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Quick links

  1. Evaluating logging programs using a structured method to choose between them
  2. Logger32’s features plus a few snags and flaws
  3. Logger32 hack: highlight arbitrary calls - ‘repurpose’ Logger32’s LoTW user lookup function
  4. Using Logger32 with the Elecraft K3 - a few hints for Elecrafty users of Logger32

This page is mostly about computer logging using Logger32 by Bob K4CY.

 

Evaluating logging programs

Having emigrated to ZL in 2005 and re-started my DXCC hunt with a shiny new ZL callsign, I decided this was the ideal opportunity to start computerised logging. My paper G4iFB logbooks and shoe-boxes of G4iFB QSLs are now turning yellow and collecting Kiwi dust on a shelf.

So, how to choose a logging program? I’m used to evaluating software for work so decided to apply the same process:

  • First, I determined my requirements and listed them out, taking suggestions from fellow DXers in CDXC. These became my evaluation criteria. *
  • Next, since some requirements are clearly more important than others, I prioritised and ranked them to generate “weightings” for each one. *
  • I put the criteria into a column of a spreadsheet, adding columns for every logging program I could find and a column with weightings for each criterion.
  • I installed evaluation copies of several logging programs and entered the scores for each one against each of the criteria, adding notes to explain why they scored as they do.
  • The spreadsheet calculates a percentage rating for each program by multiplying each of the scores by the corresponding weightings and totalling. Easy peasy.

* Please note that both the criteria and weightings are personal to me. They reflect my priorities (back in 2005!), what’s important to me in how I intended to use logging software. I’m confident the spreadsheet is of general interest but your requirements probably differ somewhat from mine, in which case you are very welcome to download the spreadsheet and adapt the requirements and/or adjust the weightings to suit your purposes. Just because I chose Logger32 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you! On top of that, things have moved on since 2005.

The evaluation spreadsheet is a useful starting point. If you use or evaluate any of the logging programs listed on the spreadsheet, or indeed others, and are willing to share your scores and comments by updating the spreadsheet, please let me know. All inputs are welcome. I’m especially keen to hear about logging programs that you feel score above Logger32, preferably using my criteria and weightings! I encourage heavy, long-term users and ardent fans of any logging software to explain why you love it so much. Tell me more!

I have chosen to use K4CY’s Logger32 for my everyday station log and N1MM+ for contest logging. Both programs are free and support the ADIF XML log standard, meaning that after a contest I can integrate my contest logs easily into a consolidated station log. ADIF also lets me export logs to other programs if Logger32 doesn’t do what I need it to do, although I have noticed differences in the way some program interpret the ADIF standard so it can be a risky process. Whatever else you do, take frequent log backups and check them to make sure all the essential QSO information is in fact being backed up! ADIF files are plain ASCII text, so you can open them with Notepad or TED to browse through and edit. Check that your latest QSO appears at the bottom, and that the details such as UTC date and time, callsigns (both the DX and you, as operator), band and mode are all correct.

ADIF or Cabrillo output is essential if you use ARRL’s Logbook of The World, which I heartily recommend (it’s one of the heavily-weighted criteria in the evaluation spreadsheet). The Web interface to LoTW is somewhat clumsy and the initial registration process laborious but it’s worth it in the end to have such rapid and cheap electronic confirmations of QSOs with thousands of other LoTW users, in a secure manner, and an easier way to claim the ARRL’s DXCC and WAS awards, plus CQ Magazine’s WPX and WAZ awards.

Back to quick links

 

Logger32 features, snags and bugs

Logger32 main screen 740

Logger32 is an excellent logging program with loads of useful features such as:

  1. It’s free, as in free beer not free speech. The program’s author K4CY and support team put a huge amount of work into developing, testing, documenting and maintaining the program while expecting virtually nothing in return except respect.
     
  2. It follows the current ADIF standard closely, allowing me to exchange logs easily with other ADIF-compliant programs such as N1MM+ and LoTW.
     
  3. It competently handles the basics - things such as entering and storing QSO information, displaying country info, beam headings, times, previous QSOs etc. Logger32 is fast enough to keep up with me, even in pileup situations.
     
