I operated at a big-gun contest station, W7VJ, where they use WriteLog therefore, I’m re-familiarizing myself with it. Three years ago, I gave up Writelog because N1MM had finally matured to the point where, at least, it didn’t crash all the time and the price was right. WriteLog has a large share of the contest software market perhaps because it was one of the first to work in what was at the time the latest operating system from Microsoft, Windows NT. The World DX Championships comes right out and recommends WriteLog. The program is mature, stable, and feature rich. Although I find WL isn’t intuitive to configure, once set up it works just fine.
Contest logging software is complex and there are many reasons:
– contests require a diverse set of exchanges. There are real problems to overcome due to the vast number of contest exchanges and their permutations. ARRL Sweepstakes is a great example. You never really know what order the exchange will come in as, making data entry, you know logging, quite difficult. The log entry isn’t valid if something is missing.
– hams demand a long list of features, some of which are aimed at a pretty narrow audience
– the software, almost to a one, needs hardware interface code for rigs, keyers, rotors, antenna switches, as-yet uninvented must-have hardware, etc.
Contest software is frequently hard to configure and sometimes, use:
– there isn’t a terribly large market, therefore writing the software can hardly financially support a development team, let alone a sole developer.
– contest scoring is complicated with bonus points and special multipliers.
– contesters are more and more sophisticated all the time.
– the array of hardware possibilities make it impossible to think of every configuration, let alone home brew radio interfaces and other clever devices.
– contest software is a hardware control program which frequently works by exclusively opening hardware, specifically COM and/or LPT ports and to some extent, the sound card.
User application software writing directly to the computer hardware is a throwback to programs written for DOS on 8 bit computers. Back in the day, the computer was expected to do one thing at a time. Those days are long over. Your cell phone doesn’t even work that way anymore. This makes writing the software difficult and therefore, makes configuring the software complicated.
WriteLog has one thing over other leading contest programs now, though. You can develop your own contest modules. The task is not trivial, requiring expert programming skills in C++ and a working knowledge of the MS Windows API. If you can get your mind around the way programs had to be written for Windows in 1990, can understand what happens in programs that use OLE, and have WriteLog expertise, then you can write a contest module. At least it’s possible where as N1MM, Win-Test, etc. don’t invite anyone to create their own module. The Win-Test developers are particularly closed to the idea of even adding US QSO parties to their euro-centric list of supported contests. I grabbed onto the idea that I could write my own WriteLog contest module and decided to solve the puzzle. In my next few blog posts, I’ll present a WriteLog contest module development walk-through using the WriteLog Contest Wizard. It’s going to be quite a journey.