Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Summits | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

FT8/DATA Clublog Stats - my thoughts

I’ve used Clublog since its inception - as someone who has logged on computer since 1990 its so easy to update ones records by importing an ADIF log to the website at Clublog every day or two. Michael G7VJR and the support team have done a great job creating and maintaining Clublog via charitable donations.

With the rise in the use of datamodes operation, mainly due to the use of the computer soundcard and the modern transceivers with USB souncards built in for decoding signals, I decided to check on my increasing use of datamodes, from 2017 up to the present day. I started using FT8 in March 2018. I haven’t yet used datamodes for activating SOTA, only for chasing the DATA activators amongst us. If I do try activating SOTA using DATA it will probably be on G/TW-004 where the carrying distance for the extra equipment from the car is minimal…

The chart above in my case shows an increase in my use of data modes this year of 29% prior to my adoption of FT8 in March 2018. The chart shows a reduction in SSB contacts of 20% and a reduction in CW contacts of 8.5% for this year and an increasing trend year on year since 2017 to use DATA modes at an increased % level more or less, every year.

My operating interests are SOTA, DXing on HF and VHF and occasional contests (some RSGB MGM, some CW non-RSGB Contests). So for this year out of 1351 QSOs up to yesterday, 47% are CW, 24% are Phone and 29% are DATA. In my case FT8 has taken me away from phone operation more than it has from CW.

It also seems to me, that my interest in SOTA is ensuring that the highest proportion of my activity is still done using Morse Code - thank you SOTA Activators for keeping CW alive!

The DATA SOTA Activator experts pulled from the database worldwide are:

The DATA SOTA Chaser experts pulled from the database worldwide are:

It has been suggested by some that the use of FT8 data is changing the hobby as we know it beyond recognition. I personally do not think that is the case to a great degree, but it will be interesting to see if once the newness of these efficient machine modes wears off, if usage returns to the traditional Voice and Morse modes.

73 Phil G4OBK

4 Likes

Phil, what software do you use to log the contacts and generate the ADIF file? I haven’t got anything yet, just sheets of paper. I’m confused, as normal, by the choice of programs available.

John

2 Likes

Dear all

Thanks for your input, Phil. Considering myself as traditional, it took some time to consider using FT8 as an activator. Since my ham radio activity is nearly all SOTA, my kick-off for FT8 was SOTA, too. Our local HB9SOTA club offered an online seminar hosted by HB9HCI and HB9BIN to build up the FT8–Box hardware together and to learn to prepare its use on a summit.

It was interesting to enhance my horizon, but the opportunities to catch me as an FT8 operator will be and remain rare:

I am a KISS operator on the technical side and the additional boxes and wires are not only for my joy. The chance to fail for some reason is significantly higher. I operate FT8 on my logging tablet. It works, but I should upgrade to a more powerful tablet version. But I like my old Android tablet since it is that much handy to run VK port-a-log on it.

And the main point: I enjoy to listen to the voices of my chasers too much. It’s nice to see lots of callsigns popping up in blue, but it’s that much silent. Speaking on a cold summit keeps me warm, and with FT8 the discomfort starts not on my toes but on my fingers, and that is not a good base for keeping me in a good mood. Not at all, hi!

So I’ll fish from time to time for some FT8 contacts, but I won’t contribute to a new world dominated by FT8! 3 activations with FT8 QSOs so far.

Vy 73 de Markus, HB9DIZ

5 Likes

A good time to start computer logging John - before your logbook gets too big! I had 8 years worth of operating to computerise when I started with Turbolog on a 386 PC in 1990. Turbolog went downhill when the writer (a well known SOTA guy) passed it on as an excellent DOS based programme to someone else, but turning it into a Windows program and it all went pear shaped. That was when I started using Logger32.

Logger 32 - its free on the condition from the writer Bob Furzer K4CY that you don’t take part in nets, or call stations using only your suffix “OSCAR BRAVO KILO” (Without the GOLF FOUR!)

Joking apart. Logger32 an excellent program if you are half computer literate like I am, although using this software which does so many things, is a course in self learning as you coax the features you want (Such as the excellent telnet MM0FMF DX Cluster) to operate within it.

There are lots of good logging programmes around, some also free, and newer on the scene than Logger 32, such as LOG4OM which is used by plenty of others. As I have a long term committment to Logger32 and it works like a dream for me, I’ve stuck with it. If you want finer detail drop me a PM on here or QTHR in QRZ.COM and I’ll set you off with it and give you guidance if you need it. It can be tailored for tracking SOTA operations quite well as an activator or chaser and meshes well with WSJT, JTDX and MMTTY for PSK/RTTY as well. Like most software it can seem complex at first but with patience and time you can shape the program to do whatever you want it to.

