Station News

December 14th 2010: Had my first V4 protocol QSOs today. Interesting software by Rick, KN6KB.

December 13th 2010: Had my first meteor scatter contact today using WSJT and the Geminids. Pretty amazing software. More than once I heard nothing through the radio's audio, yet I had a blip on the waterfall and perfectly decoded text on the screen.

June 21st 2010: HRD Utilities 1.x and 1.5x have been updated to fix two issues: 1) The path to TQSL.exe was not being saved on Vista/Win7. 2) Downloading data did not work on some Vista/Win7 systems. Download from the software page.

June 18th 2010: HRD Utilities 1.x and 1.5x have been updated to support eQSL records that have multi-line comments attached to them. Most users will probably not notice any difference, but the updates will help some users who have had trouble downloading all their eQSL cards. Download from the software page.

June 4th 2010: To err is human. Operating mistakes are going to happen. But the operating practices found during DX pileups have, in my judgment, gone from poor to bad. I contacted some folks up and down the chain of the ARRL in 2008 about this and one wrote in response,

"I think the self-policing already is rather healthy in DXing."

One ARRL Director, after dressing me down on how to properly operate a pileup, wrote,

"I think you are being too harsh in attributing sinister motives to imperfect operating and occasional foul-ups by possibly tired operators."

Unfortunately, the examples I provided were not "imperfect operating and occasional foul-ups by possibly tired operators". One of the examples I gave was of an American Extra class DXCC Honor Roll operator who kept calling a DXpedition while they repeatedly said "EU PSE EU PSE". This went on for at least 20-30 minutes. This operator is not that far north of me and the DXpedition signal was booming in on 40 meters in the evening local time, so I know he was hearing them fine, and it is unlikely he was up past his bed time since this was evening time, not night. He was a bad operator. A paper chaser who didn't care how he got his wallpaper. Why did he stop calling the DXpedition at that point? Someone posted his callsign to a DX cluster asking him if he knew what "EU" meant. I guess being on the Honor Roll, he was finally able to figure it out.

What harm could come from making an outreach effort to educate DXers on how to properly operate? And who better to make that effort than the ARRL? Instead, I was told that there wasn't a problem, well, except with me.

To Coy Day's (N5OK) credit he was the only one in the ARRL group who admitted there is a problem, gave examples of his own he had seen, and said that the problem needed to be addressed.

Now compare what I was told in 2008 with these comments from recent months:

"The problem of chaotic DX pile-ups is getting so bad that folks are finally paying attention. Ten years ago it was a minor issue but the problem has veritably exploded in just recent years."— G3SXW, The DX Magazine, May/June 2010, p. 18

"Maybe it was because so little else was going on at the time that the Mellish Reef DXpedition was the only action in town. As I listened to the pileups, it was simply disgusting to hear." — W6SJ, QST, February 2010, page 1

"The publication of DXEtiquette in the March issue of QST sparked a new world-wide effort to get all hams to operate in a manner consistent with a DX Code of Conduct." — www.dx-code.org

Subsequent to this posting I was told by one amateur that he recommended to the ARRL that they send out, at least a web link, to ON4UN/ON4WW's Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur. His point was, it would cost the ARRL nothing and have good long-term consequences. He also recommend they put the book in print and on store shelves. The ARRL rejected both these suggestions. As he wrote me, "They are willing to SAY good things about ethics but not DO anything" — which means operating practices and ethics get mere lip-service when they get any attention at all. The ARRL is not dedicated to advancing amateur radio. The ARRL is dedicated to advancing its own interests. This is not to say that ARRL employees are the problem. The problem is the institution that has developed.

Oh, and I did learn one thing in all this: a few hams who say they care about ethics are only interested in ethics to the extent that they and their buddies do not get cheated in the big contest. The spirit and art of amateur radio is not the predominating factor in their minds.

"At his right hand he keeps the sacred Wouff Hong to use in punishing those who commit offenses against the radio law. The Rettysnitch is kept within easy reach to use in enforcing the principles of decency in operating work." (The Radio Amateur's Handbook, vol. 1, p. 4, ARRL)

While the Wouff-Hong was merely a tradition, it was a symbol of a real practice of proactive self-policing and education in correct and ethical operating. Is it any wonder that such traditions have disappeared from, and consequently the practices declined in, amateur radio?

Educational and self-policing efforts will not usher in radio utopia. What they will do is to say that the way you operate and the ethics of operating are important. And that amateur radio is not a glorified CB radio service. Mistakes are going to happen. I've made them, and most operators who've spent time on the radio have. But no one rational, who cares about amateur radio, can deny that the ARRL is doing next to nothing to educate those they claim to represent. Nor is the ARRL making any effort to use the Official Observer program to address some of these problems.

If anyone wonders if amateur radio will eventually die, you need look no further than the ARRL leadership to explain the decline in practices on the bands — or why ARRL membership has declined — or why the ARRL can print and mail out perpetual volumes of fund raiser literature selling bricks for the "Diamond Terrace", but not mail new hams a free link to the ON4UN/ON4WW operating manual. They appeal to the male ego to leave a legacy (bequeath your dough to the ARRL) like Hiram Percy Maxim but cannot be bothered with anything that might interfere with revenue streams.

And we haven't even mentioned what goes on on 20m or 80m SSB. The ARRL will sell you a brick with your callsign on it for $100 to raise money, but they really haven't a clue about what amateur radio once stood for, what it should stand for, and what the ARRL should be doing to make this a reality. In doing the latter, they would ensure that a viable skilled proficient ethical community existed. No... No... buy a stupid brick. When I die, if all I have to show for my life is whether or not I was a lifetime ARRL member, a DXCC honor roller, have a brick with my name on it, &c. I'd say it was a life very poorly spent.

June 2nd 2010: The LoTW Users List has been updated. All callsigns were retested and updated. I've also automated the entire update process so that updates can occur without the hands-on labor that was required before. Updates should be much more regular now.

January 31st 2010: The LoTW Users List has been updated. All callsigns were retested and updated.

