newsphotog rig 2.0

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newsphotog

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I completely overhauled my setup in a 2004 Chevrolet Impala that was previously seen at http://forums.radioreference.com/pictures-your-shack-mobile-setup/123489-newsphotog-rig.html -- there was a version 1.5 but it wasn't anything worth mentioning.

It seems like it's more for personal enjoyment now with all the ham gear instead of mostly scanners for work. I guess that's just how it all starts out. Then it all spirals out of control. (Like the Psycho Rover: http://forums.radioreference.com/pi...-have-yet-see-more-complete-mobile-setup.html) I don't think I've gone overboard yet, but I hope that will never happen.

One of the main factors in the redesign was that my ham gear had been overloading the front end of my Uniden BCT15 and BCD996T's. I blew the front end out of two scanners before I went back to the drawing board. I really only had a few options to solve the problem: get a VHF notch filter for the scanner, which I didn't want to do since I still listen to some VHF public safety; move either the scanner antenna or ham antennas to the roof; or sacrifice either the ham gear or the scanner gear since they apparently cannot coexist on the same trunk lid.

I am not a fan of long/tall antennas, especially on the roof. I was deliberating the merits of the Antenex Phantom/Phantom Elite series. After hearing repeatedly that they don't perform very well on the ham bands, I explored using one for scanning. A couple members here on RadioReference gave favorable reviews of the Phantom Elite series being used for scanning, so I went ahead and got an ETRAB8063, the 806-866 MHz fin-type Phantom Elite antenna. This would be mounted on the roof, more towards the rear.

The Phantom Elite is a very low-profile and almost mimics a stock GPS antenna (although someone told me it looks like a "hair plug"). I have a VHF version of the antenna that I keep in the car in case I am sent into an area with VHF-only agencies. For scanning, the ETRAB8063 works very well unless you also monitor VHF. It works excellent on 800, great on 400/UHF but once you start to get on the fringe it REALLY drops off. I am able to pick up 800 MHz trunking systems that I usually can't. I have been able to get a maximum distance of 60 miles on 800 MHz systems with this antenna (Cedar Rapids P25).

The two Diamond NR72BNMO dual-band antennas would stay on the trunk lid. All NMO mounts would be drilled and permanently mounted. A third auxiliary NMO mount would be installed with the coax leading into the cabin and then into the console. This is for future use and readiness. If I need to install an additional radio on the fly, such as business band, 902 MHz, or 1.2 GHz D-STAR digital data, it can be accomplished quickly and easily if the situation arises.

Obviously, radio consoles for the early model Impala are no longer manufactured. I had a surprisingly difficult time trying to find a used console in the area. This Jotto console was purchased from a sheriff about two hours outside of Des Moines who upgraded to a newer car. The console had some holes in the side, but it does the job and you can't really see the blemishes unless you're in the passenger's seat. If you are looking for a console that is no longer manufactured for an Impala (or other makes that are used for government work), I'd recommend checking with radio installation shops. If they don't have any they're trying to get rid of, they could probably direct you to a police or fire department that has one or two.

The laptop stand is a Gamber Johnson mount that a local radio shop was trying to get rid of. The top part of the post comes in and out and is secured by tension. I rarely have it mounted except for severe weather events or long road trips. It works fine for the job. In one position, though, it covers up my cup holders (can't be havin' that) and in the other position it's not a very good typing position and it's kinda far away, but it does alright for general use and monitoring.

My PowerBook was entirely too wide to fit on the stand, so I got a 10" Acer Aspire One that does the job adequately. On this, I run GRLevel3 and D-STAR text communication programs like D-RATS in addition to other computing tasks (e-mail, IM, browsing, etc). I still do my mobile photo editing on my Powerbook while sitting in the back seat. I haven't been able to put D-RATS to the test in a mobile environment since there are very little D-RATS users in the area, but it should be pretty neat for mobile use. For internet, I am using a Verizon broadband card. I have no plans to use 1.2 GHz D-STAR for internet, for various reasons. I only use the netbook when I'm using the computer mount, so I don't keep my netbook in the car, out of the extreme heat and the prying eyes of thieves. (DISCLAIMER: no I don't surf the web and drive or type and drive -- I pay attention to the road at all times.)

Finally, the meat of the system. In the console, from top to bottom:

Kenwood D710A for APRS on Band A and ham on Band B (although during work I have it tuned to Des Moines police dispatch, which is a UHF conventional system). When traveling, I keep Band B set to 146.82 simplex.

Uniden BCD996T is next, scanning all public safety in Polk County, Iowa State Patrol, and FRS/GMRS/CB at all times. I have about 8 of Iowa's largest metro areas programmed into the system as well as rural areas I usually drive in, programmed in zones via quickeys (that's another day, another post).

