Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rejected QSOs and securing proof of QSOs

"QSO? I have no stinking record of your QSO!"

I really go out of my way to insure that people who QSO with me have accurate records of the exchange from my end

And so when I make the effort to keep those records and then see that my QSO confirmations are rejected because the other operator claims no record of the exchange, whose fault is it? I've updated my QRZ page to make it plainly clear to all that the minute I log a QSO, I will request a confirmation if possible.

The other thing I do is to sync up my QRZ log to LoTW. It at least gives me two ways to keep accurate logs. I've realized as of the two latest QSO rejections that I need to save my actual QSOs in PSK31 to text files and then use common string scanning tools to search the QSO records so I have proof if a rejection comes in. I use Ham Radio Deluxe with their PSK31 software "DM780" and it provides a means of storing the QSO and so I'll be doing that from now on. To save the QSO text for a session of working PSK31 (or whatever mode you are in if operating in digital modes like I often do), see below for the circled icon:

The only issue with saving these logs isn't that they are in RTF format  (why not just text? - HRD does some strange things indeed!) but that the default storage location under a hidden directory as shown below:

I was tempted to change the storage location via the storage section under "Options" in DM780, but I decided against it since plenty of other portions of HRD use that location. So I opted to create the directory "SavedQSOs" in place at the default location HRD uses and will save all my QSO sessions under that new folder.

This said, the next trick is to easily get to those QSOs again if needed. To do so, go to the folder "SavedQSOs" you just created and right click and look for "Include in Library" and then select "Create New Library". Once done your folder will easily be reachable by you as noted below:

Now the trick is to search for strings in the RTF files. In my own case, RTF files are already automatically indexed in Windows 10, but I wanted to insure that the folder was indexed since it was in the AppData folder to start. When I typed "Indexing Options" at the Cortana search bar (Also reachable from Control Panel), I was treated to the following display:

Note the new Library was automatically included in the included locations and note how the Appdata folders are excluded. In this case, our explicit add of the SavedQSOs overrides the exclude even though that data is under AppData.

Now to find the string "PTT" in the blank example file I saved from DM780:

And you can see the matched file. Opening the file reveals the string match:

So this means you can now search on a call sign for records of a digital QSO exchange to prove your case if you get a disputed digital QSO confirmation.

I hope this helps others and appreciate any comments and observations others may have.

73! -- Jon

Monday, October 3, 2016

Latest news....

I've been working on adding more antennas and got my G5RV up and running after a year of it just sitting there. I never could get it to work and finally I looked at the connections and cleaned the inside of the UHF connector and voila! Many contacts now!

A lot of work is going into adding new capabilities to the station and I have a third antenna being readied for use... It is a restoration project - A Hygain 18-AVT which needs a lot of TLC and rebuilding.

Last year I picked up this antenna from AK6ZZ (now K5AZZ). The image to the left shows the antenna as it was when I picked it up at the QTH for K5AZZ. It is in decent condition, save for problems with the coils which I am rebuilding. I will share more on my web site after I get it completely back in prime condition and install it.

This antenna is going to be my first restoration project of an antenna and I found a great page on how N6JSX managed to get his restored and am following that as a guide for my own restoration. I will be posting video on my Youtube channel when the time is right of the repair process.

Speaking of Youtube, yes, I have a new channel. As of this writing, it is without any videos, but that is soon to change! More later as the process of getting content up there to the channel goes forward.

That is all for now!

73 - Jon

Confirmations for QSOs.

From my QRZ page - My policies on QSO Confirmations (and yes... I'm really nice about all of this!)


Point number one: I make it an absolute priority to confirm your QSO with me ASAP.

As soon as our QSO finishes, I usually make the request on the spot while I'm thinking of it if it is a QRZ member. I'm still figuring out all the other registeries and how to do requests there, but if you are not a QRZ member and want me to confirm, visit my web page and email me through the Contact Form.

I only recently began to do this since I'm new to the scene and I've seen some pretty interesting behaviors so far when I have requested confirmations. Most folks are pretty good about confirmations and then again, some don't see it the same way and are... interesting... to say the least. I am one who will make it a point to value your time with the QSOs we exchange and am fair and easygoing.

Point number two: I understand that records can be inaccurate in minor points and will work with you to correct a mistake either on my part or yours. Welcome to being Human ;>)

Point number three: I *will* tell you why I might reject a QSO confirmation if that ever occurs. I have noted that there are some occurances for records having been rejected without explanation when I request them after a QSO and I will put myself in your shoes if there is such an occurance for a confirmation you request of me.

I just think it's good manners and puts the best foot out to the community when correcting our logs. Also, I'm not the type to hold unrealistic expectations of down to the second times on the QSO. LoTW allows up to 30 minutes discrepency when matching the logs and I'm not going to reject a confirmation that is off by a reasonable amount. I've seen a lot of rejections that don't even carry a comment and that is just plain wrong to do. Put yourself in the other guy or gal's shoes and you'll make a lot of friends for a little extra effort.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In February, I took and passed my General exam and happily got my ticket after many weeks of study and cramming. It is good to be a General class now and I looked forward to getting my station on the air.