November 22nd 2009: Made a handful in contacts in the ARRL SSB SS contest. Worked some DX on CW. Also setup Winmor today and had my first "contact" / mail exchange with beta tester WB9FHP.

November 21st 2009: An updated version of HRD Utilities supporting the Ham Radio Deluxe 5.x BETA and XP/Vista/Windows 7 is available for download from the software page.

The LoTW Users List has been updated.

August 19th 2009: HRDU Reporter has been updated to work with Ham Radio Deluxe v5.x. Two functions are not fixed yet: "Mark DXCC Needed" and "Mark Selected as QSL Sent". You can download the update from here.

August 18th 2009: The APRS Local Info Beacon & GUI Editor was updated to auto-generate updated repeating event dates each night at midnight.

My version of the HB9BZA LoTW Users List has been updated.

April 28th 2009: A utility to automate some of the functionality of Weather Graphics' Digital Atmosphere sofware has been released.

The LoTW Users List has been updated.

A pocket/wallet quick reference for Skywarn in Adobe PDF format, along with the Adobe Illustrator source files is here. This is something I created for the Northeast Texas region. If you print this out, laminate it, and put it in your wallet, you might find it handy.

April 21st 2009: A complete WinBatch library — and script processor for those who are not programmers — supporting automation of the GRLevelX weather software is available here. It includes full source code. It supports all the GRLevelX versions including GRLevel2, GRLevel3 and GR2Analyst.

The APRS Local Info Beacon & GUI Editor has been released. A problem in the IGate support delayed release of the utility until I could fix it.

I am working on a bug fix to the pre-release version of HRD Utilities for the unreleased version 5 of Ham Radio Deluxe.

April 10th 2009: I've been reading Tim Vasquez's book on Storm Chasing and experimenting with the generation of weather maps for fun and education.

March 20th 2009: A test version of HRDU for the new Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook is now available. This update converts the LoTW Custom data into the new LoTW fields and provides full functionality for the HRD Technology Preview. Please see the Yahoo group HRD_Utilities for details and access.

March 19th 2009: Nathan, KE5LWF and I attended the Tyler ARC Skywarn training. The class was very good.

March 9th 2009: I've written a utility which supports scheduled transmissions of information as promoted by the APRS Local Info Initiative. The program has a pretty flexible scheduling system which supports transmission of objects/events by day of week (optional), start and end time (optional), date ranges (optional), along with custom beacon rates. If you use the AGW Packet Engine, run a digipeater and are interested in beta testing the software please send me an email. An important feature of the program is that it was written to allow for other programs to modify its scheduling data file. This allows for other programs to "hot swap" objects/events and the program does a smart job of loading or reloading the data. This will provide for objects or events dynamically created from other sources such as satellite passes or other custom data sources. Each beacon can also be sent on one AGWPE radio port, a list of specified ports or over all radio ports. This is a per object/event setting. You can find more information here.

March 7th 2009: KE5LWF and I attended the meeting of the North Texas Microwave Society in Denton, Texas.

March 5th 2009: I've added my Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities Reporter, a QSL label/envelope label printing utility to the software page.

March 3rd 2009: I am working on adding 10 GHz capabilities to my station. Going back to my exposure to ham radio 30 years ago, there were a lot of things that looked interesting. Microwave hamming is one of the things still on my "to do" list which I hope to enjoy soon.

December 15th 2008: Nathan, KE5LWF and I are now on 902 MHz using handhelds.

December 1st 2008: Thanks to Pete, N4ZR, who brought a couple of bugs in the CW Skimmer Scheduler to my attention. I've fixed the problems and updated both the EXE and source code.

November 21st 2008: Philip Gladstone N1DQ has developed an SDK and a web site www.pskreporter.info for spotting PSK reports. Philip's DLL pskreporter.dll is used in Ham Radio Deluxe to automatically report decoded PSK intercepts. In the SDK Philip provides C interface information on how to use the DLL. I've translated Philip's C interface to Delphi and written a simple Test program showing how to use Philip's SDK from Delphi. Download from my software page.

November 17th 2008: Finally took some time to look at GPS data in greater detail and it is rather fascinating. Here is the latest gadget I've been working on:

GPS Device Monitor

I based this gadget on an old set of Delphi components and test program from Axolot. The components, now apparently unsupported, had a number of serious bugs and did not properly support NMEA 0183. The program determines the unique NMEA Sentences the GPS device is sending, displays panels for those Sentence types, and plots the HDOP/PDOP & VDOP values vs the number of satellites in use. The project has been an eye-opener as to the diversity of NMEA data that devices can send. I would like to make a number of other significant changes before I'm done with it. WA2DYA has also written a nice Delphi GPS library which I have been looking at.

October 30th 2008: My version of the HB9BZA LoTW Users List has been updated. The entire list has been refreshed.

October 29th 2008: I've updated my GPS --> PC Clock setting utility. First, it waits for the GPS to initialize now if the date/time value it receives is invalid. Second, I've added a utility which gets called whenever the PC Clock is updated. It simply refreshes the Windows desktop and then displays the date/time of the GPS update in the upper right-hand corner of the Windows desktop. It is available from the Software page.

October 21st 2008: My version of the HB9BZA LoTW Users List has been updated.

HRDU Reporter is coming along nicely. You can select which QSOs to print labels for, using a nice GUI:

HRDU Reporter Alpha

The program currently requires a QRZ.com subscription so that it can pull address and QSL manager info. If a QSL manager is found the QSL manager's address is printed automatically. The program produces labels including multi-QSO labels:

HRDU Reporter Example

A label editor is built in so you can generate any kind of label format including images, font styling etc. The program is free. The Alpha version is available for download.

October 7th 2008: I suspected that if I did DXCC strictly via LoTW my certificate would arrive in short order, which it did today. It took a week and a half which beats the multi-month wait that QSL card checking often takes. Sunspot numbers of 0 did not help, but it didn't prevent me from achieving DXCC either.

October 3rd 2008: My version of HB9BZA's LoTW User's list has been updated.

