Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 SKYWARN® Severe Weather Spotter Training

2010 SKYWARN® Severe Weather Spotter Training


The National Weather Service (NWS), in conjunction with Lucas County SKYWARN® and the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, will be holding a SKYWARN® Severe Weather Spotter Training class on Saturday, March 27th 2010 starting at 10:00 a.m. at St. Lukes Hospital Auditorium in Maumee, Ohio. The class will last around 2 hours and includes a multimedia presentation. Gary Garnet, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland, Ohio, organizes the training each spring. It is open to all citizens interested in severe weather recognition, reporting, safety and teaches:

Basics of thunderstorm development
Fundamentals of storm structure
Identifying potential severe weather features
Information to report
How to report information
Basic severe weather safety

SKYWARN® Storm Spotters form the first line of defense against severe weather. It’s more than just a weather class. It is information that could save many lives by advance warning!

All interested individuals are encouraged to attend this free training for all ages and it is not necessary to pre-register for this training. Those who attend and complete the program will be registered with the National Weather Service Cleveland Forecast Office and will be issued a SKYWARN® Spotter ID card at the training.

For more information contact:
Tim McConoughey-Lucas County Skywarn Coordinator KD8HLX@ARRL.NET

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TMRA Toledo Hamfest this Sunday

The Toledo Mobile Radio Association's annual Radio, Computer and Electronics Hamfest is this Sunday, March 21st, 2010. The Toledo Hamfest takes place at the Owens Community College – Student Health and Activity Center (SHAC) at 30335 Oregon Road in Perrysburg, OH. The hamfest hours are from 8:00 AM till 2:00 PM.

See the TMRA Website for additional information:

Take Note: NEW LOCATION at Owens Community College. Also new for 2010, Forums and VE Test Session.

Forum Details:

9:00 AM Jay Slough, K4ZLE “Your 8th Area QSL Bureau”

10:00 AM Jim Weaver, K8JE Director, ARRL Great Lakes Division “Promoting Amateur Radio Through International Treaty”

11:00 AM Steve Michalski, KB9UPS “A.R.I.S.S., Amateur Radio on the International Space Station”

12:00 Noon Dr. Alvin Compaan, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Toledo “Solar Power for Living & Driving in Toledo”

Navigate to the Toledo hamfest via APRS:

Talk-In frequency on the TMRA W8HHF 2 Meter Repeater 147.2700 MHz (+ transmit offset) with PL of 103.5 Hz.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toledo Fire Mutual Aid request by Defiance Ohio

The Defiance Ohio Fire Department requested mutual aid from the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department earlier today for a Trench Rescue in Downtown Defiance. The incident was at 624 Perry Street in Downtown Defiance Ohio. The original request and response from Toledo Fire units started around 11:30 AM late this morning. This was the farthest mutual aid request I've ever heard dispatched for Toledo Fire. Downtown Defiance Ohio is approximately 60 miles from Downtown Toledo Ohio. The trip by road along US-24 would normally take about an hour and 15 minutes. Units from Toledo Fire included Chief 116, Engine 18's company along with the Trench Rescue Unit and Confined Space Unit as well as Engine 5 and Truck 5. The Toledo Fire units started this as a "Code 3" lights and sirens response. The Toledo Fire units were also noted as having switched their radios from the Lucas County Public Safety radio system over to the ECOMM-7 (emergency common) talk group on the Ohio MARCS radio system. However after about 20 minutes the Toledo Fire units were cancelled and able to return to service.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GRE @ CES 2010 - Part 3 of 3

General Discussion

The Radio Reference community in general should not be discouraged here by these latest models. GRE indicates they indeed respond and listen to the RR community and users, but they also need to design for the global scanner market. Some of us here are from a much more advanced user base than the general scanner market, and the overall scanner market is not all that large to begin with. GRE will continue to market and develop and sell to the entire base (which is a very small percentage of general consumers). But with growth in the overall scanner industry, we can all see benefits from an increased user base.

