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  Topic: Response to W7RJR post on Eham (19 replies)
#1     Thu May 17, 2007 4:15 pm
VE3EFC
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 724
Subject: Response to W7RJR post on Eham

Bob has invited me to discuss his Eham review here, because Eham will not allow me to respond there. The following is the Bob's Eham post, followed by my reply...

Quote:

EHAM REVIEW BY W7RJR:
After 7 months of paid subscription to this service I have become disappointed and discouraged with its direction. There are several technical problems that have yet to be cured along with an apparent decline in membership numbers.

As to the technical problems: Each band is on a separate server using a different port. The service uses TCP/IP rather than UDP which is the norm for VOIP. While users do not have to forward UDP ports through their firewall (an advantage), there appears to be some kind of problem with how this works. Quite frequently your QSO partner will suddenly disappear. The only way to get him back is to switch bands (a different server) then come back to the same band. Apparently one has to reauthenticate to the server. I have had this occur as much as a dozen times in 5 minutes. Another glitch with the system is called 'ghosting' whereby a station transmitting on a particular frequency will disappear but lock up that frequency for as much as 30 minutes. No one else can use that frequency. While not as prevelant now certain sound cards were incompatible with CQ100 and would result in unintelligible audio being transmitted. The only known cure was to install a different sound card. Most of the digital modes work OK with CQ100 but the codec does not produce an acceptable SSTV signal.

Recently there has been an influx of beacons and broadcasts of questionable value locking up frequencies with one being smack in the middle of the digital sub-band.

Activity on CQ100 has declined considerably since it started last summer. At times it is almost impossible to find anyone using it. There is a free 90 day trial. After this you have to pay a $32 annual fee to use CQ100. It appears that 'most' that try this subscription service do not pay the annual $32 fee. The result is that the service primarily consists of newbies trying out the service and then leaving after 90 days. Despite this the membership list continues to show thousands of users many of whom have left the service. I would not consider the membership list as any indication of real activity on CQ100.

This is an interesting and entertaining internet voice chat program that attempts to emulate ham radio.Whether or not it does it well enough to warrant paying an annual subscription fee would be your choice.


REPLY BY VE3EFC:

As the developer of this system, I want to correct the impression made by W7RJR that this is a buggy program. Bob seems to have sifted through the Qsonet discussion forum looking for every technical problem that has ever been discussed. I feel personally insulted by some of Bob's remarks. I know a buggy program when I see one, and I remain very proud of my craftmanship on this system.

Bob mentions a sound card problem that affected exactly four of our first thousand users. I was astounded to learn that 2 of these four had actually purchased a new sound card to solve the problem. We released a complete fix to the problem last October 26th. I do not understand why Bob wants to make a big issue of a problem that affected less than 1% of users, 6 months after it was fixed.

Bob mentions an INFLUX of beacons and broadcasts on the system. We always had two CW practice beacons and recently added a PSK31 test beacon. An addition of one is hardly an INFLUX. I don't understand why Bob would complain about these 3 beacons tying up 3 of 2000 open frequencies. I have received many thanks from operators who appreciate these beacons. ARRL does QST announcements and code practice on busy bands. Nobody is being forced to listen to these.

Qsonet was never designed to handle digital modes. I compliment the Qsonet community for conducting the research and experiments to prove digital modes are possible as VOIP. The use of SSTV over VOIP proved the most challenging of these experiments. This experimenting to test the limits of a new technology is amateur radio at it best. The difficulties encountered during these experiments are not bugs!

Qsonet requires that your system be capable of maintaining an open TCP connection. I have tested many computers and they have no problem maintaining the connection for 20 to 30 hours or more. If you become disconnected, a band switch is a quick way to reconnect. It is a simple fact that you must reconnect if you become disconnected. This has nothing to do with port numbers. According to Bob's figures, his system is disconnecting him every 25 seconds, while most people can stay connected for 25 hours. I can understand Bob's frustration with a system that only works for 25 seconds, but the problem is clearly at his side, not with Qsonet.

My decision to use TCP means the system can be used from hotel rooms, airports and coffee shops. There are even some mobiles using it. My previous program CQPhone found that 30% of people are not able to successfully configure port forwarding for UDP, while less that 5% have any problem with TCP. This design means there can be hundreds of stations listening to a single QSO without overloading anyone's internet. I absorb considerable monthly expense to handle this TCP architechure, but I am fully convinced it is well worth the money.

