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2.9 Multiple Computer and Multi-op Contesting

1. Introduction

There are major changes in N1MM Logger+ networking, as compared with N1MM Logger Classic, which will affect both multi-op contesting and those operators who network multiple computers for single-op categories, particularly on digital modes.
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  • You no longer need to enter computer names and IP addresses when networking on a typical LAN. When networking is turned on, N1MM Logger+ detects the presence of computers on the same subnet that are running the same version of N1MM Logger+, and automatically connects to them. You will be warned if there are discrepancies in contest or multi-op class among the computers, so that you can correct them.

  • The Network Status Window is brand new in N1MM Logger+.

Network Status Window
All network-related options and actions except for informational functions such as received Talk messages and band-change status have been moved to this new window. Those remain in the Info window.

A full explanation of this window and each of its functions is found here.

2. Key Features

  • Use of standard network interface cards (NIC's) and wireless interfaces
  • Point to point or broadcast Talk capability between networked stations
  • Automatic time synchronization (if non-master stations are Run as Administrator)
  • Pass frequencies displayed at all stations
  • DX Spots distributed by master station to all connected computers
    • Spotting commands can be sent by any station on the network
  • Extensive error trapping and diagnostics
  • Auto resync when a station comes on-line

 CAUTION about Software Lockouts

The "Force Other Station to Stop Transmitting When I Transmit" and "Block my Tx Only if Other Stn Transmitting on Same Band&Mode (Multi-One)" items on the Options tab of the Network Status window are software lockouts. They are subject to network latencies and cannot be guaranteed to prevent simultaneous transmitting. Because of network latencies, lost packets, network dropouts or network failures there could be short overlaps in transmissions, or even complete failure of the lockout. For protection against damage from simultaneous transmitting, and/or to be absolutely certain that contest rules forbidding simultaneous transmissions are obeyed at all times, you must use a dependable hardware lockout system. Do not depend on software lockouts to prevent equipment damage and do not expect software lockouts to give you an ironclad guarantee of compliance with contest rules!

3. The Simplest Multi-Op

The simplest form of multi-operator contesting involves a single radio and a single computer, i.e. it is just like single-operator contesting except that two or more operators take turns, spelling each other. Of course, you have to ensure the correct entry class is entered in the Contest Setup dialog. From there on, if you wish to keep track of which contacts were made by which operator, you should use Ctrl+O, or the OPON direct entry command in the Entry window, and enter the call sign of the incoming operator every time the operator is changed. N1MM Logger+ will keep track of which operator made each contact, and that information will be displayed in the Log window. For the simplest setups, including CW and RTTY, and SSB without voice keying messages, this is almost all there is to it.

4. Multiple Radios and Multiple Computers


Most multi-operator setups will involve more than one radio and/or more than one networked computer. The details of how to set up a networked computer system are in the Network Status window section of this manual.

4.1. Stored Voice Messages in a Multi-Op (Any multi-op)

If you are using stored voice messages in a phone contest and you change operators while using the same stored voice messages, the voices heard over the air could vary during a single QSO between recorded messages and live voicing. This can be very confusing to the other station. To avoid this, it is best to have each operator record a separate complete set of voice keyer messages. To do this, create a separate subfolder for each operator within your wav files folder, labelled with that operator's call sign. Make sure the paths to your wav files in your function key messages includes the {OPERATOR} macro, as in "{OPERATOR}\CQ.wav". Before the contest, have each operator enter his or her call sign with Ctrl+O or OPON and then record all of the voice keyer messages in his or her own voice. Once the messages are all set up, the Logger will use the operator call sign entered during the contest with Ctrl+O or OPON to select which set of recorded messages to use.

If your multi-op uses multiple computers, and if any individual operator will use more than one of these computers during the course of the contest, that operator will need to create and populate a subfolder with his personal wav files on each of the computers that he or she will be using.

