Tag Archives: LoTW

Revisiting LoTW (Logbook of the World)

LoTW (Logbook of The World) when it first came out was not a great experience.

Back in its early days I tried, and basically gave up.

Well like all things in heavy use, LoTW has gotten a lot better.

Using the ARRL link https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/getting-started/ I decided I would knuckle-down and see if I could get things going.

I found LoTW much easier and much quicker than in the day.

As a starter it took only a day to get my main certificate approved, that is so much better than the weeks plus postcards sent in the mail stuff back in the day.

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Net Failure – The ARRL Modernizes right back to 1985…

Working with the Internet, in all of its forms, to communicate well with a Public, a Membership and as a Reference Site certainly cannot be an easy task for any organization. Just the distraction of working through the amount of potential options for every aspect of a web presence can bring many groups to a grinding halt.

Importantly it is very easy to loose sight that in terms of web presence “Change is Just Change, and All Change Doesn’t Imply Improvement.”

The ARRL certainly has been changing its web presence, and unfortunately rather than creating a look-forward awesome web presence has in many ways gone backwards, in some cases 20 years or so…..

It is as if emotional and economic over-investment has clouded any web presence decisions.

As it is widely held that any web-transaction system needs to be simple, secure, robust, portable and user friendly there are a whole raft of lessons simply being ignored concerning the klutz ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) QSL database system. I’ve written about this clumsy system several times, most recently as part of my decision to drop participation in LOTW as having almost no benefit for me in comparison to the technical pain of dealing with an obsolete software model. LINK Simple Thoughts on a Complex Mess – LoTW, Run or Drop?

The “redesigned” commercialized ARRL website may feature some “gee-wiz” scripting, but is dull in both design and content. Now heavily advertisement ladened this website has dropped from my daily “look-see” bookmark list as I have found it preferable (and ad free) to only monitor the RSS feed. LINK Are we a League or a Internet Vendor?

The commercialization in both implemented web design (how can it be less costly to job out the website than do it with ARRL HQ staff, specially considering the less than subtle loss of control of a contracted-out web presence?) and in the large amount of space dedicated to Internet Selling (internal ARRL ads and Paid Vendor ads) has greatly diminished my interest as an ARRL Life Member in the organization’s website.

The sell-out decision  “to tart up” & “to add paid vendor ads” has been forced down our throats with the various ARRL email newsletters “going commercial.” Maybe Newington doesn’t understand the difference between communications and Spam? I’ve found that I have gone from a nearly 100% read of the former newsletter designs to almost never looking at these new noisy, vendor ad ladened versions.

Further web efforts into offering “exclusive” and “additional” ARRL content to those members willing to participate in the third-party social networking & noisemaking systems Facebook & Twitter, with the implication that the only way for a ARRL Member to get this addition exclusive content is to use these third party websites, shows how completely out of touch the Newington web presence effort is.

There is arguments enough on other Amateur Radio blogs and forums about whether Facebook & Twitter are “evil” and “trivial” that I will only offer than there is a much more serious issue the ARRL hasn’t gotten – that these are THIRD PARTY web sites that the ARRL has no control over, and most importantly that a significant number of ARRL Members DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN.

The simple fact is the ARRL has promised a superior information flow not from its own web presence, but only through third party conduits – they are “gypping” members who do not want, or cannot for technical reasons participate in these third party information conduits, while missing the important part that they are further driving “hits” away from the ARRL website (why look at that dog, when you can get it elsewhere) which will even drive down the advertising revenue for their commercialization through Paid Vendor ads.

In many ways the ARRL appears to be heading backwards – from a bright vibrant website that filled a page to a dull clumsy commercialized website – from newsletters than set the standard for amateur radio CONTENT to advertising glossy unreadable spam-letters – from a consolidated “best content is on the ARRL website” focus to a purposeful “don’t look here, but rather look at Facebook to get anything special” drive away from the main ARRL website – from a mainly ad-light or even ad-free web presence to a ad-ladened catalogue with some content – and of course head in the sand with a LOTW system that is a dinosaur for so many of us.

Maybe the membership needs to have a chat with Newington about the concept of “Signal to Noise” in web presence?