We talked in general about the challenges of a niche market. I'll sum my thoughts up with a few points here in relation to CES and consumer electronics. These two new scanner model announcements were just two new models out of the 20,000 some new models reported as being announced across the entire Consumer Electronics Show this past week. Consider the market for TVs or mobile phones where there are billions of consumers and units in the market, with hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of new models. If we all can help expand the base, more options will be available across the entire scanner market. Some of what we all are doing here on RR with the Live Audio feeds we provide and information and discussion forums we offer can help expand that market. These preprogrammed and 'easy to use' product offerings from GRE will be beneficial to folks here and will also help attract new consumers and expand the scanner market.

Here are some of my general comments regarding the analog versus digital trend. Once digital activity is more prevalent, and digital starts to outsell analog, I would suspect we'll then see more models with digital, and at some point all models may have digital. We may even get to the point of televisions and mobile phones, when eventually some models in the future will only need to support digital. GRE had asked if I had purchased an iScan yet, and I advised I have not, since in my particular case, all of my county is digital. Once a majority of the activity and demand moves to digital, the manufacturers and market will need to respond to that trend.

We also talked a little about their business distribution model. GRE not only sells directly now and through dealers, along with their OEM/ODM relationships for distribution via Radio Shack and now also MFJ. GRE also indicated that Radio Shack now only purchases from GRE, and that is primarily because of the 'easy to use' factor of the Radio Shack/GRE line. In fact more and more people now refer to the combined "RS/GRE" brand. From what I can see, a larger purchaser like Radio Shack that may be buying thousands of units at a time indeed earns their right to preferential model release time lines and other brand distinctions.

GRE mentioned that in 2005 the Radio Shack brand accounted for about 60% of the scanner market share. This was primarily from their ability to introduce and demonstrate scanners at their thousands of store locations. Today the RS/GRE brand is growing online as well, and while it may not have as large of magazine presence, the physical distribution at RS stores is still key. Target customers and markets include not only general hobbyists and racing enthusiasts but also a growing commercial/public safety market. And despite the general economic conditions of the past year, GRE stated they have performed significantly well last year and are looking very good for 2010.

We talked further on marketing methods and scanner design as related to a direct interaction with the hobbyist community. I eluded to the role that UPMan and Uniden has established here on Radio Reference. GRE said they focus on responding to the community by offering the right products and that they don't want to be in a position to argue back and forth on an open forum. In regards to scanner design and manufacturing, GRE talked about how the Radio Shack PRO-95 was one of the first models designed based on feedback from the online community (then primarily Strong Signals).

Today GRE continues to conduct regular reviews and prioritizing of projects as well as responding to marketplace changes. They do not create new models just for the sake of new models, so we won't see new offerings in all categories every year. In fact they reminded me that the Radio Shack PRO-96 was the lead digital trunking model for six years, and that unit continued to generate new sales until the latest digital releases. GRE if anything said they have too many projects, and too many things they'd like to do. It is all a balance of technology/advancement, satisfying the customer, and responding to sales that drives new models in the industry.

Ok, some final random items. In regards to beta testing, that is a pretty small and intimate group. But I would have to say that good customers that provide good feedback and have a good relationship with GRE would have the best opportunity to help participate. GRE also had a a formal Press Release announcement in the works regarding the CES announcements, so stay tuned for that information. Also this has only been the 2nd year at CES for GRE, and they indeed plan on being back at the show in year three. And for general information, the CES is a consumer electronics trade show primarily for announcing and demonstrating new models, and not a ham-fest/computer-fest type show where one can purchase items.

Any other thoughts, comments, questions, please feel free to post. I may have more answers in my notes or in my head if I was not able to answer any other particular questions that I did not cover.


