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Issue #10 - Logging the Future! Net Control in Interactive Nets

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ


As I mentioned in my introduction to the series, my passion is ham radio innovation. There’s always so much cool stuff happening; innovation is popping on all fronts. I’ve written about specific people and their products (Issue #1 and Issue #3) and have two upcoming columns that fit this category. One of them is an interview with the founder of one of our largest ham radio companies and the other is a European innovator known for building “the best of the best” in that smaller marketplace of handcrafted amateur radio gear.


These two pending interviews are hams with decades of experience in the hobby, people who have seen it all and who have carved out businesses from their concepts and sweat equity.  But there’s another type of innovator in Amateur Radio that I am writing about in today’s issue.


This fellow’s innovation lies at the intersection of two worlds – computers and radio. There’s so much going on in this blend of ham radio and computer product development. The radio is the core, of course, but the computer has become such an important part of the process of innovation that some talented people can design a seamless connection between RF and programming. One such innovator in this space is Sean Lynch (KK6BEB), the founder of Ham.live.


Chances are that you may not be familiar yet with Ham.live, but I can just about guarantee you that someday soon you’ll have an opportunity to interface with his work. That is, if you participate in any kind of an on-the-air net. Lynch has designed a program that is made to integrate smoothly into the net control process, solving problems for the net control, his or her logger, and each of the net participants. After talking to Sean Lynch and his users, and reflecting on my own experiences, I believe that this tool will be important in the future, perhaps replacing Netlogger as the de facto tool for organizing the on-air net.



Built to Solve His Own Problems


Sean Lynch is a successful entrepreneur who has been fascinated by radio since his teenage years. “I was in high school in 1993 when I was first licensed as KD6KTH. I used to hang out as a kid at a ham radio shop called Electronic Times in Orange County, California. I learned as much as I could at the time, but then dropped out when work and life got in the way. I got back into the hobby about a decade ago and got my General, and now I am surrounded by radios again,” Sean laughed.


We were both in our shacks, talking on the phone, but we could have been talking inside the Lobby of his software program, Ham.live. Sean told me that during the pandemic years, as he joined up with various nets, he became frustrated at certain aspects of Netlogger. He decided to use his IT skills from his day job to come up with a modern version of the logging program, one that could be used from the web as opposed to software downloads. It was a real challenge, because the tools needed to write and implement his ideas for improvements would require completely different programming skills than he’d built up in his career to that point.


“I was frustrated by the latency problems inside Netlogger, and the fact that I couldn’t use it on my mobile devices. I wanted to build a product that I could personally use and enjoy, even if I was up on a mountain top with my QRP radio and a cell phone. I had never built a dynamic web application, as I had programmed only in other languages . . . that was the tricky part. I spoke to people in interface design and with a great number of other hams about their needs including Net Control operators and loggers. After spending lots of time on these product requirements, I came away believing that the next generation product would benefit from a “less is more” development process. Netlogger has gotten too busy. There’s too much happening and it has become too complicated.”


Carlos Arzuagas (W9FE) has been involved with nets for years, as both a participant and as net control and logger. He’s using both Netlogger as well as Ham.live in his daily net activity, and he finds the differences between the two to be quite significant.


“Netlogger was developed many years ago. If you’re trying to log in from an iPad or a phone, forget it. Ham.live is a web-based interface, and you just log into your account from any device. There’s no software, period. It’s Android, it’s Apple, it’s on a phone, an iPad or a laptop,” Carlos told me. Right now, the net control operators he’s working with want him to have both running, because the information provided is a bit different. But he sees a time down the road when that won’t be necessary.


“On Ham.live, you can see the call sign, the name, and there’s a chat box, and you can hover over the call sign and see their location. Because it’s software on your computer, Netlogger shows you the counties, the grid squares and so on, and that might be necessary if you are an ARES net. But there’s a heck of a learning curve to use it. Ham.live has almost zero learning curve. You can just jump right in, which is what I did.”


The big issue for many is that Netlogger has a latency issue, stemming from the fact that it requires the server to update regularly. Carlos continued: “There’s a 20-second server delay that can drive you nuts after a time. If I enter in a call sign incorrectly, or send a message in a chat box, no one is going to see it until the server refreshes. Ham.live is instantaneous. Sure, Netlogger has some other features, but I use no more than 50% of its functions. Ham.live has a bit more limited functionality and this is because you want to be able to see the key fields on a small screen like a phone. But for a general-purpose net, it is perfectly fine and in fact preferable as it has zero start up time.”


Ramey Smith (KF5GXZ) is a Net Control operator out of Texas, now working every Friday with the South Coast Reflector. “What I like about Ham.live is that when you start a net, you can do it from anywhere, with a phone or an iPad. In fact, I can start the whole thing from the car before I even get home from work,” he told me. He’s used Netlogger in the past, but primarily as a participant.


“For me, I don’t want something where you must be in front of your computer, because if it crashes you are out of business. I had started using a paper log with the South Coast Reflector Net, and then about six months ago I began to work with Ham.live. It’s made things a lot easier; the net just autoscrolls along and if you are Net Control, once you start the net, you can just listen to your net participants and watch the program. The logger puts in their names and call signs, and there’s no lag . . . in addition, there’s an instant chat box and your whole group can stay connected while the net is ongoing.”



Ham.live In a Nutshell


Here are the key features of this innovative software, and you’re welcome to discuss these on the Forum attached to this article. Perhaps we can convince Sean Lynch to join us there if you have questions. I’ve already posted a teaser about this innovator’s next software project in the forum for your review. Here’s more about Ham.live:



  • There is no cost to be a net user or a participant and there never will be.
  • There’s literally almost no startup time. You simply click once to check someone in, and once to check someone out. There’s no set up, no training . . . this means that your time and overhead associated with trying Ham.live is minimal. Run it simultaneously with Netlogger and make the comparison yourself. You’ll get more participants, and they’ll stay attentive longer because they can access the log via their phone or tablet.
  • A net participant can follow a net by clicking a star next to the Net’s name and saving it as a favorite. The system then sends out an automated email each time that net starts up. You’ll get more participants and less late checkins.
  • Real time chat; chat is not instantaneous on Netlogger.
  • With Ham.live, you can assign as many loggers or relays as you want.
  • With a large or busy net, there are always concerns about how busy the Netlogger servers might be, or what server your net is running on . . . But on Ham.live, the cloud is set up to automatically add computing resources as your net expands. You never have to concern yourself with the server infrastructure, as it grows to meet your needs. You don’t need a dedicated server as you might at Netlogger.

In conclusion


This product was launched mid-year in 2022, and according to Sean, page views are growing by 70% a month, month after month. In the last six weeks, it has really kicked into overdrive. Because all the costs of operation for Ham.live are passed along to Sean, I’d say that this is a labor of love. And that’s something else about innovators, isn’t it. Only when you have this kind of passion can you make the strides in ham radio innovation that you’ll read about here in Trials and Errors.


Please visit this link to share in our discussion forum about this issue's topic. 


73 for now,


Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.

Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated February 1, 2023 23:17