Looking for tips on organizing Minnesota Favorites Lists...

NoClue48

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Twin Cities, MN
I'm not new to radios nor to scanners, but all my experience has been with banks of channels on conventional scanners. I now have a BCD436HP and a BCD536HP and am going blind and my mind is turning to mush reading and watching YouTube videos and trying to get my head around the Favorites Lists and the use of Quick Keys, etc.

I've figured out how to manipulate and add and delete channels and systems using Sentinel, but I sense that I'm missing something between the way the systems are laid out and presented in Sentinel and the way they are organized in the real world. I want to make sure that I'm starting out with as close to a real world understanding of the systems and then implement that into my Favorites Lists.

Some of the suggestions I've seen start with topics like Fire, Police, Public Service, etc. or County A, County B, Municipality A, B, C, etc. Not having ever worked for any government agencies, I don't know if these approaches are a good place to start or not.

So, I'm just asking if there are any folks in MN that have organized their Favorite Lists one way or another and why. I'm NOT asking for anyone to share their lists or to program this for me. I'm just looking to understand the logic behind it.

Also, if anyone knows of a straight forward path to take to get off on the right foot, please advise. I'm still waiting for that comprehension switch between what's in the manuals, out here in the forums and in the videos to flip and illuminate the correct path. Well, I doubt that will happen, but somewhere I'm certain there is a light that shows me the end of the tunnel.

Thank you in advance for any and all help and suggestions.
Larry
 

sonm10

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The way uniden work is to think of a hierarchy

Favorite lists contain systems
Systems contain sites and departments
Sites contain frequencies
Departments contain talkgroup ids

My sds is set to have 3 favorite lists - public safety, business, ham radio

My public safety favorite list contains 1 system - ARMER

ARMER system contains 2 sites which I monitor (one site for the county I live in one site for the two counties north and north west of me)

ARMER system contains a plethora of departments for the various agencies I monitor each assigned to a quick key

My business favorite list contains various subscribers systems (Ltr, nxdn, dmr) I'm in the process of trying to map

I utilize ProScan as my software of choice and is edited different from the database (my own names, department configuration, etc.) My understanding of sentinal is somewhat of a select and paste thing??? Not really my style

Hope this helps
 

sonm10

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This is the link for Minnesota's statewide public safety system



I'm not from m/sp metro area but some of those areas are encrypted or going to be

Also make sure you set a quick key for each hierarchy (Favorite list, system, site/department) this makes it easier to turn on/off things. If no quick key is set it will scan everything
 

NoClue48

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Nov 17, 2016
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Location
Twin Cities, MN
The way uniden work is to think of a hierarchy

Favorite lists contain systems
Systems contain sites and departments
Sites contain frequencies
Departments contain talkgroup ids

My sds is set to have 3 favorite lists - public safety, business, ham radio

My public safety favorite list contains 1 system - ARMER

ARMER system contains 2 sites which I monitor (one site for the county I live in one site for the two counties north and north west of me)

ARMER system contains a plethora of departments for the various agencies I monitor each assigned to a quick key

My business favorite list contains various subscribers systems (Ltr, nxdn, dmr) I'm in the process of trying to map

I utilize ProScan as my software of choice and is edited different from the database (my own names, department configuration, etc.) My understanding of sentinal is somewhat of a select and paste thing??? Not really my style

Hope this helps
Thank you. It helps a lot.

I appreciate your input and your explanation helps me to see the forest for the trees, as it were. I was leaning toward setting up something like a public service list. I'm also interested in railroads and aircraft, so I'll probably have lists for them as well. I still need to think about it all, but this concise and clear explanation of how you use it is helping me to make sense of it all.

I'm not a ham operator so won't need to make a list for that and I don't understand what monitoring businesses would be about.

Also, thank you for pointing out ProScan as an alternative to Sentinel. I don't think I'm sophisticated enough in this endeavor that I'd need to go that route yet. I'll keep it in mind however.
 

NoClue48

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Location
Twin Cities, MN
This is the link for Minnesota's statewide public safety system



I'm not from m/sp metro area but some of those areas are encrypted or going to be

Also make sure you set a quick key for each hierarchy (Favorite list, system, site/department) this makes it easier to turn on/off things. If no quick key is set it will scan everything
Thank you... I'll keep that in mind.
 

ofd8001

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Well you certainly picked a challenging system to deal with :)

I'm from Minneapolis and we typically visit family a time or two each year. I have two Favorites Lists for the area. One is only Minneapolis. The other is Hennepin County excluding Minneapolis. If I'm in a mood to listen to just Minneapolis, I'll turn off Hennnepin County. If I want to listen to lots of stuff, I'll turn on both Hennepin County and Minneapolis.

In your case, you might have a third for railroads and a fourth for aviation.

