Saturday, July 18, 2015

Programming the Uniden BC996XT Trunk Tracker IV Scanner

This morning, I've been working on getting my new Uniden BC396XT programmed to search frequencies in my country, the surrounding counties, and a few nationwide radio services like CB, FRS/GMRS, and NOAA weather. To start out with, I am using FreeSCAN, which is very full featured and of course, free.

I've also downloaded the demo of  ProScan, which has a 30 day demo.

Both ProScan and FreeSCAN feature rig control, which given the highly menu-driven UI of the Uniden scanner, is nice to use if you have a PC handy. Unfortunately, both are Windows-only.

Compared with programming an amateur radio, as a scanner n00b this is more complicated, which came as a bit of a surprise. Part of it is the new interface but aside from that, there are a lot of frequencies to monitor and organizing them is a challenge.

Uniden includes an RS-232 serial cable for programming the unit. C'mon guys, it's 2015. How about a USB programming cable? Yes, Uniden sells one, but it's about $50 after shipping. (There are clones out there on Amazon and eBay, but I have no idea if they are any good or not.)

For several years, most computers haven't come with serial ports, so you'll probably need a USB-to-Serial adapter if you want to use the supplied cable. I already have a Keyspan USA-19HS USB-to-Serial adapter, which I've found to be one of the more trouble free such units when working with things like network routers and switches. It works with Windows, Mac, or Linux computers. Amazon has a less expensive TRENDnet alternative.

If you're serious about scanning, then a Premium subscription to Radio Reference is a must. Having the Premium membership allows you to enter your credentials into your programming software and have it download groups of frequencies into your local database, then upload them to the scanner. Given the number of frequencies you'll want to monitor, this is necessary so you don't have to spend days manually entering the info.

Note that to programm the CB, FRS/GMRS, and MURS frequencies, you need to use FreeSCAN's EZGrab function, that lets you copy a table from a web page and paste it into the program. Radio Reference doesn't have these frequencies in their database to download. It would be nice if FreeSCAN could have these as a menu item, similar to what is found in CHIRP, which a lot of us hams use for programming amateur radios.

Another valuable resource is the Easier to Read Manual from Mark's Scanners page. I may buy a hard copy from Scanner Master.

No comments: