Today I played Radio and won.
Since I have a new laptop for work, I’ve been occasionally moving it from my office desk to the ham bench to mess with digital modes like FT8 and Winlink. But I’ve been waffling on getting logging software and keeping shitty paper logs of my radio contacts to manually enter elsewhere, because I come from the FOSS world where building my own software is free if my time is worth nothing. After gnashing my teeth, I decided that since I actually have a job, I should stop being a cheapass and just plunk down a few bucks for some proper logging software. Best decision yet.
The venerable N1MM Logger+ appears to be free-as-in-beer, but it’s heavily geared toward contesting, with lots of features like callsign lookups and DX spotting. It’s a high-powered piece of work, and will take a bit to get into. I’ll probably mothball it until I need what it’s got.
With ARRL Field Day 2020 coming up in just 6 days, I grabbed a copy of the N3FJP Field Day Log and configured it for my radios. This is the logger my radio club uses for Field Day, but since we’re not having a community event due to COVID19, we need to keep our own logs at our own stations; after several Field Days, I’m most familiar with this logger.
The upshot is that N3FJP has a nifty backend ecosystem that works with all his loggers, so if I configure a station, a logbook, and radio setup for one logger, they’ll work with everything he publishes. So in that light, I grabbed his Amateur Contact Log. It has its own raft of useful capabilities, like interfacing with up to two radios for automatically fetching frequency and mode info, QRZ XML lookups, DX spotting, voice recording and playback, and it automatically detects if you’ve installed the ARRL Logbook of the World software and lets you download your logbook, then sign and upload new QSOs to LotW. And because I’m decidedly not a cheapass anymore, I actually paid for the full software license for all of his stuff; $50, lifetime, with all loggers and updates.
Just to kick the tires, I set up on 10 meters this afternoon and scanned until I heard someone calling CQ. I got a guy in Kansas, which is a long way on this band (summertime openings are alright!); a new state for my logs. Not content with that, I called CQ and got a guy in South Dakota, another new state for my logs. And later I got a guy in Odessa TX on 17 meters, which means there was significant E-skip propagation this afternoon (18.14MHz is definitely above FoF2). I heard him talking with someone in California, so his beam antenna was pointed in the other direction. When he called QRZ for further contacts, I called out and he heard me, even though I was behind him. He chatted with me as he turned his beam and I heard his signal quality going from 4-6 to 5-9. Significant E-skip. After our call, he later went on to contact someone in Arkansas, proving the hypothesis.
Some radio bands really are magical.
So, assuming they all upload to LotW and our records match and we get QSLs, that’ll be three more in the logs. Y’know, I think I’ll try for the Worked All States certificate (Alaska and Hawaii will be tough).
I know these are penny-ante numbers, but we all start somewhere. I need to get better with making contacts, get over my stupid mic shyness. Contesting might be a solution; just do it and get it done. Getting a functional logging solution seems to be the catalyst.
For once, I don’t actually have to make it a struggle to get uphill; just fucking pay for it, install it, set it up, and go. My life is too short to suffer my own reservations.