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Review of Ham University     
from QRZ.COM 
posted by wpeloqui on Sunday April 29, @07:20PM
from the review dept.
Mathew, KD6MSI writes "After almost ten years of being a ham, I have finally gotten up the fortitude to learn Morse Code. Well, truth be told, I really am enjoying the process. I have Ham University to thank for this. Let me just start by saying that I *love* this program. It is quite simply the best bit of learning software I have found.
This is a review of Ham University, a program orignially sold by AEA before they declared bankruptcy. It is now sold and supported by it's author, Michael Crick, from his web site.
The strengths of ham university are it's ease of use and fun approach to learning things which may have bedeviled the average ham (or potential ham) such as code or the higher level written test.

It is available from Mr. Crick's website as a fully functional demo which works for a week before it starts randomly shutting down. This random close down is a not-so-subtle reminder that you need to buy the program.

The program is chocked full of useful features. You can use as many or as few of them as you like, and initially it is very intuitive and easy to use. The portion I am currently using is the morse code trainer. This uses a series of fifteen one minute drills which introduce new letters as each series is completed. As you learn new letters and symbols, you are repetitively reinforcing the codes you have already learned by their inclusion in the current drill. It is a very effective, and I should add, very enjoyable process that takes the fear factor out of learning code. An animated cat encourages you as you go, named, what else? "morse" the cat. When you finish the lessons, there are excersises that you can do in which the computer sends sentences to you at speeds and settings that are user defined. The sentences themselves can be user defined as well, and constructed so that as little or as much word substitution is included (think random sentences).

There is a code game called Pentode. It's kind of a cross between morse code and a variation on tetris.

The program includes all the questions (updated) for the three classes of license. There are excercises and practice tests if you are working on your written portion of the testing process. The program even includes a link to the arrl testing site web database so you can look up where the nearest local testing site is.

This program does have room for constructive criticism, so here goes. First of all, like many programs of it's kind, It really dosen't have any information about why things are the way they are. It's really just about memorization. So when you get the question wrong about inductors, it dosen't give you information to help you learn about inductors. It simply tells you what the right answer is, encouraging simple memorization of the written portion of the test. This, in my view, is a significant weakness in this program, and a poor approach to licensing.

Another problem with this program is the copy protection. With the copy protection scheme as it stands, you have to install the program from the original disk (making backup impossible). It won't install from another media. For instance, I copied it to a ham software CD-R for safekeeping, which I later learned is a useless gesture since I can't install from that disk. In addition, it can only be installed on one computer. What if you have two computers at home? I believe that any number of means could have been used by the author to protect his investment that would be less intrusive and limiting to the user. Let me be fair here; the author was very responsive when I e-mailed him with my concerns about the copy protection. He assured me that they are working on an improved copy protection scheme. He also said, "Hams are such generous people... I understand their desire to share a program with others that they feel would be helpful. But I do need to protect this program as it is a significant source of income to me." Support is strong on this product. He responds in a timely fashion and I was satisfied with the support I recieved.

In addition, I Think he needs to be a bit more user friendly in his approach to encouraging people to buy his product. Simply auto-closing the program in the middle of a lesson is, well, rude. Finally, the price tag in my estimation is a bit higher than it should be. It is currently $40.00 without the manual, $45.00 with the manual. The manual is nothing more elaborate than a laserjet copy, folded and stapled. Definetly not worth five dollars. The help files are just fine. This program should be at least ten dollars cheaper in my estimation.

In spite of the constructive criticism, I strongly recommend this program to anyone needing a superb learning tool for Morse code especially, and the written tests as well. The fully functional demo can be downloaded from:

73 DE KD6MSI, Mathew


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