396 going back to ScannerMaster Monday, unless

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97B

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you folks can convince me I'm not too damn dumb to operate it.

I got it connected to my laptop and updated the firmware, and I downloaded N9WP's files and got them installed for my area (Indianapolis). I can hear some of my local agencies, and I can hold on a specific channel if it's active, but that's about the end of it. I can't go into a system, go to a group, and go to a specific channel on demand. I can put a channel in using the Uniden software, but that doesn't mean I can find it again using the keypad.

I understood banks and frequencies in the analog world, but I can't even figure out how to get this thing to operate like that. Systems, groups, talkgroups, channels, ????

Aaargh! <banghead>


I'm a technical writer, and in my opinion the manual is atrocious.
 

af5rn

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You're doing better than I did with it. After two months, I am still trying to figure out the 396. Programming is less than half the battle. Like you say, navigating around the programmed radio is the hard part.

And people criticise me when I tell potential new owners that the learning curve is very discouraging. :roll:

Have you got your systems and talkgroups organised with Quick Key numbers you can easily remember? And are you getting proficient at using the Quick Keys? That's the key (no pun intended). It really helps if you delete all the pre-programmed systems and leave only those that you programmed in there. And you may have to print out a cheat-sheet list of systems/talkgroups and their corresponding Quick Key numbers to use for awhile.
 

97B

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Sorry, I think you're just too damn dumb ;) j/k

Once you get the way the systems and groups work then you will know all you need.

This may help you understand it a little better http://myweb.cableone.net/marksscanners/330/330test.html
LOL... Thanks for the link. This seems about right:
Again, the manuals are like trying to set a watch made in China. My biggest gripe is that they don't follow the menus of the radio. So, I have written this manual for myself so I can actually use the scanners and will share it with you.
Uniden, if you're listening, I'm in Indianapolis and I do freelance TW work on the side. For the love of God, use me or one of my colleagues!!
 

97B

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You're doing better than I did with it. After two months, I am still trying to figure out the 396. Programming is less than half the battle. Like you say, navigating around the programmed radio is the hard part.

And people criticise me when I tell potential new owners that the learning curve is very discouraging. :roll:

Have you got your systems and talkgroups organised with Quick Key numbers you can easily remember? And are you getting proficient at using the Quick Keys? That's the key (no pun intended). It really helps if you delete all the pre-programmed systems and leave only those that you programmed in there. And you may have to print out a cheat-sheet list of systems/talkgroups and their corresponding Quick Key numbers to use for awhile.
I suspect that I will indeed have to print a cheat sheet.

I wonder if anyone considered doing a usability study on this thing before they released it.
 

af5rn

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I dunno. Not that it makes much difference. I don't see how much more they could simplify the process, considering all that is necessary for trunking and digital system operation. It's not the product that is so complicated as it is the systems we listen to these days.

Regardless, I have said it before and I will say it again; people should be warned ahead of time that this is not their grandfather's scanner. The hobby has changed. This is a whole new world, even for experienced scannists. It is EXTREMELY complicated, so they need to be prepared from the very start for a long and difficult learning curve that will last weeks and result in a lot of hair pulling, lost sleep, and a significant increase in profanity usage, no matter how smart or experienced you are. Seriously, they need to put that in a BIG BOLD LETTER DISCLAIMER in the product literature. Right now, I'd be interested in knowing what percentage of new owners either return or threaten to return these things because they are too complicated. We hear it all the time here, so it's got to be a significant number.

Of course, two good starts would be to seriously simplify and improve both the owners manual and the programming software. It's silly that anyone should have to seek out third-party software just to program a radio.
 
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Dubbin

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Regardless, I have said it before and I will say it again; people should be warned ahead of time that this is not their grandfather's scanner. The hobby has changed. This is a whole new world, even for experienced scannists. It is EXTREMELY complicated, so they need to be prepared from the very start for a long and difficult learning curve that will last weeks and result in a lot of hair pulling, lost sleep, and a significant increase in profanity usage, no matter how smart or experienced you are. Seriously, they need to put that in a BIG BOLD LETTER DISCLAIMER in the product literature. Right now, I'd be interested in knowing what percentage of new owners either return or threaten to return these things because they are too complicated. We hear it all the time here, so it's got to be a significant number.

Of course, two good starts would be to seriously simplify and improve both the owners manual and the programming software. It's silly that anyone should have to seek out third-party software just to program a radio.
I really can't agree with these being hard to program at all. I picked mine up and started programming a trunking system as I was driving down the road without even looking at the manual. I guess I just understood right away how the new DMA radios worked (thats most of the battle).
 

AK9R

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af5rn is on the right track. Forget everything you thought you knew about previous scanners. The memory archtecture of the Uniden DMA scanners (BCD396T and BCD996T) is nothing like you've ever seen before in a scanner.

First, I suggest you take some time to study these links from the wiki:

http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Uniden_DMA_FAQ

http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Category:DMA_Radios_Hints_and_Kinks

After studying those documents, take one system at a time. I won't walk you through all of the steps, because you need to learn how to do it and I'm bound to skip something. You can use either the software to do this or do it manually. I highly recommend going the software route. Also, other programs, like ARC396, will let you download the system parameters and talkgroup IDs from Radio Reference which really simplifies the programming process.

You say you are in the Indianapolis area, so let's say you want to montor the current MECA system. Let's think for a minute about how you are going to organize the scanner. First, you need to create a system that is a Motorola 800MHz Type II trunked system. The only frequencies you need to enter are the MECA control channels. You don't need to enter all of the frequencies used by MECA because your scanner can figure that out on its own. Make sure you assign a system quick key to this system so you can access it easily from the front panel.

Once you have the system created, you need to set up groups within that system. Let's say you create a group for IMPD, another group for Indianapols Fire, and another group for Marion County Fire. You can create 20 groups within one system, so you have lots of flexibility. Each group can be assigned one of 10 group quick keys. If you want to break up the IMPD talkgroups into their different districts, can do that by using separate groups.

OK. Into each group, you'll program the talkgroup numbers and names for each group you want to hear. In your IMPD group, you'll have 24016 which is MET-NE1 and 24112 which is MET-NO1 and so forth. You'll go through this process to populate each of your groups with the talkgroups you want to hear.

Let's stop right here for a minute because there is an important point that baffled me when I first got my 396. System quick keys and group quick keys are different and they are accessed differently from the front panel. Study the manual and the various online documents until you understand the difference and how to access them.

Now, you should be able to exit the programming mode and start scanning. Use the system quick key procedure to select the system quick key that you assigned to your MECA system. You should see the scanner start picking up the MECA control channel. In fact, if you press the HOLD button, you should hear the control channel data stream and the scanner display should show you "SID" and "2723" which is the MECA system ID. If it doesn't then you've missed something. Press the HOLD button again to start scanning and the scanner display should read "ID SCAN". When a talkgroup you have programmed becomes active, the scanner should stop on that talkgroup and you should hear the traffic.
 
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N9JIG

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While most of this is covered in Mark's Easier Scanner guide to which the link has already been posted in this thread, here are my hintd on the 396. I too have used more traditional scanners for decades and the new methods used by Uniden threw me for a loop.

Forget Banks. Think Systems and Groups.

Systems can be conventional or trunked.

Conventional Systems have Groups of Channels. Groups can be as few as 1 channel or up to 200. (Don't worry about wasting channels like old Bank scanners do!)

Trunked Systems have you enter in the frequencies into the System, then Groups are used for Talkgroups. Again, groups can be used for any number between 1 and 200 talkgroups.

In conventional mode the most common problem I have heard is users that want to quickly program in a channel. Easy, just press HOLD, the frequency you want and HOLD again.

The next most common problem I have heard is the radio cutting out every couple seconds. This is usually due to CloseCall being on. Either turn off CloseCall or endure it.

When using CloseCall you have the ability to be in CloseCall Only mode or turn on and off CloseCall during scanning and searching.

In the Search/CloseCall settings if you have PL set to Search or to a specific PL or DPL you will not be able to hear any APCO25 digital. If you expect to be CloseCalling digital turn PL (CTCSS) Off in the CloseCall options.

While the UASD software is free from Uniden for the 396, I much prefer ARC396 from Butel. It is worth the money! It is the easiest way to program the scanner. Using ARC396 you can download systems directly from RadioReference into the radio.

Don't forget to set up Quick Keys. These are used to turn on and off Groups/Systems or combinations.

Keep a set of batteries on you! The battery life on the 396 is good but they seem to die out just when things get interesting!

iPod earbuds work great on the scanner, nobody even notices you have them, especially mall security guards...
 

kennyloatman

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That was my first thought too, send this sucker back! Then I got mad, read the manual six, seven, ten times page by page until I got it. Played with it for hours at a time. It's a great scanner and it was worth sticking with it. Don't let it get the best of you.
 

troymail

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From my personal experience...

Patience (I was in a hurry too!).

Patience.

Brand new, right out of the box, don't use software.

Walk through the manual and play with the radio first. This is not my style so it was very hard for me too but it pays huge dividends in the end.

Don't program enough by hand that you'll worry about losing anything you've programmed. You're only trying to learn at this point - not just listen.

Reset the radio and start again. Save what you've programmed first it you really feel it's necessary.

Practice.

Now that you understand the radio better having read through the manual with the radio in hand, look at programming with software (for speed - not because the software will make things easier once you unhook the cable and walk away from your PC).

Keep in mind that there are SO many options on these radios today you (and I) will never use all of them. You'll be learning about new features that have always been there for quite a while...
 

Mainsail

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...The next most common problem I have heard is the radio cutting out every couple seconds. This is usually due to CloseCall being on. Either turn off CloseCall or endure it....
Weather alert does that too.

I've had my 396 for a while now and I still get lost programming directly to the scanner. I have had good luck with the ARC software though.

Let me also suggest that you download the user manual and print it out (at work if possible) to make a full sized book. The little brochure sized one is hard to work with.
 