4.2. "Distributed" Multi-Ops (IARU Headquarters stations, for example)

It is possible to set up N1MM Logger to allow some or all of the other stations outside your LAN to communicate over the internet. Possible uses for this feature are: Headquarters (HQ) stations in the IARU contest and distributed special event stations.

Footswitch lockout support has been added for multiple distributed stations.

In the IARU contest a headquarters station is allowed to use multiple stations located within one IARU zone, but the rule of one signal per band/mode is still in effect. So there could be 2 (one running station and another looking for multiplier) or more stations on the same band and same mode and they should keep only one TX signal on this band at any time. Now you can hook up a footswitch to the LPT port 15 (the LPT port must be enabled even if it is not being used for other purposes. There is no special check box to turn the footswitch feature on/off). If the station is not in multi-multi operator category the footswitch will directly control PTT just like Alt+T. If it is a multi-multi station (connected to other stations on LAN or via the Internet in Multi User mode) it will prevent two stations on the network from both transmitting on the same band/mode combination.

This is a software lockout only, and is subject to network latencies. As such, it should be considered a backup. Multiple stations on the same band/mode should always coordinate operations (with the help of message passing over the network from the Info window), and not depend on software lockout to ensure compliance with contest rules.

5. Multi-Operator Capabilities and Techniques

N1MM Logger+ attempts to simplify and streamline important multi-operator functions. These are collected here to help the new multi-op participant quickly learn how to use N1MM logger+ effectively in this context.

5.1. Messaging


Frequently, in a multi-op situation, there is a need to communicate to other operators without shouting acrss the room. For this purpose, there is a Talk function, which can be used either one-to-one or one-to-many. It can be invoked in several ways:

  • Ctrl+E
  • The Talk button on the Actions tab of the Network Status window
    • either of these options assumes you want to send a message to all stations, so it enters an "*" to denote that your message will go to all stations.
  • Right-clicking on a line in the Stations tab of the Network Status window.
    • Doing this will open the Talk window and enter the computer name of the station you clicked on.


In either case, you need to be sure and type a space before you begin your message, to keep the program from misunderstanding your message as part of the computer name.

You'll note that the Talk window stays open until closed by clicking on the "X" at upper right. However, if you right-click in the window, it brings up a menu with a single self-explanatoryoption, "Enter moves focus to Entry window".

5.2. Passing


Passing - referring stations you have worked to the operator on one or more other bands - is an essential tool for optimizing multiplier counts and total scores in a multi-op. There are two basic forms that this can take:

  • You are running, and you pass someone you work to another band where your station is also running.
  • You are running, and you pass someone you work to a specified frequency on another band. This might be useful, for example, if your station's operator on that band is searching and pouncing.


Some basics - if the station on a given band is in Run mode, then his pass frequency will be his running frequency. If that station is in S&P mode, then he will want to set a pass frequency - perhaps somewhere high in the band he is on. To set a pass frequency, click on the Actions tab of the Network Status window, then click on "Set Your Pass Frequency." A dialog will open, where you can enter a frequency, or 0 (zero) to clear your pass frequency. If you switch from S&P to Run mode, your pass frequency will change automatically to your current frequency. Don't leave a zero in your pass frequency while you are in S&P mode, or other stations will not be able to pass to you. If you are not using an interfaced radio, be sure to enter your current frequency in the callsign field of the Entry window.

You can pass the station currently in your Entry window, or the one you worked last, in one of two ways:

  • Right click on the station you want to pass to, in the Network Status window, and click on Pass Current/Last QSO.
  • Right click on the Band Button in the Entry window corresponding to where you want to pass the station. For example, if you've told him, "Please go to [your 20M station's Run or Pass Frequency]", then right-click the 20M Band Button.


Either way, a pass message will be sent, in red to get the other operator's attention, and a message will be entered in black in your Info window confirming that it was sent.

PasseeInfo

6. Managing A Multi-Op Station

A smooth, trouble-free multi-op contest requires a good deal of systematic management. This section attempts to provide checklists for Before, During and After a contest.