  4. The screen layout can be customized to show windows such as the logbook, DXcluster, greyline map, log entry screen, notes and more, all on the one screen (such as the screenshot above) or spread across several (e.g. I now monitor the band maps on a second screen while working, catching up with emails, browsing the web etc. on the main screen with Logger32 in the background until some juicy DX catches my attention). The layout, sequence and colouring of most windows and the highlighting to show DXCC and QSL status can be customized.
     
  5. L32 annual all time toggleIt tracks our DXCC statistics statistics automatically, and can switch between DXCC stats for all time or just for the current calendar year - handy for those of us who participate in various annual challenges such as the CQ DX Marathon and league tables such as those in Clublog. In the example shown here, I see that I had worked HA (Hungary) on all bands and modes over the years, but only on 2 bands on CW at that point in 2015, neither of which had been confirmed. The toggle also changes the highlighting of DX spots accordingly.
  6. It’s extensible with several useful third party add-ons written and released by other talented and generous hams.
     
  7. It has additional features such as the Digital Voice Keyer function. From an icon on the main screen, I can trigger replay of the voice messages stored in the K3’s DVR hardware - handy for calling DX in an SSB pileup without constantly reaching for the rig or shouting into the mike like a demented parrot. [The ‘radio control panel’ function lets me send CAT commands to the radio - even better! I can compose and test new K3 macros on the fly.]
     
  8. Logger32 uses Club Log’s wonderful DXCC info database maintained by Alan 5B4AHG, to identify the correct DXCC countries, both in near real time as we are logging QSOs (using a daily update from Club Log) and subsequently (checking logged QSOs for their DXCC status at the date and time they were logged).
     
  9. It can link to WSJT-X, JTDX and other digimode software via UDP, receiving QSO information into the log, updating statistics etc.

However, like all software, Logger32 is not totally free of issues. Here are the snags that bother me the most - a mix of what I consider design flaws, bugs and things it just doesn’t do, in decreasing priority order at least as far as I’m concerned (your priorities probably differ):

  1. Pointless confirmation clicks are annoying, especially in the program functions that I use frequently (e.g. LoTW and Club Log updates through the otherwise very useful L32 LogSync utility from N2AMG). Logger32 sometimes pops up a selection panel even when there is only one option. From a usability point of view, it would be nice for the user to at least have the option to drop unnecessary confirmations (perhaps a sticky “Do not bug me with this again” option?). And yes I appreciate that’s one more click!
     
  2. The logbook can be sorted by several fields. The sort happens quickly but does not leave the cursor and display on the previously-selected QSO line right after the sort, which is the Windows default. For example, with the cursor sitting on a G3SXW QSO, if I sort the log by callsign, it should finish up with me still looking at that same G3SXW QSO but with the logbook now in sorted callsign order around it. There are other niggles with the logbook display that I believe stem from an early design decision to develop custom routines for displaying, navigating and sorting the logbook.
     
  3. The process for changing the layout and content of the logbook window also does not follow the Windows conventions. Instead of simply being able to drag columns around on the screen and hide/reveal them, we have to enter a separate configuration screen, then carefully drag the relevant fields into the right sequence while avoiding crossing other items already shown. This is not unlike threading a needle with the mouse, tricky enough for this able -bodied computer user but must be next to impossible for physically-handicapped hams. On the upside, it’s an infrequent set-and-forget operation and the screen layout settings are retained through program updates.
     
  4. Logger32 won’t let us select multiple QSOs to make bulk changes e.g. to fill-in missing reports, change the QSL status, change the operator, fix busted zones etc. It is a one QSO at a time program. On the upside, we can only screw up one QSO at a time!
     
  5. Logger32’s NCDXF beacon tracking facility is useful as it is but a few little changes in this facility would be nice. At present, the status of the individual beacons can be manually configured, requiring us to select the relevant beacon from a drop-down list, then click to toggle the active status flag separately on every band: since a beacon is generally QRV or QRT on all bands at once, an option to set or reset all the bands with just one click would be nice. Even better would be for Logger32 to look up the status info from the NCDXF website for us and set the flags automatically, maybe when the NCDXF beacon window first opens on any day.
     
  6. Although Logger32 can check for program updates automatically as it launches, those updates do not include updates to the User Manual .  Every so often, Logger32 users must remember to download the current User Manual (which I maintain and update roughly once a month, in line with new program versions containing bug fixes, new functions and other tweaks).

