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Need Help with Unitrunker

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#1
Hey everyone. This website is great -- so much info!

So I'm in Ottawa, Ontario, and I'm using Unitrunker with a single RTL-SDR. I have followed the tutorial over on rtl-sdr.com and the first VCO is decoding the control channel fine. The site window pops up, I can see all the channels, and I even spent about 20 minutes with my UV-5R figuring out which channel corresponds to which frequency, and entered them by hand. I figured after doing this the second VCO would start picking up the voice (as it is just analog) but still no luck I'm pretty sure I have everything set up correctly. The center frequency of the RTL-SDR may be too high, but even so at least SOME of the channels should be within the bandwidth available (I really really really wish Unitrunker would let you set the center freq... can't imagine why that is not available).

I feel like I'm missing something obvious. Do I have to tell the second VCO which channel I want to monitor? VCO 1 is set to Signal, VCO 2 to voice. I have P25 and ProVoice unchecked, analog checked. When I manually enter a frequency into VCO 2, it will pick it up, but I didn't think that you had to do that. I thought it was supposed to follow whichever channel is active? (This is how I know at least some of the channels are within the bandwidth of the RTL-SDR). There's a couple settings that I'm unsure of -- Rank, for one. VCO 2 says it is Parked (not sure if that's significant).

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

j0atm0n

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#2
Just my 2 cents but ....
Working with only 1 sdr dongle is difficult and will probabbly require additional software. I would just go ahead and shell out another $20 for another dongle to avoid the headache and hassles.

You do have another option to try , use your UV-5R as a audio input into unitrunker as the control channel monitor , and have your sdr dongle act as voice channel receiver.
 
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#4
That's not true -- I know for a fact it will work, as long as both the control channel and the voice channel are within the bandwidth of the dongle. I actually had it BRIEFLY work, for less than a second earlier -- I was playing around with the rank setting and suddenly I caught the end of a transmission. With the sample rate at about 2,56Msps, it should give me about 2MHz bandwidth (so +/- 1MHz, centered around 142.5925MHz). As I said, if I manually tune the second VCO to a channel I know is part of the trunked system, I do pick up transmissions.

Yes, eventually I'll pick up another dongle (and where on earth are you paying $20?! I haven't seen one over $10 in ages).

But even then, should Unitrunker just be automatically following the control channel? How does it determine which voice channel to play? I notice that they all have priorities (set to 50 at the moment). If there are multiple channels with the same priority, how does it determine which one to play?
 

j0atm0n

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#5
Yes, eventually I'll pick up another dongle (and where on earth are you paying $20?! I haven't seen one over $10 in ages).
NooElec - NooElec NESDR Mini 2+ 0.5PPM TCXO USB RTL-SDR Receiver (RTL2832 + R820T2) w/ Antenna and Remote Control - NESDR RTL-SDR Receivers - SDR Receivers - Software Defined Radio are the ones i use ,
the 0.5PPM TCXO helps

When i started off using rtl sdr i only had 1 dongle but used sdr sharp and unitrunker with a the serial controller addon to forward the active channel information from unitrunker into sdr sharp.
it was very buggy and a pain in the arse to say the least.
 

Dog

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#6
Sounds like you are missing a small detail somewhere. It should work with one dongle.

It might help to post screen shots of your signal and voice receiver settings.



If I was going to buy new ones today I would buy these. They have SMA antenna connectors instead of the crappy mcx connector. They also have metal cases.

With antennas $27.95
NooElec NESDR SMArt - Premium RTL-SDR w/ Aluminum Enclosure, 0.5PPM TCXO, SMA Input & 3 Antennas. RTL2832U & R820T2-Based


No antennas $20.95
NooElec NESDR SMArt - Premium RTL-SDR w/ Aluminum Enclosure, 0.5PPM TCXO, SMA Input. RTL2832U & R820T2-Based
 

dave3825

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#9
Just my 2 cents but ....
Working with only 1 sdr dongle is difficult and will probabbly require additional software. I would just go ahead and shell out another $20 for another dongle to avoid the headache and hassles.

You do have another option to try , use your UV-5R as a audio input into unitrunker as the control channel monitor , and have your sdr dongle act as voice channel receiver.



You need a second dongle for it to work properly. One dongle for the control channel and one for voice.

I have been using 1 dongle for a long time and I monitor an 800MHz Mot type 2, Analog and APCO-25 Common Air Interface system. The only additional software needed was vbcable to carry the digital to dsdplus. For a system that's just analog, no additional software is needed. For anything that has digital, vbcable (free) and dsdplus (free) would be required.