Icom ID-800H is actually my main ham radio, usually set on hold for the local D-STAR system. Sometimes it scans the local repeaters, and sometimes it monitors secondary DMPD channels or Polk County fire dispatch. This is the radio that is connected to the netbook for mobile D-RATS operation on 2m/440.

Tripp-Lite 375-watt PowerVerter is the only thing that's left that was part of my very very first install (call it version 0.5 beta) and could be the most useful tool in the car. I use it to power laptops and chargers and has saved my butt many times especially when I am in an area for days with no power. It includes two outlets. I haven't had any problems with it yet and it has sufficiently powered everything I have plugged into it. I usually keep this turned off unless I am actively using it.

We had a difficult time finding console faceplates for ham gear -- the BCD996T is the only radio that had a ready-made faceplate that fit. The ID-800H uses a faceplate that was just a bit too wide and a bit too short (I filed the inside of it down and still had to practically jam the radio into the faceplate. It is EXTREMELY snug). The faceplate for the PowerVerter is way too wide and a little too tall. We could have gotten them custom-made but the wait time and production costs of it just weren't practical to me.

I think that pretty much covers all the bases, unless anyone has questions. This setup should be sufficient for me for quite some time, so I'm not anticipating adding to it or redesigning the whole thing anytime soon. At least I hope that's the case. So far I think I have achieved the goal of reducing interference/damage to the scanner from the ham gear by isolating the antennas a little bit more.
 

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jim202

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You could always go in and modify the front end of the scanners with a series resistor and a couple
of hot carrier diodes back to back. The diodes are connected from the input to ground after a
series resistor of about 100 Ohms value. The resistor limits the voltage that the diodes will see
when they conduct.

Have done this to several of the commercial General Electric radios I used on public service
frequencies. It took cleaning out the front end FET a couple of times before I made the mod.
After that, never had another problem. The source of the problem was a high powered 400 MHz
radar system that I drove by every day. Guess the GE radio just couldn't handle the megawatt
power from several hundred feet away. My radios are still working today, even though I don't
work at that location anymore.

Jim
 

crayon

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Sweet ride. Clean installs always begin with drilling holes. :D

I had a Malibu and the thing that miss about it .. actually two things .. whiteish-amber as opposed to green dashboard illumination and dash mounted ignition. Kinda cool to turn the key to the right to start instead of forward.

:)
 

NewsShooter9

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Chattanooga,TN
Nice setup can you post pics of the gear in your trunk. Camera , tripod etc... Ill understand if you need remove the mic flag. Secrets secrets secrets shhhhhh.
 

newsphotog

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Des Moines, IA
Nice setup can you post pics of the gear in your trunk. Camera , tripod etc... Ill understand if you need remove the mic flag. Secrets secrets secrets shhhhhh.
I am a still photographer, so no video cameras or tripods or anything. Usually just a camera or two, the usual lenses, chestvest or Domke, and a computer bag. Obviously there will be more equipment if I am supposed to be out of town longer. I don't keep anything in the trunk since I don't keep most things in Pelican cases. If I am out of the car, I have my gear with me so there's no risk of theft (I'm pretty paranoid about theft).

Below are a couple of pictures from what my setup was during the midwest floods last year in 2008. I do most of my picture editing in the backseat (it's actually usually pretty comfortable).
 

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stockdoc

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newsphotog,
Impressive setup indeed. You must be very accomplished at your trade. How long have you been a pro media photographer?
One question about the install ...are those external speakers amplified? What make and model are they?

Thanks,
Doc
 

newsphotog

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Des Moines, IA
newsphotog,
Impressive setup indeed. You must be very accomplished at your trade. How long have you been a pro media photographer?
One question about the install ...are those external speakers amplified? What make and model are they?

Thanks,
Doc
:lol:

Thanks. I am just a guy that works hard with a growing radio addiction. I have been working my way up since 2003. The speakers are just some cheap Nokia speakers that get the job done. They are plenty loud with the Kenwood and the Icom. The scanner is hooked up to a Motorola speaker on the bottom driver's side console (not shown).

excellent setup, did you do it yourself or was it professionaly done?

Kevin
Since I didn't have most of the tools, a radio shop helped me out but we both did it and got it all done in one day. I did all of the planning and we just knocked it out once I had all the pieces of the puzzle put together.
 

burner50

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The newsphotog rig pics arent nearly as impressive as seeing it in person!
 

Kasmus

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Feb 27, 2004
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Europe
A Windows laptop for the radio stuff and a MacBook Pro for photography tasks – you're doing it right! :)

I like the car too, hi.
 
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