|This is a project I been working on for a while. I have put together a collection of Hints and Tips for PROBE software. If you have any additional hints or tips that might be useful for the next verison please send them to me. Also if you have any comments or suggestons on the guide feel free to let me know. I will update the page with links of the guide shortly. -Steve Hancock (N3FWE)|
"PROBE RESOURCES GUIDE 2.0"
Copyright (c) 1998 by Steven M. Hancock
All rights reserved.
a. Using ASCII Characters in Group Names
b. Making Backup Groups
c. Import/Export Groups
d. Work Group
e. Percon or Master Group
f. Groups by Radius
g. Search Groups
h. Other Scanning Areas
i. Alternate Settings
j. Disaster Groups
a. Making Better use of Your Banks
b. Using Empty Banks for Formatting
c. Using ASCII Characters to ID Banks
d. Banks for Unknown and Inactive Frequencies
e. Bank Zero
4. SMARTSCAN AND PRIORITY
a. Setting up Smartbanks
b. Setting All Trigger Freqs as Priority Bank
c. Temporary Lockout of Smartbanks
d. Single Frequency Smartbank
e. Smartscan to Find Unknown Frequencies
f. Smartscan to Find Duplex Pairs
g. Smartscan to Find Odd Repeater Inputs
h. Smartscan to Find Skip Frequencies
i. Smartbanks of Duplicate Frequencies
j. Unknown Frequencies
k. Smartscan and Priority Settings
l. Pseudo Priority
m. Active Priority
a. Setting up as Service Search Banks
b. By Agency or Area
c. By Townships and Cities
d. Hot Frequency
e. Turning Off Unneeded Banks
f. Using as Manual Smartbanks
g. Toggling Logging, Tones, Recorder
a. Using Hypersettings
b. Log Names
c. Hyper Manual Tuning
b. FCC CD-ROMS
a. Audio Alarms Verses Visual Alarms
b. Color For Different Agencies
c. Colors for Smartbanks, Hyperbanks and Other Options
d. Alarm Level
9. CTCSS, DCS, DTMF TONES
a. Use of Tones
c. False Tones
d. Logging Tones
a. Better Use of Searching
b. Searching While Scanning
c. Recorder and Logs
a. Seldom Use Frequencies
b. Automark and Smartbanks
12. TEMPORARY LOCKOUT
a. Temporary Lockout Times
b. Time Delays
13. SERVICE CODES
a. Custom Remarks
b. Sort by Scanning Area
a. Trunking Data
b. Custom Viewer
c. Changing Long/Lat Location
a. Remote Speaker
b. Computer Interference
16. BATCH FILES
a. Custom Startups
b. By Group
d. Frequency/Log Viewer
My name is Steve Hancock and I have been enjoying the hobby of scanning
for over 20 years. My first scanner was the Bearcat 300. It served me
well until a couple years ago it when it was hit by lightning. At that
time, I purchased the OptoScan 456 for my PRO-2006. My main OptoScan
setup consists of a shoe box sized mini 286 and PROBE software.
The setup really enhances the enjoyment of the hobby. Shortly before I
received the OptoScan setup, I logged onto the Internet and looked
through all the web pages and mailing lists dealing with the hobby. I
have learned more in the past two years from the great people on the
Internet then I have learned from my all my previous years of scanning.
I decided to develop a web page dedicated to the topic of my favorite
scanner setup: the PRO-2006, OptoScan and PROBE combo. The PRO-2006 /
PROBE home page, "The Monitoring Post", can be reached at
PROBE is a DOS based scanning software developed by Perry Joseph from
DataFile, Inc. for the OptoScan 456, Lite and 535 interface boards. I
tried the other software for the OptoScan interface boards and they
couldn't compare to what PROBE could do. I was actually excited about
the software which is a rare occurrence for me. I wanted to let others
know how much I was enjoying PROBE. As a result, I developed a web page
for it and authored this "PROBE Resources Guide". I have been a PROBE
user since version 1.3, and currently using PROBE V4.0.
I hope this guide will continue to grow as I receive additional
information from PROBE users. I'm going to cover tricks which will
enhance your enjoyment of Probe and hopefully help make you a better
PROBE user. You will receive a lot more enjoyment out of your hobby once
you master PROBE. In order to do this, you need to read the PROBE
documentation so you will know what I am referring to. These hints may
not be for everyone, but they may help you come up with new ideas and
hopefully you will share them with us. Some of these tips may not work
with all versions of Probe. Now onto the fun stuff!
a. USING ASCII CHARACTERS IN GROUP NAMES - PROBE sorts groups names in
alphanumeric order, but you can control and put your favorite groups at
the top of the list by using ASCII characters in the group name. I like
to put my favorite and most commonly used groups at the top where I can
see them. By looking at the two columns below, you can see how I control
the listing of my groups:
Bank # Default Sort Bank # ASCII Sort
1 Backup - York Area 1 ** York Listening Area **
2 Export 2 ++ Export Group ++
3 Harrisburg Area 3 ++ Import Group ++
4 Import Group 4 Backup - York Area
5 Lancaster Area 5 Harrisburg Area
6 Work Group 6 Lancaster Area
7 York Listening Area 7 Work Group
You can also use ASCII characters to keep groups together in the listing
by scanning areas. For example, you could use "*" for your home area
groups, "+" for your work area groups, and another ASCII character for
your friend's groups. You can tell at a glance what groups belong to a
particular area since they will be together in the listing.
b. MAKING BACKUP GROUPS - I like to keep a second copy of my main
scanning frequencies in a backup group. By doing this, I have quick
access to this main group in case I accidentally overwrite or delete it.
