A Brief Rant on LoTW

If I had a dollar for every tirade I read or heard from a U.S. amateur regarding the “difficulty of setting up ARRL’s LoTW” software, I’d at least be able to buy another roofing filter for the K3.  These tirades are almost invariably qualified by the assertion that the complainer is “an IT professional.”

Personally, I find LoTW’s security simple and logical: they are simply trying to make it hard for one individual to generate a lot of untraceable certificates (to sign enough falsified logs to get on the “Honor Roll”).  And, since they optimized the database last (?) year, the processing and web interface are pretty good, too.  I kinda just followed the directions and it worked.

I don’t believe in Karma, but every time I read one of these rants by “an IT professional,” I feel a small amount of revenge has been exacted on them for all of the frustrating interactions (mercifully few, all things considered) I’ve endured with incompetent IT drones over the years…

This is the photo I wanted to headline this post, but I refuse to hotlink or copy it.  Positive, regularly-scheduled programming will return to the blog shortly, including a couple of construction projects…$50 HF triplexer, anyone?

Ethan Miller, K8GU, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Maryland, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

11 Responses to “A Brief Rant on LoTW”

  • Mike KG9DW:

    I’m with ya Ethan. And with the support in the free version of HRD, setting it up is trivial. It’s also a once and done thing. If you’re a REAL professional, ask for help. It isn’t that bad.

  • Bill AB9QU:

    I am one of those who had a awful time setting up LoTW. I did get it finally.
    I am not very computer savvy so most terms and abbreviations are like Greek to me. I take responsibility for having trouble with LoTW. My fault I don’t get it. I wish more people would use it, especially DX. I did call the ARRL for help and someone was very helpful and got me going.73

  • Paul NA8E:

    I’m an IT professional who deals with certificate issues daily.
    I personally had no problem setting up LoTW.

  • jeff n1kdo:


    I *am* a software professional, and I got LoTW set up on the first try. I just followed the directions.

    I will say that I think the implementation of LoTW is somewhat less than great — to describe it as clunky and slow would be a vast understatement.

    If you compare LoTW with ClubLog, ClubLog looks better, works better, is faster/more responsive, and provides a ton of interesting statistics. DXKeeper has instant ClubLog uploads, too, so getting QSO data into ClubLog is no-touch.

    If it was not for the fact that LoTW is the only electronic way to earn the still-prestigious DXCC awards from ARRL, I don’t think I would use LoTW at all. ClubLog is actually a better “Logbook of the World” than the ARRL’s version. LoTW is a lot better than doing the paper card thing, but it could be so much better.

    Perhaps ARRL should get the ClubLog crew to “fix” LoTW for us.

  • I’m an IT professional. I think the LOTW process could be more user-friendly, and the system in general is over-designed. There’s more authentication and security involved in uploading a LOTW QSL than there is to buy a book in the ARRL store, and that’s a money transaction. People can still forge paper cards or game the QSL manager process to get illegitimate cards and illegitimate awards.

  • k8gu:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I don’t fault folks for whom the technology is new for having difficulty with LoTW, but if you are in IT (I’m not save for a brief stint in college), this is pretty common stuff. Obviously, most of us have gotten it working without much fanfare. I just wanted to put that out with a touch of humor—the IT workforce is as diverse as the rest of us, no sleight intended.

    Sure, LoTW is over-designed technically and more than a little slow and clunky on the user side. But, I’m pleased that they actually made an effort to “do it right.” Regarding the forged cards, you can really only raise the cost of cheating so high before the entire program (ARRL awards) will collapse under the safeguards. LoTW is not far from that point… Until the credit card companies and banks decide that it’s cheaper for them to combat fraud with more security than it is to eat the losses, they aren’t going to implement it. The DXCC program suffers relatively little from people refusing to use LoTW. It might be different if one bank chose high security protocols and a bunch of customers shifted to less-secure banks.

  • Bob KK8ZZ:

    I agree that it’s over engineered and perhaps excessively heavy on protocol. But, the bottom line is ease of use to users, not just hard-core “big-gun” DXers but also the “little pistols” who might make up a substantial portion of contest QSOs with casual operating and for whom the gibbledy-gook of LOTW is such a royal pain in the posterior that they try it once, probably don’t succeed the first time or have no bleepin’ idea how it’s all supposed to work, and give up on it. I’m a user, but I don’t like it. I’d rather buy a “contest card” from ARRL and use those magic numbers to log on and up/download. As the gentleman above comments, LOTW is harder to use than financial transactions at the ARRL store, and that just shouldn’t be, guys…. YMMV… de KK8ZZ

  • Stewart VA3PID:

    LOTW is simple and elegant, but very very different from any other process in ham radio.

  • john mann kk4itn:

    I got to laugh. I am NOT an IT professional or a LOTOW or whatever ham. I am not a Ur 599 es tnx guy just a regular general class operator. Still keep a written station log and qsl cards! In fact I am still hunting Alaska and Hawaii for WAS. I love every minute of it.
    What do you guys do after you get DXCC with QRP endorcement, is there also an endorsement that says you worked 5 watts from a 100 element beam!
    Just enjoy the hobby for what it is, pure pleasure.
    Wall paper is nice, but ham radio is better. Don’t you think? Slow down and enjoy, like the man on tv says ‘life is a journey-enjoy the ride’ wake up or you’ll miss it!

  • Cliff Fox - KU4GW:

    I’ve set up LoTW on 3 different PCs and have never had any problems and it is running through HRD 5.24 just fine. I think the biggest problem is that people try to set it up without reading the instructions. Like the old saying goes, “If all else fails, read the instructions!” In response to KK4ITN John’s comment, John, after they earn DXCC and WAS, etc there’s the Worked All U.S. Counties Award. Around 4000 of them in the U.S. I believe. There are 100 in NC alone! I had a ham in the UK email me a while back that needed Alexander County to complete his Worked All U.S. Counties Award the second time around! Wow! I guess he’s done it all! I guess he can go after the Worked All Kruh Award next. Google that one! Now get on the air and have some fun! Very 73!

  • Joe KB3PHL:

    I’ve set up LOTW & didn’t seem to have any problems but of course I haven’t uploaded any of my logs to it yet, so I’ll have cross my fingers & wait to see what happens.

    Joe KB3PHL

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