September 27th 2008: I missed the Texas QP last year and had hoped to go mobile this year. I was able to work about 6 hours of the QP from home.

September 26th 2008: As much as I like paper QSL cards, I set a goal of making DXCC 100% via LoTW. Today I got my last confirmation for mixed DXCC. I am only about 10 confirmations short of making the CW endorsement. I have enough CW QSOs with stations in needed countries who are LoTW participants that it is just a matter of waiting for the LoTW confirmations. Not that I'll just wait.

September 18th 2008: Version 1.x of Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities has been released. It is available from the Software page.

My version of HB9BZA's LoTW User's list has been updated.

September 14th 2008: Nathan, KE5LWF, upgraded to a General class license today at the ripe age of 11. A very big congratulations to Nathan for the accomplishment and all the hours (and months) of study he put into the effort! We celebrated his upgrade and then came home and worked a little 40 meter PSK31 as KE5LWF/AG to break in the new privileges.

August 30th 2008: A few more changes to the eQSL download utility were made to solve a bug. Updates available from the Software page.

August 25th 2008: My version of HB9BZA's LoTW User's list has been updated.

In my spotting client I am now automatically calculating bearing and distance to each spot. You can also right click and have the rotor turned towards the selected station. It also now pulls data from both skimmer.dxwatch.com and www.dxwatch.com.

August 4th 2008: Release Candidate 1 of Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities has been released.

Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities

August 3rd 2008: I am really behind the times. I just came across the Petition asking for a ban against the use of CW Skimmer in contests. It is sad to see some of the people who support the ban making comments that indicate they really don't understand what CW Skimmer does. A number of the supporters of the ban give CW Skimmer more potential than it deserves, and yet, it might just be the bump a really good op needs to win a contest. When it comes to competitive contesting, I'd like to see a ban on all forms of decoding assistance including packet/cluster/band-maps, super-check partial, chat rooms and any automated decoding technologies. I think non-competitive/casual contesters and those submitting check-logs ought to be allowed whatever forms of technological assistance they choose. Competitors want those casual ops involved anyway. It's too bad it took CW Skimmer to make some contesters draw the line!

August 1st 2008: How good is HB9BZA's list of LoTW users? Working under the assumption that the Super Check Partial list contains a pretty good cross-section of active amateurs likely to use LoTW, I processed the latest SCP list containing 43,493 callsigns against HB9BZA's current list with 21,470 callsigns, removing any callsigns already in HB9BZA's list. I then processed the remaining callsigns against the ARRL LoTW web site* and found that the latest LoTW Users List was only missing 267 callsigns. That's very impressive. This pushes Robert's list to a nearly equivalent number of LoTW users as reported on the LoTW site. I've forwarded those to Robert for inclusion in his next update [which he has now published in his current release]. The 21,554 number from the ARRL is the number of registered users, whereas Robert's list is not technically users but locations (Call, FJ/Call, OM3/Call, Call/P, Call/M, &c.). This means Robert's list count should exceed the ARRL count by a fair number when complete.

* I asked permission to run an automated process from the LoTW folks first, and then I kept the process single-threaded (one request at a time) so as to not place any performance burden on the LoTW web site.

July 23rd 2008: I started working on another program I have wanted to write since CW Skimmer added telnet support. This program is a beacon monitor. It downloads various 10 meter and VHF/UHF beacon listings from the Internet and then monitors CW Skimmer for callsigns/frequencies which match beacons from the database. It needs to be very configurable as to what can happen when a beacon appears — executing external programs is a must. It should be able to judiciously post spots. This will allow all kinds of possibilities for a user who wants to know when a local band opening is occurring. The plan is to release the Delphi source code along with the program.

July 22nd 2008: Beta 2 of Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities released.

My QS1R arrived today.

July 21st 2008: In writing my HRD to LoTW export program I wondered what fields are absolutely required for a LoTW entry. The answer: call, qso_date, mode, band/or freq, and time_on (called qso_time in the config.xml but parsed as time_on in the tqsl source) are the only required fields. Any other fields will be ignored by LoTW.

July 20th 2008: I decided to rewrite/combine all the various utilities I've written for Ham Radio Deluxe into a standalone EXE file which any HRD user can use. The program currently generates an ADIF file of any contacts which have not already been uploaded to LoTW, executes TQSL to create the signed TQ8 file, if the private key is password protected it enters the password into TQSL, uploads the TQ8 file via SSL to the LoTW web site, and then marks the database to indicate which QSOs were uploaded. In other words, updating LoTW is literally a one button click operation and you don't have to spend time figuring the details out. You can bypass the one-click if you use the timer function which automates the entire process based on a time period you set. The program also has a tab which incorporates the QRZ.com XML functionality discussed for the program below. I need to implement LoTW ADIF import to mark which contacts were LoTW matched/QSL'd, handle ADIF generation for satellite QSOs, and rewrite my VB code to Delphi to import eQSL QSL'd contacts. I plan on releasing source code once the utility is publicly released.

July 16th 2008: A few weeks back I started writing a program that was simply designed to pipe skimmer.dxwatch.com data into a regular DX cluster client. I then decided that there was a lot of functionality missing from other DX cluster clients that was easy to add to my program. The program quickly became more of a client-side program than a server. The program became so heavily weighted on the client side that I thought about deleting the server all together. Instead I've decided to leave the server in as an extra function but to go ahead and fill the program out as a full client. I totally changed the GUI and also added a routine which logs into LoTW and downloads around 16 of the Worked All States status pages (specific bands and modes), reads the HTML and automatically builds a list of which states you still need to get confirmed via LoTW and, finally, adds those items to the Alerts configuration file. In other words, click one menu item and you update your Alerts configuration so that you can be alerted when a station using LoTW in a certain state appears on a certain band or mode. The screenshots below are out of date now. I plan on building a new page with updated images and a list of features when I am not heavy into coding. I plan to release this client for free once its solid enough to release.

