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PRO-197 + Louisville P25 - Help!

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#1
So... I took the leap and bought a digital scanner yesterday. I went with the R/S PRO-197. I can track conventional systems like a gem. (It's actually AMAZING at it.) But... when I go to the digital side of things, thats where my problems start. I've never done the digital or trunking stuff. I'm pretty new at all this actually. Here are the problems... (and just to throw things a little more... I don't have the computer connection because I don't use Windows... I'm on a Mac)

(Here is the system I'm trying to track... Louisville Emergency Communications Network: MetroSafe Trunking System, Louisville, Kentucky - Scanner Frequencies)
I put in the following info into the 197:
Type: P25 Auto
Tag: METROSAFE
Frequencies: 854.21250 , 854.48750 , 854.73750 , 856.72650
L/Out: Off
--EXPERT BELOW--
Atten: Off
Narrow FM: No
AudioBoost: Off
Dwell: 0
DIG AGC: On
SuperTrack: On
Multi-Site: Off (Maybe should be on?)
T Tables: Default
--Menu End--

Then I saved that.. and it takes me to the TalkGroup setup (I think)
TSYS: METROSAFE
ID: Wildcard
Type: Group
Tag ID: Wildcard (??)
L/Out: Off
Priority: Off
LED Mode: Solid
LED Color: 0
Latch LED: Off
Backlight: Off
Alarm: None
Fav: No
Skywarn: No
--EXPERT BELOW--
Delay: On
Delay Time: 20
Audio Boost: Off
Hit Count: 0
--Menu End--

So.. then I push Scan to listen. I make sure that the scan list is active... and I start to receive some data from the control channels... The audio I receive from the talk groups is extremely jumbled and unreadable. I have confirmed that these channels are NOT encrypted, so they should come in nice and clear. My signal strength indicator is constantly bouncing between 4 and 5 bars (out of 5), so I'm pretty sure it's not a signal strength issue. Still, the channels I am receiving are completely unreadable. I have heard of this problem before on this system because of the way it is setup (as a simulcast system with a lot of transmit locations... see the link above).

So... anyone have any ideas for a digital noob? :(

Addition @ 1345 - I just noticed that when my scanner picks up a certain control channel and holds on to it instead of switching to one of the other ones, my "readability" goes up. It shows up on the second line of text on the display as DG: 857.xxxx I can't remember the last portion of the freq.

Addition @ 1348: it may have been 857.2125. It's better when it hold on it.. but still not perfect like on the conventional channels.I miss the old conventional Louisville system. :(
 
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164
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#2
I own the GRE "twin" to the Pro-197 (the GRE PSR-500) so much of the info I'll give will be applicable to both scanners.

The recommendations I've generally heard for improved performance on MetroSafe is to keep it off multisite (for now) and to set the dwell time to 5.

Also, some areas do have issues with multipath and do require outside antennas or specialised 800MHz antennas (I myself am in one of the "dead zones" but do have good results with homebrew antennas specifically cut for the MetroSafe frequencies).

I personally would recommend (for starters) getting the Radio Shack/GRE 800MHz antenna--it does make a difference compared to the default rubber duck.

Also, for programming--you *will* want to get a copy of PSREdit or Win500 (either will work for the Pro-197, both are around the same price range of $30-35 with lifetime registration, and both have 30-day trial periods so you can see which you prefer) and the GRE/Radio Shack USB programming cable (make sure you get the one with the stereo tip, not the mini-USB-esque one; the latter is for the iScan which makes quite a fine racing radio, but is no longer terribly useful in Louisville proper). Those programs WILL make your life much easier! :D
 
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#3
I own the GRE "twin" to the Pro-197 (the GRE PSR-500) so much of the info I'll give will be applicable to both scanners.

The recommendations I've generally heard for improved performance on MetroSafe is to keep it off multisite (for now) and to set the dwell time to 5.

Also, some areas do have issues with multipath and do require outside antennas or specialised 800MHz antennas (I myself am in one of the "dead zones" but do have good results with homebrew antennas specifically cut for the MetroSafe frequencies).

I personally would recommend (for starters) getting the Radio Shack/GRE 800MHz antenna--it does make a difference compared to the default rubber duck.

Also, for programming--you *will* want to get a copy of PSREdit or Win500 (either will work for the Pro-197, both are around the same price range of $30-35 with lifetime registration, and both have 30-day trial periods so you can see which you prefer) and the GRE/Radio Shack USB programming cable (make sure you get the one with the stereo tip, not the mini-USB-esque one; the latter is for the iScan which makes quite a fine racing radio, but is no longer terribly useful in Louisville proper). Those programs WILL make your life much easier! :D
I set the dwell to 5... But it seems to not have made much of a difference. I am currently using an external antenna (Magnet-mount mobile scanner antenna - RadioShack.com) and due to restrictions where I live, I can't put an antenna up. I can, however, put one in my attic.