From looking at the system he is listening to, it's the same type as mine, Analog and APCO-25 Common Air Interface. RadioReference.com - Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference Database . So to hear any digital, he would need vbcable and dsd to hear the digital. But he should still be getting the analog with just unitrunker and 1 dongle.

The dongles only have a 2.4 mhz spread, so you need to set the sample rate for 2.560, which he already did.

There are guides on the web that explain how to listen to trunked systems using just one dongle. One good one is here, The Easy Setup Guide for RTL-SDR Trunking with One USB Dongle | ULTRA TechLife



That's not true -- I know for a fact it will work, as long as both the control channel and the voice channel are within the bandwidth of the dongle. I actually had it BRIEFLY work, for less than a second earlier -- I was playing around with the rank setting and suddenly I caught the end of a transmission.
Correct, one dongle should work.

You should not have to play with rank settings for it to work unless more of the digital comms are out numbering the analog comms. Until you get this working with just the analog, you can actually lockout all the digital talkgroups. That would help out getting the voice up and running. Once that's working, then you could get vbcable and dsd to decode the digital comms..


With the sample rate at about 2,56Msps, it should give me about 2MHz bandwidth (so +/- 1MHz, centered around 142.5925MHz). As I said, if I manually tune the second VCO to a channel I know is part of the trunked system, I do pick up transmissions.
If that is the center of the spread you're listening to, try putting that in the box marked "park" in the voice vco. That's what I did to get mine up and running. You will also need to set the squelch in the voice vco when you get this working. Can you post the actual site you're trying so we can see the freqs?

Yes, eventually I'll pick up another dongle (and where on earth are you paying $20?! I haven't seen one over $10 in ages).
The better quality dongles are about 20.00. They have improved freq drift and a bunch of other stuff that make them better than the average 10.00 dongle. I started with 2 10.00 dongles and used them for the 800 MHz system. One for signal, one for voice. Then I stumbled across sites explaining how to trunk with just one dongle. So that freed up the second dongle to listen to other stuff using sdrsharp while unitrunker was doing its thing. Now I have the 2 dongles, plus an Airspy mini so now I can listen to 2 trunked systems, and still have a free dongle to use.


But even then, should Unitrunker just be automatically following the control channel? How does it determine which voice channel to play?
It gets that from the control channel.


I notice that they all have priorities (set to 50 at the moment). If there are multiple channels with the same priority, how does it determine which one to play?
That I am not sure of as I locked out most of the tg's that I do not want to hear so that left me with like 30, so I have them prioritized to my liking.
 
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#10
I have been using 1 dongle for a long time and I monitor an 800MHz Mot type 2, Analog and APCO-25 Common Air Interface system. The only additional software needed was vbcable to carry the digital to dsdplus. For a system that's just analog, no additional software is needed. For anything that has digital, vbcable (free) and dsdplus (free) would be required.

From looking at the system he is listening to, it's the same type as mine, Analog and APCO-25 Common Air Interface. RadioReference.com - Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference Database . So to hear any digital, he would need vbcable and dsd to hear the digital. But he should still be getting the analog with just unitrunker and 1 dongle.
Exactly. I actually have now set up vbcable, I already had DSD installed, so now the digital output is going to DSD. However, it's not receiving any input and not decoding anything either. I'm assuming the digital output comes from the signal VCO? Or does it come from the voice VCO? I will try both again and see what happens. Still no output from either.

The dongles only have a 2.4 mhz spread, so you need to set the sample rate for 2.560, which he already did.

There are guides on the web that explain how to listen to trunked systems using just one dongle. One good one is here, The Easy Setup Guide for RTL-SDR Trunking with One USB Dongle | ULTRA TechLife
Yup, read that one, that's how I got as far as I did.
Correct, one dongle should work.

You should not have to play with rank settings for it to work unless more of the digital comms are out numbering the analog comms. Until you get this working with just the analog, you can actually lockout all the digital talkgroups. That would help out getting the voice up and running. Once that's working, then you could get vbcable and dsd to decode the digital comms..
Okay, interesting. I wasn't sure about this. I'm not sure if the rank needs to be *higher* than the Priority each channel has, or lower. I also wasn't sure what that even does, if it filters out certain channels or something.
If that is the center of the spread you're listening to, try putting that in the box marked "park" in the voice vco. That's what I did to get mine up and running. You will also need to set the squelch in the voice vco when you get this working. Can you post the actual site you're trying so we can see the freqs?
As the guy above pointed out, its the Bell FleetNet Ontario Zone 2 System. It is mixed analog/digital but it seems to be more than %50 analog. Which is nice, makes it easier for me. I used the frequencies from the RR page about the system to get many of the channels set up. I would tune it on my radio, and watch the channels in Unitrunker. When I heard a transmission start, one of the channels would simultaneously have a target appear. It was really easy to pick them off. However there are way more channel that I'm picking up than listed on the RR page, so when I (eventually) pick up another RTL dongle I will have to try and figure them out. If I do, can I submit them to RR? Also, why doesn't the RR page include which channel each freq is associated with? That would be nice.