The ghosting problem happens if someone's internet becomes disconnected while they are transmitting. This problem is affecting 2 or 3 stations a day of the 2,000 daily users. We have the server fix for this problem but we made a concious decision to delay the fix until enough people have upgraded to the latest version. Having one ghost station tie up one of 2,000 empty frequencies for a few minutes is not a big problem.

Bob has no knowledge of how many people pay for the service after the 90 day free trial. His speculation on this topic is simply WRONG! We expected that 4% would pay at the end of the trial, but we are very happy to see more than 30% are paying. The acceptance of the Qsonet virtual ionosphere has exceeded our wildest expectations.

One point where I agree with Bob is that the Qsonet bands appear quite empty at certain hours. I am worried about this downtrend. We have roughly 2,000 people using the system in any 24 hour period. Sometimes I see only 5 or 6 QSO's in progress, but the server shows 400+ stations are signed in and listening. I guess its like the real HF bands where there are more listeners than talkers. I really want to see more active QSO's on the bands.

Registrations for Qsonet hit a peak of 75 to 85 a day last November/December. Current registrations are running about 25 to 30 a day. I am unable to explain this gradual drop-off and that is my biggest concern. Perhaps it is seasonal.
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#2     Thu May 17, 2007 6:09 pm
W7RJR
Spokane, WA
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 114
Subject: Response by W7RJR

Thank you Doug for replying to the review I posted on Eham.net. First of all I must make it known that I did not authorize the reproduction of my post from Eham.net. While I invited you to reply, I did not ask you to start a new thread so as to exclude other replies. I should also like to point out that I did not bring up or introduce that review to this discussion board. It was intended for the Eham.net audience and should have remained there.

Eham.net prides itself on allowing hams like myself to post reviews and opinions on products and services without fear of retribution by owners and manufacturers. That is why they are not allowed to comment there.

I want to be fair consequently I agreed to discuss the review with you.
My review was based upon my sole observations and opinions. I never stated that CQ100 was buggy. I did state that I felt there were some technical problems that needed to be addressed. Well, you can read the review for yourself and decide.

I did not care for the fact that a beacon was sanctioned and allowed on 14.075 that 'advertised' a personal interest. Such a thing would never happen on real amateur radio, especially not in the middle of a narrow digital sub-band. I felt this was incorrect. I note that the beacon has not been there for the last week. This was my personal opinion even if no one else agrees.

SSTV does not work well on CQ100. That is my opinion. I never claimed it was a bug. It is information that might be useful to someone considering the use of CQ100.

It is quite humorous to think that anyone would be disconnected every 25 seconds. Again, read my review and see that this statement is a bit exxagerated. I am often disconnected. There is nothing wrong with my broadband connection, my firewall or my OS. I am not alone in experiencing this problem. I never experience this problem when I use other VOIP software. I note, as I did in my review that this is the only software I know of that uses TCP/IP. Again, please read the review and decide for yourself.

The decision to use TCP/IP has definite advantages. I stated so in my review. In fact, not all of my reviews were negative. I agree that it is handy for connecting to a wireless access point. If, however, TCP/IP were a factor in the connection problems it would diminish any advantage using it.

The ghost problem does not occur often, but it does happen. This is a fact that I pointed out in my review. It is also a problem that Doug states he has not fixed yet.

I have no knowledge of how many people pay for the service after the free 90 day trial. I only have a post from Doug that clearly states only 1 of 3 subscribe. That supports my statement that 'most' do not subscribe.
30% is not a majority.

Doug says that exactly four of his users were affected by the sound card issue. How could he know this? I spoke with at least a dozen experiencing the same problem at that time. If there was a software fix for this it was never brought to my attention. No big issue intended. I swapped in a different card and the problem was resolved. This might be of interest to someone considering the use of CQ100.

Code practice sessions and information bulletins are common practice on the amateur bands. Beacons that 'advertise' personal interests, particularly those that are inappropriately placed and sanctioned in the middle of a narrow digital sub-band are not appreciated by me. That is my opinion even if not shared by others.

