Probe 5 Features and Enhancements
Under the hood it’s now 64 Bit – Probe 5™ has been updated to a full 64-bit application. This means it can take advantage of all of your system’s memory and computing resources.
Raster Map Data Layer – The program is now able to use raster map data as a base layer of the map. This consists of digitized topographic maps and aerial imagery. This feature uses pre-indexed data files to merge different tiled maps together automatically. The program includes 1:100k and 1:250k USGS Digital Raster Graphic (DRG) data. Also available is 1:24k high resolution US Topo data and orthoimagery (photographs) and the 1:50k Canadian Toporama and 1:250k CanMatrix data.
New Transmitter List Interface – The transmitter list on the main window has been completely revamped. It allows users to see/edit/add contours and do all the things that were on the contour list window directly from the main program window.
ESRI Shapefile Support – The program can now load .SHP files for import layers and export contours to the .SHP file format.
PDF Export – Export maps directly to PDF files from within the program (via “File” → “Render to PDF…”).
Field Strength Cutoff Editor – The new streamlined cutoff editor greatly reduces the number of clicks needed to set up your signal cutoff levels. The color selection interface is built right into the cutoff window. This new editor also includes a feature that will assign a coordinated color palette to your defined field strength levels.
Map Move Tool – Need to make a small adjustment to the map center to make your map look just right? This new tool makes it easy. Select the tool and just drag your mouse on the map to move it around.
Distance to Contour Window – A new table style window showing the distance to contour for all contours defined for a selected station has been added. It also shows the ERP and HAAT for each azimuth. This table can be printed, converted to text, and exported to a comma separated value (.CSV) file.
Additional Map Interactivity – Placing the mouse cursor over a contour line shown on the map will now indicate the contour and station associated with it. Now you can just click on a contour plotted the map to go directly to the contour settings editor.
Quick Study – This new feature allows the user to bypass the new study wizard and create a basic coverage study using the program’s default settings entering only a station’s callsign.
KMZ Export – Google Earth file export has been enhanced with the ability to generate a “KMZ” file. This allows export data to be generated and contained in a single file (previously the KML export required multiple files).
GeoTIFF File Import – Probe 5 can import individual GeoTIFF format files for plotting on the map. These files contain geo-referenced raster data that can be obtained from third parties. Using data downloaded for free from the USGS Earth Explorer website, you can generate extremely detailed plots of site locations and other areas. The example image below shows a 1:2,500 scale map and the 100, 110, and 120 dBu FCC contours for an FM translator.
OHLOSS Propgation Model – Probe 5 includes our implementation of the National Spectrum Managers Association (NSMA) OHLOSS propagation model. It is a complete terrain based point-to-point model. This model can be used for FM and TV frequencies and is commonly used for microwave link analysis.
The Probe 5 enhancements follow many enhancements in the previous Probe 4 version:
New Calculation Engine – The core propagation calculation engine in Probe has been upgraded to allow the program to take advantage of multiple computing cores. This means a dramatic improvement in performance on multi-core machines with much faster calculation times. Also – calculations may now be ‘cancelled’ without having to run a new study.
Interface Updates – While keeping with the overall program operation, that users have become accustomed to, the interface has been updated to reflect a more modern look. Some notable changes are the ability to re-size the transmitter list and place custom buttons on the tool bar. Also new is the ability to center the map on a transmitter site in one step.
Updated Profile Tool – The “profile tool” has been replaced with a much more versatile tool. In this new version things like units, line types, and number of divisions on each axis are user configurable. Also new is the display of the path broken into multiple line-of-sight paths, multiple Fresnel zones, and the ability to edit the hard copy output to add custom user labels, arrows, legends, and logos.
FM Interference – The FM interference routine has been updated to cull stations based on their antenna heights, powers, and channel relationship (rather than a fixed distance from the reference).
Polygons In Contour Overlap Areas – Polygons can now be included in contour overlap area definitions.
Page/Map Editing Improvements – Various improvements have been made to the page/map editing capabilities. Rich text boxes – that can contain different fonts/formats in the same box – can now be added to the map. User editable shapes such as circles, squares, ellipses, and rectangles can be plotted. City names can be interactively edited/moved. Logos can be added with sharp clarity.
Copy/Paste Functionality – Labels and other items placed on the map can now be easily copied, pasted, and/or duplicated.
Point Search Function – Allows the user to click on a point on the map and identify nearby cities and ASR towers.
Service Counting – Probe features a new service counting system that allows fast calculation, plotting, and population reporting of the number of services at various locations within a station’s coverage area.
Expanded Plot Modes – New custom plot modes have been added for Line-of-sight and shadow depth plotting. These modes allow for better labeling and cutoff specifying when using non-field strength based propagation models.
Page Guides – New “Page Guides” allow the user to easily align legends and labels by showing series of construction guide lines on the screen while dragging a map object.
Field Strength Plotting – A new system has been implemented that allows the user to specify field strength colors/cutoffs to be used on a station-by-station basis or for user defined “groups” of stations within a study.
