Saturday, July 11, 2009

DX Sherlock VHF alerts service suspended

An email from Gabriel, EA6VQ received at lunch time informs me that the very useful DX Sherlock VHF propagation warnings by email service has been suspended due to restrictions imposed by Gabriel's internet provider. This service sent personalised propagation alerts whenever DX Cluster spots indicated there was a likelihood of a VHF band opening from your specific location.

Although most of the time when I am available to take advantage of a VHF band opening, I'm keeping an eye on Gabriel's DX Sherlock real-time propagation maps, the email alerts were an extra tool to help make sure that you don't miss an opening. The suspension of the service, presumably due to an attempt by Gabriel's ISP to stop spam being sent over its system, will be a loss to the VHF community.

I don't see an easy or cheap solution to the problem. Although I pay for shared web hosting for my own websites, restrictions on the number of emails that can be sent through a server are normal these days, even when you are paying for a business class service. It's enough of a restriction to make it impractical for me to run an email newsletter for my main business site - I had to outsource that out to a third party.

Gabriel's email suggests that the solution will be to rent a virtual private server. This sounds expensive, and would presumably mean that users of the service would have to pay a subscription. If that were to be the case, it would be nice to have the option to receive the alerts by text message to a mobile phone as well.

But many might choose to opt out of the service rather than pay for it, so it would be a shame if it could not continue for free. Perhaps one of the providers of web services to the ham community could come to the rescue, such as QTH.net or QRZ.com? Or perhaps there is a ham who already runs a dedicated server who could let Gabriel send email from it for free?
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