Is Logbook of the World More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

Is it just me, or do you also think that Logbook of the World (LOTW) is more trouble than it’s worth?

Three years ago, I went through the bother of downloading the software, getting the certificates, etc. I used it for a while, uploading all of the QSOs that I’d logged since I got back on the air, and it was interesting to see the QSLs tote up.

Then, I switched to a Mac in my shack. I managed to get LOTW working, but sloughed off on uploading my contacts. It was a bit of a hassle to do it, and the law of diminishing returns kind of took over. By that I mean I wasn’t seeing the rush of new countries that I did when I first started uploading. This was only natural.

Then, my Mac crashed. I had backed up my computer log, but I’d forgotten to back up the LOTW certificates and the .p12 file (whatever the h*ll that is). It got to be such a pain that I just forgot about LOTW altogether.

About a week ago, though, I get an e-mail from the ARRL noting that my certificate was about to expire. After getting a second warning today, I thought I’d give it a whack. I downloaded the latest version the TQSL software, but I’d forgotten that I’d lost my certificates. I logged into the LOTW website, and right on the homepage, it says, “Looking for your certificate? Click Your Account in the menu above.” I did that and downloaded a certificate, but the TQSLCert program didn’t recognize it, so I couldn’t renew it.

So, it was back to step 1. I ran TQSLCert and told it to generate a new certificate request. It created a .tq5 file that I uploaded to the LOTW website. Unfortunately, upon doing so, I got the error message, “Sorry, but you can’t have two certificates whose dates overlap.” This makes sense, but it’s oh so frustrating. So, now I have to wait for someone at the ARRL to sort things out, so that I can start using LOTW again.

Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the LOTW website, the system has only 30,039 users, and many of those are DX stations, I’m sure. Of those 30k, I wonder how many are like me, and rarely use the thing?

I gotta believe that there’s an easier way to do this. All this security is well and good, but we are talking about amateur radio QSLs here, not corporate trade secrets or national defense. I’m a computer person, and if I’m having trouble with it, just think of all the problems that hams with less computer experience than me are having with it. Or, is it just me?

—————————————

UPDATE 11/30/09
Well, I’ve finally got it all straightened out. Shortly after I wrote this, someone at the ARRL actually did sort things out and sent me a new certificate, and I finally got around to installing it last night.

At first, I was having trouble saving the .p12 file and digitally signing an ADIF file. I even fired off an e-mail to the ARRL asking why my password didn’t work. As it turns out, this was my fault. Apparently, when I requested the new certificate, the caps lock was on, meaning that the alpha characters in the password were all caps. Once I figured that out, everything went smoothly.

I now have 8,928 LOTW QSOs and 1,160 QSLs. This includes 81 different DXCC entities. I haven’t run through my QSL collection yet, but I’d bet that I now have enough countries to get a DXCC certificate.

Comments

  1. Oh, it’s probably just you! It only took me about 5 minutes to get going on LoTW, about the same amount of time it took me to get going on eQSL for an authentic eQSL listing. Actually, being on LoTW made it lot easier to get that authenticated listing on eQSL

    I upload to both LoTW and eQSL regularly and find it much easier to use LoTW, at least with the N3FJP logging software I use. I gave money to eQSL to help support it, but the LoTW site is also much faster. My return rates are a bit higher on LoTW – about 30% vs. 25%.

    I work in the Internet security area, and I think the ARRL using certificates is definitely overkill, but making it harder for someone to scam the system is a good idea. Certainly are areas where they could make it a bit easier to use but boy is submitting for awards so much more fun with LoTW than in the old paper card days.

    73 John K3TN

  2. Dan,
    I agree with you. I’m a computer consultant at a major university and a Ham. I’ve been using LOTW for about two years and it’s no fun at all. Also I’m lucky if i can confirm as many as one in ten of my DX contacts.

    Mario
    KC2QJJ

  3. I screen comments before they are posted here, so neither John nor Mario saw each other’s comments when they were posted. I found it interesting that I received two such divergent comments.

  4. I have to agree that LoTW can be a pain, however once you are setup with it and if you have a log book program that supports uploading to LoTW it’s pretty easy after that. Out of the 2000+ contacts I’ve made, I’m almost to the 800 mark in confirmations and yes the DX confirms are rare. I also use eQSL and I have to say it is definitely easier than LoTW although slightly less returns on it that LoTW. For a okay comparison between the two I wrote a post on it on my blog: http://aj4jd.blogspot.com/2009/06/lotw-vs-eqsl.html

  5. Dan, I look forward to your posts and, normally, I see eye to eye with you. Not that always agreeing with someone I read is a necessity, but it generally makes me feel better :) It won’t surprise me if you receive a lot of varying comments on this one!

