Friday, December 21, 2007

Tools for Ham Radio - Part 4

This is the fourth (and final, for now) part of a series that I'm doing on software tools for ham radio. I've written some background in part 1, and you can find parts 2 and 3 in my blog as well.

The Internet Tool

Some people think that calling the Internet a tool isn't quite fair. I disagree, and view it as a source for other tools; a meta-tool if you will. Using the Internet, you can find almost anything that you'll need, including all the of the tools that I've mentioned previously.

I'm going to focus, briefly, on a few sites that I use regularly. Again, as with the other tools, these are sites that I happen to use fairly often and like. There are others that provide similar information, and there are thousands of others that I have yet to find.

So, in no particular order, here we go:
  • qrz.com: The mother of all callsign lookup sites. Aside from having all US callsigns automatically populated and updated, many (most?) DXers and contesters have their callsigns, mailing addresses, and email addresses listed here. If for some reason you haven't heard of this site, you probably don't have an Internet connection (and haven't been on the air much, since a lot of stations will now say "QSL via qrz.com".)
  • Propagation info at http://dx.qsl.net/propagation/: Although there are other sites that go into more detail about a specific aspect of propagation, this site provides an excellent overview on general propagation conditions.
  • DX Summit: DX spots from packet clusters all over the world are consolidated here. While you can view things essentially in real-time (as you can on many other sites), one feature that I find particularly useful is the ability to pull down historical spots. For instance, as I write this, FJ/OH2AM is on the air from the new DXCC entity of St. Barthelemy (FJ). Earlier, I wanted to listen for them when they came up on 40m CW, so by searching the spots I was able to find out approximate time and frequency to look for them.
  • ARRL Home Page: There is just so much good info on the ARRL home page that I don't know where to begin. If you're a member, there's even more good info on their members-only pages. From information about contests to awards, to general news, it's all there. As a plus, they have an RSS feed available if you don't want to have to go visit the site.
  • There are two sites that I use when I'm trying to figure out how much return postage to include when sending out a QSL card: http://www.qsl.net/w9ol/IRC_Chart.htm and http://www.n6dhz.com/irc-chart.html. I tend to check between them because occasionally one's been updated more recently than the other.
  • eham.net: There's a lot of good stuff here, but in particular I like their user-generated product reviews section.
  • The NG3K Amateur Radio Contest/DX Page has a tremendous amount of information about past, current, and future DX operations. Probably my favorite part of this site is the Announced DX Operations page, which includes information about dates of operation, the QSL manager, and the web site for the operation.
  • AC6V's Amateur Radio and DX Reference Guide website was one of the first ham-oriented sites that I found when I got into ham radio, and it's still one that I use frequently. If there is something related to ham radio that can't be found on this site, it probably doesn't exist. Although there is quite a bit of "local" content, this site is particularly good for finding more detailed sites about a particular topic.
  • K2DSL’s Maidenhead Grid Square Locator is a web application that will take any one of several pieces of information such as an address, a callsign, or a 4 or 6 digit grid square and return a map showing that Maidenhead grid square. This will primarily be of interest to operators working on 6m and higher, although there are some HF awards that require the grid square as well. (Added 05 June 2009)
  • And finally, there's K2DBK's Ham Radio Website. Ok, I had to give a plug for my site. To be honest, I update this blog far more often than I update my site, but I do use it for things like my ZF2DK trip, etc.
I realize, of course, that I've barely scratched the surface of what's available on the Internet, but as with the other tools, I thought it might be useful to share those things that I personally find useful in the hopes that it might help you to find something that you didn't know about. I'd be curious to hear from anyone who discovered something new by virtue of it being mentioned here, and I'd also like to hear about different tools that you find useful.

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