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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] "GNU Radio is crap" and GSoc

From: Tom Rondeau
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] "GNU Radio is crap" and GSoc
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2012 16:13:30 -0500

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM, <address@hidden> wrote:

Tom makes the point that Gnu Radio isn't "shiny".  Indeed, it isn't.

"Everything's shiny, Cap'n. Not to fret"

That was just a little something for the Firefly fans in the audience.
Good perspectives, everyone, thanks!

Some people arrive at Gnu Radio expecting that it is an "end application", and walk away badly disappointed. They have in their mind a firm notion of what constitutes a "radio", and fully expect that Gnu Radio *is* that "radio", except that it has GUI widgets instead physical controls.  For this class of "customer" for Gnu Radio, I blame the early ham-radio SDR market, and the suppliers thereto.  They packaged their SDR hardware with fully-built applications, and in some cases, didn't expose the underlying API in any meaningful sense, so people come to Gnu Radio expecting it to simply be an Open Source version of an existing SDR application in the amateur-radio/scanner space.

The problem is that the field of "radio" is incredibly diverse, so much so that from my perspective I can't imagine a single class of application that would be "the one that everyone is looking for".   Sure, there has been an emphasis on SDR in academic environments for use in commercial networking/telecoms applications, but really, that's rather the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential applications for SDR (and by implication, Gnu Radio).

I agree, definitely. I think that there's so much interesting capabilities out there for SDR that we're only just getting in to now. I'm often asked about doing standards in GNU Radio, but to me, that's really uninteresting. It has it's role, sure, but once you have a standard defined, you can build a chip to handle it. GNU Radio is much to general, flexible, and dynamic for a standard. We want to see new ideas and classes of applications enabled because of this technology. I really don't want to go chasing the standards train because by definition, we're always going to be lagging. 

Clark Pope observed that building end-user applications is a *lot of work*.  I completely agree.  End-user applications have to be polished, reliable, easy-to-use, and fully documented. Even something as relatively simple as SIDSuite, which is up on CGRAN, requires a *lot* of work to make it "friendly" to an "appliance" user.  I just can't see our core developer team spending their time in that part of the space.  But if their job is done correctly, the applications will (and have!) emerge.

No, we're not interested in that level of involvement, and I understand why there is varying levels of friendliness and/or bitrot occurring in some of the CGRAN projects when you don't have someone who's motivated in keeping it up to date. Many of the projects out there were student projects and those students then went and got jobs that are paying them to do other things. And I'm incredibly grateful to those people who took the time to publish there work at all, lest anyone think that I'm critical of the contributions made!

On the other hand, there are definite rewards that come from open source development, many of which are monetary. There are an increasing number of jobs out there that are requesting GNU Radio experience. When you can point to your published code for your resume, that could be pretty convincing. 

I won't get into all of the ways that open source works as a model, even for complex programs. I'll just point to Linux, GCC, Apache, and Python. There are a variety of reasons people contribute to those projects, sames as GNU Radio.

Much application development for Gnu Radio is going on in the background, on private projects that will never be published.  So it's easy for people to get the impression that Gnu Radio has no apps.  That's just plain not true.

And that's a really good point. There's lots of work that's been done out there. My specific issue was that there's not necessarily a lot "out-of-the-box" that people can point to and get working. A lot of the high-quality apps that exist are not distributed (and as far as I've seen, no one is breaking the GPL with what they are doing), so that model doesn't help with the general outside perception that I was discussing in my post.



On Tue, 14 Feb 2012 06:21:18 -0800, Rafael Diniz wrote:

I really think that projects like the ones in CGRAN have great value.

The key point in my option is to implement some widely used standards
_using_ the gnuradio framework.
As examples I'd say TV broadcast standards like DVB, ISDB-Tb, radio
standards like DAB, DRM, ..., this will greatly improve Gnuradio adoption
and use, by universities, hobbists and companies.

I don't think money is the only issue involved, but of course it would help.
An university involvement approach like the VT one is also very interesting.

Best regards,
Rafael Diniz

Without a monetization strategy I don't see how the gnu radio project gets much past its current state. The problem is the functionality of a prototyper or student is implemented in about 20% of the effort for a full application. The documentation, testing, deployment, and maintenance of a real application needs a lot more work and that work is not educational or enjoyable. So without something like an app store where developers can get reimbursed for that other 80% the applications will stay stuck at the cool demo stage.
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