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BCD996xt - New user completely lost

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W2IRT

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Hi guys,

I've been scanning since the early 80s but this 996xt is by far the most intimidating piece of technology I've encountered in many years. The more I read the more my brain shuts down as I attempt to go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole.

The radio itself is still not unpacked but I've been attempting to generate a beginner's codeplug for it (for wont of a better term--what can I say, I'm an old-school batwings guy) using ARC-XT, I took out a premium subscription to R.R. and have successfull "installed" a good number of conventional and trunked systems for my area (western Essex County, NJ and nearby Passaic Co. and Morris Co., as well as NYPD, FDNY and some aircraft frequencies.

The problem is how can I arrange all those downloaded frequencies/systems/etc into something usable? Let me explain how my trusty BC780 and BC785 are set up now. I'd kinda like to keep the overall schema more or less the same if at all possible. I typically use 7 old-style banks at the moment on my legacy scanners, and I'm comfortable with their bank numbers (i.e. probably quick-keys in the new way). But I just don't understand how to load things up.

For example, here's a very high-level overview of how things are set up now.
Bank 1: All Essex County PD, FD, EMS, and the West Orange Trunked system. I use this when I'm driving local roads east of my local area.
Bank 2: Morris County: Now obsolete as they're P-25, but it was the same principle as bank 1. All PD, all FD.
Bank 3: Passaic County. Same principle.
Bank 4: NJ State police
Bank 5: Local. This is the BIGGEST need. It has about 30 conventional frequencies representing the PD/FD/EMS agencies in my town and the four surrounding towns, which also inclides an EDACS trunked system for Verona.
Bank 6: FDNY & NYPD SOD along with Port Authority trunking system. Used when I drive into NYC.
Bank 7: PSE&G Electric, in case of blackouts (never heard anything useful, ever, but ya never know....)

As I said, I know the 996 works differenty, but I just have NO idea on how I can group all sorts of things together. For example, for my LOCAL area, I want a QuickKey that has West Caldwell PD, Fairfield PD, Caldwell PD, North Caldwell PD and Verona PD (trunked) and Montclair PD (trunked), as well as those corresponding town's FDs, and the local volly EMS squad, plus Caldwell Airport. I'm in the "browser" in ARC-XT and I see all the systems (One large folder for "Essex", another for Verona trunking, etc) but don't know where to go from here. How can I create one "bank" (or whatever the right terminology is for the 996) containing a few from here, a few from there, a couple of talkgroups from that other thing there, etc, and lump them into a manageable package of about 25 "channels", for lack of a better term.

Another idea would be when I'm driving east of my local area on I-80. Passaic County sheriff, Wayne PD (P25 trunked) and NJSP 3-comm and 4-comm (Mot. trunked).

Please just point me in the right direction and I can try to logic it out from there, but I don't even have a starting point here. I know I'll have a lot of questions once I get the basic radio working (never even listened to a P-25 system before, so that's going to be "fun" in its own right, I suspect), but for now, any assistance would be greatly appreciated--either here or via private email (preferred). Thanks in advance!

p.s. is there any possibility of importing data off my old 780 or 785, to use as a starting point? I've customized the heck out of the TG names over there.
 

Minus1

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First and foremost, you need to forget how things used to be in 'Banks' with numbered channels.

On the BCD996XT things are arranged like files are arranged on your computer.
'Systems' are Folders.
'Groups' are Sub-folders.
'Channels' are Files.

Start off deciding how you want to arrange things by creating Systems.
So using your current setup you might choose to have these Systems:
- Essex County
- Morris County
- Passaic County
- NJ State police
- Local.
- Verona EDACS
- NYC
- PSE&G Electric

Assign a quick key to each so you can access each easily.
*You can assign the same quick key to multiple systems.*
(You might need to split some of those above because conventional and trunked systems need to be separate systems.)

Then further sub-divide those by creating groups (sub-folders) in each systems.

Then add each frequency to a group.
 

W2IRT

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I still don't see how I can have a logical grouping (whatever the new terminology is called) of, say, 10 conventional frequencies, five talkgroups from the Verona EDACS trunked system, 8 talkgroups from the Morris County trunked system, and 3 talkgroups from the Montclair PD trunked system. Something I can just press ONE button to enable or disable.

Or how I can monitor a subset of two trunked systems when passing through a certain place. If I'm on I-80 between my home and NYC, I want only a couple of NJSP talkgroups and a few from the Passaic County Sherrif's Office, let's say (example only--there would be much more here).