Sent from my iPad.
 
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Location
Louisville, KY
#4
As an additional addendum (knowing you're in a restricted-antenna situation and also that you're using MacOS X):
I
If it's a case where the duck still doesn't pull in enough signal, you can actually make a small Yagi antenna to pull in signal--a basic directional Yagi for 800MHz is nearly small enough to be a desktop antenna, and there are threads here that tell how to construct one for home use.

And yes, you can in theory run at least Win500 under MacOS X--basically, you'll need to run Win500 under Parallels (or under Wine for MacOS X which is another "interpreter for Windows stuffle for other OS's") and the FTDI driver for MacOS X (which lives here for the direct DMG), but it can in theory run (and I HAVE gotten a similar setup running under Ubuntu Linux--"Win500 COM version" plus Wine (Linux has the drivers for the chipset used in the USB programming cable built in; it's a standard FTDI FT232R USB-to-serial converter)--quite successfully; literally about the only difference under MacOS X would be that a) you have the Parallels option as an alternative to Wine and b) MacOS X requires a quickie driver install via a DMG package).

Basically what you'd do is install the MacOS X driver for the USB-to-serial driver, then (optionally) install Wine, then use the WIN500_COM.EXE executable in the package (this lets you set a com port, which works rather more gracefully at least under Linux Wine, probably would also work for Parallels and MacOS X Wine).
 
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#5
I set the dwell to 5... But it seems to not have made much of a difference. I am currently using an external antenna (Magnet-mount mobile scanner antenna - RadioShack.com) and due to restrictions where I live, I can't put an antenna up. I can, however, put one in my attic.

Sent from my iPad.
An attic antenna would work fine--if you're getting good signal strength, it may be a case of multipath, in which case a directional antenna would work...and fortunately, yagis for 800MHz aren't huge at all.

If it comes to building a yagi, there's some informative threads here and here on the subject--a minimalist 3-element yagi would be a little over 6 inches long and about as wide at its widest radiator. (The maximum extent listed for a yagi in a PDF linked in the second thread--which I've attached below--is still only a little over 18 1/2 inches long--and that's with five radiators, a driven and a reflective element. The measurements are in centimeters and will be needed to be converted to Imperial units unless you've a metric tape measure.)

As for the antenna in question--as I understand it, that particular mag-mount antenna does need a wee bit of tweaking to get it to behave especially well on 800MHz (some very minor adjustments in length), and the 800MHz duckie antenna DOES work quite well.

I'll also note that to get RELIABLE decode on MetroSafe generally I find I have to get a signal strength around 90% or better (you can individually analyse control channels on the Pro-197 by Pgm > Edit (F2) > TSYS (scroll right till you can select it by hitting F3) > (scroll up/down till you hit the MetroSafe entry > MAN > Analyz (F3). From there, you can individually scroll up or down on control channels and get diagnostic info like decode percentage)
 

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#6
I am doing the analyze as I type this...
Ch1: 854.2125 - no info being shown.
Ch2: 854.4875 - signal anywhere between 60% and 78%.
Ch3: 854.7375 - no info being shown.
Ch4: 856.7625 - no info being shown.

So... While I thought I had a pretty good signal, I guess I was horribly wrong. Nice to know, however, that there is a way to check the signal strength. Wish it was included on the normal display. The bars are deceiving apparently.

I suppose my next step is to get a specific 800 MHz antenna. Yay for more money. :-/
 
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#7
I am doing the analyze as I type this...
Ch1: 854.2125 - no info being shown.
Ch2: 854.4875 - signal anywhere between 60% and 78%.
Ch3: 854.7375 - no info being shown.
Ch4: 856.7625 - no info being shown.

So... While I thought I had a pretty good signal, I guess I was horribly wrong. Nice to know, however, that there is a way to check the signal strength. Wish it was included on the normal display. The bars are deceiving apparently.

I suppose my next step is to get a specific 800 MHz antenna. Yay for more money. :-/
Well, fortunately the two options (the rubber duck and the homebrew yagi) are NOT hyper-expensive; the 800MHz duck here is $20 from RS or GRE (pick your poison) and the homebrew yagi costs maybe $10-15 in parts (just some half-inch PVC pipe, some 10-gauge solid wire, and an appropriate connector; I myself recommend N connectors and getting or making an N-to-BNC connector, but if that's problematic you can always get a BNC bulkhead connector over at Jameco or showmecables.com).
 