While you could put everything into one Favorites List and with Quick Keys be able to turn on or off things as your desires go, it involves a little more brain/memory power.
 

NoClue48

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Twin Cities, MN
Well you certainly picked a challenging system to deal with :)

I'm from Minneapolis and we typically visit family a time or two each year. I have two Favorites Lists for the area. One is only Minneapolis. The other is Hennepin County excluding Minneapolis. If I'm in a mood to listen to just Minneapolis, I'll turn off Hennnepin County. If I want to listen to lots of stuff, I'll turn on both Hennepin County and Minneapolis.

In your case, you might have a third for railroads and a fourth for aviation.

While you could put everything into one Favorites List and with Quick Keys be able to turn on or off things as your desires go, it involves a little more brain/memory power.
You know... I am so happy to hear that from you! I thought it was just me!

I spent all morning trying to figure out just how to parse out all the entities that are listed in the Minnesota ARMER system. I've started about three or four times and ended up deleting the Favorites Lists for ARMER just because it seems as though it can't be broken down from within--everybody in the state shows up in it! Plus, I live in the northwest portion of Hennepin county (just a stone's throw from Corcoran) and am closer to Anoka, Sheburne and Wright counties than I am to downtown Minneapolis.

So, I almost need to include all seven (7) of the counties (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington) in a "Twin Cities statistical area list" and then have another for Sherburne and Wright just to stay current with where I actually live. All this makes my head hurt and want to take a nap... luckily, I'm retired, so I can come back to it after the nap 😁.

Studying the "Twin Cities metro area" on a map it appears that maybe three (3) lists would suit me better using the rivers (Mississippi, Minnesota and St Croix) as the boundaries. That would then suggest yet a fourth area for the ridge runners surrounding Hudson in western Wisconsin.

And then I can tackle the rail and aviation... or perhaps do them first.

Thank you for the suggestions.
 

NoClue48

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[UPDATE] - Well, it's not pretty (I still have a flashing S0 = "3" that flashes whenever my radio is scanning/monitoring the #2 list), but it's working. I have "Aviation" on list #0; "Minnesota Railroads" on list #1; and "Public Safety" on list #2.

The first two list were easy and, I thought, straight forward. I used them as guinea pigs for the big "Public Safety" list and tried to work out aberrations and my mistakes on them using trial and error on my 436HP.

Then, after they looked like what I thought they should, I tackled Minnesota's ARMER system. At first I was trying to program some granularity (i.e., PD, FD, Sheriff, etc. by city or county) into the list(s), but found that to be unwieldy and untenable at this point and at my current experience level.

What I finally ended up doing was brute-forcing it by adding the whole ARMER listing from the RR database. I called it "Public Safety" and literally threw everything from all across the state into the list. I then went in with Sentinel and cleaned up the obvious outliers and those that didn't "belong". It took many iterations to get the 436HP to function and scan correctly, but it now works and I've copied the lists over onto my 536HP and it is happily tracking some protests in downtown Minneapolis--talk about just in time!!!

Thank you to those of you who had suggestions--all of them helped me think and rethink my first stab at this. I know that it's not where it should be and I can hear all you old pros out there saying, "But how to you just get the PD or FD in this county or that city???" Well, I know! And I will keep studying and learning and hopefully will become more sophisticated so I can break out specific functions and organizations.

Onward!
 

drdispatch

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I'm not in Minnesota (never even been there, for that matter), but if you want an explanation as to the Favorites List - System - Department/Site hierarchy, I can help you with that. There's a logic to it which can be explained so that it makes it a little easier to wrap your brain around it. I won't detail it in this post, but if you're interested, I'll share it.
 

ofd8001

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I wish I had a lot of time and a computer to perfect a Favorites List for the Metro area. These days there is a lot going on so a guy could figure things out pretty quick.

Realizing I'm a little farther along the learning curve than you, though remembering there was a time when I just got started and experimented.

One thing I would be tempted to do is set up a system of Quick Keys.

The Favorites List Quick Key for ARMER would be 1. The System Quick Key for ARMER would be 0.

From there I would assign Department Quick Keys to Sites as follows that I imported to create my Favorites List.
61 Anoka
62 Dakota (surprised you hear them)
63 Hennepin East
64 Hennepin West
65 Minneapolis N/S (which is what the Minneapolis talkgroups use, mostly)
66 Minneapolis City Center (which is what the state units use, as well as EMS, and statewide interoperability)
67 Ramsey
68 Scott
69 Sheburne
70 Washington (surprised you hear them)
69 Wright

These are alphabetized to help remembering, (a little).

Generally speaking, if you toggle a site off, it will also stop receiving transmissions associated with it. For example if you turn off Minneapolis N/S you will stop hearing Minneapolis Police and Fire. This is a general rule of thumb, however with this system as robust as it is, you could hear Minneapolis Police on Hennepin East site. That is because the police officer's radio is getting a better signal from that site.

