|mcHF, RS-918, OVI40|
This is true not just of ham products but of anything electronic and of many things in other categories, from shoes to cameras to...well, everything.
One ham radio developer seems hell-bent on encouraging theft of his product. As a result, his creation is probably the single most cloned (stolen) product in our hobby - the mcHF by Chris M0NKA.
The mcHF is a small SDR QRP transceiver kit that has a lot of the features I want in a radio. Specifically, these are:
- Portable, small, lightweight
- SDR architecture
- No need for connectivity to a PC for CW, SSB operation
- A single USB connection to PC for digi modes, ie no 'Audio In' 'Audio Out' 'PTT' etc
- Panoramic display, split VFO capability, full 10-160m coverage
I've almost ordered a mcHF several times over the years. What stopped me? Several things.
First of all, these are partial kits - the SMD devices are already installed - a good thing for folks like me who evidently can't assemble an SMD kit. So the kit contains the boards (2), the case (if you want it) and the through hole components.
Great, even I can handle that.
But where do the components go, what is the assembly order, how are the boards fastened together and what are the relevant/necessary modifications? Downloading the files for the particular version of the kit offered for sale results only in vague references with very little specific info.
Other needed info is scattered here and there but you'll have to find those locations yourself. And hope that they're the right ones officially for the mcHF and not a clone.
There is a YahooGroup for the rig but it is not mentioned at all on the mcHF page. Questions by other potential buyers (posted on the mcHF page itself) go largely unanswered. Some are answered, some aren't. Roll the dice.
Couple all this with the fact that the firmware is open source and the result is the Most Cloned Kit in Ham Radio.
In fact, they are so cloned that Chris laments on one of his pages that owners of the clone are now coming to him for support of their cloned copy. Searching Google for info on the authentic mcHF results in far more links and YouTube videos for the clone, not the real deal.
This isn't directly Chris' fault but rather the result of his policies regarding open source firmware and lack of clarity. Complaining about it is akin to leaving your car unlocked with a wallet on the dashboard and then complaining that someone broke into your car.
The Chinese clones are the RS-918 and RS-928Plus. They're sold on eBay and come from China, so you know the quality and legitimacy are top-notch (cough, bullsh-cough). As expected, these products get mixed reviews; quality of the item received seems to vary greatly among individual units shipped.
Related to the mcHF is the OVI40 from Germany. Is it a clone or a legitimate off-shoot? How do I order one? The UI is for sale - what about the RF board?
With so many variations out there it gets difficult to know where the original item ends and the copy begins.
Packed away in a box somewhere is a Rolex watch I bought brand new in Hong Kong many years ago. I paid $27 for it. The seller assured me it was a genuine Rolex and I dutifully pretended to believe him.