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#8
Well, fortunately the two options (the rubber duck and the homebrew yagi) are NOT hyper-expensive; the 800MHz duck here is $20 from RS or GRE (pick your poison) and the homebrew yagi costs maybe $10-15 in parts (just some half-inch PVC pipe, some 10-gauge solid wire, and an appropriate connector; I myself recommend N connectors and getting or making an N-to-BNC connector, but if that's problematic you can always get a BNC bulkhead connector over at Jameco or showmecables.com).
You do realize that I have a BASE scanner right? lol.... not hand held.
 
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#10
You do realize that I have a BASE scanner right? lol.... not hand held.
Even for base scanners, this can work--GRE does have one that can bend to 90 degrees (about as cheap as the RS antenna once shipping is included--$15.99 here).

(Long story short, I had a Pro-2067 that for some time used a rubber duck and a 90-degree BNC adapter because I was in a severely antenna-restricted setup, even moreso than you--no roof access)

Another option--and this may sound odd but bear with me--are cellular antennas designed for 824-896MHz and iDEN (which also work happily with the 850-860MHz public safety bands). Most of these are mag-mount, but do tend to be a little more expensive--they can be had for a song on Ebay, though, even through American sellers. (An example yagi off Ebay is here, main thing is you'd need a TNC-to-BNC adapter or cut off the end and crimp/solder your own...and you can always rig up a base with a cheap tripod to avoid a permanent mount; for mag-mounts, they're even cheaper (around $10-15) but do require FME-to-BNC adapters or cutting off the end and crimp/solder your own BNC.)

Heck, even genuine scanner-designed antennas for 800MHz do tend to be available on Ebay (an example from Canuckistan here, no mods required). I do tend to mod or build my own, though--cheaper and easier to tweak.
 
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Messages
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Location
Herndon,Va
#11
Here is a question that might have slipped by. Did you activate the TSYS by making sure there was a asterisk by the system number at the stop of the list?
 

Astrak

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#12
The control channel decode percentage is not the signal strength, you can have 5 out of 5 bars but 0% decode and the scanner won't track anything.

Sounds to me like you're experiencing the problem a lot of people experience with simulcast P25, my suggestion since you have a base scanner would be to put up an outdoor directional antenna then point it towards the tower that would be closest to you and do some experimenting.
 
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#13
Thanks for the help!!

A) I have made sure there is an asterisk next to the TSYS scan list, or what ever you call it.​
B) Would a directional antenna still work in an attic. I'm in an area with antenna nazis. lol. I know I can get around it if I call it a TV antenna because the FCC mandates that you can have one... but I don't wanna put one on the house... I kinda like the look of my house without it. lol.​
C)a. I'm new to this whole digital thing. Never trunked before. Am I mistaken that I can find freqs. specific to a tower in the ULS... that way I can program only the nearest control channels in. -- b. The tower nearest to me is about 6.5 linear miles (by air). However, there is a tower 7.2 linear miles (again, by air) away that sits high up on a large hill/mini-mountain. So... I'm not sure which would be best for me. I am also on a bit of a hill.​
D) When you say directional antenna, is this what you mean? Periodic Antenna As far as price goes... that's a little high. lol. I'm looking for something in the <$100 range.​

Thank you guys for your help! I hope we can reach a conclusion soon!!
 

Astrak

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#14
No more like this Wilson 800 Mhz Yagi Antenna #301111 - eBay (item 230485680471 end time Jul-09-10 08:51:34 PDT)

It's what I use to monitor Phoenix PD which is a fairly large simulcast P25 system here, in the attic will work that's where I have mine and I'm about 12 miles from the closest tower as the crow flies.

From looking in the database, it looks like the system you want to monitor uses 24 frequencies, you'd only have to plug in the control and alternate control channel frequencies. This is a simulcast system so no matter what tower you choose to point the antenna at they all broadcast the same frequencies. You'll really have to experiment with the antenna and where to point it, the tower on a hill might be best but it might not be.
 
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#16
Thanks for the help!!

