Home Patrol “Extreme”

Home Patrol “Extreme”
M
T REVIEW
Thorough Testing by MT’s Top Techs
Home Patrol “Extreme” Firmware Update
By Bob Grove, W8JHD
R
eleased just this year, Uniden’s HP-1
HomePatrol has established for itself a
special place in the VHF/UHF scanner
market. Its giant color touch screen is unique
to this consumer application and is a giant
step in easing programming of sophisticated
technologies.
While the HP-1 already includes a U.S.
nationwide and Canada-wide frequency database which will self-load for your location,
a recently-released firmware update allows a
number of useful additional functions to be
unleashed.
❖ Let’s Take a Look
This composite of new updates may only
be downloaded from the Uniden website, and
they aren’t free, but they are under $100 (actually $99.99!).
The download will work on all HomePatrol scanners. You need to provide your serial
number so that the key for the download will
unlock your particular scanner; the download
to your scanner won’t work on another.
So what are some of these new features
enabled by the Extreme firmware?
❖ Band Scope
Probably my favorite new function – since
I’m addicted to spectrum analyzers which
reveal all the signals at once on a chunk of
spectrum – is the band scope. Simply enter a
center frequency and the bandwidth on either
side (up to 2 MHz wide) that you wish to visually examine for activity. As signals come on
the air, the sweep of the screen will show spikes
on their respective frequencies.
signals as they are discovered.
❖ RF Power Plot
It is often useful to reveal the relative
strengths of signals across the band. You can
use this to determine the best antenna for your
application, the best location for that antenna,
even for direction finding, assuming you have
a directional antenna.
❖ Trunked System
Analysis
Extreme provides enormous power for
analyzing and filling in database gaps. A system
status monitor indicates how well the HomePatrol is receiving and decoding the data on the
control channel as well as overall system activity level. Details include channelgrams, radio
on/off affiliations, and logging information.
A talk group converter allows you to easily
switch formats for group IDs.
Since the Home Patrol allows up to three
minutes of audio recording from its received
signals, you can review the users audibly to
determine which channels may be missing from
the preloaded frequencies and fill them in from
the chart generated by the analyzer.
The same feature can be used for conventional transmissions as well as trunking.
❖ Activity
How busy is each of the system frequencies? Extreme generates a visual log to show on/
off activity of any particular channel frequency.
System commands that are sent over the control
channel are recorded on the HomePatrol internal SD card.
❖ EDACS/LTR LCN Finder/
Analyzer
This feature enables you to determine a
system frequency and its logical channel number that might not have been included in the
database. A visual chart is generated to show
trunking channel activity with on/off times.
❖ And More Features
It’s not in real time, but just so long as the
span of spectrum isn’t too wide, you have a
good likelihood of seeing signals as they come
and go. A press of a screen key allows you to
hold and monitor the contents of any of those
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MONITORING TIMES
January 2012
edit existing systems, and edit your favorites
list.
New channel options have been added as
well, like time-selectable per-channel delay,
audio alert for specific channel activity, adding
channels to existing trunked systems, and performing user-selectable geographical searches.
One of the chief complaints from initial
HomePatrol users was the difficulty of, or even
inability to customize the autoloaded files.
Now you can create and edit your own files.
With Extreme, you have the capability of full
manual programming to create new systems,
Extreme also allows you to export Googlemap points of interest (KML files) and share
them, as well as create multiple favorites lists
to expand coverage areas.
You can also identify unknown signals
between manually-entered frequencies by
recording audio and DCS/CTCSS subtones.
❖ The Bottom Line
Sales figures and customer comments
show the remarkable success of the new
HomePatrol, and now Uniden has provided a
means of expanding even further the features
of this fine scanner.
While not all of the features will be of
interest to all users, certainly the ability to
customize files and the ability to see tables
and spectrum signal details should have wide
appeal.
For your download of this latest software,
log in or register at my.uniden.com.
MT LOOK BACK
PAR EndFedZ
EF-SWL Antenna
By Larry Van Horn, N5FPW
This is a moment of true confession for me.
I have to admit that I love using wire antennas
for my HF monitoring. And among the many
types of wire antennas I really like using the
longwire style of antenna. Those who know
me best know that I love low prices, simplicity
and performance. The random length longwire
antennas are very economical, easy to install and
provide a lot of bang for the buck, meeting all
these parameters.
But, the simple longwire does have one major drawback. Due to the higher impedance at the
feed point (random length longwire antennas are
end fed), coax is not normally used. Most often
you will see longwire antennas fed with single
conductor insulated wire to the high impedance
input of HF receivers. This can be a problem in
noisy RF environments. If we can get that feed
point impedance of a longwire down to 50 or
75 ohms, then we can use low loss coax in our
installation. By doing so we can reduce – and in
some instances even eliminate –man-made noise
that is picked up by the feedline. If only someone
would develop an inexpensive longwire antenna
that can deliver 50 or 75 ohms impedance to the
receiver so I can use low loss coax!
Dale Parfitt, W4OP, developed an end fed
longwire that can use a 50 or 75 ohm coax feed
– the PAR Endfedz EF-SWL antenna.
The EF-SWL is optimally designed for 1-30
MHz reception. The heart of the EF-SWL is the
UV resistant ABS matchbox that houses a wideband 9:1 transformer wound on a binocular core.
This transformer has external stainless studs on
the matchbox that allows the user to configure
the primary and secondary grounds for best
noise reduction at the receiving location. The
antenna’s output to the receiver is via a silver/
Teflon SO-239 UHF connector that can accept
a standard PL-259 coaxial connector. Lead-in
coax cable is not provided by the manufacturer
and will have to be purchased separately.
