Receiving PSK31, by K7AGE

In response to my Casual Operating with Complicated Software, a reader e-mailed me with a link to a You Tube video by Randy, K7AGE, that shows how to receive PSK31 signals. Now, it doesn’t address complicated or simple software, but does provide some great background on the operating mode, getting to receiving quickly, and showing the basics of how receiving works. Randy has also done many other videos on various modes (including setting up sound cards, for example). He explains all of this in easy-to-understand non-technical language. And with great shots. I should do videos as well as he does; a great service to the hobby.

Introduction to PSK31…

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Casual operating with complicated software

Last weekend I made a concerted effort to get on the air. I wanted to get on PSK31 more than I have. I think it is a great mode, fits well with my station situation and the mode can also morph into other, faster, modes like PSK125.

Without naming names, I picked up a software program that had some of these other modes on it as well as the baseline PSK31. Too cool for school, I started off trying to set up the program and that’s where all the trouble began.

Two hours later, after a single QSO, I gave up. Too complicated to set up, too complicated to operate, too many options to learn and too many buttons to digest. Just for a simple QSO.

Now, I have a whole site dedicated to WriteLog, a high-end contesting program written by W5XD (with yet another beta version out to test this weekend, to be released later to owners of the program). I’m into complicated there; it is a contesting program and I like contesting.

But when I want to try a new mode out, I don’t want all the complication. I want simplicity. I’m OK if there is only one way to have a QSO — use this five-step process and deal with it. I’m new at this mode, this software and I just want to get on the air quickly with my limited hobby time and have some fun.

Understandably, the poor programmers this is directed at also have dedicated users who want them to totally complicate their software so they can tweak every experience in a QSO. I get that.

But that forces new users of the software to learn all of the complications. And I don’t want to do that. At least just yet. I’m just trying this new mode out and want to see it play.

Can’t there be a “beginner’s mode” built into software so when we are just starting out we get the simple process, get on the air and get interested in the program?

I’m willing to learn software; I do it all the time. But I’d rather start out simple. Build it that way for me, please.

Scot, K9JY

PS Posting was light this week — it was the day job and rolling out Keeping the Castle, a training program for knowledge workers that teaches how to prepare for a layoff, deal with a layoff, and what to do if there is a layoff and you get to stay. Busy, for sure…

Presumed guilty

The Contesting Reflector has had some long threads based on a decision by a potential top ten team to not send in their logs to the CQ WW CW Contest Committee. Their reason for doing so was that the Committee, without their permission, would publish their entire log (and that of all competitors) on the Internet. The Contest Committee reasoning is that this would provide “sunshine” on the logs and help eliminate cheating (as if their log checking programs for the contest were not enough…).

The team’s arguments for not submitting the logs were that it was their log, the Committee did not have their permission to release them and it was therefore a privacy issue. In addition, there was the fear that other hams will nefariously accuse contest operators of the public logs as having cheated without any recourse from the Contest Committee, potentially ruining reputations. Or at least having to defend reputations.

After publicly stating their disagreement with the Committee decisions on the rules, but wanting to participate in the contest, the “presumed guilty of something” started in full force.

Some examples:

If there is nothing to hide and you stand behind your score then what do you have to worry about?

I guess if you are not intending to follow the rules then don’t operate or don’t submit your logs for consideration of winning an award.

I suspect there are other reasons why you don’t wish to play along with the CQ contest committee and this is just a ‘smoke screen’.

I won’t bother with the rest; you get the idea.

I’ve been concerned for a while that our hobby has become far more rules-based and exclusionary than is good for our health.

Now picture a new contester on the Contest Reflector seeing a valid reason for not turning in the logs and being attacked as if this were an offense the same level as a crime.

Or picture multiple casual contesters seeing this sort of faux outrage who have been interested in contesting, want to get more serious about it, and then have this stuff thrown in their face.

Based on the reaction of the reactionaries, I’d not submit my log either. I’d go on my nice little contest DXpedition, operate the contest and submit my log to LoTW so people can get their confirmations — without seeing my log — and call it a day.

I could care less now in my ham career about winning, but I always wanted to submit my log to help the log checkers. But, based on the reaction of the “presumed guilty” crowd and not even thinking of the merits of the reasons given for the action, I’ll pass on that. I don’t need the grief.

