[CQ-Contest] Contest computer - here's what I did

K0HB k-zero-hb at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 12 01:08:15 EST 2003

A couple weeks ago I asked here for advice on how to upgrade my
shack/office computer to a  faster machine and more modern OS,  and still
retain DOS-based functionality (CT, Hyperlog, and multiple serial ports). 
For those who are facing similar issues, I thought I'd give you the benefit
of my experience.

Of the many responses (over 50) responses I received from the initial
query, the overwhelming response was to save the old machine intact for
contesting/radio 'stuff' and just set a new Win-XP box alongside with a KVM
switch to share a common monitor/keyboard/rodent.  This solution appealed
to me because my old machine was proven and well suited to handling the
radio stuff and I wouldn't need to find a new box with ISA slots to handle
my serial port expansion needs, nor would I need to do any 'heroic' things
like dual-boot partitions on a new machine, to run DOS based contesting

Here's what I ended up doing.

I kept the old machine, a 350MHz AMD K6, running Win-98.  It has 128 meg of
RAM, a 6-gig hard drive, CD ROM, 3 serial ports (two on an ISA card, one on
the motherboard) and an ethernet connector on the motherboard. In other
words, a more-than-adequate contesting computer.

My new machine is a 2.5GHz P4, running Win-XP.  It has 512 meg of RAM, a
120-gig hard drive, 1 serial port, ethernet, etc.  This is my new
office/software design computer. Cost $700.

Because I share the same workspace as my office and my shack and have
limited room, I share the monitor/keyboard/rodent through a Belkin 1x2 KVM
switch.  This model came recommended by several people because it has high
bandwidth for modern monitors and is RF immune.  It came with all the
necessary cables for about $60.   You can switch back and forth with either
a keyboard command, or with a button on the switch itself.  The unit is
draws power from the monitor connection, so no separate wall-wart is
needed.  I've noticed no new RF in my rigs, and the switch seems immune to
full-legal limit on all HF bands, plus a couple of 50W 2m/440 rigs all
within 2 feet of it.

Then I networked both boxes together peer-to-peer with just a crosswired
adapter on the 10base-T ports which allows me to share files, printers,
scanner, internet connections, etc., between both boxes.  Win-XP has a
super little wizard which makes the networking absolutely painless.  You
don't need to know a damned thing except where to put the ethernet cable!  

When I was shopping, I asked several sales people how to migrate all my
non-radio applications and files from the old to the new box.  They all
recommended a software package called "PC Relocator" --- DON'T DO IT!!!! 
First, PC RELOCATOR sets up it's own secret-protocol networking which
completely over-rides your previously-installed peer-to-peer connection,
causing you to need to rebuild it; second it's not cheap (about $70); and
third it turns out that Win-XP has a much better utility already built-in.

This seems to me to be the most painless way of making this transition for
folks who have a similar situation to mine.  Just buy one new box and a
switch, set it down beside your old one, and tie them together, with no
need to disturb your old 'logging computer' in any fashion.  What could be

By the way, I'm quite impressed with Win-XP.  After struggling through Win
3.0, 3.11, 95, and 98, it seems they pretty much 'got it right'.

73, de Hans, K0HB

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