Of course, you should always keep a backup of all your groups away from
your computer on some type of backup device i.e. floppy disk or tape.
c. IMPORT/EXPORT GROUPS - I have two groups called "IMPORT" and
"EXPORT". I use the "IMPORT" group when I receive a PROBE file from a
friend. I copy my friend's "FREQ.DBF" and "BANKS.DBF" files into this
group to check it out. I then copy the records I want from this group
into my "WORK" group for later editing.
I use a group called "EXPORT" to send records to a friend or for posting
to a web page. I copy the records I want to the "EXPORT" group from
another group or groups using the "F10" functions. I then go into this
group and edit the bank's description before I zip up the "FREQ.DBF" and
"BANKS.DBF" files. I can easily post the zipped file to a friend which
he can then put on his system. You will need to exit PROBE and go to
your export directory to zip up these files.
d. WORK GROUP - I keep a group called "WORK" where I do all my editing
and verifying before I copy the records over to a regular scan group. I
edit the records to a degree and try to get them close to the way I want
them. You might even have 2 or 3 work groups if you have more then one
scanning area. I'm always trying new tricks and settings with PROBE to
see how they work out. By doing this, I don't mess up my regular
e. PERCON OR MASTER GROUP - I have a group called "MASTER" in which I
keep a listing of all frequencies for my area. It would be an impossible
task to try to scan this many frequencies. I use this group for a quick
search of new frequencies or to confirm frequencies which I normally
don't scan. I import from a group named "PERCON" for a 30 mile radius of
my area as my "MASTER" group.
f. GROUPS BY RADIUS - The import function lets you import records by a
mileage radius from your location. It may be handy to import records in
by 10, 20, 30 or even 60 miles from your location. Why would you want to
do that? The range you receive will vary from which antenna you are
using. It's good to know what's in range of whatever antenna you are
using at the time. An indoor antenna, or even a ground plane antenna,
will have a smaller range then a beam antenna. Why scan frequencies you
can't pickup? Because during searches it will narrow down possible
frequencies when a new frequency is found.
g. SEARCH GROUPS - I maintain separate groups for my search areas. By
doing this, different settings can make searching easier. Try to setup
different search ranges you will use to explore for new frequencies. I
keep search ranges for military, federal, military air and other
miscellaneous ranges in one group. Some of the common search ranges you
can use can be found in the PROBE documentation.
h. OTHER SCANNING AREAS - Create a main group for each area you will
scan. I have main groups with complete frequencies for a couple major
cities in my area. Make a scanning group for home, work, radio club
area, vacation areas, friends' locations, etc. By doing this, you will
always have a complete scanning group where ever you may take your setup
to. Of course, you still may copy some of the major frequencies from
other areas into your regular scanning group if you enjoy listening to
i. ALTERNATE SETTINGS - PROBE lets you make an assortment of "Settings"
to aid you in your scanning. You may not desire to use them all of the
time. Make separate groups for your scanning area depending on what you
may listen to. For example, you may make a group which logs and records
when you're not home. You can also set up groups with different settings
for alarms, "Smartbanks", and / or different scanning patterns for
weekdays and weekends. If you have both the OptoScan 456 and 535 and use
them on the same computer, you can make a group for both setups.
j. DISASTER GROUPS - You may want to consider setting up special groups
for disaster scenarios. By setting up a group this way you will have
more control over you can do with the records. Once you are alerted to
the incident in your regular scanning groups, you can then switch over
to the group you have assigned for it.
a. MAKING BETTER USE OF YOUR BANKS - You have just imported Percon into
PROBE and you're all ready for scanning. Wrong! You have a long ways to
go to improve your scanning group. Percon is just a start to let you
know what frequencies are in an area. Percon just has FCC assignment;
not the actual channel usage for your area. Pick one service code to
work on at a time. For example, pick your local Police ("PP") and start
there. Make use of your Banks! You need to go through and break this
service into different banks. Don't put all your police into one bank.
Break the assignments down into several banks. For example, I have banks
for my local police broken down by city, county, county metro, sheriff,
northern county, etc. If your area has zones for the city / county, make
a bank for each zone. Don't worry if you only have 2 or 3 frequencies in
a bank. Remember, you have 99 banks to work with; a far cry from the 10
banks you use to have before you installed the OptoScan interface board.
Once you have done this for the police, pick another section to work
with. Now do this for the next service and make use of those banks.
Once you have all your banks set up, you are now ready for the next
step. You need to go into the individual frequency records and edit
them. Get rid of that default name, make note of the zones, channel
assignments, agency names, edit the records, and insert information. At
times, you may need to copy records to an appropriate bank. For example,
a record may be assigned to local government, but the police may be the
ones who use it so you need to copy this record over to the appropriate
police bank. Some of this will require monitoring to figure out.
The next step will require some more monitoring. You need to again edit
the banks and put in the proper CTCSS, DCS tones for the agency. This
may even require using more banks. For example, the "MED" units for my
area have several units using the same "MED" frequencies. My area units
use a CTCSS tone of 192.8 and several other tones are used by other
local areas. I edited the records for my units using the tone of 192.8
and edited the other records to show their area in the records'
description field. There are several advantages to assigning tones to
the proper agency or units and making note of them in the record's name
which I will cover later in this guide.
In the next step, you edit the delays, recorder options, priority,
"Smartbanks" and alarms which I will cover later in this guide. Don't
worry about the number of banks you are using. The advantages will pay
off once things are complete.
b. USING EMPTY BANKS FOR FORMATTING - When setting up your banks,
consider leaving some banks empty between your normal banks. This allows
for easier editing and allows you to tell at a glance how many banks you
have for each service.
