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A test environment to practice contesting
#1 Posted : Wednesday, November 5, 2014 6:33:48 PM(UTC)

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To properly prepare for a contest one needs to practice a little before starting for real. With a little imagination, you can run your own contest typing in QSOs and watching LOGic go through its paces.

If you have an Elecraft K3, you can put it into TEST mode, use a cluster and the LOGic spotting facilities, and practice with all the functions of LOGic, tuning the radio, using recorded messages and keys, keying the radio and transmitting, without actually putting a signal on the air. The best "dummy load" I have ever used. Other radios may have a similar capability.

But there is ONE issue you need to consider. What happens to the TEST QSOs you make in your "virtual contest"?

If you do nothing, the QSOs will be in your "production LOG" and become part of the award processing, QSLing to LOTW and eQSL etc etc.

There are few things you can do.

You can change the operator when you are testing. But then you have to remember to change back, or process awards/reports just for one operator etc etc.

You can delete the test QSOs when you are done with your testing using Tools, Advanced Database commands. Many worry about this process, feeling their lack of skill and experience using it, may put their log in jeopardy. Experience and skill comes only with practice.

Or, you can create a complete test environment. Some feel this is also a dangerous thing to be doing. This takes a bit more effort. Many worry about making QSOs in the wrong database. If it happens, it is easily fixed.

I prefer creating a test environment. A test environment is useful for more than just contest practice. It can be used to develop your skills without fear of destroying your real log. You can restore your log to it, and test/practice any Advanced Database commands you may need to run.

Configured correctly, you will be reminded that you are in a test environment, and all you need do is start LOGic to enter the test environment, and exit and restart LOGic to return to your normal log. Everything works as normal, expect one is using test data.

Good things come with effort, so there are a few steps you need to take to get a test environment setup properly.

The LOGic help has entries for using "multiple databases". Make sure you read this. We are going to make use of the DATA= directive, and the INSTANCE= directive, standard features with LOGic. Make sure you read the Help material about these features.

Attached you will find a "Test Data" background wallpaper. Use this to warn you that you are using your test database. See later.

You will need several new "shortcuts" for LOGic, and a place to put the shortcuts. I suggest a folder under the Desktop, or your My Documents folder.

You will also need somewhere for the test data. I suggest a folder under the LOGic folder. The normal location for LOGic's data is the LOGDATA folder under the LOGic installation folder. I would put your testdata as the folder TESTDATA, also under the LOGic installation folder. Putting the test data there makes it easier to reference the test data when configuring LOGic. But, that said, you may put it anywhere you like, even on another networked computer. See the Help if you want to do this.

Create a test environment

As you should always do, before starting, take a backup of your log, and in this case, make a full copy of the entire LOGic installation folder. Put them on separate disk to your LOGic installation.

Download and place the Test Data background in the BACKGROUNDS folder in the LOGic installation folder.

Make your folder for the shortcuts. Keep the name short.

Using the mouse, open your Start menu and navigate to the LOGic program, point at it, and right click. COPY the shortcut.

In Windows Explorer, navigate to your shortcuts folder, point somewhere in it, right click and PASTE the LOGic program shortcut.

Now point at this new shortcut, and right click and RENAME it to "Test Data - CLEAN".

Point again somewhere in the shortcuts folder, right click and PASTE again.

Point at this second copy, right click and RENAME it to "Test Data - LOGic".

Now you should have TWO shortcuts to LOGic. Test that they work if you wish. Both should start LOGic as normal.

Point at the shortcut named "Test Data - CLEAN", right click and click PROPERITIES.

Click in the TARGET field and add the following to the end of the field: CLEAN=Y INSTANCE=TESTING DATA=.\TESTDATA

If the test data is not under the LOGic install folder, use the full folder name of your test data folder, surrounding the folder name in "" if there are spaces in the name. Click OK.

Point at the shortcut named "Test Data - LOGic".

Click in the TARGET field and add the following to the end of the field: INSTANCE=TESTING DATA=.\TESTDATA

If the test data is not under the LOGic install folder, use the full folder name of your test data folder, surrounding the folder name in "" if there are spaces in the name. Click OK.

Now create your test data. Under the LOGic installation folder, create a folder named TESTDATA, and copy all the files and folders in LOGDATA to TESTDATA. If the testdata folder is elsewhere - copy the data there.

Test your new shortcuts - the INSTANCE parameter will creare a new default environment for you, just for testing purposes. When you are ready, start LOGic with "Test Data - LOGic". Point at the background, right click, and change the background picture to the Test Data background. You may simply use different colours if you wish. Whatever will remind you that you are using the test data. You can change the background of any form.

That is the minimum needed to be able to enter QSOs, keeping them completely separate from your "real" QSOs".

You now have a complete set of test data - log, logforms, lists, awards, spots, radio memories. You can test many things. You can practice with Tools, Advanced Database Commands, knowing you cannot destroy your "production" log. You can backup/restore the test data - restore the latest backup of your real log.

Be aware that the following are NOT separate, but are shared with your real log data: Prefix Table, Memberships.

If you take backups with your test data, remember to put them somewhere different to your "production" backup.

Optional steps - to make life a little easier.

Shortcuts folder
These shortcuts can be made easy to "get at" by putting them on the "task bar". Some may not want to do this, preferring to make the test environment hard to use, so as not to start it accidentally. You decide. Some of what is discussed here has been posted before. This post discusses the INSTANCE parameter, and the part on adding the shortcuts to the Taskbar is relevant.

You will notice that the LOGFORMS folder is a sub-folder of TESTDATA. Without any change, you will have two sets of logforms, one for test and one for production. That is OK, but you will need to copy the forms back and forward between the environments as you develop new logforms. I prefer having ONE folder for the LOGFORMS and having lots of log forms for different purposes all accessible from everywhere.

In Windows Vista/7/8 there is a command MKLINK. With this command one can make a "symbolic" link from one folder to another. Navigate to your TESTDATA folder and rename the LOGFORMS folder under TESTDATA to "whatever" - you can delete it later. Open a Command prompt, navigate to the TESTDATA folder, and run the following command substituting the full name of your LOGic LOGDATA folder.

mklink /D logforms "C:\Program Files (x86)\LOGic\logdata\logforms"

You should now have a name - LOGFORMS - in your TESTDATA folder, that "points to" the production LOGFORMS folder. LOGic will now use the one set of logforms for both production and testing. Now you also know how "libraries" work in Win 7/8.

Windows XP does not have such a command as standard, but you can download a tool from Microsoft to use on Windows XP.

Enjoy using your test environment.

File Attachment(s):
Test Data worldmap.bmp (422kb) downloaded 20 time(s).
test data fog.bmp (264kb) downloaded 17 time(s).
Peter VK4IU
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