The better quality dongles are about 20.00. They have improved freq drift and a bunch of other stuff that make them better than the average 10.00 dongle. I started with 2 10.00 dongles and used them for the 800 MHz system. One for signal, one for voice. Then I stumbled across sites explaining how to trunk with just one dongle. So that freed up the second dongle to listen to other stuff using sdrsharp while unitrunker was doing its thing. Now I have the 2 dongles, plus an Airspy mini so now I can listen to 2 trunked systems, and still have a free dongle to use.
Fair enough. I'm an EE by training, and a ham by choice, so I have a pretty intimate understanding of how these dongles work at the hardware level. So I know what the parts actually cost, and how much it costs to assemble, and $20 is quite the markup. NooElec are fairly reputable though, so it will be well-made at least. But the super cheap "eBay special" one I have seems to work great. Just have to compensate for the frequency error in software and it's bang-on.

It gets that from the control channel.

That I am not sure of as I locked out most of the tg's that I do not want to hear so that left me with like 30, so I have them prioritized to my liking.
Well, I really appreciate all the info. I really feel like I must be missing something small, so I might re-install unitrunker and re-set everything up again... We'll see how ambitious I feel.

Thanks for the help guys, and any more info anyone has on how Unitrunker is supposed to work, would be GREATLY appreciated :)
 
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#11
Also, how does VCO 2 know that I want it to follow VCO 1's decoded trunking? Is it always the next VCO by default? It would be nice if you could tell it "I want this VCO to tune to the active channels this other VCO is decoding"
 

Dog

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#12
I notice that they all have priorities (set to 50 at the moment). If there are multiple channels with the same priority, how does it determine which one to play?
Rank

This field sets the listening threshold for voice calls. Group and user calls numerically equal to or less than this threshold become candidates for listening. Normal range for this is 1 to 99.

The call ranking mechanism is probably backwards from what you might expect. It's actually a ranking rather than a weight system. A smaller number is higher in rank or more important than a call with a larger number. There's some history to this. In the late nineties, DOS programs like Trunker and ETrunker used this mechanism for preemptive scanning. This useful mechanism has been retained along with its quirky semantics.

At any given moment, each active call falls into one of four "ranked" categories. First is the currently monitored call. Second is any call ranked higher than the current call. Calls in this second category quickly become the current call - preempting whatever was in progress at the time. Third are calls with the highest, most listenable ranking - equal to or less than the current call. These are calls that might become the highest ranking call once the current call drops. Forth are calls beyond the listening threshold. This last category is the hole into which unwanted voice calls go so as to not tie up your voice receiver with unnecessary banter. The receiver's rank setting controls the size of this latter category.

Here are four scenarios to illustrate.

Three group calls all at the same ranking of 50. The voice role receiver's threshold is also 50. All three calls get an equal shot at being the current voice call. Since they are all the same ranking, no call can preempt the other. The first call "wins". When the current call drops, one of the other two calls may become the currently monitored call.
Three group calls with ranking of 10, 30, and 50. The voice role receivef's threshold is 50. The 10-ranked call will always be heard when present. The 30 ranked call will be heard if the 10-ranked call is not active. The 50-ranked will be heard of the 30-ranked call is not active. An exception to this is if you click "hold". While a call is "held", the whole call ranking mechanism goes out the window. A held call cannot be preempted. Un-holding (or pressing skip) returns to normal ranked call processing.
Three group calls with ranking of 10, 30, and 50. The voice role receivef's threshold is 30. The 10-ranked call will always be heard when present. The 30 ranked call will be heard if the 10-ranked call is not active. The 50-ranked call will never be heard. If you click on Hold while the 30-ranked call is active, it can't be preempted by the 10-ranked call.
Three group calls with ranking of 10, 30, and 50. The voice role receivef's threshold is 10. The 10-ranked call will always be heard when present. The 30-ranked call and 50-ranked call will never be heard.
Voice Following


Also, how does VCO 2 know that I want it to follow VCO 1's decoded trunking? Is it always the next VCO by default? It would be nice if you could tell it "I want this VCO to tune to the active channels this other VCO is decoding"
When you set it to a "voice role" It knows to follow the signal vco.
 

dave3825

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#14
So looking at your pics further, I see some questionable stuff.

