Getting Started with Active DX Identification and Analytics

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, VHF and UHF spotting networks began moving from voice repeaters to VHF and UHF PacketClusters that exploited personal computers. In the mid 1990s, the Internet's Telnet protocol was used to construct a network of DXClusters, making it easy for any DXer to monitor spots -- reports of active DX stations -- on his or her Internet-connect computer.

Being aware of DX stations that are currently active or have recently been active, on what bands, and in what modes provides valuable insight to the modern DXer, particularly if the locations from which a DX station was heard are known:

Identifying a currently active DX station as being needed for one or more awards the DXer is pursuing provides the opportunity to make a QSO that will advance award progress.

Viewing raw spots in a scrolling window as they arrive from a PacketCluster or DXCluster requires the DXer to perform the above analyses - a challenging task even with a single source of spots and one or two award objectives. SpotCollector ingests raw spots from multiple PacketClusters and DXClusters and processes them in real time to provide continuous answers to these questions:

To accomplish this, SpotCollector captures DX spots from up to 6 spot sources:

Collecting spots from multiple sources is useful because some spot sources report DX from some geographic areas faster than from other areas, and because individual sources can occasionally become unavailable or inaccessible. SpotCollector combines DX Spots for the same station/frequency/mode and stores them in a Database of Active DX Stations on your PC that can be simultaneously displayed in a table, on a world map, in a bandspread display, and to reveal actual propagation:

By using spots to track active DX stations, the DXer can see current band openings from his or her QTH, observe propagation patterns over time, and discover the operating habits of needed DX stations. If you are using DXKeeper to log QSOs and track progress against DXing awards, SpotCollector will use font color to identify active DX stations that are needed for one or more of the DXCC, IOTA, Leaderboard, Marathon, VUCC, WAS, WAZ, or WPX awards you're pursuing, as specified in your DXing objectives; when you work or confirm a needed DX station, SpotCollector automatically updates the information it displays to reflect the new status. You can configure SpotCollector to audibly announce newly-reported DX stations that meet specified criteria, and to alert you via email.

PacketClusters and DXClusters also convey WWV spots -- reports from the United States National Institute of Standard's radio station WWV that include information relevant to HF radio propagation: the Solar Flux Index (SFI), the Boulder A-index, and the Boulder K-index. SpotCollector captures and records this information, and presents it in a graphical view illustrating the behavior of these indices over the most recent 31 days. Clicking the History button in the WWV panel in the upper left corner of SpotCollector's Main window displays this window:

You can examine each of the three indices individually by checking or unchecking the SFI, A, and K boxes in the lower corners of the display. Given the sun's 27-day rotation period, this information can also be helpful in predicting future HF propagation. SpotCollector automatically conveys this information to PropView.

On installation, SpotCollector comes preconfigured with connection information for several spot sources, but you must specify a username and password before a spot source can be enabled to supply spots. Start by connecting to the cluster known as DX Spots:

  1. click the Config button to open SpotCollector's Configuration window and select the Spot Sources tab.

  2. in the Telnet DXClusters panel, you'll find connection information for the DX Spots cluster in the top-most sub-panel.

    1. check the Auto box; this will configure SpotCollector to automatically connect to the DX Spots cluster on startup

    2. leave the Hide box unchecked

    3. type your callsign into the Username textbox

    4. if you have previously used the DX Spots cluster and have established a password, type this password into the Password textbox; otherwise, leave the Password textbox empty

    5. click the Spot button; this directs SpotCollector to route outgoing spots via the DX Spots cluster

    6. check the Enable box; a new window entitled DX Spots will appear on screen, and this window's large Received Data pane should show SpotCollector connecting to the DX Spots cluster on your behalf

      1. to verify the connection, type SH/DX into the text box immediately below the Received Data pane, and then strike the Enter key

      2. the Received Data pane should then display the ten most recent DX spots
    7. close the DX Spots window by clicking the X button in its upper right corner

  3. via the Power Options section of the Windows Control Panel, configure Windows to never put your computer in hibernation, sleep, or standby mode

  4. via the Network section of the Windows Control Panel, configure Windows to never power down the wired or wireless adapter by which your computer is connected to the internet

DX Spots

The Spot Database Display in SpotCollector's main window is a scrollable grid with entries for each DX station operating near a particular frequency in a particular mode. Each Spot Database Entry includes

Spot Database Entries are automatically constructed and updated as incoming DX spots arrive at from spot sources like DX Central. Unless the bands are dead, you should already see a few entries.