Today, the way I'd do it is press one button for "East of me" (conventional), another for "NJSP" (trunked) and a third, disabling "LOCAL".

If I'm reading your post correctly, there would not appear to be any way of mixing and matching TGs from multiple trunked systems along with analog systems in a logical grouping that could be enabled/disabled with a single key....or else I'm really missing something important. Sorry if I'm being dense.
 

Minus1

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You're right, you can't.
A system can be either Conventional or MOT or EDACS, etc. But you can give more than one system the same QuickKey. So you could you example have systems for "NYC Conv", "NYC EDACS", "NYC MOT", but give them all the same Quick Key.
Equally you could have systems for "Verona EDACS", "Morris trunked", "Montclair PD" and again have them all set to the same QuickKey.

You might indeed have to enable/disable multiple quick keys.

Alternatively, simply duplicate systems under various quick keys. there's plenty of memory capacity. e.g. There's no reason you can't have System "A" under QuickKey 1 and a duplicate System "A" under QuickKey2.

I put the QuickKey number in my System Names to help me remember what they are. So in the above scenario I'd have "1 A" and "2 A", but both would be the same. But I might also have "1 B" and "2 C" which would be different. QK 1 woudl enable "1 A" and "1 B", and QK 2 would enable "2 A" and "2 C".
 

W2IRT

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I'm really confused now. The whole "QuickKey" thing has thrown me for a loop.

Let's say I have created a system I call "Local" and have assigned QuickKey 5 to it (that was "Bank 5" on my BC-780 and easy to remember). I have one group in there containing all the PD/FD/EMS conventional channels.

I want to add a bunch of trunked talkgroups from Verona to be part of that "system" I called local. Better still. Verona TRS (trunked radio system, as opposed to the radio's definition of "system"--I will use TRS in this thread) has four "groups" -- PD, FD, Rescue Squad and Common/Shared, each containing a few talkgroups. How would I include the Verona TRS PD group and FD group in my LOCAL "system" QuickKey 5, as an example?
 

W2IRT

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A related question just popped up, too.

My "LOCAL" system now contains five groups, one per town, with each group showing [Q1]
I think I'd prefer to have it broken down by PD, FD and EMS, rather than Fairfield, Roseland, Caldwell, West Caldwell and North Caldwell.

Is there any easy way to drag-and-drop to create these?
 

Minus1

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You can't add non 'conventional' things to a conventional system, you have to set up a NEW system for each of the non conventional types of talkgroup, and set the Quick Key of each system to 5.

Quick Key 5 will then control multiple Systems.
 

W2IRT

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I get that QuickKey 5 can do this and I get that TRS items from different systems must have their own systems...I'm just not sure how to assign a group of talkgroups from one system to QK5 in this instance, and still have that group of talkgroups available to be part of another system.

Let's say I want the Verona system group of talkgroups known as "Police" to be assignable to QK5 for my LOCAL scan group, but I might also want that same group of talkgroups (dispatch, tactical, detectives, etc) to be present in an overall Essex system QuickKey (let's say QK1) and again if I only want to monitor all services on the Verona TRS "system" alone. I *think* that's where I'm getting confused but I'm not even sure about that.
 

Minus1

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At the end of the day it is up to you to decide how best to arrange things to suit yourself.

If you want "Verona talkgroups" to be under QK5, and under QK1, and under it's own standalone QK (say 99), you're going to need to create 3 copies of "Verona talkgroups". *
Obviously that can get complicated if you want to do that with multiple groups of talkgroups.

Or you have to choose to just have one copy and accept the need to switch multiple QuickKeys on and off as you need.

It would be nice if Uniden let you assign multiple QuickKeys to each system, but you can't.

* Don't forget you can use System Hold to scan just one system. (Select any channel in the desired system and hold down the HOLD key until it says "Sysetm Hold On"
 

W2IRT

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Hmmm. Now this is making a bit more sense. What I'm after is simplicity. There's no way I'm going to remember 20 quick keys off the top of my head, especially when I only visit certain parts of the world once or twice a year. This scanner is going in my pickup truck, and driving a manual transmission in stop and go traffic takes an awful lot of concentration, so I want my workflow for using the radio to be as easy as possible. When I cross the border between Essex and Morris counties I don't want to have to remember to select 3 systems for Morris, remember which quick keys program the towns in eastern Morris, then de-select Essex, Verona and Montclair (the latter would be well out of range anyways). Right now it's a matter of one button for Essex and one button for Morris (well, it was before Morris went P-25). If this makes any sense <grin>.
 

