Tuesday, 13 September 2016

My Radio Scanning Tips

Below is a list of radio scanning related hints and tips. Some of these are my own, others are ones that have been shared with me over the years by other scanner users.

Carrying your gear:
There are a few different ways you can carry your gear around, a lot of this depends on how much radio “stuff” you need to carry and how you use your scanner.
Some people can just throw their handheld scanner in a pocket as they walk out the door while others might need a better way to carry gear.

I personally have used many different cases and bags over the years, at one stage I had two Pelican brand hard carry cases. I have recently moved across to a much smaller hard case, this holds my UBC126AT, aerial, batteries, charger and USB cable. I also have a much larger hard ABS case which holds my whole radio collection and accessories. If this is too much of an over kill I have seen people use digital camera bags which work well as they are well padded plus they don’t draw “unwanted” attention when out in public.

Head phones:
With the amount of people these days using iPods, iPhones and other music devices with head phones, it is possible to pick up some good headphones fairly cheap that make you blend in with other people. I have a set of white in ear headphones that look very much like iPod ones and when I wear these while walking around with my UBC126AT on my belt or in my pocket I don’t look out of place. People assume I am listening to music, I use this to my advantage.

If you have more than one scanner / radio then try and keep them setup as close to the same as possible, for example if your handheld has bank / system 1 as the Fire Service then try and have your other radios with bank / system 1 as the fire service also, this makes things a lot easier when using different radios or trying to explain to somebody else how to use it if you’re driving or so on.

Before you start programming your scanner think about and plan what frequencies you want to program in and how you want to arrange them, some people like to group them based on service or coverage area where as others prefer in frequency order. My UBC126AT is programmed like this:
1 - 000 North (Fire, Ambulance, SES and common 000 frequencies)
2 – Air band / Amateur Radio
3 – UHF CB
4,5,6,7 – VHF / UHF Business band
8 - Services we don’t talk about ;)
9 - Hobart / Devonport / Burnie Frequencies
0 – Scratch bank for temporary storage or when trying to ID frequencies in use

Data management:
The more you get in to the scanning hobby the more information you need to keep track of.
When I first started I had a sheet of paper with the 100 channels I had in my handheld.  Over the years this increased to the stage where I had a folder on my computer full of many gigabytes of radio related information.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Article - Non Police Scanning in Tasmania

It is a cold winter’s night, after a hard day at work you arrive home and reach to turn on your radio scanner, it comes to life with various users but after a little while of scanning you notice you have not heard any police talk groups active, you check and confirm the system / bank is turned on and the talk groups are not locked out. The scanner seems to be working and other users are coming in well, so nothing seems wrong with your equipment.

The next day you jump online and see other users have reported the same thing, it has finally happened, the police have switched back to digital encryption and are now unscannable.

The above was written back in 2010. As I am sure everybody knows by now, the Tasmanian Police are unscannable, at least in and around the major population areas of Tasmania, from what I have seen this could even be increased to cover most / all of Tasmania in the future.

With this in mind I thought a post with some ideas of ways to find out what is going on now the police are gone would be helpful.

First I must say that I don't see the police going “secure” as the end of the scanning hobby or any other such rubbish that I know has happened in other states where forums and websites have disappeared almost overnight once the police became un-scannable, while I am sure some people find the police very interesting to listen to and are not sure what the future holds now they are gone I ask this question, would you stop watching TV and sell your TV if your favourite show got taken off the air? I would say no you would not, you would find something else to watch and that is what I hope most people will do now the police are mostly gone from a scanning point of view.

Here are some other users it might be worth having programmed in to listen to:

Tas fire and Tas ambulance services: while these are not as active on the radio as what the police are you still hear quite a bit on them, especially in regards to accidents where you sometimes get more or different information to what the police talk about.

Security companies: Quite often you will hear them talk about things before the police are even aware of something happening and they being somewhat less formal with their communications give out a lot more information over the air compared to the police.

Taxi's: About the least formal radio users (second only to UHF CB users) on the air and quite often with the number of taxis on the roads driving around and sitting in public areas waiting for jobs they see things as they happen which then get reported to the police so quite often you hear things before the police know about them. Over the past few years they have become a less appealing target as the major companies are now using MDT type systems and use no voice communications in the Launceston area. Some of the stuff I have heard on the taxi channels over the years is amazing.

Air band: this would be the single most active band of frequencies in most areas of the state and while 99% of comms are day to day stuff you do sometimes hear interesting things happening.

Amateur radio: I know this is not every body’s cup of tea and I am the first to admit sometimes the on-air conversations can be a little dry but every now and then you do hear interesting things especially given how many hams are active on the air when they are driving around.

UHF CB: This band has a lot of idiots but with channel 40 being the road channel you hear about accidents and other road related events as they happen.

Local council: Another group of semi formal radio users, they are sometimes asked to clean up after accidents and with them being out and about they see things as they happen.

Bus drivers: These are around on the roads from early morning to late night and see incidents as they happen.

Delivery drivers / truck drivers: very in-formal radio users and always up to date with what is going on.

If none of this sounds interesting then what about trying some different  areas of the hobby like the following:

- Trunking: remember the police are not the only users of the EDACS network and I find Aurora quite interesting at times in the past.

- HF / shortwave radio: Not something I have much experience in of late but what little I have done in the past has been interesting.

- Searching out / confirming new frequencies: my favourite part of the hobby and something I spend a lot of time doing, I am surprised by how few people seem interested in doing this.  

Current Scanner Frequencies

These are the frequencies I currently have programmed in my scanners for the greater Launceston area. Please note that not all of these frequencies are "active" and some might go weeks or months without any use.
Last updated: 6/3/2017

76.03750 - FIRE-F35
76.40000 - SES-COMMON 000
76.48750 - FIRE-F34
76.91250 - ST JOHNS AMBO VHF
77.00000 - FIRE-F33
77.12500 - AMBO- SIMP
77.52500 - SES-NORTH
77.58750 - FIRE-F37
77.75000 - FIRE-F38
78.03750 - FIRE
78.52500 - FIRE F11 NE
78.52500 - FIRE F24 MIDLANDS
78.56250 - FIRE
78.62500 - AMBO-MT BARROW
78.65000 - FIRE-TAMAR
78.68750 - FIRE
78.70000 - AMBO-MT DISMAL
79.03750 - FIRE-WEST LTON
79.06250 - AMBO-WEST LTON
79.56250 - FIRE-NE
79.60000 - FIRE
79.61250 - FIRE
79.65000 - FIRE
79.66250 - FIRE-NE
79.83750 - FIRE-F32
79.93750 - FIRE-F31
410.98750 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
411.18750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
411.31250 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
411.40000 - ST JOHNS AMBO
411.61250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
411.76250 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
412.10000 - ST JOHNS AMBO
412.36250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
413.70000 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
415.46250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.47500 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.48750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.51250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.53750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
462.03750 - ST JOHNS AMBO
470.40000 - ST JOHNS AMBO
472.15000 - ST JOHNS AMBO
472.20000 - ST JOHNS AMBO
507.95000 - ST JOHNS AMBO

118.10000 - TOWER-HOBART
118.70000 - TOWER-LTON
119.10000 - CTAF
120.70000 - FIA/DEVONPORT
122.60000 - FIA/WYNYARD
123.45000 - AIR SIMP
123.80000 - FIA-NORTH
123.95000 - FIA/NW
125.55000 - FIA/SOUTH
126.35000 - AIR SIMP
126.50000 - FIA-LTON
126.70000 - CTAF
126.90000 - CTAF/NW
127.30000 - CTAF-GT
129.50000 - QANTAS
130.12500 - JETSTAR-HOBART
130.22500 - JETSTAR-LTON
130.35000 - VIRGIN BLUE
29.60000 - 10M HAM CALL
53.87500 - VK7RAA 6M
145.02500 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.42500 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.45000 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.47500 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.37500 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.45000 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.47500 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.50000 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.52500 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.55000 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.57500 - 2M IRLP
147.00000 - VK7RAA-MTARTHUR
438.05000 - VK7RBH-BENLOMOND
438.55000 - VK7RAB-MTARTHUR
439.77500 - VK7RDR-DAZZLER