You may edit the empty banks with a name, with ASCII characters, or just
leave the bank name description blank. PROBE will not scan empty banks
if you accidentally turn them on. PROBE automatically turns off a bank
if no records are detected in the bank. Later on, you can use these
empty banks later on for other records. In this example, it's a lot
easier to copy a new police banks to bank 4 then have the new bank at
the bottom of the list. I like to keep similar agencies together in the
banks. Here are some examples of how you can set up your empty banks:
Bank Name Bank #
York City Police 1
York County Police 2
York Sheriff 3
------------------ 4 Empty
York City Fire 5
York City Police 1
Federal Agencies 3 Empty
---------------------- 4 Empty
c. USING ASCII CHARACTERS TO ID BANKS - After a while, you may have
several groups and banks and may forget which banks are assigned
priority, "Smartbanks", etc. I use some ASCII characters to aid me. I
make use of "P","<..>", [and] ">..<". Here are some examples:
Bank Name Bank #
<P> York City Police 1 Priority Bank
>State Police< 2 Exclusive Smart Bank
<City Fire On scene> 3 Non-Exclusive Smart Bank
York Sheriff 4 Normal Bank name
Now when you press "B" for banks, you will know at a glance which banks
have what settings in them. You may even come up with your own special
d. BANKS FOR UNKNOWN AND INACTIVE FREQS - Make sure you assign banks
just for unknown frequencies and inactive frequencies to help you
identify them later on. You want to assign these frequencies to their
own bank so you can have control over their "Settings" like "Smartbank"
e. BANK ZERO - PROBE does not scan this bank but you can use it as a
temporary work bank for copying and moving your banks around. You may
want to use this bank just for manual selection of frequencies using
PROBE's "on-line" tuning features. Put in frequencies you may
temporarily listen to from time to time such as weather, FM broadcast
stations, etc. If you have your frequency listing indexed by service,
they will be at the top of your screen ready to access using "on-line"
4. SMARTSCAN AND PRIORITY
a. SETTING UP SMARTBANKS - PROBE's manual provides some good suggestions
for using "Smartscan". "Smartscan" lets you setup up a trigger frequency
and assign a "Smartbank" to it. I'm going to provide some more examples
of setting up "Smartscan" and some other uses for them.
Here are some examples assigning your trigger frequency and its related
"Smartbank". The main advantage of "Smartscan" is you don't have to
waste time scanning quiet frequencies until they are active:
Aircraft Emergencies - Airport crash units, fire, ambulance, search and
rescue, FEMA, CAP, TV crews, Red Cross, Evac units, etc.
Severe Weather - State and county highway departments, utility
companies, ham radio and Skywarn nets, towing services, state police,
Riots - County and state police, fire, EMS, National Guard, hospitals,
Red Cross, TV crews, and utility companies, mutual aid, etc.
Maritime Disasters - Coast guard, police, fire, EMS, Oil refineries, oil
spill cleanup companies, Evac units, etc.
Using these examples and knowing what's in your area will help you setup
some exciting "Smartbanks". You will just be scanning the trigger
frequencies for the above and you will have your normal police and fire
banks. The police, fire, etc., listed here are duplicate frequencies of
your regular banks. I like to set these up as "Exclusive Smartbanks".
b. SETTING ALL TRIGGER FREQS AS PRIORITY BANK - In the examples above,
you may want to put all your trigger frequencies in a "Priority bank".
It's like having a priority on all the related banks even though you're
not scanning them.
c. TEMPORARY LOCKOUT OF SMARTBANKS - If you configure your "Smartbanks"
as previously illustrated, and you find the event is not interesting,
you have an option to use the "temporary lockout" function in PROBE.
When you temporarily lockout a trigger frequency, you actually are
locking out any banks related to it.
d. SINGLE FREQUENCY SMARTBANK - Nothing says you have to put more then
one frequency in a "Smartbank". If you have a hot frequency, just put
that frequency in a "Smartbank" by itself. When there is action, PROBE
can scan just that frequency. It's liking hitting manual, but PROBE is
doing the work for you. You can go even further and assign priority
status to this bank and configure several hot frequencies this way.
e. SMARTSCAN TO FIND UNKNOWN FREQUENCIES - To use "Smartscan" for this,
you need to do a little detective work. Let's say you know your local
federal agency has a channel but you don't know what it is. Set up a
search range where you might think it is. Set small search limits for
the range your working with using the appropriate step for that range.
When your local federal agency becomes active, have that frequency kick
in its search range "Smartbank". It's more likely the unknown frequency
will become active when something happens. Or you can assign your
unknown federal frequencies to a "Smartbank" and have it kick in when
the main federal trigger frequency becomes active. When you hear the
agency switch channels, you may get lucky and find it with this method.
f. SMARTSCAN TO FIND DUPLEX PAIRS - Federal agencies sometimes use
duplex frequencies. One frequency to transmit on and one to receive on.
Use the same trick as above and again use a small search range for the
g. SMARTSCAN TO FIND ODD REPEATER INPUTS - Some agencies don't follow
the standard offset for repeaters. You can use the same trick again to
try to find the repeater inputs. Of course, the frequencies have to be
within range of the unit. Some units also use the input for simplex
h. SMARTSCAN TO FIND SKIP FREQUENCIES - If you like to listen to
distance stations, try putting in some VHF beacon frequencies as a
trigger frequency. When the trigger frequency detects the signal, you
can have it toggle a search range "Smartbank" looking for distant
stations transmitting in that frequency range via skip. A good source of
beacon frequencies for VHF low and high beacons is the ARRL's repeater
guide. It lists beacons by state so you can program for the area you are
trying to listen to. If you don't have the repeater guide, try entering
frequencies of known distant stations as the trigger frequencies.
Using these search ranges, "Smartbanks" may take some work to get the
needed frequency. You may have to change the search ranges as needed.
