Closing Out 2018
As we write this, we can’t help but reflect on how much has been accomplished in 2018 – in all areas of HRD Software. This might be a longer newsletter – but hey, we’re wrapping up a fantastic year! Bear with us.
To digress a bit, before we review 2018 – when Randy (K0CBH) and Mike (WA9PIE) took control of HRD Software on 1/1/2017, we set out with one priority. That is – to treat our clients, our software and hardware partners in the ham radio industry, and our dealers with respect. Our goal was to re-earn their respect and trust.
In these past 23 months, we have not had any negative reviews made online (one exception where we contacted the person who posted it, made things right, and he ended up becoming a client; he has asked to revise the review). But on all forums we have found, the reviews are unanimously 5/5. We’re very pleased with that, but we’ve only scratched the surface. (I’ve always said that the most important thing to the success of a business is customer service. We’ve made it a cornerstone of our culture.)
We did eight hamfests in 2018 and had a blast! Thanks to all who came by to see us. We love to meet our clients. Check www.HamRadioDeluxe.com for our hamfest calendar.
We’ve developed great relationships with radio and hardware manufacturers – ICOM, Yaesu, Elecraft, FlexRadio, West Mountain Radio, and Kenwood. We’ve made some new friends at SDRplay, Portable Rotation, and RadioWavz. We’re grateful for the renewed partnership with Ham Radio Outlet.
We’ve taken responsibility for, and fixed, software issues that prevented Ham Radio Deluxe from integrating directly with WSJT-X and N1MM without 3rd party products. We’re pleased that we’ve continued to enjoy the continued support of the author and users of JTAlert.
In the last 60 days of 2017, we finished strong by attracting almost 1,500 new Ham Radio Deluxe clients– along with bringing back 1,400 existing clients to renew the optional Software Maintenance and Support. This is a trend that has continued in 2018 – we’re adding new clients at a faster pace than expected. Thank you! (Today, for example, we gained 10 new clients for every renewal client.)
The word is out – we’re a completely different company than ever before. We’re not going to be satisfied with these gains. We’re going to continue to treat others with respect and – as a result – our user-base will continue to grow.
Before going into the metrics related to development, we want to acknowledge the fantastic work that our full-time staff is doing. In Sales – Peggy Browning and Tammy Carper (KB9YHU). In Technical Support – Tim Browning (KB3NPH), Kevin Young (KC7FPF), Ferry Holsderver (PD9FER), and a new part-time addition to the team Nick Hauser (KE0HQZ). They’ve all turned-around sales and tech support inquiries with our clients quicker than ever before. Fantastic job all.
We have a good group of beta testers. But in-particular, we would like to call out John Farrar (G3UCQ) and Chris Fredericks (VK2BYI). These guys were key to getting through some rather sticky testing of development items this year. Others who contributed to beta testing in 2018 include G3YPP, N4FN, PY3OG, W2PJ, W4ELP, VE2DX, W4ASE, WE8R, KW7A, K2DLS, WO2X, W4PG, MI1CCU, KD4K, 6Y1X, W6HDG, AG6HQ, ZL3GAV, K6MKF, HP1XPM, G8LRS, KF2M, N4KIT, VA3RKO, and NA7KR. Thank you all!
Our developers who wrote code this year were led by Mike Blaszczak (K7ZCZ). Mike’s experience as a developer is unmatched by anyone I’ve met. Having worked for Microsoft and authored books on C++ and MFC, he is an expert in the development languages that Ham Radio Deluxe are written in. Most of the development accomplished in 2018 was completed by Mike. He added a digital certificate to our setup file. He also put in-place the error reporting dashboard in the Microsoft platform that enabled us to find and fix errors in the software very rapidly. In some cases, he was able to fix errors before our clients could report them. The number of errors has gone down rapidly to the point where it’s very rare to see a program crash. He has created a standardized environment within Visual Studio Online where multiple developers can independently work simultaneously. Mike has led by example among a group of a few other freelance developers who wrote code this year – including, Doug Sawyer, Arman Margaryan, and Jose Calderon. We hope to soon add a couple more.
Of course, I’d like to thank my business partner Randy Gawtry (K0CBH) for his support and wise counsel this year.
2018 Development Progress
At the beginning of the year, we announced that it was our goal to add more developers so that we can cut through the backlog of client requests for fixes and enhancements. As of this writing, and for the first time in our history, there are fewer items remaining in the development backlog than there are completed items.
