Re: Bring back the UDRC, alongside the DRAWS?

Steve Stroh

Disclaimer: Although I know the individuals of NW Digital Radio
personally, the following are my personal comments - not vetted,
approved, or even discussed with anyone at NWDR. I've followed this
"next generation packet radio" space pretty closely for a lot of years
now. Thus I think I have some perspective.

I applaud NW Digital Radio for evolving the UDRC into the UDRC II, the
DRAWS board, and eventually the packaged DRAWS. It's HARD to evolve a
product, for the reasons we're seeing in this thread. It's DAMN HARD
to evolve a product as a small, shoestring company.

My perception (perhaps they've actually said this - don't remember) is
that NWDR kind of stumbled into this market. Recall that the UDRC was
originally intended to create a controller for the Yaesu DR-1X
repeater to add D-STAR capability to it. Quite apart from that
"science project", it turns out, the UDRC met a need in Amateur Radio
for a well thought out "sound card modem" interface for the Raspberry

It's notable that the UDRC used the normal communications methods for
Raspberry Pi that other interface boards (HATs) do, rather than the
much easier method of connecting sound card modems via USB. USB is
really nice, easy, simple, cheap... when it works, but sometimes it
doesn't, especially for very cheap consumer devices like sound cards.

It's also notable that the UDRC and its successors were (eventually)
supported under the native Raspberry Pi Linux (Rasperian) and it (most
relevant to me) is capable of 9600 bps FSK operation, which most sound
card modems are not. As NWDR went along with UDRC, they collected a
list of "wants" and "don't wants" for the product, and when it came
time for another production run, they chose to do the hard thing and
evolve the design with the long term goal of making it an "appliance".
That's tough, but it's worth doing.

In their market research leading to the final spec of DRAWS, they
ASKED their customer base if they wanted DRAWS to incorporate a GPS
receiver as standard and named an approximate price. Most of the
respondents said that they were willing to pay a small premium to have
GPS as a standard feature. It will be very, very interesting to see
what the software authors can do when they can assume the presence of
a GPS, including a stable time base. It was kind of an either / or
decision for them; again they can't afford to support and stock
different versions of the same product.

I agree with NWDR's vision - to make a turnkey, packaged DRAWS
available via normal Amateur Radio retail channels, to finally
displace the now very tired legacy TNCs that are still being sold
(much as I love them). It's going to take QUITE an effort to get DRAWS
out into the real world of Amateur Radio as opposed to reaching and
supporting us early adopters who found NWDR largely because we were
looking for such a product and largely self-support (such as these

Despite appearances :-) NWDR is a very small operation - they can't
afford to support multiple versions of the same product. Thus, they
have to FOCUS.

Godspeed Bryan, Basil, Anna, John, and Dennis! Can't wait to see
what's next from you folks!


Steve Stroh N8GNJ

PS - I also applaud NWDRs secondary, stealth mission - to get Amateur
Radio back into an experimental, "advance the state of the radio art"
mode by embedding a relatively inexpensive open source hardware
platform and most importantly, Linux. This is exactly the kind of
platform that Amateur Radio needs to be perceived as relevant to those
who we need to attract if Amateur Radio will continue beyond the
current generation.

Steve Stroh (personal / general):

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