Using a Mac in the Shack

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

A couple of years ago, I decided to switch to the Mac for business use. (I
am a freelance website developer.) I haven't regretted it for a second. The
thing just seems to work better.

Last October, I decided to switch to a Mac in the shack and purchased a
used, iBook G4 Mac laptop. Unfortunately, I can't say that I've never
regretted this move. The reason I sometimes regret this choice is that
there just aren't as many ham radio programs available for the Mac as there
are for the PC, and those that are available are either more expensive than
their PC counterparts or don't work as well.

For example, let's take a look at logging programs. When I first started
looking, I found one that was kind of expensive (MacLoggerDX -; one that was free, but didn't
want to work so well (RUMLog -;
and one that worked OK and cost somewhere in between the first two (Aether
- Considering that there are at least a dozen logging
programs that run on a PC, this was slim pickings.

I ended up purchasing Aether, but was never very happy with it. For one
thing, it took forever to do any kind of sort or look up previous QSOs.
Another pain was that it carried over none of the information from the
previous contact, so you had to enter all of the information from scratch,
even if you didn’t change frequencies or bands. It also had an odd way of
doing notes about a contact, and I was disappointed to find out that it
didn't import the notes from the ADIF file I created from the N3FJP logging
program I used previously.

For PSK, It's CocoaModem
I had much the same experience when looking for a PSK31 program. Instead of
a the wide variety of PC PSK programs, I only found a couple of Mac
programs that decode PSK. Fortunately, I am much happier with my choice
here (cocoaModem - It's a great program,
with a polished user interface, and it's free, to boot.

The only problem with cocoaModem is that it doesn't support the wide range
of digital modes that some of the PC programs do. One I'm interested in is
SSTV. Unfortunately, cocoaModem doesn't do SSTV.

A Happy Ending
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I'd had enough of Aether and decided to start
searching for logging software again. Since RUMLog was still free, I
decided to give the new version (v 3.0, March 15, 2008) a go. I'm happy to
report that this version likes my computer a lot better, and I like using
it a lot!

One of the coolest things is that it did import the notes from my N3FJP
ADIF file properly. So, now, when I type in a callsign, the program
searches the database, finds all the previous contacts I've had with that
station, and then displays them in spreadsheet style WITH the notes. If
I've taken notes about a previous conversation, I can pick up right where I
left off. Very cool.

It also has a very nice way of showing you what countries you've worked, on
what bands you've worked them, and whether or not you've QSLed that country
or not. Not only that, it shows what type of QSL you have, either a paper
QSL or a Logbook of the World (LOTW) QSL. And, after you supply your user
ID and password, it will download your LOTW QSLs and update the appropriate
QSO records. Very cool!

Still unresolved is what to use for contesting. None of the programs I've
seen so far are useful for contesting, and I think that what I will end up
doing is using my old PC laptop running N3FJP or N1MM software. I'm not a
big contester, so I think I can live with that.

One thing is for sure--I'm not going back to the PC aside from some niche
applications like contesting. The Mac's ease of use and ease of setup has
won me over. For information on even more ham radio software for the Mac,
go to


When not trying to convince his friends and family to convert to the Mac,
Dan works a lot of CW and PSK, and even a little SSB, on 20, 30, and 40m.
You can read more about his adventures in amateur radio by pointing your
Web browser to