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A Ham Radio Software Company Has Been Blacklisting Users For Leaving Negative Reviews (theregister.co.uk) 177

Gandalf_the_Beardy quotes a report from The Register: The Register reports on the story of Jim Giercyk, an amateur radio enthusiast who had his copy of the popular Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) software revoked after posting a negative review. Other radio hams have followed up with us regarding claims that this was not an isolated incident and others may have had their license keys blacklisted for being publicly critical of the company. And just to be clear: by blackballing keys, installed copies of the software stop working. Giercyk, a professional musician in South Carolina, U.S., says that after his dealings with HRD Software (which has since reinstated his software key) and the statement made by the developer's co-owner Dr Michael Carper, he takes issue with claims made by the company. Giercyk, aka N2SUB, told us on Tuesday: "The issue is not the refusal of service, the issue is that HRD disabled my software, and then offered to enable it in exchange for the removal of an online review of their product. It's extortion, not refusal of service." Giercyk also said that since he went public about his blacklisting last week, he has received messages from other users who have stories of their software keys being revoked by HRD without their knowledge for speaking up about having a bad support experience. A number of other readers pointed out a collection of bad reviews posted on hobbyist site eHam by customers who had their license keys blacklisted. HRD told us some of those users could have written their assessments after requesting a refund and deactivating their software, thus their licenses will appear revoked. Meanwhile, Reddit threads and follow-up discussions to Giercyk's catalyst forum post reveal similar stories of keys being revoked after critical comments about Ham Radio Deluxe have appeared online. Other sources allege some amateur radio forums have in the past deleted posts critical of HRD.
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A Ham Radio Software Company Has Been Blacklisting Users For Leaving Negative Reviews

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  • by Phil Karn ( 14620 ) <karn AT ka9q DOT net> on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @07:31PM (#53534063) Homepage
    I had not heard this story, but that might be because I don't personally use Ham Radio Deluxe or any other proprietary ham software, certainly nothing that can be controlled in this way. Other hams are free to use whatever they want, but I personally consider proprietary software to be fundamentally incompatible with the nature and purpose of ham radio.
    • yeah, i like spinning that BIG knob too
    • Actually, isn't this now illegal with recent legislation? [slashdot.org] Or am I misunderstanding that new law?

      • It's not illegal until someone takes it to court and gets a ruling.

        The factor that people are stepping forward with similar stories shows the lie of HRD's "It was an accident" statement and makes the possibility of such an event appear less distant.

        But as we've seen - it's perfectly possible to lie through your teeth, get caught doing it, continue doing so and STILL get away with it.

        The single biggest problem with this kind of legislation is that the less ethical companies will simply take any fixed fines i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @07:38PM (#53534121)

    The concept of ownership continues to slip through our fingers. And this isn't cheap software! We always say "if you can't open it you don't own it." Perhaps it's time for "if you can't compile it, it's not really installed."

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:04PM (#53534303)
      I've always found it hilariously ironic that hams, of all people, would be willing to buy niche proprietary software, often from small shops where nothing filters people's whimsical behavior with respect to users.
      • by nnull ( 1148259 )

        Just look at Flight Simulator X and the amount of idiots that buy from PMDG, who require your real name, register you publicly on their website, and if you want to post on their forum, even to report a bug, you're required to provide your real name and credentials (Take about a complete farce to security and open den for identity thieves and the amount of idiots that defend their practice). If you post something bad about their product, you get banned forever.

        HAM guys are no different, most of the stores ar

    • And we thought Stallman was crazy

      Being correct and being crazy are not mutually exclusive! He could make his points in a ways consistent with social norms or he can stand outside and yell at people while wearing a sign like a crazy person. [staticflickr.com]

      I think his concerns are valid and he's correct on many things but I also think he could use some psychiatric help.

      • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:50PM (#53534525) Homepage

        What makes you think psychological turmoil isn't a natural side-effect of everyone around you being so fucking wrong all the time?

        • What makes you think psychological turmoil isn't a natural side-effect of ...

          I don't think he has psychological issues, I think he has psychiatric issues.

  • Some weasel clause in there license probably has

    We reserve the right to modify this agreement at any time, including revoking your right to use the software.

    That fine print will get you every time.

    • The print isn't even that fine. From the license agreement:

      8. We reserve the right to refuse service and disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason

      PDF of the support ticket emails (including license agreement) to and from grasping little HRD shitweasel:

      https://forums.qrz.com/index.p... [qrz.com]

      • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:58PM (#53534565)

        The print isn't even that fine. From the license agreement:

        8. We reserve the right to refuse service and disable a customerâ(TM)s key at any time for any reason

        "Again refer to section 8 of the TOS, which was written by our Attorney. " Not by any attorney remotely competent to practice copyright and licensing law. Instant loser in court.

