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Author Topic: a new ham operator's experience and comparison of Ham Radio Deluxe and DXLab  (Read 120634 times)
AK4YW
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Posts: 28




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« on: September 18, 2014, 10:00:11 PM »



   Two years ago, at age 55, I got my ham radio license; and one of the first things that I did was look for a logging program.  I realized that I would eventually want to peruse digital modes and use CAT control, so I focused on the programs that offered it all.  In my search, I found two: (in alphabetical order) DX Lab suite and Ham Radio Deluxe. I will refer to them as DXL and HRD.

This is my personal experience with, and evaluation of, the two programs.  I realize that many older hams don't understand why someone would even bother with a a logging program, and prefer paper logs.  First of all, I am comfortable with computers and consider myself at least able to troubleshoot a windows program, provided that there is sufficient documentation. Most importantly, I cannot read my own handwriting after several weeks. Hi hi.  For a little over a year, I used both logging programs interchangeably, but was unable to properly compare what they are capable of.  Around six months ago, I upgraded from a TS-50 to an IC-746, so I was finally able to fully try out these programs.

When I judge new software, I use three criteria:

1) Cost

I used HRD 6 in my comparison for two reasons.  There is no product support for the earlier versions, so I was unable to make it work with my system using HRD 5.  Also HRD does not even acknowledge the earlier versions on their website, so a new ham might not even know that there is an older, free version available.  Therefore,:  DXL free, HRD $99.95 (less 15% 9/2014) and $49.95/yr for continued support and upgrades.

2) Customer Service

I required help in making both programs work to my satisfaction. HRD provides a forum that took several days for approval to post questions, and they do provide customer support by phone and email.  In my opinion, they need to make it easier to find the customer support information.  Clicking help and support while in HRD only provides a link to the HRD forum.  I accidentally found the phone number and email customer support info in small letters under the license key manager.  But once I found that, I was able to get courteous, accurate answers to my questions and help to make HRD work.
DXL has s support forum also, was approved within 24 hours, and the creator of the program is very quick to provide help for their software as well.

3) Functionality- what features does the program have, how easy is it to use “out of the box”, and is there sufficient documentation to learn how to use and troubleshoot basic problems with the program

In this ham's opinion, both programs are daunting when first opened. Both have documentation available on the web, and both are written from the viewpoint of an experienced ham radio operator. As a result there was a bit of a learning curve required to use, and why to use, portions of the software, even in the logging programs.

   Overall HRD appears more like what one would expect a windows program to look like. The individual segments do not like working without the others.  For example, when using HRD logbook as a stand alone program, the frequency and mode cannot be entered for a QSO.  They have to be edited into the logbook after the entry is completed. DXL went for a more modular approach, with a more basic appearance. Each piece is an individual segment that can be opened as desired, and they do seem to work independently of each other.

   When Commander (DXL's CAT program) is opened, only a few basic functions are available in controlling your radio, at least as seen in my IC-746.  Adding more functions and sliders requires entering command script for each one. Instructions for using the script are found in the documentation, and I found the individual commands in my Icom manual.  You can also find additional functions on the forum that other operators have made.  HRD's controller looks like a ham radio, and offers most of the settings that are available for your rig.  HRD is not as forgiving as DXL; I was using a RS232-USB conversion cord that had a prolific chip in it, and HRD kept locking up, requiring a reboot to release the COM port; while DXL took it in stride. (one of the reasons that I needed access to customer service) I also have to watch when changing from 2m repeater operation to other bands with HRD, since it keeps my radio in duplex mode on the new band.  I had to add a simplex button to HRD to correct this. Nevertheless, I have found in my own use that I minimize the CAT control and use the radio manually for most operations.

   HRD logbook looks to me like a paper logbook should look.  Unless I am looking for an individual QSO, I want to see a summary of my contacts.  HRD logbook has one major weakness, however; full information on a callsign lookup can only be obtained  from a paid subscription site like QRZ or Hamcall.  DXL's logbook allows lookups from the free QRZ.com page, Hamcall's free page, and many others, including OMISS information.  I initially found the DXL's small ratio of logbook to QSO entry frustrating to use, but did finally figure out how to configure it to show more of the logbook.  I would not have thought of how to do it if I had not been comparing the two programs, as I thought that ”what you see is what you get”.

   DXL's Winwarbler (digital program) offers PSK31, PSK63, PSK125, RTTY, and CW.  It does have a nice feature that lists all of the operators working in another window, so you can see at a glance the callsigns that are working.  CW mode does not decode CW, requiring another paid application to do so.
HRD's Digital Master 780 is by far the more robust of the two, offering almost every mode available short of JT65, and it does decode CW.  It does offer a “Super sweeper” window which lists all the contacts available, but it tends to get jumbled when there is a lot of activity, and if I had my choice I would use use Winwarbler's list method instead.

