Ever since I was a little boy, which may have been a few years ago, I have been fascinated with radio. They had things called “World Band” radios when I was a kid. I would sit for hours and spin the dial trying to hear far away places. There was mystery, intrigue, challenge, exotic languages………these are the things boyhood is made of. Not Drag Queen Hour 🙄. Then there was Citizens Band (CB) Radio. I had one and was prolific on it. What I really wanted was a ham radio and it took me a few years, but I climbed that hurdle as well. I am now licensed as KN4FMV.
You might think I’m a weirdo however in the radio hobby probably the quintessential website for radio systems and frequencies is called radioreference.com If you go to their web page you will see that there are almost 1.5 million subscribers. So………I’m in good company.
So I dig radios. And the older I get, the worse, not better, it seems to get. I still spin the dial on shortwave radios, sometimes for hours. I have multiple Software Defined Radios (RTL-SDR’s) and I have police scanners, with the actual name of them being called “radio scanners”.
Every so often in any hobby one item will rise to the top of the heap.
In my opinion, in the world of Radio Scanners that device is the Uniden SDS200. This is an advanced radio for advanced users. Most places you buy from will preprogram them for you for free, so if you know nothing about radios or police scanners let me forewarn you that the learning curve could be STEEP. Everything is well documented but to an outsider to the hobby it could still be confusing.
I have gotten the police scanner bug again. There are a lot of reasons to have a radio scanner (the proper term for police scanner) with the best reason being informed during emergencies. Other reasons could include being aware of your surroundings, listening to news as it happens directly from the source, having knowledge of criminal activity in your area, or just plain old being a radio geek who likes to listen to stuff.
Ways To Listen
There are a few ways to listen.
- Having a dedicated hardware radio scanner
- Streaming from the internet on systems such as Broadcastify. While these are handy and free you are going to hear one system at a time. In my case if I listen to my city system, I will completely miss the statewide system, the sheriff’s system, and all analog broadcasts. You can listen to just one thing at a time.
- Streaming from smartphone apps (which mostly tie into Broadcastify). You should note that the internet streaming and apps generally are about 30 seconds to a minute or two behind real time. Bad boys, bad boys could be busting down your door before you hear it on the iPhone app.
- Creating a software radio using an RTL-SDR USB radio device and software designed for digital trunking radio.
Okay, the first Tropical Depression of 2020 is upon us a few weeks early and literally the only place in the US it is going to hit is HERE. Eastern NC. Shit.
Probably the best source for emergency weather, even better than your local news station is the National Weather Service (NWS) or NOAA Weather Radio station in your local area. The frequencies they transmit on are:
To receive these broadcasts though you need a specialized radio that covers Very High Frequencies or VHF. Your FM radio only goes to about 108 MHz. A hardwire police scanner can probably be programmed, or a marine radio, or definitely an RTL-SDR software defined radio will work.
I have several radios I use for weather and one of my favorites is the CCrane 2E radio which is pretty expensive as far as radios go. I never really gave it much of a thought or a concern but the last major weather event in New Bern, NC was a fast moving storm replete with Tornados. And for good measure it hit near midnight.
Turns out the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted but there were a couple tornados and a couple of systems producing tornados. Every time there was movement or an event we’d get an NWS alert (loud tone) followed by voice. Most of the alerts WERE FROM ADJACENT COUNTIES NOWHERE NEAR US. Once most of the danger passed we were still getting CONSTANT alerts which were keeping us on edge and keeping us awake.
This last week or two has been one of the most bizarre in my 57 years however the chaos all seems confined to Social Media and Media in general. People are still nice, commerce is still chugging along. If we didn’t own TV’s and computers we’d never know much was up.
In an attempt to get the REAL story I’ve been creeping on the Police Scanner and the State medical communications. It’s not been very interesting. Boring in fact. If there is a coverup, the people with the radios are covering up their coverup.
Anyway, like REM says, “I Feel Fine”. Not just figuratively but literally as well. I’m ready for the whole of humanity to let the crazy out. I have ample food, a gun with bullets, clean water, communication devices, and alternative power. And most importantly it would seem……..toilet paper.
Bring it on!
OP25 is my FAVORITE police scanner program. I track two trunked radio systems with ONE software defined radio. My Uniden Police Scanner that does that costs $800. This way costs about $30.
Anyway, I’m reading through some OP25 stuff today and I found out it has a web interface. SAY WHAT? Looks like this.
Proscan is a wicked cool hunk of software for Scanner Junkies like me. It lets you take your expensive overpriced Uniden SDS100 (and other) scanners and do cool things with it, like make your scanner accessible to the web, or upload your feeds to scanner apps, etc. It is worth every penny and then some.
If NOTHING ELSE ProScan allows you to display your LCD screen on a much larger computer screen.
I REALLY struggled hard to learn to use OP25 and once I figured It out I made a simple tutorial for myself to recreate on other computers and for others to use. On my blog it is one of the more active pages and almost every week I get emails from people requesting help getting it working. This is the page of instructions I made: (there are a couple more pages that are Raspberry Pi specific but you’ll have to poke around my blog to find them).
OP25 For Dummies – Or how to build a police scanner for $30 (Part 1)
I would LOVE to help everybody but alas, I met a hot neighbor lady walking dogs a few months back and she’s cutting into my geek time! Trust me when I say that I’m not complaining!
Most of the time I find that many users are installing Ubuntu under Virtualbox in either Windows or on a Mac and this is one of the most common errors:
It was the best of decoders, it was the worst of decoders……… As you can tell I’m quite the literate bastard and highly up to speed on my Dickens.
I love digital signal decoding as it is almost something that you seemingly aren’t supposed to do, hence the attraction of it all. There are several hunks of software that can decode digital signals and each one has it’s strength and weaknesses. The ones I have dabbled around with are:
There are certainly others, not to mention maybe the most powerful one (but by far the one that requires the most geek foo) is GNURadio.
One of my favorite programs for decoding digital audio is DSDPlus. I’ve been using it a couple of years to dissect and decode SINGLE digital signals. Like for instance if I’m in the airport or airport hotel I can listen to DMR radio where the baggage handlers are talking to each other, or the mall cops are planning how to be real cops. Or you can hear the hotel staff on their radios which is sometimes really fun.
BUT…….DSDPlus also follows Digital Trunked Radio. That is where there is a Control Channel which is monitored and then the calls are “trunked” to available frequencies allowing for more users to use the system without confusion. Also users can be placed into Talk Groups which keeps down the confusion even more. Entire cities can use one radio system to control municipal services such as Police, Fire, EMS, Public Works, Events, etc.
I have a Whistler TRX-1 Police Scanner and live in New Bern, NC. There are two systems that I track in New Bern.
The New Bern Public Safety (NBPS) and North Carolina VIPER system. VIPER works great however the New Bern Public Safety……..not so much. It only rarely grabs a transmission and then if it does it is very broken up or robotic. Not good.