        Also this gem:

        11. WHOLE AGREEMENT. This Agreement is the complete and exclusive statement of the Agreement between us; and supersedes any proposed or prior agreement, oral or written, and any other communications between us relating to this specific granted license and the related obligations; and may be modified or supplemented only by a document signed by both parties to this Agreement.
        NOTICE: HRD Software LLC reserves the right to change or amend this policy at any time without prior notice.

        Completely contradictory language crammed right together. No attorney read this. Not even an incompetent passed-the-bar-the-3rd-time dabbler.

      • That clause isn't legal under consumer protection laws in most countries and would get slapped down by most judges along with a good legal kicking for whoever attempted to insert it.

        UK example: The unfair terms in contracts act.

  • Amateur Radio (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    HRD is widely used among Hams. One of its claims to fame is integration with amateur transceivers and other equipment; it can control and monitor a wide variety of complex modern rigs, amps, tuners, etc. through serial ports, USB, Ethernet, etc.

    Honestly I'm disappointed with amateur radio in this regard; reliance on proprietary IP for too many things; proprietary stuff like HRD (there are open logging alternatives, but HRD dominates), closed source firmware from all the major manufacturers, IP protected di

    • HRD is widely used among Hams. One of its claims to fame is integration with amateur transceivers and other equipment; it can control and monitor a wide variety of complex modern rigs, amps, tuners, etc. through serial ports, USB, Ethernet, etc.

      Yes, HRD is sort of the systemd of ham radio. You get the same kind of comments.

  • Use Hamlib and HDSDR (Score:5, Informative)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:00PM (#53534279)
    There are alternatives to HamRadioDeluxe, free and Open Source solutions too, Skywave Linux seems to be fairly good built on Ubuntu with all the Ham Radio Software already included, it is a live CD or you can run it from a USB memory stick (thumbdrive) or you can install it on a PC, http://skywavelinux.com/ [skywavelinux.com]

    also most other major distros will include most of this software in their repositories so installing them in a new linux install is as simple as launching synaptic or using apt-get from the commandline if you already know the names of the app you want, synaptic has a good search feature by keywords so it makes looking for apps easier
  • by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:24PM (#53534399)
    There; now they will never let me buy it. Why use crapware such as HRD when you can use FLDigi? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]
  • Sadly... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kugeln ( 680574 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @09:23PM (#53534667)
    A bunch of the software in the world of ham radio is pretty bad--for whatever reason it seems like everybody is stuck on developing software for Windows 95/98 with Visual Basic or FoxPro, and they typically shoot for "it gets the job done" and not much else. There is some great (and free) software out there, but HRD isn't one of them. The real advances in amateur radio software are coming from the devs and hams who embrace open source, or at least believe in sharing the knowledge.
    • A big chunk of Ham Radio really is, 'getting the job done'. These are people who do it for a hobby. Only a proportion of those people have the skills required to produce 'professional' code. Others improvise.

      I agree that Open Source tends to be much more compatible with the concept of Amateur Radio but if someone's put a bunch of work into some software and wants to cover his expenses (and time is an expense) then that's their call. If others see value in it, they'll pay what they think is fair.

      But going r

    • A bunch of the software in the world of ham radio is pretty bad--for whatever reason it seems like everybody is stuck on developing software for Windows 95/98 with Visual Basic or FoxPro, and they typically shoot for "it gets the job done" and not much else.

      That's because electrical engineers are typically shit at writing code. I've been looking at code written by EE's for a long time, and it is almost always bad - full of software delay loops (because there is only one speed of CPU out there), structured like a landfill, breaking every form of good practice known to mankind, etc.

      You also shouldn't let software engineers get close to a soldering iron, but that's ok - the two groups can work together to get great things done...

      • 99% of software is developed to the point of "it gets the job done" and that's all.

        Quite simply because getting the job done is the most important part of the job's function.

        If only the writer or a small number of people are ever going to use it, then there is no need to develop it further and change for change's sake is a waste of time.

        • I disagree. Change that does not change functionality, but improves user friendliness, performance, resource usage, or just sheer elegance and awesomeness, is still a welcome improvement.

          Also, I find the efficiency argument boring. In the end we all die. Life is not about being 'most efficient' before that moment comes.

  • I was looking into HRD but now that I know this is how they operate as a business I'll take a look at other options.
  • by melting_clock ( 659274 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @10:08PM (#53534855)

    Ham Radio Deluxe is proprietary software but was originally free to use. That changed after a change of ownership. The free versions had no restrictions and worked exceptionally well with my radio gear. I have not used the new paid version of HRD because I don't like how this played out or the tactics of the new owner. I got my ham license 25 years ago and still have radios that require a license, although I don't really use them very much. Ham radio is not dead but there are many convenient methods of communication today that it is just one option of many.

