Logging: Keeping Track of it All

Going all the way back to my Novice days in the mid-70s, I’ve always been a bit anal…  er… diligent, when it comes to logging contacts.  Years ago I started using logging software and that diligence persists.  Over the years, I’ve evolved to a logging process that I’m sure some would find overly complex.  It’s actually not that bad and it works well for me.

I use a variety of methods to capture QSO information.  Eventually, everything ends up in one central log.  From there, all QSOs are uploaded to Logbook of the World (LoTW).  The diagram below shows how everything ties together.

Overview of my logging process. In the end, all contacts end up in the Main Log.
Overview of my logging process. In the end, all contacts end up in the Main Log.

Here are the main components of my logging system:

ACLog.  I use this software by N3FJP for my main log.  All QSOs, no matter how they are made or logged wind up in here.  Because most of my HF operating is done while portable, I added a few custom fields to keep track of where I was (MY_QTH), what rig I was using (MY_RIG) and what power I was running (TX_PWR).  Everything in my main log gets uploaded to LoTW.  ACLog makes it very easy to do that.  For casual operating at home, I enter the contacts directly into ACLog.  Same goes for paper logs from portable operations with just a few contacts.  For larger batches of contacts, I might resort to other methods.

ADIF Master.  I use this great piece of freeware a lot.  It allows me to take an ADIF file and easily add in the custom fields I keep track of and do a quick bulk edit to populate the fields for all QSO records in the file.

Fast Log Entry (FLE).  I wrote about this software in an earlier post.  This came in handy last year for National Parks on the Air activations.  When I used paper logs for activations, FLE gave me a fast way to enter the QSO data and generate an ADIF file.

SKCC Logger.  I use AC2C’s SKCC Logger software to log all of my Straight Key Century Club contacts.  This software does automatic lookups from the SKCC member database when you enter a callsign.  It also helps keep track of award levels and generates award applications.  From SKCC Logger, I generate an ADIF file for further editing and importing into ACLog.

fldigi.  Every now and then I get on a digital mode kick.  Initially, I use fldigi’s internal log and export an ADIF file.  I haven’t worked JT65 or JT9 in a while but, when I do, I export an ADIF file from the WSJT-X software.

HamLog.  When I’m away camping for a few days, I use HamLog on Android cellphone to log my contacts.  If I have a cell connection, I can do QRZ.com lookups while logging a contact.  I export an ADIF file when I get home.  After, editing the ADIF and successfully importing it into ACLog, I go back to HamLog and clear out the log file so I’m ready for the next trip.

Contest Loggers.  When I use a specialized contest logging program for a contest… Well, you know the drill.  I export an ADIF file, edit in my custom fields, and ingest it into ACLog.

So, that’s it in a nutshell.  It probably sounds complicated but it has all become second nature to me.  I’m not suggesting that you do the same but, perhaps, some of the utilities and techniques will be useful to you.

I hope to see you somewhere down the log!

72, Craig WB3GCK

Ham-iversary

For a variety of reasons, the past week has been a slow one for me, radio-wise.  However, I did notice on my calendar this morning that today is the 42nd anniversary of my first ham radio license.  Wow!  Where has the time gone?

Forty-two years ago, I had finished up my 4-year enlistment as a Navy Radioman and had just started school studying electronics.  I had plans to get my ham license, so I began to blow the dust off of my rusty CW fist.  Although the Navy trained me in Morse code, I never really had many opportunities to use it.  Also, I had never copied code without a typewriter (or “mill” as we called them in the Navy) so I had to learn how to copy CW with pencil and paper.

Radio gang aboard the USS LaMoure County (LST-1194) in 1974. I’m standing in the back, second from the right (with my eyes closed).
Radio gang aboard the USS LaMoure County (LST-1194) in 1974. I’m standing in the back, second from the right (with my eyes closed).

Once my code was back up to snuff, I contacted a local ham, Bob Rothrock K3MAZ (SK).  Years earlier, he restored an old console radio that my grandmother had given me.  Bob was the only ham I knew at the time and he graciously administered my Novice exam and helped Elmer me along when I had questions.

After receiving the callsign, WN3YSV, it took several months to put a station together and get on the air.  I found a used Heathkit DX-60 transmitter and paired it up with a Realistic DX-60B shortwave receiver I already had.  Anxious to get on the air, I quickly threw together a low dipole for 15 meters.  I picked 15 meters only because the dipole would fit easily across the backyard.

When I finally got on the air, I nervously called CQ a few times and was answered by K3RDT.  I was excited to hear someone calling me and I’m sure my sending reflected my nervousness.  I had never had a conversational CW exchange before.  As it turns out, Pete was only about a mile away from.  He helped other novices get on the air and seemed happy to be my first contact.

A few days after that shaky QSO, I received my first QSL card.  On the card Pete questioned my choice of 15 meters and encouraged me to figure  some way to get on 40 meters.  Of course, he was right.  I eventually rigged up a 40-meter dipole and ran across the roof of the house and across the backyard.  Although I made some nice contacts on 15 meters, the 40-meter novice band was where the action was for me.  I also became interested in QRP early on.  I built a little one-watt transmitter during that time and made a few contacts with it.

QSL card from my first ham radio contact with K3RDT.
QSL card from my first ham radio contact with K3RDT. It was 599 both ways, since we were only about a mile apart.

After a little over a year of operating, I moved away to start a new job.  My ham radio gear got packed away and I focused on my career and raising a family.  It would be another 15 years before I got back on the air with my current callsign.  Ham radio was definitely better the second time around.

Even after all these years, the thrill has never subsided.  This radio stuff is still like magic to me.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Save

Yet Another QRP Blog…

Craig WB3GCKYep.  That’s right.  After maintaining my static website for many years, I decided to start a blog.  While my existing website gets a fair amount of traffic, it’s just too cumbersome to add new content.  So, most of my new content will be posted to this blog.

The old website will stay on the air but will see fewer and fewer updates (not that I have been making many new updates to begin with).  A few items from the old website will probably find their way over here.

So, I hope you find something that interests you here.

73/72, Craig WB3GCK