Tuesday, September 23, 2014

AlphaClock for Your Desktop

Have you ever wanted a clock display someplace else on your desktop instead of only the bottom right part of the status bar?  Well, here is one that you can put anywhere on the screen, set the color to your liking, and even have it display UTC time.  AlphaClock is "Freeware" and is a very small program.  Just download the self-extracting EXE file from HERE, run it to extract the files to the folder of your choice, then RUN it by double-clicking on "aclock.exe" in the extracted files.

Once you have AlphaClock running on your desktop, you can right-click on the clock display and choose your color scheme, UTC time, and have it start when Windows starts.  Left-click and hold on the clock and you can drag it anywhere on the screen.  As you can see in the above image, I have AlphaClock set to the "Amber" color scheme and have positioned it right above the callsign entry field in N1MM.  The small "u" at the left means AlphaClock is displaying UTC Time.  (Click on the image to view it larger.)  It makes it super convenient to see the time since I'm focused on the callsign entry window most of the time I am contesting.  With it displaying UTC, there is no need for me to "convert" my computer clock time.  If you choose, it will also display 12-hour time.  And, just hover the mouse over it and the Day / Date is displayed.  Plus, it always sits on "Top" of all other windows so it's always visible.  AlphaClock will run on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or Windows XP and I have it working just fine on Windows 7/64.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to BackUp MMTTY and MVARI Macros in Logger32

Have you spent a lot of time creating Macros in Logger32 for use with MMTTY or the MVARI digital modes?  If so, what happens if your computer dies?  Do you lose all that work?  Hopefully not!  If you have Backed Up your User Files to some off-site location like a CD, a Thumb Drive, another computer hard drive, or even by sending the files in an email to your Gmail, Yahoo, HotMail or other WEB based email account - NOT to an email account which is downloaded to your computer email program like Thunderbird or Outlook Express.  The email you send needs to be stored out in the "Cloud" so that if your computer dies, you can get a new computer and still access that email.

In Logger32, on the line directly below the Menu Bar, there is a string of icons for various features of Logger32.  The 2nd Icon from the left is for Zipping your User files.  See the image on the right.  Click on any image to see it larger.

Click on this "Zip user files" Icon and a new window opens called "Backup user files."  See the image on the left below.

Now just click on the "Start" button to save all the User Files to a Zip archive.   In the example here, the file will be saved to the following directory:


You can click on the "Browse" button to save it in a different location if you wish.

The files that are backed up include your Logger32.ini, MMTTY.ini, UserPara.ini, and several other files that contain your "User" information.  As far as your Macros are concerned, there are two files that contain them and they are called:



The MMTTY Macros are stored in the second file above and the MMVARI ones in the first one.  You can open either of those files in a text editor like Notepad to view them or change them if you desire.  You can also find these files in your basic Logger32 directory if you want to save them separately from the Zip archive.

If you click on the First Icon on the left in Logger32, it will backup all your databases and your logbook.  That Zip archive may contain 20 to 30 separate files depending on how you actually use your Logger32.  It contains the .ISD, .ISF, and .ISM files that are your logbook as well as your IOTA database files, Country database files, etc.  Save this Zip file in a safe "off-site" location as well.

You can also export your full log as an ADIF file as a further backup.  Keep that file in a safe place also.

Having all these files backed up in a SAFE location will save you HOURS of work and frustration WHEN (not IF) your computer dies!  They can be used to restore your Logger32 to the new computer without the need for you to re-invent the wheel!

It is so quick to do that you have no excuse for not doing this on a regular basis.

1.  Zip the files
2.  Send yourself an email with those two Zip files as attachments.

Easy, peasy!   Don't forget to also send yourself the LoTW P12 file to save yourself having to set up a new LoTW account. You WILL thank me one day if you do this!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Logger32 Country Database Exceptions from ClubLog

In a recent update, Logger32 added a feature to make the QSO's shown in your log more accurate.  You can find this feature by clicking on "Setup" in the Menu bar and this will give you more Menu Options.  Click on the "Updates" item on the new Menu Bar and you will see your choices.  The one I'm showing here is the "Country database exceptions from Clublog."  If you hover the mouse over that item, a pop-up will reveal your options.  Choosing "Look for updates now."  Logger32 will open a new window and download ALL the Clublog Exceptions that are available.  You can see an example of that window on the Left.  Click on any image to see it larger.

