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Author Topic: HRD to cost: Why don't more Hams embrace the Open Source model?  (Read 11024 times)

Posts: 159

« on: March 11, 2012, 03:33:33 PM »

Sure, hardware (electronic circuits & systems) & software (incl firmware) are different.

But I really don't see anything in the differences that would explain why hams' tradition of "Sure, I'll send you a schematic & parts list" (for the inventor's latest cool circuit) hasn't translated into "Sure, I'll send you the source code & let you know the versions of the compilers, libraries & IDE's I used to develop & build it" (for another's latest software tool or system.

Of course, there are exceptions, but I"ve seen more instances of "closed" (a.k.a. proprietary) Ham software projects than closed hardware projects.

Recent reports that Ham Radio Deluxe will go (if it hasn't already gone) to a pay to use (a.k.a. shareware) model covers a widely used freeware, that might have gone Open Source, with a bit of thought about our tradition.

If we're happy to be sharing (cost-free) a schematic & parts list, eg, to help newer generations of Radio Amateur experimenters learn about Electronics design & how to do it, why not extrapolate that tradition to one that keeps us happy to share (just as cost-free) the source code & details of our (very likely cost-free) development environment, etc., to help newer Hams learn about Software design & how to do that?

My question really becomes: How do we shift the game back to a free sharing of our ideas, to help keep Amateur Radio both neighborly & non-commercial, ie, "amateur" - no matter whether it's hard-, firm- or software that we've got on offer?

The folks in Free & Open Source communities continue to proudly (& freely) share the products of their time & effort (cf for the latest  versions of FreeBSD, Linux, etc. & variations, eg, for Education, Firewalls, even Religious practice... all cost-free to download).

While Ham Radio once lead the world in neighborly cooperation within our circle, world-wide, I think we have a bit of catching up to do, eg, with the Free & Open Source community.

What'cha think? :-)

Posts: 24


« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 05:30:15 PM »

I have run almost every free sound card digital software there is. I have found no need to pay for software. Currently, some of my favorites are FLDigi on Windoze and Puppy Linux (which Puppy decodes MUCH better with the Signalink USB than Windoze). i also recently discovered APRSIS32. As far as other software, I use Open Office regularly. I agree hams need to lean towards open source, and even explore Linux. My Puppy Linux with FLDigi runs totally off a USB stick.

Posts: 510

« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 09:08:53 AM »

As far as I know, the algorithms for all the common digital modes are out in the open so anyone is free to write their own code. I don't think there is anything proprietary in any of the other parts of the suite. So in a sense, the (software) schematics are freely available as you put it.

What is not always open, however, is the implementation. Making a good piece of software is very difficult and very time consuming. It is an acquired skill from years of hard work. Likewise building a radio will take a lot of time and skill. So while hams may share the design of a new device, you wouldn't expect to send you a bag of parts and a pcb board to you for free.

I don't see anything wrong with HRD being closed source as long as the IP in it remains in the public domain. If they charge a reasonable price for it then all my best to them. For the quality of that package they certainly deserve something. I think we are very fortunate that HRD has been free for so long now.

FWIW, I'm am a Linux programmer working on a closed source project. The reason it's closed source is that I need to eat.

73 Ray KJ6AMF

Posts: 142


« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 09:10:32 AM »

I have wondered about that myself. It seems to me that open source is more in the ham spirit & tradition of sharing information than the closed proprietary model is.

While there is some great open source ham software available, the majority seems to be closed. I think this has to do with the dominant model in the Windows software world. Like it or not, Windows is the biggest player for operating systems. Part of the problem might be that software development tools that come with the typical Linux install are not installed by default on Microsoft systems, and that the Windows version of a similar tool is not free. Perhaps it would be different if a C compiler and other development tools were included and installed by default on Windows 20+ years ago when Win 3.1 came out.


Posts: 448

« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 03:06:56 PM »

There are free versions of Microsoft's programming languages available from Microsoft.
You can create all the freeware you want with them. They are not distributed in a suite
like Visual Studio, but, in individual language packages. And other than a few "features"
that are missing there is very little that you cannot do with the free versions that you can do with the paid versions.
   Freeware is nice but, sometimes, a developer can get a ton of time into a project(not to mention expenses) and end up wishing he had never gone there. People start demanding features and support that someone doing it for free, just cannot do.
   A package like HRD requires a lot of work to maintain and update. Having been free for so long has spoiled a lot of people. As I understand it, the new developers are not asking all that much for it. Why not support them and help them add the new features you want?
Just my thoughts.

Posts: 25

« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 02:00:31 AM »

Looks a bit like in this thread, the people are confusing free and free (one meaning freedom, the other one as free as in beer).