The pic showing the freqs for site 6, has too many freqs. Some are not even listed in site 6 and some that are listed for site 6 do not seem to be in unitrunker. Either its an error, or they are part of the site and radioreference was never updated.

Did you type them in by hand or did you let unitrunker download them? Or did you start with the control channel, and unitrunker populated the rest? If your a paid subscriber here on radio reference, unitrunker can download the system in most cases...

Also in the the pics, it's showing 142.830 as the control channel. That freq is listed in the following,

Bell FleetNet - Ontario Provincial Government Zone 1, sites 20, 33 and 37. Its listed in site 37 as an alternate control channel

Bell FleetNet - Ontario Provincial Government Zone 2, sites 6 and site 29. Site 29 lists it as an alternate control channel

Bell FleetNet - Ontario Provincial Government Zone 4, sites 8, 13, 30, 31 and 36. Its listed as either alt cc or the cc.

Bell FleetNet - Ontario Provincial Government Zone 3, sites 17 and 25, where it's listed as a control channel.

I am not familiar with canadian boundaries, so I dont know whats close to you other than site 6 thats Ottawa. So what I mean is if a cc in ottawa (site 6) and another town are both using 141.830 as a cc at the same time, that might explain all the extra freqs.

I would go into site your 6, and delete all freqs except for the following,
141.405 141.690 141.870 142.095a 142.155 142.245 142.335
142.680 142.890 142.830c

And fill in whatever is missing. I did not see 142.155 listed and 141.900 is a site 10 freq.

Another thing to check in unitrunker is the band plan settings. Do you know if that system was rebanded? Radio reference lists the following. See if this matches what's in your unitrunker's band plan.

Custom Frequency Tables

Base Spacing Offset
141.01500 15.0 380
151.73000 15.0 579
154.32000 15.0 632

One last thing, even tho it's too early for it to matter, you will need to bump up the squelch from 0 to like 3 above your rssi value when there is active voice playing thru your speakers. Now this is the squelch in the voice vco, not the signal vco. But that's easy.

But wait, there's more. You said you have vbcable and dsd? I don't think it matters, but in the voice vco, you would need to set analog output to your speakers. Set digital to vdcable and check the box for P25. I think mine worked with it off but I am not sure at the moment.
I have all my dongles trying to map out a cap+ system and get the channel numbers. Driving me crazy...

.
Also, how does VCO 2 know that I want it to follow VCO 1's decoded trunking?
You assigned the role of signal to vco 1. You then assigned the role of voice to vco 2. So voice know to tune to what signal tells it to.. I don't remember exactly how I did it, but I had 1 signal vco and 2 voice vco's going . I might have used my airspy and 1 or both of the 10.00 dongles. I had voices to the left of me, and to the right.

Is it always the next VCO by default? It would be nice if you could tell it "I want this VCO to tune to the active channels this other VCO is decoding"
Every time it had more than on it always put them in that order. I think it goes up to like 4 or 5. Maybe Rick could explain that in more detail. Or there's a ton of info on the unitrunker site UniTrunker | Receivers and here, UniTrunker | Windows
 

Dog

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#15
Okay. What should VCO 2s "Park" be set to? I have it set to 0, because when I set it to anything else it obviously just tunes that frequency and doesn't follow VCO 1.
Zero should be fine. I think it has to do with the "channels" as the previous poster stated. (And I mentioned earlier). Just put the frequencies from site 6 in the database and check the band plan. (Calculator looking button at the top of the site window.). Take out anything that isn't listed for that site and add any that you don't already have.
 

dave3825

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#16
Okay. What should VCO 2s "Park" be set to? I have it set to 0, because when I set it to anything else it obviously just tunes that frequency and doesn't follow VCO 1.

The dongle only covers 2.4 mhz so you need to know what the center is on the span you're trying to use with unitrunker' Your lowest freq is 141.405 and your highest is 142.890

If I remember correctly, I added up all my freqs and divided that by 2, and that gave me the middle of the spread. I took that and set it as park and mine works. But I did that with your freqs, (site 6) and it was 711.0. But If you add your lowest freq to your highest freq, and divide that by 2, you get 142.1175. That might be what I did. Try that, it can't hurt.

Also this was when I was running one dongle. When I run 2, I believe I left park at zero. So try 142.1175 and see what happens..
 