hiegtx

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Hmmm. Now this is making a bit more sense. What I'm after is simplicity. There's no way I'm going to remember 20 quick keys off the top of my head, especially when I only visit certain parts of the world once or twice a year. This scanner is going in my pickup truck, and driving a manual transmission in stop and go traffic takes an awful lot of concentration, so I want my workflow for using the radio to be as easy as possible. When I cross the border between Essex and Morris counties I don't want to have to remember to select 3 systems for Morris, remember which quick keys program the towns in eastern Morris, then de-select Essex, Verona and Montclair (the latter would be well out of range anyways). Right now it's a matter of one button for Essex and one button for Morris (well, it was before Morris went P-25). If this makes any sense <grin>.
If I may offer a suggestion here.

If you want to have different 'sets' (my word there) of programming, for those other areas, programmed in the scanner, but be able to switch from "Essex" to "Morris" or to "Montclair", or however you divide up your regions, that's easily accomplished with startup keys.

For each group of systems, that you'd like to to enable, or disable, at one time, give all those systems the same key number. Let's say you assign startup key 1 to the 'Morris' related systems. Then, use 2 for the Essex ones, 3 for Verona, and 4 for Montclair related systems. Note that each system in those groupings can still have their own individual system/site (for trunked systems) quick key so that you can still toggle the individual systems off within each startup set.

Additionally, systems that you always wanted to scan, such as your state police, would not be assigned a startup key. These would be scanned regardless of startup key used, unless toggled off by using the assigned quick key for that system (site for a trunked system). Also, any that you want to be active on more than one (but not all) startup key would need to be duplicated, with the additional key assigned to that dupe. I do that for some 'overlap' systems on a regional trip I make fairly often. Some of the systems can be heard in more than one of the segments I've defined.

Presuming you have your systems assigned to various startup keys, the rest is easy. Presuming your starting in 'Morris' (key 1), with the scanner turned off, press and hold the 1 key while turning the scanner on. Continue holding the 1 for a few seconds until you hear a confirmation beep and you'll also see a screen message about using that configuration.

When you get ready to transition into 2 (Essex in my example), turn the scanner off, then back on while pressing & holding down the 2 key. That's all it takes. Note that once you've picked a startup configuration, you don't have to repeat the "press & hold" each time you turn the scanner off and on, unless you want to change the configuration used. If you used key 1, it will continue to use that, until told otherwise. (See this short post on the new 536HP scanner. While that is on the use of 'startup keys' on 'favorites lists', it's the same principle as groups of systems on your scanner.)

Of course, the other way to do all this is to just use a GPS, since you're going to have the scanner mounted in your truck (see this for a more extreme example).
 

bob550

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I'm beginning my 3rd month of ownership of the 996xt. Like you, my scanner listening days go back 30 years when your only choices were what frequency you program in what channel and bank. My first programmable scanner had 45 channels and didn't even have banks. Because of all the flexibility of these machines, it's easy to feel swamped. My current solution for organization is the creative use of the "quick keys". I have grouped my systems and talkgroups according to geographic location (county) and specialty (Federal govt., Railroad, etc.). For example, I'll use the same Quick Key number for all public safety in my local county. I use the Quick Key Manager in FreeScan to turn on or off what I wish to hear. I guess I think of Quick Keys as my banks. In any event, I've found the need to keep written notes as a reference to exactly what I did so I don't get lost.
 

W2IRT

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I was away for the weekend and just getting back to this now, and I'm more confused than ever. Can't figure out how to assign a trunked system to a quick key. I can see how to add multiple conventional systems, but doesn't seem to be a way to add a trunked system.

This is really so incredibly far over my head I'm not sure I'm even going to keep it, and just forego digital trunking. So far I'm really not seeing how the new system is an improvement in any manner shape or form.
 

hiegtx

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I was away for the weekend and just getting back to this now, and I'm more confused than ever. Can't figure out how to assign a trunked system to a quick key. I can see how to add multiple conventional systems, but doesn't seem to be a way to add a trunked system.

This is really so incredibly far over my head I'm not sure I'm even going to keep it, and just forego digital trunking. So far I'm really not seeing how the new system is an improvement in any manner shape or form.
For a trunked system, the System Quick Key is actually the Site Quick Key. Should you decide to also use Startup keys on a Trunked system, that is also done at the Site level.