73 Phil

3 Likes

Well said Markus. I have to agree with you that speaking to someone especially who you get in contact regularly using SOTA gives you a really pleasant warm feeling inside, well it does me anyways. It’s surprising how a persons personality really comes through on the radio and I can say without a shadow of doubt it has been a real pleasure for me and I feel honoured.

Stay safe Best 73 Allen

3 Likes

Phil, thank you, I have looked at Logger 32 but only superficially. I’ll have another look at it when I get home - I’m currently playing the tourist in Cornwall. :slight_smile:

1 Like

In my view it will, but only so far. I don’t see the novelty of an easy way to make QSOs wearing off. That is how life is nowadays… doing things the easy way.

Today I could see loads of activity on 6m FT8 with lots of stations putting in signals to +12dB, well above the noise. 50.313 MHz was definitely where the action was. Instead of joining the throng, I moved to the CW end and worked EA4, HA and OK in fairly quick succession. Later in the day I enjoyed a brief chat with David IK8NSR on SSB. For me, all these QSOs had far more meaning and were more pleasurable than any I have had on FT8… and that includes the DX.

3 Likes

And yet the number of SOTA activations on FT8 remains vanishingly small. Several participants have expressed an intention to activate on FT8, but even very few of these have got a working system on the first attempt. The “easy way”? Sure it’s a different challenge to legacy modes, but still a challenge nonetheless. There is something in the SOTA Database that everyone proclaiming FT8 to be “the easy way” have in common… :wink:

A 10" tablet, a palm-of-the-hand interface, and a couple of short cables. For me, that’s about the same size + weight load as a resonant antenna for a certain HF band - so I just take one less of those (if it’s a problem).

1 Like

A few reasons why I have not had a go at data on summit. First I agree with you - its not as easy as some make out operating on these soundcard modes. Problem solving on computers, interfaces, ancillary equipment and software has become an intrinsic part of this hobby for me. Yes, it’s frustrating at times when things don’t work first time but with patience when you get things “all singing and dancing” it’s gratifying - sometimes after several hours over several days trying to ahcieve the end result. As Markus @hb9diz also pointed out, more wires, more equipment, more connections = the likelihood of more problems on the summit.

I only have an Android tablet and phone Tom and I don’t like to spend longer than I need to on summits to get my points and to work as many of the deserving as I can within reason. So far as I am aware, it isn’t possible to easily communicate using DATA modes with those types of Android devices. Maybe you know something I don’t - yes I know you have a Windows compatible tablet but I don’t wish to buy one. What I do know is that I have a 13" laptop and an FT-991A and together they make an effective /P data station. This is why on the right day I hope to take them in the car up to G/TW-004 with a picnic table and camping chair. I’ll walk a short distance from my car and have a play on FT8 from a summit just for the experience. The equipment I have is simply too heavy and bulky to carry to a summit in a rucksack, although it is possible if I were prepared to carry around a 30 lb packweight. At the age of 68 with my level of fitness, not a good idea.

Even if a lighter option were possible I am reluctant to spend longer than I need to on a summit in the UK due to the cold and hypothermia. I have to take Edoxoban, a blood thinner and since I went on that drug my extremities get cold very quickly.

Like you, I do enjoy the datamodes though, as much as I do phone - but less than I enjoy working in CW.

73 Phil

2 Likes

That drug is contraindicated should you become pregnant Phil. Just saying so you can be careful, either from getting pregnant at your age or from taking it if you do become so.

2 Likes

Yes, you can do PSK and RTTY via Wolphi software and interface from Android, but likewise I am unaware of Android (or indeed iOS) solutions for WSJT modes.

The 991A does away with the need for interface and one of the cables, but I agree, its size and weight make it unsuitable for rucksack carriage up most summits.

Good point about the summit time - use of JT modes definitely increases the “linger factor” of an activation!

1 Like

Thanks info Tom. The FT-991A will fit into an Amazon Basics Rucksack - see pics. Much cheaper than one Icom try to sell for a lot more €€€€€ £££££ $$$$$. Unfortunately there is little extra space available but I found on last years EU/OE SOTA day that a 7 Amp LiFePo running the radio at 30 watts lasted much longer than I thought it would - mainly CW on HF.
If two operators were sharing the radio and one carried the rest of the tackle needed for the activation then it would be feasible to take an FT-991A or similar on a summit even if it involved a moderate walk.