Then you have the wildcard situations where some talkgroups are forced on to multiple towers. For example the State Patrol District 2500 Main (West Metro) is carried on Minneapolis City Center, Minneapolis N/S, Hennepin East, Hennepin West, etc.

It's really okay to have some problems, setbacks, bouts of frustration and use of bad words. You have a complex radio system you are trying to monitor. If even you knew your scanner backwards and forwards, this system is challenging to master.

On top of the difficult system, you are learning a new scanner(s). They ain't the easiest things either.

So its gonna take a while for you. Just remember, no one has blown up a scanner due to bad programming. Just used a lot of time to learn something, that's all.
 

NoClue48

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Twin Cities, MN
Wow! Thank you!

That looks somewhat familiar because when I brute-forced ARMER into what I have now, that's about what I ended up with. I threw out all the outstate stuff in ARMER and was left with many of those counties and entities.

I think my inability to grasp how exactly the Quick Keys work and need to be programmed in Sentinel is my biggest impediment. But, I'll give this a try and perhaps the Quick Key stuff will be easier to understand--because I'll have the hierarchy defined and can concentrate on making the scanner open up and close things based on that. One less variable to mess up...

[an hour later]

So, I've attached a screen shot of what I've done so far... the municipalities in the city center are more complex than you suggested. That, or I'm missing something.

Please let me know what you think.
 

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ofd8001

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Unfortunately your screen shot was a wee bit too small.

On toggling Quick Keys, just remember that it is FF.SS.DD eYes, or in the case of Anoka it would be 1.0.61 eYes. The periods are important as they are separators. Like tying shoes - tough at first for a young kid who doesn't know how, but once it gets mastered, no further thought needed.
 

NoClue48

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Doesn't clicking on the attachment image enlarge it? I'll attach it again here:

ARMER-001.png

I can see that it's still not the best, but saving it locally and importing it into a image viewer should allow it to be enlarged.

[Onward]

I worked some more on the model as shown in the attachment, but am unable to have the ARMER favorite recognized by the scanner. I can see ARMER in the list of favorites on the scanner, but the "1" quick key I assume I've assigned won't do anything--I get the three quick beeps indicating that the scanner doesn't like that command.

I have left all the "Hennepin - {municipality}" items in the list and that results in numbering the ARMER departments/sites from 61 to 79.

I've also just discovered that when I was saving the profile in Sentinel, using the Save icon, it was saving what I was working on to all the other Profiles I have. I initially started out with a Profile named "First". When I implemented your suggestions, I started (or so I thought) another named "Second". Lo and behold, when I tried to revert back to the "First" profile, I found it to be the same as the "Second". I then looked at the "Preset" profile that was there when I started Sentinel and it too is the same as "First" and "Second"!?!?

I'm nearing the point that you suggested early on may occur--that of throwing things. I've exceeded the cursing threshold several times already as well...

I'm now going to research the innards of the Sentinel preferences and determine where I'm going wrong in saving my work. I need to find the location of the saved files and the file save scheme. At the moment, I see further "development" of the Favorites Lists as fruitless if I can't rely on some sort of version control.

I still have a copy of the "First" version on my 536HP and know that I can copy it back into Sentinel, but I won't do that until I understand the Sentinel environment more thoroughly.
 
Last edited:

drdispatch

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The contents of your Favorites Lists will remain the same across all profiles. The only thing you can change about Favorites Lists between profiles is which lists are downloaded to the scanner and which of those are monitored. The only way around this would be to rename the FL after a revision, assigning a different QK to it, and then NOT checking the "Erase Favorites Lists on Scanner" box when you write to scanner.
 

ofd8001

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You can go to Tools>Options to see where on your computer you Favorites Lists and Profiles are stored. From there you can use your Windows Explorer to navigate to the folder. When you get there, don't expect much. All you will find are files having CFG (configuration) files and HPD (HP Data files, or the actual Favorites Lists). You can open them with a text editor such as Notepad.

I highly recommend against altering the files or even clicking on Save. You could really upset an apple cart and lose a lot of work and say the big "Uff Da".

I was able to see the second version of your screen shot. It appears that you have correctly imported the appropriate Department data, but you did not import any Sites. Presuming that is the case, that is the reason why it ain't working.

Attached is an HPE file in zipped format. Unzip it to a location on your computer and remember where it is. Then start Sentinel and go to File>Import from HPE file and locate Mn Armer.hpe where you saved that unzipped HPE file.

Be sure to edit the open Profile and set this Favorites List to Download ON and Monitor ON. You may also have to edit the Favorites List to assign Favorites List Quick Key #1 to the Favorites List. (Might be good to double check any other Favorites List you have to be sure no others have Favorites List Quick Key 1, if so, change them to something else.)

