back to article Ruh-roh! Rick Ruhl rolled out of Ham Radio Deluxe in software kill-switch aftermath

The developer of Ham Radio Deluxe – a popular app used by thousands of hams – has restructured its management following claims it punished users who wrote critical reviews. HRD Software said in a statement on Friday that co-founder Rick Ruhl will step down to pursue other interests. Ruhl, along with co-owners Mike Carper and …

  1. thomn8r

    Obligatory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ

    1. Captain DaFt

      Obligatory response:

      https://youtu.be/SUS4TpBry6c

  2. Oh Homer
    Trollface

    And he would've gotten away with it, too ...

    No doubt he will now "seek opportunities" as an anonymous troll on the aforementioned forums.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Well they "Hammed" that up then

    didn't thay?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Diabetes?

    Nothing to do with being a petty dickhead, it was my, wait for it... diabetes!

    No, it was dogs, dogs got into my computer and made me use the hooks for unauthorized users on paying customers I don't like. No, wait, it was Leprechauns! No, it was fake news what did me in! It's a fair cop.

    Sounds like some popular political organizations I know; we NEVER make mistakes! it's ALWAYS someone else's fault! Bad ideas come from our opponents, we only have GOOD ideas, even when they appear to be the same thing! Duh!

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Diabetes?

      It's really rather pathetic for someone to ascribe his incompetence to his diabetes - an eminently self-controllable condition in most circumstances.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Diabetes?

      Next time I'm blamed for something I'll apologise because my judgement is sometimes affected because I'm a grumpy curmudgeon. I don't see why people with diabetes should get a free pass.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Diabetes?

        I don't see why people with diabetes should get a free pass.

        I don't see anywhere in the story where a free pass was given. The guy apologized publicly and lost his job. As far as how diabetes influences actions, I have watched it play out with my dad once and a friend later. It mostly comes down to them looking at it as "I feel fine so there can't be a problem" except they are completely out of control and act like tantrum-throwing children. I make no excuses for this as there are none of which I am aware, it's just that I can imagine how this particular drama might have developed.

    3. David Roberts Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Diabetes?

      As a T2 diabetic I find it hard to feel much sympathy; perhaps I should but it seems to paint diabetics as people without control and with a disability.

      This excuse wouldn't have been acceptable for dangerous driving, any more than drinking too much would be.

      I suppose that in this case it positions a diabetic with poor control alongside someone with a drinking problem. Not fit to drive nor fit to answer customer queries or make important business decisions.

      "It wasn't my fault, it was the medication/my doctor." Nope; your fault, and your colleagues for not telling you. Just as if you were a drunk reaching for car keys.

      Then again you could just be lying.

    4. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Diabetes?

      "Sounds like some popularALL political organizations"

      FTFY

  5. ma1010 Silver badge
    Coat

    A step in the right direction

    Getting rid of someone who thinks it's a good idea to blacklist people for publishing a review they don't like sounds like a great idea.

    But I still have a problem with the new incarnation of HRD. The idea of anything ham radio related that requires the Internet to work -- well, isn't a key point of ham radio that it works when all else fails? In an emergency, the software isn't going to be able to phone home and see if it's okay with Big Brother for it to still work today. I'm generally opposed to the whole "phone home" idea for software (go ahead and call me a Luddite, anti-cloud, anti-SAAS, etc., if you like, because I am). And for anything ham radio (emergency communications) related, phoning home seems an especially bad idea. "Oh, sorry, I can't call an ambulance for the injured guy because my software can't connect to the Internet, so it won't control my radio!" (Fortunately in real life, there are other ways than using HRD to control a radio. But the whole "won't work if it can't phone home" thing still pisses me off AND is a really bad idea in a ham radio context.)

    Okay, okay, I'm leaving. Probably some damn kids on my lawn I need to chase away, anyhow...

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: A step in the right direction

      The problem did come with the download and installation of an "update" so perhaps it was more a matter of delivering a poison pill than remotely disabling the software. That said, I agree the whole concept of needing the internet to use a ham radio is a bit backward since if the person you're talking to is also necessarily on the internet there isn't much point to using the radio at all. Ok, maybe with a one time pad used only in burst mode with a mobile transmitter, nah, still doesn't make sense.

    2. Gray

      Re: A step in the right direction

      But the whole "won't work if it can't phone home" thing still pisses me off AND is a really bad idea in a ham radio context.)