You could even create several possible search ranges and switch the
trigger frequency reference to the "Smartbank" as needed. You will need
to know the popular search ranges to use this method. Most of these
ranges can be found in the PROBE documentation.
i. SMARTBANKS OF DUPLICATE FREQUENCIES - In my area, the "MED" units use
different CTCSS tones for different counties. I create a bank with all
"MED" frequencies and put the dispatch frequency in twice. The second
dispatch frequency has the tone for my county. I assign this second
duplicate frequency as a trigger frequency which kicks in a "Smartbank"
with all the "MED" frequencies having tones assigned for my county. This
way, I hear all "MED" unit calls but puts priority on calls in my area.
j. UNKNOWN FREQUENCIES - You should have a bank of unknown frequencies.
Try assigning priority status and tape options to this bank to help
catch the action so you can identify them.
k. SMARTSCAN AND PRIORITY SETTINGS - When setting these options keep in
mind you might miss other action if you check the trigger frequency too
often or not enough. Priority provides good control and can be switched
on the fly depending on the activity. You need to decide which area is
more important to you.
l. PSEUDO PRIORITY - You have your priority bank set up but you are
worried about missing your other favorite banks or frequencies. Try
making duplicate banks of your favorite banks and put them in 2 or 3
times. Spread the duplicate banks through out your bank listings so you
have a better chance of hitting them. You can have duplicate
"Smartbanks" for your trigger frequencies if you want to assign regular
priority to another area. Don't get carried away with this method; doing
so will cause you to miss action on other banks.
m. ACTIVE PRIORITY - With this new feature you may want to use your
favorite or unknown frequency. You can have up to ten "Active Priority"
frequencies, one assigned to each "HyperBank". The advantage of this is
you can change your "Priority" frequency on the fly and be sure to not
a. SETTING UP AS SERVICE SEARCH BANKS - "Hyperbanks" were added in
version 3.0 of PROBE. They have proven to be another excellent tool in
monitoring. One use of them is to set a couple of them up as search
ranges like the older Bearcat scanners. Set up a "Hyperbank" for police,
fire, federal allocations and whatever other interests you have. This
can help find unknown frequencies if you take your system on a trip with
You can also set your own custom search ranges using the "Hyperbanks".
When you leave the house, switch on a desired "Hyperbank", search a
current frequency range you have entered, and record and / or log
everything while you're away. When you get home, press your home
"Hyperbank key" to resume normal scanning, review the log, and play the
tape to see what new frequencies you might of discovered.
b. BY AGENCY OR AREA - Some people like to set up the "Hyperbanks" by
agency, police, fire, federal, "MED" units, etc. Depending on their
mood, they can scan the area that interests them or press the
appropriate "Hyperbanks" key to switch on only that service if something
is happening. Some like to set up the "Hyperbanks" by area, city,
county, region, etc. It's like having 10 preprogrammed scanners sitting
in front of you and making a choice of which to listen to.
c. BY TOWNSHIPS AND CITIES - This is one method I use the "Hyperbanks"
function for. I set up "Hyperbanks" for surrounding townships and local
cities I don't normally scan. If I hear some action is moving to a local
area or hear they are being notified, I can press a "Hyperbanks" key and
add them to my main scanning frequencies. When the action dies down, I
press my home bank "Hyperbanks" key to take me back to normal scanning.
d. HOT FREQUENCY - You can assign a "Hyperbanks" key for one frequency.
For example, you can set it to your local federal frequency, or a local
ham repeater you like to listen to, or just for the weather. This will
allow quick access to one frequency so you don't miss anything.
e. TURNING OFF UNNEEDED BANKS - Try using "Hyperbanks" to turn off
unnecessary banks when action starts. Make a duplicate "Hyperbank" of
your main "Hyperbanks" key excluding unimportant banks. If something
happens, you can monitor the main police and fire without the banks for
tow trucks, local government, etc. This will increase your chance of not
f. USING AS MANUAL SMARTBANKS - You can use "Hyperbanks" for manual
"Smartbanks". "Smartbanks" aren't engaged by what's being said. You may
want to manually turn on a "Hyperbank" depending on what you hear.
g. TOGGLING LOGGING, TONES, RECORDER - There are times you may want to
record a specific incident on a specific frequency (or frequencies), or
you like to turn on logging for a specific frequency (or frequencies)
when you leave the house. Make a duplicate copy of the frequencies or
banks of interest into duplicate banks. Edit the duplicate frequencies
and banks while individually turning on / off options like tones,
logging, recorder, etc. Assign these duplicate frequencies and banks to
another "Hyperbank" key. Now you have two copies of these frequencies,
one for normal listening, and a second copy with different
configurations for tones, logging and recorder options.
a. USING HYPERSETTINGS - "Hypersettings" works in conjunction with
"Hyperbanks". Proper use of this feature will give you some very
powerful scanning abilities. In addition to changing your 99 banks with
a "Hyperbank", you can change up to 54 settings when you select a new
"Hyperbank". Of course, you can still switch banks without changing your
settings. I can't overemphasize how powerful this feature is!
b. LOG NAMES - Using different log names for each "Hyperbank" lets you
assign a different log for each type of scanning activity that may
occur. You may want to have a different log name assigned for a major
incident that may occur, another for a different scanning area, or a
separate log name for police, fire, etc. You can keep a separate log for
searching or for unknown frequencies. Using separate logs makes it
easier for you to view active frequencies during an incident or event.
You may even use a "Hyperbank" to turn on or off a log or "flagged only"
log. Use log names "Log1" to "Log10" until you decide what you want to
do. You could also share the same log names with 1 or more "Hyperbanks".