As usual “your mileage may vary” and I would like to point out that my web presence is no masterpiece, but I’m not charging you the reader a membership and haven’t promised anything for a goal on this web project to anyone other than a promise to self “to do my best.”

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Simple Thoughts on a Complex Mess – LoTW, Run or Drop?

Tonight I received an ARRL email that my K9ZW LoTW (Logbook of the World) certificate is expiring in three weeks, and if I just followed some simple instructions it would all be easy.

Rubbish – twenty minutes later I’m still in the midst of dealing with the quirks of LoTW arcane .tq6 and .p12 file mysteries and the issues of upgrading my computer hardware several times during the three years this certificate existed.

I can renew a credit card in moments online, or I can file in all sorts of truly mission-critical online government data (like with the FAA & FCC licensing branches) in moments – BUT to do deal with LoTW is long winded, convoluted, sensitive to hardware (wonder what would happen if I was running a VM sandbox – say Parallels or BootCamp – and then tried to run the Windows version of LoTW in that ethereal environment?).

I’m going to revisit LoTW in a couple days – perhaps the Certificate Gremlins will let my software work and I might be a better mood – but I am thinking it is time for this Life ARRL Member to make a LoTW statement and just pack in a LoTW.

Computer time is measured in not only “clock time” but in “cost/benefit time.” The first is our usual measure of passage of time, and the second a revisit of that time weighted in what benefit/pleasure we get for our time investment balanced against the costs to do the activity (dollars, technical costs and the time used itself).

LoTW is a failure for me in “cost/benefit time.” It simple is to fussy and a time-eater with so little payback for my personal participation in the hobby.

Maybe my experience is untypical – given that I use several computers on several platforms and update them very regularly – but when doing on-line banking is easy compared to a QSL logging system, that QSL logging system is too flawed to waste time upon.

More in a couple days.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Winter QSL Effort

K9ZW Summer QSL Card

Seems I have really never tamed the QSL Card Monster. I have responded to all direct QSL card requests, but certainly have fallen way behind on doing my domestic QSL send-outs, logging QSLs and physically settling on a QSL storage system.

I also have a large number of DX QSLs to upload to GlobalQSL for Printing and Distributing.

K9ZW Four Picture QSL Card

As for eQSL, that is largely up to date, as I tend to use eQSL as my offsite log backup.

I’ll have to decide if futzing with LoTW (Logbook of the World) is going to happen, as I personally find the process annoying and unrewarding.

K9ZW Winter QSL Card

The QSL Card fronts in this post are few of the designs I use. I have another paper design, a couple GlobalQSL designs which are printed by GlobalQSL, and several eQSL designs depending on the QTH & Date of operations.

Guess it is time to knuckle down and get these QSL cards done!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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LoTW Certificate Renewal – Makes eMoney Look Easy

Received an email from Logbook of the World (LoTW) that one of my certificates is set to expire.

Of course there is a finite timeframe to renew – something like eight days.

So like a good team player I clicked on the renewal link to find the chaos & mess that had confronted & frustrated me when first setting up LoTW is magnified at renewal with masses more silliness:

In order to renew your certificate, just follow these easy steps:

  1. Run the TQSLCert program and ensure it is the latest version. Some earlier versions will not work! Use the TQSLCert “Help” menu’s “About” selection to check the version. It should say “TQSLCert V 1.11” (followed by other letters and numbers). If you do not have the latest version, download and install it before proceeding.
  2. In TQSLCert, highlight the certificate to be renewed by clicking on it.
  3. On the Menu bar, click on “Certificate,” and then select “Renew Certificate” in the box. Click “Next.”
  4. On the “Generate Certificate Request” page, fill out the date boxes. You should use the same start and end dates that you had on your old cert unless it was incorrect. For current callsigns, leave the end date blank. This will give you a full one-year term. Click “Next.”
  5. Enter your address information and email address on the next two pages and proceed.
  6. On the next page, you are given the opportunity to enter a password to protect your private key. You do not need to do this, but it is recommended. If you do elect to enter a password, keep in mind that the password is case sensitive. Note that you must be able to enter this password when signing a log or using your certificate for any other purpose. If you can not recall your password, you will need to obtain a new certificate.
  7. At this point, you will be prompted to indicate where you wish to save your certificate request. Remember where you save it, as you will need to find it in order to email it or upload it to Logbook.
  8. Submit your renewal request. You can either send the renewal request as an email attachment to lotw-logs@arrl.org or upload it via the Upload File area on The Logbook Web site.
  9. When your renewal request is complete, you will see an additional line on your TQSLCert program screen. This will look the same as your existing certificate except that it will have a red circle/bar over the seal. This is your renewal request. When your renewal .tq6 file is returned and loaded, the red circle/bar will go away as will the original certificate, leaving only your renewed certificate.

