Friday, 24 December 2010

Ok so onto a slightly contentious issue/ Log books. Taking the legality aside for a moment, i enjoy keeping a log. It’s a great record of achievement, and already with only 400ish contacts in my logbook, I find it great to look back and remind yourself when in the past conditions were great and all you had was a damp piece of string.

 I use Ham Radio Deluxe coupled with my FT-2000, and that suits me fine. I use eQSL for all electronic (Planet saving) QSL cards, and the QSL manager for all the “important” or “rare” contacts I make.

 So what’s the problem ?

 To be honest it’s not so much a problem but more a duplication of effort. I now find myself having to support 3 log file systems to ensure I get the all important QSL confirmation. This may not seem so important, but for me I love chasing that DX, and enjoy the confirmation of the QSO. So to keep up to speed I have to support QRZ new logbook facility, HRD Log and the in built Log book on HRD.

So let’s look at each one in isolation and see where the real problem is. But first a word about LoTW.

LoTW (Logbook of the world)

I have no interest in using this logbook. And why should I? HRD / eQSL does all I need. Except there is a long running debate that tests the legality of sending electronic QSL cards like those sent from eQSL. In fact I’ve noticed 2 camps of operator. Pro eQSL, or Pro LoTW. Rarely do I see the 2 systems supported by any operator. So my choice is set. However am I missing a trick here? Should I support LoTW ? at the end of the day its only available to ARRL members ?

QRZ Log book

Everyone uses QRZ to look up call signs right? Well I certainly do. HRD does this automatically and its great. QRZ recently introduced a logbook facility to capture the market that use the site for call look ups. Although completely web based, it does not interact with any software (yet), so its a separate set of data that I need to keep up to date. But why would i use it ? I have noticed many hams uploading their existing logbooks to QRZ and i am no different. But it is a massive duplication of information. I am maintaining separately 2 systems.

So for now the solution is simple, every month I take a extract (ADIF) and load it into the QRZ system. It’s an admin pain, and 1 that could be easily removed if they look to the next active log book.

HRD logbook

It’s a web only system that automatically updates itself when you switch on HRD. It’s great, as I have an online carbon copy of my logbook, and needs no maintenance, or administration. It’s even better because it allows other hams to connect to me via Facebook or Twitter. The system also allows me to keep a back up of my log book. This is exactly what i need. If anything ever goes wrong with my logbook back at the shack, I know I can recover from it.

And finally

I bought an iPad last year, and I have been looking for a DX cluster system that I can use on the iPad when I’m out and about using portable radio. I found an application on the app store called DX hunter. It alerts you to new openings on chosen bands, modes and regions. It can also filter the results based on whether you have worked / not worked that country. And guess what. They require you to upload a log..... but in the application itself, it does not allow you to input the information fully. This if you were able to, would be great. I could go out portable working. Fill in the logbook, and home download the entries i have added and merge all 3 systems, but it doesn’t !

So what is my conclusion to all this.

Well if you do keep a log, and in the UK its not required (unless asked by OfCom) . way up the options of various logbooks. I used the first thing that was available to me, and really haven’t looked back. I have no doubt that soon a clever person will think up a way of merging all online logbooks, and share the data between themselves. But until then, I’ll just keep plodding on.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

CW the hard way...

And i thought Morse was hard enough. This is simply amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this but Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, attempts to cross the Atlantic on 20m using his voice powered New England Code Talker transmitter with a whopping 15 milliwatt output signal during the 2009 Rexpedition with W1REX, W1PID and AA1MY.

Morse code class

With all my education now over and done with it is time to move on and learn a new skill. Morse code has always interested me, and I see now that it’s the new “cool” in UK, with many hams, old and new alike commenting on and undertaking this fascinating segment to the hobby. My good friend John (M0JZK) is always using CW as his primary mode, and has often tried to talk me into getting started.

And so John wins. With 13 others we managed to get a new course running in Bath. Run by Steve (G0FUW) who also runs the fantastic Bath Buildathon we started in September 2010 and took us each through the letters of the alphabet using the great software form G4FON, and utilising the Koch method. It worked great each week we added up to 4 extra letters including some punctuation. The aim was simple: To get the Morse proficiency certificate now issued by the RSGB by the end of the course.

To do this we needed a good CW operator, and someone who was willing to be our assessor. Robin (G3TKF) came to our rescue and along with Steve they took each one of us through the alphabet, and increased the speed accordingly. It wasn’t easy, and some of us fell off quite quickly and others hung in there, but in the end 5 of us managed to pass the 5 WPM examination, and receive a great certificate for our achievement. A couple of us also tried the faster 12WPM examination. With moderate success 1 managed to pass that examination too.

As a reward from the Mrs, she bought me the fantastic Begali Opal key for my birthday, I brought it into the class for a couple of occasions where it was duly stroked, fondled and played with. And someone who will remain anonymous even went back for seconds!!!