Here’s a parting thought from P Williams that perhaps explains how Logger32’s users are perceived by the program’s long-suffering author Bob K4CY:

“From the programmer’s point of view,
the user is a peripheral that types something
when you issue a read request”

Back to quick links

 

Logger32 hack: highlight club members’ callsigns

Logger32 has a built-in function to check whether callsigns spotted, decoded and logged are using LoTW. It does this by downloading the LoTW user file, importing the callsigns from that file into Logger32’s database and doing lookups on DX spots, decoded callsigns and while we are logging QSOs.

While it quite a useful to know who is using LoTW, I already have that information since VE7CC’s Cluster User program does the same checks, marking spots for LoTW users with a plus sign in the comments field. Furthermore, previous QSOs that have been confirmed on LoTW are identified with a coloured background in my logbook - one of many color options.

In short, I don’t need Logger32’s LoTW lookups.

I thought it would be more useful to know when my friends from FOC are spotted, so I set about fooling Logger32 into loading a list of FOC members into its LoTW function, instead of the list of LoTW users.

Instructions are now incorporated into
the Logger32 v4 User Manual.

The data file can list any callsigns, not just LoTW users or FOC members.

If you only want to identify a few calls whenever they appear on DXcluster, the audio alerting function (accessed by right-clicking the DX Spots window, then selecting Setup --> Audio alerts --> Enable audio alerts) accepts a list of calls. I flag stations in CQ Zone 2 or in the few locations that count separately for the CQ DX Marathon (e.g. Bear Island and the Shetlands) but not for DXCC.

Back to quick links

 

Using Logger32 with Logbook of The World

ARRL’s LoTW is a robust and secure if rather dated system for cross-matching electronic QSO details to generate electronic QSLs. LoTW incorporates controls to minimize the possibility of fraud and [data] corruption. Logs must be signed using public key cryptography and digital certificates issued by ARRL. Before you can use LoTW, you need a digital ‘callsign certificate’ from ARRL.

For guidance to get going with LoTW,
read my LoTW New User Guide

There’s more on LoTW here including tips on synchronising Logger32’s DXCC statistics with LoTW.

Back to quick links

 

Using Logger32 with the Elecraft K3

Logger32 will communicate quite happily with the Elecraft K3 and other radios via their serial ports. Elecraft radios emulate the Kenwood command set, but choose the right radio type to get the full range of commands. There’s a K2/K3 section in the Logger32 help file that tells you how to configure the radio comms.

There is a small drawback to the K3, for me anyway. It defaults to the ”wrong” sideband for CW and digital modes when QSYd using Logger32. I prefer tuning from the bottom of the band upwards, hearing successive CW tones going high-to-low as I go, which requires CW-REV mode on the K3. That's fine, until I click on a spot in Logger32: as well as QSYing the rig for me, it automagically resets the radio mode to [normal] CW. :-(

A simple workaround nearly solves this annoyance. Simply tell Logger32 to use mode CW-R in place of CW in its band-mode table, and likewise use FSK-R instead of RTTY. The table is accessed from the Tools menu (select "Setup Bands & Modes"). Open the table, find a CW entry, edit it to read CW-R and hit return to finish editing that line, then go to the next ... and finally click the Apply button. Now whenever you click a CW spot, the radio QSYs to the frequency and sets itself to CW -REV. The workaround doesn’t fix Logger32’s NCDXF beacon-tracker QSY function though, which still insists on putting the K3 in CW mode. Given that I only use it occasionally, I can live with that.

The contest logger N1MM+ has a setup option to use CW-REV. Easy.

Logger32 can send arbitrary command strings to the K3 through the ‘radio control panel’ function. I use this mostly to trigger the K3 to send my callsign from its DVK memories in DX pilesup, using a handy function key on the PC keyboard. There’s a config option that lets me use the function key even while I am running some other program (such as when I am working in Word or Excel): the trick is to pick function keys that you rarely if ever use in any program, such as F6, F7 and F8 in my case. I have F6 configured to send the K3 “RX;” command which aborts sending the current message if I trigger it by mistake - tapping the rig’s PTT footswitch achieves the same end but first I have to duck under the desk to find where the footswitch is hiding ...

There’s more on the Elecraft rigs here
and lots more about Logger32 in the User Manual.

Back to quick links

Hawke’s Bay
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New Zealand

39o 39’ South x 176o 37’ East

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Copyright © 2022 Gary Hinson ZL2iFB
Please email me for permission to republish.