Specifically, in 2018:
- 281 development items were closed
- there were 12 releases (planned for 9)
- 207 items coded (of 281)
- 74 items closed as duplicates, after investigation, or through re-testing
- By module, Logbook (124), Rig Control (37), DM-780 (29), Rotator (6), Satellite Tracking (4), and various other items (7).
A prospective client wrote us recently and asked this question. “Why are you guys doing so many releases? Does that reflect big problems with your software?” The answer is, “absolutely not.”
Two years or more ago, we would have honestly told you that the software was fragile. Some problems we needed to solve were serious and we had no idea where to begin in a few cases. We weren’t getting enough hours from the developers we had. As a result, the backlog of request from our clients for fixes and enhancements were growing faster than we were able to close them. That’s no longer the case. We’re closing them faster than they come in and we have almost no serious defects that cause our clients grief. (We do have a few radio compatibility items we’re presently working on that we know have frustrated a small number of clients. We just shipped several radios to K7ZCZ so that he can close those items out. Primarily, it’s the FT-991(A) and we’ll address this early in 2019.)
But we’ll continue to do around 9 releases each year until we have knocked down the requests to a very low number. We’re looking to do some innovative things this year (more on that in a moment). But each release advances Ham Radio Deluxe for clients who have been waiting for progress on things they’ve asked us for. We work for them.
That said – there are some clients out there who have contacted us about a few items that have been at the top of their list. We’ll get to those items too. We always try to answer those inquiries as honestly as we can.
We wish we had made more progress on Rotor Control and Satellite Tracking in 2018. We’re looking to put more emphasis on these applications.
As we’ve said before, we don’t like to release software between 1-NOV and 1-JAN. So, you won’t see any releases until early next year.
2019 Development Plans
We’ll continue the course with respect to working through the backlog of client requested fixes and features. We’re shipping several radios to K7ZCZ so he can work with them to close a few reported defects.
We’re presently testing a version that we’ve migrated to Visual Studio 2017. That will be the first release of 2019, released as version 6.5. There will likely be quite a few additional items from the backlog included in this, given what we’re seeing from coded items ready to test.
We’ve been working on replacing our legacy software license server with a commercial product called Soraco Quick License Manager (QLM) Pro. This will add stability and security to the software. That version will likely be 6.6 and we hope to have it out by the end of January.
After the 6.6 build, we have a number of new features we’d like to add and release. One of them is the panadapter display for the newer ICOM radios. We’d like to integrate directly with the SDRplay to produce a panadapter display for radios that do not produce the information on the CAT port. There are a number of other new things we’ll be working on. I’ll say more about those sometime next year.
Changes on Our Website
At Dayton 2017, a few clients told us - "If you had some way of automating our renewal payment each year for the optional Software Maintenance and Support, we would sign up for that." So as of July 2017, we were able to offer that as an option for clietns who wanted to do that. Since then, almost 700 clients purchased that option. The product was called, “Ham Radio Deluxe Software Annual Auto-Renewal (HRDSMA)”. Choosing this option enabled our ecommerce provider (Ultracart) to request a payment authorization for each subsequent year. (To be clear, neither HRD Software nor Ultracart can retain credit card data. These kinds of transactions are tokenized.)
The Sales team was saying, “We’ve got clients who tell us that we’re charging them twice.” We knew that wasn’t the case. We have no way to do that. So we jumped in to find out what was happening.
A week or so ago, we sent out an email only to those clients who had purchased the auto-renewal option. If you received that email, you received it because you had selected and purchased the auto-renewal option in the past – intentionally or because the options weren’t very clear. In this email, we indicated that folks who did not intend to purchase the auto-renewal should reply to the email so the Sales team could remove the auto-renewal from your account. (Generally, phone calls take much more time to tend. So, we recommend email replies for this.)
We had a good number of people who were not aware that they had selected the auto-renewal and we were able to eliminate future billing from their accounts. Most folks asked to remain with it.
There were cases where – folks who had selected and purchased the auto-renewal in the past also purchased a renewal separately a year later. Unaware that they had previously selected the auto-renewal, they paid twice. Once they contacted us, we made sure that we either refunded their extra payment or added another year to their Software Maintenance and Support (their choice).
As a result of all this, we made the following changes; we moved the auto-renewal product option to the bottom of the list. we renamed it so it says “Ham Radio Deluxe Software Maintenance & Support w/Recurring Yearly Payment”. There is now a checkbox that clients will need to check to acknowledge and agree that they do desire to pay automatically each year and that they should refrain from buying renewals manually to avoid double billing.
