The brouhaha du jour in amateur radio is the Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) blacklisting scandal, for lack of a better term.  For those who haven’t read about this, you can get details over on Reddit here, here, and here.  The TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) version of this is that HRD has been blacklisting customers who wrote negative reviews of their software.  The blacklisting manifested itself as denied support or disabled software.  As if that wasn’t enough, there are nasty tweets, threats of lawsuits, other bad stories about customer support, and even an excuse that the lack of judgement was caused by a prime employee suffering from diabetes and misadjusted prescriptions.  I’m not going to rehash the whole drama as you can follow the various links to get the lowdown.  (The one ham site that goes by three letters has 60 pages and counting of crowdbashing, and for once, rightfully so).

While the HRD allegations are pretty heinous, this sort of bad behavior in the amateur radio software world isn’t new or unique.  I’ve experienced it from various individuals and camps. I encountered a freeware logging software forum with a toxic culture where people openly and privately ridiculed others seeking support, and the software author condoned the culture with his silence.  Another freeware software suite has an openly arrogant software creator, with an ego the size of the moon.  He claimed his development process was essentially infallible, despite his user interface having flaws that a novice software development student could easily identify.  A freeware contest logging development team refused to give me any assistance in the workings of a protocol their software supports.  I was told I should go buy a commercial device that supported the protocol rather than attempting to write code to emulate it, because the device was cheap and they didn’t support homebrew endeavors.

For some reason, too many amateur radio software authors think offering free software to the community affords them the privilege of being arrogant to users.  How this apparent culture was created within a company profiting financially from sale and support of software, like HRD, is puzzling.  However, the HRD story illustrates in spades the problem of “free-as-in-beer” software.  HRD was originally offered by its creator as freeware.  Several years ago the source code was purchased by a commercial interest and it’s been commercially licensed software ever since.  If the project would have been open sourced rather than sold, support and development of the product would not have been dependent on one entity.  While freeware authors appear to be benefitting the amateur radio community, in the long term their refusal to open source their creations is detrimental to amateur radio as the community is left with software that gets sold, unsupported, or at the mercy of the whims or incompetencies of a single party.

This article was originally posted on Radio Artisan.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to

12 Responses to “Software”

  • Don KB2YSI:

    This a good time to look at the options available on Linux. The easiest way to find out is using the Hamradio pureblend edition of Debian:

  • Ron Wright, N9EE:

    The writer of this article is the arrogant one. Someone goes to the trouble of writing some software and giving it away free and the clown getting it is upset because the developer will not configure it to the writer’s liking or special need. I can see how someone who gives some of their time for free and then clowns complains would tell him where to go. What at joke these goof balls are.

    If not happy get off your butt and write your own, oh too lazy.

    As for HRD if the problem was from a problem employee they do need to clear it up with help as they can especially since they are selling their package.

  • Goody K3NG:

    Actually, I do write open source software and support it. For free. I recently dug into the source code of an open source logging program and attempted to modify and compile it for OSX. So I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty in code, or offer my time to the community for free.

    There’s a difference between freeware and open source when it comes to the meaning of free.

  • KU4GW Cliff:

    FYI N9EE Richard, HRD is not free! It hasn’t been since HB9DRV Simon Brown sold the software and the last free version by HB9DRV was version Ham Radio Deluxe now costs the initial $99.95 for the program and then you have to pay $49.95 per year for product support and updates. Also, the makers of Ham Radio Deluxe may have violated the new federal law just signed by the President called the “Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016” by having this ham download and install a malicious file under the guise of being a alleged update file onto his computer that rendered the software no longer usable just because he posted a online negative review of their product. If it were me I would be seeking some legal advice and possible monetary damages for them doing so. They could also face criminal charges for doing this. Under this law it is illegal to take retaliatory actions against a individual for posting a negative review and according to the 2nd link in the article above he’s not the only one they’ve done this to and like it or not people are now protected by federal law from such actions by the owner/seller of the HRD software or any consumer product.

  • Anthony Hazard w6asn:

    Thank god I read this first, saved myself a great deal of greed.

  • David WB4ONA:

    Gee, so what’s new? In my opinion, HRD has been over-priced and arrogant when it comes to support for years. (Oh Oh, now the HRD Goons are gonna come after me…)

  • Bob DW7NIB:

    What ever happened to paper and pencil?

  • Harry K7ZOV:


    I am lucky that all my radios are used Elecraft ( two K3’s, a d KX3 and KX3) I get to use a pay once $50 and can be used on multiple computer and all the updates are free and real customer service…

  • Steve:

    It’s all about their ego or being big headed!

    Me, I will share anything I know in the hobby for anyone to benefit for free!

    Happy Xmas to you all.

    73 G1KQH

  • ww6l:

    no such thing as freeware, never has been. common mistake is to not read the license…..carefully.

  • jeff n1kdo:

    ww6l, I present you with this:

    There are, in fact, may free software licenses. And there is a lot of amateur radio software that is licensed under free terms. For instance, FLDigi is licensed under GPL3 terms. That’s pretty free. So is WSJT-X. CQRlog is licensed under GPL2. You can do pretty much whatever you want with this software, though there are certain restrictions on commercial re-distribution.

  • George. W4GWS:

    I have recently become active in the HF community and strive to becoming more active in the CW community. Being new to logging I was looking for a digital log. Believe me when I say they are plentiful, both at cost and no cost. I met a fellow ham via CWA who used HRD, loved it and knew how to use it. He was using the latest free version. I called HRD and spoke with Peggy in sales and Tim in support. I was impressed with both indivuals, their knowledge, openness, friendliness and being what I refer to as ‘good ole regular folks’. I immediately purchased 2 copies sending one to my buddy. Alas they were on sale at a reduced price.

    I downloaded the manual. Carried it to Staples and had it printed and spiral bound at Tim’s recommendation. I am currently using and loving it. It takes all the work out of logging including interfacing with LOTW. I could say more. However, I am running out of space. I recommend it to any HAM who wants a fast, easy and reliable logging program with friendly support-BUY HRD!

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