    I have to say, though, I’m in the other camp on this. I appreciate the fact that LOTW is not just a few clicks here or there to get running – or a matter of merely entering your VISA/MC numbers. Is it the easiest thing to set up? No, maybe not. But it isn’t all that difficult either. If someone can’t figure it out – provided they’ve actually read the instructions – then we’re all probably better off that they just stay away from it. I’ve moved my certificate from computer to computer – it isn’t that big of a deal. But, yes, you have to know what it is and where to find it when you go to transfer it.

    You say that you think that there have to be easier ways…there are. One is called eQSL. But I personally don’t give them the same legitimacy as I do LOTW because I’ve seen contacts appear in my Inbox that I didn’t make. So, I’ve stopped using it.

    The other alternative is easy to. Writing an address on an envelope and attaching a stamp. And then waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

    I don’t think LOTW is perfect, but it does exactly what it claims it will for me. And I’ve saved a bundle on postage.

    73 Ed N4EMG

  6. Dan its you. I have a mac also and have had no trouble getting certificates, updates and signing logs. I think it works great. I get about 40% return on my uploads. I think reading about the process seems more confusing than it really is.
    73 john k1ym

  7. I think to a large extent whether or not LotW is “worth it” depends on the software you use. For general logging I use ACLog from N3FJP. LotW is very well integrated with that program. You upload new contacts you’ve made and download confirmations that have been received with a couple of mouse clicks. It takes less time to do that than it does to enter a single log entry.

    I use a variety of computers for personal and professional use. Perhaps in your case the question is not “Is LotW Worth It?” but the question should be “Why hasn’t anyone developed a decent Macintosh logging program that is well integrated with LotW?”.

    73,

    Tim N9PUZ

  8. It’s a pain alright, but given that we’re ‘supposed’ to be a technically savvy bunch, I think we can handle it!

  9. John KC8ZTJ says:

    Dan: You have hit on my major objection to LOTW. The security routine is overly fussy and well not needed. It was much easier to set up eqsl and continues to be easier to upload contacts. The need for such security is a bit puzzling and a bit over the top.

  10. I think the security/authentication is overkill. It’s been possible for decades to game the paper QSL system and with Photoshop it’s even easier today to cheat if one wanted to. I understand why ARRL did the security the way they did, but it seems rather pointless. Furthermore, ARRL recreated the wheel developing LOTW as eQSL existed long before.

    With limited time available for amateur radio these days, I would rather spend the time operating or building something than screwing around trying to remember how for the umpteenth time to upload QSOs to LOTW and eQSL.

    I guess it’s a great system if you’re a paper chaser, but logically the LOTW authentication system in regards to awards doesn’t make much sense unless ARRL makes paper QSLs invalid.

    On a side note, I wonder what our HF mail network and VHF/UHF digital voice standards would look like if ARRL put as much thought and design into those as they did LOTW’s authentication system.

  11. The funny thing is my last PC died, I use MACs, with all my logging info on it, no I did not have a recent backup. I contacted the ARRL/Norm and he offered to send me a copy of what I had in LOTW, small log only 3k+. Did the whole Cert renewal and got the same errors you received. So off to Norm again. He then sent me a step by step instruction on how to do it. With the instructions it went easy. I actually find it easy to use and now I keep a backup and also send it to myself at my Yahoo account.
    Not to make this any longer but when Norm sent me my Log I noticed I had many dup entries for the same call and times but seconds apart. Now to clean up my Log. Just my bit of info !
    Rick
    WA6ES

  12. Eric WY7USA says:

    I just find it silly to have more encryption and security than most people have for their online banking.

    To what end? Just so someone doesn’t fraudulently receive an award? I think the ARRL is taking the QSL validation waaay too seriously.

    And yes, that does make it more complicated than it need be.

  13. I think I agree most with K3NG who says, “I guess it’s a great system if you’re a paper chaser.” I do like getting QSLs, and I do want to get a DXCC certificate one of these days, but I’m certainly not obsessed with doing so. If I were, I’d be all over this. Since I’m not, I only goof around with LOTW every three to six months. What this means is that I forget nearly everything I learned the last time and have to re-learn it to get it working right again.

    So, to get back to the original question, “Is LOTW More Trouble Than It’s Worth?” I guess the answer is no, and I will be beating on it until I get it working again. The ARRL has already sent me my new certificate. I hope that all I have to do is install it and everything will be up and running again.

  14. Interesting article. I wrote something similar in early November as well:

    http://www.squidzone.ca/ve3oij/2009/11/why-ill-probably-never-use-logbook-of-the-world.html

    Enjoy!

    73 de VE3OIJ

  15. It’s not that hard to use!

    I am amazed that so many people have so much trouble using it. I followed the directions, and got it working the first time.

