This post is about the nefarious goings on within the world of Ham Radio, and more generally the unhealthy relationships that develop online.
I am in no way affiliated to any of the organizations or individuals mentioned here.
First, some background information.
Ham Radio Deluxe was originally written by Peter PH1PH and Simon HB9DRV as Windows compatible software to use a computer to control a Ham Radio. There are many reasons why someone would want to do this, primarily the use of Digital Modes, which are a form of digital encoding to use text to communicate between licenced users of the Amateur Radio bands.
The software was supported by end-user donations, but was never open-source, however it was always provided free of charge to the community.
All went well for a number of years and in May 2010 at the Dayton Hamvention, Simon received the Technical Excellence Award for the development of HRD, which is regarded as quite an accolade within the world of Ham Radio.
In mid-2011, Simon for whatever reasons decided to sell the rights to the software. No licence agreements now exist for the pre-sale software as far as I am aware, the last version of which is 5.24.38 which is freely available on the ‘net for example here: https://www.egr.msu.edu/msuarc/software/ham-radio-deluxe/ and also here: http://www.iw5edi.com/software/ham-radio-deluxe-5-download-links
Wayback Machine has all of them: https://web.archive.org/web/20111222183726/http://www.hrdsoftwarellc.com/HRDv050b2893_Full.exe
Hey that robots.txt is a bummer. I also know that HRD has tried to get others not to host the files. Oh well, bad luck as it’s all there on Wayback forever.
Please don’t hassle these guys with questions, they are just hosting sites for the software. Things being like they are online, if you want the software, download it now before it goes.
Here’s the ARRL on the sale: http://www.arrl.org/news/hb9drv-sells-rights-to-ham-radio-deluxe
Quite a few people were somewhat annoyed that the donations that they had made to support the software had now effectively gone to a private company.
Allegedly there was some disquiet at the time that Open Source Software components in the code were now being charged for, which would be a possible breach of GNU licensing, this may have been censored from QRZ.
This is where the drama begins. An end user writes a support ticket:
Yep – he actually wrote that on the ticket. If that copy disappears – no problem. 😉
So what we have is an attempt at extortion. Plain as day. No whitewash is going to paint over exactly what was said. Remove an honest review of some software, and we’ll unlock the code, don’t and you’re screwed. The guy paid $99 for this. This is incidentally now illegal under US law, law passed some days later.
Here’s the timeline (credit to reddit)
Thur Dec 15th
/u/dlichterman posted a thread with a link to QRZ.com’s forums about a user who claimed that the Staff at Ham Radio Delxue (HRD) hacked their computer.
OP on QRZ posted documents to his support ticket. According to the ticket, HRD support “blacklisted” OP disabling his software. In order to have access to the software, OP was required to remove a negitive review that he posted on eham.net by staff
On Twitter.com, there is history of issues with @hamradiodeluxe.
Threads on both reddit and QRZ start becoming active. Others who have issues with HRD support start coming out.
Thread on eham was started about this subject on 12/14/2016
Known internet archivist Jason Scott (@jasonscott) was told by HRD on twitter that the support ticket was “Copyrighted” and was looking into alleged libel issues source
Friday Dec 16th
User on QRZ.com found HRD’s license check server. Started querying OP’s callsign to return as “Blacklisted”
QRZ owner deletes thread, posts his own thread with explanation while omitting possible “blacklist” and extortion (since deleted/merged). Precedes to lock new thread when called out about missing information
Another user on QRZ made another HRD thread. This time targeting the actions of QRZ Admin and staff.
In 2009, proof that HRD pays QRZ.com money for advertisements. Proof of conflict of interest.
Rick, One of the HRD owners (out of 3) responded on the QRZ and Eham forums about the incident claiming OP wasn’t hacked. Owner attemped to call OP.
According to OP, Co-owner (Rick) left voicemail threatening lawsuit for release of “Copywrited” support ticket
On reddit, /u/fohdeesha made a thread where he compared reviews about HRD on eham.net against callsigns on the check server. A decent amount of callsigns from “poor reviews” showed up as “blacklisted” on the check server.
