I had an opportunity to beta-test Probe 2.0 software package designed specifically for the Optoscan 456 and the Optoscan 535 add-on boards for the Radio Shack PRO-2005 / 6 and the PRO-2035 (and its successor, the PRO-2042). During beta-testing, I gave the software a thorough workout. Probe 2.0 is designed to take full advantage of the functionality in the Optoscan board and to really add to it. The strength of Probe is in its ease of use. Once you install Probe and set up the software, which only takes a few steps, scanning can begin. With Probe's logging features, it is very simple and quick to populate a frequency list with local channels, along with the CTCSS, or DCS and DTMF data. Probe is designed for set and forget, whether scanning or searching. The informative screens provide a lot of information, most of which can be directly imported from the Percon CD (see the October '96 column for more information).
One standout feature that Probe offers is "SmartScan". This function provides a means to link a bank of frequencies to a channel. For instance, a dispatch channel for a local fire department can be entered into the primary scan bank with all of the fireground and mutual aid frequencies in a separate bank called "SmartBank". This bank would be deselected, but once the dispatch channel became active, SmartScan would switch to the "SmartBank", allowing one to then monitor the busy frequencies.
Probe is designed to operate on almost any IBM compatible PC with minimal fuss. Simplicity is the key here. The folks at DataFile, who developed Probe, worked hard to make the package very efficient. It runs very well on 640 KB of RAM. This package lends itself well to laptops and older computers.
Previously, I had reviewed Probe 2.0 for the American Scannergram and I had noted that Probe 2.0 as a DOS program did not perform well under Windows. Let me update that. I have since used Probe 2.0 with Windows 95, where it works very well. It does require some tuning of the DOS window, particularly in the memory allocations, but it is possible to use Probe while running Windows 95. This allows the listener to use Probe while keeping a database or text file open for record checking or note taking. I have also tried Probe under Windows NT 4.0 Workstation with terrible results, but I am working on this. If you need the Windows operating system, my recommendation is to use Windows 95.
Overall, I am very impressed with Probe and I use it almost daily. For computer control of a scanner, it is hard to beat. It is dedicated exclusively to the Optoscan boards, which might be a drawback if one has different types of radio. However, because of this singularity, the package takes advantage of what the Optoscan interfaces offer with no compromises. In particular, Probe takes advantage of Optoscan's unique "pipeline tuning" which greatly increases scanning speed; a feature most other software packages don't implement. Probe alone is reason enough to have an Optoscan configured scanner, whether it is the PRO-2005 / 6, PRO-2035 or the PRO-2042.