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New User / Getting Started Forum The place for new users to discuss how to get started, and generally feel safe from the rest of the rabid technical community. If you just got your first scanner, this forum is for you.

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Old 11-07-2013, 10:48 PM
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Unhappy Scanner Frustration

My daughter just started as a dispatcher in one of the metro Denver area law/fire agencies. I decided I would get a scanner to listen to her at her new job.

I was a scanner hobbyist 30+ years ago and even built a Heathkit scanner years ago. I know things have changed and the system I wanted to monitor is on the state DTRS trunking system.

I purchased a Uniden BCD 396XT even though I knew it would be a challenge to program it. I have always done well with computers and thought I was up to the challenge. I liked the radio but after several frustrating days trying to learn to program it I had to return it. Even with the help of this forum and the simpler on line manual I could not get any programming I attempted to work. After giving up on manually programming it I thought I could uses the Radio Reference lists and online software to program it, but had to give up on that also. I only have Mac computers and the Windows only software was a pain. I tried using an older Windows XP laptop with no success. It needed to many updates and did not have enough memory. I gave up, returned the 396 and bought the Home Patrol 1.

The Home Patrol 1 was almost as frustrating. I was able to program it with the touchscreen and the Sentinel software but found the latest version of the software was still missing a lot of the channels I wanted. Also the week antenna would not consistently pick up the channels I needed. I am about 25 miles from the location I was trying to hear and could only hear about 1/4 of the transmission that I could hear with my iPhone scanner app.

Needless to say the Home Patrol ! was returned also today. I could not justify paying $500.00 for a radio that preformed worse then my iPhone app.

I hope soon some of the newer radios will be Mac friendly and improve their range and antenna. The 396 would have probably worked, if I could have programmed it, but the short range/bad antenna on the Home Patrol 1 really killed the deal for me. I expect in 2013 that a $500.00 radio should do better and be more user friendly then the Uniden models I tried. Going to have to stick to the iPhone app for now!!
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:23 PM
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Trying to receive a digital site from 25 miles out is pushing it for for any radio. I simple antenna upgrade would have probably cured this. As to the scanner programming you could have found someone in your area to program it for you, or used Scanner Master's programming services.

While phone apps are great they are at the mercy of another scanner enthusiast who streams that traffic to Broadcastify. If, for whatever reason, that feed provider should decide to discontinue that feed your phone app will be useless and you will still need a scanner to monitor that agency.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:32 PM
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As with anything technical today, one must RTFM and WIKI links here. Can try under Uniden as well. I wouldn't fault a scanner until I had tried most things that have been posted on the various threads. I have had problems with scanners, but that was more user error than the scanner. Just like your Macs, and iPhones, I have no idea what so ever how they work. And I am sure I would be frustrated with them in the beginning, just as I have had with other "smart" phones. The HomePatrol and Uniden [have never used a GRE] are manageable once one learns how to use favorites and what antennas work. A week antenna from more than 10 miles is going to be that, weak. As stated upgrade antennas on any radio does wonders, especially an external antenna.
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Old 11-08-2013, 1:25 AM
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Question Could he have prevented his own frustration ???

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinslep View Post
I gave up, returned the 396 and bought the Home Patrol 1.

The Home Patrol 1 was almost as frustrating. I was able to program it with the touchscreen and the Sentinel software but found the latest version of the software was still missing a lot of the channels I wanted. Also the week antenna would not consistently pick up the channels I needed. I am about 25 miles from the location I was trying to hear and could only hear about 1/4 of the transmission that I could hear with my iPhone scanner app.
tinslep, was NOT clear if he only just loaded the latest version of Sentinel and the HPDB to his laptop
AND ALSO performed a "Force Write Full Database" so that his new Home Patrol scanner would
have had the lateast onbaord database version of 11/06/13 and NOT the production default of 12/09/11.
To verify the in-scanner HPDB, tap Menu, Advanced Menu, down arrow to Version Information for DB date.
A period of 2 years is a long time and there have been no doubt many many changes to his areas info.

Also, I would have increased the default range from only 10 miles to the 30 mile maximum range setting.
Next, I would have turned off most or all of the default "Nationwide Systems" that would detract from local
reception by wasting scanning time scanning needless other frequencies instead of his local public safety.

