Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My log book experimentation obsession - has it come to an end?

Let's see if I get the timeline straight ..... things get fuzzier as one grows older!

For the first 15 years or so of my Amateur Radio career, I used the "ol' stand by" ARRL paper log books for logging my QSOs.  I think everyone did - well, log books, I mean.  If you didn't use the ARRL ones, you probably used giveaways that used to be handed out as promotional items by Yaesu and Kenwood, or perhaps you just used a regular spiral notebook or loose leaf in a binder.

About the mid 80's, I discovered Log-EQF and used it for several years.  It was fast, intuitive and did not require much in the way of computer processor power. It was a DOS based program with a UNIX look and feel to it.  It was great because the comments space for each QSO was vast, and my log book became sort of a QSO diary in addition to recording the essential QSO data. The fact that it ran great on 80286 and 80386 machines was icing on the cake.

As Windows developed and became more popular, Log-EQF transformed into Win-EQF.  I thought that with the transition to becoming a Windows based program that the developers would update the look and make it appear more like other Windows programs. Sadly, they kept the UNIX appearance and I guess I'm shallow - but I wanted something that was more aesthetically pleasing.

So I purchased a copy and switched over to AC Log for a while.  I did that based on the raves everybody was giving it (and still do). Having a a junker computer at the time, the program would hesitate on me as I tabbed through the data entry fields.  The biggest glitch would come when I tabbed from the last "normal" field to one of the custom fields that I had renamed "Rig/Ant".  The program would freeze up on me for about 3 or 4 seconds before jumping to the custom field.  Not sure what that was (as I stated above, it was probably due to not having enough processor power or perhaps not enough RAM installed), but it drove me mad, particularly while trying to simultaneously log and carry on a QSO.

So while I kept using AC Log, I kept looking for alternatives. Here were my three main requirements:

1) The program had to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
2) The program had to be relatively easy and intuitive to use.
3) The program had to work well with my less than state of the art computer.
4) The program didn't have to be free, but that would be a bonus.

I think I downloaded and tried just about every freebie and/or demo logging program out there.  Some worked great, but didn't have the features I wanted, while others had the features I wanted, but didn't work on my computer. I settled upon three different programs - Ham Radio Deluxe, the DX Labs Suite and Log4OM.

The DX Lab Suite is about as complete as they get. If you want a feature in a log book program, "It's in there!" as the old spaghetti sauce commercial goes. The problem was that so many bells and whistles came with a steep learning curve.  This program takes a long while to become comfortable with and I never did. 

Log4OM was easy to use, easy to set up, pleasing to the eye and full featured.  You would think this would end up being my choice, right?  Well, it did - but not right away. For a while, it came in second.

For a time, I went with Ham Radio Deluxe, back when it was run and maintained by Simon Brown. It had everything I wanted, was relatively easy to use and pretty intuitive, and was very easy on the eyes. It was free, but I was sending a donation to Simon every now and then for all his hard work.

Then he went and sold the rights to it.  HRD became a commercial product and I even bought the rights to it for one year.  Improvements were made and it ran well on my XP computer. Then I bought a laptop which had Windows 7 on it, and unfortunately I had some trouble getting HRD to work correctly.  Eventually, I got it working just fine, until one day when Windows went and updated on me. The next day, all my previous efforts went for naught  and all went kaput in my HRD world.  I started getting all kinds of new errors and lo and behold, my year's worth of support had run out, and I ran out of patience (which has never been my strong suite).

So I went back to Log4OM, my second runner up, and I'm so glad I did. In addition to being easy and intuitive to use, there were several other things about it that made me additionally happy about the change.

1) It installed, quickly, easily and without a hitch.
2) The interface between Log4OM and LotW and eQSL are so simple, even I was able to figure them out.
3) I have since upgraded to Windows 10 and have had several windows updates and Log4OM keeps on ticking like nothing has ever changed.
4) There's actually a comprehensive User's Manual available on-line that you can download to refer to any time you need it.
5) There's a forum at the Log4OM Website that Danielle IW3HMH and Terry G4POP monitor and you actually get answers to questions. And they'll even incorporate suggestions and features into future releases of the program, if they deem it worthwhile.
6) Their DX Cluster tab is the bomb!  If you hook up your rig to the program via CAT control, you can enable the program so that as you change bands, the Cluster will display spots only for the band that you're currently on.  Other software programs probably offer that feature as well, but Log4OM does it so nicely.

I have been a happy Log4OM user now for a couple of years and an so happy that I'm not even tempted to go and look at "new kids on the block" when they pop-up from time to time.

And to answer any skeptics out there, no, I don't receive any consideration or kick-back from Danielle or Log4OM for relating my experiences here,  I'm just a happy, very satisfied user and am hoping that others can be, too. And I intend on being a happy, very satisfied user for a long, long time.

As for AC Log, it works quite well on my current laptop with no issues. I use it for keeping the NJ2SP log, as many other members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club use AC Log as their primary logging software and I can easily share the file with them. For personal use, Log4OM has features that I like that AC Log doesn't, and I like those features too much do without.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

1 comment:

  1. Larry- thanks for ur article on logging software .after reading it,I decided to try Log4OM. I love it and have left HRD in my rear view mirror. Had a few issues in the conversion but the Ssupport Forum and the authors have been great.