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On being responsible

No two days are alike. Sure, there are days that are similar in nature, office work, filing, FCC compliance, etc.  However, there is always something different, some new problem, person, fault, error, client, site or situation to deal with.  It helps to be well versed.

So, when the tower climbers started climbing a 1,000 foot (304 meter) tall tower to find a damaged section of transmission line, I thought; Just a routine day.

Even when they encountered a hornet’s nest at 50 feet (15 meters) AGL, still, fairly routine:

Tower climber applying bee spray to paper wasp nest

Tower climber applying bee spray to paper wasp nest

Tower climber A received a nasty bee sting to his left arm. He climbed part way down the tower and is in the lower part of the picture hugging the tower face. Tower climber B moved up and killed the nest with Wasp and Bee killer.  All is well and work resumes, right?  Except, no.  Tower climber A is apparently allergic to bees.  He states he is not feeling well and his arm begins to swell up.  He comes down the tower and I start looking for Benadryl.

Now, we have a problem.  This is a mountain top tower site, there is a long dirt road with a locked gate at the bottom of the hill.  There is almost no way an ambulance will be able to find its way up here.  The tower climber says the he has not been stung in many years.  I also notice his face is beginning to swell up.  Right, so lock the door, in the truck and get to the bottom of the hill as fast as possible.  It took about five minutes, but at the bottom of the hill, we were in a much better position if things got worse and an ambulance needed to be called.  Fortunately, his condition was the same, so we drove to an urgent care facility were he was treated.

Benadryl, something else to add to the go bag.

Always keep ahead of the situation.  Even if we drove to the bottom of the hill and his symptoms completely disappeared, it still would have been the right decision.

I wonder

Well, we have returned from our semi-vacation. Sumat to do with the wife’s side of the family;  a road trip to Canton, Oklahoma, a brief study on mineral rights,  then a family reunion.  On the return home, several side trips to interesting things like the Abraham Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois and the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis.  We also stopped in Springfield to see Santa Anna’s leg, which seems to be generating some controversy of late.  I do not like to announce such things ahead of time because it seems like an invitation for a house break in.

But, all good things come to an end, so back to work it is.

And then there is this:

Collins 830 and 831 transmitters, both non-functional

Collins 830 and 831 transmitters, both non-functional

A transmitter site for a group of stations not too far from here.

Old Collins exciter and non-functional Burk ARC-16

Old Collins exciter and non-functional Burk ARC-16

Class B FM station (50,000 watt equivalent) running 100 watts.

Collins parts, dirt, old boxes and lots of mouse shit

Collins parts, dirt, old boxes and lots of mouse shit

And filth, lots of filth.

Crap

Crap

 

As more full time broadcast engineers drop off line, we seem to be picking up more and more work.  That is good for business, but some of these sites are downright depressing.

It is very sad to see such disrepair and makes me think that we are in the last days of terrestrial radio.  Truth be told, the end may be many years off, but the decline gets steadily steeper every year.  In the end; Television, Video, Satellite, the internet and took small bites of radio, but radio owners are the true culprits when it comes to who killed radio.

It is hard to make predictions; so many have failed in the past, but ten years maybe.  Perhaps a few more.  It will depend on whether or not business still find value in radio advertising.  Right now that looks pretty far fetched, but who knows…

Happy Independence day, Extremist

Today is July 4th. We here in the United States like to remember this as the day when a bunch of upstart yokels from the colonies had the unmitigated gall to decide we wanted to rule ourselves.  Terrible thing, that.  It sets a bad precedent for the other subjects, some of whom may decide that they want self rule as well.  Allow that to happen and pretty soon, the whole empire will be in shambles.

So, there was a war.

It became pretty brutal in this area; loyalists and indians banded together to pillaged the countryside.  Families massacred, women shot down, children scalped, old men hung from trees, etc.  Part of the local history, although not really the stuff they teach in school these days. It happened, none the less.

Therefore, we celebrate our independence and revel in our freedoms that were so hard won.  Freedoms to do things like speak our mind, own firearms, enjoy limited government intrusion in our lives.  As human beings, we have rights to legal safeguards that ensures the legal system will not be abused.  We enjoy the freedom to travel within our own boarders unmolested.  We can worship or not worship in anyway we choose.

We are free, for example, to exchange ideas and develop technology that benefits us and others.  Free to learn about things like open source software and even help write the code.  Imagine my surprise then, to find out by visiting a website called “Linux Journal,” I am now an extremist?  I have frequented many such Linux websites, forums, subreddits, and so on over the years, all in an effort to better understand and apply the open source operating system.  I am now, apparently, on a watch list.