70.32500 - ABILITY TAXIS
70.83750 - LTON TAXIS
72.02500 - ACC SERVICES
72.12500 - CONNORVILLE
72.27500 - LES WALKDEN
73.13000 - B W MANION
75.56000 - GLEN DIX ELEC
75.59000 - BEAMS BROS
76.95000 - FORESTRY SIMP
77.08750 - LCC
77.15000 - GT COUNCIL
77.65000 - TECS
77.76250 - MV COUNCIL
77.88750 - ARMAGUARD
78.01250 - WTC WORKS
78.28750 - LCC-MTARTHUR
78.31250 - LCC-FREELANDS
78.47500 - FORESTRY TAS
78.55000 - GT COUNCIL
78.83750 - FORICO
78.90000 - NM COUNCIL
79.00000 - DOWNER WORKS
79.11250 - TECS
79.13750 - FORESTRY TAS
79.15000 - FORESTRY TAS
79.16250 - MV COUNCIL
79.47500 - FORESTRY TAS
151.40000 - TRAFFIC LIGHTS
156.37500 - MARINE VHF 67
156.40000 - MARINE VHF 8
156.42500 - MARINE WEATHER
156.60000 - MARINE VHF 12
156.70000 - MARINE VHF 14
156.80000 - MARINE VHF 16
157.57500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.00000 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.26250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
161.05000 - TOX FREE SIMP
161.07500 - ARTEC
162.08750 - TAXI COMBINED
162.31250 - SUNCOAST EXPR
162.38750 - TAS GAS PIPELINE
162.47500 - BORAL
162.50000 - BORAL
162.71250 - GRAHAM RAND
162.96250 - W OCONNOR
163.03750 - FRANK O'CONNOR
163.05000 - REDLINE BUSES
163.06250 - THORNE
163.07500 - HOLCIM
163.08750 - CENTRALCABS
163.12500 - ACC SERVICES
163.42500 - TECS
163.43750 - TOX FREE
163.57500 - TECS
163.60000 - STAR TRACK 
163.62500 - BSH ELECTRICAL
163.86250 - MARCOM WATSON
163.91250 - MARCOM WATSON
164.05000 - COMBINED COMMS
164.30000 - REDLINE BUSES
166.15000 - AJ BROWN
166.27500 - HANSON
168.11250 - GT TAXI
415.45000 - UHF RENTAL
415.47500 - UHF RENTAL
415.50000 - UHF RENTAL
415.52500 - UHF RENTAL
415.55000 - UHF RENTAL
450.17500 - SKATIE
450.30000 - SW WHOLESALERS
450.47500 - EAGLE SECURITY
462.10000 - OFFICEWORKS
462.11250 - SUPREME COURT
462.18750 - DOE NC STAFF
462.25000 - KMART LTON
462.28750 - EAGLE SECURITY
462.35000 - TAS RACING
462.47500 - HOLLYBANK
462.88750 - PUB SECURITY
463.17500 - ACC SERVICES
463.57500 - SHAW MADDISON
464.27500 - METRO-ABLES
464.42500 - RACT
464.55000 - SECURITY
465.40000 - MARCOM WATSON
467.17500 - TECS
469.55000 - FAMILY COURT
469.65000 - HOLLYBANK
469.70000 - UHF RENTAL
469.90000 - JF MACHINERY
470.05000 - UHF RENTAL
471.30000 - BOAGS
471.47500 - UHF RENTAL
471.50000 - UHF RENTAL
471.52500 - BASIN CHAIR LIFT
471.57500 - UHF RENTAL
471.60000 - UHF RENTAL
471.62500 - EAGLE SECURITY
471.67500 - UHF RENTAL
471.70000 - PFRIFER CRANES
471.77500 - UHF RENTAL
471.80000 - UHF RENTAL
471.85000 - SILVERDOME
471.90000 - UHF RENTAL
471.92500 - UHF RENTAL
471.95000 - UHF RENTAL
471.97500 - UHF RENTAL
472.22500 - BOAGS
472.50000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
472.70000 - WALLANDER
472.82500 - M D DUNCAN
473.10000 - TARGET LTON
473.40000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
473.50000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
473.85000 - UNI SECURITY-AMC
474.12500 - WARREN J SPEERS
474.17500 - TAFE
474.22500 - LCC MUSEUM
474.27500 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
474.37500 - LCC PARKING
474.47500 - UNI SECURITY
474.52500 - UNKNOWN
474.70000 - REDLINE BUSES
474.77500 - UNI SECURITY 
474.85000 - TRANSPORT INSP
474.87500 - LCC CARRVILLA
474.95000 - JMC GROUP
475.05625 - TAS RACING
475.07500 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
475.10000 - EAGLE SECURITY
475.25000 - UHF RENTAL
479.32500 - WARREN J SPEERS (input)
479.90000 - TOLL TRANSPORT
484.80000 - BOAGS
484.82500 - HAYWARDS
485.25000 - MARCOM WATSON
486.37500 - SCTV UHF
487.35000 - TNT AUSTRALIA
488.55000 - MARCOM WATSON
488.70000 - TECS
491.67500 - MARCOM WATSON
492.37500 - MYER SECURITY
492.60000 - LTON COLLEGE
493.22500 - LGH
494.92500 - LCC SWIMMING
509.88750 - LTON GRAMMER

