I went to the SOTA presentations at the July Ham Radio rally in Friedrichshafen.
One was on using VKPortalog (Android only - not in the Play store) for live logging on the hill from a great speaker (who I failed miserably to note the name/call sign of - Sorry! ).
Now, I’ve always been very sceptical of this as I’ve always thought it was faster to log by paper and pen. Well… it still is, sort of… let me explain
I got a copy of the App and a file of regular chasers calls/names from Juerg HB9BIN who kindly offered to send it out after the meeting.
I installed it and then practised a bit off air, doing dummy QSOs to get used to the process.
Then I tried it for real… but to be safe I got Sue to log for me on paper at the same time, just in case.
Well… after about 10 minutes I was “sold”! It is a bit fiddly on my Galaxy S7 screen, but it wasn’t that slow and I found a load of advantages which I’ll outline below. I didn’t use the paper log Sue had made, but I did cross reference it to check my typing. She “paper logged” for me on the next couple of activations. After that I just thought it was unnecessary.
I’ve done about 20 activations this way now and I wouldn’t go back.
- No hard to decipher handwriting later in the day.
- With the file from Juerg I get 90%+ chaser names coming up. If one doesn’t come up it makes me check I’ve typed the callsign correctly, so adds to my accuracy.
- I’ve ticked the options to put the name and RST results into the exported database upload files to go in the DB comments field for each QSO. This is information I didn’t bother with transferring from my paper log before as it was more typing during the DB upload process (call me lazy!). It also marks S2S contacts in the activator log.
- It is SUPER easy to get S2S details from the “spots” page into the activator QSO page. One click and it is populated. Great to allow you to concentrate on pulling in that S2S contact, not scribbling stuff like mad.
- Once an activation is complete I can review the log carefully (no handwriting problems) and then upload to the DB straight from my phone (subject to data coverage). I have uploaded activation and S2S chase details within 10 minutes of finishing an activation while still on the hill!
- You can spot with it direct from the App. I know lots of others can do this as well. I like Rucksack Radio Tool for this a bit better.
There’s loads more advantages I am sure people will have.
- There’s no doubt I can write faster than I can type on my phone screen, especially when I have to go back and correct mistakes sometimes. But, crucially, it doesn’t seem to be so slow as to break up my QSO rhythm, even in a big 40M SSB pileup.
- If the info comes in from the QSO in the wrong order, like I get my RST from the other Op, but I don’t have their full callsign yet, then it can be a pain jumping around the screen to enter the data. But, I can still do it quickly enough.
- It won’t work if it is raining. My phone screen becomes unusable with rain on it, despite it being waterproof. I’ll always have a waterproof notebook and pencil still with me for those “bad days”.
- It hammers your phone battery because the screen is on all the time, so you need to ensure you carry an external battery to charge it. Especially if you use the phone for other stuff like track logging (GPS on) etc.
- If you want to run it on a tablet it only supports “portrait” mode so not so screen friendly.
I’m considering buying a small Bluetooth keyboard to make the typing a bit easier. Although it’s not essential. It might not even work out as you need to tap the screen to submit stuff and switch between menus. It might be better to stick with the slightly fiddly screen keyboard. We’ll see.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share my experience.