Discreet scanning - one possible solution

TassieJay

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Apr 12, 2012
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64
Location
Australia
I've recently returned from a cruise holiday where 'Ham radios' were on the prohibited list for this particular cruise company. It is their policy that any prohibited item discovered is not only confiscated but destroyed by security. So taking a scanner should be safe, right? Well, I didn't want to take that chance, in case a security staff member couldn't or wouldn't make the distinction between a scanner and a ham radio, even though the difference is obvious to a scanner hobbyist.

I was able to carry out a little bit of listening on board by taking a Baofeng BF-T1. Here's my summary of that experience:

The good:
* Being ultra cheap, if the radio was confiscated, it wouldn't matter. I purchased my BF-T1 for less than USD $17, though that was a few years ago now.
* It's 'toy-like' appearance makes it look harmless - far removed from a 'dangerous' ham radio or scanner.
* Being slim & compact makes this radio easy to use without standing out like a sore thumb. Slip it into your pocket, and used with some earphones, no-one would be the wiser.
* Since the radio is charged by a USB socket, it can be charged just about anywhere without needing a special charging cradle etc. Very handy.
* Even though the BF-T1 is sold as a UHF only walkie talkie, it contains the AT1846S RF transceiver chip, which officially covers 134-174, 200-260 & 400-520 MHz. (the chip will actually go a little wider than that, typically 130-180, 195-280, and 390-550 MHz). A few tricks the programming software will have the radio working on all those frequencies.
* Comparing the BF-T1 with it's built-in (non-removable) antenna against a true designed-from-the-ground-up dual band radio that was fitted with a similar sized UHF only antenna gave very similar results on VHF frequencies. This means the BF-T1 doesn't have any electronics that unduly restricts VHF reception, even though it was designed for UHF only. It's just the tiny UHF antenna that is the limiting factor for VHF reception. And you can partly overcome that by holding the BF-T1 by the antenna using your fingers; your fingers act as a capacitively coupled antenna and enhances VHF reception.
* Of all the cheap walkie talkies using the AT1846S RF transceiver chip, the BF-T1 is one of the fastest scanning radios. It's still fairly slow at about 4 channels a second, but that's a lot better than some other comparable units.

The not so good:
* To use the radio discreetly with earphones needs a custom audio adapter cable be made up.
* The BF-T1 has no field programmable capability, nor any search feature. You are going to be limited to the 20 channels that you must pre-program before leaving home. (interestingly, the radio has enough memory to hold over 100 channels, but for some reason is limited to just 20?)
* There is a design flaw with the BF-T1 that means it's minimum volume is still obnoxiously loud. This can be fixed by the addition of a single resistor inside the radio.
* There is no TX inhibit feature. This can be overcome by programming the TX frequency as 000.000 MHz. The radio will still appear to be trying to transmit on 000.000 MHz, but no RF signal is generated. Still, that might freak out a security officer who is examining the radio, if they decide to take a close look at it. A better solution might be to remove the little metal button 'domes' underneath the PTT so that the radio will never even attempt to transmit.

It's not a perfect solution, but where there is the risk of confiscation - it's quite a usable option.
Am I advocating the BF-T1 be used where scanners are clearly not welcome, for example on board an aircraft or other security sensitive area? No, most definitely not. Just don't go there.

Using the BF-T1, I was able to listen in on the ship's internal UHF communication system, and keep tabs on the VHF marine band as well. There was some interesting listening to be had that I'd otherwise have missed out on.
 

pb_lonny

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Joined
Jul 2, 2012
Messages
1,292
Location
Tasmania
Well done with this. I have also recently returned from a cruise. In my case I decided not to take any radios.


We are about to head off on a three week driving holiday from Melbourne to the gold coast, for this I have my scanner programmed and log sheets ready :)
 

ecps92

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Joined
Jul 8, 2002
Messages
10,909
Location
Taxachusetts
Problem with the CCR is it does Analog and many of the ships have migrated to DMR

Not sure where you heard "Destroyed", but depending on the item and the $$ value, they do return them
what cruise line ??

I've recently returned from a cruise holiday where 'Ham radios' were on the prohibited list for this particular cruise company. It is their policy that any prohibited item discovered is not only confiscated but destroyed by security. So taking a scanner should be safe, right? Well, I didn't want to take that chance, in case a security staff member couldn't or wouldn't make the distinction between a scanner and a ham radio, even though the difference is obvious to a scanner hobbyist.

I was able to carry out a little bit of listening on board by taking a Baofeng BF-T1. Here's my summary of that experience:

The good:
* Being ultra cheap, if the radio was confiscated, it wouldn't matter. I purchased my BF-T1 for less than USD $17, though that was a few years ago now.
* It's 'toy-like' appearance makes it look harmless - far removed from a 'dangerous' ham radio or scanner.
* Being slim & compact makes this radio easy to use without standing out like a sore thumb. Slip it into your pocket, and used with some earphones, no-one would be the wiser.
* Since the radio is charged by a USB socket, it can be charged just about anywhere without needing a special charging cradle etc. Very handy.
* Even though the BF-T1 is sold as a UHF only walkie talkie, it contains the AT1846S RF transceiver chip, which officially covers 134-174, 200-260 & 400-520 MHz. (the chip will actually go a little wider than that, typically 130-180, 195-280, and 390-550 MHz). A few tricks the programming software will have the radio working on all those frequencies.
* Comparing the BF-T1 with it's built-in (non-removable) antenna against a true designed-from-the-ground-up dual band radio that was fitted with a similar sized UHF only antenna gave very similar results on VHF frequencies. This means the BF-T1 doesn't have any electronics that unduly restricts VHF reception, even though it was designed for UHF only. It's just the tiny UHF antenna that is the limiting factor for VHF reception. And you can partly overcome that by holding the BF-T1 by the antenna using your fingers; your fingers act as a capacitively coupled antenna and enhances VHF reception.
* Of all the cheap walkie talkies using the AT1846S RF transceiver chip, the BF-T1 is one of the fastest scanning radios. It's still fairly slow at about 4 channels a second, but that's a lot better than some other comparable units.