QRZ.com owner unlocked the original thread and merged all the HRD related threads together. All out Streisand Effect.
HRD blocked incoming connections to the check server. ALL “Blacklisted entries” were removed.
HRD Co-Owner (Rick) posted on QRZ.com the following
We we have an official statement soon, but we do not condone anyone that blacklisted any ham for a bad review
As of today, Randy, Mike and I went though the license server and removed all blacklisted hams. That’s not good business or good policy.
More to come.
Lot of discussion continued
Ex support staff member of HRD (left on his own in April) replied on the QRZ thread that he was being setup as a patsy for creating the blacklist. He claimed he had chat logs (Citation needed).
Sat Dec 17th
2nd owner of HRD (Mike) posted an apology and information about what happened on both on QRZ and eham forum
I want to make a statement of apology on behalf of HRD Software.
We regret that we have been unable to maintain our high standards of quality in our service to one of our customers. I have reached out to this customer to correct this regrettable situation. I am looking forward to speaking with him.
We apologize for what has happened here. I have stepped in and personally taken corrective actions to ensure that this mistake does not get made again.
It is not the policy or practice of HRD Software, LLC to retaliate, in any way, when negative reviews are made about our company, its products, or our employees. If this has happened in the past, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. We will strive to avoid, even the suspicion of, such things in the future.
Best wishes in your continuing enjoyment of our hobby.
Regards, [Contact info redacted]
After some more discussion, HRD co-owner (Rick) adds to the apology on both QRZ.com forums and eham
No one is going to be sued. I made a serious mistake and error of judgement in this and many cases and I am truly sorry.
Jim, I apologize publicly to you. I do have diabetes and sometimes this affects my judgement and it did in that voicemail I truly regret it. I’m talking to my Doctor about changing my medications so I wont have any more low sugars.
Randy, Mike and I are discussing my future with HRD.
Rick – [Redacted]
Apologies also posted to their twitter feed @hamradiodeluxe and their Facebook account
Facebook user claims he was hassled by HRD staff when he wanted a refund
Some users were not happy with the apology and diabetic excuse. HRD owners not acknowledging blacklist
Lots of discussion with 2nd owner of HRD trying to define what “blacklist” means
HRD deletes Facebook apology after critical replies.
2nd owner of HRD explained in detail about the retailation and blacklist in a post on QRZ.com
Co-owner of HRD (Mike) stated on the QRZ.com forums that they will edit their EULA and “fix it”
Sun Dec 18th
News of what is going on making its making its way to other circles
Mon Dec 19th
The register (A known international publication) published a story about HRD. Thread on reddit discussing the article
HRD twitter account deleted
Another HRD “Blacklisted” user stepped forward on the QRZ.com forums
Tue Dec 20th
Wronged users of HRD are starting to come forward
The Register is looking into Tips about deceptive statements from HRD
Another (former) HRD user steps forward. User ordered renewal, loaded software to be “Blacklisted”, User asked support, HRD refunded user and stated he was blacklisted for being a member of certain Yahoo group(s). Source
Wed, Dec 21
The Register released an updated article about the HRD situation
HRD Co-Owner known for being hostile in support is still dealing with customers even after the negative attention. Note: Original reply in thread was by Co-Owner (Rick) then changed to admin account.
More evidence on QRZ.com forums of blacklist from co-owner of HRD
Mike (co-owner) stated in an e-mail that 35 people were blacklisted.
Mike (co-owner) made a statement on Reddit in the Mega Thread. Account is unconfirmed! Edit: User self deleted the comment here is a backup
Slashdot article about HRD blacklisting
Thur, Dec 22
More evidence of mistreatment from HRD Co-owner Note: Not affliated with HRD at the time. (NEW 06:14)
These blacklisted callsigns can be checked on HRD’s server. The address was found by monitoring traffic between the HRD programs and the server (not by me – it’s on reddit). Please note – this is in no way illegal, the address is publicly accessible. The use of telnet across the internet shows a distinct lack of knowledge or disregard for security. There is/was an attempt to scare people as a message stating your IP address will be logged was added upon checking a callsign. If they weren’t logging IP addresses, quite frankly that would be idiotic.