      Maybe I'm a Luddite, but the ARRL & FEMA adoption of Internet-based technology to route Ham Radio emergency communications via WinLink 2000 & Pactor IV digital radio transmissions, linked to internet message distribution and delivery. introduces two basic flaws: excessive modem costs (thousands of $$) due to proprietary technology; and reliance on a working internet system. As with HRD, criticism of the "official" methodology is severely discouraged by ARRL & FEMA. Suggestions that the internet is fragile during disaster events is typically answered with, "but it won't be unavailable everywhere, so we can always reach it" beggars credulity. Other digital transmission methods are open-source, far more robust, freely available, and quite effective, but ARRL & FEMA rejected them all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A step in the right direction

        Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but in my day ham radio was nothing to do with some apocalyptic "OMG all the infrastructure's failed we're all that's left!" scenario. Neither was it about the availability of an alternative communications medium - we did have telephones even in those days, honest. It was all about making a tenuous connection, against the odds, probably transiently, with some like-minded stranger far, far away.

        1. Oh Homer
          Mushroom

          Re: "OMG all the infrastructure's failed we're all that's left!"

          Preppers call this SHF (Shit Hits the Fan). The term is applied as both an adjective and a noun, the latter (also known as BOK or Bug-Out Kit) referring to the survival equipment they'll use in the event of the former, presumably including some form of radio communications.

          They're an entire subculture who seem to have largely co-opted the HAM radio movement (and coincidentally also the Republican Party), roughly comprising a cross-section of camp craft enthusiasts, religious fanatics, gun nuts, militant survivalists and isolationists, or in other words libertarians, motivated by a common hatred of government, the poor and anyone else they perceive as a threat to their disposable income.

          So in that sense their doomsday scenario would appear to be largely a case of wishful thinking, where the wish is mostly about having the opportunity to shoot government agents and the poor with complete impunity, then radio for a government-funded ambulance to take them to a government-funded hospital for government-funded Medicare, after they run out of bullets.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "OMG all the infrastructure's failed we're all that's left!"

            Here in the USA we hams have had to cope with these world-enders.

            They are rightfully called "Whackers"...they came from CB channel 9

            and the defunct REACT group who used to monitor that channel.

            Now they have call letters but the same disgusting,appalling

            "You will obey my Authoritie" South Park attitude,only they don't

            have any authority.

            They do so love the praise of men and the free equipment furnished

            by their local county EMA in probable violation of the FCC rules

            (emergency comms were seen as the work of NGO's).

            Most of them have self-assigned military rank and speak of

            everything as a "mission",even when going to the toilet.

            Ham Radio remains a Hobby,not an emergency radio service

            for self-obsessed individuals.

            The rest of us are embarrassed by these people...they are not

            Hams in any sense.

            1. Pete4000uk

              Re: "OMG all the infrastructure's failed we're all that's left!"

              I love some of their cats and trucks. Wannabe police cars with more antennae than GCHQ.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "OMG all the infrastructure's failed we're all that's left!"

                Yeah - I LOVE those antenna cats that want to be police cars, we have a tabby and a tortoiseshell, one fitted for EME and the other with a 2M whip!

        2. Fred Goldstein

          Re: A step in the right direction

          I don't think this has changed in the over half-century that I've been licensed: Ham radio is available just in case other media aren't, and hams are prepared to support emergency communications when all else goes down. This did come into play during Hurricane Katrina, to give one example. Everyday ham activity is different but the overall concept is to be able to use radio when all else fails.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A step in the right direction

      If I pay for a service, I don' tmind it needing to 'phone home' to work... What annoys me is software I've purchased needing to phone home continually to work!

    4. bbawlz

      Re: A step in the right direction

      HRD does not require an internet connection to work. I use it from my remote site all the time, and there is no internet there, nor is any provider likely to bring in internet to the area any time soon.

      Oh, some of the features (like automatic upload to eQSL) won't work, but that's to be expected. It probably needs internet to be set up the first time, but that's also reasonable IMO.

      I have, however, brought internet in at a different site via amateur radio :)

      73.

    5. bbawlz

      Re: A step in the right direction

      ... I should add - I used the paid version, not the version 5 ancient thing.

