Run for the Bacon Contest

Well, in the best tongue-in-cheek fashion, the boys and girls over at the Flying Pigs QRP Club have come up with the best-named contest ever — Run for the Bacon.

CW Only on suggested frequencies, they are calling it “Pignacious” fun. I’d agree.

When you run a ham radio contest Emeril could love (“Pork Fat Rules”), how could you miss?

Be Amateur Radio Active this weekend.

Scot, K9JY

CQ-M 2007

Beam-up-down towerThe CQ-M contest was this past weekend. Did you participate?

I didn’t, but one of my fondest radio memories was participating in this contest. It was one of those weekends where I was really into the flow of the contest.

It was one of those sunny, clear days where the beam was pointed straight north, the CW was music to my ears and conversations in my head, and the rest of the world’s worries fell away for a while.

Oh — and I worked about 700 stations in the contest time frame.

The radio, beam, CW, propagation and sending the worries of the world away for a while. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Scot, K9JY

Six Meter Spring Sprint — How was your running?

World BackgroundThis past weekend was the Six Meter Spring Sprint contest and there was a fair amount of commentary on it some of the e-mail reflectors I read.

I’ve never operated six meters.

When I was in Costa Rica in February, TI5KD waxed eloquently about six meters. Short path, long path, weird openings, and the seasonality of the band.

It was pretty interesting, but the thing that put me off on working it was that six meters is a band where you have to be listening all the time. All the time, because the openings are often short. So, if you are in the car, have a six meter radio going. If you are working in the shop, have a radio with you to listen while you work.

Fun — but complete dedication and I’m not able to do that.

How about you? Have you worked six meters? Just contesting or DXing?

Scot, K9JY

Software Maintenance Fees

WriteLogEvery once in a blue moon, someone goes on an e-mail reflector somewhere and complains about the cost of the subscription or maintenance fees associated with a program. That event happened over the weekend on the WriteLog reflector.

It’s really about the perception of value to the user paying the maintenance dollars against the use of the program. If you think you get value for it, you pay. If you don’t think you are getting value out of the program, you don’t.

I go through this same value proposition all the time when it comes time to renew my anti-virus subscription, my anti-spyware subscription, my ARRL membership fee, my AAA membership, when I fill up my car with gas, when I consider going to Visalia or Dayton, when I renew my membership in a radio club, when I decide whether or not to support Field Day, when I put a dollar in a QSL card to get a return card, and on and on.

Ham radio software is a bit different from the rest of the software world, though. The difference is that I don’t know of anyone who ever retired wealthy by writing ham radio programs.

Almost all of the programmers of ham radio software have day jobs so they can feed their families and themselves. They have to work the corporate game or stay self-employed. The radio stuff, like all of us, is done because we can use our skills, enjoy our hobby and help out the ham radio community.

I get no dollars from anyone for maintaining the WriteLog users site and yet it costs dollars every month for the domain name, the web hosting, and the dollar investment associated with purchasing and maintaining the software I use for the site. Not to mention my time. I obviously get other things of value to me from the site, one of which is providing a service to my fellow ham radio operators.

But, one of the things that happens when I receive no dollars for the site is that the updating and maintenance of the site slide compared to other things that I do to earn a living.

And if I got $10 for every hit on the site, I’d be making more than a pretty penny — and I’d be logically more incented to keep the site right up to date with the latest releases of WriteLog.

To be fair, I’m way far behind on my updates and I’m in the process of fixing that as I write this.

But paying thousands (and for many — more thousands) of dollars on radios and antennas, plus making pilgrimages to far away Hamventions every year, and then complaining about the maintenance fee for a program that’s used for every contest…well, that’s why we all get to decide the value proposition to ourselves when we renew, isn’t it?

Scot, K9JY

Criteria for Moving K9JY WriteLog Site

WriteLog Home PageFor a long time, I’ve wanted to move the K9JY WriteLog site to a different software platform. Since it’s inception, I’ve used FrontPage to build the site.

The main reason I selected FrontPage originally was that I did not want to learn HTML code and FrontPage was one of the few programs out there that allowed me to build stuff out using what are now called widgets.

The problem with Front Page is that every time I update pages on WriteLog, I almost have to relearn the program all over again. The big things are not hard — but there are a lot of subtle things in a web page and subtle things, like timing in a DX pileup, take time to learn. Time I really don’t have.

