At the new year holiday I spent time reviewing my contest logging options as the NAQP approaches on January 8. You’ll recall that I run Mac computers here and at work. So, that’s my initial limitation. For the last contest I used RUMped and found it to work very well. This was the first time I’d used a contest logging software and I found the score table and the multiplier indicator plus cw from the keyboard to be fantastic tools. However, RUMped is only set up to handle a few contests — not NAQP. So I started to look at other options.
At first I thought I’d just go ahead and use my regular logging software, MacLoggerDX. However, as I began to set things up, I realized that I really, really wanted to work with a score keeping window on screen at all times. So I started to look at still further options. I looked at RUMlog, which worked great but didn’t have any of the contest related items that I want. I also tried once more to operate N1MM and Wintest from the Parallels/Windows XP system that operates on my laptop. I could get rig control to work but not the CW features. Then I tried Skookum Logger on the Mac and found that while it won’t control the cw side of things (without a WinKeyer) it will run the contest quite well. Then I figured I could run the cw side directly from the memory buttons on the K3. So I got all things set up on Skookum Logger and am now set for this weekend’s NAQP. Note that I exchanged some emails with the programmer and owner, K1GQ, Bill Myers. He was very helpful in talking to me about the reasons he uses the WinKeyer rather than going direct to the K3’s cw keyer.
As I consider long term options, I’m actually at a Windows vs. Mac decision point. I’m compiling a list of the ham radio software tools that only run on Windows. In fact, as I looked at the WinKeyer I noted that all the utilities that come with it operate only on Windows! Another factor in this decision is that I don’t currently have a dedicated computer for my ham shack. Instead, I use my work laptop. My wife and daughter have MacBooks and the general home computer is an Intel based iMac. (We also have an older PowerPC based iMac that’s collecting dust since it won’t run the latest Mac OS). If any of the Intel based Mac computers came into the shack, that would at least address the platform issue. However, as I look at simple Windows computers I note just how much cheaper they are currently priced over their Mac counterparts. When I moved to a Mac at home, they were running at comparable prices — that certainly has changed.
So one option would be to buy a refurbished or rebuilt Windows desktop machine at a very low cost, put a 20″ LCD screen with it, and start down a different path for the ham shack. The contest logging software that looks the most interesting to me right now is N1MM. In reading the specs on it this evening, I note that it strongly recommends that you use WinKeyer for CW keying as the RS-232 DTS line is not always the best approach with the K3. This is a good discovery. That means that the WinKeyer is one common element no matter which option I follow: Mac or Windows. Another factor, at least with a desktop unit, is that a Windows computer could also be configured with all the needed RS-232 and USB ports. So it is something to consider. I also need to consider just how serious I am about contesting. Food for thought as I start the 2011 contests.
I’d be interested in your thoughts and experiences. Thanks for reading my ruminations about contest logging. 73, Jim