Ham Radio Deluxe Newsletter for 2018-03-21

In this issue…

“Mini dumps” and Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook crash related to solar equinox

Events of yesterday have changed my newsletter topic. Yesterday was the spring equinox. Normally, it’s uneventful. But this year was different.

Solar Equinox

Today, almost simultaneously around the world (though it was more like a wave), our clients began reporting that Logbook crashed without warning. This crash happened regardless of Windows operating system version, and affected Ham Radio Deluxe versions all the way back to 5.x and up to the latest 6.4.0.794 version. About 45 minutes later, clients were able to restart Logbook and the program behaved normally.

Folks, the mystery has been solved... thanks to Mike, K7ZCZ.

Last fall he added mini-dump files to the trouble-shooting capabilities of Ham Radio Deluxe. Today, after he collected a file from one of these crashes, he found that there's a condition that occurs during each equinox -- twice each year. During an equinox, the grey line is nearly perpendicular to the equator. The code which implements the math to draw the grey line window in the Logbook, Mapper, and Rotator applications can "run amok". The bad math caused Logbook to crash. The condition continued until the equinox passed, when the gray-line no longer needed to be drawn nearly vertically.

Mike has coded a fix for this. The condition that caused it won't recur until the fall equinox about six months from now.

Mike’s findings are consistent with the observed symptoms: that the issue simultaneously affected any version of Ham Radio Deluxe on any version of Windows. For the technically-minded, the details of Mike's diagnosis can be seen in Mantis issue #2260.

A few folks contacted me and suggested a cause related to the equinox and I dismissed it at first. I apologize to those who suggested it. But fortunately, Mike sorted this out quickly using the mini-dump capabilities he added last fall.

Mini-dump files for crash analysis

Those who have received our newsletters have read that we have begun 2018 with a “troop surge”. We’ve ramped up to five developers behind a fundamental goal: to reduce the development backlog of defects and enhancement requests. We have had one release thus far in February of 2018. Another release is currently moving to beta.

One of the things that is a key component of increasing the quality of our software and reducing the time-to-resolve defects is the ability to collect detail about what cause an application to crash.

Last year, we implemented something called the “mini-dump”. By definition, a “mini-dump” file is “a small file that is saved to your computer when a program stops unexpectedly”. Basically, it contains information about what the application was doing when it stopped.

The mini-dump file enables developers to quickly diagnose problems with the application. The mini-dumps produced by HRD have enabled us to quickly find problems, fix them, and get releases out to our clients that eliminate problems.

Many folks saw messages pop up recently. We will be using this mini-dump on an on-going basis to improve the software. In future improvements to the mini-dump capability, we will include better instructions and potentially offer automated submission of mini-dumps. This will enable us to know how frequently certain problems occur so we can be proactive in solving the most problematic defects.

Again, we have ramped up the number of developers in an effort to cut through the backlog of defects and enhancement requests. We’re very much on-track and expect to close them this year and move on to “big ideas” and exciting new things from there.

73 de Mike, WA9PIE

HRD Software, LLC