Blogging software, as you see here, have widgets and modules. They are relatively easy to update. And, you can change the template that contains the content all you want (something I am prone to do…) without impacting the content.

Since I maintain three blogs, I have a lot more experience that is consistently applied using the software that maintains this site.

So I’m planning to move the WriteLog site over to blog software. It will still look like the WriteLog site does now (this template has three columns with the narrow ones on the right; I want three columns but narrow-wide-narrow as the format).

But there is a lot of arranging, making sure all the links work, and all of that kind of stuff before flipping the switch.

I’ll be starting that move on the weekend. Essentially, I’ll do all of the moving, validation, and testing, then move the site on one night through changing the pointers. And announce it on the WriteLog reflector.

A lot of work. But, the payoff is easier maintenance — and updates that are done a lot more often because doing the updates is a lot easier for me. That should make it better for the readers of the site; that’s the whole idea behind the site anyway.

That’s the plan. Now, build out the steps and go on to implementation…

Scot, K9JY

Update on TI5 QSL Cards

TI QuadJust a quick update today to let you all know that all of the direct TI5/K9JY QSL cards are in the mail. I have very few bureau cards so far for TI5, but still have quite a few VP9/K9JY cards with the new batch just in from the W9 Bureau.

I’ll be working on those next.

Scot, K9JY

Update on VP9 QSL Cards

VP9-K9JY QSLFinally, after way too long, I’ve gotten caught up on the direct cards and those from the WF5E DX-QSL service for VP9. All of the stamped envelopes are in the mail and the ones needing air mail stamps will be in the mail tomorrow. I’m stopping at the Post Office during my lunch hour to get the stamps and get them in the mail.

Thanks for the patience…

Now, on to the TI5 cards.

Scot

The Wine, The Laptop, and Other Things.

keyboard lights 228172 lI’m in a musical mode tonight with listening to Celtic Women and thinking about Scarborough Reef (“Are you going to Scarborough Fair…”).

In honor of Rain, the Park and Other Things by the Cowsills (OK, so that really dates me…), I’ll offer up the true story of wine, the laptop, and other things.

As I grandly posted, this weekend I was able to finally get the logging program lined up, all the logs moved over to it, and having the LOTW information all updated with ARRL.

It was on to QSL’s and web sites.

In just moving into the new house, I’m still making some tweaks. One of the tweaks here in the laundry room, where my grandmother’s desk and wireless laptops are located (the one in the picture taken at TI5) was to add a lamp so that I didn’t just have to use the overhead light.

In a brief moment in time, everything changed. After plugging in the lamp, I reached up on the desk to help myself up from plugging in stuff on the floor — and squarely knocked my glass of wine over directly into the keyboard of my laptop. My laptop that has all of the newly minted log information from which I was to start writing the QSL’s.

Ouch.

Not to worry much — I had everything backed up. But, there was not much to restore the information to. And spending another couple grand on another laptop was just painful. Because it is less than a year old. My old laptop? Replace it in a heartbeat. But not this one (a Lenovo T60, for those who are curious).

So I immediately screamed for help from my (X)YL who brought in rags while I frantically turned off the still powered on laptop and started to wipe the wine off from the keyboard and computer.

After finally getting all of it done on the surface, I then placed the laptop on it’s side — and was rewarded by wine running out of the open holes.

Ouch.

The next day, I removed all of the rags and noticed all of the wine stains from where the wine ran out of the laptop (it was a full glass, too…).

It was the moment of truth. On goes the laptop. And nothing happens. No screen lights up. No hard disk runs. Nothing.

I then start to remove all of the screws in the back so as to remove the keyboard to get into the inner part of the PC. Once removed, I take a damp cloth and wipe down everything I can.

Carefully re-installing the keyboard, battery, and covers, I try the power again. Nothing.

Ouch.

Finally, as a last resort (with Computer Discount Warehouse’ number in hand), I pull all of it apart again. I thought I would push down the power button below the keyboard, but in lifting the keyboard off the rest of the laptop, I don’t see one. On a whim, I push the ON button on the keyboard separated from the rest of the laptop by an electronic ribbon…and the laptop starts up.

The screen lights up. The disk drive goes. The user ID’s are posted and moving along. I’m not moving a thing.

I carefully reinstall the keyboard and covers, shut down the PC normally, and then try the on button again. Success; the PC boots up like normal.