July 14th 2008: I rewrote the FISTS, and SKCC support to include the display of membership numbers. I added NAQCC support. I wrote routines to download the LoTW, FISTS, SKCC and NAQCC membership web pages, and process them into an easily retrievable file format so that you always have current membership data.

 

July 12th 2008: If you use Ham Radio Deluxe to log, but sometimes need to use OmniRig to control the radio the obvious question about serial port sharing arises. The bottom line is, it doesn't work well at all. My experience is that if it works at all you are lucky (I am semi-lucky) but you will probably get some weird system hiccups where the frequency the Rig is on gets trampled on which can cause antenna and amplifier switching and it can even insert invalid frequency data into your log entry (no I was not having a QSO on 23 mhz). If you'd like to try my solution you can download a program I've written from my Software page. This program connects to OmniRig, gets the frequency and then, in the background modifies the Ham Radio Deluxe Log Add window's Band, Frequency and Mode fields. The HRD Log Add window acts just like its connected to a rig but no serial connection is involved. It's written for and tested on every band 160-6 and modes CW, LSB, USB, AM and FM. There are too many digital modes to try and handle digital mode determination. Keystrokes are not pushed into the keyboard buffer so there's no concern about which application has focus and what you are typing at any given time. You can place the HRD window in the background, tune the rig, and watch the HRD window update. I've been using this without any troubles and it makes it very nice to be able to use OmniRig to do the rig control and HRD for Logging and its other nice features. Please let me know if this works for you. I am using HRD 3.5 Build 1814.

Delphi Source code to generate an LoTW ADIF file from a Ham Radio Deluxe database has been posted to my Software page.

I left my skimmer telnet software running overnight and did not know if it would be OK when I got up this morning. I thought the amount of contest data from the IARU contest might be too much for it to handle. But as it turned out, it handles the load no problem. CPU usage is low so it can obviously handle a lot more. I also could not get Ham Radio Deluxe to behave with my other software so I decided to add OmniRig support. Nothing like programming in the midst of a contest. On the programmer's side OmniRig is unbelievably easy to use so it took more time to research how to incorporate it than to actually write the code. The program now has this added functionality: A drop down to decide if you want to talk to HRD via DDE or to OmniRig. Also, I cleaned up the color coding scheme.

The Big "Doh": The IARU contest also provided me with a "doh" moment. There has been some opposition to CW Skimmer in the contest community. Perhaps part of it is simply opposition to new technology. Perhaps part of it comes from the ridiculous idea that CW Skimmer can take an unskilled CW op and push him up the ladder. Even a lame contest op knows what a few invalid log entries can do to a contest score. And CW decoders have been around for a long time so I don't think this is the real fear some contest ops have. The one thing that contesters seem "reluctant", to put it mildly, to talk about is strategy. I attended the first Contest University and none of the classes I attended included the oh so little detail of how to develop a band change plan and strategy. Without a solid plan and strategy you are nothing but fodder in the contest mill to pump up other contest operators' scores (OK, I enjoy being fodder since contests give me a chance to work on my own skills). I left CU surprised that the idea of even having a strategy was mentioned, as I could recall, only one time, in passing, in a single class. It would be child's play to process captured skimmer data and find out just what any contest station does in any given contest. Doh. Obviously if you were going to do this you'd have to ensure the quality of your data. But it's now possible thanks to the "marvels of modern technology." It could also be used, under proper controls, to determine if an operator is cheating. I figured that out some months back but it's worth mentioning.

July 11th 2008: I've placed some Delphi source code on my Software page showing how to control Ham Radio Deluxe via DDE.

Also uploaded and available on the Software page is a COM object, including source code, which can query the Ham Radio Deluxe database and return information about contacts. The Delphi source code is included so the component can be modified to return anything HRD stores in its database.

July 9th 2008: The skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server now can be configured to alert when stations from specific states CQ on a specific band. You can also mouse-over a station to get complete information in a flyover hint: Name, City, State, Zip, County, Country, Continent, if the station uses LoTW or eQSL, if the station is a member of FISTS and SKCC (as well as if you have logged that station's membership numbers), and CQ & ITU zones. It also queries the Ham Radio Deluxe database to find out if the station has been been worked, and if so, on which bands and modes. Stations setting off one or more alerts are highlighted by colors accordingly.

July 8th 2008: FISTS and SKCC lookups added to the skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server. You can also right-click on a spot and jump to the QRZ.com entry for that callsign.

July 7th 2008: LoTW and eQSL lookups were added to the skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server. Both LoTW and eQSL lookups are very fast.

skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet

 

July 3rd 2008: I made a few more changes to the skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server and it's about complete. Added County lookups for U.S. callsigns, made the refresh time variable via a slider bar, it now does DDE directly for faster rig QSY times and you can double-click a list entry to QSY.

The program — painfully for purists — mixes some server side functionality, intended for input into a client program like DX Monitor, with some client-side functionality to do things DX Monitor doesn't currently do. I don't want to write my own DX Monitor, but I do want more help than DX Monitor currently gives me. The key is, does the program aggregate and then put me in control of the data that is available?

July 2nd 2008: The K4HAV FCC datafiles are freely available and used by some programs that look up amateur FCC data. What I could not find documented was the file format of the 'converted' datafiles. Details are on my Software page.

July 1st 2008: A Winbatch script has been uploaded which talks to Ham Radio Deluxe via DDE. It currently only supports frequency/mode changing and transmit mode on/off. It's available for download from my Software page.

