W1WRA'S Floobydust

What the Skookum


What the Skookum?

Skookum (adjective) 1. Excellent, impressive. 2. Big, strong, durable, reliable, trustworthy, doughty.

So, this past weekend was Winter Field Day. Due to various family issues, I could not participate with our amateur radio club (though I was able to sneak by for a nighttime visit to say hi). Because of this, I decided to make a few contacts at home and play with a new (to me) contest logger.

Since I do not post much, let’s rewind and catch you up. I am a reasonably OS-agnostic person. While I am most at home in Linux, I have had to spend my fair share of time in Windows. About a decade ago, I also spent a reasonable amount of time in MacOS (once they became BSD-based).

My main amateur radio is my FlexRadio 6600. When I purchased my first Flex years ago (I have had a 6300, 6400, and now the 6600), Windows was the only option for effectively using the radio. They did, however, develop a robust API. This led to the development of the SmartSDR software for iOS and then for MacOS. I used the iOS client reasonably regularly on my iPad (sometimes on the iPhone) and decided to try the MacOS client on a borrowed Mac mini. The experience was good, which led to purchasing a Mac mini and a MacBook Pro laptop. Things have been running great for about a month and a half. I have only used Windows recently for amateur radio stuff for a little VarAC and Winlink. I plan to migrate some of that to the Mac (future blog post?).

Ok, back to Winter Field Day. The day-to-day logging programming I have been using (MacLogger DX) has been working out great! However, like many general-purpose loggers, its contesting features may be lacking. If you are a Windows user, you may instantly think N1MM Logger+, or maybe one of the N3FJP suite of contest software (a personal favorite of mine). After some brief searching, it seems like a popular MacOS choice is SkookumLogger, which is conveniently located in the MacOS App Store (and free).

So far, so good. I got a contest logger. I looked through the settings, and Winter Field Day is an easily in-the-list supported contest. Things are looking good. Except...

I made my first contact. So far so good. It has a nice, easy interface, nice dupe checking, and excellent DX Cluster support. However, as I started to search and pounce, I noticed that it was slow at BEST while getting information from my rig. Once I began to jumping around bands quickly, everything became unusable quickly.


So, to the internet for answers. You do not need to be a Google-Fu expert to find Flex users gripping about this issue quickly. At least it was not unique. For reasons I have not bothered to dive deeply into yet, it would appear that SmartSDR’s CAT control and Skookum do not have a good relationship. Skookum does not support native SmartSDR API commands, so one has to use Kenwood CAT control commands—no big deal. I have done that many times on the Windows side of the fence. But for some reason, Skookum and SmartSDR CAT don’t work well together.

Now what? Well, digging a bit more, people mentioned having good luck using xCAT. DL3LSM wrote xCAT “as a helper application for the FlexRadioTM 6000 series running on macOS (10.11 and higher). Its purpose is to provide a way for other applications to control a FlexRadioTM 6000 series by using legacy CAT commands via a TCP connection. xCat then translates these commands into native Flex commands using the TCP/IP API.”. Perhaps Mario (DL3LSM) had some issues somewhere along the way, inspiring him to write this app. I have used a few digital and logging apps with the Flex with no real issues yet, using built-in SmartSDR CAT and DAX. But I’ll try things if they provide solutions.

Sure enough, I disabled CAT in SmartSDR and started up xCAT, and Skookum followed my VFO changes in real-time. This made the logger usable again, especially for my quick search and pounce style. Some people suggest that if K1GQ supported native SmartSDR API support, this would not be an issue. This, of course, would be extra work for him. I am just happy I have a solution to the issue leveraging xCAT.

It should also be noted that DL3LSM also has a xDAX helper for DAX audio and an xKEY helper for assisting in remote CW operations. While I would like to use native SmartSDR when I can, it is GREAT to know that there is an alternative.

Speaking of alternatives, I realize I did not try replicating the setup using dogparkSDR, a great 3rd party Native Mac client for the Flex 600s series. I may need to run that test at some point, though again, I prefer the SmartSDR because it is very much like the iOS and Windows clients I am used to.

In the short amount of time I had to play WFD, I was able to get just under 50 contacts. Skookum did have a nice feel and flow once I worked out my CAT-related issues.