MetalCarnage

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Manual? There was a manual for the 396? LOL. I love being born in the technology generation where anything electronic is second nature like eating food :) Here i thought the 396, minus a few details, was the easiest Uniden product made yet.....even easier then the crappy Uniden cordless phone i have that never seems to get more then 50ft from the base without dieing, lol
 

mancow

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+1

Menu, Rotate to Item, Enter, Execute, Repeat............


For whatever reason the only thing I can't seem to remember is how to turn off or on double digit quick keys.


Manual? There was a manual for the 396? LOL. I love being born in the technology generation where anything electronic is second nature like eating food :) Here i thought the 396, minus a few details, was the easiest Uniden product made yet.....even easier then the crappy Uniden cordless phone i have that never seems to get more then 50ft from the base without dieing, lol
 

AK9R

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For whatever reason the only thing I can't seem to remember is how to turn off or on double digit quick keys.
Quoting from the "fine" manual:
"For quick keys 10-99, press . then press the quick key’s 2-digit number."
 

af5rn

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Don't program enough by hand that you'll worry about losing anything you've programmed. You're only trying to learn at this point - not just listen.
That raises a good point. I think it really helps if this is not your first or only scanner. If you are already listening to something, then your impatience will not compound nearly as fast as it will if you are unable to listen to anything until you get this thing figured out. But for those who are brand new to scanning and in a hurry to get up and running, it overwhelms you very quickly because you immediately get the feeling like the whole hobby is just too complicated.
 

slicerwizard

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I can't go into a system, go to a group, and go to a specific channel on demand. I can put a channel in using the Uniden software, but that doesn't mean I can find it again using the keypad.
While monitoring the system, press Hold and spin the knob. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
 

troymail

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Here's how bad it is....

When the first trunk tracking scanner came out (I hope I'm right here) -- the Uniden Bearcat BC-235 - you really had to shift your thinking from individual (now known as conventional) frequencies/channels to the concept that a "system" (such as a city or county) now uses "shared" frequencies and a computer (talking on one of those frequencies) tells each radio which frequency to use when the user pushes the button to talk. That alone is enough of a mind-shift to mess with you.

The BC-235 (geez, anyone remember how long ago that was?) had a special programming sequence where you had to tell the radio that you were programming a trunked system, then you had to enter all of the system frequencies (not just the control channel freqs), and then "search" for the talkgroup IDs and figure out what they were (16=fire dispatch, etc.). And - the radio only allowed display of the talkgroup IDS - no alpha tagging. And - we were limited to 300 total frequencies and/or a combination TRS's and conventional channels in ten "scanlists". And you had to find the frequencies and talkgroups yourself somehow -- we didn't have excellent resources like Radio Reference like we do today!

OK - this is getting longer than I planned...

My next step was a "minor" upgrade to a BC-245 (I don't recall the differences between the 235 and the 245).

Then I got a BC-296 with a digital card (I skipped over the BC-250 thankfully). I still recall that day - my first DIGITAL scanner. .... and was I ever frustrated... even though I had already been through the 235 and 245 - this was just different when it came to programming. Add to it that I was really unhappy with the reception (even back then) with a digital system that really isn't that far away from my location (and I couldn't keep listening on my 'previous' scanners because they didn't have digital ability).

Then - the BC396 -- dynamic memory - argh! -- gotta learn something new again. But it got better as I learned it and the new capabilities and features the 396 offered - the improved alpha tag displays, systems without arbitrary frequency and talkgroup limits (ok - they're still limited to some degree but huge compared to previous radios), groups, sub-groups, control channel searches - lots of new stuff that is great --- once you understand it all - and that takes time.

At this point, still be frustrated by digital capability of any of the Uniden radios, I "test drove" a Radio Shack PRO-96 several times and was extremely happy right away with the digital reception/voice quality but given several factors (mostly the big brick size and the age of the radio) I never kept one.

Then, in Spring 2007, I saw that GRE was about to release some new radios. Knowing that GRE made the PRO-96 I figured this has got to be good. Even better, the draft user's manual was posted on the Internet so we could "learn" the radio before they actually were available for purchase (excellent!).

I waited wondering if I should get one (which was really hard) and finally, after a couple of week, my new radio arrived - boy is this different (again!) - and there was little useful software to program it (I think it came with a simple demo software control program). But then problems.... I found the radio wouldn't properly receive and decode some systems that my previous radios had no problems decoding. This was frustrating and other were reporting the same or similar issues (kinda reminded me of buying a new car that was in its first model year - never again). Anyway - it took some time but those problems were quickly resolved with CPU and firmware updates from GRE - although at the time it seemed like an eternity.... I still think the best thing about this radio was the fact that GRE posted the user's manual in advance of the radio being released - made it seem like I knew the radio before I ever had it in my hands.

So what am I trying to say here? Well, technology is becoming increasingly complex and the challenge for the prodcuers of this technolgy is given the users a really good user interface and/or software that simplfies the process. And- new technology is mostly unproven until it gets in the hands of the users - I don't care how much beta testing goes on - let's call the beta testing 'alpha' testing - the first round of users buying the thing are now the 'beta' testers - like it or not).

And - Radio Reference makes life so much better for all of us...

OK - I'm done (did anyone make it this far or give up long before this sentence?)
 
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