Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Stealth Scanner Bag MK3 – January 2017

Over the years, while involved in the radio scanning / amateur radio / ultralight DXing hobbies, I have used a number of different bags and cases for carrying my assorted radios and associated bits and pieces. Some of these bags and cases have worked very well, others have not for various reasons. 

I have again returned to my love of portable operation, this has meant finding a suitable carry case or bag for my radios to undertaken these activities in parks and other locations.

Based on my experience in the past, I ruled out using a “hard” case due to the unwanted attention they can bring plus size and cost. Soft camera bags like I have used in the past do not offer a suitable level of protection and can also make you stand out as a photographer who might be carrying expensive equipment. With this in mind I have recently been on the lookout for ideas to make a suitable carrying system that is “low profile / stealth”.

Recently I was looking at the Reject Shop, when I noticed they had canvas bags for $15, this was a good size and had enough space for my radios and accessories plus my 10” netbook and other daily carry essentials. On the shelf nearby was a number of cheap plastic storage containers, I tried a few different ones until I found one that was a good fit for this bag. I also purchased some heavy duty black tape and two smaller plastic storage containers. Total cost was $22.

Last night I spent about an hour out in the shed setting this up. The first step was to cut the side of the plastic storage container to allow my radios to slide in and out, this is an idea in used in my original stealth ultralight DXing bag. Next I mounted some bubble wrap to the inside, rear, top and back to protect the scanners as they slide in and out. I installed some foam to the lid and then taped this shut using the heavy duty black tape. Finally I drilled two small holes in to the rear of the plastic storage container and in to the back of the bag to hold this in place. I then spent some time sorting my various radio scanning accessories and setting up space in the bag for them all. This is where the smaller plastic containers came in very handy.

Over all for less than $25 and an hour of my time I have a very low profile bag which provides a good level of protection and blends in, looking like nothing more than a man bag.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Taking Frequency Hunting to an Extreme Level

Please note: all names and frequencies have been de identified due to the nature of this. 

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. I also found that the bushes had been removed in the last few weeks so this would making hiding the case much harder.  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 security 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 that they are still using two way radios and what frequency they are using. I now 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.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Pop'Comm Monitoring Station program

I am a part of the Pop'Comm Monitoring Station program and hold the Pop'Comm Monitoring Station ID: VKPC7PB.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Close Call Loggings - 7/01/2017

Today I had to travel across the city a bit to visit a few different places so I took my Uniden UBC126AT with me and left it running in "Close Call Temporary Store" mode in the car for about four hours. My route was from Riverside to Kmart via the CBD, up to West Launceston, across to Bunnings North Launceston and then home to Riverside.

Below are the frequencies it logged:

72.825MHz - Ability Taxis Input
81.975MHz - Forestry Dazzler Range Input
411.6125MHz - Tasmania Fire Service UHF on truck repeater
454.575MHz - Metro Buses Abels Hill input
464.375MHz - Metro Buses Freelands Lookout
474.375MHz - Launceston City Council Parking Staff

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Scanning at the West Launceston Communications Site

Over the years I have been involved in the radio scanning hobby, I have found a couple of good locations around Launceston for undertaking portable scanning sessions. Freelands Lookout and the Talbot Lookout have been two of my go to locations. Recently I have found that Freelands Lookout causes my Uniden UBC126AT scanner some issues, especially when running in close call mode. The bottom half of the of the UHF band also has some issues at this location.

Yesterday I was out driving when I decided to explore around the West Launceston communications site. This is an area I have driven past a few times over the years but have never stopped as I expected that being such a high RF environment that my scanners would not cope. Below are some details on the site, some photos and a video.

Here are links to the ACMA database entries for this location, as can be seen it has a real mix of frequencies, from around 79MHz up to 23GHz. This includes multiple mobile phone carriers, broadcast TV and radio plus multiple VHF / UHF / 800MHz two way radio users.

Water Pumping Station Brougham Street WEST LAUNCESTON

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Software - Scan125

I am a huge fan of a scanner control program called Scan125. This supports the Uniden UBC126AT scanner and I use it almost daily for unattended logging of active frequencies. 

The creator is happy to hear feedback and suggestions.

Update on Penny Royal

As a follow on from this:

I have now confirmed they are using a DCS tone and have as such programmed a frequency with this under their name.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 Scanner Frequencies

Below is my list of all the scanner frequencies I have logged in 2016. This year three users (Casino security, Uni security and LGH security) have moved to DMR and as such are now unscannable. I have listed these below to reflect this.

