Posts Tagged ‘QSL’

Congratulations to Logbook of the World

Congratulations to the ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) which just reached 100 million confirmed contacts. This is the same as an impressive 200 million QSL cards out of about 630 million uploaded contacts on LOTW.

LOTW was established way back in 2003. This was only 2 years after I got my license. Since I have never enjoyed much to fill in QSL cards I embraced LOTW very quickly. I have to say though that I will of course respond with a paper QSL for those who ask for one.

But LOTW has been my primary means of confirming contacts for a decade. My DXCC was confirmed with LOTW.

Now at the same time that LOTW is celebrating 100 millions confirmations, I am celebrating 8 bands with 100 or more contacts all confirmed via Logbook of the World. This is on all bands from 3.5 to 28 MHz. This has been my goal for many years. The last confirmation came from the TC0A contest station in Turkey on 80 m after last month’s CQ World Wide CW contest.

I consider myself lucky to have reached 100 confirmations even on the elusive 12 m band which we all know will shut down soon not reopen again until the next solar maximum in about 11 years time.

But as the saying goes “The journey is the reward“, so what to do next as a radio amateur?

Logging and datamodes with PZTLog

Organisation isn’t one of my strengths and my logging of contacts has been pretty woeful. It consisted of a spiral bound note book full of various scrawls sometimes tabulated for contests but more often than not a free form mess. With good intentions I purchased a proper RSGB Deluxe log book months ago but that has remained pristine and has just become a handy band-plan look-up!

Until recently I had only made a small number of voice QSOs on HF and had entered those manually into the online eQSL, QRZ and HRDlog logbooks I maintain.  JT65 data mode logging was handled by the JT65HF program itself and for the UKAC and other VHF contests I have been using the MINOS logging program - all in all a bit of a mishmash.

Now my operating confidence has grown I am making more contacts and so I really need to computerise and centralise my logging. After  looking at a number of programs I opted to give Charlie Davy’s (M0PZT) freeware PZTLog a try and after using it for a couple of weeks I am very impressed.

http://m0pzt.com/?pztlog

The program has a multitude of features but at the moment I am using it to simply enter and log details of contacts, combined with the CAT interface to the FT857-D and the OMNIRIG control the mode, frequency, band and power settings are automatically populated.

The really nice selling point for me was the inbuilt data mode operation. I have tried PSK and RTTY before using other programs but I often found myself confused and intimidated by the interfaces and jargon.

PZTLog uses the MMVari engine to operate PSK/RTTY and it uses a familiar waterfall display. The TX/RX window and  QSO macros are easily accessible and I found the interface much more intuitive than other programs I have used. On installation, the macros are already populated and labelled sensibly and are easily editable. By double-clicking received text you can set Callsign, Locator, RST/Serial, Name/QTH quickly and with ease.

In a short time I have made a good number of PSK QSOs as well as a some RTTY contacts, even giving some points away in the fast paced SCC RTTY contest last weekend.

Importing and exporting of logs is very easy and it has inbuilt eQSL uploading, but at the moment I am having trouble making that work reliably but that I think is me rather than the program.

PSK is a great mode, running no more than 30W, often less I have made a number of nice DX contacts and countries including Argentina, Oman, Japan and the Dominican Republic.



Thanks to Charlie’s program I now have a better understanding of how the mode and QSO works so may try some of the more sophisticated programs, or I may just stick with PZTLog for a while. Check out Charlie's page for lots more interesting information as well as some very funny light hearted audio features poking fun at the hobby.