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#17
Zero should be fine. I think it has to do with the "channels" as the previous poster stated. (And I mentioned earlier). Just put the frequencies from site 6 in the database and check the band plan. (Calculator looking button at the top of the site window.). Take out anything that isn't listed for that site and add any that you don't already have.
The problem is, every time I remove a channel, it just re-appears a few seconds later. I think the issue is the RR database is incomplete. I can also see a LOT of talk groups that aren't listed either. It's possible this system has grown since I was here last. One of the silly things I did when I first set it up was hit the wizard button -- that populated the channels with random freqs up in the 800MHz range. So after figuring out a bunch of the channels, I just started entering random frequencies nearby, in case having a bunch of 800MHz channels in the list was confusing Unitrunker and stopping the voice VCO from working.

Anyway, I'm just going to give up on this for now, The software is making assumptions and not telling me those assumptions, and it also won't let me change the center freq to something more sensible. So without more control over what is happening, it's just frustrating. I would strongly recommend to the Unitrunker devs to implement a few more controls, such as being able to pick which voice VCO follows which control VCO. Also, being able to change the center frequncy would be good. Having some sort of indicator showing that the voice VCO is indeed receiving trunking info from the signal VCO would be great as well.

I understand this is "specialist software" but if a fellow software dev can't use it.. it might need some GUI improvements :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you guys. I will pick this back up when I get a second dongle -- even though this should have worked.

VA3XMR
 
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#18
The dongle only covers 2.4 mhz so you need to know what the center is on the span you're trying to use with unitrunker' Your lowest freq is 141.405 and your highest is 142.890

If I remember correctly, I added up all my freqs and divided that by 2, and that gave me the middle of the spread. I took that and set it as park and mine works. But I did that with your freqs, (site 6) and it was 711.0. But If you add your lowest freq to your highest freq, and divide that by 2, you get 142.1175. That might be what I did. Try that, it can't hurt.

Also this was when I was running one dongle. When I run 2, I believe I left park at zero. So try 142.1175 and see what happens..
Right, but where should I enter that freq? Entering it in the Voice VCO just tunes that frequency and gives me static. Putting it in the Signal VCO makes it lose the control info.
 

Dog

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#19
Anyway, I'm just going to give up on this for now, The software is making assumptions and not telling me those assumptions, and it also won't let me change the center freq to something more sensible. So without more control over what is happening, it's just frustrating. I would strongly recommend to the Unitrunker devs to implement a few more controls, such as being able to pick which voice VCO follows which control VCO. Also, being able to change the center frequncy would be good. Having some sort of indicator showing that the voice VCO is indeed receiving trunking info from the signal VCO would be great as well.

VA3XMR
I understand the frustration. When I set it up again a week or so ago I was having "issues" getting a ProVoice system working.

My opinion is it is picking up more than one site using the same control channel which is confusing unitrunker.

When you see calls on the bottom half of the site window do you also see the calls turning green on different frequencies on the top of the site window? The control channel will be red. The other channels you have listened as alternate control channels will be puke yellow/green. You should have some turning bright green as the calls come up. If that part is working then the voice VCO should be following those channels. If it doesn't follow those channels then it is possible something is wrong with the dongle.

Right, but where should I enter that freq? Entering it in the Voice VCO just tunes that frequency and gives me static. Putting it in the Signal VCO makes it lose the control info.
Enter that into the parked slot on the voice VCO. The center frequency will be off some from that number so you can adjust it some until you get the center frequency you want. To keep from hearing the static of that turn the squelch up above the rssi of that frequency.
 
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#20
I understand the frustration. When I set it up again a week or so ago I was having "issues" getting a ProVoice system working.

My opinion is it is picking up more than one site using the same control channel which is confusing unitrunker.

When you see calls on the bottom half of the site window do you also see the calls turning green on different frequencies on the top of the site window? The control channel will be red. The other channels you have listened as alternate control channels will be puke yellow/green. You should have some turning bright green as the calls come up. If that part is working then the voice VCO should be following those channels. If it doesn't follow those channels then it is possible something is wrong with the dongle.



Enter that into the parked slot on the voice VCO. The center frequency will be off some from that number so you can adjust it some until you get the center frequency you want. To keep from hearing the static of that turn the squelch up above the rssi of that frequency.
Yes, I can see the calls coming up. That's how I was able to use my radio to figure out which channel corresponds to which frequency. I even labelled a bunch of them using the talkgroup listing on the RR page.

If I enter that frequency into the voice VCO, and squelch it, doesn't that make that VCO unavaialable for following the signal VCO?
 
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