See also Radio Reference for more discussion: Link

[Part 3 of 3]

GRE @ CES 2010 - Part 2 of 3

PSR-110 Race Scanner

The working model was red in color as you can see by the attached photo. In regards to the dual display, the "2-Digit Sub-Display" is a top mounted LCD display for showing the car number. That allows the car number information to be visible from the top of the unit while attached to your belt. On the left side are two racing headphone connections (A and B). This allows two individuals to listen together (and talk to each other via the intercom feature when using racing headsets with microphones). In addition the right side has a phone/pc-if connection as well as the power connection. When a cell phone is connected, the answer (phone button) can be pushed and you can use your cell phone by talking through the racing headset (via the A connection only). As mentioned before this unit is UHF only, it also does not have an external speaker, and is focused on being a dedicated race fan scanner. The unit has V-Scanner like ability to easily recall the programming for each of the "Big Race Categories" (Champ Car, ARCA RE/MAX, Indy Racing, Craftsman Truck, Busch Series, and Nextel Cup). These groups are all preprogrammed and adjustable. The unit offers flexibility for scanning by CAR number, a FAV button for favorite cars, and direct access for the MRN frequency. The scanner is powered by three AA batteries.

The race scanner market may be bigger here than some folks think. About 1 in 10 attendees at these big race markets may have a scanner, at a large NASCAR race with 250,000 folks there, that could mean around 25,000 people with scanners in the crowd. Folks are looking for preprogrammed units and easy to use models with alpha tags and car number information for an easy and flexible scanning experience. GRE also indicated that they will have an agreement with a track side scanner rental company for updating programming for these models at the race. Again look for this model's availability in June 2010 if not sooner.

[Part 2 of 3]

GRE @ CES 2010 - Part 1 of 3

Below is a summary of my discussion with Wayne Wilson and Raj Gounder of GRE America from CES 2010. GRE announced their new PSR-700 EZ Scan-SD (iScan equivalent model) as well as a new GRE branded PSR-110 Race Scanner at the show. I'll cover some more details regarding the specifics for these two new models, then get into some general discussion items as well as cover additional questions folks wanted to know.

PSR-700 EZ Scan-SD

As for differences compared to the Radio Shack iScan branded model, this unit will not only be black in color, but also has a hard rubberized casing in place of a traditional solid plastic casing. The keypad has been redesigned and optimized for one handed operation (which was not a consideration with the original Radio Shack iScan version). The largest functional difference is the inclusion of V-Scanners which will allow one to save up to 200 different scanner configurations (scan list combinations and settings) for easy recall. Also are the various GRE versus Radio Shack specific branding elements as Don had mentioned ("Spectrum Sweeper" versus "Signal Stalker").

The reason why GRE has released analog-only models first (RS PRO-107 and GRE PSR-700) is due to the fact that the analog trunking market currently outsells digital trunking on an order of 5 to 2. As Don had mentioned, a majority of activity and frequencies are still analog in the global scanner market, and hence a majority of people are still just looking for analog models. See the General Discussion section for some additional comments on my part in regards to the analog/digital trend. GRE did indicate that a digital version is "a year away", is in development, and is the highest priority for delivery. These initial analog iScan/EZ-Scan models will be a good proving ground for this latest form factor.

The photo of the PSR-700 that I captured was not of a working unit, but a production prototype of how the scanner and casing will be produced. They did have a GRECOM branded piece of iScan looking hardware that was running the new PSR-700 EZ Scan firmware. It is interesting to see that everything for these scanners runs off the SD card, including all of the scanner firmware/software as well as holding all of the programming information. This should provide for a good future with the ability to essentially update most functionality via firmware/software upgrades. It will be great to see this SD card functionality on other future GRE models--especially the higher tier and full function type models like the PSR-500/600 form factors.

While this line of models using the new iScan/EZ-Scan form factor is focused heavily on being preprogrammed and easy to use, this new form factor, and these new models are also just the latest step. It will be great to see some of the technologies introduced with these specific models eventually move across the entire scanner line.

GRE indicated to look to June 2010 for first availability of the PSR-700 model and that the unit will have a price point similar to that of the Radio Shack PRO-107.

[Part 1 of 3]

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 CES Friday Agenda

2010 CES Friday Agenda:

Have a handful of sessions and a couple of keynotes that I'd like to attend. Also have time scheduled with GRE America regarding new Scanning Receiver models announced.