Important note about radio firmware updates

Recently we were notified of an issue with a few of the newer TH-UV88 radios that were having trouble with scan not receiving. We notified TYT and they provided a firmware update within 24 hours. The TYT TH-UV88 Firmware Update was posted to our blog and should resolve the issue.

After going through some comments in the blog, I wanted to reiterate something stated in the article. Note that this firmware update only fixes the scan issue, so if you have a UV88 that doesn’t have the issue or you don’t ever use the scan options at all, you don’t need to install the update.

I understand that it’s almost second nature to want the latest version of everything in a radio, but from my own experience working in tech, the latest isn’t always the greatest thing to have.

For instance, a few weeks ago I was notified of a new firmware update for my podcast studio recorder/mixer that was supposed to add a lot of new features and long awaited enhancements. A lot of other owners of these devices immediately jumped in and updated their recorders, only to discover that it caused a lot of issues that required them to roll back to a previous firmware version to fix. The firmware wasn’t ready for distribution. Fortunately I waited. I may not have the new bells and whistles, but my recorder works fine, and that’s all I really want it to do.

This stuff happens with firmware upgradeable devices, and it is to be somewhat expected. But why be the one it happens to? My advice, for what it’s worth, is that if your radio isn’t working correctly, and there is an update available to fix it, it’s probably okay to install the update. If it wasn’t working before, and the fix doesn’t work, where’s the loss? At least you tried.

However, if your radio is working perfectly, and an update is available, my advice is to wait a bit. Search around and find out what others are saying about it. Does it work? Does it improve the radio? Is it worth the time, effort and potential risk, or not? Give it some time to be tested in the market before attempting to install it on your radio. Why be the guinea pig? Do some vetting first.

One final note, if the firmware update is provided by a third party other than the manufacturer or an authorized dealer of the radio, you will be installing it at your own risk. I would advise you to think carefully before you install it.

A wise head - it’s definitely a sane move to not touch what’s not broken (or literally, if it’s working as you need reliably, leave well alone). The only sane reason to upgrade as and when is if the new version solves an existing problem which causes headaches and usability issues.

Notably, especially with sets you’ll use ‘ham mode’ for leisure and lock back to ‘commercial’ config to use at work, you’ll create more grief to yourself and create issues for others you need to be touch with at work in a commercial config. Notably, where the revision was released to embrace the ham radio users needs (hence very beta ‘fixes’), avoid like the plague on radios you’ll dual configure according to the intended day/night/extended use role.

In all the years I’ve dealt with upgradable f/w kit, in a wide variety of aspects, the biggest cause of intermittent and unusual headaches came from a user’s irrational need to have the latest and greatest bake of f/w, even ’release’ status doesn’t necessarily mean serviceable stable.

I know of ham groups, especially on their ex-LMR kit they use for rally/event group ops who still use the original FW totally unmodified where all was needed was to set up the channel info and settings, or minor hacks to make the sets more usable, but ultimately they had to be commercial bombproof stable and definitely avoided irrational upgrade temptation. Thirty years later and a few moves on radio kit according to necessary evil changes, they only ever had issues when failures were hardware ones (shorts from damp ingress resulting from curious monkeys wrecking the seals, or battery packs dieing of old age and or beyond their usable number of cycles).

Given how cheap LMR kit can be, and given cost effective entry into digital and obscure modes and bands almost makes LMR kit your rational starting point, it’s no hardship to by a duplicate of your main LMR set and use one as a working set and the other as a lab rat.

Wise heads know the score, and whilst mocked for their 'leave well alone practices, it’s they who enjoy the ride rather than ride the 'rollercoaster of death. Sure, the odd scary rollercoaster ride reminds you of the thrill, but everyday life and persistent rollercoaster attitudes is a one way ticket to premature sanity aging, at the very least.

Even after all these years firmware always gives me a shudder. You look at the very, very expensive commercial radio in your hand and the press button on the screen, then hold your breath while that counter clocks down. I only do firmware changes when I really have to, otherwise, if they work, they stay that way, even if that obscure menu item isn’t there! I always use the features MUST have benefits rule, if there is no benefit to me, the feature is pointless.

Likewise, I still shudder and have a touch of jagged nerves with any firmware update in general, even necessary fix issue examples released by manufacturers - not helped, with formal releases, by the fact the manufacturer makes it your liability if you apply their retrofit or updated f/w. Sure, 3rd party and hacker-mod f/w issues are literally a gamble by default, but official OEM and non-OEM should be safe bets, but it’s an anxious gamble.

It’s worse, as you mention, when it’s an expensive or rare beast of a bit of kit.

And beyond the bad news if the FW proves to be unfit for purpose and/or more problems than it fixes, there’s the power-out Russian Roulette aspect of even where you’ve a fully charged battery and have it tethered to charger where a momentary power loss if the external/internal transition glitches (one time a SM power source and it’s inherent noise actually out-ways the hazards of momentary blackout on non-SW supplies).