6.1. Setting Up the Network

  • Verify that all of the computers you intend to use are running, and that Windows networking is functional. It is a very good idea to have a "hot spare" on the network, just in case.
  • Install the same version of N1MM Logger+ on all of the computers.
  • Run N1MM Logger+ on each machine, using the right-click option to Run as Administrator on all machines except the one you will be designating as "master". This will enable the "master" station to keep all the other computer clocks in sync with Internet time. Alternatively, you can disable the built-in Windows Internet time synchronization (which is not accurate enough for this purpose) and install more accurate time synchronization software (such as the Meinberg NTP client or Dimension 4) on all of the computers in the network to ensure that they are all synchronized.
  • Create a new empty database on each machine.
  • Start a new log for the contest on each machine, making sure to set the contest, operator category and transmitter category correctly.
  • Configure external interfaces at each operating position (radio control, CW, PTT, etc.)
  • Set up Function Key Messages on each computer. If using operator-specific wav files for SSB, make sure that each operator has his or her own wav file sub-folder on every computer that he or she will be using.
  • Make sure that Master.SCP and cty.dat files are up to date (on the Tools menu) on all computers
  • Turn off Windows Sounds (in SSB contests) to prevent transmitting odd noises (Control Panel - Sounds - Scheme: No Sounds)
  • Set N1MM+'s Networked Computer mode on - from the Network Status Window on each machine

NetworkStatus StationsNetworkOff

    • At this point you should see the names of all the computers running on the network. Initially, i.e. for the first several seconds or so, they may display various red warning flags .

NetworkStatus StationsStartingNetwork

    • This will only persist until the network finishes connecting, at which time the red flags will disappear, unless you have something wrong, such as a mismatch between N1MM+ versions, between the contests on the different computers, or between operator categories or transmitter categories. In this case, the red flag will remain on the Messages tab in the Network Status window, and you will find an explanation there of what needs to be fixed.
  • Click the box marked "Master" in the Network Status window of the machine you want designate to connect to the Internet (this is the one computer in which N1MM+ does not need to be "run as Administrator"). This will turn on time synchronization across the network.
  • If you wish to send and receive spots to/from all the stations on the network, open the Telnet windows in all computers, but only connect one of the computers to a Telnet cluster, namely the computer designated as "master". Other computers (non-"master" computers) receive cluster spots from the "master" computer, not from a DX cluster node.
    • Please note: if you want operating positions to receive spots, each of them must have its Telnet window open and the proper filters and bands/modes set.


Now it's time to make some test QSOs. Verify that when a given station makes a QSO, the QSO appears on all of the networked computers. Repeat this process with each computer on the network, including the master, even if you do not anticipate making QSOs with it during the actual contest, in order to verify that network communications are working correctly.

just before the contest start, have each operator type WIPELOG enter in the callsign field. This will remove all the test QSOs. Then have the starting operator use Ctrl+O to set his or her callsign for the first session.

 Make sure that...

* You are running the same version of the program on all computers
  • You have set up the same contest and same operator and transmitter categories on all computers
  • All computers have the same version of wl_cty.dat installed
  • All computers have the same time zone and daylight savings offset
  • All computers have the same regional settings for numbers, dates, etc, and the same short and long date and time formats

 Multiple networks

There are some situations in which there may be more than one network active at the same time on the same computer(s). One such situation might be one where the N1MM Logger+ network is a wired network (perhaps because some of the computers on the network do not have wireless adapters), but where there is a wireless network operating at the same location. On any computer where there are two network adapters connected and active, N1MM Logger+ will not be able to reliably detect which adapter you intend to use for the N1MM+ network, and 50% of the time it will guess wrong. A work-around for this is to temporarily disable the other network while you are starting up N1MM+ and connecting to the N1MM+ network, in order to ensure that the N1MM+ network connection uses the correct network adapter. Once the N1MM+ network connection is established, you can re-enable the other network on any computers that need it (for example, if the Internet gateway is on the other network, the Master computer will need to be connected to both networks).

Last Modification: 06 June 2017 16:58:29 EDT by N1MM.