I leave the PC on the entire day and all of the night. If it is going to fail, now would be the time.

It doesn’t.

This post is written on the laptop. It’s still going strong. Somewhere, deep within the laptop, wine still rules. I’m expecting a little bit of drunkenness from the operations of the laptop, but I’m chalking it up to something where the wine penetrates the nano wiring of the laptop. It won’t take much to make electrons happy drunk.

But I’m a happy camper. The laptop rocks. And backups rule.

Scot, K9JY

Log Program Criteria

logging programOver the years, my interests in ham radio have changed — and that is one of the great things about the hobby. Early in my ham radio practice, I was a rag chewer. Then I became interested in DX and chasing country totals. Then I became interested in packet when PacketCluster first came into being and was part of a Midwest network as NB9C. Then came contesting. Then going out on DXpeditions. Now I’m looking at portable operations.

Over all of this time, I’ve had a fairly complex logging program. Since I’ve started doing computers, I’ve only had two different logging programs — very fortunate, in my opinion.

But my current logging program was far too complicated for the amount that I used it.

I haven’t submitted cards for DXCC for years. I don’t track 9,000 other awards. I don’t run my radio much with my logging program. I don’t do other modes with my logging program like RTTY, PSK, or CW.

The biggest thing, though, was that when I went to use the program, I couldn’t intuitively figure out what to do to start the stuff I wanted done. And since I use a ton of programs, I’m pretty good at figuring out how stuff works pretty fast.

So earlier this year, with an upcoming DXpedition in mind, I decided to change my logging program. Absolutely nothing against my current logging program — I’d still recommend it highly to most anyone. But, for me, the increasing feature set simply made it too complicated for what I was doing with radio.

In my search, I evaluated programs based upon the following criteria:

  • Seeing the log and the QSO at the same time. I didn’t want to look across a row in a database to see all of my QSO information with a particular station. I wanted it presented in a form that made sense.
  • Easy import and export. I do almost all of my radio work using WriteLog. Contesting or not, everything is ready to go for the modes I use. Essentially, I need to be able to export WriteLog files to my logging program.
  • Complete LOTW compatibility. Not every ham in the world can have a PC and internet connectivity enabling Log of The World uploads. But a huge majority can and that’s what I’d like to promote using for QSLing.
  • Easy tracking of QSL status. I want an easy way to update when I send out a QSL in response to a receipt from a fellow ham who is not using LOTW.
  • Decent support. Mostly determined by how long the program has been around and the updates to it. That is a bit subjective on my part, but that’s OK.

Pretty simple, huh?

The point isn’t that you should go and use this criteria for getting your logging program. The point is that everyone’s work in radio is different. You should evaluate your tools based upon your radio work and establish your own criteria for selecting programs.

Scot, K9JY

Progress on Logs

stationright.jpgThis weekend, I spent a decent amount of time on my logs, logging program, and Log of The World stuff. The end objective was to move all of my logging from my desktop computer to my relatively new laptop computer. And, at the same time, move from one logging program to another.

Success. There are a few impacts from this:

  • TI QSL’s. Since the first part of March, I’ve had QSL’s from my trip to TI coming in and I haven’t answered any of them. I knew I wasn’t going to use my current logging program for tracking, but I didn’t want to send out cards just from the WriteLog log alone as I want to track my replies. (Log of The World for TI went up the weekend after I got home — the fastest way to get a confirmation).
  • VP9 QSL’s. I still have cards to do for the September, 2005, VP9 trip. Just this past Thursday, I received another batch from the great W9 bureau guys to process. I’ve been sitting on VP9 cards for a bit because of this logging conundrum. The Bermuda logs were also uploaded within a week of getting home as well, so this is still the fastest and best way to get a confirmation.

One of the discoveries I made was that I had not submitted my Log of The World contacts for the NB9C and KA9QVD calls that I have held. I had thought that I had all of them into the database, but it turned out that I only had the K9JY calls uploaded. Most, if not the vast majority, of my DX work was done with the NB9C call, so I wanted to have that up in the database.

How did I discover this? Trying to find the ADI files to import into the new logging program!

So all of this is now settled: all of my logs are up in Log of The World, all of my log is transitioned to the new logging program, and I’m now set to get moving on the QSL cards, for which people have been patient.

Scot