Both programs have other bells and whistles like rotor control (which I don't use with a wire antenna) and dx cluster applications which I only use occasionally (oh look Antarctica is operating!). At this point, I prefer to manually scroll though the bands listening for DX and other chatter.  Both have a nice feature that I sometimes use that shows where on the map your contact is.  DXL's DX viewer integrates this nicely; HRD has a mapper that I have not yet figured out how to use.  HRD offers satellite tracking  and operation, while DXL does not.  I don't use the propagation applications for either program enough to be able to make a comparison.

   In conclusion, fortunately, I don't have to pick one suite exclusively over the other.  Other operators have made software that links portions of one suite to the other.  I find that I use HRD's CAT control (largely because it interconnects with JT65-HF while DXL controller does not.  I use DXL's DX Keeper for my logbook because of the callsign lookup options, but still backup to HRDLog.net as well as to memory stick.  And Digital Master 780 is my digital program of choice because of all that it offers.  I made my first SSTV contact last week.

Software for HRD can be found at www.ham-radio-deluxe.com/  and DXLab Suite at http://www.dxlabsuite.com/download.htm.  The software links between the two can also be found there.

Thank you,

Tim AK4YW Smiley


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AJ0Z
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2014, 09:33:40 AM »

If you you use the JT-alerts program from http://hamapps.com/ you can get full intergration of DXL to JT-65 and WSJT-X. It really the only way to use JT-65 and get the maximum benefit.

Andy AJ0Z
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2014, 11:40:57 AM »

HRD does have an option for numerous lookups, not just the paid QRZ but also free and it can use CDs etc.  As for the need to run rig control to get the freq for the logbook, that goes without saying since how else will it know what freq you are on.  You also can setup HRD to work with several different radios and it keeps the settings for each one.
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AK4YW
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2014, 01:09:54 PM »

If you you use the JT-alerts program from http://hamapps.com/ you can get full intergration of DXL to JT-65 and WSJT-X. It really the only way to use JT-65 and get the maximum benefit.

Andy AJ0Z

Thank you, Andy, I do use the Jr alert application to connect to DX logbook. I have not checked into whether it adds control through commander and will check it out.

Tim AK4YW
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WA9PIE
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2014, 01:19:45 PM »

Now I'm starting to feel bad about the hours of development we put into making the HRD call sign lookup the most robust lookup on the market.
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AK4YW
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Posts: 28




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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2014, 04:19:59 PM »

As for the need to run rig control to get the freq for the logbook, that goes without saying since how else will it know what freq you are on. 

Thank you for your response.  I operated for a year with a radio in which rig control was too expensive for me to obtain, thus requiring use of the logbook as a stand alone program.  In that case, you enter the frequency and mode manaully, just as you would for a paper log.

Tim AK4YW
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AK4YW
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Posts: 28




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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2014, 06:30:48 PM »

HRD does have an option for numerous lookups, not just the paid QRZ but also free and it can use CDs etc. 

Now I'm starting to feel bad about the hours of development we put into making the HRD call sign lookup the most robust lookup on the market.

thank you for your comments Smiley

I have callbook.info (free), QRZ.com subscription, logbook, and country list enabled; and I have the correct sign on info for my QRZ.com website entered.  When I do a callsign lookup, the only info that is entered is the person's name and country.  If there is something that I can do to change these settings so that I can get complete information through the callbook, please let me know. 

I am glad that you spent so many hours perfecting HRD. I have spend a number of hours trying to convince my wife that it is worth it  Smiley

I would point out from a customer service viewpoint that one developer sent me a private email with links and suggestions on how to make my experience more enjoyable.  Undecided

Thank you again,

Tim AK4YW
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AK4YW
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2014, 06:33:51 PM »



Thank you, Andy, I do use the Jr alert application to connect to DX logbook. I have not checked into whether it adds control through commander and will check it out.

Tim AK4YW
[/quote]

JT-alert, darn spell check hi hi
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2014, 07:15:23 PM »

Tim you most likely have the order in which it will lookup set wrong.
The great thing about HRD is that it will use the first one on your list eg. QRZ and if that fails because let's say your internet is down it will switch to the next one on your list like the CD.

I am not in front of My home PC now, but hopefully someone else will chime in with the best order arrangement for your setup.
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2014, 07:20:22 PM »

As for the need to run rig control to get the freq for the logbook, that goes without saying since how else will it know what freq you are on. 

Thank you for your response.  I operated for a year with a radio in which rig control was too expensive for me to obtain, thus requiring use of the logbook as a stand alone program.  In that case, you enter the frequency and mode manaully, just as you would for a paper log.