In other news the VHF UKAC contesting is improving. Last week I made a last minute decision to lower the pole and put up my homemade wooden 6m MOXON but glad I did. Conditions weren’t good but still made a respectable number of contacts but not a lot of distance. I’ve climbed to 30th place in the 50MHz low power AL section.
Last night was the 144MHz UKAC and what a great night it was, conditions were brilliant and it was very busy on the band. Still operating search and pounce mode I snagged just 32 contacts, but with 13 multipliers giving me by best score so far on that band.  Operating in the low power AL section as M6GTG it is hard work getting through the pile ups but it was great fun trying.
Finally I became a licensed ‘foundation level’ amateur a year ago this month (M6GTG), and have since become an ‘intermediate’ (2E0NRD) and have now taken the bold step of applying to take the ‘advanced’ examination next month. I say bold because I haven’t taken a course or studied for it per se but with my background and education I have covered most of the theory even if it was over 25 years ago – with a bit of serious reading, revision and dusting off of the memory banks over the next few weeks I hope to be ready!

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?

QSL cards for TI7/K2DBK

When I returned from my operation as TI7/K2DBK in Costa Rica last summer, I didn’t receive any QSL cards immediately. I wasn’t very surprised by that, as I hadn’t worked all that many stations, Costa Rica isn’t a particularly rare entity, and I assumed that for the stations outside the US (where it’s a little less common), they’d be QSLing via the bureau or Logbook of The World. Since I had no cards that I needed to respond to, I focused my efforts on getting my operation approved for DXCC credit and getting a certificate so that I could upload the contacts to the Logbook of The World. As I wrote (here and here), that turned out to be an interesting challenge, but I was able to get that approval.

I didn’t really think about QSL cards after that until a few months ago, when I started receiving QSL requests via the ARRL DX bureau service. As I’ve written in the past, the bureau is a way to exchange QSL cards which, while inexpensive, can be quite slow, so lag of 6 or 8 months between the operation and the time to receive a card via the bureau isn’t terribly unusual. (Sometimes it can be much, much longer. I’m still receiving QSL cards via the bureau for my operation from Grand Cayman in 2007, and others for operations from home back to 2001. The bureau service itself isn’t quite that slow, but often folks like myself will discover after a few years that a particular card is needed.) When I first received those bureau cards, I realized that I had to create a QSL card but it wasn’t a high priority, as I wasn’t planning to send cards out via the bureau for at least a few months.

Things changed about a week ago when I received the first of several directly mailed QSL requests. Although it’s common to send a QSL card relatively soon after a contact, particularly if it’s sent “direct” (meaning mailed directly to the station, not via the bureau), sometimes stations will not realize until much later that they “need” the confirmation, or, as I’ve done, sometimes they simply forget at the time of the contact. Regardless of the delay, I have always made it a point to respond to direct QSL cards as soon as possible (normally I’ll send out a return card the day after I receive one). Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that because I still had the creation of the QSL card for my TI7/K2DBK on the “to do” list. The receipt of the handful of direct requests (all of which were from non-US stations) was the kick that I needed to get going designing my card.

I’ve always designed and printed my “special” cards myself, because the number of cards that I typically need is usually so small that it’s not worth it to have them professionally printed. There are a number of tools that can be used for the actual design, but for me, the hardest part is always coming up with an attractive layout. However, I’ve come up with sort of a standard that I’ve used on multiple cards, and I try to follow that now for each new one I create. I’ve followed that “standard” for the latest card, which is to use a background image shot with one or sometimes two “inserts”, along with a QSO information block. I’ve always used my own photos, not a “stock” photo, as I think it makes the card more personal. I usually include a picture of myself on the cards because I think that makes it even more personal.

When I first started printing the cards, I though that I’d use a gloss “postcard” printer stock (like this from Staples), separate the postcards (they are set up for 4 on a page that have perforations to make separation easy) and just mail them. However, I realized that the size of each card was bigger than the standard QSL card size and I had trouble fitting them in some envelopes. As a result, I wind up using a paper cutter to trim the cards down to about 5.3″ x 3.5″. Most likely the next time I buy paper stock for my printer I’ll just use plain “everyday” inkjet photo paper since it should be a bit less expensive.