You can sort Spot Database Entries, and you can filter the Spot Database Display to show only entries matching a particular callsign, DXCC entity, band, mode, continent, origin (location of the stations that spotted the DX) or combinations thereof.

If you are using DXKeeper to log your QSOs, then Spot Database entries will be colored to indicate the impact of a QSO with the spotted station with respect to your DXing objectives :

You can direct Commander to display a Bandspread Window showing active DX Stations with this color-coding.

There are several ways to determine why a Spot Database Entry is needed.

Double-clicking a Spot Database Entry will convey the entry's callsign, frequency, mode, and grid square to Commander, DXKeeper, DXView, PropView, and/or Pathfinder, enabling them to QSY your transceiver to the appropriate frequency and mode, rotate your antenna, display DX information, prepare to log a QSO, prepare to predict propagation, and/or prepare to seek QSL information. If WinWarbler is running,

WWV Spots

Information from most recent WWV spot is displayed in the Main window's WWV panel. To see a graphical view of propagation parameters over the most recent 31 days, click the WWV panel's History button to display the Solary & Geogmagnetic Parameters window.

Managing Spot Sources

Whenever you start SpotCollector, it will automatically connect to the spot sources specified on the Configuration window's Spot Sources tab; you may find it convenient to check the Hide button for each spot source to keep their individual Spot Source windows hidden.

Some DXClusters are parts of a sub-network that permits only a single connection. For example, if DXClusters A and B are part of the same sub-network and you are connected to A, connecting to B will cause the connection with A to silently drop. If SpotCollector is configured to automatically reconnect dropped connections, then when SpotCollector reconnects with A, the connection with B will silently drop. When SpotCollector reconnects with B, the connection with A will silently drop - ad infinitum. Thus after configuring SpotCollector to connect to a new DXCluster, monitor the messages in its Spot Source window for a few minutes; if you see a spontaneous reconnection, the new DXCluster may be part of a sub-network to which you are already connected, in which case you should choose a different DXCluster.

SpotCollector's Main window provides a Spot source status panel containing six LED-like indicators to show the status of your spot sources, where

Clicking one of these indicators displays its associated spot source's window; double-clicking the Spot source status panel's caption displays the Configuration window's Spot Sources tab, from which you can specify and select spot sources.

If a spot sources's status indicator remains yellow, it means that SpotCollector has not received a message from the source of the form

YourCallsign de ClusterCallsign

where YourCallsign is the Username specified for the cluster on the Configuration window's Spot Sources tab. Some clusters permit you to specify a non-standard prompt. To correct this, send the cluster this command via SpotCollector's Spot Source window for that cluster:


DXClusters that utilize DX Spider can be configured to disable the "prompt sequence" that enables SpotCollector to confirm that you've logged in, preventing the cluster's tatus indicator from advancing from yellow to green. To correct this, send the cluster this command via SpotCollector's Spot Source window for that cluster:


Automatically Updating the Spot Database and WWV History on Startup

  1. click the Config button to open SpotCollector's Configuration window and select the Spot Sources tab.

  2. in the Initial Cluster command panel,

    1. paste this command into the Command box: SH/WWV/36<13><10>SH/DX/100<13><10>set/dxgrid

    2. check the Enable box

Now when SpotCollector starts up, it will direct each cluster to report the most recent 100 DX spots and the most recent WWV spots

Additional Functionality

Improving Performance


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Getting Started with DXLab

CollectingSpots (last edited 2015-11-01 22:19:22 by AA6YQ)