I added one other feature to the skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server, which, in a perfect world, would belong in another program: it has its own alert list which loads an editable list of prefixes/states/callsigns to watch for. It lists those spots in red and can optionally both play an alarm sound and also change the rig's frequency to the spot. It automatically turns frequency hopping off after the first change to keep the rig from bouncing around. I can work on the other side of the room while it looks for stations I'm interested in working. I'd prefer to have these specific features in a DX cluster client where they would be a better fit. Anyway, with these features turned on, once something of interest is located the alarm sounds, the rig QSYs and I, with great labor mind you, move to the chair to see what's happening. Some folks would despise this level of automatic monitoring and automation. I understand the reasoning... which is a commentary for another day. I get a crack out of making the computer work just as hard as it can while I enjoy the extra CPU time my brain gets. I do enjoy tuning and digging out the old fashioned way. I've done my share and been rewarded as anyone who tunes around mostly noise-filled bands would understand, but I have limited time to do that. Just in the roughly 12 hours I've had this running, I've worked a good number of stations that I would have otherwise missed. And contrary to intuition, it has actually made me a better operator of my rig because some of the stations, which I wouldn't have worked otherwise, were difficult 'catches'. In one case it drew me into a QRP activity which was a lot of fun. The right time and right frequency are just the first part of successful operating. If you don't think skill is a big factor, try listening to some of the DX chasers operating in a pileup. And I'm not talking about mistakes.

June 30th 2008: I've updated my skimmer.dxwatch.com to telnet server to do Province and State lookups for Canadian and U.S. amateurs. This shows the state or province without having to do manual lookups.

skimmer to telnet

 

June 28th 2008: CW Skimmer has an Alert list which can highlight specific callsigns. Bill, NG3K runs a very nice web page showing which DXpeditions are currently active. I wrote the following program to download the data and generate/update Alert lists for both DX Monitor and CW Skimmer:

Alert Generator

The program automatically determines if the two programs are installed and where they are located. If either DX monitor or CW Skimmer are not installed, the option to update that particular program will be disabled until it is installed. If both programs are installed and you only want to update the Alert list for one of them, just turn on the checkbox for that particular program. The way to use the program is as follows:

  1. Run the program.
  2. Click the 'Download NG3K Data' button.
  3. Choose one or both programs with their respective checkboxes located just below the callsign listbox.
  4. Choose 'Append' or 'Overwrite' from the 'Save Mode' dropdown.
  5. Click the 'Save Data' button.

The 'Parse Clipboard' button is a rudimentary clipboard text parser. You could copy text from a web site containing callsigns you'd like to get alerts on and the program will attempt to parse the callsigns from the text. The routine looks for callsigns by finding all alpha+numeric words in text you've copied to the clipboard. But it does not do any validation so you have to use this function with care. I'd like to add some callsign validation into this function later.

You can download this program from my Software page.

June 26th 2008: Posted to my Software page is a WinBatch script that controls the Optoelectronics Optocom receiver (no longer sold). The script could be expanded, and I hope to do that later, but it meets my immediate needs of controlling the receiver. It includes code to turn the Optocom's BitBanger on and off.

Source and precompiled MS Window EXEs for my CW Skimmer Scheduler have been posted as well.

Just released: Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur "by John ON4UN and Mark ON4WW, which covers all the material one needs to know and to apply to become an exemplary and successful ham on the bands."

June 25th 2008: The CW Skimmer Scheduler was modified as follows:

  1. The program can now broadcast to all other instances of Scheduler on a network indicating which band it is monitoring. Other Schedulers running on the same band can optionally change to another band to prevent monitoring overlap. If all Schedulers are running the same schedule this serves to synchronize the different instances so that overlapped monitoring will not occur.
  2. Random antenna assignments are now possible. These are specified on a per band/time basis in the Schedule file. For example, the scheduler can randomly select which Beverage antenna is currently active for a given frequency during a given time range.
  3. ESCape key exits; n key moves to the next scheduled band; t key adds 60 seconds of additional monitoring to the currently active item.
  4. Support for Rotor direction has been added so that the Yaesu rotor control program I wrote some months back is now called as the schedule may dictate. The beam can now automatically be pointed based on the time of day.

For now, this completes the station automation associated with CW Skimmer. CW Skimmer, the DXWatch aggregator, the receivers, antennas and antenna direction can be completely controlled via the schedule file. If Alex VE3NEA will provide an API to CW Skimmer a lot of other interesting stuff could be done.

June 16th 2008: I could not find a way to incorporate the aggregated Skimmer data available at skimmer.dxwatch.com data into DX Monitor so I wrote a telnet server that pulls the XML data from dxwatch.com and presents the data like it's standard DX Cluster telnet data.

Skimmer Data into DX Monitor

The telnet server is multithreaded so it handles multiple telnet sessions while polling data from skimmer.dxwatch.com once a minute. It does not poll skimmer.dxwatch.com unless there are one or more active telnet sessions. If someone knows another way of doing this please let me know.

I'm waiting on a piece of hardware to arrive before my SDR-IQ's go back online.

June 5th 2008: The Beverage switching software was modified to expose a COM object so that other applications can switch which antenna is active. This was also tested on a remote computer using DCOM.

The CW Skimmer scheduler has been modified in two regards. First the scheduler was expanded to allow for a much larger number of scheduled band/slots. I also added the ability to specify which antenna should be used for each band/slot. Now, for example, when 160 meters is monitored in the evening the NE Beverage is selected. When 160 meters is monitored in the early morning the NW Beverage is selected. I'm going to modify that to allow multiple antennas to be assigned per slot. This will allow the scheduler, for example, to randomly select either the NE, East or South Beverages in the evening or the NW or West Beverages in the morning.

CW Skimmer Scheduler

 

May 30th 2008: I've written and uploaded a simple program that reads GPS data from an attached serial port and sets the PC clock based on the GPS clock. I needed something simple that would do this and wanted to learn about using GPS data at the same time. See the Software page for the download including source code.

May 29th 2008: I've written two other Winbatch programs to do some station automation and experimentation with CW Skimmer. One script drives the Yaesu rotator with an Idiom Press RS-232 interface. This allows the Spiderbeam to be rotated programmatically/remotely/on a schedule as needed. Another program manages a schedule for CW Skimmer to do band-switching after a given number of minutes -- also taking into consideration which bands would be opened or closed at any given time. I currently have two CW Skimmer setups scanning 160-10 during the appropriate time windows just for fun. They are reporting to skimmer.dxwatch.com. I'll post the source code later. The Beverage switching software was updated to allow only certain antennas to be included in Rotation mode.

