NCS Logging Software

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For more years than we've had radio logging software, operators have been running nets and logging into nets using pencil and paper. Based upon a survey of Net Control Operators in early 2016, it was determined that about 1/3 of them still use pencil and paper.  Another 1/3 use pencil and paper for developing suffix lists and their regular radio logging programs for check in of and logging of ECARS calling stations.  Finally, the final third use one of the dedicated net operations logging programs for ECARS net operations.

Software tools can provide substantial assistance to Net Control Operators by
  a.  keeping a record of the people who check into ECARS during a given session
  b.  recognizing people who have previously checked in and automatically filling out name, city, state, ECARS No, and comments
  c.  searching for names, QTH, or call sign segments from prior check ins to help the NCS understand the current call sign
  d.  provide a means to make an ordered suffix list and manage check ins in order

There are a variety of Contact Management Software Packages that are readily available to an ECARS NCS.  Some of these are regular logging programs, with or without net management features.  Others are NOT general logging programs, but are programs specifically tailored to operation of the ECARS net. 

General Logging Programs used by ECARS Net Control Operators
  1.  AC Logger by N3FJP (K1VLB, K3HQC, KC2CZK)
  2.  Ham Radio Deluxe (W1JPZ. K3PG, WA3BM)
  3. CQRL for Linux (KI3Y)
  4. DX Lab Suite (W1EBM)

Specialized Logging Programs used by ECARS Net Control Operators
  1.  The ECARS Custom Net Manager (WA4THR, WA3BM, WA1STU)
  2.  The Modified ECARS Logger (N4HCI, WA2DVU)

The entries below provide information on each of these programs, such as user manuals, or more detailed descriptions, by links to ECARS website data or to external commercial websites.  Nothing in this information is intended to recommend any package or endorse one solution over another.  The purpose of this information is to provide potential new Net Control Operators with a one stop digest of various options available to them and point out people who are using each of the options.

NOTE: Comments or suggestions about this web page should be directed to the Net Manager vice the Webmaster

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General Logging Programs

AC Logger by N3JFP
AC Logger is a modestly priced commercial amateur logging program that is designed with a 'Net Management' module.  It is offered with a free download option and a fully featured 45 day trial period.  This product is well described on the author's internet web site at http://www.n3fjp.com/aclog.html.  The web page at this link includes a 12 minute video that introduces the AC Logger.  The 'Net Management' module is quickly discussed at minute 11 of the video.

Net Management module screen image:


Pro:
1.  Fully integrated with regular logger
2.  Intuitive to use

Con:
1.   Lacks a QRZ or HamQTH lookup interface
2.   Does not manage Suffix list development

If this program looks interesting to you, recommend that you communicate with ECARS NCS's that use the program (K1VLB, K3HQC, KC2CZK) and get their more detailed and experienced input on the Pro and Con considerations of this software for NCS use.
 

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD)
    
There are a number of versions of HRD in the marketplace, including freeware pre-commercial versions (up through version 5) and commercial versions that can be bought.  The author of this writeup is not aware of all the differences between the various HRD versions but suspects that they are minor, relative to how you'd use HRD for ECARS net operation.

     While HRD is a regular logging program with no special 'Net Control' features, it is easily adapted to Net Control operations.  The primary logbook entry screen reads the frequency, time, date, band and mode from the rig and the computer.  Upon entry of a call sign, or partial call sign in the call sign block, the logbook view at the bottom of the entry screen, shows all prior entries with that call sign or partial call sign.



    Clicking the 'QRZ' button on the logbook enry screen, after entering the complete call sign, results in entry of the contact's name, State, and QTH as read from QRZ.  It also opens a small QRZ popup with additional QRZ information.  Clicking the 'Fill Empty' button on the QRZ popup, writes the additional information into the logbook entry screen






    A comment entry box on the logbook entry screen allows the Net Control Operator to make notes about the contact for future reference. 