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Portable Traffic Lights on 151.400MHz

One out of the weird radio signals group. 

On Tuesday night I was driving along Talbot Road Launceston when I had a close call hit on 151.400MHz. This frequency is used by portable traffic lights, normally for road works. I was unable to find the source of this.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Article - Hunting out new and exciting frequencies - Updated – April 2017

The VHF / UHF radio spectrum is an amazing treasure trove, full of many different people and groups who are all using two way radios for various purposes. Some of these are groups such as CB and Amateur radio operators who either have fixed channels such as UHF CB operators with 80 fixed channels or amateurs with their many megahertz of bands they can use. Other bands such as the VHF air band and the 156MHz marine band are very fixed in nature so you can be fairly sure that any frequencies you find in those bands are somehow related to those services, however this is not always a given as I will show below.

The focus of this document is the VHF / UHF radio spectrum in Tasmanian (where I am located) however most of the information is relevant to anybody with an interest in being a “frequency detective”.

Below is a quick rundown of the major bands and what you can hear on each of them in Tasmania.

25 -50MHz: low power transmitters, 27MHz CB, cordless phones (not recommended), some older types of baby monitors, defence communications.
50 -54MHz: Amateur 6M band
70 -87MHz: Commercial users, government, emergency services (Fire, Ambulance and SES in Tasmania).
88-108MHz: FM broadcasts band
108-137 MHz: Aircraft band
144-148 MHz: Amateur 2M band
148-150.00 MHz: Pagers (data only)
150-174 MHz: VHF Marine band, Commercial users.
225-400 MHz: Defence allocations, includes UHF Military Band
403-420 MHz: Commercial users, emergency services UHF handhelds, linking frequencies
420-450 MHz: Amateur 70cm band.
450-520 MHz: Commercial users, government, UHF CB
820-960 MHz: trunking, links (The TASGRN can be found from 865-870MHz)
960MHz up: mainly links, very little voice communications to be heard.

When I first started out in the radio scanning hobby back in 1999, I didn’t know anybody else who was in to radio scanning as a hobby. With the lack of websites and other sources for assistance at that time, I was pretty much on my own as far as searching for frequencies and finding out whom each frequency belonged to and what it was used for. Because of this I was forced to spend many hours searching the bands looking for new frequencies and then listening to them while making notes to help work out whom it was using each frequency.

There are a few different situations that would require you to have to do a bit of detective work and we will look at each of these in turn.

Finding a new frequency active and trying to ID the user:
The easiest way would be to simply look it up on the ACMA database and see who it is assigned to. Now while that that would be the easiest way, in some cases you will find that the frequency is not assigned to anybody in your area, this means you have to do some research and detective work to find out who is using the frequency.

I have found the easiest way is to get a piece of paper and write down as much as you can find out from listening to the traffic that frequency carries; you need to look for things like this:

When is the frequency active? Is it mainly 9-5 business hours or is it in use during the night and weekend?

Are call signs or codes used? Do any of these sounds like what is used on any other channels you hear. Or do the codes suggest who it might be?