  6. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Never gonna give you up, Never gonna let you down

    Never gonna run around and desert you

    Unless you write a bad review, Then it's you I'll screw

    I will break your software and hurt you

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I will break your software and hurt you

      EULA?

  7. redpawn Silver badge

    Too bad..

    Comcast and Time Warner aren't this responsive when stories of poor service hit the media.

    1. Chez

      Re: Too bad..

      If they were, their board would be cycling through a dozen new people every day.

  8. SomeoneInDelaware

    Low blood sugar

    Before you shake your head over the low blood sugar "excuse", I have seen some folks with very low blood sugar during my ambulance days. Nearly got into a fist fight with the guy over trying to get him to sip some orange juice -- he thought his wife had poisoned it.

    If that was his issue, I wish him good luck getting it under control. One of my co-workers died at home over a weekend from it.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Low blood sugar

      Going violent on a low blood sugar or high histamine level is not that uncommon.

      Been there, done that (the histamine version), seen other people do it.

      1. swschrad

        hey, if you're fragile, you test all the time

        not like he couldn't afford the test strips. that goes back to basic arrogance.

    2. Falamar

      Re: Low blood sugar

      I agree that can be a serious condition and could very well be the direct cause of his actions, however, when you're caught being a douchebag don't continue being one and try and say it's not your fault. He is ultimately responsible for his actions no matter what. It just shows the mentality he seem to have. It's great they are taking some action to rectify the situation but it's out of necessity and not good will. All I hear is "it's not my fault" AKA "I don't give a sh!t".

      I have never used the software and I certainly won't in the future. Use some paper, find open source or create your own the way you want it. No need for the BS though.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Low blood sugar

        You would have to be seriously mismanage your condition (& badly affect your health) to always be suffering out of healthy range blood sugar issues.

        So, if we assume transient blood sugar level issues could cause obnoxious behaviour...

        Then plenty of time with OK sugar levels to realize the mistake you made and do something to rectify it ASAP.

        But no evidence of putting right what he did, so not sold on his excuse.

        I'm sure diabetics face enough discrimination issues in job search already (as just about any health issue seems to be a reason for employers not to hire) without someone trying to weasel out of their bad behavior by blaming the condition & by implication giving the message that diabetics would be bad hires.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Low blood sugar

          You would have to be seriously mismanage your condition (& badly affect your health) to always be suffering out of healthy range blood sugar issues.

          Well duh, he has type 2 diabetes. You don't get type 2 diabetes without your doctor first saying "Hey buddy, if you don't change your diet and start taking care of your health, in a few years time you will get type 2 diabetes".

          These kind of people aren't going to be great at managing a condition via diet that they caused by being unable to manage their diet.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Low blood sugar

            Um, turns out you *can*, actually.

          2. David Roberts Silver badge
            Megaphone

            Re: Low blood sugar

            Sigh. More FUD about T2 diabetes.

            Although 80% are overweight or obese on diagnosis, the other 20% are normal or low weight.

            So poor diet is not the only cause.

            "These kind of people?"

            Fucking bigot.

  9. Daniel B.
    Joke

    Oops!

    Well, it seems like he

    (•_•)

    ( •_•)>⌐■-■

    (⌐■_■)

    Hammed it up.

    YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAHHH!!!!

  10. Trainee grumpy old ****
    WTF?

    modernize and renew

    In addition to shifting Ruhl out of the company, HRD said it will be updating its end-user license agreement to "modernize and renew" its customer support policies.

    Presumably to ensure that the EULA sanctifies a repeat of such action in the future?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: modernize and renew

      Presumably to ensure that the EULA sanctifies a repeat of such action in the future?

      Cannot. There is a law for that - a rare occurrence of sanity in the US lawmakers. Voted in last month right before Xmas. So pulling a stunt like that makes you guilty by default.

  11. x 7

    So no-one is going to get sued? Really? Now that the company has admitted guilt they're open for every sueball going........

  12. Jeff Fose 1

    Don't forget this is optional software

    Just wanted to point out that HRD is optional software for Hams to use. All the functions that HRD provides can be had with the basic radio and alternative software. So even if HRD stops working for a HAM that should not prevent vital services from being provided in an emergency.

