Tag Archives: Scanners

Washington Post looks at the “Last of the scanners”

(Source: Washington Post)

Last of the scanners: Are police security measures and new technologies killing an American obsession?

In a white house on a quiet, leafy street in Takoma Park, Md., lives a man who listens to nothing but mayhem. He is remarkable not because of his appearance — tall, thin, black hair — but for what he has around him at all times: scanners.

On this day, the scanners of Alan Henney — whose tweets of bedlam are followed by dozens of Washington journalists — were going full blast. Eleven cluttered his coffee table and living room, all tuned to different radio frequencies from across the region. There was the chirp of D.C. Fire and EMS responders. The prattle of dispatch in Prince George’s County. And the broadcast of Montgomery County officials telling of a traffic accident, which, Henney concluded solemnly, “doesn’t sound very good.”

Something else that didn’t sound very good: the garbled noise coming from one scanner, obscuring D.C. police chatter. To Henney it sounded like death — not the death caused by crime or traffic accidents, but the demise of a passion.

Across the United States, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like Henney who listen to official communications on radio signals, sifting through a morass of chatter for interesting news. Some pester crime reporters with tips. Others, such as Henney, showcase the hard-won news items — like gem hunters would a stone — on their social media feeds. But soon, Henney fears, all of that may end. And what will become of the scanner enthusiasts when there’s nothing left to scan?

Over the past few years, an increasing number of municipalities and police departments, including the District’s, have begun encrypting their radioed communications, a trend driven in part by fear that bad guys and terrorists need to do little more nowadays than download a police-scanning app to get all the intelligence they need on what police are doing and where. Just this year, police in Las Vegas, Richmond and Knoxville, Tenn., have encrypted their radio communication.

But what police are calling a public safety measure, scanner hobbyists are describing as a blow to transparency. Now they’re asking plaintive questions about whether it portends the end of a pastime once incubated in science clubs and Scout groups.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the Washington Post.

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Radio deal: Refurbished Whistler scanners on sale

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Srebnick (K2DLS), who notes that Whistler currently has a selection of refurbished scanners on sale with a manufacturer’s warranty including the new TRX-1 handheld:

Click here to view the sale at Whistler.

These are great prices! Thank for the tip, Dan!

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The Uniden SDS100 True I/Q Scanner

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who shares information about the new flagship handheld scanner from Uniden: the SDS100.

Here are the details from Uniden’s press release:

SDS100 Coming Soon

Uniden creates another first with the SDS100 True I/Q Scanner, the first scanner to incorporate Software Defined Radio technology to provide incredible digital performance in even the most challenging RF environments. The SDS100’s digital performance is better than any other scanner in both simulcast and weak-signal environments.

The SDS100 is also the first scanner that allows you to decide what to display, where, and in what color. Custom fields put the information important to you right where you need it.

And, one more first, the SDS100 meets JIS4 (IPX4) standards for water resistance.

Slated for release in 2nd Quarter, 2018, the SDS100 carries an MSRP of $699*.

Of course, the SDS100 also includes all the advanced features you’ve come to expect from a Uniden scanner, including:

  • Customizable Color Display
  • Trunktracker X
  • APCO P25 Phase I and II
  • Motorola, EDACS, and LTR Trunking
  • MotoTRBO Capacity + and Connect +**
  • DMR Tier III**
  • Hytera XPT**
  • Single-Channel DMR**
  • NXDN 4800 and 9600**
  • EDACS ProVoice**
  • Location-Based Scanning
  • USA/Canada Radio Database
  • ZIP Code Selection for Easy Setup
  • Close Call™ RF Capture with Do Not Disturb
  • 8 GB microSD
  • Soft Keys for Intellegent UI
  • Recording, Playback, and Replay
  • Temporary Avoid
  • Fire Tone-Out Alert
  • System Analysis and Discovery
  • CTCSS/DCS/NAC/RAN/Color Code Decoding
  • S.A.M.E. Weather Alert
  • Enhanced Dynamic Memory
  • Preemptive Trunking Priority
  • Fully Customizable Scanning with your own Favorites Lists
  • Backlit Keypad
  • Channel Volume Offset
  • PC Programming and Control
  • USB Connectivity and Charging
  • Weekly Database Updates
  • Free Sentinel Software keeps the SDS100 database and memory up to date
  • Up to 8 Hours Operation on included LiIon Battery
  • Frequency Coverage:
    • 25-512 MHz
    • 758-824 MHz
    • 849-869 MHz
    • 894-960 MHz
    • 1240-1300 MHz

Dave shares this Uniden SDS100 Intro Video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Spec Sheet

Click here to download the Uniden SDS100 spec sheet (PDF).

Beta Owner’s Manual

Click here to download the Beta version of the Owner’s Manual (PDF).

Dave notes:

“[The SDS100] actually is bit smaller than the 436 and if the performance is like they say (see attached picture), then this could be a very exciting scanner indeed!!”

Yes indeed!  I have the Uniden BCD436HP and love it.  It’s such a simple handheld scanner to operate and there’s no real need to “program” it as it will automatically load relevant frequencies based on GPS coordinates or a postal/zip code. This looks like a significant upgrade and I love the fact it’s water resistant.  Of course, MSRP is projected to be $699 US–not a small investment.

Thanks for the tip and all of the links, Dave!

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ARISS contact today: stream on the web or perhaps listen with your radio!

NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson’s 7th Spacewalk (Image source: NASA)

Last night, my buddy Eric McFadden (WD8RIF) notified me that the International Space Station would be making a pass this morning and doing an ARISS contact with three schools in Belgium.

It appears this pass will create an opportunity for some of us at least in eastern North America (and elsewhere) to listen to the transmission live.

Eric notes:

The frequency of the downlink should be 145.800MHz. As the ISS climbs above your horizon, because of doppler-shift, listen on 145.805. Switch to 145.800 as the ISS approaches zenith. Switch to 145.795 as the ISS drops toward the other horizon. You’ll know when to switch frequency when the audio gets bad.

[…]The ISS runs real power so an HT with anything but the shortest rubber duck should be OK, particularly when the ISS is well above the horizon. A 1/2-wave whip on the HT is better.

The contact starts at 13:47 UTC (08:47 EST)–about one hour from time of this posting.

As Eric notes, pretty much any VHF handheld radio or scanner can easily receive this contact as long as you can tune to 145.80 MHz +/-.

Last time I was in a place to tune to the ISS, it was with my kids and we all got a kick out of hearing astronauts answer questions from children here on Terra Firma. I wrote a short post about this.

Don’t worry if you miss this ARISS contact–they happen all the time. Check the ARISS “Upcoming Contacts” (http://www.ariss.org/upcoming-contacts.html) page where future ARISS QSOs are listed. No doubt, it will pass over your part of the globe at some point!

Southgate ARC also posted the following announcement with a link to the live webcast:

ARISS contact webcast

On Thursday 12 January 2017, an ARISS contact is scheduled with three schools in Belgium.

Two schools will operate from the Euro Space Center.

The event will be web streamed live on:
https://www.facebook.com/eurospacecenter

The radio contact is scheduled at 13.47 UTC, which 14.37 CEWT.

The web streaming will start around 14.00 local time.

73,

Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS past chairman

Thanks again, Eric, for the tip!

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Talking scanners…

Since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed listening to police, fire, public services/utilities, and aviation communications on scanners. Growing up, my father had a Regency Executive scanner in our living room, and he used it to listen to all of the local action before it was published in the newspaper the following morning. All so fascinating to a kid like me, listening in.  Ah, those were the days…!

Regency Executive Scanner (Image source: eBay)

The Regency scanner was populated with crystals, and I fondly remember accompanying my father to our local radio shop to purchase new crystals for various frequencies. My father still has and uses this scanner today––evidently, a few of our hometown services still use the same frequencies they used back in the 1970s.

But oh, how times have changed

As the years have passed, public services moved to more complex communications systems including trunking, and now a host of digital modes have come to the fore, some even encrypted.

My interest in scanner technology frankly waned during the 1990s.  I suppose this had to do with the amount of travel and moving I was doing at the time. In the 1990s, for example, I lived in at least seven different communities in two countries. Between 2000-2010, I lived in five different communities in three different countries. I always remained dedicated to shortwave radio, of course, because while frequencies changed, I could receive many stations in Europe that I could also receive in North America. I knew that scanner frequencies, by their very nature, vary community-to-community, so I didn’t bother.

Truth is, I simply lacked the patience to program (relatively complicated) scanners.  Not to mention, I was really put off by the idea of traveling with a scanner, thus requiring a thick frequency guide just to hear local services.

Welcome to 2017

In the past few years, technology has made a big leap forward in the scanner world. With robust on-board memory, GPS capabilities, and dynamic frequency databases searchable by postal code and/or GPS coordinates, keeping an up-to-date scanner is now a great deal easier––brilliant developments for a scanner newbie like me!

So, exactly why do I want a scanner all of a sudden?  I mainly want one to keep in the messenger bag I carry with me everywhere.  I’d like something to take on travels, perhaps help me listen in on traffic problems or simply eavesdrop on the local public service scene to understand what’s happening around me. Moreover, I find I love listening to aviation frequencies! And though I travel with other radios, the ability to tune NOAA frequencies would be super, too.

I started thinking about scanners last year when we experienced a forest fire in our community. We discovered the fire as we traveled home that day, and found our local road blocked to traffic for about an hour as emergency vehicles moved in. Fortunately, I carry a Yaesu VX-3R in my messenger pack and was able to find the frequencies the fire department was using to communicate with the fire-spotting plane circling overhead. It gave me some measure of comfort to hear that things were almost contained at under twenty acres. In truth, many of us were thinking through a possible evacuation scenario since, at the time, massive forest fires were flaring in various parts of the state.

So, here’s my question to readers in-the-know regarding scanners: can you help me find the perfect scanner for the following requirements…?

  • Handheld (not mobile/base)
  • Easy to program
  • GPS capability
  • Updated frequency databases that can be stored internally
  • Able to receive as many analog and digital modes as possible
  • Relatively durable and compact
  • Long runtime on batteries

A friend recommended the Bearcat/Uniden BCD436HP, a scanner that seems to have a lot of the functionality I seek.

I know that Uniden Homepatrol II is also recommended by many.

Also, the Whistler company has a number of scanners and a large following, as well.

Hmm…So many choices!

Post readers, can you help me out? What sort of scanner do you recommend, and why?

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