73 Phil

[Brief Amazon Review]
(https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/customer-reviews/R3KKURKXKCM8MY?ref=pf_ov_at_pdctrvw_srp)

2 Likes

…if everything goes well.

Like you don’t bump into something with your rucksack when turning around. That you don’t put you rucksack down too “enthusiastically” when taking it off after a long walk. That nothing breaks / rubs / scratches / leaks alongside the rig in the pack.

Etc etc etc.

All stuff that is much easier to protect an 817 against in a rucksack!

YMMV - but it’s not for me. My 991A is exclusively a shack radio!

2 Likes

Indeed Tom. I was not implying that FT8 was easy for SOTA type operation, either in terms of equipment or operation. However, it is relatively easy to get going for home operation with an average PC, a simple interface and WSJT or MSHV and it is easy to operate the mode in the shack. It does not require much of the operator.

As you say, getting FT8 to work in the field is not easy and there are quite a few issues to overcome. Many of us do not have the benefit of a suitable tablet or lap-top running the appropriate software. My netbook cannot cope with FT8, but has no issue with PSK running through Digipan. To run FT8 I would need to upgrade and the reason I have not bothered is this — I have activated a couple of summits on PSK, but for some reason it has completely failed to float my boat. Maybe it is down to the fact that what interested me in SOTA in the first place was the camaraderie that I found with the chasers that I spoke to. Now try feeling that over any data mode. :frowning:

1 Like

I agree with most of that Gerald, but a bit like CW, the experienced FT8 op can convey warmth and (a little bit of) personality too. If you are familiar and fluent with the software, there is more you can shape it to your own preferred MO than you might imagine. Certainly the regular chasers and S2S activators I have FT8 contacts with all exchange more than just “rubber stamp” QSO data.

I watched most of the Contest University presentations yesterday and one that stood out was by Jose CT1BOH on using FT8 “traffic” to determine real time/near real time propagation and path/circuit “availability”.

While slightly tangential to Phil’s initial comment, I thought (as did many in the audience) that Jose’s presentation was really fascinating and actually directly applicable to our everyday radio lives if we want it to be.

Love it or hate it FT8 is having a huge impact, some good and some bad.

This was an example firmly in the good camp.

and you can watch his presentation at the 5 hr 38 minute mark here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-esob7BPtc

Paul
W6PNG

4 Likes

Hi,
Hamradio is a hobby that offers something for everyone and every radioamateur does what he likes the most.
What I would like to say here is that I would regret, very very deeply regret, is if SOTA would transform itself into an Digitalmode operation. I had to leave 6m the magic band because cw there is nearly RIP.
It is all high power FT8 now. It is a gruesome thought for me having to face in the future a SOTA that would grow into a 80% or more digital mode portable operation.
73 from a worried ON4BCA Patrick

3 Likes

Heaven forbid! I think the appropriate phrase for many of us would be “I’m out of here!”. As I said in my previous post there is a camaraderie between SOTA ops that is very reminiscent of what I found on 2m AM back when I was first licensed in 1969. I really get a kick when activators remember my name when I call them, something that goes beyond what I would expect given the rigours of operating under SOTA rules. I am sure that with the calibre of operators we have in the fraternity, SOTA will buck the trend. :grinning:

3 Likes

Hi,
100% true, within SOTA I found a community with top hamspirit, friendship and willingness to help.
I remember 2m from end of the 1980s to beginning 1990s was super too.
73 Patrick

2 Likes

Datamodes will not become the dominant force in SOTA for several reasons, including:

  • lots of people don’t want to use it for SOTA.
  • it is not easy to get a working portable system going.
  • there’s not many of the keen SOTA chasers on Datamodes.
  • those few activators that use Datamodes tend to be “mode enthusiasts”, so are likely to include CW and phone in their activations as well anyway!

Like I say, I well remember a similar “doom and gloom” conspiracy concern a good 15 years ago, with people threatening to walk away from SOTA because it was all going to CW (allegedly).

But I must continue to counter some of the misleading assertions above:

  • there IS also camaraderie between FT8 operators, including personal greetings and individual messages on air.
  • there is lots of activity currently on 6m CW during this Sp.E season.

Like anything in AR, FT8 (etc) is there if you want it, but is not compulsory if you don’t.

4 Likes