Thinks being what they are,  it took some time, but I managed to get my new HyGain AV-18S finally installed and working. My station is still in a very raw state. I still must bury the coax and the SWR on the AV-18S is still in a state of flux. I tuned the antenna for working PSK-31 at 14.070 Mhz, but couldn't get the SWR below 2.1.

I bought the Wolf River coil just to avoid this sort of thing and guess I'm in for a real experience at getting the antenna tuned to where I need it to be. I thank the stars that I bought an antenna analyzer so I could get the antenna tuned in a bit better, but I think I'll need to be making a contact with the owner of Wolf River and send him some photos and describe my issues and see what he thinks.

In the meantime, I've achieved six contacts, all U.S. based, and as far east as Tennessee! So, I'm finally on the air, imperfect as it all is.

The antenna has a little more work to undergo. Braided copper to connect the grounds and the  antenna ground together. Need to pound the rods down a little further and the SWR problem needs addressing. I've got 16 copper line radials going out 30 feet each and I need to add more pins to get them to stick into the ground at the mid points of the radial lines to keep them flush to the ground. And I need to cut down the length of the ground mast by about 2 feet, I made it too tall.

Overall, I'm pleased so far. I think the vertical was a good first choice and the challenges it offers are good for teaching and showing me all kinds of interesting mistakes I can make.

I'm going to read up more on multi-band antennas and find out how best to proceed. What has been maddening with the current installation is that while I'm getting at least tolerable SWR on 20 meters, I'm getting horrible readings at 40 meters. I'm not sure what to do about it. How can you tune a multi band antenna to find a happy medium for all bands to at least have some reasonable performance?  At some point, I might change course with the antenna and dedicate it as a 20 meter only and remove the coil if it proves to be less helpful than I'd like. So, I've got work to do there.

In the meantime, I still have room for more antenna projects. I just ordered a 40 meter dipole I'm going to mount as an inverted V to get 40 meters reliably running. Additionally, I have a 10 meter dipole to put up and I suppose I'll have to work out how best to get them all connected towards the house. And, I want to put up a J-Pole for 2-meter work. I've got that kit sitting there waiting too. So it'll be a busy year for antennas.

Anyway, it's good to be in business and I'll share more as I go forward!



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rig Blaster Soundcard and Windows menu fix for recording control

I love Windows. Really, I do, but sometimes it's a royal pain in the rear because it gets the idea it'll do what it wants to do and to heck with what you like. And with Windows 10 looking like a pay-to-subscribe service, Microsoft is looking more and more like a less viable option down the road and my old standby of Linux looks to be the next big thing, but that isn't the point of this article.

Enough said about pay operating systems! On to the point of this blog!

I have an ICOM-718 transceiver with a Rigblaster Plug and Play interface for my PSK31 and rig control and I really love the combination. Tied into my Windows 7 system for the rig control and PSK31 software, it's a dream... I turn on the computer, fire up my ICOM and I'm in business. Except for one thing...

Windows decides, every time I reboot, to turn the Rigblaster sound settings into a zombie by disabling the line-in recording control for the Rigblaster. Every single time. The image below shows the menu with the disabled line in.

Rigblaster line in deactivated on boot.
Note the red speaker setting.
Also, note the high-level setting on boot

So I end up having to fix it by right-clicking on the volume control, selecting the recording control and navigating to the proper menu to re-enable the recording. It's a lot of clicks to get to the right menu. It works, but I wish I didn't have to do this and go through this ritual every time I boot up.

I end up losing my custom settings and it really gets old fast.

WHY this automatic disabling issue happens, I know not. I do know it is repeatable every single time I reboot my Windows system. So... I can handle a quirk or two... after all, it's a strange thing we do with connecting our radios to PCs and doing all these amazing things. If someone could tell me why the recording portion of the sound card does disable itself on boot and if there is a way to stop this forever, I'd be grateful.

Trouble is... I'm tired of the endless navigation to get to the right menu. Why couldn't Windows let me get to the recording menu directly? Seems like a logical thing to save a few clicks and steps. So I decided to Google around and sure enough I found out how to create a direct link to the recording menu.

Recording Control Menu in Windows
This page at http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/56892-sound-shortcuts-create.html had the answer.

You can create a shortcut to the recording control by getting to the shortcut creation menu in Windows and creating a new Recording menu shortcut to get to the recording tab that controls the Rigblaster card. I have copied the text from the link above that is relevant and thank that author for a fine job of providing the fix to save a few steps in correcting my errant sound card.

It's all pretty simple - Just some cut and paste work to get your shortcut built:

To Manually Create a "Sound" Shortcut for the recording menu
1. Right click or press and hold on an empty area on your desktop, and click/tap on New and Shortcut.