I never stated that difficulties obtained during testing of SSTV were bugs. I simply stated that the codec does not work well with SSTV. I think this has been blown way out of proportion. Again, this would be useful information for anyone interested in SSTV operation.

There are many hams that are happy, satisified and delighted with CQ100.
There are many very positive reviews on Eham.net.
It is a personal decision whether you think CQ100 is worth subscribing to.
For me, I will wait and see what happens and then decide what to do.
I would like to see a solution to the issues I mentioned. I would like to see the activity level rise to a level that makes it worth using CQ100.

These statements and my review on Eham.net are my personal opinions.
You may agree or disagree. I will continue to fairly, honestly and objectively evaluate ham radio products and services there. I will not be disuaded from that. If a real error is brought to my attention I will be happy to correct it on Eham.net.

Thanks and 73 to all
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#3     Thu May 17, 2007 7:34 pm
VE3EFC
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 724
Subject:

Hi Bob,

You said I am "welcome to post a response". So I took that as an invitation.

You never said CQ100 was buggy, but programmers take "technical problems" as meaning "bugs". Every bug is a personal embarassment to a programmer.

Commercial advertising is not permitted on radio bands nor on Qsonet. This is the first I heard of anyone using a beacon to advertise. If someone is advertising they will be warned then removed. I always act quickly on these complaints. Refering listeners to a personal web site is done all the time on the ham bands.

"A dozen times in 5 minutes" is 25 seconds according to my slide rule :)

You are right "most" do not subscribe. But a large portion do.

The ghost buster server is all ready to install, but it will break anyone using the pre-February version. I don't want to break 100 old-timers to fix 4 ghosts. I will check the server log to see how many have still not upgraded.

73, Doug
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#4     Thu May 17, 2007 8:25 pm
W7RJR
Spokane, WA
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 114
Subject:

Hello Doug

You read too much into my review.

When I said that I experienced a dozen interruptions in 5 minutes it was on one occasion, not all the time <LOL>. It was meant to illustrate a point. When I used the term 'advertisement' I did not construe or state that it was commercial in nature. If I have a personal interest, say RTTY or PSK31 and I constantly send out a beacon encouraging someone to use it, join a group or go to a certain webpage, that is an advertisement (at least in my opinion).

Let's face it, 'most' of us support and appreciate your work. That includes me. I would like to see CQ100 be a success. In the beginning I was one of your most vocal supporters. Don't believe me, go back and look at the posts.

I would like to see CQ100 become a work in progress. I look forward to improvements and progress in CQ100.


73, Bob
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#5     Thu May 17, 2007 10:17 pm
VE3EFC
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 724
Subject:

Thanks Bob. Maybe I over reacted. Too many late nights an too many things on the go at once. Its a long weekend coming up in Canada :)

73, Doug
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#6     Fri May 18, 2007 10:08 am
KD9XH
Sarasota,FL
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 29
Subject: PSK Beacon Content

In this thread, and others, comments have been made suggesting that the PSK beacon content is advertising a "personal interest". I would find it interesting to know exactly which beacon messages contain this material so that an effort can be made to improve the beacon content.

de KD9XH
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#7     Fri May 18, 2007 11:27 am
W0SDG
Apple Valley MN
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 101
Subject:

A bit more thought on this subject as I read the dialog going on, which I feel is productive. Two things come to mind, one being the Minimizing or Resizing feature. It appears to me that everyone using this program is requesting one or both of these features. Doug, you stated that it was meant by design, if I understood you correctly. So why, if the thousand or two hams requesting this feature, are you not responding to this issue? It seems you are the only one who wants this feature? If this can be accomplished, it is the one item that needs to be considered, in my way of thinking. If you can't accomplish this for whatever reason, then so be it.

The other thought drifting through my mind is the problem with dropouts, etc. You wish to put the blame on the internet connections. Well it seems to me then that every single operator has interrnet problems then?? So what is the answer if this is the case? I don't know the technical characteristics of VOIP, but I wonder if there is a way to work around these problems? Is there a better way, either in the works or in the future? It amazes me that other programs that I use for communicating with non-hams, seem to be less bothered by the internet quirks, both audio, video, etc. Maybe it's my own misgueded perception, but it still causes me to wonder.