The Site is the part of the system where the system frequencies are entered. Your groups, in a trunked system, contain only the talkgroups carried by that system, in other words, transmitted by the individual sites.

Perhaps some of the information and linked articles on this Wiki page will help: Program your DMA Scanner - The RadioReference Wiki
In particular, take a look at the two items linked in the section labeled "Nuts and Bolts". Also take a look at this at your convenience.
 

W2IRT

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Steve, I've seriously read, re-read and re-read as much as I can find. No, check that. I've perused all these links and I am just not getting it. Not even at the kindergarten level. I thought I had a grasp of even conventional systems...I have the LOCAL group set up as I want with conventional channels in it but I can't even figure out how to access the damned thing when I power the radio up. I *thought* I had only it enabled but the display is making no sense. I have HOLD flashing on the top, ESSEX (which I thought was system #1 below that---but I also thought it was disabled. Scan is scrolling below this S0: 123-*---*- below that and GRP 1--------- on the bottom.

I cant even find any easy way to say "DISABLE EVERYTHING EXCEPT <x>" or "Enable This and that but not that other."

Putting 2000 commands on a page, each with their own shortcut and you-have-to-know-what-it-means-already terminology just doesn't work for me. I know what a conventional channel is. I understand what a trunked system is. I do NOT know what to do with these in the new Bearcat terminology/hierarchy. Is there any manual or programming guide out there that gives real-world examples of how a normal user would want to program this thing to monitor a combination of systems? I've tried Mark's pages and they are mind-numbingly complex by orders of magnitude. I'm looking for something a six year old can understand at this point. Including "How can I just scan my local stuff, how can I stop a scan and select a specific talkgroup or conventional frequency in a hurry -- i.e. the local vollies' siren just goes off in town--how can I rapidly, in 2 or 3 keypresses, stop everything else and find out what that call is.

Sorry, honestly, for being this dense, but I'm seriously brain dead with this new thing. I'm obviously missing some key piece of the puzzle. I'd rather not have to be a radio engineer just to hear what's happening in my neighbourhood.
 

hiegtx

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Steve, I've seriously read, re-read and re-read as much as I can find. No, check that. I've perused all these links and I am just not getting it. Not even at the kindergarten level. I thought I had a grasp of even conventional systems...I have the LOCAL group set up as I want with conventional channels in it but I can't even figure out how to access the damned thing when I power the radio up. I *thought* I had only it enabled but the display is making no sense. I have HOLD flashing on the top, ESSEX (which I thought was system #1 below that---but I also thought it was disabled. Scan is scrolling below this S0: 123-*---*- below that and GRP 1--------- on the bottom.
If you see "Hold" flashing on the top of the screen, you are in what's called "System Hold" mode. To get out of that, simply press & hold down the "Hold" key for a few seconds till you hear a 'beep'. That will return the scanner to normal operation. The System Hold mode is started by holding down for a couple of seconds on the Hold key. Sounds like you may have done that unintentionally. However, that mode is also useful as a quick way to narrow down, or restrict (if you prefer that term) to one single system. I use it on occasion when, say, Dallas Fire Rescue gets a multi-alarm fire or some other major incident. Instead of bumbling around, locking out other systems and channels, I just "hold" on Dallas Fire and let the scanner monitor only that system. Once the incident is over, I press the hold button for a couple of seconds to release 'system hold' mode & return to normal scanning.

I cant even find any easy way to say "DISABLE EVERYTHING EXCEPT <x>" or "Enable This and that but not that other."
As noted above, the easiest way to concentrate on just one specific system is by using system hold. That way, you don't have to try to lock out other systems or channels/talkgroups, then try to remember which were locked out so you can unlock them later. To pick and choose a selection of systems to disable, use the system quick keys. If it's a specific group of systems, that you'll always want to turn on or off at the same time, then startup keys, as I mentioned previously, might work out.
Putting 2000 commands on a page, each with their own shortcut and you-have-to-know-what-it-means-already terminology just doesn't work for me. I know what a conventional channel is. I understand what a trunked system is. I do NOT know what to do with these in the new Bearcat terminology/hierarchy. Is there any manual or programming guide out there that gives real-world examples of how a normal user would want to program this thing to monitor a combination of systems? I've tried Mark's pages and they are mind-numbingly complex by orders of magnitude. I'm looking for something a six year old can understand at this point. Including "How can I just scan my local stuff, how can I stop a scan and select a specific talkgroup or conventional frequency in a hurry -- i.e. the local vollies' siren just goes off in town--how can I rapidly, in 2 or 3 keypresses, stop everything else and find out what that call is.
Number tags are one way to access a single channel or system rapidly.