May 21st 2008: As additional beverage antennas have been added, the need for a decent switching system became obvious. Using a USB interface wired to a series of relays, I put this box together:

Beverage Switch Box

The 50 ohm connector is for the loop antenna while the 75 ohm connectors are for the Beverages. Then I wrote a computer program which lets me either select a specific antenna, or it will automatically rotate through each Beverage antenna pausing on each at a set delay.

Beverage Software

 

May 16th 2008: Attended the Dayton Hamvention with KE5LWF.

For some years I have been of the opinion that the "ARRL Handbook For Radio Communications" is progressively losing sight of its original purpose as well as its title. I picked up a copy of the Radio Communication Handbook from the RSGB. It's a great handbook with a lot of really useful information on everything from electronics theory, to operating, to punching holes in a chassis. It's a real hands-on Radio Amateur's handbook. They even include the PDF version of the book on CD, just like the ARRL.

May 4th 2008: I've posted a utility, and its source code, called UIView32_ChangeMap. This allows you to change which map is being displayed either through a command-line call or through the UI-View32 Schedule editor. I've also posted some useful right-click menu items for UI-View32. Both items are available for download on the Software page.

The ultimate ionosphere explorer is available from NASA.

May 3rd 2008: I got my Extra class license today. Thanks to the VE team in Sulphur Springs, KM5SJ, K5OLA, and N5REL. Thank you for the volunteer work you do!

I've posted my updated review of the Palstar AT-AUTO.

April 5th 2008: I've had an interest in trying to automate beacon monitoring for bands that don't get much attention such as 6 meters. I've finally taken time to get my SDR-IQ working, as well as CW Skimmer. As CW Skimmer does not have an internal method to allow you to programmatically control the center frequency I've written a program which takes a command line parameter -- the frequency you want to switch to. So say you want to switch to 7025.

ct_skimmer 7025

or

ct_skimmer 21025

My program does the rest... This allows you to do a number of things like automatically rotating between bands listening for CW activity... As CW Skimmer version 1.1 has added a telnet server I have in mind building a custom telnet client which will monitor CW Skimmer, and perhaps other data sources, and 1) Log the traffic captured 2) fire off notifications (email, pager or whatever) based on a watch list.

March 26th 2008: I am just curious to follow my LoTW confirmation rate. Today it stands at 30.8%.

February 26th 2008: I did not work the CQ WW 160 SSB contest so I wasn't able to complete my VP6DX scorecard with 160 SSB. I did that last night when VP6DX finally came up on SSB. With storms just to the east of here the band was filled with nearly non-stop static crashes. It was obvious that everyone involved was having a tough time and WA6CDR did a great job taking his time to confirm each contact under very difficult conditions. I listened as he repeatedly called one station, who was not hearing him at that point, and he carefully tried to make sure each caller had a confirmed QSO. That's my kind of operator.

My RS-232 switch project has been completed other than the case.

February 22nd 2008: I am currently working on two projects. I am building the RS-232 switch for the DSP-10. I am also building a HamHud II. I've made good progress but lack some parts on both projects.

February 20th 2008: I am not into paper chasing but I do enjoy working DX and I enjoy a reasonable challenge. VP6DX took care to listen on non-Extra class frequencies and being just a General class licensee I wondered how I might fare against all the big shots (grin). My SpiderBeam is on the ground waiting to be put back up so all contacts were made using the Carolina Windom except for the 160 CW QSO which was off my Inverted-L and one of the beverage antennas. Here's my scorecard and the rankings for my Zone as of today:

Thus far VP6DX has not been on 160 meter phone. I guess they want to maximize their CQ WW 160 SSB score by keeping demand pent up till the contest. That's not a bad strategy.

January 28th 2008: I operated about 14 hours of the CQ WW 160 meter CW contest this past weekend. I've already submitted my log: 551 contacts, with a claimed score of 125,828. I also uploaded all contacts to LoTW. My LoTW confirmation rate currently runs 25-26%.

January 25th 2008: I experimented with my beverage antennas on 30 meters with very interesting results. During the night when the band sounded dead I found the band was still open to Europe with a number of European stations buried under the noise of my Windom. I tried calling a couple of the stations but they could not hear me. Curious about this I ran some ACE-HF predictions which indicated that, at that time (and with the power limits), there was no propagation to Europe. The prediction was close but I found one CW signal just barely peaking above the noise but uncopyable on the Windom. I switched to the NE beverage antenna and received him S5. I was able to work F5RMY/P using the beverage as a receive antenna. It's too bad there's a 200 watt PEP limit on 30. 30 meters is an interesting band and a little more power would make this band 'open' like 20 meters is open at night during all but the solar cycle bottoms.

January 21st 2008: Well, I now know what it's like to have an "opening" on 160 meters. I think the antenna is working OK now. It was also my first solid experience with grayline propagation.

January 17th 2008: About the most frustrating thing I think I've faced was getting an antenna up that had an angle of radiation that would allow me to work DX on 160 meters. After a lot of failed experimentation where I, apparently, shot a lot of RF straight up... success! My latest mods did the trick. England, Germany, St. Barthelemy island, Turks & Caicos, and Guinea Bissau in one night. The band is horribly noisy with storms up and down the east coast so this has been more than I could have hoped for. I think I can make some minor improvements to the antenna now that I have something working.

January 5th 2008: I am now gating APRS as well as ARISS & GO-32 packets to the Internet.

December 18th 2007: I've been interested in PropNet for almost a year now. I finally loaded the software just to see how hard it was to setup and get running. It took all of about three minutes and it was contributing data to the research. With my station in flux I won't be able to consistently contribute right now but my good experience with the software means I would like to set something up for regular operation.

December 2007: I am gating APRS as well as ARISS & ANDE packets to the Internet.

October 3rd 2007: I experimented with PC-ALE for the first time today. I was fascinated by the mode years ago when I came across military use of the mode. Mixed a little PSK31 in and then had a nice VO-52 contact with N6RSX, Craig on SSB while I was on CW.

