Saturday, September 09, 2006

Importance of computer logging

Sandy and I made the trip out to Georges Island this morning with the setup described in yesterday's post. Assembly of the Sigma-5 went quickly and smoothly. I brought 3 stakes with me and guyed the antenna with some lightweight Dacron rope. The whole process was finished in about 15 minutes, including the time spent running the controller cable and coax feed line to the picnic table.
The two sealed GSM batteries (model ES17-12) from eBatteriesToGo performed very well. I operated 25 watts output from the first battery for the first couple of hours, then switched batteries and cranked it up to the full 100 watts for the last 45 minutes. As you might expect, the jump from 5 watts QRP with the K2 to 25 watts using the IC-7000 gave me that extra S-unit of power and people did have an easier time hearing me. Going the rest of the way, to 100 watts, made it even easier to make contacts. It would be wonderful to have access to the power from the island's generator even for a day and have that full 100 watts from morning until evening!
My first QSO was at 14:23 and my last logged entry was at 17:50. In there was a little lunch and a chat with Sandy so I worked the bands about 3 hours before we packed everything back up and headed for the docks. In that time I worked 50 stations (my goal for today). Here are the prefixes worked:
EA3 EA5 F5 HB9 I5
IW1 IZ8 K3 K5 K8
VE4 W4 W5 W6 W7
W7O W8 WU0

Even with only 50 entries to transcribe between my pencil markings in my mini-log to my computer log, it was a tedious process. Sandy assisted me when I moved the 100+ contacts made during the IOTA contest and that was a big help. I must confess that I am completely spoiled by the ease (and accuracy) of computer-based logging. If you only make a handful of contacts per day, perhaps the tedium is manageable, but not if you plan on making dozens or hundreds of contacts per day. (Thousands of contacts couldn't be managed with paper and transcribing later, could it? No. it can't work!)
I've got to have the discussion soon with the Montserrat group about this very issue. I had planned on handling the transcriptions from their paper logs to my computer logging program while on the island, but I now see how naive that plan was. If these guys are going to make lots of contacts, they better figure out how to capture them with a computer. I can collate results, produce summary and detail pages for the web site, and even organize the QSLing, but only if the logs are in electronic form already. It is certainly my hope to have enough activity while on Montserrat to have this be a big problem! {grin}
The upshot is: This paper logging approach isn't viable for a medium to large size DXpedition. This might sound obvious, but I'm not sure how many members are planning on bringing their computers. Remember the weight restrictions we are working within! This is definitely something to think about.

Car update: I finished the direct connections to the battery tonight so power is now live to the RIGrunner on the floor just behind the two front seats. As long as we're redoing everything, Sandy suggested I put the head for the dual-bander higher than I had it in the original Element. So, we made a trip to HRO in New Hampshire looking for RAM mounts. Their selection was uncharacteristically poor and we didn't find a suitable one there. Later, while perusing Radio Shack for something else, Sandy had a great idea: why not use a speaker wall mount to hold up the head. We're going to try it. I'll pop up a picture here when it is in.


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