In your search group, you may want to assign a log name to each search
range to help keep better records of what you find.
c. HYPER MANUAL TUNING - You will use a separate log name for this
trick. I like to use my last "Hyperbank" (F10) for this. I assigned the
log name of "manual" to this "Hyperbank". First, you need to assign your
favorite or "hot" frequencies to this "Hyperbank" and a frequency of
1300.000 MHz or some other unused frequency to an unused bank. Make sure
the "cumulative log" setting is turned on for this "Hyperbank". To make
it simple, don't assign over 20 frequencies. After all these frequencies
have been logged in this "Hyperbank", I then delete all frequencies from
this bank except 1300.000 MHz. When I need to quickly monitor one of
these frequencies, I hit that "Hyperbank" which calls up an inactive
frequency. I then hit "V" to view the log file and can then view up to
20 of my favorite frequencies on the screen at one time. Then use the
arrow keys to select the frequency and listen.
d. PRIORITY - With "Hypersettings", you can choose which priority
frequencies are "scanned" on the fly (not to be confused with an "Active
Priority" frequency which is monitored when a regular frequency is
active.) For example, you may have a police bank assigned as your
priority bank. During a major fire, you may want to check the fire bank
more often then the police bank. With "Hypersettings", assign one
"Hyperbank" with your police bank as the priority bank, and with another
"Hyperbank", assign your fire bank as a priority bank. Now you have
control over which frequencies Probe will check more often depending on
the action. Along with using your "Priority" banks, you can use the
"Active Priority" feature which can be checked while your scanning a
e. SMARTSCAN - In addition to "Priority", you can now change your
"Smartbanks" on the fly. You have the power to control which banks are
turned on and off and used as your "Smartbanks". You can setup several
frequencies each with their own "Smartbank" and turn them on or off or
assign different "SmartScan" times using "Hypersettings". Remember, you
can have the same frequency in more then one bank and have a separate
"Smartbank" assigned to it. So with a press of a key, you can select a
new "Hyperbank" setting yet be scanning the same frequencies. You
control what is checked, how often, and how long. Having a different
combination in each "Hyperbank" leaves you with some very flexible
f. DELAYS - There is an advantage to using different delay settings for
different hyperbanks. During an incident, you may not want to miss a
reply so you could assigned a longer delay. You can assign a "Hyperbank"
that would turn on or off flagged delays. Assign your special
frequencies with longer flagged delays, and when something important
happens, hit that "Hyperbank" to turn them on.
g. LOCKOUTS - You may have a few boring frequencies locked out in an
active bank. You can have the "Lockout" option turned off in another
"Hyperbank". Selecting this "Hyperbank" during inactivity would include
these frequencies in your scanning which otherwise be not included.
h. RECORDER - You may also want to use a separate "Hyperbank" just to
turn on your recorder depending on the activity. You have control over
just turning on or off your flagged frequencies or all your frequencies.
i. MONITOR - If you have a "Hyperbank" assigned to a search range, you
probably want to change this setting for that "Hyperbank". A shorter
time will allow you to resume searching to find more frequencies.
j. ALARMS - Now you have the ability to assign a different "Alarm level"
to each "HyperBank". You can have different alarms depending on what you
are doing. You may have a higher level set to certain frequencies but
yet change that level when an incident occurs with new frequencies
becoming active. You may initially have audio and visual alarms on but
once the alarm has your attention, you can turn off the audio setting by
assigning it to a separate "Hyperbank" setting. You can have several
alarm settings depending on your activity by assigning each to their own
k. TONES - You may want to use your "Hyperbanks" to turn on and off your
tone squelch. During a major incident, several counties or agencies
might be assisting and they may not have the tone capability your local
agency has. In my area, several counties use the "Med" channels; each
has their own tone. I can now select another "Hyperbank" which would
allow me to receive all the counties on the same frequencies.
a. FRIENDS - With the "Compare / copy" function in the "frequency
viewer", you might want to compare a Probe file your friend might give
you or with a file you downloaded off the web. You can select to only
keep records you don't have in your master group. This is quick and
handy way to swap Probe listings, only pull out what you need.
b. FCC CD-ROMS - This feature is also great to compare data from the
different FCC CDs out there. You can find which FCC CDs have the most
current records and which records are different in each without manually
viewing all the duplicates. It's also handy when you buy the new '98'
edition and compare it to your '97 edition just to see what the new
additions are. Use it also to see which records in your '97' edition
were dropped due to expired licenses or for other reasons.
a. AUDIO ALARMS VERSUS VISUAL ALARMS - On my system, I like to use the
"Alarms" function with the "visual" turned on and the "audio" turned
off. I use a mini 286 system and you can't hear the speaker unless you
are close to the unit. Using colors (visual alarms) to get my attention
solves that problem. The colors can also be used for a lot more than
alarms for a key frequency.
b. COLOR FOR DIFFERENT AGENCIES - I like assigning different agencies a
different color so I can tell which agency is currently busy by looking
at the recent activity area. I assigned blue for police, red for fire,
green for "MED" units, yellow for federal, etc. To get my attention when
a key frequency of an agency becomes active, I use the same color but in
a flashing mode.
c. COLORS FOR SMARTBANKS, HYPERBANKS AND OTHER OPTIONS - You can assign
colors when you use these options. You might want to assign a color to
frequencies in your priority bank to alert you when it's active, or when
your "Smartbanks" are active. This will help you determine what is going
on. You could even assign a color for frequencies recorded to tape. You
may want to assign colors to the extra bank that is turned on in your
"Hyperbanks" to remind you to switch back over when action dies down.
Perhaps a color for your local "MED" units verses the other "MED" units.
Colors may seem like a trivial option at first, but they can be very
useful. It takes work to edit each record, but if you have many
frequencies, the effort pays off.
d. ALARM LEVEL - You can also use a combination of visual and audio
alarms. For example, set levels 1 - 3 with the audio on and set the
remaining levels with audio off which will just be a visual alarm. You
now have a quick choice to assign the alarm level to whatever you decide
upon. You can set the alarm levels to activate when key frequencies,
priority banks, or "Smartbanks" are active. Configure the alarms to
sound just long enough to get your attention so you won't miss any
action while the alarm is sounding.
