Dec 28, 2017

Logging Software

Chasing HF contacts without a radio log is sort of like playing a game and not keeping score. It's all fun just playing, but it sure is nice to look back and see all the countries and QSO's you made!

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to check out several software-based radio logs and tools. Through time and use, many I have deleted or no longer use, but a few programs have risen to the top of my list and are being used simultaneously, for comparison. The three on the top of my list, alphabetically, are Ham Radio Deluxe, HamLog CloudLog, and Log4OM. Links to each website are in the Ham Web Links in the right sidebar.

Ham Radio Deluxe
Ham Radio Deluxe is, well, very deluxe. It has more features than I have equipment, and it seems to perform all of it's capabilities very well. HRD brings together functions such as ADIF format log upload and download on QRZ, LoTW, and eQSL, a huge list of DX spotters to pick from, QSO mapping, sat tracking, rotator control, digital HF, available online log, and a few other goodies. I've been using HRD for about 7 years now, and it keeps getting better.

HRD Log screen
HRD Radio screen
HRD Sat Tracking screen
As you can see, HRD has very detailed screens and really good functionality. My hesitation comes with redundancy of functions, the cumbersome feeling with multiple windows, and too many buttons that perform the same functions.

It's hard to do all things well, especially when there are businesses that shine with their more singular areas of expertise. Do I need to have all the functions of my radio available on the computer screen? Not me. I just want my radio to "go there" when I find "the spot" I have been chasing. My take-away is this. With the depth and quality found in HRD, I'm sure they will continue to grow and improve for a long time to come.

Recently I began using Log4OM, another well integrated log and control program that retains visual simplicity, yet has so much going on behinds the scenes. So far, I am very impressed.

Log4OM has all the same online functions of HRD, and then some, plus and it links with for online log publishing on the website, or on your own.

Log4OM Recent QSO (log) screen
The various functions of Log4OM are well integrated. From call sign lookup or clicking on a spot or cluster line, all available data fields auto-populate for the potential QSO log entry. The station's gridsquare location and signal path also plot on the program's QSO Information map. To view any or all of your QSO's, Log4OM links to Google Earth and exports a KML file to plot and save all your QSO's grid locations to Google Earth.

Log4OM QSO Information (map) screen
Log4OM Cluster screen
This program is sophisticated, easy to use, and very easy to look at. The main input area always remains in view, while five tabs under the input area show the various info indicated in the pictures above. Super easy, yet doesn't look or function like an old Windows program from a bygone era. There are numerous videos for the beginner, to advanced user, on setup and use of Log4OM on the Terry Genes YouTube channel.

While searching for a radio log app designed for use on a Chromebook or Android tablet, I came across a cloud-based log system designed for use on these, or any platform. Now before you get all started on Chromebooks, let me ask, when was the last time you used a Chromebook? How about a new one? And what OS do I use to publish this blog? And what OS do I use for everything but?Yup, my new Asus C213S Chromebook, and I love it!

Cloud-based systems don't do heavy-lift computing on the user end of things like the PC database systems we are used to. Instead, they function as a workstation and relay data to an off-site server to be stored and retrieved. This can work for the amateur radio operator on a Chromebook just as easily as with a PC. All you need is an internet connection, or the format to temporarily store data while off-line. It's no different than running a call sign search on right now. In fact, it's exactly the same thing.

HamLog CloudLog
Thanks to the people at HamLog CloudLog, we take yet another step into the new era of amateur radio and computing. While still very basic - in logging software standards - HamLog CloudLog is a very efficient system that can run on any OS right now. And with the Android app, field days can be engaged with just an HT and smartphone/tablet. Awesome! What in the world is coming next?

HamLog CloudLog Log screen
HamLog CloudLog Tools screen
HamLog CloudLog Prefs screen
On the Android side of things, below are screenshots of some of the HamLog CloudLog Android app.

HamLog CloudLog Android App log screen
HamLog CloudLog Android App QSO entry screen
HamLog CloudLog Android App tools screen 1
HamLog CloudLog Android App tools screen 2
So there are some brief comments about three - or, really four - ham logs among the somewhat crowded field. In my opinion, and as far as I have researched, these are my top picks for really good radio logging software and systems that will continue to gain in popularity and function. Take your pick. They are all very nice!


Dec 12, 2017

Into the Future

As we get settled in to our new QTH, I find myself contemplating where and how I should set up my BWD-90 folded dipole antenna. Factors like the thick woods and metal 12/12 roof on our home, and the 55' tower behind it, makes finding a clear 110 feet not so easy. But wait, there may be an easy answer to this problem, like maybe the GAP Titan DX vertical antenna. As it goes, this was enough to open the box and look at other possibilities. Maybe its time to look at digital amateur radio.

Long story short, a new GAP Titan DX is in the garage just waiting to talk to the world, and for the last couple days, I have been collecting data and programming the new Yaesu FT-991A and FTM-400XDR with all of the Wisconsin repeaters, now including digital and System Fusion repeaters. On the to-do list, need to get the Titan DX up and install the FTM-400XDR in the Jeep.

So far, I can say I am impressed with the YSF digital signal. I was listening to the Milwaukee W9RH YSF repeater last night and it was exceptionally clear and strong, and that repeater is just 20 watts. I can hardly wait to get on the air and try it out for myself. It would be nice to see more YSF repeaters out there with their dual analog/digital capability modes.

Dec 6, 2017

Dusting off the HF

Yesterday I went down in the basement and retrieved the box containing my HF rig and paraphernalia. I brought the box up to my desk and took a look inside. After a few minutes, I closed the box and pushed it under my desk.

This morning, I decided to stop putting it off and get my HF stuff set up again. About two hours later, I had it all done. And there I sat, with no HF antenna up yet, I realized I may have wasted my morning. Before giving up, I decided to connect the 2M/440 antenna and make sure that worked. It didn't take long until I realized something wasn't working right.

I refreshed my memory by cruising through parts of the user's manual. Yup... Okay... Check. Still not sure, I downloaded the programming data from the radio so I could take a look at it. Yup... Okay... Nope. Doesn't look right. I imported updated repeater data to the RT Systems software, and then uploaded it to the radio. So, to make a long story shorter, the HF stuff is back in the box.

Not like it was a totally wasted day though. I took this opportunity to dust off my FT-7900, re-program it with my new data set, and got it up and running. Awesome!