That being said, I think there is nothing wrong in having to pay for a piece of software. Do not like it, do not buy/use it. (Just the same as with other services/products). Now one thing I really dislike proprietary protocols in digital modes as used on the ham bands. That notion does not really sound compatible, with other stuff in amateur radio. There is not really a need of freely available source code, if you have access to a protocol description that does enable you to implement your own modem.

73 de Luc

Posts: 875

« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2012, 04:28:17 AM »

In an ideal world all software would be open source, but reality is that many production and distribution models exist in tandem.
HRD will live or die based on its own performance, utility and to a large extent its inertia.
The worst possible fate for software is to be ignored, because there is no residue of its existence which will not fade in time.
I have seen CCPM for example, go from the dominant microcomputer operating system to near extinction when DOS came on the scene.
This was not because DOS was superior, Multi-user CCPM86 was by far, but the DOS user base expanded exponentially with the sales of the IBM PC - thus giving CCPM a fatal point of inflection.
If you look at the physics of game theory, and combine it with chaos theory, it is interesting to see that stable configurations are generally either unipolar or bipolar systems.
For example, in the old cold war USA/USSR situation this was a stable situation according to game/chaos theory, but a single superpower situation was shown to be unstable.
This was well before the breakup of the USSR, and is well documented, so it is interesting to see that the theory has proved to be essentially correct.

The same situation held true for Windows versus MacOS, VHS vs Beta, Blue-ray vs HD etc.

The theoretical predictions are that the only stable situations are either two players sharing 50 percent each or one will dominate.

Relating this to HRD, the danger for this software is that it was gaining large market share due to its "advertised" keep ham radio software free platform, which would have in time, made it the market leader.
But now, having cut their user universe to those who are willing to pay, HRD is now in a different universe where they may face eventual "niche" market status - ending in extinction.

The big winner in this will no doubt be FLdigi, a true open software paradigm which can grow by attracting users who would have otherwise entered the HRD stable.
We all understand points of inflection, which are those points at which rates of change become zero, and if you enter one of those points, it is like being caught at the event horizon of a black hole - a point at which you will never escape and be eventually crushed out of existence at a singularity.

I know this method of looking at the market and economics is unusual, but at the heart of the physical universe are laws, which although they may seem chaotic or random, have a habit of broadly returning to the same region, although not exactly.
If you look at the butterfly pattern of the strange attractor, you will see the same events recurring although never taking exactly the same path.

What holds true for so many things in the universe, holds true in economics as well, even if we refuse to accept it.
This is why so many mergers and takeovers fail - if you change the dynamics of your customer base, the universe will enforce whatever laws apply - no amount of wishing will make it different.

« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 04:58:05 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged

Posts: 14300

« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2012, 05:50:17 AM »

When most people think "open source" they think that means free software. They are not thinking about downloading source code, making changes to it, and running it on their own compiler to make an installation. What they expect is a installation package ready to run on their computer - but zero cost.

To me, that would be like expecting some manufacturer to design and build a complete transceiver and offer it for free. Open source is more like making the schematic to a transceiver available for free. You still have to get the components, make a PC board, and have all the necessary tools and skill available to do the electronic and mechanical work to build the project.

Non-programmers often think the value of software is the cost of the media (the CD) that it comes on. They don't understand why it costs $100 or more for software when you can purchase a blank CD for $2. They forget about the hundreds of hours a programmer has invested in developing, testing, and debugging the software not to mention his cost of tools like compilers, etc. In addition, large commercial programs these days often involve a team of programmers, all working on different pieces of the program.


Posts: 2217


« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2012, 07:33:00 AM »

Non-programmers often think the value of software is the cost of the media (the CD) that it comes on. They don't understand why it costs $100 or more for software when you can purchase a blank CD for $2. They forget about the hundreds of hours a programmer has invested in developing, testing, and debugging the software not to mention his cost of tools like compilers, etc. In addition, large commercial programs these days often involve a team of programmers, all working on different pieces of the program.

Well said. And not to mention all the customers who call and e-mail the seller who are too lazy to read the directions. That takes the programmer's time, and time is money.

I have written amateur radio software. Some of it I've sold, and some of it I've given away. I've even given away the source code for some of it. If a person wants to give away their software, and the source code, that's fine with me. But some people choose to help pay their bills by doing something they love and asking to be paid for it. That's not immoral, my friend, even if it has something to do with amateur radio.

But let's look at the idea that 'amateur radio software should be free' from a different angle.

I offer an amateur radio related product for sale. It's about $16. The parts cost us less than $3. The difference is our time and the myriad of other expenses unique to a business. I already have all the info on how to build them on my web site; should I sell the ones I make for my cost, "in the spirit of amateur radio" as one person just said? Sorry. I have bills to pay. I may very well give some of them away for free, but I would be an idiot to give them all away (or sell them all for my parts costs).