9. CTCSS, DCS, DTMF TONES
a. USE OF TONES - We are lucky Optoelectronics decided to include tone
decoding on their boards. More expensive controlled scanners lack this
feature. PROBE is very good at decoding tones and managing them. CTCSS /
DCS tones allow us to identify agencies, filter out units we don't want
to listen to, and help us eliminate interference. If an agency uses
tones, use them with PROBE and use your tone squelch.
Most agencies using a repeater system use tones. I have frequencies in
my area using 3 or 4 tones. Each county may have its own tone on a
shared frequency. The old way of telling who was using a shared
frequency required you to know the unit numbers for your county or
counties. Now you can use the tones assigned to your county without
having to listen to the other units. With a lot less traffic to listen
to, you stand a better chance of not missing action in your area.
I have all my "MED" frequencies assigned with their tones in one bank so
I can identify the correct county. I assigned a "Smartbank" to those
frequencies in that bank which are using my local tone. When the
assigned "Smartbank" is activated, I have just those frequencies with my
local tone so I won't miss anything for my area. I can still listen to
all the "MED" units and put priority on just my local MED units.
The advantage of using tones doesn't just apply to general listening;
they can be used to control Smartbanks, toggle on recording or logging
for your area, etc. If you live in a large area, you may get splatter,
intermod and other types of interference. If you use tones, the noise is
less likely to break squelch and stop your scanning. Using tones can
also help eliminate birdies or computer interference from stopping your
b. DTMF - While CTCSS and DCS tones are used to help identify units and
control what is being received, DTMF is used to decode phone numbers
during phone patches. Knowing the number can help identify whether a
call is going to the chief or another agency. DTMF is also used for
repeater control and controlling other options. A unit can send a DTMF
sequence to turn on a repeater, phone patches, link several repeater
together, and for cross band operations Keep a eye on this; you never
know when a unit may turn on an otherwise unknown repeater to
communicate with another agency or area.
c. FALSE TONES - Good as this feature is, there are still things that
can cause false tones. Computer interference coming through the audio,
another unit transmitting at the same time, or even the pitch of the
dispatcher's voice. My local female dispatcher sends a DTMF tone when
her voice attains a certain pitch. Sometimes you may notice the log does
not match the display tone. There are a couple of transmitters in my
area that drop the tone before the radio is unkeyed. Depending on
PROBE's settings, PROBE logs the last tone detected and doesn't log a
tone in this instance. There is not much you can do in these rare
instances. There are some ways to help eliminate tones from computer
interference which I will cover later in this guide.
d. LOGGING TONES - Turning on the "logging tones" option will aid you in
searching and identifying agencies. You will find that federal agencies
tend to use the same tones nationwide. After a while, you will recognize
your local tones. You may be monitoring a repeater input and notice the
frequency is being logged with and without tones. Frequencies logged
without tones is a sign they may be switching to simplex and talking.
When no tones are transmitted, this indicates they are not tripping the
repeater and can talk more in private. You may want to have the "new
tones found" option turned on until you identify most of the tones in
your area. It pays to log those tones. 10. SEARCHING
a. BETTER USE OF SEARCHING - I enjoy finding new frequencies. If I'm
sleeping, I sometimes have PROBE searching out a band while logging and
recording information. True, I get hits on mostly known frequencies. But
recently, I found an unlisted federal frequency. In order to set up good
search ranges, you need to know your agency or intended allocations.
PROBE's manual has these allocations listed. While you can't always
depend on the allocations, they are a good start.
You want to keep your search ranges small and search them for a few
days. I like to keep the ranges to 1 - 2 mhz wide so I won't miss
anything. You won't find anything if you just search for a couple hours.
Frequencies have a habit of becoming active when you least expect it.
You'll find weekends and evenings may be different for your local police
since the local townships don't have anyone on duty and they may switch
over to the local government frequency. Know the habits and shifts of
your local police and federal agencies. Be searching when the shift
starts and you may get hits when the new personnel are checking in and
starting to work. Try searching when the main frequency becomes active
with an incident. They may switch over due to too much traffic on the
main channel. There are no set rules.
You want to be at the radio for the first couple passes of your search
range to lockout birdies and known stations within the search range.
Make sure you have 5khz search window option disabled when 12.5 khz
steps or wider are used in searching.
b. SEARCHING WHILE SCANNING - PROBE will let you search while scanning
your regular banks. PROBE treats a search range just like a regular
bank. You can adjust how often the search range is checked by setting
priority options to the search bank. You may want to break the search
range into several small banks and spread them amongst your regular
banks. As a result, you will spend less time away from your regular
scanning and less likely to miss something on your regular banks. Make
sure you set your alarms, logging and recording options to your search
banks so you know when something happens. You may want to set up a
"Hyperbank" key exclusively for this particular combination of banks.
c. RECORDER AND LOGS - When searching, you should set your logging
options to the "non-cumulative" logging option. It will be a lot easier
to match your logs to your recorder since they will fall in the same
order as the transmissions. Make sure you are logging tones to your log
file. Having tones will help you identify the agency.
If you can find one, you try a recorder that writes the time digitally
to the tape along with the audio. The time on the tape will match your
logs and makes it easier to identify. Sony used to make a unit like this
a couple years ago which used standard tapes. I haven't seen any
replacements for this yet. If you use Windows, there are a couple
Windows programs that will write the audio to your hard drive with the
time. My preference is tape since I can listen to the tape on the way to
work or take it to a club meeting and maybe they can help identify it.
When viewing your log, you may notice several frequencies you don't
recognize. The export option of the log viewer lets you tag the unknown
frequencies to a bank for later listening.