    Since Linux is my main OS now, I've use a some Linux based software with my radios but nothing as user friendly as the original HRD. That does not mean that there isn't good ham radio software available for Linux, just that it can take a bit more effort to get working and to use. One day I'll get my radio gear out again and take the time to get Linux setup with some of the good software available.

  • I've used HRD for about a year and won't be renewing my license for it. I'm looking at FLDigi & Log4om to replace it. I mostly contest and use N1MM+

  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @12:01AM (#53535261) Homepage

    Here is the entire support ticket the guy opened: http://forums.qrz.com/index.php?attachments/hrd-software-inc-pdf.336462/ [qrz.com].
    It seems that they have in their TOS a line that says:

    8. We reserve the right to refuse service and disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason

    Also, they are lying in that it was just one employee that did this. From the ticket you can see an employee was answering the ticket at first, but then "Rick" took over, who appears to be "Rick Ruhl", a co-owner of HRD software, and throws gems like this to the stunned customer:

    You are not buying software, you are buying your callsign's access to the software. ...
    Again refer to section 8 of the TOS, which was written by our Attorney. ...
    See you in court.

    Unbelievable!

    • by nnull ( 1148259 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @02:21AM (#53535565)
      It's not unbelievable, this is the attitude with a lot of proprietary HAM software and HAM stores selling devices. They're just straight up assholes.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @05:23AM (#53535917)
      Unless they're selling it as a subscription service, I really doubt that line in the TOS would hold up in court. For a contract to be legally valid, there has to be an exchange of consideration [nolo.com] - you have to get something for the money you paid. Putting a line in the contract which allows them to unilaterally revoke everything you paid for nullifies that consideration, essentially invalidating the contract. They'd have to give you your money back to enforce that clause.
    • by vvaduva ( 859950 )

      Why is this unbelievable? Many ham radio people I know are outright assholes. This is just the natural outcome of the attitude in the industry...arrogance towards newbies with questions, act superior because you know more about ham radios than the guy asking questions, etc. What is amazing is that people are actually surprised at this.

    • That gem should be archived and pointed out to "journalists" covering the story, because it shows the clear lie of their official statements.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And once you've been Rick Ruhl'd, they're Always Gonna Give You Up.

  • by ctrl-alt-canc ( 977108 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @04:34AM (#53535829)
    Unfortunately this aggressive behaviour is typical among companies selling ham-radio related hardware or software. I got into ham radio in 1980, and after a few years the so called "ham-spirit" evaporated and was replaced by money greedines. I am no more into this, and I do not regret the decision I took. Communities that grew around projects like Arduino or Raspberry PI are more open and technologically-challenging than ham radio today. I wonder why a young student should take his ham radio ticket, and get involved with this stuff, when there are so much interesting things in the SBC wolrd, that furthermore require no license at all!
    • by Rufty ( 37223 )

      There's some of the ham spirit left in the fringier bits of ham radio. Have a look at microwave construction, ham tv, qrp, and general sdr+gnuradio.

      • > and general sdr+gnuradio.

        If you want to experience the highest level of greediness in ham-radio, sdr is the way to go. Plenty of very nasty people there, equally distributed between developers and users, with many unexperienced and confused people in between.
    • Many hams today ARE using the Raspberry Pi and Arduino for their projects. Such as the local high school kids I help mentor. They build high altitude balloon payloads and fly them, and they all carried either an Arduino, a Pi, or both.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "by blackballing keys, installed copies of the software stop working."

    Simple solution to the problem, don't pay them to begin with then you can give a review and delete it. Most of the time when I test software, if it fails my "useability" test, it is off my system long before the review is completed. I have too many things to do than to deal with useless software that doesn't meet my needs.

  • FINALLY a topic on Slashdot that's not political, and actually interesting to me. HRD was the only program I could find that: Made it easy to use LOTW Tracked awards in a simple, easy way Imported all my old logs from different programs Controlled my aging FT-990 via CAT That being said I find the interface a bit clunky and dated, especially the window management which is basically non existent. What else out there does these things?
  • Looks like someone set up a nice little trap and caught them deleting posts mentioning this. [imgur.com]

  • Posted (by an anonymous coward) somewhere else:

    Interesting.....

    I downloaded the latest version of Ham Radio Deluxe just now and installed it.

    There is a "Source" folder contained in the subdirectory of HAM RADIO DELUXE, 6.3.0.613 that contains a file DM780SourceCode.zip

    The date on this file is as follows: 25/09/11 09:49

    Inside this zip file is a readme file that says:

    QUOTE
    HRDMultiMode001
    ---------------
    The main encoder / decoder DLL is HRDMultiMode001, compiled with Visual Studio 6.0 C++.
    HRDOlivia001
    ----------

  • Maybe we need GNU option.

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