August 31st 2007: I had my first SO-50 contact (N3PKC) today. Then I had my first VO-52 contact (WC7V) which was also my first satellite CW QSO. I am using a pair of M2 eggbeaters, with ARR preamps, for my satellite work right now.

July 31st 2007: I received credit today for completing the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course, Level 1.

June 20th 2007: A couple of months back I arranged with Phil KU4AB to develop a new web site for his antenna business. He makes some great antennas for 6m and up. His ads appear in CQ Magazine, QST etc. The web site went live today: http://www.ku4ab.com.

June 15th 2007: Attended the Winlink presentation in Tyler. Unrelated but equally interesting: HamHUD V is under development. I also just came across this project: uWave SDR.

June 13th 2007: My first attempt at CW on AO-52. I heard my CW coming off the downlink. I heard some SSB activity but no CW. I'm winging it. I could use some mentoring on this so where's a good mentor when you need one?

June 11th 2007: I made my first transmission of email via Airmail using Pactor III/HF today. As a CW op I have to add that the devil made me do it.

June 8th & June 9th 2007: Attended Ham-Com in Plano, Texas with KE5LWF. I went to a number of the presentations including Transmission Line Basics, D-STAR 2007 - The State of the System, Cheap Yagis for VHF-UHF, Simple 10 GHz SSB/CW Station for the Beginner, Traffic Handling For the Beginner, High Performance Radio Design - The technologies behind the K3, Lightning Arrestor Considerations and What's in a Repeater?

June 6th 2007: Mounted Gulf Antennas' 16x16 CP 70cm Satellite and the 5x5 CP 2m Satellite on an AZ/EL Rotor at a height where I can work on getting the antennas situated w/coax runs and pre amps mounted. I need some coax to finish the job.

June 5th 2007: I spent a little time working with Radio Mobile, a software package which can generate repeater RF coverage maps. It is very impressive software. I was able to generate some coverage maps for some imaginary repeater installations on local terrain.

May 31st 2007: I've enrolled in the ARRL AREC Course, level 1.

May 30th 2007: After a lot of trouble, I have deleted Microsoft Windows Vista from my computer and installed XP. Vista is Microsoft's attempt at a secure operating system. Vista has a lot of visual frills which impress you when you begin to use it. But when it came to trying to get anything practical done using the O/S, that's another matter altogether. I had heard others badmouth the O/S but figured my computer background would allow me to work around the O/S problems. Silly me. Turning off some of the new security features fixed some problems while breaking others. Unless Microsoft makes some radical changes to the O/S I will never move over to Vista.

May 28th 2007: I finally got my DSP-10 2 meter transceiver working. This is a software defined 2 meter transceiver that does USB, LSB, CW, FM, EME-2, LHL-7, LTI and PUA-43 modes. The transceiver is capable of some extremely impressive weak-signal operation.

May 25th 2007: My QSL cards finally came in and I've responded to all QSL cards. If you do not have your card within a few days please let me know via email.

May 18th & 19th 2007: Went to the Dayton Hamvention with KE5LWF.

May 17th 2007: Went to Contest University 2007 with KE5LWF.

May 5th 2007: KE5LWF and I went to the ARBONET balloon launch. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. My 160/80m rotatable loop is now mounted on a small rotator up about 20 feet.

May 2nd 2007: I worked the first good morning pass of satellite AO-51 and had two good QSOs using an Icom IC-W32A and an Arrow Antenna. I think I have the basic technique of FM satellite ops down now. I can see that a HT and handheld antenna leave something to be desired. A pre-amp would be a very good addition to the operation. My next goal is to work SSB and CW through one of the satellites.

May 1st 2007: I worked my first satellite, AO-51. I had a QSO with Dennis, KE5KZX.

April 25th 2007: FO-29 appears to be dead. Looks like it died only a few days ago. That explains yesterday's failure to hear it!

April 24th 2007: Added another set of guy wires to the AB-577 in preparation for raising it up higher. I listened again for an evening pass of FO-29 and consistent with previous attempts, I heard nothing. I decided to see if I could hear anything on the AO-16 pass and finally heard my first amateur satellite. I used an Arrow Satellite antenna and a handheld Yupiteru receiver. Step 1 accomplished.

April 16th 2007: Got the Spiderbeam mounted onto an AB-577 mast. I've only raised it up 35 feet to start with. My first contact was a station in Wales I could hardly hear on the other two antennas.

April 12th 2007: Here's my N8S scorecard so far:

N8S

It won't improve much since I do not have an Extra class license — I can't get down to where they are operating on some of the bands. The toughest contact was 20m CW which took hours of attempts since they were listening sub .025 and I was above .025. I've heard N8S on 10m SSB but their 10m CW operation only faintly once. I think their antenna on 10m CW must not be as good as the one they are using for SSB.

April 8th 2007: I haven't been very active the last month. I decided to try and work N8S on a few more bands, and while I was at it, make a few attempts at DX on 160m. I worked SV3RF and then EA6BF on 160 using the beverage antenna. Could not hear N8S on 160 with my beverage (not surprising since it is pointed at Europe!) so I switched to a rotatable receiving loop built for 160 & 80 meters. It was barely above ground level but at that hour I had no interest in getting it up in the air. I was just barely able to hear N8S well enough to work them on 160.

April 4th 2007: I've built the web site for the Piney Woods Hamfest and put it online.

April 3rd 2007: I was never able to find the AB-577 manual online. Here's a PDF copy of the TM 11-5820-538-12 manual for anyone who needs information about this mast and its extension kit.

April 2nd 2007: Two AB-577 masts arrived today.

March 21st 2007: My Elecraft/Bencher paddle has been replaced by a Schurr Profi-2.

March 11th 2007: I was having trouble with my mobile setup. Seemed to be loose connectors but I wasn't sure. I tightened everything up, turned the rig on, tuned up on 30m and Dietrich EA8/DL3KVR was calling CQ. I called him and he returned the call. It is a kick to work DX but even more fun working DX out of a mobile setup. Thank you Dietrich.

