LidSpotter – From the ground up

The Lidspotter has now been completely rebuilt from the ground up.
Some issues were noticed where spots got delayed, and reappeared a couple of hours after they should have been posted. This turned out to be a delay in the email part of the chain (Hamalert was doing the spotting, and emailing the spots to the script which formatted and posted out to the social media channels).
After the rebuild (and a bit of debugging), the spotter is now reading a direct feed from the RBN, so our spots now appear almost immediately, rather than the about-a-minute delay as was.
The other improvement is it now reads the Lids_CW member page to directly grab the callsign filter list, so any new members are automatically added to the list when Michael updates the site. Previously I had to notice a tweet, and edit two separate lists on different services; now it’s just a case of sit back and watch!

Oh, and the last bit of good news, Twitter are allowing us to post again!

73 and see you on the air
Chris, G0JPS

LidSpotter’s new lease of life

Twitter hasn’t been very nice lately; apart from the constant spamming of adverts all over the place, they have now also severely restricted the ability of bots and scripts to make automated posts, which broke the lidspotter. The program was still happily running, it just couldn’t post. A temporary fix was made (using a very shoddily coded web page), but the bandwidth of a £1.20 per month virtual server isn’t huge.

Enter Telegram. A free, secure messaging app that’s cross platform. I’ve been using it to communicate within a gaming clan for quite some time, and one of the channels we use is run as a news feed, which seemed ideal. So I got some setup details from the chap that made it, and created a LidSpotter version which runs smoothly and faster than twitter’s ever did (and we’ve discovered the alerts can even be made to appear on smart watches, too!). This feed can be found at t.me/LidSpotters

 

 

And now, Mastodon as well. I’d heard of it, but never really looked until Simon G0FCU mentioned it on twitter; so I had a chat with the admin of the mastodon.radio instance

and got permission to play – and, on the first attempt, it works! Just create a free account, and search for @LidSpotBot then follow it.

I’m sure there will be some snags along the way, Mastodon is a new open-source network and is still evolving, but it looks good.

Hope to see more members on there.

 

LidSpotter Revisited

When the LidSpotter died, I was dismayed to find I had lost access to the web facility which turned the Hamalert emails into tweets!
After some chasing around, and finding out that while other sites existed that performed the same service, they all needed to validate email addresses I had no access to.
In desperation, I asked a friend who's a bit of a linux guru. In true 'mate' tradition, he said he wasn't going to do it for me, then told me where I could get a basic, dirt cheap VPS (Virtual Private Server), and lent me a book - "Programming Perl" - and said I could work it out for myself.
So one cheap server, and a lot of googling later, I had 45 lines of script. The server accepts the incoming email from Hamalert, and sends it to the script which removes all the gibberish headers then tweets the spot that's left. The end result is I learned something,  and the spotter's working again, hooray!
Once again, apologies for the interruption to the service.
Chris G0JPS

Lids CW Spotter Bot – the product of an idle mind!

It all started with a tweet. Whilst idly tuning up and down the bands, I wondered if there was a way to know if any other LIDS were on air, and then the germ of an idea formed. So like a fool, I tweeted it...

The germ of an idea

Well, that was it. I was committed now (or should have been). Searching around for ways to pick up spots, I looked at the Reverse Beacon Network, DX clusters, and eventually found the very excellent HamAlert which does all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace for you. You give it a list of call-signs, it compares incoming spots from RBN, clusters, sotawatch and pskreporter. If a spot matches your criteria (in this case, a list of currently 270 call-signs) it can do several things with the information.

HamAlert

Getting the information onto twitter wasn't the easiest, but a web service was found which will turn emails into tweets. So the spots get formatted by HamAlert, sent by email to the WebApp which turns them into tweets, and the LidsCW Spotter is the result.

The only downside of the system as it stands, is the membership list of call-signs needs to be manually updated; no great shakes though as @lids_cw tweets every time a new member is added!

All in all, an interesting exercise, which seems to have produced a useful resource. And if it gets more LidsCW members firing dots and dashes at each other across the airwaves, well, that makes it all worthwhile.

Lids Spotter output

73, Chris G0JPS
#156

Share you CW journey

If you’re learning or have mastered CW you’ll know what a journey it can be and how easy it is to fall by the wayside. There is no one right way to master The Code but there are probably a lot of common pitfalls and we all need a little encouragement now and then to keep us on track.

We’d love to hear your learning stories, what’s worked, why you’ve hit a wall and how you overcame set-backs.
Under ‘Resources > Your stories’ we’d like to share your experiences…even if you’re still learning.
In ‘Resources > Learning tools’ we are trying to bring together learning tools that have worked for members.
Once you start having your first tentative CW QSOs you may find there are some hints, tips and tools to help you not feel like an utter failure :o) You can share those in ‘Resources > Operating aids’.

Whatever your experience, what ever has helped you go from Zero to Hero, why not share it with you Ham Buddies so they can be CW heroes too. Drop us a line with your stories, photos, articles and ideas and we’ll try to publish them here.