Tim AK4YW

Are you saying that you still do not have the rig connected to the PC?
If so you can disable the auto freq and mode inputs and enter them manually.
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AK4YW
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2014, 08:48:37 PM »

Tim you most likely have the order in which it will lookup set wrong.
The great thing about HRD is that it will use the first one on your list eg. QRZ and if that fails because let's say your internet is down it will switch to the next one on your list like the CD.

I am not in front of My home PC now, but hopefully someone else will chime in with the best order arrangement for your setup.

Thank you again Smiley

I did change the order of the list, making qrz.com the first option, and still get the same limited information on a call lookup,  name and country.

Tim AK4YW
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N0IU
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« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2014, 08:05:57 AM »

When I judge new software, I use three criteria:

1) Cost

I used HRD 6 in my comparison for two reasons.  There is no product support for the earlier versions, so I was unable to make it work with my system using HRD 5.  Also HRD does not even acknowledge the earlier versions on their website, so a new ham might not even know that there is an older, free version available.  Therefore,:  DXL free, HRD $99.95 (less 15% 9/2014) and $49.95/yr for continued support and upgrades.

HRD v5.24.38 is still out there. Here is one of many places: http://www.iw5edi.com/software/ham-radio-deluxe-5-download-links. No, you can't get "official" support from HRDSoftware, LLC, but there are still plenty of users here and on QRZ that use it that should be able to help you. If they can't, then at least you are not out anything other than your time.

While there are certainly many changes (improvements?) in HRD v6.2, you only have 30 days to get it up and running on your system and decide if it suitable to your needs. While v5.24 may not have all the "bells & whistles" as v6.2, it is similar enough for you to determine if it is right for you without being crippled by the 30 day limitation. The good news is that if you do eventually decide that you want the latest (and greatest?) version of HRD, the transition is fairly painless and seamless from v5.2 to v6.2.

Even then, I strongly urge you to take full advantage of the 30 day trial period before sending them any of your hard-earned money because once they have it, you will never see that money again. They are quite clear about this and they are unwilling to make exceptions under any circumstances.

2) Customer Service

I required help in making both programs work to my satisfaction. HRD provides a forum that took several days for approval to post questions, and they do provide customer support by phone and email.  In my opinion, they need to make it easier to find the customer support information.  Clicking help and support while in HRD only provides a link to the HRD forum.  I accidentally found the phone number and email customer support info in small letters under the license key manager.  But once I found that, I was able to get courteous, accurate answers to my questions and help to make HRD work.

I am glad they were able to answer your questions to your satisfaction.
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2014, 06:17:31 PM »

Tim you most likely have the order in which it will lookup set wrong.
The great thing about HRD is that it will use the first one on your list eg. QRZ and if that fails because let's say your internet is down it will switch to the next one on your list like the CD.

I am not in front of My home PC now, but hopefully someone else will chime in with the best order arrangement for your setup.

Thank you again Smiley

I did change the order of the list, making qrz.com the first option, and still get the same limited information on a call lookup,  name and country.

Tim AK4YW

Tim may I suggest that you open a support ticket with HRD and ask them if a tech can log onto your PC and fix the issues you are having.  It's perfectly safe and within 30 minutes or so they should have you up and running.  I suggest you write down all the things that you are having problems with and email it to them first, that way when the Tech who happens to also be called Tim Smiley logs on he can just jump in and fix them one by one.

73's
Rob
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AK4YW
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2014, 03:17:44 PM »

HRD logbook has one major weakness, however; full information on a callsign lookup can only be obtained  from a paid subscription site like QRZ or Hamcall.

AK4YW

Tim may I suggest that you open a support ticket with HRD and ask them if a tech can log onto your PC and fix the issues you are having.  It's perfectly safe and within 30 minutes or so they should have you up and running.  I suggest you write down all the things that you are having problems with and email it to them first, that way when the Tech who happens to also be called Tim Smiley logs on he can just jump in and fix them one by one.

73's
Rob

[/quote]


Thank you Rob for your time and post.

As it turns out, I am half wrong about my statement concerning the logbook lookup function.  When configured properly, any US contact will have the address, locator, etc entered for a QSO.  Any contact outside of the US will populate in the center of that country and give only name and country information.  This is per the information sent to my by tech support.  The other lookup options are linked to the paid QRZ and Hamcall subscribers. 

Thank you for the help and enabling me to make the clarification.


Tim
AK4YW
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2014, 01:06:34 AM »

No problem Tim, I am happy you got things figured out.
HRD is a bit like an onion, if you keep on peeling further you can find an amazing amount of great tools in it.  If your rigs sound system is hooked into the PC then DM-780 opens up a world of digital possibilities. The cluster system is powerfull yet simple to use. The Satellite section is great, I love how it finds the needed passes and also how it auto increments the freq to compensate for the Doppler effect.

Take my advice and spend a few days playing with it and you will discover why so many people use it. 

73s
Rob
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