Saturday, February 19, 2011

Enough of yahoos

What is it about ham radio that encourages boorish behaviour? Or is it just the internet? Whenever you post in any forum or specialist group suggesting that something about a particular radio is not a very good design and could be improved you will usually get several responses that amount to "I don't think there is anything wrong, so there can't be anything wrong." If you attempt to defend your statement you will eventually end up on the receiving end of insults. Yahoo groups are aptly named it seems.

If you want a VHF radio that can be used simultaneously as an APRS gateway and for voice there aren't a lot of choices. The Kenwood TM-D710 is really the only option given that Yaesu's FTM-350 doesn't have an accessible TNC. Like most radios capable of 50W output the TM-D710 has a fan. Unfortunately Kenwood's fan logic is dumb. The fan comes on the instant the transmitter starts, no matter how long you transmit for or what the power level, and runs for about two minutes. This means that it runs for two minutes out of ten, triggered by my one second five watt APRS beacons. This is completely unnecessary as no significant heat is generated by such a short transmission. The noise is an annoyance - it's significantly louder than the computer, or my K3's fans - but more importantly this must also reduce the working life of the fan unnecessarily. One day the fan will fail when it is needed because of all the times it ran when it wasn't.

When somebody complained in the Kenwood D710 group about the fan noise because he was using the D710 in his quiet living room, I agreed, saying it was just cheapskate engineering for Kenwood not to have incorporated a thermostatic fan controller. This upset the yahoos. I was told that it was better for the fan to run than for it not to run, that if there was a bad antenna mismatch the fan running in those first few seconds could save the PA transistors, that it was necessary for the fan to run all the time because some users install the radios in tight spaces in vehicles where the temperature reaches over 100 degrees F, that group members had equipment with other fans that were even noisier, and so on. None of which, if true, actually invalidated the argument that a thermostatically controlled fan would be an improvement over the present dumb logic. It was just "It isn't a problem for me, therefore there is no problem."

It was also suggested that a thermostatic control would add $10 to $40 to the cost of the radio. I'm not an electronics engineer but I doubt that it would add more than a couple of dollars to the manufacturing cost, which would not make a significant difference to the retail price given these aren't cheap radios to begin with. Even my power supply, which cost a third the price of the Kenwood, has a thermostatically controlled fan. If Diamond could fit one without making the price of the product uncompetitive I'm sure Kenwood could have done.

Sadly, online groups have ceased to be a place where you can intelligently discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various products due to the activities of the yahoos who will brook no criticism of the thing they have purchased. I could regale you with another recent encounter, this time on the Elecraft reflector, over the stupidity of having the K3 change mode to the one last used on a band when a program sends a change frequency command, overriding the mode set by the program so you may end up in USB in the CW part of the band or vice versa. Needless to say, the Elecraft Way is The One True Way and it is the developers who won't modify their programs that are wrong, even though by making this one change Elecraft could enable the K3 to work properly with N3FJP and several other programs whose developers won't change them just to suit Elecraft. In fairness I should point out that Elecraft didn't refuse to make the suggested change (they didn't respond to the thread) it was the fanboys who defended the status quo as usual.

Frankly I'm getting tired of engaging with hams over any subject at the moment. So I have decided to unsubscribe from the majority of ham radio groups and will restrict myself to posting my thoughts here in future. I'm sure that will please many people who don't like seeing points of view they don't agree with. Commenters to my blog are welcome to disagree, as long as they do so intelligently and politely. Boorish comments that amount to "I don't agree, therefore you're wrong" without providing any supporting evidence as to why I might be wrong will be unceremoniously deleted.


K9CHP said...

Hi Julian:
Sorry to see you go from the Yahoo Groups as yours was a voice of sanity there. I do own/moderate several Yahoo Groups and I can tell you that I believe the fault is with the leadership of the group, the group owner and/or its moderators. A lot of groups have been created and then the owner lost interest, disappeared or is not very active. That leads to disaster, sooner or later.

Funny, not all groups need to be moderated. My 3500+ members Garmin C60scx group works really well with the moderators just approving newcomers. We have found ways to reduce spam to being almost nonexistent and queries are answered, even if the answer may be in one of the FAQ files we refer to. On very rare occasions, someone oversteps the bounds, but quick moderator/listowner intervention keeps the list on track and deals with the problem in behind the curtain.

I inherited the list from its previous owner, as his time got too limited to deal with the list. I moderate form the US and have a partner that moderated from the UK, the difference in time zones allows one of us to almost always be around.

So there are good Yahoo groups, bad ones and fairly ugly ones too. Hopefully, some of the sane people will find you here, I did as my blog reader gets your feed etc.

Now you may have to do some moderation here, which makes me think that maybe a G4ILO Yahoo list is perhaps the better answer. Your list, members you approve, your rules, your finger on the trigger... I'll be more than happy helping you there,should you so desire.

Amir K9CHP

Julian said...

Thank you Amir. I'm not sure I have enough followers to start my own list but thanks for the idea!

I think the more technical the topic of a group the more civilized it is. I don't see this kind of attitude in programming and electronics related groups. Draw your own conclusions.

I remain in Lynn KJ4ERJ's aprsisce group which I help to moderate. There the main problem so far has been certain individuals who know a lot and have a tendency to post sarcastic replies to those who don't.

Nitronoddy said...

Hi Julian,

Tis a sad affair indeed.... As a newly licenced amateur these type of groups are a great source of info for someone who can't attend a club like myself. But, like you have seen many a fanboy (no pun intended) defend an argument purely on the basis they haven't tried other products so therefore there's is the best type mentality...

As a newby I need balanced argument to be able to make an informed choice on what ever it is I'm asking about. Now granted not all groups out there are this narrow minded but im starting to notice it more and more.

It's sad because like yourself it only drives away intelligent, balanced points of view that 'can' make choosing a product a more informed choice.

Keep the faith and keep expressing your opinions because they do help people like myself that just wading into this fascinating minefield that is amateur radio.

P.S hopefully should be taking delivery of a Yaesu Ft 897 so I can start using HF!!! can't wait :)

73 Glenn M6ODC