Lastly, I would have picked up an SMA to BNC antenna adapter and used an external rooftop antenna !
Otherwise as pointed out a stock antenna in most likely NOT going to yield GREat reception at 25 miles!
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Last edited by Michael-SATX; 11-08-2013 at 1:37 AM..
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Old 11-08-2013, 2:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinslep View Post
My daughter just started as a dispatcher in one of the metro Denver area law/fire agencies. I decided I would get a scanner to listen to her at her new job.

I was a scanner hobbyist 30+ years ago and even built a Heathkit scanner years ago. I know things have changed and the system I wanted to monitor is on the state DTRS trunking system.

I purchased a Uniden BCD 396XT even though I knew it would be a challenge to program it. I have always done well with computers and thought I was up to the challenge. I liked the radio but after several frustrating days trying to learn to program it I had to return it. Even with the help of this forum and the simpler on line manual I could not get any programming I attempted to work. After giving up on manually programming it I thought I could uses the Radio Reference lists and online software to program it, but had to give up on that also. I only have Mac computers and the Windows only software was a pain. I tried using an older Windows XP laptop with no success. It needed to many updates and did not have enough memory. I gave up, returned the 396 and bought the Home Patrol 1.

The Home Patrol 1 was almost as frustrating. I was able to program it with the touchscreen and the Sentinel software but found the latest version of the software was still missing a lot of the channels I wanted. Also the week antenna would not consistently pick up the channels I needed. I am about 25 miles from the location I was trying to hear and could only hear about 1/4 of the transmission that I could hear with my iPhone scanner app.

Needless to say the Home Patrol ! was returned also today. I could not justify paying $500.00 for a radio that preformed worse then my iPhone app.

I hope soon some of the newer radios will be Mac friendly and improve their range and antenna. The 396 would have probably worked, if I could have programmed it, but the short range/bad antenna on the Home Patrol 1 really killed the deal for me. I expect in 2013 that a $500.00 radio should do better and be more user friendly then the Uniden models I tried. Going to have to stick to the iPhone app for now!!
A couple days and you just gave up and returned one then another scanner..hmm.

Look up a local amateur radio club. Go to a meeting and ask for some help. Hams are real friendly and someone will hook you up. Best of luck to you.
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Last edited by pinballwiz86; 11-08-2013 at 2:55 AM..
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Old 11-08-2013, 6:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinslep View Post
Needless to say the Home Patrol ! was returned also today. I could not justify paying $500.00 for a radio that preformed worse then my iPhone app.
I think this statement defines much of your problem. A scanner and a phone app are two entirely different things and have very little in common. A scanner requires a good antenna and will still only receive relatively local broadcasts. Transmitter power is also a large factor. The cell app isn't receiving broadcasts at all, it's streaming over your data connection, thus allows you to listen to feeds an unlimited distance away, you're comparing apples to oranges.
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Old 11-08-2013, 10:44 AM
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Hello, Tinslep Welcome to RR!

I understand your frustration. But, as you said, your laptop with XP ran out of memory before you could update the DSP, firmware, and the RR database to the SD card on the HP-1. Can't use FreeSCAN on iOS. Maybe Windows emulator on the Mac.

The 396XT would be the better bet. You can pick and choose what goes where in the scanner. I have both, and find the 396 much easier to operate.

Unfortunately, the new Uniden scanners coming out will require Windows to program and upgrade the scanners. This is the unfortunate aspect of scanning now.
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Last edited by N8IAA; 11-08-2013 at 10:51 AM.. Reason: correction
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Old 11-08-2013, 9:42 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I did spend most of the week with both radios. The 396 "seemed" to have a better range then the Home Patrol. The channels I was trying to receive were on the State of Colorado DTRS trunking system so I assumed being in the metro area I would still hear transmissions 25 miles away. I was hearing clear transmissions from Ft Collins and Weld County which are much farther then the ones I was trying to hear. I did finally get the Sentinel software 10-13 version by borrowing my daughters Vista PC and assumed I had the latest database. My daughter looked at the list of channels and said I was still missing a lot.

A lot of the frustration comes from the cost involved. These are expensive radios and then to still need a outdoor antenna or to be forced to use Windows to update these.... It just seems like there should be an easier way. Yes I could load Windows on my Mac and I used Windows for years, but since 2006 I have not had a single thing I do with computers not work with my Intel Macs.

I know there are a lot of hobbyists that do well with these radios, and I though I was up to the challenge. It really seems to me that you need to understand databases, talkgroups and the structure of how these digitals systems work a lot better then I do to be successful at this. It also seems like I am trying to do this at a time when there is very little choice in radios.