Should, for example, the advertisers in QST do the same? Or the hams who make a living repairing ham equipment in their home shop do the same? Hey, it's amateur radio. It's wrong to make a profit.  Roll Eyes  At least according to some people. What do you think?
« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 07:35:26 AM by W0BTU » Logged


Posts: 536

« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2012, 05:54:12 AM »

In response to STAYVERTICAL's comments regarding HRD I would suggest quite the opposite. HRD could remain free, yet unless it 's kept current with new features, continued/improved compatability with rig integration, on-going documentation and support it would atrophy, cease being attractive and become irrelevant to the user community. Keeping it current requires resources (people, time, money, infrastructure). As economics is the study and management of scarce resources it is reasonable and rational for HRD to be paid for to help offset costs. Evidence of this is the very fact that while HRD was free it was becoming long in the tooth with rig integration issues, incomplete logbook functions, numerous bugs, etc. The absence of frequent and/or scheduled updates gives evidence that the original author (and agreat guy and contributor to ham radio) had other priorities.  The bottom lines are (a) nothing is ever free, and (b) you get what you pay for.

Harry. WE1X

Posts: 14300

« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2012, 08:13:25 AM »

Buying a blank CD is like buying a book with nothing printed on its pages. Probably a few dollars worth of paper. If you want some author to spend a year of his time developing an interesting story to put on the pages then its going to cost you a lot more.  Grin

Posts: 884

« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2012, 12:39:23 PM »

But I really don't see anything in the differences that would explain why hams' tradition of "Sure, I'll send you a schematic & parts list" (for the inventor's latest cool circuit) hasn't translated into "Sure, I'll send you the source code & let you know the versions of the compilers, libraries & IDE's I used to develop & build it" (for another's latest software tool or system.

I would guess, just judging by the ham radio operators I've met over the years, that if you were to send them source code and libraries they wouldn't know where to begin. I'm not saying they couldn't figure it out given enough time and study, but the desire would have to be there, and think about their reaction when it doesn't compile correctly.

I do include myself in this group. I've been running Ubuntu Linux for about 5 years now. For the most part I just use the debian packages for software. A few months ago I decided I wanted to get maps working in xastir. The mailing list folks usually recommend compiling from the latest stable builds before checking for other problems. Even following the pre-produced scripts I really wasn't sure what I was doing. It seems to work, but I get a lot of errors on startup and eventually it just crashes. Could be a bug in the software, but more likely there's something wrong with my build. Either way, I have a lot of learning to do to get clean builds.

Compare that to building a circuit. Soldering parts is easy enough and troubleshooting is checking the pads for cold joints, diodes in backwards, etc. Even alignment procedures are usually fairly simple to figure out, just reading values on a VOM, for example.

I have no doubt I could build an Elecraft K2. I'm certain I could interface it to a PC running FLdigi. But I seriously doubt I could build a Hamlib library to get the K2 talking to FLdigi.

Posts: 477

« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2012, 06:24:50 PM »

Why won't I pay for HRD?  Because it isn't worth it.
 - 'Doc

Posts: 14300

« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2012, 07:23:34 PM »

No problem at all with anyone who decides a piece of software (or hardware for that matter) isn't worth the cost so they don't pay for it and they don't use it. We all make those types of judgement calls in life all the time.

What I do have a problem with is those few who decide its not worth the cost so they refuse to pay the price but they go ahead and run an illegal copy. The justification is usually "all amateur radio software should be free so I'm not doing anything wrong by using it without paying".

Posts: 26

« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2012, 10:09:41 AM »

From my experience as a professional in the IT industry (who uses Linux, Unix, Windows, and OSX on a daily basis), open source software is NOT ideal for everyone. Sure, there's a nice market of people who can effectively utilize the benefits that open source has to offer, but the majority of hams don't have the time, knowledge, or even desire to learn how to tinker with open source type programs. it's for this very reason that Linux is not more popular of an OS.

Another drawback from the average user's point of view stems from one of the open source model's benefits… anyone is free to develop the software. lots of promising programs have been hopelessly ruined by different people all with their own ideas heading off in all different directions with their development. Before too long, the starting point source has become so kludgy and so complex, that it takes someone with an advanced programming degree to get it working. Compare this to automobiles… there are those of us who like to work on our cars, or even build them from scratch. Most people though don't need to know how an internal combustion engine works just to drive to the supermarket. The prosperity of the auto repair industry will serve as evidence to this.

A little exaggeration perhaps, but this really is what it seems like to a ham who's not interested in having to write code or launch servers or set proxies or compile kernels etc.

Most non-geeks just want something that they can use to make their operating more usable and fun. They don't want or need the frustration that sometimes accompanies open source stuff. I'm not rallying against it at all, just trying to see it from the eyes of someone who's not a geek like me.
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