26 July 2005

WCDPS LIVE! - Scanner Audio Feed Update

Well, it's been two weeks now since we moved the live scanner feed offsite and up onto the IBN TeamSpeak server, and so, time to post an update.

At first, we here at the Labs weren't really sure whether the feed's popularity was going to spike or plummet by making the move. We knew for a fact (from your numerous emails.... thanks!) that many listeners were not always able to tune in to the action of the original feed which was being streamed live from here in the Labs, due to the limited number of connection ports (only 15 max) being almost constantly full. As we mention on our Scanner Page, as much as we would have liked to do it, the cost of beefing up the hardware & Internet connectivity here at the NKNOC was determined to be beyond our current budget constraints. Thus, the decision was made to have the feed hosted offsite on the IBN server. A quick thank you here to Julian 'Officer' Kern (IBN02) and all of the IBN folks who helped make the transition possible, seamless and pain free! The IBN support was fantastic. The NKNOC Labs looks forward to a continued working relationship with IBN in bringing you our LIVE! Streaming Feed of the WCDPS 800Mhz TRS radio traffic.

Now, a little inside info regarding the feed, as to how it's set up & works, and some stats on it so far:

Technical (audio) -
The WCDPS LIVE! audio begins it's journey at the external speaker jack of one of our Radio Shack Pro-2096 digi-scanners here inside the Labs. The audio signal is split there, with half going to feed the amplified speaker set that we here in the NOC actually listen to, and the other half cabled into the Line-In jack on the audio card of the local server here that we use to uplink the feed to IBN via the TeamSpeak software. The mono-channeled feed currently runs at an audio bit rate of 16.3Kbps, which provides sufficient overhead for an output in the human voice audio range. Once we balanced out all of the volume & tone levels, which was a bit tricky with the digital TRS audio, the final product (in our humble opinion...) sounds pretty good. Feel free to send us your comments/opinions on it as well!

Technical (scanner setup) -
As mentioned above, the feed is produced here in the Labs by a Radio Shack Pro-2096 digital (APCO-25 @ 9600baud capable) scanning receiver, using only the stock metal telescoping antenna that came with the unit. Our location provides a good strong signal from the local WCDPS tower site (TO102) serving this area, and so reception is not problematic in any way. Bank 1 in the scanner is doing the work for the feed and is programmed with the three control channel frequencies of the new system, 859.9875Mhz (Primary) / 858.9875Mhz (Alternate 1) / 858.4375Mhz (Alternate 2), as well as the three PD, FD, & EMS non-trunked/repeated talk-around frequencies that you'll normally hear referred to as 'Channel 16' on the air. The other 9 banks of the 2096 are normally locked out, but are stuffed with about every other area (Western PA) public service frequency that we could think of, and can be pressed into service onto the feed should something big break.

Stats & TeamSpeak 2 Info -
In the two weeks that the feed has resided on the IBN server, its growth in popularity above and beyond what we experienced with the original feed has been a pleasant surprise. Not only have most of our original faithful listeners followed the WCDPS action to the feed's new home, but it seems that many other visitors using the IBN server have enjoyed listening as well. The 24x7x365 WCDPS LIVE! feed averages between 12-25 simultaneous listeners on most days, and has maxed out (to our knowledge so far...) at 26 users at one time. The total number of connections able to join the feed is now technically unlimited, with a current ceiling set at 100 simultaneous users. A couple of things now about the TeamSpeak client software that is needed, in order to listen. As with anything, there are some pros and cons. That said however, we feel that the many pros far outweigh the few cons. Cons we are presently aware of include a couple of folks having had trouble downloading and/or installing the TeamSpeak client software, and the fact that at this time no TeamSpeak 2 software is compatible with the MACintosh operating systems. This is really not so far out of the ordinary though and is similar to any software usage across a large cross-section. The TeamSpeak 2 client software program used for the feed now value-adds many new features not possible before when using the Windows Media Player as the audio interface. As mentioned, the number of listeners is unlimited. Also, there are multiple live scanner feeds from all over that are available on the IBN TeamSpeak server for your listening pleasure. The information window for each channel (top right pane) allows the channel administrator to present as much detailed info about the feed as they wish, giving listeners some insight and background on what they are hearing. And not least of all, the TeamSpeak 2 client includes a chat feature that can be used by the channel administrator, and all listeners, to text message other listeners on any live feed on the server. The channel admin can send out a text message broadcast of what is happening on the feed to let others know when there is a hot incident in progress. Users can also discuss the action with each other just as if they were all in the same room sitting around one scanner. We feel that this interactivity is a big part of creating an online hobbiest community centered around the subject of the new WCDPS 800Mhz trunked radio system, so don't be afraid to participate by typing in a couple of cents worth now & then.

As most of you know, and as we have pointed out numerous times, the digi-scanners required to receive this new TRS radio traffic for Westmoreland County are NOT cheap, averaging just under $500.00. The NKNOC Labs is pleased to be able to continue to provide a FREE means of tuning in to all of the action, from the comfort and convenience of your PC. As always, we thoroughly enjoy hearing from you listeners (pros or cons!), and we answer every email we receive. So, keep listening, keep enjoying the feed, and keep in touch! Drop us a line any time to let us know how we're doing, and what you think of the new feed. And don't forget to tell your friends to join us too!

Till next post,
Scan on...