Mac Programming – Do I Really Want to Do This?

Since there’s such a dearth of amateur radio programs for the Mac, I’ve been thinking of doing some of my own. So, I started searching the web for some online resources. I’ve come up with the following:

One thing is clear to me. I’m going to have to either upgrade this Mac to OSX 10.5 or buy one of the new Macs. I’m leaning towards buying a new one. :)

I asked on the Ham-Mac mailing list, and they suggested the following resources:

Send QSLs More Easily, Define Your Own Contest Log

Here are two items from Jim K8ELR:

  • Global QSL. Global QSL claims to print and send, presumably via QSL bureaus, 100 color QSL cards for $9.90. The unique thing about this service is that it’s a print-on-demand kind of thing. You upload an ADIF file
  • with the QSOs that you want to confirm, and Global QSL takes care of the rest. Pretty cool if it really works.

  • All in One Logger. This is yet another Windows logger. What I like about this program, though, is that you can define your own contests. As much as I like using the N3FJP software, having to download a new program every time I want to work a contest is a drag.

Two UTC Clocks

On one of the many mailing lists I’m on, someone asked if there was a simple clock program out there that would display UTC. Well, it just so happens that Vic, K2VCO, one of the regular contributors to the mailing list had written one. You can find it at http://www.qsl.net/k2vco/. It displays both the date and the time.

Someone else mentioned a program written by SV2AGW. AGWClock also looks like a good program, but I couldn’t get it to install on this old Windows98 laptop. Hopefully, you will have better luck with it than I did. You can find it at http://www.elcom.gr/sv2agw.

Free Antenna Modeling Software

Dan, AC6LA, has a new domain name, http://www.ac6la.com/. On the site, there is a variety of software, including some programs that are free:

  • MultiNEC – Run Antenna Modeling Programs on AutoPilot – $39
  • EZPlots – Plot EZNEC Frequency Sweep Data – $19
  • XLZIZL – Picture the Rest of Your Antenna System – Free
  • MakeGIF – Make a GIF / JPEG / PNG File from a Clipboard Copy – Free
  • TLDetails – Transmission Line Program with Animated Charts – Free
  • MoxGen – Moxon Rectangle Generator – Free

TLDetails and MoxGen are self-contained, the others require that you
have Excel 97 or later already installed.

TLDetails looks really interesting to me.

Breaking My Own Rules

Well, despite my last post, I’ve been breaking my own rules lately. I haven’t been on the air–except for some 2m FM contacts, and those almost don’t count–since Tuesday.

The reason I’ve been so negligent is that I purchased a new computer. Not only did I purchase a new computer, but it’s a Mac instead of the PCs I’ve been using for almost 20 years now. I love the new computer, but it’s eaten up all my time as I get it up and running.

For example, it took me a couple of days to finally figure out how to migrate my e-mail from Thunderbird on the PC to MacMail. At first, I thought I’d use the Opera mail client on the Mac, and that the easiest thing to do would be to import the mail files to the Opera mail client on the PC and then simply copy the file over. WRONG! I don’t know what the Opera mail program was doing, but it worked on the conversion for more than 24 hours and never did finish the conversion.

After doing a little more Web searching, I found a way to convert the Thunderbird mailboxes to a format that the MacMail app could directly import. Now, everything’s working like a charm.

I also had to find some apps to replace those that I’ve been using on the PC, namely Word, Excel, and Access. After seriously considering buying Office for the Mac, I found NeoOffice/J, which makes OpenOffice, an open-source replacement for Microsoft Office, run as a native Mac application. I haven’t done extensive testing with it yet, but I was able to read and edit some Word files that I had created on the PC. Very cool.

Finally, to get around to ham radio in this post, I did manage to find some ham radio software for the Mac in my search for Mac apps. Black Cat Systems has a whole raft of applications that are either directly for hams or would be useful for hams, including:

  • Audiocorder – lets you record audio from any source that you can connect to your Mac.
  • Black Cat CW Keyer – lets you use your Mac to key your rig.
  • DX Toolbox – gathers information on propagation from the Internet and predicts conditions for a particular path. Also displays the current gray line.
  • Elmer – generates sample license tests and keeps track of your progress.
  • iDXCluster – allows you to read postings to DX clusters and post your own loggings.
  • Morse Mania – Morse Code trainer.
  • MultiMode – sends and receives many digital modes, including RTTY, FAX, SSTV, SITOR-B, NAVTEX, PACKET, ACARS, PSK31, ALE, Hellschreiber, and others.
  • RF Toolbox – performs many common calculations including antenna dimensions for a variety of different antenna types, coil inductance and more.

All of these programs are inexpensive. Most cost either $20 or $25, and the iDXCluster program is free. The most expensive is MultiMode, which is $89. And you can download and try all of them for free.

Now, it’s down to the shack to get back on the air.

Free Antenna Analysis Software

On the Elecraft mailling list, Jess AE0CW (how’s that for a great call?) asked where he could find a trial version of some antenna modeling software. Someone replied that EZNEC offered a free demo package.

This morning, Dave G3YMC suggested that he look at MMANA, describing it as “free and excellent.” There’s even a mailing list for user support.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it does look like a good program. Antenna modelling is one of those things I keep threatening to get into. Maybe with this program, I’ll actually do it.

Ham Radio to Go

Ed Breneiser, Wa3WSJ, sells antennas for hams that like to take their ham radio to go. I haven’t used them, but they look well-made, and if Ed’s experience with them is any indication, they work well, too. He always seems to be operating while backpacking somewhere or operating portable from a covered bridge.

Now, he’s added a PDA links page to his website. The page lists four logging programs as well as a program–HRR–that provides a bunch of functions, such as the ability to calculate dipole lengths, inductance, etc. While I haven’t tried it yet, HRR looks to be a very useful program. I tried developing something similar, but never did finish it.

Also included on Ed’s link page are links to other programs that might be useful to hams on the go. These include text readers, a personal diary, and first aid info. Great stuff!

Linux for Hams…On a Single CD-ROM

I’ve always thought Linux and ham radio would be a good fit for one another, but the availability of ham radio related software that runs on Linux isn’t all that great. Perhaps it’s because Linux still isn’t that easy to install. Well, here you can get a CD-ROM with everything a ham should need to get started:

I haven’t tried it yet, but the web page says,

The CD contains a complete LINUX-Knoppix operating system and enough software to accomplish the usual tasks we all perform daily from our homes … web browsing, email, letter writing, etc. In addition, there is a huge library of programs for our Amateur Radio hobby.

Thanks to Glenn, KA8E for posting this notice to the local Linux Users Group mailling list.

Free Modelling Software

On the G4FQG Software page, R.J. Edwards says, “There ARE such things as free lunches,” and then goes on to prove that point by offering a bunch of “original, high-quality, radio engineering/modelling programs” for nothing.

There’s lots of good stuff here, including programs that will help you model and design:

  • loop antennas
  • helical antennas
  • loaded vertical antennas
  • toroids
  • transmission lines
  • impedance matching circuits for end-fed half wave antennas
  • etc., etc., etc.

One of the cool things about these programs are that they’re all DOS programs, and the downloadable files are all small .EXE files that you can run directly after downloading.

Antenna modelling has been on my list of ham radio to-do list for quite some time now, but I’ve been putting it off because getting into it usually means downloading a complicated program with a relatively steep learning curve. With these simple programs, I may actually get around to doing it. The one I’m most interested in at this point is VERTLOAD, which models base-fed vertical antennas with load coils at any height.