March 8th 2007: Finished building my first beverage antenna for 160. It is definitely a lower noise antenna. s9 noise on the Windom or Vertical drops to s3 and there's some gain for stations it is pointed at. I heard I4AVG but he apparently could not hear me. Heard both J5UAR and RA4LW but signals were too weak w/QSB to try for a QSO. It would have been nice to have had this up for the last winter season.

Been using Morse Runner in pileup mode (with QRN, QRM, QSB, Flutter, and LIDs enabled) without headphones. I can run now, with some effort, at 35 wpm. Headphones on the computer would help a lot.

March 5th 2007: Finished building a SpiderBeam antenna which I imported from Germany. Being my first wire beam antenna I kept thinking "this ain't gonna work". But it does. I need to drop it back down and clean things up but it works too well to go through the effort right now.

March 1st 2007: Attended SkyWarn training class along with KE5LWF in Longview, Texas.

February 2007: Attended SkyWarn training class along with KE5LWF in Tyler, Texas.

February 2007: I started the WPX RTTY Contest but my microHam cable broke about 40 QSOs into the contest so that was that. Ran about 14 hours of the ARRL DX CW contest. Worked about 340 DX stations (160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10) with a prelim score of 183,696. I never called CQ, just worked what I could hear on the Windom.

I sold my Icom IC-756 Pro II and replaced it with a Ten-Tec Orion II. The audio can sound gritty on the Orion. I think its the audio filtering. The Orion II is a big box. Not desktop friendly even with the big table I use. The IC-756 was compact, the audio was excellent, and filtering was easier to use. But the Orion has better filtering. It's amazing how well the filters work. The Orion out specs the IC-756 but the IC-756 hides some of the complexity from the user where the Orion II does not. There's a menu or a button for everything somewhere... somewhere.

January 27th 2007: I operated the first 11 hours of the Jan 2007 CQ WW 160m CW contest. My prelim score was 45,902. Not having a low noise 160m antenna this contest was grueling and gave my Icom IC-756 Pro II's audio filters a real workout. I used my Carolina Windom which has s9 noise on 160.

January 8th 2007: A real nice opening on 6 meters. I logged for KE5LWF as he worked 80 stations during the opening. He had some nice pileups. It was great.

January 7th 2007: KE5LWF and I operated a few hours of the ARRL Kid's Day event.

December 2006: Operated the ARRL 10 Meter CW contest as a Technician. Novice/Tech freqs are nearly dead. Plenty of action on the lower end. Made maybe 20 QSOs and decided that the low QSO rate per hour was not worth the time. Ended up listening to the eery sounds of backscattered CW from super station Richard King, K5NA, with his antenna pointed west. Upgraded my license to General class mid- December. My wife and 9 year old son both picked up their Tech licenses. Thanks to the VE team in Longview N5DUX, KC5PJR, WG5L for their time! Played around in the Stew Perry 160 meter contest and made a number of contacts. This was my first venture on 160.

October 2006: Regained license as a Technician w/code privileges. I took the code test (yes!). Thanks to the VE team from Tyler, W5RDY, KZ5S and (3rd VE?)! My code speed has dropped from upper 30's to around 20-25 WPM. Licensed second time around as KE5KVC. Immediately applied to FCC for old callsign WD5EAE. I still have a hard time accepting how far out of favor CW has fallen since I was originally licensed.

Circa 1994: WD5EAE license lapsed.

Circa 1976

Boyhood Dreams Courtesy the Tandy Corporation

1st QSL Card
2nd QSL Card

Licensed as a Novice at the age of 11 as WD5EAE. I started with a Heathkit DX-30, 2 crystals, a straight key, and an Allied receiver. I do not remember how many years I used the straight key but it was a long time before I got a keyer. I later moved to an Icom IC-745 and then finally a Yaesu FT-901DM. I had a dipole and a Butternut vertical antenna.

During these early years I was very active on CW, contesting, DXing where possible, and CW traffic/training (QST Public Service Honor Roll, July & October 1980). I was manager of the Louisiana Slow CW Net for a while (QST, October 1980, p. 128; QST, March 1981, p. 93), circa age 15. In the 1980 ARRL Novice Roundup I was the Louisiana leader (QST, June 1980, p. 75). In the 1981 ARRL Novice Roundup I took Lousiana again and was also the Novice Delta Division leader (QST, June 1981, p. 74).

During the time I was a member of the Army National Guard I was also a member of Army MARS.

 

 

WD5EAE-1978
WD5EAE in 1978. Fully decked out with straight-key, DX-30 transmitter, Allied receiver, power supply, box of QSL cards, stack of QST magazines, soldering iron, the latest Callbook and my logbook underneath the Callbook.

 

WD5EAE Later
Here's another early photo. Straight-key is on top of the Heathkit HW-16.

 

WD5EAE with the Yaesu FT-901DM and a little wallpaper.


Searching QST: Years ago I purchased the electronic QST archive from the ARRL called QST View. It consisted of TIF and JPG images of the QST magazine from 1915-1999. It has an index allowing you to search by article titles and authors. Some of the images are poor but I wrote a utility which would automate the process of turning thousands of single page images into searchable PDFs. I took the images and concatenated them by month, OCR'd them and generated searchable PDF files for each issue of the magazine. That is, the full text down to the small print data of contest results and state news are searchable. I offered these to the ARRL, without charge, as a much improved product which they could in turn offer to the amateur community. Not a perfect product but much improved over what they have now. The gentleman from the ARRL who contacted me wasn't even interested in seeing them. He noted that some of the images were too poor and that the ARRL needed to rescan the entire archive. I agreed but it was my position that 90% accuracy is better than 0%. 50% accuracy is better than 0%. PDF issues of the magazine are far more useful than thousands of individual TIF and JPG images. Years later the ARRL still does not have a real searchable archive. If you'd like to search for something, say a callsign in QST email me. I will see if I can generate a report for you listing the years and page numbers where the search term occurs.