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Old 05-13-2017, 11:25 PM
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N9JIG N9JIG is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Far NW Valley
Posts: 3,272
Default My next shack: Computerized!

After seeing a couple shack photos and descriptions on RadioReference.com I decided the next version would be automated. Using software such as ProScan, ARC-XT Pro and others I will take all the individual scanners in my office and connect them to a computer for control, logging and recording. This is a pretty intensive project and has been in progress for a while. I finally ordered the last items needed.

The scanners are mostly Uniden BCT15 and BCT15X scanners. I have 7 of the former and 4 of the latter. In addition there are a pair of PSR600ís, a BCD996XT, a BCD536HP and a PSR410. I do have other radios I will continue to keep in the shack but those will not be part of this project. Also to be connected to his project are a couple SDRís and an AirNav RadarBox ADSB receiver.

On prior shacks I used 10u rack enclosures. I have 3 but I will only retain 2 for this project. In one rack I will have the 12v/25A power supply for the scanners as well as 9 radios (the BCT15ís and 2 BCT15Xís. The second cabinet will hold the 3 GREís, the 996XT as well as 2 of the BCT15Xís. The 536 will not be mounted into a cabinet so that I can take it on trips.

The next part is the computer. Last month I bought an Intel NUC to replace my 10-year-old HP. The NUC has Windows 10 Pro, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 3.1GHz i7 processer. It should have the horsepower needed for this. I can increase the RAM to 32GB if needed and it has a slot for an additional SSD if I want or need to later to later. Since this will basically be the only purpose for this computer save for my RadarBox it should be plenty.

Since I will be running over a dozen instances of various applications I need screen real estate. I just ordered a 32-inch HD monitor to run all this, The NUC supports multiple monitors so I might add a second one later on, we will see how it goes.

Now the next trick is to connect all these scanners to the computer and the radios. The Uniden scanners have both front and rear serial ports. The front ones are fragile and unreliable for long-term use. The rear one is much more sturdy and has the added benefit of being self-reconnecting in case of a loss of connection with the computer. The GRE scanners have a single communications port on the front of the radio and it is much more sturdy than that on the Unidens.

To connect to the Uniden scanners I have acquired a dozen specially made USB cables. These cables connect to the rear serial port. This will help keep things neat and tidy as well as provide a secure connection. The GRE scanners will use standard RS/GRE USB cables.

I also bought 16 USB soundcards to allow the audio to be sent to the computer for archiving and processing. This will allow me to record communications on selected scanners and to select the audio to be heard at any time. To allow all these devices to connect to the NUC (which has only 4 USB ports) I bought 2 13-port powered USB hubs. I also have a 7-port hub so I will have over 30 ports available.

Now that all the parts are either on order or in hand I will be working on putting it all together over the next week or so. The radio cabinets will likely be set on the floor under the desk, I left space in one for the NUC and the USB hubs. The only thing on the desk would be the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Since the KB and mouse are both Bluetooth the only wires on the desk are for the monitor.

There will be challenges of course in getting all this to work. I suspect I might have to play serial port roulette to get them all working. I can force the RS/GRE cables to a specific serial port but I donít think I can with the Unidens. Then I have to figure out how to get the audio properly mixed and recorded. I have used Daveís ScannerRecorder in the past and it seems to work well so I plan on starting with that. I donít know if it will support multiple instances or not and how I am going to sort out the dozen or so sound cards in use.

I will get the serial port stuff figured out first and then worry about the sound issues later.

I am going to have a busy week and weekend coming up!
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Rich Carlson, N9JIG
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