    The real problem that Hams have with HRD is that it is a great bit of SW kit that the original programmer released as a labor of love, and he freely gave it out to the Ham community. The HAM community really hated to see the project go private, and many never really forgave the current owners in making them pay for what they use to get for free. While I understand the sentiment, it is a pity that many fail to understand that there would be no HRD extensions to new gear if the developers had not picked it up. That said, it was dumb that they blackballed customers. It would have been much better for them to just offer the disgruntled customers their money back. So bottom line, Kudo's for HRD for keeping the program alive and doing the right thing. And lets all hope that Mr Ruhl's diabetes improves due to his new opportunities outside HRD.

    1. picturethis
      Meh

      Re: Don't forget this is optional software

      Generally, I agree with you re: "that there would be no HRD extensions to new gear if the developers had not picked it up", however,

      Simon had another option: put the code out under GPL. He didn't do that, for whatever reason (probably didn't want the source code available for competitor's to gleam - or he was ashamed of it - hard to tell which reason, if either). My impression was the HRD code is heavily dependent on the Windows architecture (lots of COM stuff) and is fragile. I think the current HRD problems support that thought.

      I stopped using HRD when it changed ownership (and started costing $'s) mainly due to Simon's hipocrasy.

      When he was actively working on FT817 Commander (the predecessor to HRD) and then followed up with HRD, on his website, he had a image with a quote that said (paraphrasing): "Ham Radio Software should always be free". I'll never forget that image. Obviously that changed.. and the image disappeared as well.

      I also won't even consider downloading his newer SDR stuff either for the very same reason. His bullshit with using expiring license keys amounts to using the community to debug his (commercial) software for free without even the benefit of using it unencumbered in perpetuity. - Well, unless you want to use the previous last major version and then he magnamously grants you a license. No thanks.......

      In some ways Simon is a little bit like Linus Torvalds (dictatorial), but unlike Linus, there's no benefit for the community.

      Simon has the right to do whatever he wants, and I have the right to have nothing to do with it. I don't mind buying software, I do mind when I debug/test someone elses software and don't get compensated for it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't forget this is optional software

        I wonder if the reason he doesn't open source it is because he has invested many hours learning to write software and some of his code is quite useful (used) in the paying jobs?

        I rarely see people who criticise software writers writing their own better software, could that be because "talk is easy" but writing software is time consuming and might impact their other income stream or life in general?

        I've used Simon's software and beta tested some SDR (with many other people) the experience was good and if I assisted in any way with bugs and feature requests that's fine by me, it didn't interfere with my paying job and even if time-limited more people benefit from the software than pay out in their own effort.

        If you don't feel his software has any value to you that's fine but it sounds petulant and somewhat naive to expect someone to devote so much of their life to providing you with free stuff because you have taken a city & guilds test.

        1. bbawlz

          Re: Don't forget this is optional software

          I love the hobby of amateur radio, but the one downside that kind of chaps me is that while radio amateurs are collectively some of the most affluent people around, they are notoriously cheap when it comes to buying from others (i.e. they want everything free) and stupidly expensive when selling (i.e. their old, obsolete landfill equipment is a priceless antique). There are, of course, plenty of quite reasonable radio amateurs, but go to any hamfest or flea market and you'll see what I mean.

          Ham Radio Deluxe gets, in my estimation, mistreated because of this. It is pretty much the best all-round package out there. Yes, you can get all the functionality with an assortment of free-ware (like FLDigi), but HRD makes it slick. Obviously people like the professional look, because even a lot of the complainers use the old, free versions because they're too cheap to support the modern effort, and not willing to do a better job themselves.

          The title of this thread is "Don't forget this is optional software". HRD is optional. It's also cheap to buy as both software and ham radio stuff goes... but you don't have to buy it - use one of the competitors if you don't like it, or don't use it at all! that's the beauty of amateur radio: choice.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Don't forget this is optional software

            I hate it when people keep saying, "Choice is good." Ever heard of "information overload" or "indecision paralysis"? And it only takes TWO choices to trigger either one: see the recent US elections.

  13. rchrd

    Not true to the spirit of ham radio...

    In the true spirit of ham radio, such software should run on Linux and be open source and free.

    (de AG6RF)

    1. bbawlz

      Re: Not true to the spirit of ham radio...

      No, it shouldn't.

      In the spirit of ham radio, some linux weenie should write something like that for Linux out of the goodness of his heart and offer it free. All the algorithms and protocols are publicly available.

