How to increase Linux use in Amateur Radio
What can we do to increase the adoption of Linux by Amateur Radio operators and manufacturers?
The great majority of software available for Amateur Radio use runs only on Windows PCs. That includes nearly all software from manufacturers to update or control equipment they manufacture.
What problems does that cause?
Equipment setup and maintenance
All radios manufactured today have computer-controlled user interfaces, and so they incorporate software in the form of firmware. Keeping the firmware current requres a Windows PC.
Programming rigs through their built-in UI generally ranges anywhere from painful to near-impossible.
Not everyone has a Windows PC. These days, many people use only a smartphone or a tablet for their digital activities.
This is a particular problem for newly-licensed Hams, who discover to their dismay that their inexpensive HT requres a Windows PC, plus custom cables and perhaps commercial software, to program and update.
Digital modes require computer control of rigs.
Remote operation is growing increasingly popular. It most often runs through a computer at the remote site, which controls the station.
Software Defined Radio
With the advent of SDR, both the radio itself and the client software to control it are in software, and most often require a Windows PC to run.
Much of the software used to operate a station runs on windows.
Windows cannot be relied upon to operate properly at any given time.
It often breaks, particularly when updated or new software is installed.
It responds poorly when expected resources are not available — especially networks. Negative implications for emergency communications, where the situation, by definition, is anything but normal.
Identify the things that make software Windows-only
Conservative equipment mfrs
Lack of standards for interfaces and data interchange
Hams writing Win-only software
Obsolete and proprietary serial rig control and data interfaces
Ready-made (or nearly so) systems that lower the entry bar for those new to Linux.
The Raspberry Pi is a great way to introduce people to using a Linux computer.
Inexpensive, easy to set up.
Operating system images with software pre-loaded and configured can be made from a Pi's SD card and then distributed, making it easy to get one running.
It's a full Linux box, so it can run any software that falls within its processor and memory capacities.
A vast, prolific community of users who create and distribute useful applications of the Pi platform.
Skywave comes with lots of Ham software loaded and ready to use. That makes it easier for a Linux newbie to get started. Can be installed on a Windows PC for dual booting.
The proprietary .NET languages are a major factor in locking hams into Windows. Although some .NET libraries are available for Linux, only the simplest of applications will run. There are alternatives.
Use cross-platform languages, such as Python, Java, when developing software.
Self-contained software packaging, such a Docker containers, Flatpack.
Web-based applications can run in a browser on any platform.
The main point here is that open standards for interfaces and for data interchange provide the basis for accelerated and widespread development. Look no farther than the World Wide Web, built on top of the HTTP and TCP/IP. standards, for an outstanding example.