It will show you how many exceptions have been downloaded when it has completed (and the progress bar has moved across the top of your screen.)

Once you have downloaded all the exceptions, click on "Updates" and then click on "Validate DXCC country codes from Clublog".  This will open another window that allows you to choose what the process does with entries in your log.  It would be a GREAT idea to backup your logbook, just in case you make changes that you do not want to make.

You can see the Options I picked in the photo on the upper Right.  I was moving cautiously to make sure I didn't screw anything up.  I chose NOT to change the DXCC country for any "Informational" entries in my log.  These are entries that have an equal sign "=" after the callsign.  They do not count for anything but are in my log for informational purposes.  I also chose the "Manual" confirmation of changes.  This caused a pop-up to appear for each potential change and I could manually "Approve" it or not.  I also chose to NOT change any entry that had been approved by ARRL.  And, I told Logger32 I was doing the full logbook and "promised" to recalculate my statistics later.

After the process completed, the box you see on the upper right was completed.  It made 21 corrections to my log.  This has not been a huge change in my log, but it definitely improved my statistics.  For example, when I logged "N5AIU/R" (a Rover station I worked on 6-M), Logger32 gave me credit for working European Russia!  This process removed that error.

Once you have done the entire logbook (and recalculated your statistics) you can set it to Automatically Update your log (Updates | Country database exceptions from Clublog | Enable auto updates.)  The update will then automatically update daily.

This is another great feature of Logger32 - putting the power of Clublog to use to keep your logbook as accurate as possible.  More instructions are in the Help file under "Clublog."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Antenna Question

The photo on the left was in the April 2014 issue of QST on Page 88.  Can anyone tell why this guy is not seeing any directional performance from his antenna?

I did not see it right away and had to go through several different thoughts and a couple of re-looks at the photo.

Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Amateur Equipment Inventory

The ARRL Contest Update for January 15, 2014, included a suggestion from the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter that we, as hams, need to make an inventory of our equipment.  The article is reprinted below with permission of ARRL.  This is a useful idea not only for our spouse or whoever is charged with the duty of taking care of what we leave behind but can be beneficial for ourselves.  It can remind you what you actually paid for an item or how long you've really owned it when you go to sell it.

We are all getting older, that's a given. And, for the most part, we have a considerable inventory of ham radio related products. But, how many of us actually have this inventory written down? I started doing this many years ago in a Microsoft Word document but I got too detailed on what I was trying to keep track of, and with my limited knowledge of Microsoft Word, I had no way to sort it.

Even if you don't use Microsoft Excel to record this data, it can still be very beneficial just to record the simplest record on paper or even in Microsoft Word. Making this a New Year's resolution to simply "work" on this project over the year is a good start. You don't have to complete it by next Friday, just START on it TODAY!

I've seen some hams pass away where the person who has to go through their "stuff" has no idea that a rotor control box on the operating table necessarily has a rotor connected to it out on the tower, that empty boxes for "filters" indicate those "filters" are actually "inside" a radio, which charger belongs to which radio, and so on.  Even when another ham tries to unravel this mess, that charger issue can be a huge problem.  To solve the charger issue, I have started putting a label on the cable of a charger indicating what equipment it belongs to.  To solve the first issue, a simple list of equipment with notes showing the basic info is a great start.  I also need to do a little work on where I keep my manuals, accessory cables, connectors, fuses, etc.   A note in the description (or a column in Excel) could tell WHERE those items are located.  The "Notes" can also contain information about "issues" with that particular piece of equipment or any separate options or accessories that are installed or are located in a box or a drawer somewhere.  HECK, that's a great idea even for while I'm still HERE.  Sometimes it takes me days to find where I put those parts just a mere 10 years ago! 

