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How to build your own desktop scanner

I have long enjoyed the scanner hobby, but it's a hobby that's increasing in expense. The newest Uniden scanners are amazing, but so are their price tags. If you're willing to put in some work, learn a few things, and do it yourself, you can have a great scanner for a fraction of the price.

What do you need to buy?

This is what I bought. You're certainly free to change it up a little. For instance given what I now know I would have opted for a more expensive tablet that was 64-bit. GNURadio won't run on a 32-bit machine. While it's not required for a DIY scanner, it is one less tool.



One dongle or two?

Trunking involves two frequencies for any given transmission. The control channel and the voice channel. This drives the need to have two receivers, or dongles. The DSDPlus Fast Lane software is able to track P25 trunked systems using a single dongle and it does it well. A single-dongle setup is nice because the dongle can be attached to the tablet.

I found my setup works a little better with two as the single dongle doesn't have to switch between the control and voice channel. I see and hear more traffic. This is important on a busy system like the one I monitor.

Setting up your desktop

It's quite possible you live in an area where you're only interested in monitoring one system. I have three systems I monitor, two with multiple sites. I also have some non-trunking comms I want to monitor. They're all a tap away on my desktop.

I have a local HD classic rock station, BBC World Service hosted on our local NPR station's second HD channel. I can hear up to four sites belonging to the Greater Austin/Travis Regional Radio System, three sites belonging to the LCRA and we even have a site belonging to Texas Wife Area Radio Network. I also monitor ADS-B using Virtual Radar.

Each icon on my desktop calls a PowerShell script. Why PowerShell? It's more robust and feature rich that batch files. It was harder to setup, but it's easier to add new sites.


The scripts I use for this project can be found here.

sdr/how_to_build_your_own_desktop_scanner.txt · Last modified: 2020-09-26T21:03:28-0500 by jcm