Greetings from the “Land Down Under!”
I’d like to take some time to discuss with you what’s going on with HRD Software. Typically, I write these newsletters in the 3rdperson but; today, I’m writing a personal message from me to you.
In this newsletter, I plan to cover a quick look at 2019, I’ll share a little HRD history, address some changes in company infrastructure additional to some rumors that I’ve gotten wind of, and give you some insights into what we’re anticipating in the next few weeks.
Looking back at 2019
We had six releases in 2019 and a total of 309 development changes - most of these changes were in direct response to customer requests. We were also able to view errors in a Microsoft dashboard that allowed us to get ahead of some customer requests and be more proactive at identifying and correcting errors.
I’m really pleased with that progress.
That being said, we did encounter a few bumps in 2019. In the interest of total transparency, here’s a quick list:
• FT4 – We were never able to get this coded. The delays are 100% related to our inability to describe it in such a way that a developer could code it. We sought (and received) a lot of advice along the way and; great news, we’ve finally identified what needs to be done.
• Slow callsign lookups when using QRZ’s XML subscription – The 6.7 release contained a complete (and necessary) rewrite to the callsign lookup code. Following the release, we received reports of slow callsign lookups when customers were using QRZ’s XML service. The issue only affected about 15% of users and it took us longer than I’d hoped to identify what turned out to be a typo in the two lines of code that reference the DNS entry for QRZ’s XML service. Glad we got that sorted out.
• We’ve had reports of an error in DM-780 for some users that says, “Encountered an improper argument.” We’re hard at work to track the cause of this issue down.
I hope you, our clients, understand that your satisfaction is our priority and we are always hard at work to improve our product. I’ve listened to your feedback regarding the 6.7 release and want you to know that we take it seriously. Since Randy (K0CBH) and I became the sole owners/partners in the company in January 2017, we have dramatically improved the quality of our software and intend to continue to do so.
A little HRD history
When Simon Brown (then HB9DRV, now G4ELI) announced his intentions to stop working on Ham Radio Deluxe so he could work on other things, I was quick to contact him as I didn’t want to see the software abandoned. We negotiated a deal in late 2011 that enabled us to acquire the intellectual property and the rights to Ham Radio Deluxe “past, present, and future.”
At that time, Randy and I both had full-time jobs and no intention of running the company. Randy is a really smart technical guy with experience running the finances of companies like HRD. I focused my time on finding new developers and collecting a list of the most important things that customers wanted to see fixed. We considered ourselves “part-time” and brought in a third partner to run the day-to-day operations.
In the years that followed, the company lost money every year and some employees accumulated months of back pay. Customers were insulted, mistreated, and driven away.
Finally, in January of 2017, Randy and I became sole owners of the company and assembled a 6-month plan to increase our involvement and rectify the situation. By the end of 2017, all back-payments to employees had been paid, all outstanding debt repaid, and the company was profitable for the first time ever.
As our cash-flow became positive for the first time, we took the profits and reinvested them into product development in two ways: First, we invested much more on software developers - employing 3 developers in 2019. Second, we purchased radios and rotors so we could better test and develop the software.
For the duration of this growth for the company, I have continued to hold a full-time job as a leading IT executive, often working on HRD during my nights and weekends. On this note, I’d like to address a few rumors and concerns that have been brought to my attention.
We work remote
Many of you have inquired about Tammy (KB9YHU) and I’s recent move to Brisbane, Australia. I want to reassure each of you that this new position, nor the location of my pillow, has any bearing on the continued progress of Ham Radio Deluxe. I had a day job before, I have a day job now, and Ham Radio Deluxe has always employed a remote staff of folks not only across the United States, but also around the world.
On a local front; though, we did start involving our oldest daughter Lindy (KB9PIE) in the company a little more than a year ago. She has a background in communications and marketing with an MBA from Texas Christian University. She’s one smart cookie and; over the last six months, we have transitioned Tammy’s management duties to her. Where sales, marketing, and customer support are concerned, she’s very much in-charge and has been very successful. She’ll be with me at Hamcation in Orlando.
These changes have all been exciting for us and in no way influenced any of your frustrations with the latest release. The issue we had – to be honest – was trying to make changes that were too drastic and more complex than we anticipated. The complexity of the issues that arose absolutely created a backlog in development – but we’re on top of it.
Regarding the developers
We have never employed developers on a full-time basis but; rather, brought in freelancers for this work. In 2019, three “core” developers contributed to releases. Toward the end of the year, one developer let us know he was moving on to work on another project so we began to transition his work to the remaining two. In his absence, I am also in the process of on-boarding some additional developers within the US and internationally.
Frankly, I’m not concerned about our development team and you shouldn’t be either. We’re going to take the same successful approach we’ve taken since mid-2017. It has worked quite well. Work like this is accomplished much better on a “project basis” than with full-time employees for a company of our size.
What are we doing now? What are the priorities? Who’s working on them?
The development work that was done by one developer to create the 6.7 build was never completed. Currently, I have one of the other developers fixing and completing this work – which will address the issues that have been reported with the 6.7 release.
The immediate priorities are: find and fix this “encountered improper argument” error and finish the remaining callsign lookup changes. The slow QRZ lookup problem is solved.
Once those things are complete, we’ll get the software tested and we’ll publish it as a release.
I’ve had a lot of folks ask why we have a beta build on our website. The answer: because it’s more stable than the previous 6.7 release build. We just didn’t tag it as a “release” because I want these other two items fixed first. By the time we do the next 6.7 release, these two items will be the only additional content.
Our next priorities are:
• The remaining FT4 work for submode so that it works properly with LOTW
• Fix the remaining QSL labeling problems
• Obtain a Yaesu FTdx101D/MP to get it added to the software
• Make other tweaks like resizing rotor dials, etc.
There is no Ham Radio Deluxe “fan page” on Facebook
Finally, this message is – in part – a direct response to some of the vitriol that I’ve read recently on a so-called “fan page” on Facebook. Let’s be clear – that Facebook page is not a Ham Radio Deluxe “fan page.” It bears no resemblance to a fan page for anything except heckling.
It’s a fantastic source of misinformation.
No one on that page speaks for me or my company.
No one on that page gets inside information about what’s going on within HRD Software nor our priorities nor our business plan.
It’s managed by disgruntled former employees who have an “axe to grind” and seek only to harm our company’s reputation by spewing malice.
The best way for existing and prospective clients to interact with Ham Radio Deluxe is via our support page or our forum pages. We respect and appreciate our customers. We appreciate your support and look forward to the opportunity to speak with you directly.
We are grateful for the support of our customers and appreciate your patience. I would like to personally assure you that we have things under control and our priorities are in place.
Lindy and I will be at Hamcation in Orlando in a couple of weeks and the rest of our hamfest calendar is posted on our homepage. Come see us and talk with us directly. We’re looking forward to seeing you.
73 de Mike, VK4/WA9PIE