Range / coverage area? Can you only hear it when you are in some parts of the city or does it seem to have wide area coverage and is the signal stronger in some places then others?

Content? What do they actually talk about? Is there anything said that could help you work out who they are? Things like places, times, names. Do they talk about any products or areas? Do the opening / closing times relate to any business / places you know of?

In late 2004 while searching the UHF band I came across the frequency of 474.225MHz active, which was not on the ACMA database is use at all in Tasmania. Nobody on our scanning group knew who it was, over a few months of listening to them and noting down key parts of what they said I was able to work out who and where it was being used.

Finding a frequency for a known user:
The easiest way would be to simply look it up the company name on the ACMA database and see if they have any frequencies assigned to them, but in some cases you will find that there are no frequencies assigned to them or there are some listed but none seem to be the one you want. There are a few things you can do, first look for any frequencies that they do have assigned to them, if they are mostly in a single band say around 474MHz then this would be the best area to search for them. Also keep an eye out for any handheld or cars with aerial, basically the longer the aerial the lower the frequency in use. If you have one of the newer Uniden scanners with “Close Call” then give this a try and see if you can find them when close by somebody using a radio. Common sense and caution should be exercised when doing this.

Scanning / search at major events:
I like to keep an eye out on both the TV news and the local paper for any events coming up that are likely to see a major use of radios, some events include things like major sporting events (AFL, V8 car racing), Targa Tasmania and the Launceston Cup. Other events worth searching the bands for include the Launceston Show in October, Carols by Candle Light every December, Festivale in mid-February, visits by the prime minister / other heads of state, concerts and other events that will see a large group of people in one area.

There are many methods that you can use when scanning these types of events and to a large extent it will depend on how close you want / can to get to the event and if scanning / searching within the event is possible. I would be very careful these days with having any radio equipment in view of the public and trying to sneak in radio gear to events that ban it would be a big no no. Using various stealth techniques can be useful, this is something I have done in the past and which I have used to produce good results. Some of the basic tips for this are:
- Carry your scanners in such a way that they can be mistaken for something else; a digital camera bag is great for this.
- Don’t display you radios so that the public / event staff can see them.
- In a lot of cases being close to but not inside the venue is the safest bet.
- Close Call is your best friend
- White ear phones can make you look like somebody using an Apple device, use this to your advantage.
- Smaller aerials work best, they are easier to carry and reduce the signal level so that only strong local stations can be heard.
- Focus on the UHF band as this is where most hand held radios operate.

The first thing I do is check out any ads or websites for the event and see if any companies who are sponsoring the event are known radio users, if they are you can be fairly sure that there radio channels might be in use.

Once the event is being set up / underway if you can get close enough and have a scanner that supports “close call” then give this a run and see if it picks up anything worthwhile / related to the event.

I have done some testing of the close call feature and depending on how “dirty” the RF spectrum is depends on how well this feature works.
In the past doing some testing on an average suburban street I have got these results using the close call feature on a Uniden 396T:
5W UHF CB – 500m
2W 146MHz Handheld – 300m
0.5W 433MHz handheld – 120m
0.05W 173MHz Wireless microphone – 30m

If you don’t have a close call capable scanner then you will need to do some searching of the bands, most handheld’s these days are in the UHF band, try search 460MHz to 512MHz in 12.5KHz steps, if this does turn up any users then try both the VHF high band and the VHF Mid band and see what you can find.

Taking Frequency Hunting to an Extreme Level
- Please note: all names and frequencies have been deidentified due to the nature of this. The below is only for the most extreme cases where the other methods above have not produced the desired results.

Back when I started scanning in the late 1990's, a local transport company had a licensed frequency of xx.xxxMHz which was registered to them "John Smith Transport".

In around 2003/2004 this frequency went dead. A few years later I found them using a shared repeater on xxx.xxxxMHz. This was licensed to "ABC Communications" but was being used by "John Smith Transport". I spent a lot of time listening to them to confirm this.

In the past year, this frequency has also gone dead, I suspect they have moved to a UHF simplex frequency which was used by another company which they purchased a couple of years ago, I can't confirm this.

