Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Handiham World for 01 April 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Free software tour: A free, easy to use, accessible logging program

Pat with the usual coffee mugLast week we talked about two free screenreader solutions for our members who are blind or have low vision. This week, we introduce you to XMLog, a free, regularly updated, amateur radio logbook system for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP. It will also work with Windows Vista but, as the website points out, "there may be problems setting the correct execution options. If you have trouble check the Yahoo! XMLog group."

Michael, W1ECT, is the author and maintainer of XMLog, and he has clearly devoted a lot of thought and effort into making the software interface work well for everyone, including blind users. His dedication to offering this resource to the greater amateur radio community and continuing to support it is commendable. If you use XMLog and like it, there is information on supporting it on the website.

Logging software these days is far removed from early computer logging, when the personal computer was simply used to manually enter data in some kind of basic spreadsheet. Today, logging software interfaces with modern transceivers and recovers frequency information directly through a hardware link. XMLog is no different in this respect, and you will find that it supports most common modern radios. Rig support is listed on the main XMLog webpage, and I was surprised to see not only cutting-edge radios like the Elecraft K2 and K3, but also the Heath SB-1400! All Kenwood radios are supported, as well as most ICOM and Yaesu radios, as well as a few others. Frankly, this software is about as universally usable and friendly as it gets!

Some audio speech alerts are built into XMLog, though you do have to install the free audio wave files associated with the alerts if you want to use that feature. Otherwise, we consider XMLog to be screen reader accessible if you are blind. The interface is straightforward whether you can see the screen or not. There is built-in CW support and XMLog can display a separate window that interfaces to your packet TNC or to Internet PacketCluster nodes. You can have DX spots announced automatically in audio format if you use the voice alert feature for PacketCluster spots.

Frankly, I think that logging software is an essential part of a well-run amateur radio station. While you don't have to log every single contact, you are more likely to log if the logging process is simple and nearly effortless, as XMLog seems to be. The value of logging will become apparent once you start keeping your own logbook. You will be able to go back over your records to find a friend you met on the air, keep track of contacts for various awards, track your usage of various frequencies and bands, recall a call sign that you had forgotten, and use your operating record if you ever have to field an interference complaint. The FCC no longer requires logs, of course, but they are truly valuable nonetheless, and as long as you don't have to expend too much effort keeping them up-to-date, why not start your own station logbook?

You can find XMLog online at the XMLog website.

Next week: I experiment with a file recovery utility.

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager