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Old 05-13-2017, 11:25 PM
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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 PSR600s, 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 SDRs 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 BCT15s and 2 BCT15Xs. The second cabinet will hold the 3 GREs, the 996XT as well as 2 of the BCT15Xs. 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 dont think I can with the Unidens. Then I have to figure out how to get the audio properly mixed and recorded. I have used Daves ScannerRecorder in the past and it seems to work well so I plan on starting with that. I dont 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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Old 05-14-2017, 9:16 PM
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Default Computerized scanners

Wow.
Just
Wow.
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Old 05-14-2017, 9:45 PM
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Great idea! Looking forward to seeing the pictures when you start a thread on the pictures subforum, Rich!
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:09 PM
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The parts are all due this week, so it looks like this weekend is gonna be a busy one at my house!
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:58 PM
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Would you be able to share what you are using for the "specially made USB cables" for the rear ports? I have a serial to USB cable that I sometimes use for the rear port of my 996P2, but I would like something more permanent.
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:39 PM
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Document everything!
and .........
Keep a 'cheat sheet' handy for restarting everything after power outages etc.

I run eleven computers and 40 Uniden scanners.
Each computer has at least 9TB of hard drives (in addition to the boot drive).

I used to try keeping everything in my head but it nearly made my head explode.
Now, recovery is methodical if not quick.

It can take me a few hours to get everything back to normal.

Each computer has three internal sound cards. Each a different make/model.

Some brands of USB sound cards can be finicky.
Some of them come back up with the volume reset to HIGH, some hang the USB bus, some come back up with the audio AGC set too high and that creates background noise.

Other than that, it can be LOTS of fun.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I also have a few scanners set up for full remote control using FreeScan servers.
Along with RemoteFS on an Android phone.

Rich

This is an extract from my cheat sheet showing just two of my computers.
The note about unplugging all USB sound cards no long applies. I narrowed that down to just one brand.



.

Last edited by rbm; 05-14-2017 at 11:46 PM..
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Old 05-15-2017, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scan18 View Post
Would you be able to share what you are using for the "specially made USB cables" for the rear ports? I have a serial to USB cable that I sometimes use for the rear port of my 996P2, but I would like something more permanent.
These are basically USB-1 cables outfitted with a DB-9 serial port. They work with any Uniden scanner with the rear GPS port, such as the BCT15, 15X, 996T, 996XT and 996P2. I haven't tried it on the 536HP yet but I will soon.

USB-1 with DB-9 Connector (BC996/15) | Scanner Master
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Old 05-15-2017, 6:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N9JIG View Post
These are basically USB-1 cables outfitted with a DB-9 serial port. They work with any Uniden scanner with the rear GPS port, such as the BCT15, 15X, 996T, 996XT and 996P2. I haven't tried it on the 536HP yet but I will soon.



USB-1 with DB-9 Connector (BC996/15) | Scanner Master


Thank you. That's what I'm looking for, something with a female DB9 so that I don't have to mess with gender changers and such. Although, not at that price. I see some cheaper options on Amazon I may give a try, even though they may be a bit sketchy.
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Old 05-15-2017, 7:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scan18 View Post
Thank you. That's what I'm looking for, something with a female DB9 so that I don't have to mess with gender changers and such. Although, not at that price. I see some cheaper options on Amazon I may give a try, even though they may be a bit sketchy.
Just be aware of the rear ports that doubles as the GPS connector, you will need to cross pins 2 & 3 on the DB-9 connector so you won't have to mess with null modem adapters.
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Old 05-16-2017, 5:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProScan View Post
Just be aware of the rear ports that doubles as the GPS connector, you will need to cross pins 2 & 3 on the DB-9 connector so you won't have to mess with null modem adapters.
The ScannerMaster cable referenced above accounts for that. I have been using one for a while with ProScan and it works great.
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Old 05-16-2017, 12:20 PM
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Just be aware of the rear ports that doubles as the GPS connector, you will need to cross pins 2 & 3 on the DB-9 connector so you won't have to mess with null modem adapters.
That's really cool. Thanks
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Old 05-16-2017, 12:36 PM
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Default Wow!

Rich,

I am fascinated by your approach to integrate everything with one computer. As always, you do things big and you do them well. I can't wait to see and read about the finished product.

73, Gary
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Old 05-16-2017, 2:43 PM
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The sound cards and the 2 13-port USB hubs have arrived and the new monitor should be here today.

I bought a new glass-top desk for the computer and the couple radios that will remain on the desk (2 HomePatrols, IC-746 and ICR8500, CDM1250 and TM731). I don't think the Icoms will fit under the monitor stand of the desk so they might go one on either side if they fit, this will leave room for the HomePatrols and perhaps the 536 if I decide to put it there.

I expect the serial cables in next week, so this weekend looks like it is going to be furniture assembly and moving. I am trying to decide to retain the rack cabinets or use this cube/shelf thing the wife likes. If I stay with the racks then she can have the cube thing for knick-knacks...

It looks like I am going to need some additional audio cables, so it looks lie a trip to Frys is coming us as well.
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Old 05-18-2017, 4:35 AM
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Default Planning Suggestions

I have a few suggestions for you Rich. I do not quite have the impressive setup rbm Rich has, but getting close with more than half that in Uniden radios and 3 computers running ProScan. One of the computers does have 12 instances of ProScan and 12 Uniden radios. Eventually, I will try and get everything running on two computers maybe even one. I just do not have the free time to tackle it. I have not seen those USB-1 cables, those are nice. I used other USB to serial adapters and those were flakey at times. I final found this https://www.serialgear.com/4-Port-Se...-4X-RS232.html and it has been rock solid. I now have three of them.