Sorry, honestly, for being this dense, but I'm seriously brain dead with this new thing. I'm obviously missing some key piece of the puzzle. I'd rather not have to be a radio engineer just to hear what's happening in my neighborhood.
There is a learning curve, to be sure. But the system is very logical. Once the pieces start to fall into place for you, you can begin to utilize more of the features available. I don't use the ARC-XT software; I primarily use FreeSCAN, though I also have ProScan. But there are a number of other members that do use ARC-XT. Perhaps one of them, perhaps in your own state, could look at your programming file & help you over some of the rough spots.
 

ka3jjz

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Trying to do too many systems at once always tends to get people flustered, many times because of all the new concepts.

I would strongly suggest that you try to make only one system work. Do one that you know well. Then gradually make changes as your understanding improves. For example, once you're comfortable with just one system, set up a 2nd system and try the number tag feature. And ALWAYS back up your configuration so if something goes haywire, you can revert to your last working level. You can do this regardless of the application you are using.

Certainly getting a file from someone in your area is one way to go, but I think you'll find doing a 'small steps, Sparks'' (movie buffs will recognize that phrase) approach you will learn more with less frustration

HTH...Mike
 

W2IRT

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Mike, that does sound like a good idea. As I stated upthread, I grabbed all the stuff that I was interested in off RadioReference and made a profile for all of it, but yeah, getting one or two things working well first might be better. I have the profile set saved as "experimental1.PFL" in my Dropbox account so it's safe, and I can come back to it as needed. Is there an easy way to wipe the whole scanner to factory default? II'll then load only 3 systems (my "local" conventional system, the EDACS system from one town over and the Motorola 800MHz system from two towns over) and see what happens.

I would rather get the hang of QuickKeys and group quick keys first and thoroughly understand how to use them in the real-world.

Steve, I think in the example I gave upthread about the vollies, I'm not so much after a key for one specific thing, just "in general." Suppose I'm scanning and see a Fairfield PD car light up and pull a car over. I'd like to quickly hit their main frequency on the run. Or if I hear the siren go off for my conventional town FD when I'm listening to an EDACS PD talkgroup from the next town over, etc. In other words, so I can get back to the same level of convenience I had on my 780. "Manual, 206, Manual" or "Manual, rotate to 206". That kind of thing.
 

hiegtx

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Mike, that does sound like a good idea. As I stated upthread, I grabbed all the stuff that I was interested in off RadioReference and made a profile for all of it, but yeah, getting one or two things working well first might be better. I have the profile set saved as "experimental1.PFL" in my Dropbox account so it's safe, and I can come back to it as needed. Is there an easy way to wipe the whole scanner to factory default? II'll then load only 3 systems (my "local" conventional system, the EDACS system from one town over and the Motorola 800MHz system from two towns over) and see what happens.

I would rather get the hang of QuickKeys and group quick keys first and thoroughly understand how to use them in the real-world.
Turn the scanner off.
Press, and continue to hold down, the "Hold"(Manual), "2", and "9" keys while turning the scanner back on.
You'll see a message telling you that you're clearing the scanner memory (that's what you want anyway).
You'll also get a prompt asking if you want to 'restore' the preloaded systems. Press the "no" (the decimal point key) to decline that.

When the scanner finishes booting up, you'll see "nothing to scan", since the memory is clear.

Use your software, and saved file. to selectively load only the systems you want to try first.

Steve, I think in the example I gave upthread about the vollies, I'm not so much after a key for one specific thing, just "in general." Suppose I'm scanning and see a Fairfield PD car light up and pull a car over. I'd like to quickly hit their main frequency on the run. Or if I hear the siren go off for my conventional town FD when I'm listening to an EDACS PD talkgroup from the next town over, etc. In other words, so I can get back to the same level of convenience I had on my 780. "Manual, 206, Manual" or "Manual, rotate to 206". That kind of thing.
Peter,

That's where the Number Tags come into play. You can assign a specific tag to, say Fairfield PD Dispatch, then with a minimum number of key presses, go straight to that frequency (or talkgroup, if it's on a trunked system). The same applies for your FD, Give their dispatch number a tag. Siren goes off, or you see smoke boiling up, hit that number tag to jump to their channel. The number tag page was linked above; here it is again. I also have a 780XLT.
 
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