You can reach us on email admin@lidscw.org or, of course, send us a Tweet to @lids_cw

Getting active on CW

If you are learning to get comfortable using CW it’s important to have regular on-air contacts to build your skills and maintain your confidence. If you want to make those normal (template) QSOs a bit more of an interesting challenge then why not get along to EUCW and check out the Snakes and Ladders activity.

Snakes and Ladders simply takes your normal QSOs (anything longer than 5 minutes) and looks at the QRA or Maidenhead Locator of your contacts. At the end of each month it analyses all the participants logs and chooses some of those locator squares to be snakes and some to be ladders and you gain/lose points accordingly!

The great thing about Snakes and Ladders is that you don’t have to do anything above and beyond your normal QSOs other than log the other stations QRA/locator and submit your log at the end of each month.

Find out more here http://www.eucw.org/

If you’re a FISTS member you can download a handy log converter which automatically reads your log and prepares you Snakes and Ladders submission. https://fists.co.uk/

Summer break is coming to an end

The LIDS CW annual summer break-a-thon is coming to an end. Its marked by a reddening of the skin and a knotted hanky on the head is ceremonially removed and placed in the cupboard until next year.

So what?

As far as Lids members are concerned this means the drawing closer of ‘strictly come dancing’ on Auntie and a cue every self respecting member to head to the shack are start sending a strange combination of di’s and dah’s that on occasion resemble actual words, phrases and numbers.

Don’t spill the beans but lurking round 40m on abou 7.032Mhz might net you the QSO of your dreams. Looking forward to working you. Don’t forget that you can arrange skeds via Twitter, just Tweet Freq & time to @lids_cw and arrange to your hearts content.

CW Boot Camp report

Saturday 16th April saw the long-awaited inaugural LIDS CW Boot Camp.  Ten LIDS members from as far afield as Kent gathered in Bristol for a day of CW practice, learning, discussion and fellowship.

Many practice QSOs were made across the room, some using sidetone oscillators but also radio-to-radio QSOs by connecting dummy loads to the antenna sockets.  Pick a band, any band…

We had a 30m station set up for ‘live’ CW contacts and, although the antenna was a simple dipole folded around the ceiling, it tuned up and had got some RBN spots in Spain and Germany the day before.  Unfortunately the band conditions were awful during the morning and we were also suffering from S6-7 of noise so it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that G0POT ‘broke the duck’ with a QRS contact with EA7JUK.  Of course, everyone else in the room was working to copy both sides of the QSO.

Attendees were (in LIDS# order): David G7AGI (#003), Michael G0POT (#027), Matt M0CUV (#040), Paul G0WAT (#051), Steve M0SPN (#059), Simon M3HXE (#069), Paul M0PNA (#114), Matt 2E0LJZ (#116), John M0HFH (#128), and Mike G8HKS (#139).

Thank you and well done to all the LIDS who attended.  We would love to be able to do another boot camp and hopefully in a different location so that they can be accessible to those for whom Bristol was a little too far to travel.

Introduction of Membership Fee

EDIT: This was originally posted on 1st April. It is actually not true but it is left here in the hope that it still raises a smile.

LIDS continues to grow and thrive and we have been delighted to see so many people interested in being part of us as they take their first tentative steps in Morse code or are here to help mentor those that are. The LIDS admins have been thinking long and hard about where we go next; about our purpose and the goals we would like the club to attain and we have come up with some very ambitious plans for 2016 and beyond.

One of those plans is to build a club station. We’ve had M0LCW as a club callsign for a while now but it rarely gets aired. Alex G7KSE has generously offered to host a new club station at his home QTH and the plan is to convert a spare bedroom into a dedicated club room equipped with a full suite of HF/VHF/UHF radios. Planning permission is already under way for a 30m tower, and the club will be open to all members for RSGB HF, VHF and UHF contesting as well as regular weekly LIDS nets or just a QRS rag-chew.

We have also been contacted frequently by LIDS members disappointed by the lack of QRS CW opportunities with stations from outside the EU. DXpeditions to exotic locations are all well and good but it can be very frustrating if you can’t get through the pile-up at 10wpm. Therefore we have plans to undertake a QRS-only DXpedition to the Caribbean region (or possibly the Maldives) and Michael G0POT has very kindly agreed to lead this activity.

You will appreciate that none of this comes cheaply and therefore the admin team has decided that it is time to introduce a membership fee. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly but we hope that all our members will agree that this is the best way to resource the club for a bright future.

The membership fee has been set at £20/year. There is no reduced rate for OAP/retired because 95% of radio hams would qualify and it would just cut our income, so £20 is the reduced rate. All members will shortly be emailed with details of how to make payment via PayPal or bank transfer.

The admin team would like to thank all LIDS for their continued support and we look forward to sharing details of the club station build and DXpeditions plans, as well as some of our other exciting developments for 2016.