AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for the ‘QSLs’ Category

DXCC Status

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The DXCC entities are becoming harder to pick off now. I’m currently using a 10/20/40/80m parallel inverted-V up about 40′ and a 10/20/40m dipole up at an average height of 25′. The shorter dipole is better oriented for DXing across Europe. The inverted V doesn’t seem to perform better in any direction. As the solar cycle peaks/declines, there are going to be less opportunities to work DX easily on the high bands. I really need to put some time and effort into getting what I can while I can.

I missed many of the DXpeditions this year altogether. Half of the year I was dormant, and the last three months I guess I’ve been lazy. I should have been able to work 4-5 ATNOs from DXpeditions but for the fact that I just didn’t spend enough [or any] time trying.

My current DXCC count worked is 178, with 166 confirmed either via LOTW or via a QSL card. This really isn’t any sort of accomplishment. I’ve only barely worked more than half of the current DXCCs, and that’s by having operated in many DX contests (CW, SSB, RTTY) over the past two years. So I definitely need to step up and figure out a new strategy.

Along with picking off new DXCCs, I’ve been attempting to increase band/mode slots for DXCC entities that I’ve already worked.

I have a stack of about 150 cards that need to be shipped out to the Bureau sometime. I’ve been sitting on them for a month, and I know the DX who have sent me cards would really like to receive a confirmation from me before any of us die of old age.

I also have cards ready to go for the 12 entities that I need confirmed. What’s holding me back? It’s this whole thing with green stamps, IRCs, postal authorities that cannot be trusted, etc. I’ve pretty much decided that working the DXCC is far less of a battle than confirming the DXCC at this point. I’ve got nested envelopes, plenty of air mail stamps, plenty of 1 dollar bills and IRCs. I probably would have sent all of these out if I could write worth a damned. But my penmanship is worse than a doctor’s. If I were to write out the envelopes, they would stand a good chance of not being delivered because nobody can read what the hell they say. I have a printer, and a damned good one at that, but it’s a royal nightmare trying to get TO/Return addresses printed on them properly. Considering that I really only have about 40 cards that I’d like to send out for confirmations (ATNO or additional band/modes), I probably ought to type them in manually in OpenOffice and print them off one by one.

At any rate, this is a sort of depressing moment for me as I realize that I’m likely not going to increase my DXCC count very much over the next year without improving both my antenna system and my technique.

Written by Mike

October 8th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Posted in DX,LOTW,Posts,QSLs

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LOTW vs eQSL – The argument continues


Recent posts on QRZ.Com and on some blogs shows that there are many people who are still arguing the merits of both LOTW and eQSL. I suspect this argument will go on for eons, or at least another decade.

Before exploring the argument any further, one must acknowledge there are a number of ARRL detractors out there that would not support the ARRL or use an ARRL service if their life depended upon it, no matter how good / useful the service may be to them. They might not come out and tell you that directly, or tell you the reason for it, but it’s obvious in many cases that there is a bias by many against the ARRL.

On the other side of the coin, there are certainly those hams who are such staunch supporters of the ARRL that they would feel they were betraying a family member if they used eQSL or who would insist that LOTW was better than any eQSL service even if LOTW was total garbage.

After you weed out the ARRL detractors as well as those who feel they must defend/support the ARRL at all cost, you can then move on to explore some points of contention amongst those who are otherwise open to using any electronic QSL service as long as it works for them.

  • Authentication
  • This is a multistep process regardless of which service you are using. But there are more steps involved [and some of them are quite controversial and can be more difficult to complete] if you are signing up for LOTW.

    EQSL: Anybody can sign up [for free!] to use eQSL, with our without verifying their identity. This is because eQSL was initially designed to exchange QSLs, not to compete for awards. However, eQSL does offer an awards program. If one wants to participate in their awards programs, they must follow the process to verify their identity. This is done using one of three methods.

    1. Have eQSL send an “authentication code” to your postal address on file with the FCC or RAC (for US and Canadian hams respectively). When you receive the postcard from eQSL, you’ll log into eQSL online and enter the authentication provided on the postcard into the eQSL system.
    2. Provide eQSL with a scanned copy of your signed [by you] amateur radio license that was issued by the appropriate authority in your country. This scanned license is uploaded electronically to eQSL. There is no need to send anything via postal mail. Once the documents are received by eQSL, they will decide whether or not the information is adequate and will designate your account as [Authenticity Guaranteed] or not.
    3. Additionally, it appears that eQSL also is able to authenticate your identity by checking to see if you have been certified already by the ARRL Logbook of the World program.