    I have better than 36% confirmation rate on my logged QSOs, too.

    As far as easy to use, the Ham Radio Deluxe Utilities from WD5EAE makes updating from logbook to LoTW a single mouse click — or it can do it automatically! Sadly, there is no HRD for Mac, or Linux, but I find it easier to go with the flow and use Windows XP for my shack computer.

    Jeff

  16. Jerry Colton says:

    Hi Dan…. I just Googled “LOTW Confusing” and got your site first! Like you wrote, I am saying to myself, “Is it me or is this thing confusing?” I am not a computer person. I can do all the basic stuff but the different file types and all that I would think would confuse any layman.
    I’d really like to get this LOTW on my computer and see the results I get from my old call as I was most active with that….. and that may create more confusion as I’d like to have LOTW for my current call I just got…… Just thinking about this give me a headache but I’m downloading the instructions and going to give it a try. I hope its worth all the effort. I’m also wondering if I need an additional logging program like Ham Radio Deluxe to make this all work…..
    Scratching my head…
    73 and thanks for your informative site.
    N1TKO – Jerry
    (Former WB1CAX)

  17. Hi, Jerry–

    You don’t say when you were using WB1ACX, but I’d be surprised if you get very many QSLs for that callsign. I might be wrong, though.

    Having a program that interfaces directly with LOTW makes using it a *lot* easier. I don’t know which program you’re using now, but if it’s relatively modern, my guess is that it will support LOTW.

    73, Dan

  18. Hi Dan!
    Thanks for a most enjoyable CW QSO great meeting you! I’m on a fixed income (part time/retired)
    so the value of the LOTW ( I also duplicate the effort by being a member of eqsl.cc ) between the two I think most of the folks that want my confirmation will get it . . . But I also send out cards by mail especially to DX (with managers) or at requrest.
    My experience with LOTW has been good . . I crashed a couple of hard drives and lost (as you did)
    the necessary info . . . however, likely because it happened enough the ARRL people have made it super easy to ‘recover’ and get back on the beam again and they respond to email querys like instantly . . . I have to give them a big hand. I’ve uploaded over 4500 QSOs to LOTW and eQSL.cc each in just the last 14 months . . . I could never have afforded to send all those card via mail or even via the bureau ( I also use the bureau 100% as it helps to ‘support’ the ARRL hi hi )
    Thank yo uso much for this great Blog and keep up the good work man! 73 Prayers and DX Doug Crittendon, NJ1T

  19. Dan KB6NU says:

    UPDATE 1/09/10: Well, I just got around to re-installing LOTW on my Mac iBook G4 after the hard disk crashed about a month or so ago. This time, the re-install was a lot easier because I’d saved the .p12 file. I downloaded the latest batch of QSLs and noticed that I’d gotten one from OX3XR (Greenland). So, I’m inching ever slowly towards DXCC.

  20. Hi Tom
    I changed my call about a year ago and you are probably right about QSL’s in LOTW… I may have some. I recently got a message from the W! QSL Buro telling me my funds ran out. I had forgotten all about them. Well I sent in some cash and on Christmas eve I received about 25 cards from contacts I made in 1999. What a terrific Christmas gift! hi hi
    I just may give LOTW another shot!
    73 and thanks for the nice Blog
    Jerry – N1TKO

  21. I have been wanting to use LOTW as I seem to have less time to tend to my paper QSL replies. (Although I’ve read that DX QSL requests may still require paper, as many aren’t using LOTW)

    I am not an award chaser, but do want to provide confirmation fro those that do.

    My main hurdle to using LOTW was reading that all my previous contacts had to be logged MANUALLY- one at a time! No “batch” uploading allowed. The thought of typing in my paper logs again is too much ( I had just entered my paper log QSO’s into the “DX Keeper” logging program).

    But has this “manual entry only” requirement has changed? It’s been many years since my last LOTW consideration. Am I correctly reading that the “TQSL” program will allow me to now batch upload my old contacts ( already logged in DXKepper logging program) ? If so, I may just reconsider using LOTW.

    I understand many logging programs will upload to LOTW “real-time”, but if older QSO’s can now be batch uploaded, (done via Cabrillo or ADIF formats?) , I am now much more interested and will bite the bullet.

    Glad stumbling upon your post – and the comments from the happy users- has renewed my interest

    Greg

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      If you have already entered your QSOs into DX Keeper, then you can export them to an ADIF file and digitally sign that file with the TQSL program. This creates a file with a .tqx extension, which you can then upload to LOTW. I’m not familiar with DX Keeper, but it might have a feature that allows you to do this entirely within the program. The N3FJP ACLog program that I use does that.

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