     At the end of the Check In process, clicking the 'Add' button, or pressing 'F1' causes the check in data to be written to the logbook and clears the logbook data entry screen for the next check in.

     HRD is capable of operating to/from more than one logbook.  One ECARS Net Control Operator keeps a separate logbook for ECARS than for his other radio operations.  This ensures that all suffix matches are to call signs that have checked into ECARS and eliminates listings of partial call sign matches that include foreign stations.

Pro and Con Considerations:
PRO:
1.  is a fully integrated logbook that can be uploaded to LOTW and eQSL, and is fully capable of creating an ADIF file for data transfer.
2.  tracks award status for Worked All States and other awards.
3.  shows prior contacts for a given call sign or partial call sign
4.  links to QRZ and saves operator typing to enter check in information
5.  Automatically records frequency, band, mode, time and date information into the log.

CON:
1.  Does not link with any other Amateur Radio database, such as HamQTH
2.  Does not have any field for specifically handling a check in's ECARS number or tracking it.  This can be handled using the Comment block but this information is not automatically written into any new check in by that call sign.  Similary, there is no link to the ECARS website to get membership status.

If this program looks interesting to you, recommend that you communicate with ECARS NCS's that use the program (WA3BM, W1JPZ, K3PG, & K3YUB) and get their more detailed and experienced input on the Pro and Con considerations of this software for NCS use.

CQRL
    CQRL is the only Linux based program used by ECARS NCSs.  It is a commercial program available for purchase. 


If this program looks interesting to you, recommend that you communicate with ECARS NCS's that use the program (KI3Y) and get their more detailed and experienced input on the Pro and Con considerations of this software for NCS use.

DX Lab Suite by AA6YQ
 
    DX Lab Suite is a Freeware Amateur Radio Logging program developed by AA6YQ.   This product is well described on the author's internet web site at http://dxlabsuite.com.  There are two views used during ECARS Net operations:  a contact data entry screen and a contact summary screen.  Both screens are shown below.

Data Entry Screen:
     The Call Sign is entered by the Net Control Operator into the Call text box of the Data Entry screen.  Clicking the 'Lookup' button on this view results in filling in the contacts Name, QTH, Grid Square, and CQ-ITU from QRZ.  Any entry from QRZ can be revised manually, such as changing from a formal name to a nickname or familian name.  Reported ECARS numbers, and any other information of interest is recorded in the comment block.  Clicking the 'Log' button completes the check in and writes the contact, with any changes, into the Contact Summary Screen view. 


Contact Summary Screen:
     When a call sign is entered in the DX Capture window above, the DX Keeper Contact Summary Screen below opens up all QSOs in the log with that call sign.


Pro and Con Considerations reported by users include:
PRO:  There is almost NO data entry required.  So....in real-time.....while calling or listening to a check-in......one needs only to enter his/her call sign in DXcapture, hit "Look Up", and see all previous info about the check-in station, in the DXkeeper log display.   The live link to QRZ.com is powerful, pulling all the check-in's data over, and putting it in the DXcapture spots.  Very fast.

CON
If the check-in station uses an informal name (different from the formal FCC name in the QRZ.com database).....the Net Control Operator needs to edit it or delete it in DXkeeper, so that DXkeeper's log display always has the correct (informal) name.  This is NOT a big deal.  It's easy to do, and maybe happens on 1 out of 4 check-in's.  Some examples: official records show Robert or W. Grant and the individual prefers ‘Bob’ or ‘Willy.

Additional information on the use of DX Lab Suite for ECARS Net logging can be obtained by contacting W1EBM, Gary Smetana, who uses this program for his net operations.


Specialized ECARS Net Control Programs


ECARS Custom Net Manager
     The Custom Net Manager was written exclusively for the East Coast Amateur Radio Service (ECARS).  It is distributed free of charge only to authorized ECARS net-controllers solely for the purpose of facilitating ECARS net control operations.