      The SoHR does not compel a commercial endeavour to give freebies to radio amateurs.

      73

      1. gc23
        Thumb Up

        Re: Not true to the spirit of ham radio...

        You've never seen CQRLOG I'm gathering.

        https://www.cqrlog.com/

        While it's no HRD, it can do a lot of stuff other software can't.

        73 from a "Linux weenie" (going on 20 years now).

  14. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Coat

    Sorry

    As usual only sorry because they were found out

  15. Patched Out

    Read his apology carefully, folks.

    If you read his apology carefully, you will notice that he only blamed his diabetes (low blood sugar) on the threatening phone call he made. This is completely plausible. My wife of 30+ years has type 1 diabetes (since the age of 7) and I have seen her say and do some crazy things when her blood sugar is very low.

    1. fnj

      Re: Read his apology carefully, folks.

      Seriously, did you mean to say that? He claims his diabetes was caused by him making a threatening phone call? Are you sure you didn't word that backwards?

      "Blame X on Y" means X was caused by Y, not Y was caused by X.

      1. Patched Out

        Re: Read his apology carefully, folks.

        You are correct. Strike that. Reverse that. Thank you.

  16. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So we are now in the Piblic Spanking phase of The Volkswagen Defense. One wonders why people still use it, since it always ends in tears for everyone.

    Refreshing to get a new "pivot defense" - I honestly expected a standard Asperger's ploy.

  17. hamdev

    No way for a Ham Radio vendor to behave

    I have been a ham 41 years, and a software developer for 30+.

    In today's world, it is insane for anyone to remotely disable software. It's insane to have physical dongles to enable software.

    I've worked (and do work) in industries where software is used 24/7/365, and costs 100s of thousands of dollars. In those markets today, there are no "protection methods" for much of the software, other than license agreements. There is a new law against retaliating against reviews.

    The excuses don't work. The owners thought they have something very valuable. They are wrong.

    It ham radio software was sold at a price that represented the market size, if would be prohibitively expensive for the majority of users. So, ham radio software has to be a labor of love, or, a lifestyle business. If someone is relying on it for primary income, they are or will be in trouble. Some of the most successful and supported ham radio software in history is either freeware, low-cost, and certainly community supported... Like DX Lab, N1MM+ Logger, or TRX-Manager.

    I, for one, hope that HRD survives... But the team certainly could use a mindset change.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DIABETES != EVIL PERSONALITY

    ....well sometimes .... but not continued and this evil blackballing of particular users is pathetic....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "pursuing other interests"

    Ruhl will be doing Snickers commercials? ("you get a little bit remote software disablely when you're hungry...")

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the truth shall.....

    Stay on target....stay on target... Rick has always been abusive, even before HRD. Evidence is everywhere, just google it. Helpdesk is nasty, most people survive about six months, I did four years frontline for a global multinational on follow-the-sun. Sometimes I was tired, sometimes I was ill, sometimes people give you abuse, boo-hoo. I never gave abuse back, it's called professionalism. If you think Hams are bad, try the larger demographic of "the public".

    $99 is too much. They priced it too high.

    HRD was moved to a different code-base because it is a cobbled together suite of programs, the reason for that is to skirt round GNU licence violations by using shims. According to HRD, the source code is issued with the program for the GNU part (DM780) which, if they are to be believed, has not been updated since 2011, although they charge $99 for the HRD part because it's all new and spangly, and presumably the support at $49 for 50% of six-year old functionality that doesn't belong to them. (either that or that aint the right source code)

    Added to this, the company does not use ANY bug tracking software, and the main licence check server is an internet facing telnet server.

    Still buying?

    The company has admitted multiple lock-outs of end users because they posted reviews the company did not like or where members of a Yahoo group that the company did not like, which are now Federal Offences in the stated software licence area legal jurisdiction of Florida USA.

    Still buying?

    The actual decode part is in direct breach of GNU licencing as no licence is present, and they also distribute the LAME mp3 encoder DLL in direct contravention of it's licencing terms.

    In the pre-HRD LLC days, Simon states quite clearly in the manual that the code can never be open-sourced, as he would get sued due to copyright issues.

    The open source is all out there, various logging programs, fldigi ect.

    All of this is in the public domain on QRZ. (other forums are available, and may not be as heavily censored)

    Hey, it's your money.

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