Saturday, April 30, 2016

N0PCL using LOTW

I have been away from the blog of late but I have a few posts in the hopper, so expect some more interesting things to read soon.

I've been operating more or less daily, generally operating from 40-15 meters CW and SSB.  I've actually had some pretty good DX contacts of late:  Cyprus, Bahrain, American Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, Sable Island, New Zealand.  Unsurprisingly, most of these contacts have been on CW, which does better than phone most of the time.

I also did a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Prince William Forest Park, a forested piece of land north the Quantico Marine Base in northern Virginia.  I have an upcoming post on that.

I've also activated a couple of SOTA peaks, too.

My latest amateur radio project has been making my station Logbook Of The World-capable, by basically moving the QSO records from my various logbooks (paper logs, and an Excel spreadsheet I've been using for my home QTH log) to a logging program on my computer, and then uploading to LOTW.  I was going to delay this action until I could upgrade my computer so that it better complements my radio (a stunningly wonderful Elecraft K3S).  My plan was to get a computer that was capable of operating on all digital modes, doing rig control, and also being the engine of a panadaptor for the K3S.

I decided against waiting for the new computer, though.  So I did a quick Google Search of a LOTW-capable freeware logging program.  The top result was WinLog32.  It's pretty good--and you can't beat the price--basically free.  It is somewhat finicky in certain areas and isn't perfect, but once you figure out how the software acts, it does just fine.

So I uploaded my home QTH QSOs to WinLog32, and then subsequently uploaded to LOTW.  LOTW is pretty slick, too.  You get nearly instantaneous conformations of contacts, provided the station you contacted is using LOTW as well.  My LOTW results from home for Worked All States (WAS) and DX Century Club (DXCC) are below.

Worked All States results via LOTW thus far.
DX Century Club results.
I really like LOTW.  I like that it's free, because postage can be expensive these days.  I do have a nice stack of QSL cards from other stations, and I do like to collect them, but there is so much less hassle with LOTW confirmations than with other methods.

I also started a small thread on Facebook asking why more people don't use LOTW.  One response was that the many no-code licensees on the air these days don't like to use LOTW, basically because they're a bunch of good-for-nothings from 27 MHz.  I'm not sure that I agree--I don't see how not having a CW requirement for licensing has anything to do with using LOTW or other computerized methods in amateur radio.  Quite the opposite, actually--most the anti-LOTW Luddites are really old-timers that, like always, are reticent to get with the times.  And why is everything in amateur radio seemingly related to dropping CW requirements for licensing?  I just don't see the connection.

Right now I'm uploading my paper SOTA logbooks to LOTW, which is somewhat tedious.  I typically use the ARRL Minilogs for SOTA, and that's not about to change.  They're sturdy, durable, and neat.  But I still think it's the right thing to do to upload these QSOs--you never know if somebody wants needs a QSO for their WAS, DXCC, or VHF/UHF Century Club (VUCC) award.  But uploading these paper logs is tedious...It's not the number of QSOs, since most of my SOTA activations have perhaps 10-15 QSOs per activation.  Rather, the problem is establishing new operating QTHs on each summit registered in LOTW.  It's a bit tedious, but I think it's the right thing to do.  I'm slowly work through this.

73 for now.