November 15, 2011

Chasing DX The Easy Way with HRD DM780

We love chasing DX and the thrill of the hunt.  Chasing DX is also time consuming - spinning the VFO dial in search of that rare DX station at all hours of the day and night.  For some, chasing DX competes with other priorities such as family, food, hygiene, sleep, jobs, kid's soccer games, exercise, ...  That is why it is important to us to find little tricks to maximize the impact of our scarce operating time and maintain some semblance of balance to life.

Warning, you are about to learn a very powerful secret that may change the way you ham FOREVER.

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) is a wonderful ham radio software package that includes integrated rig control, logging, and a program for running various digital modes called DM780.  We love operating digital modes like PSK31.  It is fun to communicate by computer over the radio.  Additionally, PSK31 is very effective at making DX contacts with a modest station.  An interesting additional advantage of using digital modes is automated monitoring.

It is possible to configure DM780 to listen to all the digital activity on a certain frequency and notify you when it detects DX that you are interested in.  This is extremely handy as it frees you to concentrate on other things.  Imagine being able to work on the "honey-do" list and working DX at the same time.

We recently used DM780 to monitor 14.070 PSK31 activity and notify us when a specific station appeared.  We were looking to make contact with K8WDX in order to complete our last 20m PSK31 WAS state - WV.  We knew that K8WDX uses the LoTW and frequents 20m on PSK31.  Having the computer monitor 14.070 for the station's call sign allowed us to work around the house within ear shot of the computer.  The computer gave a nice loud alert as soon as it recognized the desired call, "W8WDX on 20m".  We immediately ran over to our rig, locked onto the station, and called as soon as he finished his QSO.  Thanks to Tom K8WDX we completed 20m PSK31 WAS!

Here is how we setup DM780 for this:
  1. Tune radio to 14.070 and launch HRD / DM780.
  2. From DM780 menu, select SuperBrowser --> Display.  This brings up the SuperBrowser screen.
  3. Select Alarms --> Manager.  This brings up the Alarms Manager.
  4. DM780 will have several alarms configured as examples.  Disable all of these by removing the check boxes next to the alarms.
  5. Click "New".  A "New Alarm" window will pop up.
  6. Enter the desired station's call in the title field (in our example we entered, "W8WDX")
  7. Click on the "Match: SuperBrowser Only" tab.
  8. Click on the check box for "Callsign(s)".
  9. Enter the desired station's call in the field to the right of the "Callsign(s)" check box (in our example we entered "W8WDX").

     10. Click on the "Action: Sounds" tab.
     11. Add a check to the enable box under "Text-To-Speech".
     12. Click "OK".  This will save the search in DM780.

That's it!  With a few easy clicks you have configured DM780 and your computer to monitor your radio for a desired station and alert you.  This will allow you to do other things and jump on the radio when the desired station has been detected.  This trick is more powerful than monitoring spots since it potentially allows you to locate stations before the spot (and subsequent pileup).

The alarm feature in DM780 is flexible and can be configured in much more complex ways.  We hope you will give DM780 alarms a try.  You will be amazed at how well the alarm feature works.

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