JTAlert Makes FT8 Logging Simple!
I jumped right into the FT8 fray. I setup a Flex 6500 specifically for use in the digital modes. FT8 in particular. Like everyone else, I heard a lot about the mode and decided to give it try. It wasn’t long before I realized that logging my FT8 contacts manually was not only cumbersome, it created opportunities for data entry errors. I use DXLab’s DXKeeper for logging, and a quick google search revealed that JTAlert provided connectivity with several popular logging programs, including DXKeeper. The main feature of interest to me is JTAlert’s ability to link WSJT-X to the DXLab Suite of programs. Using JTAlert as a bridge, I could connect my FT8 operations directly to the DXKeeper logbook!
Setting up the Flex to work with WSJT-X was relatively easy. I was making contacts and having a blast. The Flex 6500 is using a multiband antenna (CHA-250B vertical) so I can change bands with a click to be wherever the action is. I also have a second instance of WSJT-X running in order to monitor a second band. So the logging can get fairly complex. After the first two data entry errors, I knew I had to find a solution.
JTAlert Setup and Configuration
I downloaded JTAlert and followed the installation instructions found here. I installed on a Windows 10 Home Edition PC and used the version designed to fix the ‘missing menus’.
JTAlert has a lot of features that I am not currently taking full advantage of. As I get more adept at working FT8 I’m sure I’ll find a use for some of these extra features. There are filters to help you find contacts you need so that may be a useful feature down the road, as I currently need everything!
I followed these JTAlertX Configuration Instructions, and had it connected to DXKeeper in a matter of minutes.
I Was Doing It Wrong!
It turns out that despite all the fun as I was having, I was doing it wrong. I would soon find out that my FT8 operating skills left a lot to be desired. After reading the article Hinson’s Tips for FT8 and in particular the section that explained the “Hold TX Freq” feature, I quickly realized what I was doing wrong.
It turned out that under certain operating conditions I had been unintentionally QRMing stations that I had just made contacts with.
If “Hold TX Freq” is not selected the TX frequency changes to the calling frequency for every CQ call you reply to.. For example, let’s say I replied to a station that was calling CQ, and after the contact was complete, I changed over to calling CQ myself. I was then transmitting in the previous stations ‘slot’ and QRMing them. Bad practice! Needless to say, I’m very happy to have read Hinson’s tips! I think the “Hold TX Freq” should be the default setting!
One could say that JTAlert has claimed a legitimate place in the station automation scheme.