Even today, I jury rig a trusted solid external power source in parallel to the battery to offset that risk when uploading and flashing FW.

As sane wisdom knows, if you can’t risk or face the risk or the good state isn’t worth risking, avoid FW upgrades/retrofit until necessity dictates the risk.

Not just me then Chris! The worst is when you get a piece of software to do something, connect the radio and the radio display changes to flashing firmware, when you just thought you were installing a code plug. In fairness you probably are, but flashing firmware always makes me stop in my tracks, and hardly breath in case that dinky mic connector wiggles just a tiny bit. I sell quite a few marine products and the do not include some channels customers want - the coast watch people like to buy their own radios to take home, and often ask for channel 0 receive, or others want channel 37 - often missing as it’s pretty much a UK only channel, and many of these radios need to be dismantled, with all the water sealing rings to access the internal programming port, and then when they go out, I always wonder if the waterproofing is still OK? Like a mechanical firmware flashing risk. Especially when they claim they can be underwater for 30 minutes - who’s daft enough to actually test this claim?

Yeah, it can be nerve racking and doubly so when you’re helping out or doing some paidmod/adaption or upgrade on other folks kit. When you’re full blown commercial dealing and a ham, it’s two extremes with common fears from two different angles.

Talking of dinky connectors and nervousness about programming via them - it sure makes me nervous when I see micro-usb ports. Should be a good thing, since USB-serial emulation had got pretty stable relatively speaking, but god knows you couldn’t pick a worse type for a connection you’ll depend on. The only way I ever made them robust was a bolster inserted after fitting and employing some export resin or CA glue to fix them down solid. Mini USB, now those make perfect sense and as many a PS/3 and pc kit of the mini USB era demonstrate, it’s pretty robust and should be what’s a USB port if you must use them on radio kit. Mind you, nothing beats a good old pro DIN connector or those 4 pin domino ‘DIN‘ type or in today’s context, XLR type.

As more the breaking seals aspect, it’s very much a hope/prey/take care and hopefully have the means to replace and restore sealing when in doubt. As for waterproof/immersion claims, I know if I paid money and risked testing my kit, I’d rapidly discover how BS that ratings and claims usually are.

In fact, the only kit I ever trusted to be immersion resistant was intrinsically seal stuff, because anything that hard to get at to repair is definitely protected without much doubt.

I always say, the manufacturers have a reason why they release new firmware updates. I have encountered many people who complain about issues with their radios, only to find out they don’t have current firmware. I even hesitate to help people who don’t upgrade.

Well, in my experience, the motives aren’t always end user/customer focused with some releases, and it’s the hastily rolled out ‘quick fixes’ akin to MS hotfixes and patches in the PC world, i find end up causing more grief than they solve - and given the manufacturer will blame you when complaining about untold grief it’s caused, they just hide behind the standard ongoing ‘beta’ status they employ until they can finally get it working as intended, then release a new ‘variant’ model of equipment that has the right version of the FW from factory and without hex hacking, is completely not usable on the now-superceded train-wreck item they marketed. Wait long enough and maybe, within the working lifespan of the equipment, they’ll eventually solve enough to solve the flaws which are a commercial sales liability.

That’s why, in whatever field I’m involved with, when it comes to patches, fixes and especially with FW, nothing gets my OK and recommendation to deploy until it’s got shaken and baked for at least a month on a test example of the kit it’s intended for. At least, by then, i can wholeheartedly and honestly tell customers what the true state of play is and if it’s either necessary or advisable to use based on seeing it actually behaving and not doing intermittent lapses and error/fault conditions if the wind blows in the wrong direction or the user actually dares use the USP promoted functions that sold the equipment to them.

I could write volumes about that alone, and how much grief such games caused me, let alone customers who’s lack of sense of humour could end up having you under a formal interview/interrogation by a security head when the end user’s senior staff begin to believe you are trying/conspiring to sabotage their critical comms and networking and cipher ‘boxes’. I’m so glad i am not involved any more (long time passed) with the ■■■■ of the commercial world who supply to governments, diplomatic sites and suchlike. There is no salary worth that much grief when someone else’s screw-up and lack of quality control results in that hellish existence.

3 years down the road I have a UV-88. I have been trying to update the firmware but TYT changed a few of the procedures. In these newer TYT UV-88’s you only need to hold down the PTT while powering on. The screen flashes and then steady illuminated. This radios are not compatible with prior firmware updaters. I have been emailing TYT but I think things must be getting lost in translation as I keep getting a word document detailing how to determine if you have a new radio and that the most recent firmware is version 1.60.

I was able to get the firmware itself sent, but I have been unable to get the updater software sent out. Anyone else have this issues?