To access HRD’s server: telnet 188.8.131.52 3162
Testimony of customer support: http://gm4jr.co.uk/hrd.html
Testimony of QRZ activity: http://www.hamsexy.com/qrzfiles.html
The Register: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/12/19/ham_radio_app_bad_review/
Blacklisting question https://web.archive.org/web/20161216083336/http://forums.hrdsoftwarellc.com/forum/hrd-6-x-peer-support-forums/hrd-6-2-other/37452-am-i-blacklisted-for-free-trial-doesn-t-work-my-call-it-does-with-another
Eham.net reviews: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/3498?page=1
The guys at HRD are not above using the “old version” email database to spam people with “upgrade” offers to the “new” software
Taking on someone else’s code is quite hellish, I know because I have done it. What is clear to me is that you have here are some huge egos with dollar bills in their eyes and little or no passion for a product that is just cash to them, who also have no idea how to program code, who are way out of their comfort zone. Most companies employ helpdesk staff to get shat on for management’s moronic decisions, the schmuck on the end of the phone who has no control over anything that you yell at when things don’t go right, yep, I was one of those too. This outfit didn’t even do that with the code they bought. They foolishly allowed a vindictive dev onto helpdesk whose adopted baby can do no wrong.
Standard practice was once to blame the end-user or Microsoft for software failures, and hey a small percentage of the time even with well written documented code, that will be the case. It’s complicated. Those days are over now though, the model has moved on, and blaming everyone else when your software simply does not work is not going to wash in 2016, release a patch, get with the program or get out.
I return to the lack of ability, the guy who made the original review stated that you could write a patch in a day to sort it out, I believe him to be correct – there are two reasons that isn’t going to happen.
2. They don’t know how to
This patch would also have to be re-applied every time MS updates anything as you have no idea what is going to break your obsolete code.
So re-write the code? See item 2.
Here’s the deal when you write code dependent on a operating system you have no control over – you keep up with them or fail. You certainly don’t start blaming everyone else under the sun for your failures, even if the cause is a software change you had no control over. Are HRD subscribing to any tech channels from Microsoft? buy in on any tech support from them? Obviously we are not talking any MSCE certs here – that is the world you buy into if you are a commercial coder for MS systems. If I was to pay $99 dollars or a program that says it can support what I have – I expect it to do so. There are guys selling apps for 79 cents on the app store that have more of a clue.
To the HRD guys if you ever stumble across this – yes you hate it. I would expect that your next move will then be to threaten, write takedown notices, and yell and scream. It doesn’t matter. By then this page will be archived forever, even if you succeed in a takedown or a google strike on a non-US host for what is actually an opinion piece. The ticket is on a google drive now – want to try taking Google to court? The damage is done. You did it to yourselves… and that’s what really hurts. You CAN stop digging at any time.
To those who either get free stuff for support or are paid to support HRD in the forums, (c’mon now, we can all spot you!) and perhaps saddest of all, those who just attempt to defend HRD, I say this: I wish you a great deal of luck, because you will need it. Your world is money and ego based and you will inevitably lose. This is a major victory for anybody who is remotely interested in killing greed and corruption, and those that believe that offering an opinion should not be met with threats, accusations and censorship, just because you didn’t like it. However it is Pyrrhic. There are multiple losers here, the people who paid for a buggy product and in some cases non-existent support, the people who donated to the original program and were cut off, the people silenced by QRZ and ultimately the community that now cannot trust any commercial software or QRZ at all due to ego and greed. There are some winners: Fldigi, the original base of HRD, and open source software that will, if there is any justice in the world at all, utterly crush HRD out of existence, and we all lose what could have been great.
Ham Radio Deluxe is now a byword for why commercial software can never be trusted.