Monday, June 04, 2007

Online Logs

I'm spoiled. I started in ham radio in 2000, by which point computers had made serious inroads into our hobby. Many hams were already logging their contacts using computer-based loggers (as I do, using DX4WIN for DX logging, and N1MM's contest logger for contesting), and stations were increasingly using computers along with their radios for things like radio control and for both new (PSK31) and old (RTTY) digital modes.

But perhaps the most important thing to me about computers and ham radio is the ability to use computers in ways only indirectly connected to the actual radio itself. For example, the ability to use the Internet to research topics (such as those mentioned in the last paragraph) has made it possible to learn about things without having to run out to the library and without keeping a few dozen linear feet of books on your shelf. (Don't get me wrong, I have copies of the ARRL Handbook, the ARRL Antenna Book, and others on my shelf, and I use them with surprising, at least to me, frequency.)

One of the best "indirectly connected to radio" things has been the availability of online logs. Many rare DX stations, DXpeditions, and even regular folks provide the ability to search through their logs via the Internet. For rare countries and DXpeditions, especially those who are able to update their logs while still operating, this provides the ability for someone who has worked the station (or at least thinks that he's worked the station) to know that the contact was valid. (Or conversely, if a contact doesn't show up, it lets the operator know that another attempt to make contact is in order.)

Most of the online logs are set up in such a way that you can find if you (or anyone with a callsign) has made a contact, and usually even what band and mode was in use, but the time and date is hidden to avoid from someone with a similar call from "stealing" credit for a QSO. The operator needs to provide that specific information, which is not available online, in order to get a QSL card from the other station.

I'd been thinking for a while about making my Cayman logs available online, since I'm pretty sure that I'll have Internet access at the location where we'll be staying. My initial thought was that I'd definitely want to upload to the Logbook of the World, but I starting thinking that it would be nice to provide the logs for everyone, not just LotW users. (Though everyone should use LoTW!) I played around with some software that I'd found and had installed on a private section of my web site, but I kept running into various glitches (one package didn't support operation on 6 meters, another had been written years ago using a now-obsolete version of PHP, and I was spending more time trying to fix it than it was worth.) It then occurred to me that Chris, DL5NAM, provides a free log search to any ham at his web site. I signed up at Chris' site, read the instructions for uploading logs, and I was pretty much set to go.

All the logs that Chris hosts are on his website, but upon request, Chris will set up a direct search link for you. I dropped him an email, and by the next morning, Chris had taken care of that, and my logs had their own search page. I "embedded" that in a page of my own (because I wanted to be able to track usage), and I was all set. If you're interested, you can look at the ZF2DK log search page which is linked to from my main ZF2DK page. While the Cayman Islands aren't really rare, they are in demand in some parts of the world, and I hope that by providing this it will be a useful addition.

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