70.32500 - ABILITY TAXIS
72.02500 - ACC SERVICES
72.12500 - CONNORVILLE
72.27500 - LES WALKDEN
73.13000 - B W MANION
75.59000 - BEAMS BROS
76.95000 - FORESTRY SIMP
77.52500 - SES-NORTH
77.65000 - TECS
77.88750 - ARMAGUARD
78.01250 - WTC WORKS
78.28750 - LCC-MTARTHUR
78.31250 - LCC-FREELANDS
78.47500 - FORESTRY TAS
78.55000 - GT COUNCIL
78.62500 - AMBO-MT BARROW
78.65000 - FIRE-TAMAR
78.70000 - AMBO-MT DISMAL
78.90000 - NM COUNCIL
79.03750 - FIRE-WEST LTON
79.06250 - AMBO-WEST LTON
79.13750 - FORESTRY TAS
79.15000 - FORESTRY TAS
79.47500 - FORESTRY TAS
79.56250 - FIRE-NE
79.60000 - FIRE
79.65000 - FIRE
79.66250 - FIRE-NE
118.10000 - TOWER/HOBART
118.70000 - TOWER-LTON
119.10000 - CTAF
123.45000 - AIR SIMP
123.80000 - FIA-NORTH
126.35000 - AIR SIMP
126.50000 - FIA-LTON
126.70000 - CTAF
127.30000 - CTAF-GT
129.50000 - QANTAS
130.12500 - JETSTAR-HOBART
130.22500 - JETSTAR-LTON
130.35000 - VIRGIN BLUE
131.15000 - VIRGIN BLUE
134.75000 - ATIS/LTON
145.02500 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.42500 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.45000 - 2M HAM SIMP
145.47500 - 2M HAM SIMP
146.40000 - VK7RAA 2M - Input
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
151.40000 - TRAFFIC LIGHTS
154.41250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
156.35000 - MARINE
156.37500 - MARINE VHF 67
156.42500 - MARINE WEATHER
156.60000 - MARINE VHF 12
156.80000 - MARINE VHF 16
157.53750 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
157.57500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
157.77500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
157.82500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.00000 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.01250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.03750 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.06250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.26250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.81250 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
158.85000 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
160.57500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
161.05000 - TOX FREE SIMP
161.07500 - ARTEC
162.38750 - TAS GAS PIPELINE
162.47500 - BORAL
162.50000 - BORAL
162.71250 - GRAHAM RAND
163.05000 - REDLINE BUSES
163.12500 - ACC SERVICES
163.43750 - TOX FREE
163.60000 - STAR TRACK 
163.86250 - MARCOM WATSON
164.05000 - COMBINED COMMS
164.30000 - REDLINE BUSES
165.17500 - TASRAIL SIMP VHF
168.11250 - GT TAXI
410.98750 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
411.18750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
411.31250 - AMBO-UHF SIMP
411.61250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
412.36250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
414.42500 - TASRAIL UHF LINK
415.46250 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.48750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
415.50000 - UHF RENTAL
415.53750 - FIRE-UHF SIMP
438.05000 - VK7RBH-BENLOMOND
438.55000 - VK7RAB-MTARTHUR
439.77500 - VK7RDR-DAZZLER
450.17500 - SKATIE
451.12500 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
462.10000 - OFFICEWORKS
462.11250 - SUPREME COURT
462.25000 - KMART LTON
462.28750 - EAGLE SECURITY
462.35000 - TAS RACING
464.27500 - METRO-ABLES
465.40000 - MARCOM WATSON
467.17500 - TECS
467.47500 - CASINO SECURITY (Digital)
469.70000 - UHF RENTAL
471.52500 - BASIN CHAIR LIFT
471.70000 - PFRIFER CRANES
471.85000 - SILVERDOME
471.90000 - UHF RENTAL
472.50000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
473.10000 - TARGET LTON
473.40000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
473.50000 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
473.85000 - UNI SECURITY-AMC
474.12500 - WARREN J SPEERS
474.22500 - LCC MUSEUM
474.37500 - LCC PARKING
474.52500 - UNKNOWN
474.77500 - UNI SECURITY (Digital)
474.85000 - TRANSPORT INSP
474.95000 - JMC GROUP
475.05625 - TAS RACING
475.07500 - TASRAIL SIMP UHF
476.42500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 01
476.45000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 02
476.47500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 03
476.50000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 04
476.52500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 05
476.55000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 06
476.57500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 07
476.60000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 08
476.62500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 09
476.65000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 10
476.67500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 11
476.70000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 12
476.72500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 13
476.75000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 14
476.77500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 15
476.80000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 16
476.82500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 17
476.85000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 18 (LTON TIP)
476.87500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 19
476.90000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 20
476.92500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 21
476.95000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 22
476.97500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 23
477.00000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 24
477.02500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 25
477.05000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 26
477.07500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 27
477.10000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 28
477.12500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 29
477.15000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 30
477.17500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 31
477.20000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 32
477.22500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 33
477.25000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 34
477.27500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 35
477.30000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 36
477.32500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 37
477.35000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 38
477.37500 - UHF CB CHANNEL 39
477.40000 - UHF CB CHANNEL 40
479.32500 - WARREN J SPEERS (input)
484.80000 - BOAGS
485.25000 - MARCOM WATSON
488.55000 - MARCOM WATSON
492.60000 - LTON COLLEGE
493.22500 - LGH (Digital)
494.92500 - LCC SWIMMING

New Years Eve Scanning

Our new years eve was fairly quiet, spent with some friends. On the scanning front, in the afternoon I was driving near city park when I got some faint signals on the Eagle Security frequency of 462.2875MHz. As I drove closer to the CBD this improved until I was able to confirm that this was being used by security staff at the "Royal Eve" event at Royal Park. Later in the night as we drove home this was very active.

Other services were fairly active with both the T.F.S and A.T attending to new years eve related incidents. I can't comment on Tasmania Police as I don't / can't listen to them. Ability Taxis on 70.325MHz were very active. Metro were busy arranging shuttle buses from the city and Redline were also active. Little was heard on UHF CB which is a little strange given normally it is full of crazies on this night. The three "DMR" security frequencies were all active but I am unable to decode their signals.