This is an article from ars Technica that outlines the NSA program: The NSA thinks Linux Journal is an Extremist Forum.

This is an article from the Linux Journal website: Are you an Extremist?  WARNING: If you click that link, then clearly you are.

My only conclusion to this is open source software is bad because of TEH TERRORISM!!11!!! Well, that and it appears to be eating into Microsoft’s and Apple’s market share.

LJ-Extremist-black-stamp

So, put me on a watch list and make sure you spell my name right. You can track everywhere I go.  Hell, I’ll even making entertaining for you.

Happy Fourth of July, Extremist!

The efficacy of the computer generated voice

I was just listening to the latest broadcast of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings rolling in across WXL-37 for upstate NY:

Trouble is a brewing

Trouble is a brewing

It looks a little bit hairy to the north.  There is a lot of rumbling around to the west of us and we are prepared to head for the basement in event of a tornado in this area.

At some point in time, somebody decided that computer generated voices were exactly right for emergency communications. Never mind some of the quirks that can be encountered.  These are mostly pronunciation errors for places like Saugerties, normally spoken as Saw-ger-tees but the NOAA computer voice says S-ouw-jer-tees.  That is understood well enough, but frankly, there are other place names that go by so fast that I cannot make sense of what the computer is saying.

Another good example of this is the Coast Guard’s computer voice confusion around the word “November.”  In the military (NATO) phonetic alphabet, November is the word used to express the letter N.  For some reason, the word itself seems to be a bit of a mystery to the computer, which sometimes renders the word November as “NOVEMBER OSCAR VICTOR ECHO MIKE BRAVO ECHO ROMEO.”  For those of us who have been in the military, this makes perfect sense.  Why just say “November” when you can say much more, waste time, and confuse the unaware.  This particular computer voice is nick named “Iron Mike.”

Computer generated voices can be hit or miss.

Then there is the computer voice from Shannon VOLMET:

Even on HF Single Side Band, that voice is clearly more understandable than the NOAA voices in use today. The issue is, many broadcast stations now use the NOAA computer voice to broadcast weather alerts to their listeners.  If I were driving in my car with lots of background noise, I likely would not get most of the information being relayed by the broadcast station via EAS.  I suppose gone are the days of a professional broadcaster’s voice clearly imparting information and comforting the listeners during time of calamity.  Sigh.

Casey Kasem, R.I.P.

Casey Kasem has gone off to the big control room in the sky.  Wildly popular DJ, Scooby Do, something about American Top 40, bla, bla, bla.  Whenever I think of Casey Kasem, I think of this:

Get Don on the phone, and where are my pictures!

We have all worked with screaming DJ’s, almost nothing is worse than getting yelled at for something you have little or no control over.

Pro Tip:  If you feel you are about to go off on a tirade, turn the microphone off so it does not get up loaded to the internet and played back at your funeral.

For Sale?

I am working on a project, as you might have guessed by the lack of posts.  It seems like a good opportunity to actually, you know; earn a living.  The thing is, I need some start-up capital.  Not a ton of money per se, but enough that I do not have it readily available, waiting to be spent.  Which brings me to this: I think this website is worth something.

I have put several years worth of work into this, as I have stated before, it is more a labor of love than anything else.  The sponsored ads simply cover the cost of hosting, domain name renewals, plus a little extra that perhaps I can take my family out to diner once a year or so.  I know I probably place its value at more than it is worth.  That being said, I went to one of those website valuation tools, which gave me a value of $6,600 based on traffic, domain name age and original content.  It did not take into account the extra domain names registered, etc.

So, here it is; is there anyone out there interested in buying this site?  Perhaps another contract engineer or engineering firm that is interested in a well seasoned domain name that gets 700 to 800 page views per day.  Or somebody else?

This is what is for sale:

  • engineeringradio.us (2009)
  • engineeringradio.com (2007)
  • engineeringradio.org (2010)
  • engineeringradio.net (2010)
  • engineeringradio.info (2010)

690 blog posts on various topics and over 1,000 original photographs.

Contact me off line, if you are interested.