The basic configuration out of the box is a
radiator that uses 45-feet of virtually-indestructible #14 black polyethylene coated Flex-Weave
wire. The wire itself consists of 168 strands of
#36 gauge woven copper. This material is very
strong, yet can be easily coiled like a rope for
portable work.
The radiator also attaches via stainless
stud (#3) on the matchbox that allows it to be
removed or replaced. You can attach any length
of wire you want to the matchbox. This allows
you the opportunity to experiment with different
lengths for the radiator. If you need a shorter
antenna for your particular installation or a
longer run if you have the space, the EF-SWL
matchbox can accommodate it.
The manual that comes with this unit shows
typical radiation patterns for selected frequencies throughout the HF spectrum in the two
primary mounting configurations: as a horizontal
or sloper end fed longwire. This is a receive-only
antenna.
❖ Antenna ConstructionInstallation
This antenna has a lot of the same characteristics as the monoband versions of the popular
Cushcraft and HyGain half-wave or no-ground
vertical antennas. The big difference between the
no-ground verticals and this antenna is that the
EF-SWL does not need any base radial wires.
My first impression after I opened the box
was the quality of the antenna and its individual
components – simply superb.
Since the radiator uses polyethylene coated
Flex-Weave wire, environmental corrosion problems we normally associate with using uninsulated copper wire will not be an issue. A major
failure location in most longwire installations is
at the point where the user attaches the antenna’s
lead-in wire to the uninsulated radiator wire. If
care is not taken to properly seal this connection,
dissimilar metal corrosion will eventually cause
a break where these two wires are connected.
Fortunately, that will not be an issue with the
EF-SWL, thanks to the polyethylene coated wire
used as a radiator. To further protect our outdoor
test installation of this antenna we used rubber
tape to seal the PL-259 connector to the SO-259
matchbox connection.
Bottom line – once you get this antenna
up, Mother Nature will be hard pressed to take
it back down through corrosion.
The antenna comes assembled right out of
the box, but you do have two decisions to make.
The instructions that come with the antenna fully
discuss the pros and cons to help you choose the
option which will best work at your location.
First, you have several options on how to
hang the antenna. Choices range from horizontal,
sloper, inverted-L, inverted vee, or even as a
vertical.
Next, you have to decide how you are going
to configure the ground, and this will vary from
installation to installation. We were able to use
the factory default configuration – connectors
#1 (SO-259 shield) and #2 (ground lead of the
antenna side of the 9:1 transformer) shorted. Basically, this leaves the connection to the antenna
ungrounded, and you should ground the receiver
in the shack.
Even though we did not observe it during
our test, this installation may pick up man-made
noise. If this is the case, you can also take out the
short between connections #1 and #2 and ground
one or both of these connections (#2 direct to
ground and #1 grounded back to the receiver).
This installation works very well in noisy, manmade environments.
Installation of the EF-SWL is very easy to
perform. My son Loyd assisted me in installing
this antenna and it actually took us longer to get
the ladder set up so we could climb on the roof
than it did to put the antenna up. We ran our test
EF-SWL antenna configured horizontally at 35
feet above ground level and we oriented the axis
of the radiator north-south.
❖ How Well Does it
Perform?
In a word: fantastic!
We put the EF-SWL head-to-head with
some of the antennas on the N5FPW 2-acre
antenna farm. We compared the PAR longwire
with two102-foot G5RV antennas, two end-fed
(insulated wire lead-ins) longwire antennas that
were 150 and 250 feet long, a full size Grove
Skywire sealed in the roof of my radio shack, and
an MFJ amateur radio ten band vertical antenna.
While some of these antennas outperformed
the EF-SWL over the entire tuning range we
tested (1-30 MHz), there were some nice surprises.
In the AM broadcast band, the G5RV antennas with their 102-foot capture areas had a
distinct advantage over both the EF-SWL and
the Grove Skywire. We did notice that the PAR
antenna seemed to come alive in the upper portions of the AM band when compared to the
Skywire as we tuned higher in frequency.
On shortwave frequencies below 10 MHz,
the PAR antenna was equal to or in some cases
consistently better than our Grove Skywire on
signals from selected shortwave stations we used
for measurement. One notable exception was
around 40 and 15-meters. Since the Skywire is
cut for 40-meters, there was a noticeable difference between the two antennas in these two
frequency ranges. Above 10 MHz, EF-SWL
really shined. Signal levels were comparable on
selected shortwave bands to our longer G5RV
antennas.
Our final test was a head-to-head comparison of the EF-SWL to our 150 foot north-south
end fed longwire. Since both antennas were
oriented in the same direction, we felt this test
would give us a realistic idea of how good the
PAR EF-SWL really was. I must point out that
the height above ground for our 150-foot longwire antenna was not optimized, whereas the
EF-SWL was.
Consistently across the entire 1-30 MHz
tuning range, the EF-SWL delivered a 5dB to
20dB signal over my 150-footer. But the real
surprise was how quiet the EF-SWL was. In
fact, at one point during the test, my wife Gayle,
who helped me with this portion of the testing,
questioned if the PAR end fed was even connected to the receiver. It was that quiet!
❖ In Conclusion
If you are looking for a good broadband,
passive shortwave wire antenna for use in restricted space (i.e. attic, small city lot, etc), then
the Par EF-SWL is your ticket. This antenna is
especially ideal for portable operations, since it
is compact, easy to install and does not take up
a lot of space.
You can purchase the PAR EF-SWL from
Grove Enterprises. It sells for $74.95 plus shipping and handling. This review of an “oldie but
goodie” is still as valid as when it was originally
published in September 2003.
January 2012
MONITORING TIMES
71
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