The not so good:
* To use the radio discreetly with earphones needs a custom audio adapter cable be made up.
* The BF-T1 has no field programmable capability, nor any search feature. You are going to be limited to the 20 channels that you must pre-program before leaving home. (interestingly, the radio has enough memory to hold over 100 channels, but for some reason is limited to just 20?)
* There is a design flaw with the BF-T1 that means it's minimum volume is still obnoxiously loud. This can be fixed by the addition of a single resistor inside the radio.
* There is no TX inhibit feature. This can be overcome by programming the TX frequency as 000.000 MHz. The radio will still appear to be trying to transmit on 000.000 MHz, but no RF signal is generated. Still, that might freak out a security officer who is examining the radio, if they decide to take a close look at it. A better solution might be to remove the little metal button 'domes' underneath the PTT so that the radio will never even attempt to transmit.

It's not a perfect solution, but where there is the risk of confiscation - it's quite a usable option.
Am I advocating the BF-T1 be used where scanners are clearly not welcome, for example on board an aircraft or other security sensitive area? No, most definitely not. Just don't go there.

Using the BF-T1, I was able to listen in on the ship's internal UHF communication system, and keep tabs on the VHF marine band as well. There was some interesting listening to be had that I'd otherwise have missed out on.
 

RRR

They are just 3 R's. Don't look too much into it
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I'll be damned if someone is going to take anything from me (much less destroy it) without due process. I'd pack my stuff up and leave before I allowed that.
 

majoco

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Dec 25, 2008
Messages
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New Zealand
...or you could find yourself with your partner dropped off at some wharf somewhere where they don't speak English and your credit card is not recognised.....
 

wtp

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Joined
Apr 3, 2008
Messages
2,760
Location
Port Charlotte FL
i hate to write this....how about no radio on this trip...?

i have listened to a scanner everyday since buying a rs pro7a (like 1976)
in 2012 i had a stroke and spent a month in rehab...with no radio.
so it can be done.
they did not have anything about it, i just would not want to go to sleep with it and not have it later.
 

TassieJay

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Joined
Apr 12, 2012
Messages
64
Location
Australia
From Celebrity cruises web site (quotes)
"The following are examples of items that guests are not allowed to bring onboard. These and other similar items will be confiscated upon being found and will not be returned. Prohibited items are at the discretion of the Chief Security Officer and the Staff Captain and include, but are not limited to
...
HAM radios
..."

and

"No external mounting antenna HAM radio equipment or other transmitting devices are strictly prohibited due to potential interference with Celebrity's onboard communication systems. (Baby monitors are not allowed to be used onboard our vessels as their radio signal could interfere with ship communication and/or navigation systems.)"

and

"If we or the Master of the ship have reason to believe that any cabin may contain any item or substance which should not have been brought onboard, the Master or an authorised Officer has the right to enter and search the cabin concerned and seize any such item"

(wow, so my car remote key fob which transmits was liable to confiscation according to the strict letter of their policy! Of course, they wouldn't go to that extreme...)

I can't recall where I saw the policy of confiscated items being destroyed... perhaps it was part of the printed material provided to us prior to boarding. I can't find reference to it in online resources. There are specific references to any items left behind being destroyed, though. But confiscated & not returned is as good as destroyed to it's owner.

In any case, it was nice to be able to listen in on a bit of activity, but it didn't inhibit enjoyment of our holiday in any way. Think the total time spent listening in was less than an hour for the entire three week holiday. Sometimes it is nice to just 'unplug' from life.
 

RRR

They are just 3 R's. Don't look too much into it
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Haha, once you're away from the dock, you won't be ejected because you didn't "allow" them to destroy your property. Not like you have broken any laws.

Like I said, I am not allowing anything I own to be destroyed or taken from me (aside from "we will need to hold it until the end of the trip") without due process and reimbursement. Anyone that does, has no backbone.

It's not like someone is trying to smuggle drugs or weapons, it is a scanner, or HT, which is legal. Their "rules" aren't "law" that you can be charged with, and they can't arbitrarily take your property without compensation.

Now, if it's boarding time, sure, they can deny you entry, every business owner or operator can. But to put you off the ship while away from your home port? Come on...
 

ecps92

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Messages
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Taxachusetts
Guess you have not been on many a cruise, these ships are not US Registered, they follow International Law and yes, you can be left at the next PORT


Haha, once you're away from the dock, you won't be ejected because you didn't "allow" them to destroy your property. Not like you have broken any laws.

Now, if it's boarding time, sure, they can deny you entry, every business owner or operator can. But to put you off the ship while away from your home port? Come on...
 

majoco

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Dec 25, 2008
Messages
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New Zealand
You may find that the 'law' on board is that of the country of the ship's registration. Don't complain if you are complying with the legislation of the US of A, it may not be the same as Ruritania or wherever. I believe that 'walking the plank' may still be valid..... :oops:
 

mmckenna

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I'll be damned if someone is going to take anything from me (much less destroy it) without due process. I'd pack my stuff up and leave before I allowed that.
When you buy the tickets, you sign that you agree to follow the contract, which includes rules, conduct, etc.

Wouldn't be the first time someone was left on the pier looking for a way to get home.

As for the OP,
Running a small radio with a pair of earbuds is low profile enough that no one is going to even think twice. Usually any issues that arise are from people running with the volume cranked up. Good on you for finding a solution.
 
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