Also contained in the log is the signal strength of the frequencies. By
looking at the signal strength, you can determine weather it is a local
or distance unit. PROBE can be adjusted just to pick up stations
exceeding a certain signal strength.
d. DUPLICATES - Using this search option is very powerful. When you
create a search range you have the option to check it against a master
group or any another group. When you select this option, any frequencies
found in your master group are not included in your search range. This
will save you the trouble of locking out known frequencies which the
search may stop on. Now when I review my search range, I know the
frequencies will be new ones, not duplicates. Being able to create your
search ranges and comparing against different groups allows you to
create your search range by geographical location depending on which
group you have selected. You can use the "Compare / copy" function to
narrow your search even more my comparing it against other groups. You
may also want to run your search groups through the "Compare / copy"
function from time to time to eliminate or add frequencies that may
change as you update your master group.
a. SELDOM USE FREQUENCIES - "Automark" is a quick way to determine which
of your regular frequencies are active or may have become inactive. Let
your system run for a few days see if you notice any frequencies which
aren't being hit. You can copy these frequencies to a bank and label
them "inactive". Now you have a bank of your inactive frequencies making
it easier to follow them and determine why. If they are not being used
any more, you may want to exclude them from your scanning banks.
b. AUTOMARK AND SMARTBANKS - Using "Automark" is a handy way to
determine if your "Smartbanks" are setup correctly. If you are getting
hits on your trigger frequency but not its assigned "Smartbank", you
might want to verify you assigned the proper bank. You can tell at a
glance if your "Smartbanks" have been active even when you're not by the
c. SEARCHING - "Automark" can help you determine what frequencies are
been used by local agencies in your search range. After you set up your
search range, you may think it's too much work to lockout or delete the
known frequencies. Let your search run for a while then look at the
marked frequencies from your local traffic and delete them. Once done,
continue on with your search minus the local stuff.
12. TEMPORARY LOCKOUT
a. TEMPORARY LOCKOUT TIMES - PROBE can have more than one temporary
amounts of lockout times. If you have a frequency on temporary lockout,
and you need to temporary lockout a second frequency for a different
amount of time, you can do this on the fly (this needs to be a greater
time then the first temporary lockout). Change the temporary lockout
time and then press the temporary lockout key for the desired frequency.
You now have frequencies locked out for different amount of time.
b. TIME DELAYS - You can set a frequency to restore at predetermined
amount of time. Let's say you have a scanner net on the 2 meter band and
you want to listen to it in 5 hours but you don't want to scan that
frequency for the moment because of all the chatter. Temporarily lockout
this frequency for 5 hours and the frequency will become active when
it's time for the net. You won't miss the net and you don't have to
listen to the chatter until it's time.
13. SERVICE CODES
a. CUSTOM REMARKS - PROBE allows you to edit your service codes and
create custom codes. Another use for this is use this area for custom
comments if you don't have the need for the agency type to be display.
Use codes 00-99 for your comments. Enter both the number and comments. A
couple examples may be.
00 - Dispatch channel
01 - Channel 1
02 - Channel 2
09 - Repeater Input
35 - Usually active during storms
36 - Backup freq for city - old system
44 - Frequency shared with (city name)
90 - This frequency on Channel 10 on handheld
92 - Need beam antenna for this frequency
Create comments you use more often. You have 40 spaces for your own
comments; a lot more room then trying to put the comments in the License
field. You can always use the address line for comments, but some people
fill that field with imported data.
b. SORT BY SCANNING AREA - You can use the service code sections to make
comments on scanning location. One code for all your city frequencies no
matter what the agency is and another one for your county frequencies.
01 - City frequencies
02 - County frequencies
03 - (another city)
04 - State frequencies
05 - (custom grouping)
Now if you need frequencies for a certain listening area, you can use
your frequency viewer and index by service codes. All the frequencies
for your desired listening area will be together. You can printout this
subset by entering your location code. You can also mark these
frequencies by location and copy them to a empty group. In this new
group, you will have a custom group for the specific area.
a. TRUNKING DATA - A somewhat workable method if you have a trunk system
in your area and the data channel changes regularly. Set your temporary
lockout to 12 hours, or whatever period is necessary. When you hear the
data the next time, just press the templock key again. If you are
scanning a trunked system, you want to make this bank a "Smartbank" and
with the "delay" options disabled. If your really serious about trunk
monitoring, you may want to check out a Uniden Trunk Tracker scanner.
b. CUSTOM VIEWER - PROBE now allows you to customize the way information
is displayed on your frequency and log viewer. You can create custom
printouts this way. You may want to have a group just for printing. If
your friend wants a printout, you will have a custom configuration
without having to print the PROBE fields he is not interested in.
c. CHANGING LONG/LAT LOCATION - Once data has been imported in from
Percon's FCC CD ROM, you may receive stations farther away from you in
one direction. You may have a hill behind you and can't receive from
that direction. You want to import more frequencies but not frequencies
behind you since you can't receive them. You can temporarily change your
Long / Lat information to the outer edge of your current radius in the
direction you want to monitor and import with using a radius from that
location. You now have stations imported further in one direction which
you can add to your previous import. This will help you save time from
importing several cities individually in that favorable direction.
DISCLAIMER - I can not be held responsible for modifications to your
scanner, scanner equipment or OptoScan. These modifications are done at
your own risk so please be sure of what you are doing. If you are unsure
of what you are doing, please obtain help from a knowledgeable friend. I
have tried to verify the following circuits to the best of my ability.
a. REMOTE SPEAKER - PROBE and the OptoScan interfaces have the
capability to send specific frequencies to a remote speaker while you
monitor all the frequencies on your main speaker. Great to have if you
have a family member who might have an interest in fire while you like
to listen to everything. Instead of hooking up a tape recorder, you can
hook up a remote speaker as shown in the diagram below. I have
successfully done this to my OptoScan 535. I checked with
Optoelectronics and they said the relay can handle the below circuit.
rem. ------------------ |
out | |
2006/35----------------- ------- small amp-------speaker
tape out------------------------------ unit --------- unit
I don't know the rating of the relay but you probably could handle
similar devices like your sound card to use with Windows programs like
"RECALL" which digitally records audio to your hard drive. Now you can
specify which frequencies go to your hard drive. With some experimenting
and more involved circuits, one could trip scanner preamps controlling
which frequencies get amplified, lights, alarms, etc. If you use the
OptoScan 456, you will probably need the external relay supplied by
Optoelectronics. If anyone comes up with interesting circuits that work,
I will be glad to publish them in the next revision of this resource
b. COMPUTER INTERFERENCE - Computers help make the scanning hobby a lot
more enjoyable but they can also plague us with noise. Some tricks to
help eliminate the noise is to position your OptoScan unit away from the
computer. Try to avoid using an internal antenna whenever possible.
