KC7MM Wiki

Amateur Radio with KC7MM

User Tools

Site Tools


FlexRadio in the station

The Flex arrives

In August 2019 I purchased a Flex-6600 and a Maestro Control Console. In contrast to the closed-box character of the IC-7300, Flex has designed a system that operates over a computer network. The 6600 is a direct-conversion SDR transceiver, with a built-in Linux server. The only user control on the box is the power switch; all other control is accomplished through software that communicates with the server via TCP/IP through an Ethernet port.

Their SmartSDR software is a Windows application (there is a version for available for iOS). That wass a problem for me, with my Linux-only computers. My solution to that was two-fold. First, I got a Maestro control console to get me on the air immediately. It runs SmartSDR on an embedded tablet running a modified version of Windows CE. Second, I would try to develop a program to operate the Flex under Linux.

FlexRadio's client-server architecture has the potential to let me realize my goal of building a Distributed Amateur Radio Station. The TCP/IP API (Application Programming Interface) used by SmartSDR is fully documented, allowing me to write software to control the system. With that, together with USB ports on the server that can be used to communicate with other devices, I have the potential of creating my own front end (user) network nodes for such things as CW keys and audio, as well as back-end station nodes for antenna switches and rotators and the like. This could be a lot of fun.

On the sidelines

In the latter part of 2021, I decided that the Flex wasn't going to work for me. It's a superb radio in every respect and I've enjoyed using it, but through experimentation I have determined that the only way to take advantage of its full functionality is to run the SmartSDR and associated software on a Windows PC. I don't want to have a Windows system, so I need to take another route. I should say that there appears to be no technical barrier to writing my own software that would run the Flex on Linux, and I believe that task falls within my abilities as a programmer. The problem is that it would take far more time and effort than I'm willing to put into it. So, the Flex would have to go.

Back in service

That lasted for about a year. Early in 2022 I changed my mind again, and decided to go back to the Flex. There were a number of things that influenced me to do so.

  1. Although the ExpertSDR software runs natively on Linux, the system as a whole clearly is oriented towards Windows. Working with virtual serial ports for digital modes and linking to logging software are examples. Version 3 of the software, which would fix some of that, is well behind in its development.
  2. I experienced a change of viewpoint. Although I really didn't want to maintain a Windows system, I came to understand that I could do so with minimal pain if I were to treat it as something similar to my Flex Maestro: a station component dedicated solely to operating the radio.
  3. I also have come to understand that the people at FlexRadio are moving in the same direction I am: an all-digital station based on TCP/IP and an open API (application programming interface). They envision the Amateur Radio station to be centered around a computer network, rather than analog wiring and serial communications. The radio is a network server, and the operating station is a client that connects to it.
  4. I discovered the work hams are doing to use Node-RED in their stations, including nodes specifically for FlexRadio. This could greatly reduce the amount of programming required for Linux software to control the Flex.
  5. Finally, I saw that the two transverter ports on the 6600 would enable me to use it on the 2m. and 70cm. bands. I could replace the IC-7100 with RemoteRig networking I've been using with a couple of units from Q5 Signal, greatly simplifying my station. It also opens the possibility of operating on those bands from any location where I can operate Flex, such as on my iPad.
sdrmaster/flex6600.txt · Last modified: 2022/05/19 17:25 by KC7MM