of foreigners’ IP rights, it boggles the mind that anyone would entrust production of anything to the Chinese.  It may be cheap and fast, but you always run the risk of someone saying, “Gee whiz, this is a great product, let’s ramp up production and sell some ourselves at half the price.”  And the Chinese government folks, whom you would think would normally be smacking them down for doing that, just sit, twiddling their thumbs, and grinning at the West taking another one on the chin.

Maybe NXDN support could have waited for the next version…

Maybe some American company could find a way to produce this sort of thing without it costing an arm and a leg, too.  Some industrial production is slowly coming back from China as American companies are discovering that the Chinese are discovering that the Chinese people want raises and more compensation for their labor, and the things they make can be made here just as cheaply (and maybe more cheaply) than in China today.  Also because of the threat of tariffs, but I think tariffs work better in the abstract than in the concrete; it’s clear that the mere threat of tariffs has already caused the Chinese to back down in some areas, while still blustering and tossing around tariff threats of their own about others.  And that’s politics, into which I’m not going to delve any deeper on this blog.

For what it’s worth, Connect Systems is in the same position with their CS7000 handheld, although I don’t think anybody is actually cloning it like they are the ZUMspot. I was on the waiting list for a long time and finally cancelled my pre-order and bought the Tytera MD-380, when it became clear that the 7000 was going to remain vaporware for the foreseeable future.  That was at least two years ago, and the 7000 is still vaporware.

I think the ZUMspot is a great little product.  It’s just too bad the Chinese duplicated it, called it the JUMBOspot, and stole their market because (in my opinion) they spent too much time dawdling over that “one more feature”.

A good point from 1949

I have a book here called “Radio and Television Mathematics” by one Bernhard Fischer, written in 1949.  Dr. Fischer was, at the time, the Vice President in Charge of Training, American Television Laboratories of California.  His book was intended as “a handbook to serve as a guide and reference book for the practical man, as a collection of problems for instructors, and as a review for those who want to acquire a rapid practical skill in solving problems in preparation for radio license examinations given by [the US FCC].”  In his preface, he hits on a point that prospective or upgrading amateurs in this day and age of incentive licensing and open question pools might want to keep in mind as they study for their tests:

The intelligent reader knows he will not profit a great deal by merely reading the solutions as presented by the author.  He will try to solve the problems by himself and compare his method with the one presented in the text.  Only after he has endeavored seriously to solve a problem and has encountered difficulties which he feels he cannot overcome should he resort to the given solution as a last expedient.

In other words, don’t just memorize the answers from the question pool.  Actually learn how to solve the problems.

DMR anywhere redux

Man, these little Chinese knockoff ZumSPOTs are pretty robust:

pi-star@pi-star(rw):~$ uptime
15:34:35 up 13 days, 5:33, 1 user, load average: 1.23, 1.16, 0.68

It’s been running all that time on the battery box, although the battery box has been on the charger since last weekend.  It ran the batteries down from 12.6 volts to 12.0 volts in five days.  (It very quickly took the batteries from 12.8 volts in that photo to 12.6 volts.  As I noted elsewhere online, these batteries aren’t spring chickens.)

It is a bit annoying that I had to go into expert mode and open the SSH window to issue an ‘uptime’ command, though.  That ought to be on the dashboard, and unless I’ve somehow missed it, I don’t see it there.  (I mean, I see the load averages, but I don’t see the “up 13 days, 5:33” part.)  Ah well.

Much as I hate to buy another Chinese knockoff, I’m seriously considering it, since the “official” ZumSPOT boards are still not available.  I see that they’re trying to add NXDN capability now.  Hopefully at some point they’ll poke it with a sharp object and declare it finished, but meanwhile, everybody and his aged grandmother in Shenzen is selling JumboSpots dated 11/17/2017 for $42 and free shipping, I have a spare RPi Zero W and an OLED screen sitting here, and could put a second one together as soon as I have the JumboSpot in my hands…et voila, I have one to mount permanently in the car.

This is, FWIW, the same reason I gave up on Connect Systems’ vaporware CS7000 handheld (still in R&D!) and bought a Tytera MD-380.  You can beat your product to death and keep adding features and swatting bugs and tweaking it till hell won’t have it, then finally get the product out there and find others have moved on.  The Chinese are selling ZumSPOTs right now for half the price the developers say they’ll be selling them for through HRO, sometime in the sweet by and by.

Stick a fork in it, gentlemen.  It’s done.  And your market is drying up fast.  You didn’t protect your IP well enough and the Chinese are eating your lunch in the marketplace.

Laurels for DX Engineering

Mud pie in the face for UPS.

Dear Mr. Duffy,

With regard to my recent order #xxxxxxx, I thought you might want to know that UPS claims to have delivered the package to my front door yesterday afternoon, but the package did not actually arrive.

I am pretty sure that they left the package at the wrong address, because I had another scheduled delivery the same day that required a signature, and tracking for that shipment indicates that they made the attempt to deliver at the exact same time they claim to have delivered your shipment. However, there was no notice left on my door regarding the delivery attempt, so I can only surmise that the driver was, in fact, at the wrong address. Moreover, I was home all day – I telecommute to my job daily as I have for the past 22 years, and at the time they claim to have been at my front door, I was sitting at my kitchen table ten feet away having lunch. I think I would have noticed a knock at the door, or the doorbell ringing 🙂 In addition, I was checking outside every 30 minutes or so all day, to make sure they hadn’t “ninjaed” me and left the package without knocking or ringing, which happens a lot, unfortunately (although FedEx is actually the biggest offender in that regard).

UPS Customer Service is, naturally, giving me the run-around, suggesting I file a claim and otherwise seeming to wash their hands of the problem (of course their driver did not make a mistake, it shows delivered to my address in their system), and I thought as the shipper, you might want to know that. (This isn’t the first time they’ve misdelivered a package here, either – usually they leave it on the next door neighbor’s porch, but that wasn’t the case this time.)

Let me say that I have always been perfectly satisfied with DX Engineering and the products I have purchased from you. This problem is totally owned by UPS and doesn’t reflect on you at all.

Thanks, and 73,
Nathan Brindle KC9YTJ

Not an hour later, I had a phone call from Maria at DX Engineering, who said they were going to reship my item and put in a shipper’s claim with UPS, and to just let them know if the original package showed up.

You have no idea how much that means to me — and I wasn’t expecting it.

And partly you have no idea how much that means to me because my G5RV came apart the other night (on the end we DIDN’T drop the branch on, so I don’t know what happened) and I had ordered a new one to replace it, hopefully this weekend.  That wasn’t looking like it was going to happen, given UPS intransigence.

I just got the shipment notification and the new antenna will be on its way tonight.

Thanks, DX Engineering.  All y’all go the extra mile for Joe Average Ham, out here in the radio store wilderness.  I was already a customer for life, this just puts the icing on that cake.