Things are looking a little different in the ham shack these days, as I’ve fully completed the transition over to using my iMac as a shack computer.
I’ve been using a Lenovo laptop for the last few years as the main shack computer, and not that it wasn’t up to the task, but the larger, 21-inch iMac screen is vastly superior to the laptop. Consequently, I’m running a fresh install of Windows 7, dual-booting the machine with Apple’s Bootcamp, and it’s working quite well. Windows 7 runs extremely fast on here, maybe faster than OS X on the other partition, but to be fair, this is a clean install on Win7, with very few programs, just the basics to get the rig up and running.
N1MM is much nicer with the larger screen size, particularly for digital contesting when I have FLDigi or MMTTY, plus the digital interface window up. I had no issues installing the SignaLink, my USB-to-serial interface, or the Winkeyer USB. I just plugged them in and they all worked right out of the box. You can’t ask for any more than that.
I’ve also decided to “pull off the band-aid” and use the DXLab suite for logging. I’ve long been a fan of Ham Radio Deluxe (the free version), but the slowness of entering QSOs in the log has made it practically unusable on my laptop. Also, it has started entering the wrong dates for QSOs. I don’t know if I’m completely sold on DXLabs yet, but it’s very powerful stuff, and I just need some seat-time to understand it. It’s not as “pretty” as HRD, but being pretty doesn’t help me if it takes a minute or longer to save a QSO.
This afternoon I managed to get my certificates for LOTW installed and sent up some Qs from DXLabs. Everything seems to be FB so far. Installed WSJT-X last night also and tested the system at 10 watts via a quick QSO with a Bulgarian station.
The laptop is off the desk, and ready for travel, and I’m enjoying more desk space, and a larger screen that’s easier on the eyes.
The Firecracker Sprint
I put the new operating position to good use Saturday night, as I participated in the PODXS 070 Club’s 40m Firecracker Sprint. I stumbled across this contest by accident last year and had so much fun, that I cleared my schedule for Saturday night and took another run at it, hoping I’d be at an advantage with the K3 and a year of experience.
I think participation was perhaps, a little down this year, as my QSO count was virtually the same as last year. I cleared 60 stations, 59 of which were contest participants. I only grabbed two DX stations, Canada and Mexico. The K3 and N1MM performed well and the 40m segment of PSK31 was remarkably well-behaved, with only a few stations over-driving their audio.
I ran 50 watts the entire time and pieced together a few nice runs. I relied on FLDigi’s signal browser to keep an eye across the band, and by midnight I’d worked every station I could copy. In the end I finished with 28 states worked, Mexico, and two Canadian provinces. I worked as far west as Washington and as far north as Vermont.
I’m currently sitting in 6th place, but scores are still being uploaded. I would be happy with a top 10 finish.
Upcoming VHF contest
If plans hold up, I will be operating during the CQ WW VHF Contest with my pal KN4QD. We’re looking to put a portable operation together on some high terrain. I’m leaving most everything up to the veteran contester, and I’m along to help setup, document with photos, and perhaps operate some SSB.
We’re going to borrow a mast and an amp, and we’ll bring along my 6m moxon and a 5-element 2m beam. If nothing else it will be an adventure. It’s stuff like this that really gets me excited about ham radio.