Friday, December 21, 2012

On Logging and QSLs

A Loss

Old School hams like me were taught a long time ago, “A QSL is the final courtesy of a QSO.”  It seems that courtesy has been lost on many newer operators, much like other Old School niceties like taking your hat off at the dinner table, saying please and thank you, or holding the door open for someone are far less common among some generations.  I see it as a problem, and I would like to bring to everyone’s attention. 

Who Cares?

Why is it a problem?  You may not care about “wallpaper”, but many operators work hard to collect awards like DXCC, Worked All States, Worked All Zones, etc.  All of these awards require confirmations of some sort, and contacts with Alaska play a central role in the most common awards programs, since it is both a state and DXCC country. Some people don’t collect awards, but a QSL can still be a source of deep pride, the culmination of planning, investment, skill, and perseverance.  Alaska can be difficult to work, and when you make a contact with someone seeking a card or electronic equivalent and fail to QSL, you have wasted their time and hard-won efforts.  Those sparks of excitement and the feeling of joy at the other end of the radio after finally making contact with Alaska are all for naught.  I say shame on you.

The practice of QSLing is integrally tied to keeping an accurate record of your contacts.  I believe since the FCC no longer requires keeping logbooks, a lot of people have just forgotten about the practice.  I’ve noticed with some guest ops at KL2R and participating in group operations with hams normally self-confined to repeaters and whatnot, many simply do not appreciate the need for accuracy.  So what if the callsign is “busted” (incorrect), time is off by hours, and neither frequency nor mode are recorded? Well, these are all details required on a QSL, and if any are wrong or missing, the confirmation is invalid!

Logging Options

Recordkeeping doesn’t have to be hard.  I believe there are few excuses for sticking to paper logs anymore.  If you are mobile or backpacking, of course hard copy would be most convenient.  However, most hams have a computer available in their shack.  Many free and inexpensive logging programs are available.  Ham Radio Deluxe and DXLab Suite include many useful tools for any operator using Windows, and RUMLog is popular on Macs.  Win-Test, Writelog, and N1MM are excellent contesting programs, and the latter two also good for general-purpose logging.  This software can readily interface to your radio to record time, date, frequency, and mode, but you don’t necessarily have to operate them that way.  You can enter the data manually, too.

There are just a few simple rules.  You need to record date and time in UTC, note at least the band (but preferably the frequency), mode, signal reports sent and received.  A full exchange of signal reports and acknowledgements are required for a complete two-way contact.   Although there is some debate in the community regarding default “59” or “599” signal reports, I am not here to sway you one way or another.  In a contest, almost all signal reports are just that.  The essential exchange of information (serial number, zone, state, name, etc.)  is the hard part.  Signal reports are irrelevant.  However, some people advocate for more accurate reporting.  I can see their point, too.  RST aside, when you’re handling 100, 200, or even 300 QSOs an hour in a pileup – yes, it is entirely possible – you will thank the computer gods for making your life downright fun! 

Nothing Like Paper

You don't have to have a bunch of fancy cards printed up.  A postcard or even an index card with the contact details on it confirmed will serve nicely.  For actual QSL card printing, I use Gennady UX5UO (  For less than 50 bucks you can have 1000 very fine quality cards on your doorstep.  If you submit your own design, Gennady will work with you to optimize it.  Whichever printer you use – or even design your own for home printing in small quantities – a good card design says something personal about you.  It can educate the recipient about the card’s origins and/or something special about the confirming ham.  It’s reasonable to expect QSL requests to be accompanied by a couple of bucks (or at least SASE), or International Reply Coupons, if they prefer a direct response. 

Once you have your electronic recordkeeping set up, you might need to train yourself on the use of some on-line systems like eQSL and ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW).  Note that only LoTW and physical QSL cards count for ARRL awards such as Worked All States and DX Century Club.  Both eQSL and LoTW electronic confirmations can count toward CQ WPX (prefixes) and WAZ (Worked All Zones).  The software mentioned previously certainly permits pain-free upload to eQSL and LoTW. 

If you prefer to QSL via the bureau and do not want to keep a lot of cards on hand, GlobalQSL may be the solution for you.  They have special a Windows software QSL design package to help you design a card, including some stock images.  You can then purchase 100 printing "credits" for $13.50.  After designing your card, your ADIF logfile upload gets QSLs going to the printer and forwarded to the bureau.  It’s very affordable and a tremendous convenience.  You simply order what you need to be submitted through the receiving ham’s QSL bureau, and delivery to the far end is usually much faster than going through the ARRL outgoing QSL bureau.

