A few days after I saw this thread on the Reflector, I solved the puzzle and got into the Beta database portal. I was motivated by the fact that I use the SOTA database a lot. I do many activator logs with numerous contacts, as well as plenty of S2S contacts, and I spend considerable time doing logs.
I type most of my logs into the database manually. Therefore I care about the features provided, more than those who upload their logs as CSV files.
I’ve submitted two large, real activator logs via the new portal, and they’ve been accepted without any major issues. These were both hand-typed into the fields provided and then submitted. I’m delighted that this interface works so well at this stage!
Most of you are far above me in your understanding of how this database works, but I do have a clear perspective as a frequent user. I realize that we have a Beta version, that many of the points I see may be temporary, and that changes are perhaps intended. Some of what I see may not be what others see, because of differences between our platforms. Here’s what I’ve noted about the Beta Version since I logged on:
- The summit cannot usually be selected by simply typing in the parts of the summit reference. Sometimes the Association will come up if I type a letter or letter, but not always. The last three digits always require scrolling down and selecting the number.
It would be nice to just type in the summit information, instead of going through three awkward selections, since we usually know this.
When I’m using the current Operational interface, as well as other software, my computer does auto-fill for many fields. This is mostly a time-saver. So far I’ve seen no auto-fill for the fields in the Beta version.
Each QSO that is typed requires mouse-clicking on the button “Add QSO” for it to be added to the log. Hitting the “ENTER” key does nothing. In the Operational version, hitting “ENTER” completes the entry and is much faster than using the mouse. This is relatively important.
If I skip a contact entry, then discover my omission before submitting my log, I can still type it in at the end of the list with either interface.
In the Operational interface, the added entry is automatically inserted into the list in QSO time order, before submission of the log.
In the Beta version, the added entry remains at the bottom of the list.
However, once submitted, the added QSO ends up in correct time order in the database list, regardless of which interface is used.
The spacing between lines in the Beta version is very wide, so that only 10-12 QSO’s are visible. This is about half what I see in the operational version. This means I have to scroll among the lines much more as I check my entrees. On a big activator log, like the 57 QSO log I did today, this is a bit cumbersome. It would be nice to be able to adjust some of these parameters. The look and feel is very different from an Excel spreadsheet, which most of us are familiar with.
There is very little color in what we see. It’s very gray. A little color is used to great advantage at some of the key transactions, such as entering QSO data, and at log submission. Color is a powerful tool in spreadsheet-type data display, and more color could be used for the main features. Our brains key in on color, we process it very fast, and good websites and pages use color to advantage.
The operation of the Beta version is incredibly smooth. I’ve not seen a single glitch or hang-up since I first logged on. I’ve used most of the menu functions, accessed various logs, downloaded logs, entered S2S contacts, and looked at logs of others, and it all flows perfectly. It seems as fast as the Operational version, even when downloading huge piles of logs, which I have done.
In contrast, the Operational database often kicks me out, for no apparent reason, and sometimes requires me to do multiple log-ins to complete even a single activator log. It also kicks me out when I do S2S logs, which are fairly short, but then I must re-type all the information - it isn’t in the buffer like the activator logs. Some days are worse than others, but the Operational interface either times-out or otherwise glitches, and I see the screen of junk that tells me I have to log in again.
Up to now I’ve assumed it was because of my older system, my router, my WiFi, my typing errors, hitting two keys, etc., and who knows what that caused me to be un-logged.
The new interface - so far - is smooth as silk, absolutely delightful by comparison! I haven’t tried a long delay yet, but my comparison experience is like night and day!
The pages are simple and uncluttered, and they are very clean.
However, the font I see on the Beta version is not very easy to read - it’s not jet-black, the letters don’t have sharp edges on my large, sharp monitor, it looks more gray, and it needs improvement.
The Operational Database is much easier to read, even with the denser fields and closer lines, and it’s all about the font and the type. I wish I could pinpoint the problem better, but legibility is VERY important.
The menus on the new version work fine - but I prefer drop-down menus, or some combination - perhaps we could use redundant choices. The menus are really small, and they would be better with color.
The complete logs are easier to read in the Operational version. They use boxes, black fonts, etc.
The formats we use for the dates D/M/Y when we enter our log data are reversed from the format Y/M/D used to display our stored logs.
The complete stored logs don’t show the time period or dates covered by the log, at the top of the log, where it matters. Every log displayed should tell what period it covers. We should not have to scroll down through our huge collections of logs to see what period each one covers.
The Beta version of the manual S2S entry page has major improvements over the Operational Version.
While the fields are essentially the same, when entering more than one S2S contact, if I click “Add Another”, the Operational Version wipes all the fields clean and I have to retype ALL the information for EVERY field. The Beta Version keeps ALL the information in the fields, so all I need to do is update the key details of the QSO.
In particular, the information for MY summit ref is still there, so I don’t have to go through the cumbersome summit-ref selection process for each S2S log entry!!
This is a HUGE improvement, very helpful! Of course not clearing the fields can cause errors - if a field that needs to be be changed is not edited, the log may contain an error. I still like not having to re-type every field!
The headings on the log spreadsheets appear in a very tiny font - and they stay at the top of all the columns, so we can’t see them while looking down the logs - at least the headings should be larger and bold, maybe even displayed in color. If all the columns were colored, we would soon learn what each column contained, never mind the headings! More color - more legibility - less fatigue.
The Analysis features for the activator and chaser logs are very cool! I was surprised to see these options. They work smoothly and reasonably quickly. While the displayed results are HUGE, it all runs just fine through my old hardware!
When submitting most logs, or downloading, a large blue rotating circular display appears to show that something is happening. This is much better than an hourglass or whatever.
However, when I SUBMIT an S2S log, I see nothing to indicate progress. There is no rotating circle, nothing. The log is uploaded, but there’s no progress indicator visible.
- I checked to see if my S2S logs processed through the Beta version are correctly updating my chaser logs, scores, etc., and so far I see no problems. The interface seems to be doing just what it should, going into the SOTA Database.
I may seem critical of a few points here, but overall I’m just amazed and delighted that this new product is running so efficiently. I know these great results represent untold labor and mental challenge over countless hours.
Please accept my comments in the positive spirit of suggesting a few useful improvements that will have a huge positive effect for the thousands of users who will soon use these tools to enter and display their SOTA logs.
This is a long post, but I really believe that the reason you gave us the riddle to solve, was to select a few motivated early users, and not to have too many people posting useless comments.
I’m not sure if you want feedback - but since you posted a fun riddle I could solve, at over 70 years old, you got it. This Beta version is an amazing piece of work - and with a few significant tweaks it could be so cool!
I’m running this on a Dell Pentium desktop machine made in 2003, with 2G of RAM, using Windows XP, Google Chrome, over a WiFi router and a cable modem. It runs SO MUCH BETTER than the Operational version that kicks me out! I think the data transactions to the database are faster with the Beta version, but I have no way to be sure.
When I solved the riddle, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to see where it would lead. So far, so good!
Thanks and 73,