First suggestion is to install all the USB serial ports, of course one at a time. Each will give you a port number. Then with the radios in the order you want them, connect the serial cables in order. I then use the Serial Com Port numbers to label EVERYTHING. For example let us just say your first USB-1 serial cable starts at Com Port 4. So say you have 5 BCD996XT, label the first one BCD996XT-4, BCD996XT-5, BCD996XT-6, BCD996XT-7, BCD996XT-8 and then 5 BCD996T; BCD996T-9, BCD996T-10, BCD996T-11, BCD996T-12, BCD996T-13. I am sure you get the idea, just follow the com port numbering. I then use this naming convention on the ProScan installs also. C:\Program Files (x86)\ProScan BCD996XT-4\ all the way to C:\Program Files (x86)\ProScan BC780XLT-52\

Next plug in all the individual USB soundcards, they will also number sequentially. I renamed all mine in Windows 7 to match the radio naming convention. This makes it so much easier when you are in ProScan and picking the audio source. Especially sometimes when you reboot and things go crazy and you lose some. In ProScan you can easily see if everything stated correctly when you rename the Audio Source to match the Port Number.

Now you have to label all the cables to match the radio naming convention. If that is too long just use the Com Port Number. Label both ends of the Serial/USB cable and of the Audio cables. Label the USB soundcards and which port of the USB hub they plug into. Label the USB hubs. I bought a Brother Label maker, best investment ever for this. Label the antenna cables, label the power cables. Label everything. Trust me this makes a huge difference, when you add another radio later or something goes wrong and you need to troubleshoot a problem. It is difficult to trace wires back when they running in and out of cabinets and under desks to above the desk to different shelves. So Label all cables and at both ends.

When you start streaming and web server I even set my Server port to match my Com port 804, 805, 806. I then have a spreadsheet like rbm to keep track of everything also make sure you add what the radio does MilAir, Public Safety TRS, 2M Ham, whatever, in addition to Radio, Com Port, USB Audio Name, TCP/IP Server Port, Web Server.

I hope that gives you some ideas, trust me a little planning ahead of time will save you big later.
It is an ever expanding project. I think I covered most of it.

JSTARS03
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Old 05-18-2017, 7:19 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions JStars, I will follow these. This weekend I will do some of the physical work, radio mounting and perhaps setting up the sound cards.

I got the monitor all set up, I had to do some finagling to get it to work at the full resolution (2560x1440) but all is well now with that. I have 2 cables already so am running 2 instances of ProScan now for stability testing and so far no issues. I can fit 6 rows on the screen, and with 2 columns (to cover 12 instances) I still have over half of the display space available on the 32 inch display.

Tomorrow and Saturday I will pull down the current shack set up and put together the desk and start doing the power, antenna and audio work, The serial cables arrive Monday so I will get those set up then.
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Old 05-18-2017, 7:25 PM
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Originally Posted by JSTARS03 View Post
Now you have to label all the cables to match the radio naming convention. If that is too long just use the Com Port Number. Label both ends of the Serial/USB cable and of the Audio cables. Label the USB soundcards and which port of the USB hub they plug into. Label the USB hubs. I bought a Brother Label maker, best investment ever for this. Label the antenna cables, label the power cables. Label everything. Trust me this makes a huge difference, when you add another radio later or something goes wrong and you need to troubleshoot a problem. It is difficult to trace wires back when they running in and out of cabinets and under desks to above the desk to different shelves. So Label all cables and at both ends.

JSTARS03
I do have a labelmaker and use it liberally. I will label the serial cables with the Comm Ports, and then use that number for the radios. Hopefully I can get them to start at 1 and go up, I may have to force the com port numbers in the Device Manager to do that. I can then use that number for the other items and label each radio accordingly. AFAIK if I keep the cable in the same USB port it should retain the ComPort number thru a restart. I will check on that...

I also got another UPS for this computer, I use the existing one for the Mac.
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Old 05-18-2017, 7:35 PM
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Most computers that I've seen recently still have COM1 reserved in the OS for a physical serial port...even if the hardware includes no such port.
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Old 05-18-2017, 8:36 PM
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Default Com Port

Correct Com 1 is usually always reserved. You will probably start at 2 if you have never installed anything before. You can change them but not sure if you can change it to 1. Yes, as long as you do not move USB ports the Com Port will stay the same, that is why label where they plug in; which USB Hub they plug into and then where the USB Hub plugs into the computer.

JSTARS03
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Old 05-18-2017, 11:04 PM
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I use (2) Edgeport 8 port serial to USB converters. I can control log and record my Uniden scanners on through them. I picked them up via EBAY and then got some null modem adapters for the rear ports. I still program via the front connectors as it is easier in my mind to ensure they are all done and I can maintain the banks/systems that are active for each one. I don't update every scanner for a single change but when I do a full update from my master files, I hit every one.
I also run 3 remote sites with 996P2 radios via thin clients with Proscan and Teamviewer for troubleshooting.

chris
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Old 05-18-2017, 11:14 PM
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CG: Do you need to unplug the rear serial port to program from the front?
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