There is a System Quick Key of 0 (as in zero), and Department Quick Keys for the Sites. So for example, if you want to toggle the Washington Simulcast site, the sequence is 1.0.69 eYes.

You should be in business from there. That said, I kind of doubt you will receive all of the sites/counties you mention. Most transmitters have a pretty restrictive footprint given how the system works together. It is a waste of scanning time to check sites too far away.
 

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NoClue48

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Twin Cities, MN
Thank you... I found the location where the Profile information is stored; it's in my ...Documents\Uniden\BCDx36HP folder. I did open several of the files in Notepad++ and saw familiar content. Pretty "raw" stuff, but it helps me understand things a bit more. I'll continue to use Sentinel to make any changes.

I unzipped your attachment and imported it into my profile. I tested it on my 436HP, liked what I saw and then loaded it directly into the 536HP. It is working just fine on both! So, THANK YOU for your help! I did a comparison of what you sent me to what I had created--hierarchically, they look the same to me, but I do see several nuances that I missed and certainly didn't know needed to be done. I certainly hadn't put in any "sites". I'll need to study up on what that is and how it works.

As for whether I will get all the sites, we shall see. I have been receiving Dakota, Ramsey and Washington County fire and EMS pages and calls; they're weak, but I can hear them. It's a good bet that I won't see any of the mobile units' calls though.

I understand about the time savings of not scanning undesirable or too distant sites. I've disabled my air and rail favorites.

So, I owe you for all the help.... thank you, again.
Larry
 

ofd8001

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Sites are like automobiles and talkgroups are like the passengers. You can have a bunch of passengers, but no automobiles so no one is getting anywhere. By the same token, if you have an automobile but no one to ride, then what's the use of having it?

Generally sites on the ARMER system do not travel much past their county lines. That allows for easier re-use of frequencies elsewhere. Radio users can have their conversations handed off to another site when they roam from home. Very similar to cell phones.

If you are up near the Anoka/Hennepin line and getting Washington County, that's a good thing. A while back I was visiting friends in Coon Rapids and didn't get much other than Hennepin and Anoka sites. If you are too far away from a site, the scanner will check all the frequencies similar to regular scanning. So if a site has 20 frequencies and the scanner does about 80 frequencies per second, you lose about a quarter second per too far away site.

I did add some of the interoperability talkgroups like LTAC and STAC. METCOM should be there too - it is sort of like a telephone circuit where one dispatch center can call another with an urgent call. You'll hear good stuff on those. If there is a pursuit somewhere, they will patch in LTAC1 for mutual aid purposes.

The ARMER system is very "target rich" with a lot of stuff to listen to in the Metro area.

Enjoy!
 

NoClue48

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Thank you again for the help! This area is a very rich environment for scanning and I've thought so ever since moving here in the early 90s and establishing my first monitoring site 50+ miles west of here in Hutchinson. It is way busier than the plains of South Dakota; where I grew up listening to SW and DXing AM/MW radio. KOMA, WLS, WWL, WCCO and a host of others that faded in and out depending on how strong the skip was on any given evening. But I digress...

I'd seen all those MN communities (sites, as they turn out to be) strung onto the bottom of the ARMER list in the DB, but didn't know why I would want to scan all of those in addition to what I'd already included above them. So, I defeated myself by removing them from my list; thinking I was limiting my scanning "waste". The reason my brute-force list worked and my culled listing didn't was the absence of all those sites in the latter.

Below is a Google Earth snapshot of my area. The pushpin is at the center point of my zip code (as determined by the DB). My listening post is ~1.5 miles SW of the pushpin's location. As you can see, most of the denser population of the metro area is south and east of my monitoring post.

Annotation 2020-08-29 055336.jpg

Anyway, problem resolved on my end and I'm indebted to you for your assistance. Perhaps, next time you visit "The Twin Cities" we can hook up and I'll gladly purchase you a frothy beverage to try to repay you.

Larry
 

ofd8001

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Glad that you got it going.

A video worth watching if you want to learn more about the ARMER System:

You may experience a situation called simulcast distortion. Here is a video on that:

I'm sure you may have additional questions that will come up as time goes along. There is a Minnesota specific page in these forums that has some really interesting stuff. The folks there have a lot of experience with the ins and outs of this system.
 

NoClue48

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Twin Cities, MN
Thank you for the links... and, yes, it's working just fine--seems rather seamlessly at this point. As soon as I listen for a few hours and can learn and track and otherwise understand the idiosyncrasies and nuances, I will delve into it some more.

Just now it still feels like I'm trying to drink from a fire hose. I'm hoping more will stick as the days go on. Lots to understand...

One thing... I see the range has been set to 0.0... I seem to recall changing it to 20.0 or 25.0 a few days ago. Was that something that is contained in your file or did the several factory resets I performed do that? I'll search around and see what's been put forth here too.

Thank you.
 
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