As always, understand that any request (with red circle/bar) contains a unique private key. If this request/key is not present when the .tq6 file is returned, you will not be able to load it. Do not delete or attempt to modify any request once you have submitted it to Logbook.

Renewing a certificate is an almost automatic process. Renewals are automatically approved, but they must be signed by ARRL in the same manner as all other requests. Certificate signing will be done within hours during normal working hours.

IMPORTANT! Once you have renewed your certificate and loaded the new .tq6 file, save your certificate into a .p12 file using the TQSLCert “Certificate” menu’s “Save” command. Copy the saved .p12 file to an off-line medium (floppy disk, CD-R or other permanent storage) for safekeeping. Then, if you have loaded your original certificate into any other computers, you must also load that .p12 file (not the .tq6 file!) into each of the other computers using TQSLCert.

“Just follow these easy steps”- really??!!  What a load of codswallup!

I guess renewal is suited to someone with time on their hand, and a disposition to put up with the LoTW “dance on the head of a pin” silliness.

I can do eMoney so much easier than fussing with LoTW – I can check my 401K, move between funds, go check my banking, manage by checking, credit cards, bills and even buy a new $3400 transceiver on-line with not even a ruffled feather – each with at most a couple sets of password/ID numbers – but come to LoTW ……

Is LoTW a “soaring eagle” or some sort of “lumbering albatross” ?

From the user interface end, it sure comes off as a turkey.

I’ve a lot to do with family the next few days, visiting, a pair of Halloween Parties with costumes already rented, a bit of traveling, of course work, and more of the pre-winter chores to get done.  There is a local club board meeting and a couple evening rehearsals for various music groups to squeeze in.

Then on top the ARRL LoTW assumes I can be ordered to do a nonsensical computer exercise by a deadline that when you step back really doesn’t matter?  I’m not even certain by the deadline I can find the needed old certificates because of the clumsy system and my use of several computers.

I am sure someone will comment that the renewal might be done in about the time it has taken to write this short piece, but I would quickly point out that I “wanted to do some writing” and not some obscure & obsolete validation process renewal with my time.

I’d cancel a credit card account that had such consumer unfriendly time demands.

Guess I’ve answered my own question on whether to ignore the LoTW renewals.  

Perhaps if enough of us ignore this sort of time-wasting the ARRL will update LoTW or write a whole new LoTW II?

I’ve written about the LoTW kludge before at:

More thoughts on LoTW – Perhaps LoTW-II?

Fort Knox & Easy Rider – Two On-Line QSL options – LoTW & eQSL

73

Steve
K9ZW

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LoTW Seems to have Worked

On the good news side, my efforts to get K9ZW, K9ZW/9-WI-001L and K9ZW/9-WI-039R into LoTW is going well.

I had some trouble with the “tq6” certificate Logbook of the World had sent, though once I resaved it from the email I was able to get it to work.  I am a bit puzzled why they would file-attach certificates as in-line attachments in a mime 7bit format.  OS-X “Mail” email program didn’t like it at all, and I had to go to the Webmail version to get at the file attachment at all. 

 Now for the bad news. With part of the QSO having been uploaded,  it really doesn’t seem to have been worth the effort when LoTW tells me that so far the results are:

You have 2,427 QSO records
You have 251 QSL records

That makes for less than 11% return.

That wouldn’t be so bad if it was the needed rare DX, but a quick scan shows only two additional countries from the effort, and those were from my previous call sign!

Remember I have had to tag the respective QSLs in the log, export them to adif format, then use TrustQSL to “Sign” these adif files with my “t12” all-in-one certificate, and then manually upload them to LoTW.

Well perhaps some QSO helped someone else with their WAS or something – at least I am hoping someone benefits for the amount of time spent.

73

Steve

K9ZW

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