    LOTW: Anybody can sign up [for free!] to LOTW as well. But given that the LOTW system is designed specifically for awards tracking, all users must be authenticated before they use the system. Like eQSL, you must verify your identity. This can be done via one of the following methods:

    1. Have LOTW send you a postcard to the postal address listed on your license in the FCC database. Because this option relies upon data in the FCC database, this option is only available for U.S. hams. Once you receive the postcard, you would log into LOTW online and enter in the code provided on the postcard.
    2. Non-US hams must send a copy of their amateur license plus an additional form of authentication, such as a copy of their drivers license, passport, a utility bill, or any other document that LOTW has indicated as an acceptable document for authentication purposes. Unlike eQSL, LOTW requires that this process be done via postal mail only. Once LOTW receives the information, they will determine if the supplied documents provide adequate authentication of your identity.
    3. You’ll have to install a program called TrustedQSL (TQSL for short), which is used to generate a certificate signing request (CSR), install the actual certificate that LOTW then provides you, and manage your certificates and your station locations as well as to sign your QSOs before you upload them to LOTW.

    Steps #2 and #3 are by far the most difficult / time-consuming / confusing steps for people to complete and get used to. The biggest gripes about LOTW stem from these steps. However, it is my personal opinion that these steps are manageable and reasonable for the vast majority of people attempting to use LOTW and that the numbers of hams not able to complete this process for legitimate reasons are the minority. There is plenty of help available — via the LOTW help system and via various message boards where other hams will often help you out if you ask.

    I’ll be the first one to admit that if I were from Timbuktu [Mali, DXCC #422], I’d hate to have to go through the process of authenticating myself for participation in the LOTW service. I’d be MFing the ARRL up and down, left and right. But I’d jump through the hoops — I’d go through the trouble — I’d make the effort. It would benefit me and it would benefit my fellow hams who were wanting to confirm me before they died of old age or went bankrupt. If, logistically speaking, it could be done, I’d do it.

    This whole process is meant to provide a greater degree of confidence that the LOTW accountholder is indeed who they say they are and that the QSOs that they are uploading are indeed QSOs that they have generated. Somebody would have to steal both your LOTW site login credentials as well as your complete certificate in order to be able to submit QSOs under your callsign. Whereas with other electronic QSL services all they would need to steal are your site login credentials.

  • QSO Matching
    1. eQSL: In the eQSL system, a person can upload a QSO that they claim to have had with you. As soon as they upload it, it shows up in your Inbox in eQSL. You have the opportunity to confirm the QSO or deny the QSO — even if the QSO never happened.
    2. LOTW: In the LOTW system, if a person uploads a QSO that they claim to have had with you, neither you or they will see any reference to the QSO until you have uploaded a matching QSO with them. Neither you or the other party are given any opportunity to see a QSO that has uploaded unless you’ve uploaded a matching QSO that confirms that the two of you worked.

    I feel there is an important distinction being made here. Why? Hams aren’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Many are lazy. Many are unethical. Many do not have a strong will. If presented with temptation, some people will taste the forbidden fruit.

    Sure, it is possible for this same thing to happen when paper QSLing as well. But I’d think it is much less likely to happen given the additional effort that has to go into it, not to mention the likelihood that a rare DX station or other entity would confirm your paper QSL with one of their own.

    And yes, I do understand that an invalid QSO could be uploaded referencing an invalid QSO with absolutely no intent by the uploader to cheat. Easy to do. Your log shows a QSO on 20m because you accidentally logged the wrong band, mode or date. Or you typed in the callsign incorrectly, thus uploading a QSO for AA7IA instead of AA8IA. All quite innocent no doubt.

    But, the fact that the LOTW method of QSL confirmation is blind is a huge plus for me. I appreciate the fact that I can’t see a QSO that someone else claims to have had with me unless I upload a matching QSO. It keeps me honest and avoids the temptation if i am weak in that regard [which I am not], and it keeps the other side honest to the extent that it doesn’t present the temptation to them.