Contour Interface – The contour specification interface has been revamped to allow for more plotting options (like multiple “special radials” to be plotted and easier defining of arc start and stop azimuths)
Duopoly and Gain/Loss Studies – The program can load overlapping contours from our duopoly database making duopoly studies easy and efficient.
IBOC/HD Radio Interference – The program can now calculation interference caused to an analog carrier by stations running IBOC or interference caused to IBOC coverage areas.
Distributed Transmission Systems (DTS) Interference Calculations – Ability to calculate interference received by and caused from DTS television.
KML/Google Earth Export – Export contours, transmitters, and grid based signal calculations to a KML format file for direct use with Google Earth.
OET 69 Updates – Several minor modifications have been made to the program to make it as compatible with the FCC’s latest OET 69 based TVStudy program.
Touch Screen Compatible – The program interface has been optimized for use with the latest touch screen capabilities.
Probe is now bundled with:
Updated USGS Tiger street, roads, lakes and river databases: This database set adds new streets, roads, lakes and rivers to the database files built by the Census Bureau during the year 2000 census.
Updated Tiger Boundary Dataset: Using this dataset the Probe will be able to plot additional political boundary data from the US Census Tiger database. This database includes city and urban area boundaries,county subdivision and landmark boundaries, landmark data points and county lines.
2010 US decennial census database: This census database includes county and racial breakdowns.
Land Cover: LULC global land cover database, 1 km resolution
Tower database: FCC registered towers can be plotted on Probe 4 or 5 maps (See point search function above.)
Duopoly database: A pre-compiled distance to contour AM, FM and TV database.
Retained Features from Previous Probe Versions
ITU-R P.1546-1 (optional): This tool allows the user to use the ITU propagation model to predict coverage anywhere in the world.
Polygon creation tool: This tool allows the user to define a shape on the map and then calculate its area and population. The shape defined by the cursor can them be assigned any color or thickness.
D/U Ratio Study: Allows for color coded D/U ratios to be plotted on the map. Especially useful in booster studies to define areas of co interference.
Multiple Contour Add Tool: Makes possible the simultaneous addition of multiple FCC contours to multiple stations, with user defined colors and thickness properties or automatically assigned by the computer program.
Contour Overlap: An improved tool from Probe II, it now automatically builds overlap areas up to the 5th service area and calculates the population within the service areas portions. This addition is helpful when performing the 1st and 2nd service analysis and 307 B studies.
MIF Import Layer: Allows for the importation of Map Info Files into the program. (Program can also export MIF files.)
Enhanced mapping engine: The new engine improves mapping and allows for solid and dashed or dashed/dot lines of any width to be drawn.
Advanced FCC Database Culling: The user can query the FCC database with keywords in fields such as city, license, record, channel, state, etc. Multiple key words can be used as well and negatives.
Delta h Calculation: Allows for the calculation of Delta h (terrain roughness) using any of the current V-Soft Communications terrain databases.
Adjustable transmitter tokens: Gives the ability to set the transmitter marker and call sign font and style.
Printer Defaults: Separate printers can be defined within the program for graphical and text output.
Datum Selection: The program supports both NAD27 and NAD83 datum and allows the user to select which one to use. The primary and secondary terrain database in use is now view-able on Probe’s main screen.
Census Density: This new backdrop shows the census density in people per square km. Properties such as, population database, color and density spacing are user defined.
Incorporates FCC Model as Propagation Model: Shows ‘grid style’ coverage maps and performs interference studies using the FCC’s interference model. (This is especially useful for FCC method interference calculation projects such as moving FM stations with grandfathered overlaps.)
New Terrain System: Terrain database only needs to be configured once. Also, you can specify a different terrain database for different contours and the propagation model being used.
Booster Module (Optional): Map U/D and timing and signal strength difference zones between the primary station and its booster. Study boosters and single frequency networks.Probe 5 Highlights
Import Audemat Data (Optional): Import and plot Audemat data. Mix measured data with predictions for precision results.
Templates and Variable System: Page setup templates (including layout and labeling) can be saved and restored on command. Variable processing allows variables to be used to represent study parameters shown on the legend (labels will automatically update with configuration change to transmitters other study changes).
On-The-Fly Recalculation: Transmitter properties can be edited and signal/interference/contours will automatically be recalculated without needing to create a new study. Also allows for new stations to be added to interference studies without redoing the study.
FM Interference Analysis Upgrade: Custom D/U ratios and a threshold for reception can be specified in standard FM interference studies.
Outgoing TV Interference Upgrade: Allows the user to specify which stations from the database are to be considered for masking and interactively choose/edit these stations.
Area-to-Locate Import: Allows the user to import area-to-locate studies from V-Soft Communications frequency search programs SearchFM and FMCommander..
Duopoly Import: Import duopoly studies from V-Soft Communications InterDLG and Duopoly to be plotted on a Probe map.