I may try again down the road. I just was surprised it was so difficult. I remember in the 70's having a scanner I had to program with 1's and 0's using the display LED's for each frequency (light on for 1 light off for 0). I can't remember the brand but remember it took forever. 1000100110011100010 = 146.000 or something like that. Can't say that part has gotten any easier.
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Old 11-09-2013, 6:22 AM
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I'm about 25 miles as the crow flies from a large trunked city, used to live in an apartment complex above the tree line in my area so I was starting out high up but still could not receive them, yet I can receive a major non trunked dispatch center 50 miles to the north.

I might suggest you look into getting a GRE/RadioShack scanner, I found it much easier to grasp the organization on those then the Unidens, maybe as a beginner it'll help. This isn't a Uniden bash as I plan on getting one after the new product release, but I've been trying to get a handle on them recently in preparation and they do seem to be a bit harder to wrap your head around, and I've been scanning on and off for over 30 years.

If you don't feel good about buying a defunct brand just wait till Whistler releases their line, I suspect they'll be the same as far as programming.
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Last edited by NHdave; 11-09-2013 at 6:28 AM..
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Old 11-09-2013, 1:28 PM
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Question But did the HP1 you evaluated actually the newest RRDB version not just the Sentinel

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinslep View Post
I did finally get the Sentinel software 10-13 version by borrowing my daughters Vista PC and assumed I had the latest database. My daughter looked at the list of channels and said I was still missing a lot.
1) "10-13" is not a Sentinal version ! ...(click down on Help then click About = ie Version 2.02 (revision 04)

2) Once Sentinal software is running, lQQk in the lower left corner to see Database version = ie11/06/2013

3)I From the Home Patrols screen ...Tap Menu / Advanced Menu / Down Arrow / Version Information
please make sure if you buy another Home Patrol when Radio Shack puts them on Sale this Sunday
that the newest database actually was TRANSFERED or FORCE WRITTEN to the Home Patrol
and NOT the 2 year old factory production default verion from 12/19/11 or YES it would be missing stuff
also make sure you have the proper "Service Types" , ZIP code, and Range settings (10 mile default)

4) Be advised at 25 miles away to get an SMA to BNC antenna adapter $19 from the RS parts drawers
and at minimum pickup the easy to shove or rig up somewhere up higher the mobile mag mount
antenna (RS # 200-0032) $32 and get it up higher in the house or out a window or something creative !

ps ~ Good Luck if or when you do jump back in the ring to give it another whirl - the Home Patrol is EASY

btw~ All trunking scanners go on sale Sunday (Hint Hint Wink Wink) ie HP1@469 and 396/996 @ $399
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Old 11-09-2013, 2:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballwiz86 View Post
A couple days and you just gave up and returned one then another scanner..hmm.

Look up a local amateur radio club. Go to a meeting and ask for some help. Hams are real friendly and someone will hook you up. Best of luck to you.
sometimes people's time is worth more than the costs and agravations of anything. I would gladly pay others to do programming for me. I am in the tech industry. We code and program multi-million dollar systems, our standard labor rate is 275/hr. I know all too well that tech support falls tremendously short everywhere. Customer service is horrible everywhere. I did end up programming one of my scanners and I had an online company do the others. They spent countless hours trying to program the scanners. Now they claimed to do several scanners a day and was well versed in this. If I recall they was recommended by this site. I can feel one's pain.

Have a great day
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Old 11-09-2013, 9:39 PM
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Default Phone Application, Limited

Patience is required for learning to operate most digital scanners, even intuitive since the latter sometimes requires firmware updates, etc.

A smart phone application will almost always not allow you to listen to the most interesting radio traffic, in my opinion. I am speaking of the more sensitive channels such as Narcotics, Homicide, SWAT, & Tactical. Yes, some of these are encrypted, but not always. But, you won't likely be hearing these on a smart phone application.
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Old 11-09-2013, 10:19 PM
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Here is a live feed over the internet that you might find helpful.
Denver Metro Area Live Audio Feeds
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Old 11-10-2013, 6:41 PM
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With the current crop of digital scanners one really needs to do proper research and have a lot of patience. I understand that many people just don't have the time nor motivation to spend countless hours programming a digital scanner. For those people I would suggest getting your scanner programmed by someone who knows what they are doing.
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Old 11-10-2013, 7:29 PM
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Smile Finally Success!

OK, I decided to give it one more try with a Radio Shack Pro-197. I picked one up yesterday (yes they went on sale today) and the 20-546 cable/ARC 500 Software demo.

