Tools

The Tools menu gives the ham radio contest operator great flexibility for using the software program and computer hardware to help make ham radio contesting easier. The Tools section looks at:

  • Sound Board Setup
  • Wave File Compression
  • Recover Window Layout
  • Preset Exchange from ADI File

Sound Board Setup
At this point, it is a very good idea to mute all of the sound channels on your PC except Volume Control. Use your PC-supplied mixer control.

Next, if you selected Sound Board as your equipment for DVK or want to record the contest, you will need to configure the sound board parameters and set the levels for transmitting with the Sound Card. Sound board parameters are found under the ‘Tools’ section of the WriteLog tool bar as shown below:

Tools Sound Board Options Dialog Box

Clicking on the selection produces the following dialog box:

Tools Sound Board Setup

Several options appear here:

Enable Recording Loop. Check this to enable the sound card to send and receive signals.

Echo Microphone. Check this in SSB contests to enable the sound card to send WAV files from function keys. Using WriteLog in RTTY mode automatically disables this feature.

Pause recording loop during SSB Wave Xmit. If your sound board does not support simultaneous playback and record (duplex), then you need to check the button on for SSB operation. If you do an Setup|Save Configuration after setting this button, then this option will automatically be checked every time WriteLog starts. If you set this button off and your sound board doesn’t support duplex, then you will get an error message whenever you try to transmit a WAV file in the SSB mode.

Continuously Record Audio to file. Turning on this menu selection causes WriteLog to record all received audio to disk. It does not stop until your disk is full, so you have to watch your disk space (I will either write the audio to a CD ROM or delete the wave files before the next ham radio contest). WriteLog automatically turns this selection off if it fails to be able to write output (that is, if your disk is full). This setting is saved when you do a Setup|Save Configuration, so if you want WriteLog to automatically start recording every time WriteLog is started, then check this menu item and do a Setup|Save Configuration. I turn this option on about five minutes before the contest starts.

Enable Compression. You can set WriteLog’s sound recording to compress the audio as it is being written to disk. This will make the WAV files smaller (they are about 160MB per hour without compression), but may also limit the ability for Audio Review to analyze them. You select the type of compression by clicking on the ‘Select WAV File compression’ button.

Now, make sure that the levels of your sound card match the level you want for receiving and transmitting on your rig. This is a bit of experimentation for each ham radio contest and mode of operation. Basically, move the sliders for the volume control using WriteLog’s Sound Board program. Adjust for both sending and receiving. Make sure your message sending levels in SSB match your voice sending (power out) with just using the microphone. And make sure you are not over driving when using AFSK in RTTY or in PSK. Here’s a screen print for reference:

WriteLog Sound Mixer Control

Setting up Sound cards to perform WriteLog functions provides an effective, inexpensive way to work a variety of ham radio contest modes. But setting up the sound card is not as simple as it looks because of the very diverse capabilities of sound cards, especially considering that they were not programmed for ham radio, but for other uses on the PC.

Wave File Compression

Wave File Compression is used to minimize the amount of disk space used in recording the contest on a PC. As noted just above, without compression, the recording uses about 160MB of storage per hour of the contest, quite a bit for a 48 hour ham radio contest! So the issue becomes minimizing the amount of storage while maximizing the audio recorded so that one can review questionable calls and exchanges after the contest is finished.

Here is what I use for compression – one that fully supports SSB and also CW and RTTY. It will also allow you to record the entire 48-hour ham radio contest on your disk drive and also allow you to write it to a single CD ROM so that you can preserve the ham radio contest while freeing up your disk space for the next contest.

You should have compression that is a minimum of twice the bandwidth of the signal. The best option, and one that has been highly successful for me, is to use Windows Media Player (7.1 and up) as the compression program. This is not standard on your PC, so select ‘Windows Update’ from your Start button and go on the Internet. When you are done with your Windows Update, you will see the option of downloading Windows Media Player. Go ahead and do so – it will take some time as it’s a pretty big file.

Once downloaded and installed, click on the ‘Select WAV File compression’ button as shown above. This will produce the following dialog box (please note that in Windows 2000, Windows NT and XP, that this shows as ‘0 KB/s’ due to how the operating system rounds the file size):

Compression Generic

This will not be how yours looks initially. Click on the ‘Format’ down arrow until you find MP3 or MPEG Layer-3. This is the option that is now available to you after you installed Windows Media Player – it would not be there if you had not downloaded and installed the file. Then click on the ‘Attributes’ arrow and select the ‘8 kBit/s, 11,025 Hz, Mono’ option. This is the SSB WAV file compression setting. See the ‘Save As’ button? Click on it and save it as ‘SSB.’ This will give you the following dialog box:

Compression SSB

For CW, do the same thing and save the file as CW. The bandwidth ‘Attribute’ changes for CW, so it will look like this:

Compression CW

Once you have done the ‘Save As’ routine for both SSB and CW (use the CW setting for RTTY and PSK), click on the down arrow under ‘name’ and just select the type of compression needed for your contest of the moment (SSB for an SSB contest, etc.).

This type of compression is very good for both SSB and CW with very near perfect readability on the playback.

NOTE: if you have two radios using one sound card, you need to select a Stereo Option for the Attribute. The key ingredient is the ‘Hz’ selection. For example, a stereo setting for two radios on CW would still be 8,000 Hz, but would look like:

Compression Stereo

Some caveats:

The only format that preserves the exact sound that was used in real time is PCM 16bit, 11.025KHz stereo. This is the format used when you turn off the ‘Enable Compression’ box.

You may select a monophonic format for the WAV file. WriteLog will continue to run in stereo for CW and RTTY decoding, SSB transmission, etc., if you choose a mono option, but the WAV file will have only a single channel of audio and it will be the left and right stereo channels mixed.

Recover Window Layout

WriteLog allows you to use a window layout from a previous ham radio contest. For example, use the window layout from last year’s ham radio contest knowing by the end of the contest you had your layout down cold. To do so, click on ‘Recover Window Layout’ as shown below:

Tools Recover Window Layout

After clicking, you will receive a standard Windows dialog box as if you were opening a file. Navigate to the contest file to copy the window layout you desire. Once selected, click OK and WriteLog will open your file with the new window layout. This must be done BEFORE saving your new contest file and logging any QSO’s.

Preset Exchange From ADI File

WriteLog allows you to use a previous ham radio contest log to load in previously worked calls and exchanges in the current contest. For example, loading in a previous Sweepstakes ham radio contest will cause all of the calls you worked and their exchanges to default into the Log Window. Your Check Call Partial window will also show the calls from the previous log to show up front in the list as the feature assumes that they are likely to be in this contest as well.

In the tools menu, the option is here:

Tools Preset Exchange from ADI File

Selecting this option will provide you a standard Windows dialog box. Navigate to the ADI file, select it, and you’re done.

Note: You must export a standard WriteLog file (a .wl extension) to an ADI file (an .adi extension).