We used to be a “presumed innocent” hobby. What a long way we have come.

Weekend fun…

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A little weekend fun…

A tower with stacked beams and a foursquare fell in love and decided to get married.

The wedding sucked.

But the reception was INCREDIBLE.

How much do you trivialize your fellow ham?

An excerpt from one of my e-mails from a reader:

I will not forget how excited I was to work a few new countries only to be belittled at the local DX Club meeting about how common and insignificant my QSO’s were. This message coming from guys at the top of the honor role. If we want the hobby to continue well into the future we need to encourage and applaud rather than trivialize.

I would suggest that this is not an isolated instance, though not just about DX’ing and Honor Roll members. I remember the first meeting I went to at my local club — and was totally ignored. I went to the meetings four different times and almost gave up on joining a club — a club that I went on to be President of later in my ham career.

The strength of our hobby is the diversity of activities that we can do as part of the hobby. Whether it is public service policy, digital modes, contesting or DX’ing, we can learn something new, become an expert in that area, get bored and move on to learning something new — all in the same hobby.

Yet, too often, the experts in that sub-segment of the hobby trivialize where that person is at, trying to learn a new area of the hobby, with their learning curve. I’ve seen it in DX’ing, contesting — and even heard quite often that you won’t be a “real” ham until you learn Morse Code. Right.

And I’m not being purist here; I’ve done this type of trivialization over the course of my 24-year ham career.

This behavior does not encourage people to join our hobby. We intentionally or unintentionally become exclusionary. We don’t, as my reader notes in the e-mail, “applaud” the accomplishment.

My first contact as a ham was on Morse Code with a ham in California. I don’t remember the call. But I remember the event. As a teenager, I had worked long and hard to get a radio, antenna and accessories to get to the point of getting on the air. All the magazines I read said the most important thing to do was get on the air and start making contacts. So I did. When I first heard my call coming back to me out of the ether, I was pumped. And nervous. The ham was most gracious on being part of my first contact.

Yet, imagine that same contact where the ham would have instead trivialized what I had done. First contacts are nothing…wait until you get to 10,000. Your Morse Code is crappy…didn’t you learn how to send?

Makes you want to crawl into a hole and die. Or, at least sheepishly walk away from the hobby. Or, tell the person to get a life and tell them to shove it and then walk away from the hobby.

Yet, we callously condemn fellow hams who came in the hobby with a no-code license as not being “real hams.” Or trivialize working Germany (the first ham radio contact I ever heard was with a US ham using Morse Code to talk to a ham in Germany — and I was astonished at the thought as a non-ham) as being “garden-variety” DX. Or condemn fellow contesters for not knowing the exchange.

When you are learning something new, no one is perfect. And to berate someone for their imperfection trivializes the work they are doing to become proficient at what they are doing in the hobby. We should be teaching and applauding the effort because life is about learning.

As my Elmer once told me, “every country is hard to get until you work and confirm¬† it. Then, of course, it’s a piece of cake.”

Are you trivializing the work of fellow hams?

Yesterday, I threw out all my QSL cards

QSL CardsThousands and thousands of them.

They were taking up way too much space and energy just sitting there in their pretty little files, all sorted by countries in order by prefix. Prefixes that keep on changing as the world changes.

There was a time when I chased DX and I used the cards to get my DX awards. The awards that now sit in a desk drawer somewhere; I don’t remember where. But since Kate and I are going through the house — all of the house — and getting rid of that which is no longer important, the awards will go out too.

That isn’t something that is derogatory to DXer’s, by the way. Chasing DX is a wonderful aspect to this hobby and one that consistently draws in new members to our fraternity. But I don’t chase DX anymore. I haven’t for years. And years.

That doesn’t mean I won’t answer QSL cards; I have plenty of those sitting on the shelf for direct cards and a nice account at Global QSL for the bureau cards.

But one of the practices we need to have in this hobby is to stop considering the past as present and retelling the stories of what happened 20-years ago (or a story from 50 years ago I was told yet again last night) like it was yesterday. And still relevant. Mostly, it isn’t relevant. We need to look forward to opportunities and not the past to cling to the status quo.

We’ve changed. The world has shifted under our feet and the past is no guarantee of future success. The hobby needs to change. It is time we got rid of all that dusty stuff that represents holding on to the past so we can build the future.

I started with my QSL cards.