After spending a few hours I was able to download the system I wanted. It worked very well with the stock antenna, much better then the Home Patrol. For some reason I just couldn't "get" the Uniden's. I know a lot of my early frustration was having to get a Windows computer running and my daughters Vista machine handles the software better then the Windows XP laptop I was trying. Also this one actually has a printed manual!
Yes, the programming is still a pain but I finally can make it work. I programmed 7 scanlists from 3 different counties that are all on the P25 State of Colorado system and can now scan 1 or all 7 or any combinations. I also upgraded the firmware before I started.

It is still going to take a while to grasp all this can do and yes I am frustrated that the software is only free for 7 days. At least I am on my way now!

BTW, I can't get the custom LED to light up. I though it would give you different colors depending on signal strength, but can't get it to work. Any Ideas? I tried the options in the book.
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Old 11-10-2013, 7:45 PM
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Before you pay for ARC500, take a look at Win500, generally considered to be one of the best, has a 30 day trial.

Win500: PSR-500, PSR-600, PRO-106, PRO-197, PSR-310, PSR-410 Scanner Software for Data Management, Monitoring, and Control

The LED can be set to different colors for different objects (frequencies), AFAIK it can't indicate signal strength. Make sure you have a look at the easier to read manual.

Easier to Read Pro-106/197/PSR500/600 Digital Scanner Manual
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Old 11-11-2013, 4:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinslep View Post
BTW, I can't get the custom LED to light up. I though it would give you different colors depending on signal strength, but can't get it to work. Any Ideas? I tried the options in the book.
tinslep, I use WIN500 for my Pro-197 from www starrsoft . com that has a 30-day free trial period to use.

On my Pro-197's LED, I program my PD's to Blue, FD's to Red, SO's to Gold, Military to Green,
and Fed's to Magenta, Media to White so as to easily ID the type of traffic being scanned at the time.
I make the LED flash for some Dispatch, SWAT, EOC and other rare traffic like Air Emergency's etc.

btw ~ Once you get your Pro-197's programming going well. I would sure make a backup copy of the
working load config down to the Virtual Folder #00 ie PGM, FUNC,PGM ... stor ...00 .. store ... yes.... etc.

ps~It's GREat to hear that you are well on your way and have scaled the learning curve that stopped you before !
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Old 11-11-2013, 5:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael-SATX View Post
tinslep, I use WIN500 for my Pro-197 from www starrsoft . com that has a 30-day free trial period to use.

On my Pro-197's LED, I program my PD's to Blue, FD's to Red, SO's to Gold, Military to Green,
and Fed's to Magenta, Media to White so as to easily ID the type of traffic being scanned at the time.
I make the LED flash for some Dispatch, SWAT, EOC and other rare traffic like Air Emergency's etc.

btw ~ Once you get your Pro-197's programming going well. I would sure make a backup copy of the
working load config down to the Virtual Folder #00 ie PGM, FUNC,PGM ... stor ...00 .. store ... yes.... etc.

ps~It's GREat to hear that you are well on your way and have scaled the learning curve that stopped you before !
I am doing better everyday. I have 10 scanlists programmed now and did figure out the LED on the software. I have police as blue, fire as red and school districts as yellow. I only did the agencies I am most interested in because it is time consuming to verify I have all the talk-groups identified correctly. I still struggle because the documentation on most features is not as user friendly as I would like, but slowly figuring it out.
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Old 11-11-2013, 6:36 PM
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tinslep, invest in Parallels. I run a Mac Mini, and I have Parallels with Windows 7 installed. The beauty of it? I can access all 16GB of RAM and the programs run faster. No problem with WIN500, and no problem with any RTSystems ham radio software
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Old 11-19-2013, 10:06 AM
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tinslep, I feel your pain! I've been a scanner listener for almost 30 years and have owned my share of scanners over that time (Uniden, Icom, and RadioShack/GRE). Until I recently (last week) bought a Uniden BDC996xt, my newest scanner was 10 years old and, although computer programmable, utilized the old bank and channel configuration. I almost think it would have been better to be a noob in this hobby to be able to understand Uniden's Dynamic Memory Architecture style of memory allocation. I've literally had to unlearn everything I knew. I've also found the feature set on the Uniden to be almost absurd! I firmly believe we have to simply focus on what we need to know to operate the scanner to a minimum level, first. Maybe later, we can move on to other, more advanced, features.
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