That old saying is true

The saying you should never make untested changes to production are true. I should know because this is the motto I live by in my day job but didn’t ring true today when I made what I thought would be a small change to the RedHat webserver that hosted the ULS DB files, version check file and some other online assets that GridTracker’s Call Roster uses to determine where a US callsign might be.

So I started to scramble and decided that hosting those on a full blown webserver might not really be necessary and copied those files into a Google Storage Bucket which won’t need to be updated and let’s us keep prior versions of files for a time in case we do break something when we update the files. This required an update to GridTracker so it’d know to look for those files there rather then on the old RedHat webserver. This was actually something that was being tossed around before today for the reasons above.

GridTracker v1.22.0502 is now available in the downloads section.

There are a few other updates in this version that were pending for an upcoming release we were working on. What’s been taking so long is that our development cycle has slowed down a whole lot this year. Sebastian, KI2D, is launching satellites into orbit, Jon KF5QHQ and Christian WA4YA have been busy with their day jobs and I’ve started a new broadcast engineering job in Tulsa Oklahoma where a good chunk of my last several weeks has been overseeing projects at transmitter sites.

In this release additional updates include a request to revert the CQ highlighting on CQ Only back to the previous behavior that everyone was used to.

Jon KF5QHQ re-wrote the NSIS Installer script so that it’d properly use the Windows registry and know where prior versions of GridTracker were installed. We’re also looking at ways to set additional installation time options and including dependencies such as the Visual C++ Runtime that is needed on some Windows systems.

I removed the IP-Geolocate feature that most people may not have realized GridTracker had. Tag had included this as a last resort fallback when GridTracker did not know what gridsquare the user was located in and WSJT-X (JTDX) were not running or not reporting a gridsquare. This is a behavior that I question the legality of in all places where our users reside as there was no prompting for GridTracker to gather that information. Also the Geo-Locate service that was being used costed money and those services aren’t that reliable anyways. Now if a gridsquare was not entered or not reported by WSJT-X then GridTracker will just pop a message that it doesn’t know where your at and how you can fix that.

The NWJS-Downloader .deb and NWJS RPM now include in their dependencies libatomic1 which was omitted preventing GridTracker from running when those were not installed. There was no error message telling end users that it was missing which lead to some confusion.

Better then bug fixes are enhancements and we can thank Sebastian KI2D for his continued work on the Call Roster with additional refactoring and some upcoming improvements he’s been working on, new columns and sorting and paving the way for being able to rearrange columns and making it possible for me to add POTA hunting which I’m still working on when I find the time.

The other improvement is the addition of the version number in the title bar of GridTracker so at a glance you can see which version is running. This also helps if you take screenshots that include the title bar as the version running is now included in the screenshot as well.

Hopefully we don’t have another incident like this afternoons and instead we find more time to work on GridTracker and now play a little ham radio as the bands have been continuously getting better with the additional solar activity. I’m looking forward to getting some progress on POTA hunting but in the meantime I look forward to working more of you all on the bands. Happy Grid Tracking and 73.

Matthew NR0Q

March Update

We’re testing and debugging some enhancements, improvements and bug-fixes in preparation for the next release of GridTracker. It’s a little slow going with most of the GridTracker core development team also working day jobs in some role in IT Management or IT Engineering. I recently started a new Broadcast Engineering job and in the last couple weeks we welcomed all of our station staff back into the building after most of them have been working from home or working hybrid for at least the last year. There’s a lot that I’ve had to do to get their cubicles, offices and studios ready for them to return on top of the usual broadcast stuff and making sure that the facility it protected with everyone’s laptops coming back in from being at their homes.

That leads into the other aspect of this update that I’m wanting to let everyone know about. With the current Geo-political situation, there has been a steadily increasing uptick in scans and “script kiddie” attempts on our infrastructure which is protected behind CloudFlare where possible. I’ve upped the paranoia level of CloudFlare’s firewalls and filtering as a preventative measure. There maybe times when our firewall will make you verify your not a bot.

Another element of this is also letting you, our awesome Grid Tracking community, know that you should be very careful with downloading ours and any other software for amateur radio. We recommend that you only download binary packages (pre-built ready to install or run programs) from official sites or package repositories (your Linux distribution’s official package repositories) and only download source code from official repositories. There have been some other radio software that was found being redistributed on a non-official site that contained dangerous malware.

For your convenience, I’ve linked below the official sites and repositories for some common logging and digital mode operating software.

ProgramOfficial Web Site (Binary Packages)Official Repository (Source Code)
Trusted QSL (T-QSL)
Log4OM Source
N1MM Logger+ Source
N3FJP Loggers Source
DXLab’s DXKeeper Source
Ham Radio Deluxe Suite Source

Happy New Year

It’s been a busy holiday season with the GridTracker team, a couple of us are settling into new jobs, one of us moved to a new state. And we’ve been working on old bugs and new features as well. We’ll continue to work on those with testing on some changes currently ongoing. The plan is to release a version before Spring.

What started as one hams way to not get buried in highlighters and printed off gridquare maps 4 years ago has evolved into the hamshack companion for operators of all kinds, we still track grids, but also now DXCCs, states, counties, CQ Zones, ITU Zones, WPX, various other awards, we have filtering and sorting that’ll make it much less intimidating for operating on today’s very crowded digital sub-bands.

