Dun Dun DUN!

UPDATE:Turns out it was nothing…

Hurricane Joaquin, 1800 UTC, October 3, 2015
National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, October 3, 1800 UTC

Could be something. It might be nothing. Better top of the fuel tanks just in case…

National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, September 30, 1800 UTC
National Weather Service, Hurricane Joaquin, September 30, 1800 UTC

On top of all the other scheduled projects taking place, we have a bad generator fuel transfer pump at one of the E911 sites that should be replaced before Monday, apparently.

I accidentally the whole transmitter site

Oh jeez, make it stop:

Somebody got busy...
Somebody got busy…

Station has been “flickering on and off…” for the last three days…

Another mouse nest
Wonder why?

Hey, you know that stuff that has been laying around the shop for the last three years? Why don’t you store it at the transmitter site?

Stuff
Great idea

No matter what you do, save everything. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever throw anything away ever.

You never know when you will need a leaking capacitor with a hole in the side of it...
You never know when you might need a leaking capacitor with a hole in the side of it…

The company I work for is taking over engineering for more and more radio stations. That is good for business, and good for us as contract engineers, but Great Caesar’s Ghost, some of these places are downright dangerous.  Why, just the other day, while I was working at a transmitter site at which both the main and backup transmitters were fed with one fused disconnect, the contact fingers severely overheated to the point of crumbling and I was standing on an aluminum ladder, inside of a steel box (shipping container) using a wooden broom handle to push the contact arms back into place because the station was off the air all the while thinking to myself; there has to be an easier way to earn a living.

Indeed…

iBiquity sale to DTS

DTS, Inc (NQ:DTSI) is to acquire iBiquity for $172M USD.  This was the headline about the middle of last week.  With that announcement, we get to see some of iBiquity’s financials; revenue of $40-50 million this year with a margin of 30-36%.

My question is, who or what is DTS?  DTS was initially known as Digital Theater Systems, Inc.  They specialize in digital surround sound technology, by developing or acquiring companies that created various CODECs and surround sound technology.

35mm film audio macro

An image of 35 mm film showing four audio formats, from left to right: SDDS (blue area to the left of the sprocket holes), Dolby Digital (grey area between the sprocket holes with the Dolby “Double-D”), analog optical sound (the two white lines to the right of the sprocket holes), and the DTS time code (the dashed line to the far right).  The DTS time code syncs picture to a CD-ROM that contains the surround sound sound track.

DTS continues to develop surround sound technology and makes money by licensing that technology to consumer and professional audio clients.  According to their 2015 Q2 financials, they are on track to make $140-145 million this year with a 25-30% margin.

My next question is, what does this mean for HD Radio?  It is much harder to answer this question, but here are some general observations:

  • DTS is a publicly traded company.  Financials and other information are a matter of public record.  It seems likely that the operation will be more transparent.
  • DTS operates with higher revenue and lower margins.
  • DTS has a high interest in mobile markets; devices and dashboards.
  • DTS has a history of continued development and marketing of technology it owns.

There are a couple of different scenarios possible; the first is business as usual. I think this is the least likely situation.  IBiquity as a company and HD Radio as a technology basically flat lined ten years ago.  A successful company like DTS would not likely purchase something that does not have growth potential.

Second possibility, DTS will keep the same licensing structure, but upgrade the HD Radio technology.  From a audiophile’s perspective; HD-1 sounds good, HD-2, 3, and 4 channels not so much.  This is especially true as more channels are added and the same size pie (aggregate digital bandwidth) gets divvied up into smaller and smaller pieces.  One area where HD Radio could shine is to get rid of the HD2-4 channels and create an IP multicast system.  IPv6 has greatly improved multicast performance which might enable a free data stream download, minimal data back haul via mobile data for an interactive, low data usage digital experience.  That would free up a lot of translators.

Third possibility, DTS will reduce the licensing fees for broadcasters and consumers and accept a lower margin on existing technology.  DTS will use HD Radio as a route to get their technology into dashboards, which is where they see their future profits.  Remember, the self driving car is only a few years away and mobile entertainment will be all the next rage.

As far as AM HD Radio goes, I don’t see anything happening with that.  Medium wave broadcast channels do not offer enough bandwidth to facilitate reliable digital transmission.

In any case, for better or for worse, change is coming to terrestrial radio.

Air conditioning? We don’t need no stinking air conditioning!

It has been hot out around here the last week or so. Somebody’s office server needed a little extra help:

Office server fan
Office server fan

I am not a fan (pun intended) of this type of thing.  Too often, we make do with things that are simply substandard.  In an emergency, I get it; you do what you have to to get things going again.  However, after the system is recovered comes the remedial phase, which includes making permanent repairs, replacing outdated equipment, installing things properly, making sure that wiring meets electrical code, documentation, labeling, etc.

The remedial phase is often neglected or forgotten altogether.   There are two reasons for this; the “saving money” reason, or the too busy to deal with it reason.  However, later on, we or the person that follow us, will have to deal with this again after some sort of catastrophic failure.  Then there will be the questions:  How did this happen?  How long has it been like that? and so on.

As far as saving money goes; you are not.  Cutting corners may save a few pennies in the short term, but long term, it only creates bigger problems which will have to be dealt with at some point.  Doing things the right way will shift the engineering effort from a reactive (e.g. fire fighting) to a proactive stance and everyone will be much happier.