The iMac: Will ham radio be the same?


Well, I took the plunge. I bought an iMac. Interestingly, it was over two months ago, but I haven’t gotten around to doing any ham radio stuff with it yet. Too busy getting the rest of it setup for the business (Cube Rules).

I’ve seen a bit of software out there for ham radio on the Mac, but I haven’t tried any of it out just yet. What I have seen looks compatible with my interfaces I already have, including Log of The World — but I haven’t tested any of it yet.

Why Apple?

Windows started to fail with the advent of the iPod. It was the first sense I had that Apple was about cool tools and not about big platforms. Windows was always about platforms, not making things work.

And work it was — I spent a great deal of time getting anti-virus software, cleaning registry software for performance, getting hard drives taken care of and chasing quirky problems that always showed up at the wrong time. Months would go by while searching Google for the Forums where someone finally came up with a solution that really worked. After searching hundreds of entries with the same problem identified as I would have — with no answers.

Usually the answer for a Windows problem was simple: reformat the hard drive. Right. Just what I want to do…

Then came the iPhone. The iPhone made it quite apparent to me that I didn’t need my Windows laptop with me when I went away except for DXpeditions and to access my business sites to enter in articles like this and doing maintenance work (which, of course, the passwords won’t export over to Windows so the K9JY site was down much of my vacation…).

Then, in a ThinkPad (I’ve always had ThinkPads here) that Kate uses started to simply lock up for no reason. First it was once or twice a day. Then it was every hour. Once it hit every hour, we made sure we had everything off the computer (I have always done backups, but when you have time to really look, you discover other stuff that needed backing up!).

Finally, the thing wouldn’t boot up at all. In the meantime, over the month this was happening, we had done everything except reinstall Windows and replace the drive. Well, once you get to that point, you have to seriously reconsider your assumptions about your platform.

And, to be fair, Kate and I decided not to go to Windows with the next computers we would get. As soon as we were ready to replace the laptops — in a couple of years — that would be that. I had no intention of going to Vista or whatever else comes up out of Microsoft. But the laptop giving up the ghost in just over a year means (to me) that everything is coming up crap — sure, Windows computers are cheap, but everything is so fragile in software and hardware components that the probability of failure is extremely high.

So, we walked into the Apple store and got an iMac. Then, two weeks after that, my laptop started having intermittent issues. Here we go. Except I went to the Apple store and bought another iMac for me. And, when we get enough dollars, we are getting two Apple Notebooks and that will be that.

And good riddance to the Windows stuff as well.

My level of stress in administering my business is much less since Apples arrived. I only have to deal with the infrastructure of the web sites and updating that software. Not updating Windows and the five thousand programs you need to really manage Windows. Not chasing after intermittent problems Windows cause that drive you crazy because all you want to do is your work, not administering Windows maintenance and troubleshooting.

Apple, of course, is not perfect. No company or software is. But the approach is quite different with Apple: a bulletproof operating system (yes, I know it isn’t bulletproof, but that is the approach…) with a set of other tools to get stuff done. It has been both more difficult to make the transition to an Apple (why, for example, does Office for Mac not look anything at all like Office 2007 and why doesn’t Microsoft offer Outlook in the package? Just mystifying…) and much easier to transition. It’s easier to transition because once you get the hang of the tools and get over that learning curve, you aren’t worried about whether or not the operating system will fail.

One of the last issues holding me back from making the transition to Apple was the fact that most ham radio software is built to run on Windows. And since I am much associated with WriteLog, even though I didn’t write the program, the whole DXpedition, contesting, writing about WriteLog becomes much more interesting.

But, all of that wasn’t enough to overcome my constant frustration with Windows and all the setup the software requires you to do to get anything to work. And, trust me, I know more about computers than your average bear. For me to get that frustrated tells you a lot about the state of the PC world.

So I’ve jumped the Windows ship and now look to do ham radio with a Mac. Any good suggestions on software to get going? I need it all — contesting, logging, Log of The World, digital modes, controlling a Yaesu FT-1000 PM and more. I’m ready to dive in.

Any suggestions?

  • Welcome to the Mac world. I’ve owned Macs of different flavors for close to 10 years, mainly for audio production/recording and music composition. I wanted to mention to you that “PC” does not have to be synonymous with “Windows.” I’ve been a Linux user (specifically, Ubuntu) for a little over two years and I certainly find it superior to Windows, and even Mac in a lot of cases. Best of all, the operating system and 99% of the applications are open-source (read: “free”). Even better of all, there are many, many Linux apps that deal with different aspects of amateur radio: rig control, logging, VoIP, packet/APRS, etc. If you feel adventurous, download a copy of Ubuntu and try it out on your ThinkPad. You might be surprised!
    73 de kd8jhc

  • Also, as you might be aware, the newer Macs will run Windows. Either with Apple’s own BootCamp software (which allows you to partition your drive to create a dual-boot setup), or with a third-party app like Parallels, which allows you to run Windows applications from within Mac OS. I run Windows XP on my MacBook, and I’ve found that my Mac is also my most stable Windows PC.
    73 de kd8jhc

  • Welcome to the Cult of Mac!