Now go start this BASIC and SIMPLE inventory list TODAY! You can work on it as time is available but at least START it TODAY! I did!  See above a Screen Shot of my beginning effort.

One Other Idea:

While I'm at it, you should also begin looking at Life and Death Planning (if you haven't already done so.)  There is no guarantee for ANY of us as to how much time we have left so don't think that just because you are relatively young and healthy that this does not affect you.  Below is a link to a good place to start.  There is some very good information here as well as Checklists you can download and print to get yourself started.  Plus, the website has an easy to remember name!


========== Excerpt of ARRL Contest Update follows  ==========

Taking Inventory

The New Year is always a time of resolutions and resolve...and maybe a bucket list or two. The January issue of the Mt Airy VHF Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter contained a gem of a resolution by John W3HMS - taking inventory of your shack equipment. As John explains in this issue's Conversation piece, reprinted with the permission of the Pack Rats, it's not hard and you'll be glad you did. 73, Ward NØAX

Your Easy New Year's Resolution: A Simple Ham Shack Inventory
by John W3HMS

There are many reasons to have an inventory and so very many reasons NOT to do it. One point to consider is that this is not the "good old days" when a friend sells THE radio of an SK but rather a time when a ham station has A LOT of gear in it and it may be very messy!!!!

The Contest Update wishes to thank the Pack Rats for their many contributions to this newsletter and to VHF+ contesting over their long and storied history.
Because my inventory is built in Excel it can and has been refined over time. Buying new gear is easy...you can add to it almost 100% from memory at the time when the gear is received. Sales or disposal is equally easy as "Sold VOM to W1XYZ for $25 on 1 Nov 13".

The key is to keep it simple remembering that you will miss some items but they can be added as/when you desire. Price is the purchase price (a fact at the time the item is bought), and NOT a current valuation. The latter is easy to obtain...set aside 15 hours per day for constant Ebay inquiries...yea, right, HI!!

The easy entry and sorting features of Excel and its widespread availability means you can enter items randomly then sequence like items together and sort as you desire later on. You can easily create additional rows and columns plus select the columns to print or email. Here is what I record: Description, Purchase Date, Purchase Price and Notes. One column per category, one row per item.

As you can see, I DO keep it simple. I could put in serial numbers if I want to research more than 200 items but that takes time and it could kill the project. I could try and find the current selling price and encounter the same issues. I try and put the item keyword first so like items sort together, e.g. transceiver, transmitter, SWR meter, antenna matcher, etc. For items like tools, I put in one lot valued at a low price...you may have big ticket power tools and desire to enter key items individually.

For homebrew gear or unknown gear, I use $1.00. You could start your entry process by entering the most expensive gear first as this follows a good business principle of putting effort on the most important gear. Don't forget your antennas and all outside towers, equipment, and gear in the car, boat, Rolls-Royce, etc .

On small parts of unknown value, just citing one lot at $1.00 will help ensure that this category is not missed at the time of your trip to "the big QTH in the sky". If you have big expensive spares, then individual inventory entry seems most desirable. You could set a dollar value for what to enter, but I feel that any piece of equipment I might want to sell is worth entry.

So what do you have when you are finished or close to it? Well, you have an accurate record to discuss with your insurance agent if you feel you may want additional QTH insurance.

It seems to me it is just a good practice to record your radio assets. If you feel the inventory process is tough for you, imagine how tough it would be for your widow and/or friends who have not the same knowledge as you do of the equipment by function and value? 

I think you may well be surprised at the dollar value you have tied up in your equipment. You also have a file that can easily be stored on your PC, safeguarded in a vault, and sent via email.

When needed, the inventory can be used to insert asking prices for estate sales and simplify so much the effort to be provided by friends and your XYL. So, if you are sure you will live forever, please put off starting your equipment inventory, HI!! If you are mortal, may I wish you good luck in starting with the big stuff and working down the value scale.

73, John W3HMS

========== "Reprinted with the permission of the ARRL. © Copyright ARRL." ==========