     The Custom Net Manager was developed by Robert J. Traister, the former WB4KTC, and is a professionally developed package that provides excellent and reliable service.  The Custom Net Manager is packaged in a Zip file, requiring extraction, and then installation via an executable file.

      Screen shot of Custom Net Manager:


     The Custom Net Manager provides sections that display suffix lists as they are developed; has a Find list that displays from the associated database previous check ins having the specified suffix; and has fields for Call Sign, Name, City, State, ECARS No, and Comments that are filled in for each check in, either automatically if the Call Sign is a repeat check in, or manually if this is the first call in for a Call Sign.  As check in's are completed, they are written to a list with their Call Sign, Name, and time of check in.  The program includes an associated database of all check ins that have occured since the program was put into use.

     A short users manual is provided here.

Pro:
a.  designed expressly for the purpose of running ECARS net
b.  includes database of stations that have checked in to using Net Control Operators
c.   Free

Con:
a.  does not link to QRZ or HamQTH
b.  does not have a means to export contact data to a regular logging program or to LOTW/eQSL.

     
More information can be learned about this program by talking with using Net Control Operations, such as WA4THR,   VE3UUH, KA1SE, or KD8QH.  Copies of the program can be obtained from the ECARS Net Manager as well as these listed Net Control Operators.   


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MODified ECARS Logger
     The Mod ECARS Logger is an Access program designed with the look, feel, and features of the ECARS Custom Net Manager, but with additional features such as:
   a..  Provides an optional QRZ, or HamQTH, popup that lists the name and QTH for entries in the Mod ECARS Logger Call Sign block
   b.   Provides an optional query of the ECARS website and presentation of the ECARS number of an entry in the Call Sign data block
   c.   Provides an optional presentation of the QRZ page for the call sign listed in the Mod ECARS Logger Call Sign block
   d.   Provides an optional Google map of the US and shows the location of, line of bearing to, and the distance to each contact that is logged in.

   e.   Calculates distance and bearing to Check Ins, if the QRZ or HamQTH option is selected, and prints this data with the row of information for each Check In.
   f.  Exports selected day's contacts for export to other logging programs via the ADI format.
   g.  Can review and edit any record in the database.

      Use of the Mod ECARS Logger requires the host computer to have either a full featured Access program installed, or a Microsoft Access Runtime Module installed.  Full featured Access programs are sold for about $100.  The Microsoft Access Runtime Module is free from Microsoft

     A full and detailed explanation of the Mod ECARS Logger is provided in the User Manual, a link to which is provided below.


     Mod ECARS Logger Screen Shot [ the pan-adapter portion of the image is not from the Mod ECARS Logger ]:


    
Pro and Con Considerations:
Pro:
a.  designed to the purpose of running an ECARS net
b.  if elected by the user, can automatically extract QRZ or HamQTH name, QTH and other information and display it to the Net Control Operator
c.  if elected by the user, can automatically interrogate the ECARS website and display the ECARS number, or lack of, depending on the membership status of the call sign in the Call_Sign text box.
d.  can produce an ADI file to transfer ECARS contacts to a regular logging program
e.  can search, edit, and/or delete any field of record in the database
f.   can Export or Import the Mod ECARS Logger database to other users of the Mod ECARS Logger via Excel files

Con:
a.   is not integrated with a regular log program
b.   requires supporting software (full featured Access or an Access Runtime module) to be installed on the host computer
c.   does not run on Linux
d.   has been well tested on Windows 7, and has limited but successful operation on Windows 10.  It does NOT run on Windows XP.


     The MOD ECARS Logger is is available to interested parties at no cost.  If interested,contact Bob Goodwin, N4HCI

     The Mod ECARS Logger Users Manual can be seen here.

     A YouTube video introduction to the Mod ECARS Logger can be seen here. 

     If this program looks interesting to you, recommend that you communicate with ECARS NCS's that use the program (N4HCI, WA2DVU) and get their more detailed and experienced input on the Pro and Con considerations of this software for NCS use.


                                                        

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