2. Type the location below (better to cut and paste it) into the location area for what tab you want the Sound shortcut to open to, and click/tap on the Next button.
  • Recording Tab
    • %windir%\System32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL mmsys.cpl,,1
Once done, you can reach the menu in fewer steps and make the needed corrections by reactivating the line in menu and setting the line level to somewhere between 10 and 20

The only downside is that the default icon is kind of boring. I used one of the default Windows icons to add a little variety and the shortcut now stands out on my task bar.

So, once you have the shortcut built, click it and up will pop your recording menu! Make your edits by getting to the line-in tab and make the needed fixes as shown in the menu below. Enjoy!

Line level reactivated and level set to between 10 and 20.
You will need to click the speaker icon to get it to reactivate.
Once done with the settings, click Ok and you will be back in business.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Overcoming Old Links in Digipan

So. It has been awhile since I started this blog. And I have been busy despite the dearth of articles to this blog. Life has a way of getting you to focus on things and this blog went by the wayside for awhile, but I'm back and wanted to share a technique I came up with for Digipan station lookups. I hope it helps you!

I have been steadily building up my station over the course of a year in ham radio. I'm still a technician class ham at the time of this writing, but I now have a nice new ICOM IC-718 transceiver and I have developed an interest in digital mode communications. More specifically, I'm into PSK31 and now that I am watching QSOs on 20 and 40 meters, I'm using software that is freely available to do just that.

Digipan 2.0
My first piece of software for PSK work, which I like for it's simplicity of operation, is Digipan. The trouble is, Digipan is OLD. Actually, ANCIENT would be more the word. And with that ancient heritage, comes the fact that the station lookup function for Digipan is broken because the URL format for lookups is now completely different since the last compilation of Digipan in 2004.

In my professional life as a webmaster and application builder, I realized that I could easily fix Digipan to work once again with a little work on using a tool to catch an inbound web request and to transform it before hitting a web site. In IIS, we use a plugin called UrlRewrite to do such things, both for inbound and outbound web requests. So, I reasoned out that it would make sense that a similar thing exists for browsers too. Since I'm a fan of Firefox, I decided to look at the optional plugin list lo and behold! I found a perfect tool for the job. (Note that there may be similar tools for other browsers, but I went with what I knew and liked for this need. The techniques used will be very similar for other similar tools and hopefully this article helps.)

Redirector is a plugin to match URLs and regex and wildcard patterns to scan for and to transform an outgoing web URL to a new form that the user specifies.

Now, how to we use this to fix Digipan?

First off, let's take a look at what happens when you do a station lookup in Digipan. Since my callsign is KK6IQK, I'll start with an example from Digipan's internally formatted URL for station lookups from 2004 to QRZ.COM.

The Firefox browser launches when I do the station lookup and heads over to the following URL:


Resulting in the following display:

Now what? How can we transform the URL so it will go to the new format that QRZ.COM uses?

First step is to open Firefox and go to the Redirector plugin page and download and install it. Note that Firefox will need to be restarted once the install is complete.

Now go back and have Digipan do a station lookup again. Firefox will launch and you will get a page that shows the broken link on QRZ.Com.

Your next step is to create the rule to transform the link. To do so, make sure your "Tools" menu is available for Firefox and choose the Tools menu. Look towards the bottom and you should see an item that says "Redirector". Press it.

A new tab will open up and you will see a "Redirector" screen. Get the link from the original tab for QRZ.Com (example below)

  • Original Link: http://www.qrz.com/callsign.html?callsign=KK6IQK - Place it in the example URL field
Next, we create the pattern for Redirector to use to match up links to transform:
  • http://www.qrz.com/callsign.html?callsign=* - Place that in the Include Pattern field
Note that we use a wildcard for the callsign. Set the Pattern Type radio button to "Wildcard".

Now for the magic. The "Redirect to" line will transform the link while preserving the first argument of the station id as follows:
  •  http://www.qrz.com/db/$1
When finished, you should have a screen that looks like:

You are done, save the rule.A new screen will appear, showing the rule you just built:

Now to test it! Your original tab with the original broken URL on QRZ.Com is likely still open. If not, you can copy the URL for my station in the old 2004 format:

  • http://www.qrz.com/callsign.html?callsign=KK6IQK
Now paste it if you need to, or just reload the page. The rule should transform seamlessly. If not, go back and check the rule logic and correct any typos.

 If the rule worked, the URL will automatically change to
  • http://www.qrz.com/db/KK6IQK
The corrected page, in QRZ's current link lookup format will look like this. Success! The rule works!

Now, close all the browsers and launch Digipan. Pick a station from the waterfall and then do a lookup. Digipan should be working again with lookups! This technique will help with all kinds of broken link issues with older ham software and I hope this is yet another item in your toolbox that you will use again and again!

Enjoy and 73!