A) I have made sure there is an asterisk next to the TSYS scan list, or what ever you call it.​
B) Would a directional antenna still work in an attic. I'm in an area with antenna nazis. lol. I know I can get around it if I call it a TV antenna because the FCC mandates that you can have one... but I don't wanna put one on the house... I kinda like the look of my house without it. lol.​
Since we're talking small directional antennas for 800Mhz (and no, you don't need a huge log-periodic antenna) you can get away with an attic antenna easily. As noted, even commercial yagis for 800MHz are something like 18" long by 6" or so tall, easy to hang in an attic unnoticeably. (Yes, at these bandwidths, yagis can be feasible stealth antennas! :D)

C)a. I'm new to this whole digital thing. Never trunked before. Am I mistaken that I can find freqs. specific to a tower in the ULS... that way I can program only the nearest control channels in. -- b. The tower nearest to me is about 6.5 linear miles (by air). However, there is a tower 7.2 linear miles (again, by air) away that sits high up on a large hill/mini-mountain. So... I'm not sure which would be best for me. I am also on a bit of a hill.​
In the case of MetroSafe, it's a little tricky--you have multiple towers but using the same frequencies for control channels (and no, you can't find the control channels EASILY in ULS--MetroSafe has been known to use many if not most of their channels for control channels).

Because of this, if you're about the same distance between two stations, sometimes scanners can get a bit confuzzled...

Since you're about equidistant between the two, basically you'd pick one of the other (which would be best within line-of-sight) and aim the yagi in that direction. (This also pretty much proves the problem is multipath.)
D) When you say directional antenna, is this what you mean? Periodic Antenna As far as price goes... that's a little high. lol. I'm looking for something in the <$100 range.​

Thank you guys for your help! I hope we can reach a conclusion soon!!
Something like this is a bit closer to what I'm talking about; you can buy one here for something like $70, or you can build it yourself (or hire someone to build it for you) for at least half the cost.

(Of note--log periodics tend to be useful for TV and for very broad-bandwidth applications, but as you found out they tend to be a) huge and b) expensive. For this purpose a yagi is going to be MUCH more useful, and much easier to hide in the attic :D)

And glad to help--at least I HOPE it's been helpful, LOL.
 
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#17
You guys are awesome. Truly awesome.

I think I'm going to go ahead and get the Yagi, mount it in the attic, and then run the wiring down the wall with all my other automation cabling and into my office. I suppose I should go ahead and dust off the old HP in the basement and use it with software and the cable to program it. What program do you guys suggest? I'm looking for ease of use obviously. LOL! :D

EDIT @ 1927 - I have downloaded the trial of Win500 and installed it on an old HP XP machine that I had in the basement (it's killing me seeing Windows. lol! I'm a Mac person), and must say that I like what I see. After uploading the file alphabravo1 posted above, I can actually "see' how the system and structure of my scanner works. Even just looking at that has helped me. Thank you!
 
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Astrak

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#18
Be sure to use some good cabling, BTW Windows is far superior....if you must I think some virtual machining could help you out with having a Mac machine and run Windows at the same time.

I use WIN500, although I have to say I'm a devout Windows person, I have a Windows Mobile phone along with multiple Windows products I use WIN500 because I can control my scanner from my phone with WIN500client. Also WIN500client allows you to control the scanner from any PC, it also has awesome scanner recording options.

I also have been using DonS products since I have owned a PRO95 and find them great products.
 
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#19
Be sure to use some good cabling, BTW Windows is far superior....if you must I think some virtual machining could help you out with having a Mac machine and run Windows at the same time.

I use WIN500, although I have to say I'm a devout Windows person, I have a Windows Mobile phone along with multiple Windows products I use WIN500 because I can control my scanner from my phone with WIN500client. Also WIN500client allows you to control the scanner from any PC, it also has awesome scanner recording options.

I also have been using DonS products since I have owned a PRO95 and find them great products.
LOL! I'm the exact oposite of you. I hate windows. I've had every iPhone they come out with, including the new iPhone 4 which I have ordered. I've got an iPad, Mac Pro as my desktop, an iMac in the kitchen, MacBook Pro as my notebook, and a Mac Mini hooked up to the "theater room" in the basement. LOL!
 

Astrak

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#20
LOL! I'm the exact oposite of you. I hate windows. I've had every iPhone they come out with, including the new iPhone 4 which I have ordered. I've got an iPad, Mac Pro as my desktop, an iMac in the kitchen, MacBook Pro as my notebook, and a Mac Mini hooked up to the "theater room" in the basement. LOL!
Wows, that is a lot of Apple stuff, how much did that cost you LOL. Anyway good luck with the reception thing, I think a yagi will definitely help. These are the adapters you will need to connect the antenna to an appropriate scanner cable 2,N Type Male to BNC Female Antenna Plug Adapter,80 - eBay (item 300438112875 end time Jun-23-10 00:28:01 PDT) then I use this cable 12-Ft. RG-58 Coax Cable Assembly - RadioShack.com but you may need a longer cable and that you would have to go to another place besides Radioshack for some higher quality cabling.
 
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