Getting the best out of the DX Cluster system

The most efficient way to use the DX Cluster system is to let the node that you are connected to (in our case MX0NCA-2) do the work.  In other words, set up the node so that it only sends you the spots that you want rather than have your logging software eg N1MM use valuable processing power to remove spots that you don’t want.  Don’t get them in the first place!  More importantly, this also reduces bandwidth at both ends.  

When you log on to a node for the first time, it will set up a “user account” for your Callsign and remember all of your settings.    This is important.  Any settings you make will stay in place until you change them.  

It may be that you want different settings for different operating periods for example during contests.   Choosing which type of spots and RBN spots to see, eg CW, FT8, RTTY or All, springs to mind.     You might be interested in certain bands for certain contests. You may want to limit where the spots you see emanate from; for example you may only want to see spots from UK stations. Whatever your need, the use of SSIDs is a powerful tool.  

SSIDs

An SSID is simply a number added to your Callsign eg G3YPP-1.    You can have as many as you want (1-99) although managing more than a few can get tricky to remember without lots of reminder “post-its” all over the shack walls.   The node sees each and every SSID as a separate Callsign creating an account for each – although the SSID is not appended to any spots you send.   Hence, you can set up different filters/commands for each SSID which are retained until you change them.     (When you are spotting someone else the SSID gets dropped). Examples could be:

Logged in as M0NCA -1           Filters set to show CW spots from UK stations
Logged in as M0NCA -2           Filters set to show HF spots from Europe
Logged in as M0NCA -3          Filters set to show spots with IOTA in the comment field.

The choice is endless

Another advantage of using SSIDs is that you can be logged into the node from more than one program/computer at the same time. The node will only allow one connection from an entity at a time. So if you log into the node with say M0NCA from N1MM you can’t be logged in as M0NCA at the same time from another program/computer. The first connection will get bumped off. Using different SSIDs for each connection removes this limitation.

FILTERS

Using filters allows you to select which spots you want to see and drop all others.   For example if you only want to see spots where the spotter is in CQ Zone 14 or 15 you can send the telnet command:

accept/spots by_zone 14,15 and/or
accept/rbn by_zone 14,15

Setting filters can be as complex as you like with full Boolean logic available; the full manual is here: The DXspider User Filtering Primer

Note that “normal” spots and RBN spots are handled separately and their filters must be added separately.

COMMON CLUSTER FILTER COMMANDS

You can have up to 10 accept and 10 reject filters in operation for each callsign-SSID for both “normal” and RBN spots

Filter syntax

reject/spots <0-9> pattern
accept/spots <0-9> pattern
reject/RBN <0-9> pattern
accept/RBN <0-9> pattern

Any of the following patterns may be used in this line …

freq <range>
on <range>      
info <string>
call <prefixes>
call_dxcc <numbers>
call_itu <numbers>
call_zone <numbers>
call_state <state 2-letter abbreviations>
by <prefixes>
by_dxcc <numbers>
by_itu <numbers>
by_zone <numbers>
by_state <state 2-letter abbreviations>

OTHER USEFUL CLUSTER COMMANDS

sh/filter – will show all the spot and RBN filters that you have set up on this SSID. Very useful if you have lost the all important post-it

sh/dx – will show the 10 most recent spots. You can add a number eg sh/dx 100 to show 100 spots

By adding a parameter to sh/dx specific stations or countries can be listed.  eg has Hawaii been seen recently?:

  • sh/dx kh6 – will list all of the recent spots for KH6 over the past few days.
  • sh/dx <callsign> will list all the recent spots for a particular callsign  

sh/muf <prefix> – will show the current muf to the country selected and predict the signal strength on each band by time.

sh/prefix <callsign> will give the country details for a callsign

sh/users – will show the users currently connected to the node.

USING THE RBN

To receive RBN spots issue the telnet command “set/skimmer”.
To stop receiving RBN spots issue the telnet command “unset/skimmer”
The set command can be mode specific such as:

set/skimmer cw
set/skimmer rtty
set/skimmer FT8
Set/skimmer cw rtty

Whereas the RBN servers push out a raw feed of every single report they get, the cluster software does a lot of work to remove bad spots and duplicates. This significantly reduces the users bandwidth and significantly improves the quality of the delivered spots.

The set/seeme command allows you to see ALL of the spots for your callsign before they go through the filtering process. By turning on set/seeme you will instantly see every spot for your callsign wherever in the world the spotter is located.

This is just a taster to show the power available at nodes and to encourage you to read further and take advantage of the system.