Their depot is located at the end of a public road with no other businesses anywhere close by. Due to the nature of what they transport they get very nervous about anybody hanging around. My efforts so far had not proved successful. Time to get more serious about this.

First Idea: Hide a scanner close by.
I have done this in the past where I have parked my car for the day, left a scanner in Close Call mode with auto store and came back later to see what it has found. Sadly due to the area this is in it is not possible.

Close to their admin office is some bushes which I could “hide” a scanner in, coming back later to check what results it had found. I found a suitable case and undertook some testing of the run time of my UBC126AT in close call temporary store mode, sadly this was less than 7 hours so it would not last a full work day. I was unwilling to look at adding extra batteries at this would require a much larger case and add to the cost of this project. At this point I was ready to give up on this project.

Second Idea: Hide in plain sight.
A few days ago I was talking to a friend, who knows I am in to scanning in a big way and we started talking about this little project. He suggested hiding in plain sight. Whereas before I was trying to do this by hiding a scanner and leaving it, could I rock up looking like I was meant to be there for a different purpose and use this to my advantage? We threw around a few ideas and came up with a plan.

Today, Monday the 16th January was the day. I had a rare week day off work and so used this to my advantage, my thoughts being that while this company work weekends, being a week day this would give me the best possible chance of them using radios.

My mate arrived with his work Ute which he didn’t need for a couple of hours as he had to go in to the city for a meeting, this has the logo of who he works for and a yellow flashing light on the roof and some witches hats in the tray. He also loaned me a hi-vis vest and a hard hat to complete the picture.

I headed off to get changed in to some “work” clothes. We had decided I should look more like an engineer than a hands on worker for this.

I dropped him off in the city and told him to give me a call when he needed a lift.

I had packed a hard carry case with all my required radios:
- UBC126AT: in the cabin running in Close Call Temporary Store mode.
- UBC72XLT: Programmed with the repeater input / output frequencies for the two frequencies they have used in the past plus the UHF simplex frequency which belonged to the other company they had purchased a couple of years ago.
- Spare batteries, note pad, pen and my other scanner accessories.

I arrived in the public road that runs beside their depot and parked about half way down. I got out and set up some witches hats around a pit on the foot path, before returning to the Ute and turning on my scanners.

Over the next half an hour, I sat and waited for one of the frequencies to come alive. I got in and out of the Ute a few times and moved the witches’ hats around. I saw a few trucks come and go but nothing on any of their frequencies or Close Call.  A police car drove out of their depot at one stage but kept going, I am unsure if this was because of me. Feeling a bit disappointed that I had not had any hits, it was only when I picked up the UBC126AT, which was running in Close Call Temporary Store mode that I noticed it was not searching the UHF band (band 5). I turned this on and within seconds I had a “hit” on UHF CB channel XX (476.XXXMHz). I quickly programmed this in my UBC72XLT. Over the next half an hour I got multiple hits on this and on my UBC126AT, which was running in Close Call mode.

Happy that I had located their frequency, which is a UHF CB channel, I packed up the witches hats and headed in to the city for a coffee before giving my mate a lift home.

Final Result:
The end result was that within a couple of hours I have been able to confirm what frequency they are using and know it is not worth scanning their old frequencies. This was an interesting experience, where I took hunting down a frequency to an extreme level and it was a good test of a method I might be able to use again in the future, if I need to.

Some final thoughts:
After all of the above, please also do keep in mind that just because a frequency is in a given band such as the air band or VHF marine band, it does not mean that all transmissions are related to those services. In 2006 a number of radio transmissions where heard in the greater Launceston area on VHF marine band frequencies which were related to the day to day operations of a business, they had sourced some VHF marine band hand held radios and were using these for their business. Once they were made aware of this they moved to the UHF CB band.

Finally a note of caution. Not every user of two way radios are happy about the fact that their transmissions can be heard and these can be linked back to them. Twice I have been contacted by business two way radio users who have asked that their frequencies remain “confidential” due to the nature of what they are doing. In both cases these companies had taken a number of steps to not link their transmissions to their business name, my detective work allowed me to match the transmissions to a business name (some people will see the irony of a business which has tried to hide who they are contacting me which just confirms who they are). I also am very cautious with sharing any details related to a number of government frequencies including those used by agencies involved in tactical law enforcement at a state or national level. While these frequencies use a variety of secure encryption methods, the mere existence of a transmission on one of their frequencies, even if the content is encrypted can be a guide as to that something is happening. It is especially important when using “close call” and this information should not be shared.