As Bob mentioned, he was a heavy hitter for you in the begging and so was I. I am not able to get on much lately and my connection here at work is just plain lousy at present, but if your core people are concerned, then I would think that you would be as well. You can stand on your laurels, and you do have that right, because this is still the most unique program out there, but nothing is moving forward, that I can see, or it is moving very slowly. You can't spend an hour each day addressing problems, you need to find the solutions. Now, if it is internet problems we are dealing with, then maybe a solutiion is in need? If this can't be accomplished somehow, then I stand on my earlier posting.

As I mentioned before, I'd like to have this software around for a long time. I'd like to approach it with the enthusiasm I had in the beggining and spread the word. I am ok with you making millions if it comes to that!! The price is so small for the intended purpose that I can't imagine anyone arguing that point, but for some reason, some do. Nature of the hobby I guess. So, let's use this thread into moving forward and growing the usage once again. No reason to continue to point fingers at whoever or whatever. I don't even remember what version of MixW I am using lately but it has had many productive changes over the years. I don't know, change the color of the rig, or something!

Steve - W0SDG
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#8     Fri May 18, 2007 12:31 pm
W7RJR
Spokane, WA
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 114
Subject: Re: PSK Beacon Content


KD9XH wrote:
In this thread, and others, comments have been made suggesting that the PSK beacon content is advertising a "personal interest". I would find it interesting to know exactly which beacon messages contain this material so that an effort can be made to improve the beacon content.

de KD9XH


Ham radio beacons are propagation aids. Beacons serve no purpose on CQ100. Information bulletins promulgate generic information regarding amateur radio, not just narrow personal interests. The 'beacon' located on 14.075 was advocating the use of PSK31, joining a Saturday net, rules for the net, etc. It was a continuous one-way transmission with a few seconds pause between each one. While this is not commercial in nature it was plugging a personal interest rather than disseminating information of an interest to all radio amateurs. Code practice sessions are a different story, of course!

I object to this on principle. What if I decided it would be cool to place a 'beacon' on 14.229 to promote SSTV? If CQ100 really intends to emulate ham radio then only those activities that are acceptable on real ham radio should be acceptable here. Left unchecked such 'beacons' could result in a circus like atmosphere with everyone plugging their own personal interest(s).

My opinion again <FWIW>

73
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#9     Fri May 18, 2007 3:42 pm
VE3EFC
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 724
Subject:

Hi Steve. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Regarding your second paragrpah, I was not aware that drop outs are a common problem. I will open a new topic about drop outs.
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#10     Sat May 19, 2007 3:13 pm
KD9XH
Sarasota,FL
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 29
Subject:


Quote:
Information bulletins promulgate generic information regarding amateur radio, not just narrow personal interests.


Quote:
then only those activities that are acceptable on real ham radio should be acceptable here


Assuming that the ARRL is the arbiter of what is "acceptable" radio usage I would refer any interested reader to the ARRL bulletin website http://www.arrl.org/w1aw.html#w1awsked Bulletins are broadcast ("one way transmission") 6 times/day. The teleprinter bulletins are sent in 4 different digital modes and for all modes a total of 23 different frequencies are utilized daily. I will leave it to each operator to decide for him/herself if the ARRL bulletin content might in anyway contain "personal interests" i.e. information of little or no practical use to their own style of amateur radio. IMHO the information contained in the PSK beacon bulletins is not significantly different than the ARRL bulletins. They both contain "personal interests", a definition I am still trying to wrap my mind around. But both the ARRL bulletins and the CQ100 PSK beacon have more value than shortcomings to their target audiences.


Quote:
What if I decided it would be cool to place a 'beacon' on 14.229 to promote SSTV?

I say Bring It On! Remember that you have to supply your own computer,software and time to run the beacon properly. Please run as many different SSTV modes as possible because as a SSTV newbie I would like the chance to experiment. Since there are only a few SSTV regulars here I look forward to being able to at least testing copy at my convenience. And if I should become a regular on SSTV I would hope that the other SSTV ops would like to have another station using the mode. And while you are at it please set up a SSTV net then a group of us could get together on a regular basis and share information ("personal interests"??).

de KD9XH
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