Contest Logging

By John Warburton, G4IRN

Up until I joined the Voodoo team in 1995 (TZ5A, Mali), the computer network and logging software had been the responsibility of Mike KC7V and subsequently Andy G4PIQ. Andy left the team after the 1994 contest to focus on his new family and handed over the reins to me. There I was, a rookie with complete responsibility for making sure that the network and computers worked properly – quite a weight on the shoulders of someone trying to make a good impression on his first trip!

The arrangement used by the team for logging and handed over by Andy was CT logging software loaded on laptops, wired together on a Coax-Ethernet. Each team member had to bring their own laptop, already loaded with CT and able to support a PCMCIA card. In the stock-pile were seven Coax-Ethernet PCMCIA cards with BNC connectors, a pile of BNC T-connectors, a dozen 50Ω coax cables terminated with BNC plus and a couple of 50Ω BNC terminating plugs.

Coax Ethernet network using CT on DOS machines

Coax Ethernet network using CT on DOS machines

Thus, the first time I was responsible for IT on the Voodoo team I implemented the same arrangement.

Pros:

  • The architecture was well proven within the group;
  • Reliable and robust against RFI;
  • Everyone in the team was familiar with the ‘contesting standard’ CT software.

Cons:

  • Lots of cables around the shack;
  • No spare PCMCIA networking cards, should one fail;
  • Quite complicated to set up;
  • Most of all: newer PCs no longer supported PCMCIA cards.

Transition to Latest Technology

After the 2005 contest I pushed the case for switching to Win-Test logging software on a WiFi network. Actually, the group had no choice but to make the move, for various reasons:

  • Reduced availability of PCMCIA card slots on laptops forced the move away from a coax Ethernet;
  • CT would not easily work over a wireless network;
  • N1MM was not sufficiently mature or robust for a multi-operator network.

Additionally, Win-Test commands were identical to CT, so operator transition was easy.

Hence the choice was simple: Win-Test on a Wi-Fi network.

Win-Test network on WiFi

Win-Test network on WiFi

This logging arrangement has always been reliable and accurate. For me personally, the reliability, simplicity and greater user friendliness of Win-Test make it the best, however with N1MM having now become more reliable and popular, the American guys on the team would much rather use it. With Win-Test having little development these days (albeit a POSITIVE factor towards program stability for the established contests and modes that it supports), going forward it’s likely that team members will become more familiar with another contest program and would rather ‘stick with what they know’ during the CQWW contest.