Some packages like DXLab Suite will automatically upload your contacts to ClubLog, a free service run by Micharl G7VJR and some very talented assistants.  It's a great way to keep your electronic log online, track certain awards progress, and even makes QSL requests easy to handle.  ClubLog accepts an ADIF-formatted file to keep track of your contacts and basic DXCC statistics.  They even check your log for errors and provide detailed reports for your correction.  Again, ClubLog is a free service, and you can arrange for online QSL requests (OQRS).  This is perfect if you like the ease of QSLing to others but don’t demand a card in return, like we do at KL2R.  If you have a Paypal account, OQRS lets people submit payment for cards to be sent directly, typically $2.00. You can visit the KL2R OQRS page at .

Operators can also request QSLs via the bureau through OQRS, usually free.  That’s where GlobalQSL can really come in handy.  You need simply to upload an ADIF file and agree to print the QSLs on the design of your choice.  It’s a bargain and saves many hassles , especially with electronic logbooks.  A few clicks of the mouse, and you have a complete record of your QSO and QSL status.

To come full circle then, QSLing can be as simple or as complex as you like to have it, but there are darned few (good) excuses for not doing it.  Besides, you never know when the award bug will hit you.  Having at least electronic verifications will make it easy to go back and resurrect your history by using eQSL and LoTW when the urge strikes for more wallpaper in the shack.

Not For Everyone

I’m not saying I think everyone should QSL.  It’s entirely your choice.  After all, I understand budget or time constraints might be factors.  But if you’re one of those who won’t, then you should let people know about it.  Update your profile on and say so.  If you do QSL but require an SASE or “green stamps” (dollars) to offset costs, then say so!  If you only QSL electronically, like through eQSL or Logbook of the World, then say so!  Other operators shouldn’t have to waste their IRCs, dollars bills, and stamps on someone who won’t reply by mail. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


ARRL 10M Contest:  So about 2130, I have a good pileup going, and some D-I-C-K starts sending P-I-R-A-T-E on my frequency in sloppy, slow code.  Hey, Jackass!  Learn to copy code!!! Turns out someone mis-spotted me as NL7R.  Bunch of dumb M*F*s!

W4UTE-@        28027.0 NL7R         pirate see                 2247 09 Dec   Alaska
W6TMC-@        28023.9 NL7R         pirate see                 2115 09 Dec   Alaska

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Proud New Papa

Dan Kl1JP recently purchased a factory-refurbished Alpha 89 amplifier. Here he shakes it down at KL2R during the ARRL 10m contest when every watt counted.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seeing Double

The fall contest season has begun in earnest with some good band conditions and fun to go along with them.  To make things a little more interesting, we made some changes inside the shack.

With KL1JP's FT-950 sitting idle in the shack most of the past year, we decided to beging experimenting with SO2R in earnest by using dual FT-950s in recent RTTY, CW, and SSB contests.  We're not quite where we want to be yet.  The DX Doubler sitting on the shelf for several years was drafted into service, and it is simply not up to the task assigned.  That doesn't  mean it's not a fine SO2R controller.  It just doesn't suit our needs very well.  We're exploring other options, especially the Microham micro2R controller.

Automatic switching of bandpass filters is another big need.  Essentially, though, we need two filter switch boxes.  We have individual W3NQN BPFs purchased from Array Solutions, and strapping them together using their FM-6 matrix switch seems like a good way to go.  It's only $185.  However, what to do for a second switched filter set?  The FM-6 populated with NQN filters is a whopping $945, and the Hamation FilterMax III is $975.  So the Dunestar Model 600 filter system seems a much more affordable choice at $449.  Hopefully Santa will be generous in a few weeks with a wise filter system investment.

Of course, the second radio really needs an amplifier.  So far, the ACOM 1010 has proven to be a real winner for its price.  While a full legal limit, no-tune amp would be nice, the budget is very constrained.Therefore, we may be trolling for a used ACOM after the New Year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

IARU-ora 2012

Old Sol burped late last week.  At 0400 local time on Saturday the 14th, I strapped myself in for a bumpy ride in the IARU HF contest while I waited for the coronal mass ejection to hit, which was estimated to strike in the late morning.   

Best rate was about 1.5-2 hours into the contest with 130-150 Q's per hour.  The rest was mostly S&P once the CME hit.  Painful, indeed, but very interesting.  Even though Kp > 5 and aurora > 7, it was still possible to work stations.  