So to celebrate as we’re testing all the new features and bug fixes we’re working on from February 1st through the 14th, members of the development and test teams will be signing with special event callsigns. Afterwords we’ll collect all the log files and prepare a nice certificate to email out to anyone that worked us.

The best part is that we’re going to make a lot of fun QSOs with everyone which to me is one of the best aspects of amateur radio!

Matthew NR0Q

Fix for v1.21.1217 Windows 10

With thanks from all the fast reports of this issue, several members of the team spent most of the weekend testing and researching to figure out the WHY of why some Windows 10 PCs would load and launch GridTracker perfectly ok and others would load but not launch the GridTracker window.

The Problem

We found an upstream bug in NWJS where the Visual C Runtime was omitted from NWJS’s Windows dependency list. This morning Don KB2YSI and I did some testing and confirmed this is the case with GridTracker v1.21.1217 comparing his broken install and my working install.

The good news is that the fix while a band-aid is fairly simple and will not require a new release of GridTracker (or even a re-install).

The Fix

  1. Make sure GridTracker is not running in the background (Launch Task Manager and “End Process” to any GridTracker processes running.)
  2. Download and install the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable
  3. Launch GridTracker normally from the desktop or start menu shortcut

We’ve reported this to the NWJS team to confirm the issue and will be working with them to confirm their fix works long term.

Again, thanks to all the reporters, testers and all the members of the development team that could have done a lot more on-air operating this weekend and instead spent a lot of their time working on this. Hopefully 15 through 10M stays open the rest of the afternoon and we’ll have some on-air fun. See you all on the bands and have a great Holiday week!

Happy Holidays!

From the entire GridTracker team, we wish all the world’s radio amateurs the best during this holiday season. And with that we present the December release of GridTracker v1.21.1217 now available on our Downloads page.

In this release, the biggest change (and it was really big) is not one that is most visible to the end user. But to anyone that has looked at the code for the Call Roster, you’ll notice that code looks quite a bit different now. We grouped together the code blocks for filtering, hunting and rendering the roster into their own files in a process called “refactoring”. We also split rendering into code specific for the normal Call Roster and the compact-mode Call Roster so that we can more easily make changes to either. With this change we did break a ton of stuff and had to go in and fix the stuff we broke. Which is what took up the bulk of the past three months since the September release. Going forward changes should be much easier and less likely to break everything which will allow us to squash any bugs that are found (and all those pending in our Issue tracker) much quicker.

We also added CQ Zone and ITU Zone ignores that works just like CQ, DXCC and Call ignore. This was a long ago requested feature that was started and never finished.

We also fixed the filtering of decode messages into the Call Roster so that only those that containing valid looking callsigns that GridTracker can guess on a DXCC entity for are passed along. This means “WORKED B4” still shows up as possibly being from China but “MERRY XMAS” and “HEY JOE” are silently dropped and not shown.

Speaking of valid callsigns and DXCCs …. Yes we knew that /MM stations do not count for ARRL DXCC credit and we fixed GridTracker so that it now acknowledges that. If you see a /MM station on the air, they will now show up in the roster with a DXCC entity of “NONE” which has special rules where those contacts don’t add to your DXCC tally.

Additional enhancements include the requested feature to have a shorter max age for the call roster. So we made the minimum max age only 5s instead of 15s so that you can now set the max age low enough to display only 1 decode cycle of the very fast FT4 mode. The other requested change was to always highlight CQ in the call roster. Previously we un-highlighted CQ when “Only CQ” was checked thinking that since the calling column is only going to be “CQ” messages but that was a simple 10s change once we had the Call Roster refactor done.

We answer a question quite often about how we figure what county a station is in. Tag wrote a script that runs weekly to pull the latest ULS database from the FCC, decompresses it, parses it and creates a smaller GridTracker version of the database that is downloaded from our servers if you have “United States ULS” enabled in the Lookups tab. In that file we know every US callsign’s State and Zip Code. With that data we populate the state column and then using a lookup table within GridTracker we see what county the Zip Code falls in and display that. But some Zip Codes fall across the county line in 2 or more counties. When that occurs we were displaying the tilde “~” character to the sides of the county name and a click on the county name would make GridTracker do a lookup and retrieve the county from your selected lookup service if available. We changed the “~” to “?” marks and improved the tool tip if you hover the mouse over such an indicated county.

What’s next?

So now that we have the Call Roster refactor done, what is next? As of this writing there are currently 46 open issues in our issue tracker at GitLab that we’re processing through. We’ve organized many of them into categories of “Call Roster” and “Logging” as most fall into those categories, so that we can potentially work on related issues together and prioritize them based on what will have the most impact on the most users and if any depend on others to be fixed first or have potential conflicts.

The other big addition that is ongoing is translating GridTracker into various languages. Now with the biggest code change that we have anticipated this year behind us, we are adding the necessary code to allow GridTracker to be translated. We want to thank a couple of individuals that have already offered their services to translate GridTracker into Spanish (Santiago HI8O and Sebastian KI2D) and Chinese (Lv BD3OOX). If you have the talent for languages and would like to contribute, we ask that you join us in our Discord server using the link to the side and shout out at us.