Understanding Logbook of the World – Part 2

Part 1 of this series explained they key concepts behind ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) in order to understand the relationships between the components. In Part 2, the registration of a ham with LoTW and the setup of TQSL will be explored. Note that these directions are specifically for U.S.-based hams; the method of establishing the LoTW Account for non-U.S. hams is different.

Establishing an LoTW account begins not with registering online, but with generating a Callsign Certificate. Generating the Callsign Certificate and uploading the certificate request to LoTW starts a process that will result in 1) receiving an LoTW Account, 2) receiving a Callsign Certificate, and 3) establishing the ability to upload and download from LoTW.

LoTW has good directions on the details for establishing an LoTW Account and requesting the first Callsign Certificate. The issue is that they do not necessarily follow a good ordering and narrative that is helpful to the new user. Thus, links to the relevant sections of the LoTW help documentation will be provided. Please note that these directions are for the new ham who does not already have a LoTW Account or a Callsign Certificate. A ham that already has an account but looking to setup a new computer for TQSL should consult the LoTW Help Section https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/new-computer/.

The first step is to download and install the Trusted QSL (TQSL)  software. See https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/installation/ for information on downloading and installing the software. The software is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

After installing TQSL, the next step is to generate a “request” for a new Callsign Certificate. When requesting a Callsign Certificate for the first time, an LoTW Account will be created simultaneously. Again, the LoTW directions on this are quite good – https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/certreq/.

One of the points discussed in the help information is where to store Callsign Certificates, the certificate requests, and other LoTW information such as backups. The directions assumes Windows and uses C:\MyLoTWCertificates. If one knows enough about computers, this author strongly recommends  storing LoTW information (and all radio information backups!) in an online, synchronizing file service such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Box.com. It preserves data in the event of a computer crash and makes upgrading to a new system very easy.

After submitting the initial certificate request, waiting is required. Recall that one of the key design goals of LoTW is security in the form of authenticity and integrity of the logged QSOs. The LoTW system and staff will check the request against the FCC ULS database, create the account, and then will postal mail a postcard to the address listed on the FCC ULS registration. Once the postcard has been received, browse to https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw/password and enter the callsign and the password from the postcard. This password is not the LoTW Account password but is a password merely to validate the account. Once the postcard password has been entered, the LoTW Account is verified an LoTW will generate an e-mail containing the new LoTW Account password and the Callsign Certificate.

Once receiving the Callsign Certificate file, it must be accepted and stored in TQSL. See the directions at https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/certaccept/. Be sure to securely record the LoTW Account password. Also, be sure to create the recommended backup file listed in these directions because it will create all of the information needed to recreate the TQSL setup and certificates in the event of a computer crash. The .TQ6 received in e-mail cannot be used to recover the Callsign Certificate!

Once the Callsign Certificate has been loaded into TQSL, the next step is to create the first, default Station Location. See the directions at https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/stnloc/#Define.

Finally, test the LoTW Account login – https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/lotw-login/. The LoTW web interface will be covered in a later part.

The concludes part 2 of our Logbook of the World article series. Watch for part 3 on using TQSL to upload QSOs to LoTW.


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