Introduction To The DXLab Suite
I recently had the opportunity to do a presentation introducing the DXLab Software Suite for several local radio clubs. The idea was to provide a fairly comprehensive introduction to DXLab and to show how it can be used to make Amateur Radio operations, QSL’ing, and Award Management easier and more enjoyable. There are several good DXLab introductory presentations and web pages on the internet, so we decided to do ours with some “live” demos of DXLab in use within our station.
Why Computer Logging And DXLab?
Not all hams have converted to computer-based operation and logging, so we began by covering the motivation for and some of the advantages of Computer-based operation and logging.
DXLab Suite Components Overview
The next part of the presentation provided an overview of each of the components of the DXLab Suite and some of the basics of how they work together. This was covered via a set of “live” demonstrations using our station. You can view these demonstrations as videos via the following links:
Our station is a fairly complex one. It includes multi-operator capabilities from two operating positions with a total of four active radios and a microHAM station automation system. We also operate under a number of different callsigns from different computers. Finally, we do a fair amount of operating portable and from our mobile HF station. The DXLab Suite’s Launcher program, with its multiple workspace capabilities, easily handles the multiple configurations and equipment interfaces that are required for our station and operating style.
DXLab Use Scenarios
The next part of the presentation covered some common DXLab “use cases” that one would likely encounter when making contacts, QSL’ing, and managing progress toward operating awards.
Casual Contacts With DXLab
The first demonstration showed the use of DXLab to make casual or “rag chew” contacts. The emphasis here is on using the Suite to automate station configuration and logging tasks and to provide information to enhance the quality of your contacts. This demonstration covers the basics of how the components of the DXLab Suite work together to help you make and log a contact. You can view a video of this demo via the following link:
Finding And Working DX With DXLab
The next demonstration showed the use of DXLab to find and work DX contacts. This demonstration uses more components of the DXLab Suite, including the spotting cluster and propagation prediction features. You can view a video of this demo via the following link:
Operating CW And Digital With DXLab
The next demo shows how DXLab is used to find and make a DX QSO using Digital Modes. A RTTY QSO is shown, including the WinWarbler component and multiple RTTY decoders (MMTTY and 2Tone). You can view a video of this demo via the following link:
QSL’ing With DXLab
The next demo shows how to use DXLab to QSL and confirm contacts. The demo covers QSL’ing via the Logbook of the World (LoTW) and the eQSL online QSL services, the generation of paper QSLs, and the assistance that DXLab provides to determine QSL route information. You can view a video of this demo via the following link:
DXLab QSL Card Examples
DXLab can generate labels to apply to your pre-printed QSL cards, or it can be used to print QSL information directly on blank cards.
QSL Card Label Sheet Example
DXLab can print QSL cards and address labels on many types of standard label stock. An example of QSL card labels is shown above.
QSL Envelope Generated By DXLab
DXLab also generates outgoing and return envelopes for your paper QSLs. An example is shown above.
Operating Award Management With DXLab
The final demonstration shows how to use DXLab to track your progress toward and apply for operating awards. Some of the basics of QSL “aging” are discussed as well. You can view a video of this demo via the following link:
AB1OC Operating Awards In Our Shack
The SpotCollector component of the DXLab Suite is very useful as a cluster monitor. It can be configured to alert you via email or text to your mobile when something is on that you need. More information on how to use SpotCollector this way can be found here. The set of operating awards that DXLab knows about and the features that it provides to manage your progress toward earning and applying for awards are some of the strongest features of the suite. We have used DXLab to help us to earn many different operating awards.
Getting Started With DXLab
The final part of the presentation covers the configuration of the DXLab suite to get it to work with your station. Since every station is different, it’s best to consult the excellent DXLab online help for more information on how to configure the suite.
Useful Information And Links
The presentation includes links to useful tools and information to help you get the most from the DXLab suite. Dropbox is a useful file-sharing tool that can help you keep your logs and DXLab configurations in sync across multiple computers. This allows you to use DXLab to access your current logs or to operate your station from different computers.
I hope this overview of the DXLab suite will encourage our readers to try it. Anita (AB1QB) and I have successfully used the DXLab suite with our station for several years now. It does a great job automating many aspects of our Amateur Radio operations, QSL’ing, and award management. It easily handles the complexities of our multi-operator station, and it also handles logging and QSL’ing for multiple call signs that Anita and I operate under. We also use DXLab for our portable, Field Day, and mobile operations, and it handles all of these scenarios very well.
DXLab was created, enhanced, and maintained by David Bernstein, AA6YQ. He makes this excellent software suite available as freeware for the benefit of the Amateur Radio community. The DXLab suite is available for download here. Here, you can download a copy of our DXLab presentation (without the videos). The DXLab Yahoo! Group provides a good place to seek support and answers to questions about DXLab. I hope that our readers will give the DXLab suite a closer look. For those who already use DXLab, we hope you pick will up some new ideas from how Anita and I use the suite as part of your Amateur Radio operations.
– Fred, AB1OC