Whew! We’re good now!
Cleaning up CD and USB Product Offerings
We received some feedback from two clients on the same day who told me, “I don’t understand what I need to buy. Do I need to buy the CD or the USB flash drive in order to get Ham Radio Deluxe or not? If I buy the CD or Flash Drive, what do I need to buy to get a software activation key?”
We always take feedback like this seriously. So, we looked at it more objectively – from the perspective of the client. But it was Tammy who said, “It’s confusing. Change it.” Well, she’s really smart (and I know this because she married me). Her idea was that the software and the renewal would each have three product items. One for activation key and download only; another for activation key and CD; and another for activation key and USB. The same three options were built for the renewal product options. The individual items to buy only the CD and USB flash drive have been removed. Now it’s very clear.
FWIW – In an effort to keep the base price down, we don’t include a CD with every purchase. Folks told us their computers no longer have a CDROM drive and the material is wasted in many cases. Frankly, with 9 releases each year, the CD goes stale within 30-45 days. We don’t make the CDs or USB flash drives ourselves. That part of the order is electronically transmitted to a company in St. Paul (MN). They make these products on-demand and ship them to clients directly. We don’t handle them.
Update Your Profile
When we sent emails to the nearly 700 clients who had purchased the auto-renewal, almost 100 email addresses bounced. If you have purchased from us on our website, make sure that you occasionally check to make sure your information is up-to-date. In particular, check your email address.
It’s worth pointing out that we have three separate systems that our clients use. One is our primary website and ecommerce webstore (www.HamRadioDeluxe.com); one is our support site (https://support.HamRadioDeluxe.com); and one is our peer forums (https://forums.HamRadioDeluxe.com). These systems don’t share data. We’ve seen cases where a client is registered to our webstore with a different email address than the support site. It can get confusing when trying to figure out why a login is unsuccessful. In addition, we pull email addresses from multiple sources sometimes for newsletters like this; having multiple email addresses causes you to receive duplicates.
Recommend checking and updating your profile on our all these sites, but in particular, update your profile on our primary website where you made your purchase. The direct link to the profile page is – https://www.hamradiodeluxe.com/myaccount/index.do?merchantId=HRDLL
Remain as Current as You Can with Ham Radio Deluxe Releases
We’ve said this many times before, but we continue to get questions about this. When you buy Ham Radio Deluxe, you have a “perpetual right to use” the software. [Just like Microsoft Office 97. If you own it and love it, install it with the same key you got at the time of purchase. Same thing here.] We don’t sell software by subscription and we never have. You are also entitled to bug fixes at no charge (FREE) for as long as it’s technically feasible for us to provide them. All you need to do is download the latest release and install it over the top of your existing version. That will get you all bug fixes since the version you’re running previously.
As for features, we do – and will – hide or lock out certain features after the expiration of Software Maintenance and Support (SM&S). At the end of your SM&S period the software does everything you need it to do, you’re not interested in any new features, and you don’t need direct access to our technical support team… please, just keep current with the software versions. It costs you nothing to get those bug fixes. After the SM&S expiration – whether 1 day or several years later – we release features you’d like to use, you will always have the option to obtain another 12 months of SM&S at the same renewal rate. This will get you completely caught-up with all features and any new features released up to your new SM&S expiration.
With the new features planned for 2019, and the move to Soraco QLM Pro, we will be locking down new features more aggressively. For example, the ICOM panadapater display should only be available to clients who have an unexpired SM&S term.
Were You Aware?
You are not limited to the number of computers you can install Ham Radio Deluxe on. We get this question rather often. The software activation key is attached to your callsign. You can install the software with your callsign and the software activation key on multiple computers.
Shirts and Mugs
Tammy and Lindy Keyser (KB9PIE) worked with some new suppliers to buy t-shirts and mugs again this year. These products are now available on our website and they reflect the company’s new logo and color scheme. We’ll be adding new products in the future.
What a great year 2018 was! It was so productive and the feedback from our clients has been excellent.
Please share this email with your club or friends.
Twisting a phrase from Mark Twain, “rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated.” We’re here to stay and in a big way. We’re looking forward to new and great things for next year.
Most of all, we want to THANK YOU. We’re grateful for your support.
Happy Holidays and 73 from Mike, WA9PIE and all at HRD Software