Monday, August 17, 2009

HRD v5 Beta

HRD Logbook v5 Beta

I generally avoid beta software like the plague. In fact, I even avoid most official "" software releases, especially if the previous version works well. I try not to get suckered into the oft overhyped promises of nirvana that software developers promise. Pioneers take the arrows, as they say...

Nevertheless, I decided to be brave and upgrade Ham Radio Deluxe & DM780 to the latest v5 Beta release (build 2293). Since the price is right I had little to lose; I could always switch back to v4.whatever if v5 turned my screen blue. So after making sure all important data and pref files were backed up and safe on another drive I went ahead with the v5 installation.

So far, so good. The new stand-alone Logbook is awesome, and maybe it's my imagination but I swear DM780 is doing a better job of decoding digital signals now. The HRD rig control seems to be pretty much unchanged except for a few tweaks and additional features.

Things I like:
  • DM780: RSID is cool... just not sure if it's working for me on transmit; I have it enabled, but I don't hear the distinct RSID tones in my monitor when I begin transmission.

  • Logbook: Awards tracking is much improved over the "analysis" function of v4! The ability to set up and switch between different layouts is a nice addition, too. I will eventually take advantage of v5's ability to use a remote database; my plan is to set up a myQSL-based log on the web.

  • HRD: Not much difference from v4 as far as I can tell -- which is fine, I liked it just the way it was. Just wish the integration with logbook was a bit better; having an Add Logbook Entry window in HRD that doesn't require a switch to the Logbook app itself would be a big plus. It's certainly possible, DM780 does it.
There are issues, of course
  • The filter buttons in the main HRD control screen don't work.

  • I still can't save a "Favourite" (that's Eurospeak for "favorite") with DATA as the stored mode (it defaults to USB).

  • The "NR" button doesn't change color when engaged (this issue is carried over from v4...).

  • Clicking the Add To Log button (or pressing F7) in HRD doesn't switch to the Logbook, have to do that manually; also, the ALE function doesn't seem to carry the callsign from the DX Cluster window over to the ALE window.

  • I can't seem to get Logbook to upload QSO data to the web site.
My biggest problem, however, is performance. Most of the windows are slow to render, especially the Add Logbook Entry window. DM780 has a tendency to freeze for several seconds whenever I do something like double-click on a call sign to look up QRZ data, or switch between SuperBrowser and the QSO screen. I'm guessing this is not an HRD problem, however; more likely caused by my aging, underpowered PeeCee, I'm sure.

Next Beta release is scheduled for tomorow (18-Aug).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elecraft P3

K3 with prototype P3 panadapter unit

The long-awaited Elecraft panadapter unit for the K3 is now officially beyond the rumor-and-innuendo stage of development. The announcement on 11-Aug by Wayne N6KR and Eric WA6HHQ was immediately followed by the predictable flurry of questions, praise, complaints, nit-picking and feature requests that Elecrafters have grown to expect any time a new product is announced, ranging from the serious to the absurd:
  • Q: Will there be point-and-click tuning? (A: Yes.)

  • Q: Will it be I/Q-based and thus able to use PowerSDR, Skimmer, etc.? (A: Perhaps.)

  • Q: Will their be a built-in speaker and/or power supply? (A: No.)

  • Q: Will the P3 be able to be used for text display in data modes? (A: It's on the list...)

  • Q: The photo shows it on the left side of the K3. This is an affront to the Right Handed-American Community. Will there be a right-side version to comply with the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment? (A: Huh?)
(OK, that last question wasn't exactly asked in those words, but one guy really expressed concern that a photo showing it on the left side of the K3 meant that it wouldn't be "optimized" for use on right side. You can't make this stuff up...)

I love Elecraft and their close relationship with their customers, but I've previously commented [see here, read last paragraph] that in the future (that is, now) they need to play their cards a bit closer to their vest than they did with the K3. It has to be counterproductive to announce a product too early, then spend valuable time fielding absurd questions, squelching rumors and erroneous information from well-meaning Kool-Aid Drinkers (I use that term in the most endearing way), and generally trying to please everyone with an ever expanding feature list to accommodate feature requests from customers. All of this ends up pushing the delivery date back, causing the company to endure months of bitching and moaning about deadlines promises being broken, features left out, firmware revisions, fix bugs, etc. This is what happened with the K3, and sadly I can see it happening again right before my very eyes. Sigh.

That said, I like the concept; it adds the most lamented missing feature of the K3 (perhaps second only to band-stacking registers). I plan to order one as soon as it is orders are accepted. Whether I place it to the left or right of my K3 has yet to be determined...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July 2009 Wrap-Up

What's "New?": I'm still limiting my running totals to my operations from Waco, so "new" means a lot of countries and states that I've worked and confirmed in the past from W2-land. I'd prefer to earn DXCC, WAS, WAZ, etc., from the new QTH and not count the old QSLs, but I may change my mind once I have enough cards to qualify.

WAS: I made a concerted effort this month to pad my WAS numbers, working 41 states in July (33 of them new) to bring my total to 45 since moving to Texas with 31 confirmed (if I count my NJ QSL from NE, I have 46 states worked and 35 confirmed). The states still giving me agita are DE, KY, NE, ME and WY, the first two of which I hear on 14070 damn near every day. And for Christ's sake, how can it be possible that I operated from the NYC metro area for so many years but do not have NY and NJ confirmed?!?!?

DXCC: Short operations during the IARU and IOTA contests this month brought in a few new ones for me, including SV9, VK7, CN, & UN plus several "new for TX" countries. I started to move off 20m a little bit, working 8 countries on 30m (incl. EA8, SV, & YO) and 6 countries on 40m. I've yet to hear anything on 17m or 15m strong enough to even hope to work.

Misc. QRM: Still mostly working PSK31, it's simply the most practical for me to monitor and operate during the week while I work in the mornings and afternoon. Only 1 of 37 phone QSOs this month was made during a weekday, and most of the rest were during the IARU and IOTA tests. •---• The QSLs are finally starting to roll in, getting few each day in the mail from US stations, while LOTW delivered nine DXCC confirmations in July. Also good return with this month with 46 incoming QSLs from 15 countries. •---• Noise is still my enemy, a constant S7 on the meter. The K3's NB and NR helps, but pretty much any signal below the S7 threshold is lost in space. Once the weather cools off I want to venture into the attic to see about putting up something that's horizontally polarized; I might be able to manage a full-wave loop for the high bands which should be less susceptible to electrical noise.

July 2009 Stats:

  • 131 Total QSOs Logged
  • 37 DXCC Entities (25 new)
  • 22 CQ Zones (9 new)
  • 41 States (33 new)
  • 20 IOTA Islands (12 new)