    While you asked about ham radio programs (DogParkSoftware), I’d recommend Mars Edit for your blog editing. Been using it here for years.

    Good luck!

    73 de Jeff

  • The Dog Park Software is supposed to be some of the better. MacLoggerDX and MacDopplar, are their products (each are about $95 to register). CocoaModem for digital work. I have a Mac also (older G4) but have not hooked up my rig to it yet, need a serial interface still and all my usb to serial don’t like OS10.5. If anyone knows of a good APRS software for Mac other than MacAprs (sort of runs on OSX, better on OS9), please let me know.

  • The Linux stuff is a great suggestion as we still have perfectly good hardware — just all the stuff with Windows isn’t working very well. I’m hanging on to my Windows laptop as I still need to move my ham radio log off of it over to the Mac. But, Kate’s laptop? No problem. Thanks for a great suggestion.

  • This was one of the good points when Apple went over to the Intel chips last year(?). When we get to buying laptops, I’m going to take a good look at this, especially because WriteLog runs on Windows and that’s what we use when we go on DXpeditions.

  • Tried this one and it is a good program. I’ve tried this one, but am not going to use it. It’s not where it needs to be for my on-line business work, unfortunately.

  • Dave — Dog Park Software is what I have been looking at as well as CocoaModem. It looks like MacLoggerDX will also work with microHAM interfaces — and I own two of them. Anyone with experience in this one?

  • Another wise soul crossing over from the Dark Side! 😉

    I’ve used MacLogger DX, it’s a fine program. But then I became hooked on Ham Radio Deluxe and DRM780 when I tried running it on my MacBook Pro using Parallels. Now I have an old Dell PC in the shack running XP dedicated solely to HRD/DRM780 but still use the MacBook for everything else. I intend to dump the PC for a Mac Mini at some time in the future running either Parallels or Fusion for HRD.

  • Scot, as you have found running a Mac has its advantages. Started with a Mac 512 in 1985 (why does that sound old), went to the dark side (MS) when I got back into Ham radio because of all the apps for windows.

    Shack still runs 3 Dell P4’s (Windows 2000) which I have found to be the best version for my purposes but for everyday computing tasks it is hard to beat a Mac.
    (It is like a Swiss Army knife computer…it does so many things well)

    Welcome aboard! Tom…NØAG

  • Also making the switch to Apple. Sick and tired of the “PC woes”! Wife just bought a MacPro and I inherited the G4. When I get it goinf for Ham uses, the PC will go out the window. Forgive me Darth Vader but I am leaving the dark side. Master Yoda is waiting!

  • Hi Scot,

    Welcome to green hills and sunny days 🙂

    Lots of good stuff out there for the Mac.

    MacLoggerDX is pure sexual eye candy! Don has written a very nice and stunning application. Lots of great functionality and features. The only reason it’s not my everyday logger is lack of full LOTW automation and not fond of the color coded DX spots. (both personal prefs)

    RUMlog – Another great logger, this is what I use daily. The color coded DX spots in the cluster window are perfect along with growl integration and voice spots. Additionally, Tom has written full automated support for LOTW, no manual touching of your log file, just click a menu item and let RUMlog create the TQ8 file and auto send to LOTW for you. Also getting your QSL’s from LOTW is even easier. Very nice, support for dual rigs is also a nice touch.

    Contest logging:
    Fairly limited, being a very active contester I still use N1MM for contesting only because I run SO2R. If you don’t run SO2R then use RUMped, its again very nice with multiple band maps and tons of nice features. I use it when I run single band. I also have a youtube video where I am running RUMped in CQWW CW. I have been nudging Tom to add SO2R functionality to RUMped 😉

    Hope this helps,

    73 de Lee

  • Nice story. Reminds me of the plunge the XYL and I first took 9 years ago when Windows Millennium and a Sony VIAO desktop finally did us in.

    Take a look at N3JLY produces some fine iPhone apps and Mac software and for digital RX and TX too. For a long time he was the only option for radios and Macs OS9 or X.

    73 W1/G6DHU

  • I have been able to do everything I have wanted to do with DogPatch, CocoModem, and N3JLY applications as mentioned above but I have another suggestion. Take one of your old PC and use it for radio control. If you keep IE limited to a few trusted sites and never install a mail client, I think you will find windows does much better. You probable need to install free AVG.

    I have been a mac user for over 20 years, not behind a firewall, No virus protection. Never gotten adware, spyware, malware, or a virus. I have never had to reformat my drive.

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