Thursday, May 29, 2008
Tech Note: Radio Shack Pro-2018 Scanner
Electra Bearcat 250. I bought a Radio Shack Pro-2018 (catalog # 20-424). Reading through the Radio Shack website a few days ago I was amazed to find that they were selling the programming cable for my scanner for 97 cents!? The cable (catalog # 20-429) is being discontinued, apparently. I found a store which had one and picked it up.
Radio Shack also offers a free programming software package. It is quite frankly one of the lamest applications I've ever seen; an absolutely horrid GUI and it would only import from DBase III format (.dbf) files. A quick Google search revealed an open-source scanner loader application "ProLink" which looked promising. It doesn't specifically state support for the Pro-2018 but it does support the Pro-2017 and the Pro-79 which are (from a serial port interface perspective) the same.
The nice thing about ProLink is that it can open text and CSV files, so creating a frequency list from copied text is fairly easy. I used Excel, and copied a lot of data from RadioReference.com and K6SCC's SCCFreqs.info page. Caveat: Apparently most of these low-end scanners don't have a download function. So don't expect to use ProLink to download the painstakingly-created frequencies you may have already on your scanner.
I ran into two small but annoying glitches which I'd like to share. One glitch was that when I initially tried to open my CSV in ProLink the application would lock up and require a process-kill. I knew the application could open CSV files because it successfully opened a sample file included with the application install. Examining the good vs the bad CSV revealed that Excel did not maintain all of the commas and quotation-marks around text which apparently ProLink expects. So I had to open the CSV in a text editor and manually reformat the file. Thank you, Bill Gates.
The second glitch was in trying to get the serial interface to work. Turns out the I needed to reconfigure my USB-serial dongle for the following config: 4800-8-N-2 (4800 bps, 8 data bits, Parity=None, 2 Stop bits) and Flow control set to "None".
Once I did this the data file loaded into the scanner no problem. I'm not sure I saved any time doing it this way, but at least now I know that I have a soft copy of my frequency list and should I need to make any changes I can do this in the file and then reprogram the scanner.