I personally find hunting out and searching for new frequencies and users to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the radio scanner hobby and I am surprised that more people don’t seem to do it.

Go on, hit that search button and see what you can find.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Review - Yaesu VR500

Day 1: Well I have had the Yaesu VR500 for a day now so these are some of my thoughts on it from what I have done with it so far.

Starting with the purchase, I asked for a quote from a local supplier for this and was a little surprised when the price I got back was about $90 cheaper than the prices I had found online and was $40 cheaper then what I paid for the one I purchased early last year from the same place, I jumped at this and ordered it on the spot, the next day I got a phone call to say it arrived and I went and collected it later that day.  While I was collecting it I was speaking to the sales man and I found the reason it was so cheap is that he had forgotten to quote me the new price but the old price before all the price raises so I really did get a bargain with it.

Out of the box you only get a very basic kit, the VR500 unit, aerial, belt clip, wrist strap and manuals / paper work. As the VR500 uses 2 AA batteries you don’t get a charger or any batteries with it but looking in the manual you can purchase these if you wish.  As AA batteries now come in anything up to 2700mAh ratings I much prefer using these.

Looking at the VR500 unit is it quite small (5.9cm Wx9.5cm Hx2.4cm D) and weighing about 220g you can easily fit it in your pocket (except for the large aerial which we will come to soon) overall the word I would use to describe the build is solid, everything feels like it is made to last and when you first pick it up it feels much stronger then what you would expect looking at it.
As this radio has a proper keypad (unlike something like the Icom R5) this takes up the bottom part of the front case, from what I have done with it the keys feel good but are a little small so if you have big fingers like me you need to make sure you hit the right ones. Next above these are two more buttons (Clear and Bands scope) and then the orange power button sits just above these, beside these three buttons is the speaker grill, the speaker seems to put out a good level or audio and listening to NFM, WFM and AM shows they are sound natural. The top area of the front panel has the large 4 row LCD screen which shows attenuator, battery savers, keypad lock along the top, frequency and alpha tags are the next two rows and the bottom row is where things like the current mode and band scope is shown.
The top panel of the radio features the BNC aerial connection, volume, squelch and rotary controls.
The right hand side of the VR500 has two covers, one over the headphone / pc jack and the other over the DC input. Looking at the left side reveals a large rubber key located near the top. The upper two thirds of it act as the FUNC key while the lower third acts as the squelch monitor and the keypad lock (when used in conjunction with the FUNC key).
This leaves the back which is bear except for the single mounting hold for the belt clip; this is plastic but seems fairly strong.
My only feedback so far on the physical side of the VR500 is that getting in / out batteries is a real struggle; the battery space is only just big enough so getting them in and out is a real pain.

Programming: I sat down last night and programmed about 110 channels in to the VR500 in less than 1 hour; these cover TFS/Ambo, amateurs, air band and general business users, this is a very easy process if you do some planning and have all your frequencies arranged before you start. I have started to add alpha tags to some and while this takes a bit of time it is not really that hard to do.

Scanning: From my testing last night I would say the scan rate is around 15 – 20 channels per second which for me is fine, I have noticed that you sometimes get a slight tick as the squelch closes but you get used to this after a while. The only thing to be aware of is that as the VR500 does not have a “lock out” feature you have to use PS mode which is sort of like lock out in reverse, you flag those channels you do what to hear rather than locking out those you don’t.

Searching: speed around 20 steps / second and so far it seems to be performing well, I have had a few issues in the 70-80MHz band with FM broadcast stations some places they should not be but overall nothing too major.

Band scope: This is nice and running it over the 865MHz EDACS band you can see the control channels and voices channel as they are in use.

VHF / UHF: Overall so far I have not found any major issues with the general performance on the VHF / UHF bands, I am going to do some more testing over the weekend and report back on my findings.