With a card designed, I printed off enough copies on my inkjet printer to respond to the direct requests, and I’ll be working on responding to the bureau cards next. I think that this particular design worked out really well, and the color of the sand on the beach is light enough so that I can just use a regular pen to fill in the QSO information in the information box and it’s quite readable.

AmateurLogic.TV 33: One Jam Packed Show

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George visits the Twit.tv studios and interviews Randy Hall, K7AGE. Tommy visits the Huntsville Hamfest. Jim builds an Audio Isolation Interface. Peter shows us the DATV QSO Party.

Now that’s service

Saturday afternoon I was going through my QSO logs in preparation for a long-overdue bureau mailing. One of the things I do prior to doing a mailing is that I validate that I still need the card (sometimes I’ll get a confirmation for that band/mode from another operator, or sometimes it’ll get confirmed via Logbook of The World [LoTW] since I initially flagged it) and I also check to make sure that I’m not sending to a bureau that doesn’t exist, or sending via the bureau when I could send direct to a US manager.

In going through the log, I discovered that I had an unconfirmed QSO with Joel, V44KAI on 6m from 2009. That was my only contact with V4 on 6m so I definitely wanted to confirm it. I noticed that I had two other contacts with him (on different bands) which had been confirmed via LoTW, but not the 6m contact. Joel’s qrz.com page explain that because he sometimes encounters QRM/QRN that it’s a good idea to contact him before asking his manager, W5TFW. I emailed Joel who replied that some of his older logs were on paper and hadn’t been put into electronic form so that they could be uploaded to LoTW.

On Sunday morning I got another email from Joel who told me that he found the (valid) QSO in his logs and had emailed his manager to give him the details so that it could be uploaded to LoTW. I checked and probably within 10 minutes of my seeing that email I found that the matching QSL record was in the LoTW system, confirming V4 on 6m for me.

The reason that I wrote this is because to me this exemplifies the ham radio spirit. Joel is clearly an active ham (try a search for V44KAI on the DX-Summit search page and you’ll see what I mean) and as Joel says on his qrz.com page, his manager obviously keeps busy keeping the records up to date. The fact that both of these guys took the time to quickly respond to my question and do the work necessary to provide me with the confirmation I needed helps remind me that despite some of the less-altruistic hams floating around, there are still plenty of good guys. Thanks to both of them for that reminder.

Edit: I was asked what a “manager” is, so by way of explanation:
A manager is a person who handles someone else’s QSLing duties for them. There are all kinds of reasons to have managers, including having the manager in a country with a better mail system to reduce mail theft, or simple because the DX station handles a large volume of cards and can’t keep up with it themselves.  

A Follow-up to “New QSL card”

This is a follow-up to a post from Sunday.

On Wednesday night, Sarah handed me an envelope from the day’s mail that had the appearance of a QSL card.  I took out my knife and opened it.  It had a some sample QSL cards, along with a brochure inside.  I scratched my head for a moment and concluded that I had just received my first QSL card for a blog post.

This curious turn of events brings me around to a couple of points.  For those of you who don’t know, this blog is aggregated by AmateurRadio.com (and it is syndicated on my Facebook profile).  My agreement with the owner of AmateurRadio.com is that he provides me with visibility in return for select content from my blog.  The QSL printer who sent me the samples is one of his advertisers.  Thanks, by the way!  The cards were very beautiful and of high quality and I will consider him to print photo cards for my next DX operation.  In full-disclosure, I received nothing from the printer who printed my cards in return for mentioning them.  But, I should clarify that the blog is something I do for fun and I’m not really in the business of product endorsements.

A final point of clarification is that my beef with the available QSL cards was not so much the quality available, but amount of semi-relevant stuff hams try to cram onto the card.  I guess if 10 meters ever opened up again regularly, we might start getting asked for our “Ten-Ten” numbers again.  After listening to the V31BB clip about the secret decoder ring, I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I have one.  Strike that from the card!  The long and the short of the original post was that I wanted an uncluttered, distinctive card.  And, I think I found it.


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