Plugging your computer and scanners on separate outlets with filter
power strips can help. If you're still getting the noise, try snap-on
chokes from Radio Shack. Install them on the power cords of your
scanner, modem, keyboard, and mouse cables of your computer. Make sure
your computer case is tightly closed with the screws. There is an RFI
spray paint available on the market which can be sprayed on the inside
of the plastic case of your scanner. I use metal duct tape to line the
insides of my scanners.
c. WINDOWS - Check out my home page for a Windows PIF, enhanced COM
driver, and recommended settings for Windows use.
d. ZIP DRIVE - Probe runs very nicely from a zip drive. It's handy to
take your scanner and zip drive to another location or a friend's where
you will have access to a computer. I have one zip disk dedicated to
Probe which is a mirror of my hard drive setup. Each disk holds 100 MB
so you have plenty of room.
16 BATCH FILES
a. CUSTOM STARTUPS - With the use of Probe's command line options you can
go straight into whatever group you select. There is a lot more power
here than you realize. Here are a few examples to give you a start. Use
any type of ASCII editors to design your own custom startups.
b. BY GROUP
"MAIN.BAT" (This file starts Probe with Group 2)
probe auto data0002
"SEARCH.BAT" (This file starts Probe with my Search group)
probe auto data0005
c. COLORS - First you want to create a color file for each group you
want a separate color for. After creating your default colors, exit to
DOS and copy "COLORS.GF" to "COLORS.000". "COLORS.000" will always be
your master colors. Now do the same thing using file names of
"COLORS.xxx" and so on. Here is an example of starting up "Group 2" and
having a separate color for that group.
"GROUP2.BAT" (Original colors are restored when exiting)
copy colors.002 colors.gf
probe.exe auto data0002
copy colors.000 colors.gf
You would create a file like this for each group / color combination you
d. FREQUENCY / LOG VIEWER - You can have custom frequency and log
viewers for each group or for each use may have. Using the methods as
before, copy your default settings of FREQCOLS.ARR" to "FREQCOLS.000",
"FREQORDR.ARR" to "FREQORDR.000" and "LOG.ARR" to "LOG.000",
"LOGVIEW.ARR" to "LOGVIEW.000". Using this method, you can create
several custom viewers. You may have a separate viewer for your search
group or maybe have a separate viewer order for printouts.
"VIEWLOCT.BAT" (Original settings are restored when exiting)
copy freqcols.001 freqcols.arr
copy freqordr.001 freqordr.arr
copy log.001 log.arr
copy logview.001 logview.arr
copy freqcols.000 freqcols.arr
copy freqordr.000 freqordr.arr
copy log.000 log.arr
copy logview.000 logview.arr
e. BACKUPS - Using batch files you can backup your frequency files or
any other setting files automatically if they are changed. First, make
sure your computer's date and time are correct. Then, using DOS's
"XCOPY" or other utility, make a mirror copy of all your files and
subdirectories into your backup directory. I use "PROBEBU" for my backup
directory. Using this batch file, it will automatically copy your
"FREQ.DBF" or any file you have selected to your backup directory IF the
file has changed. You also want to keep a copy of your backups off of
your hard drive. You may want to create a batch file to update any
changes to your Zip drive so you will always have the same copies of
files to take with you.
replace /u c:\probe\data0002\freq.dbf c:\probebu\data0002
replace /u /w c:\probe\data0002\freq.dbf a:\probe\data0002
replace /u c:\probe\data0002\freq.dbf c:\probebu\data0002
replace /u c:\probe\config.cfg c:\probebu\config.cfg
f. MENUS - If you want to get fancy, you can create batch menus with
these options and have the menu batch file in your "AUTOEXEC.BAT" file
with hotkey options. Then you can just select whatever type of scanning
you want to do. Any of these examples can be combined or changed to your
needs. The examples I gave are just simple ones. If anyone creates any
nice batch files for Probe, let me know and I will include them in a
future version of the "Probe Resources Guide" or on the web page.
a. It will take a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun to set up PROBE the
way you want it. Some of the options, like assigning an alarm or
"Smartbank" status to whole bank of frequencies, may seem like a hassle
but the effort will pay off. Once you are complete, you will hear action
never heard before and find frequencies you never knew existed. If you
have any tips or suggestions you would like to see in the next revision
of "PROBE Resources Guide", please send them to me. No doubt, there are
areas I probably missed and there are some topics I would like to cover
once I verify and gather more data on the topic.
When you setup PROBE the way you like it, send your frequencies to me
and I will post them on the web page for others to enjoy. To send PROBE
files, zip up your "FREQ.DBF" and "BANKS.DBF" files of the current group
and email them to me. You will be credited for it. It's convenient if
you're going on a trip and someone else has the files for where you're
Credits - I like to thank the following people for reviewing this "PROBE
Resources Guide" before going public with it:
Ken Reiss, Blaine Brooks, Steve Busch and also thanks goes to Perry
Joseph of Datafile for making such a excellent and fun program for our
Web page: http://www.monitoringpost.com