    Although I’m not serious about chasing awards, I would never want to give anybody a free ride by confirming a QSO that didn’t happen. Whether or not I put in large amounts of time and effort, the fact remains that I have a small station. Many DX QSOs that I have made required a lot of effort on my part. I’d feel shortchanged if I knew for a fact that somebody else was claiming a QSO that didn’t happen.

  • Online Exchange of QSL Cards
  • eQSL wins this one hands down. LOTW is not an electronic QSL card exchange. It is there for tracking their supported awards and providing credit for those — nothing more. On the other hand, eQSL allows each user to upload their own QSL card images, which they can scan in from paper, save as an image and upload to eQSL or they can create using tools that eQSL provides. For people who simply like to exchange QSLs, this is very nice and definitely worth the price of admission.

    I myself do not care if I ever see a QSL card. Sure, I’ve received some nice ones and appreciate the time that others have spent in designing theirs and sending them to me, but I don’t get all excited about an actual QSL card image. All I am really interested in is QSO confirmations. That’s just me. I’m glad eQSL is available for those who want to have an additional way to exchange actual QSL cards.

  • Awards Exclusive to LOTW or eQSL
  • eQSL: As of this writing, eQSL supports tracking of and credit toward their own unique awards system (eAwards), which in many ways mimics various ARRL awards. Of course, these awards have nothing to do with the ARRL and credits only apply to the eQSL-specific awards. eQSL also supports various awards from the CQ Magazine awards system, such as CQ WPX, CQ WAZ, CQ USA-CA and CQ DX, as well as the DARC Contest Log (DCL).

    If you’re working towards one of these awards, eQSL may be the [only] way to go.

    LOTW: As of this writing, LOTW supports the ARRL DXCC, WAS and VUCC programs as well as CQ Magazines WPX award program.

    If you are one of those people [like myself] who prefer the ARRL awards, then this is the system to use. Just this month LOTW started supporting CQ WPX, which is an added bonus.

Written by Mike

July 5th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Received my new QSL Cards from UX5UO

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After a long, long time without QSL cards, I finally took a few minutes to order some QSL cards from Gennady, UX5UO via http://www.ux5uoqsl.com. Being lazy and lacking a creative bone in my body, I left it all up to Gennady. He showed me some samples, and I ordered a batch.

Sure, some people take pride in the development of their QSL cards, and rightfully so. On the other hand, I could care less what mine look like. Anybody who receives one isn’t going to look at it more than once. There is nothing I could put on a QSL card that would really pique the interest of the recipient. They simply want my confirmation of a QSO.

At any rate, I’ve got cards now and I’m very happy with what I’ve got. For those of you who have sent me a QSL card in the past hoping for a confirming QSL, they’ll be on their way this month.

Below is what the front of the card looks like. Gennady does great work, and my inability to relate what I really wanted on a card as well as my inability to provide him with any graphics really doesn’t do his service justice. If you check out his website you’ll see some very high quality, unique QSLs. Incidentally, it was about a 5-6 week turnaround time from the time I ordered to the time I received them.

Written by Mike

June 13th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Posted in QSLs

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Breaking News: AA8IA orders QSL cards

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I realize it’s a really strange title for a post. But it is breaking news considering I’ve been wanting to order QSL cards for two years but never put in the effort.

I ordered from Gennady at http://www.ux5uoqsl.com . Being that I lack creativity, I asked Gennady to come up with something for me. He had some much more elaborate suggestions, but they would have required me to actually get off my ass and find appropriate high quality pictures that I specifically wanted on the card. Since I didn’t have anything I felt worthy of being displayed on a QSL card, I asked him to create something simple.

My first batch of cards will hardly be considered unique. But they’ll get the job done. Gennady provides great support for his products. Hopefully, by the next time I order a batch I will have an appropriate unique high-res picture to be on the front of the card.

For anyone out there who has sent me a QSL card for which I haven’t returned the favor, keep your pants on. A QSL will be forthcoming. Give me 4-6 weeks to receive them and I’ll take care of the backlog [maybe a dozen or so]

Written by Mike

May 6th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Posted in QSLs

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