I have this theory:  When the aurora is active, we northerners all know we can usually only work those inside the aurora oval.  When the aurora level is so high, the oval pushes outward to lower latitudes.  (Hence, our friends in the south saw some nice lights last night.)  The larger the oval, the more stations enveloped.  The "box", so to speak, has more folks inside to work, at least on the higher bands.

The real-time geomagnetic field activity, which is reflected in the Kp, was fluctuating pretty wildly.  Higher = more absorption between here and there.  While it fluctuated, the door would open and then shut every few minutes. You maximize your chances of finding a station in rapid S&P.  It will pop up and then be gone in a few minutes. You can keep a 45-60 Q/hour going even under the worst conditions by keeping one hand on the dial and the other on the keyboard.  Those stuck in RUN will suffer mightily.

Our friends in the Lower 48 apparently enjoyed some fine Northern Lights.  Of course, it is still too light in the sky to see stars or aurora in Fairbanks.  In another few weeks, that will be different.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WPX CW with Dumplings

It's not every day one gets invited to contest with some world champions.  We keep KL2R afloat in the score listings.  But not by a far stretch are we competitive in upper echelons of any league, never mind the world of superstations and individual record holders. Bavarian Contest Club members, K6AW, AL7IF, and N1TX joined forces at KL7RA for a great time in the 2012 WPX CW over Memorial Day weekend. The final score of just under 25 million was a bit disappointing, because there was no significant opening on 10m.  It wasn't for lack of trying.

Luise DL2MLU and Wigi AL7IF teamed up to produce a fantastic celebration dinner of pork chops and dumplings.  Sommelier Steve K6AW and Rich KL7RA kept the spirits high with fine adult beverages.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Joys of Old and New

KL1JP, WL7BDO, KL6C, and KL1AZ joined N1TX for ARRL DX Phone last weekend.  After the great conditions in the CW portion of the contest, hopes were very high.  In fact, operations started with a bang with some very satisfying rates: 

  • The best 60 minute rate: 170/hour 
  • The best 30 minute rate: 204/hour 
  • The best 10 minute rate: 252/hour 
On Friday evening, we even caught some traction on 40m by running split, transmitting from about 7080 kHz and listening above 7200.  We were no match for fickle Mother Nature, though.  Rates soon vaporized, and even S&P became a challenge.  The Kp and aurora numbers were both headed up.  The final 24 hours were abysmal.  

Nevertheless, the team refused to cave and spirits remained high throughout the ups and downs of propagation. The 23.5 hours of "operating time" shown below does not reflect an additional 20 hours of tuning dead air.  Naturally, after hours of the doldrums on Sunday, we got a good run going 10 minutes before the finish to push us over the QSO count achieved in 2007. 

Contest         : ARRL International DX Contest
Callsign        : KL2R
Mode            : CW
Category        : Single Operator (SO)
Overlay         : ---
Band(s)         : All bands (AB)
Class           : High Power (HP)
Zone/State/...  : KW
Locator         : BP64KU
Operating time  : 20h48

  160     0   0   0       0  0.00
   80    22  12   0      63  2.86
   40   225  46   0     675  3.00
   20   413  50   1    1236  2.99
   15   734  53   7    2199  3.00
   10   375  48   6    1125  3.00
TOTAL  1769 209  14    5298  2.99
     TOTAL SCORE : 1 107 282

As it happened, KL1AZ's 12-year-old granddaughter Dale proved to be an incredible contester-in-the-making.  She quickly learned the ropes of running and S&P with Win-Test.  Her memory is like a steel trap, and she has that edgy, assertive personality required for effective contesting.  

Once she was basically comfortable with the exchange, we worked a system where one of us would type and key the transmitter while she talked.  It worked well.  Fred NA2U later commented by email, "I was very surprised to be called by a young girl with that callsign.  She did great on our 15m Q.  Best of luck to Dale!  Everyone knows we need new, young blood in the hobby."  In the photo below, Carl WL7BDO serves as control op while she scores another QSO with a big smile. 

Dale may end up being better suited for CW and RTTY contests, though, because her high-energy requires a lot of stoking.  Her eyes and hands were constantly on the prowl for power snacks.  A mouth full of sunflower seeds is incompatible with a phone contest.  Dale plans to take her license exam in April.  Look for more of her on-the-air adventures.