WEBE pictures

WEBE is fairly unique in that its antenna is mounted on the side of a 500 foot smoke stack. I took a few pictures last winter:

WEBE Main antenna

WEBE Main antenna

This is a close up of the Antenna:

WEBE main antenna, Shively 6 bay half wave spaced

WEBE main antenna, Shively 6 bay half wave spaced, ERP 50 KW

Here is an even closer view from a different angle:

WEBE main antenna, courtesy of NECRAT

WEBE main antenna, courtesy of NECRAT

From this angle, one can see the mounting brackets and the wire mesh reflector installed on the smoke stack.  From the first picture, one can see that the 400 MW PSEG coal fired power plant puts out a lot of combustion products when on line.  Combustion is an exothermic chemical reaction which looks like this:

Hydrocarbon Fuel + Oxidizer + Nitrogen  → Heat + CO2 + H2O + NOx

Included in this are any trace elements that are found naturally in the coal that is being burned.  These include things like Mercury, Nickel, Uranium, et cetera.  These trace elements can concentrate around the smoke stack because they fall out of the particulate quickly and these plants burn a lot of coal.  The above picture was taken on a very cold day, most of what is coming out of the smoke stack is steam.

The issue for the radio station is when the particulate matter accumulates on the antenna, effectively shorting it out.  The solution was to place the RADOMES around the elements and then constantly purge the RADOMES with nitrogen.  Thus, this liquid N2 tank is vital for the operation of the radio station:

Liquid Nitrogen Tank

Liquid Nitrogen Tank

Each element of the antenna has a small hole in the feed line. N2 is fed continuously into the transmission line at a pressure of about 1.5 inches water column which then purges the RADOMES keeping any combustion products out of the RADOMES.  The N2 tank needs to be changed out every 18-21 days and weights over 650 pounds when full.

Lack of posts and excuses for which

All apologies, yet again. I find myself deeply immersed in a final project for school. As this is the final final project, graduation looms in May, I want to get the best possible grade.  None the less, there are things going on, so here is a brief rundown:

  • The NAB came and went, no earth shattering news from there.
  • John Anderson has an interesting post about the recent pirate radio broadcasting busts in the NYC: Pirate Raids offer glimpse into FCC Fieldwork.  Included in that article are the links to the US Attorney’s office seizure complaints, which give an interesting look into methods used by the FCC.
  • Some person climbed to the top then jumped off of the WWZY tower in Long Branch, NJ in an apparent suicide.  There is a cellphone video posted on youtube, viewer discretion is advised, obviously.
  • North Adams tower collapse update: The site cleanup has not taken place yet, however, a temporary pole has been set for WUPE-FM and WNNI to use for their antennas.  More on that when I get a chance.
  • Comcast and Time Warner Cable are looking to merge.  Tom Wheeler, member of the “Cable Television Hall of Fame,” is chairman of the FCC.  I wonder how this will work out.  As for the customer, it has been said that rates will inevitably go up.

I will get back to more regular posting when I finish this final final project. In any case, the semester ends on May 6th and graduation will be on May 16th. I have to say, I am looking forward to it for a number of reasons.

Regarding the blog, there have been several intermittent minor outages due to DDOS attacks.  I have tracked this down to certain bot nets in China banging away at the backend.  Oh, China; what have I ever done to you?  Well, security is being tightened up and as soon as I get things straightened out with the server host, I will be enabling SSL on the front end.  That means secure connections via https, which is the way of the future.

A brief Pictoral History of early micro-computers

I enjoy history, perhaps more so than others.  My first computer was an Apple IIC, purchased in 1985.  It had a single 5 1/2 inch floppy drive, no hard drive, and a wee little monochrome monitor.  Basically, it was a glorified word processor until I figured out how to connect it to my Amateur Radio transceiver.  Here is a picture of my radio room, circa 1988 on Guam:

Radio Room, KH2R Guam Circa 1988

Radio Room, KH2R Guam Circa 1988

Finding more things to do with it became a hobby of sorts.  After a while, I realized that what I wanted was what we termed an “IBM clone,” what is know as a PC today.

When I came across this blog post; History of Computers, I found it interesting and thought I’d share.

Enjoy!

Those Shortwave Sites

How is our Alaska doing?

How is our Alaska doing?

It is a joke in circulating in Russia at the moment.  Kind of funny when you think about it.

In light of the developing situation in Eastern Europe, it may be wise to retain some of those HF broadcasting (AKA Shortwave) sites.  It may be too late for Canada, however, the US government still has a few high powered HF sites that they may want to hold onto for a while.  There are several ways that shortwave broadcasting can be beneficial.

  • Like all radio broadcasting, quality content is needed to attract listeners. Most of what is available on shortwave is religious or transparent government propaganda. There are exceptions to this, but they are rare. Introduce quality programming, and shortwave listenership will increase.
  • DRM 30 (Digital Radio Mondial) is still in its experimental phase.  It has been demonstrated to work reasonably well on HF.  Several digital data formats are successfully being used on HF; HFDL, ALE, STANAG 5066, PACTOR and others.  DRM 30 has an advantage that H.264 video can also be transmitted.
  • The VOA has been experimenting with images transmitted via MFSK, AKA the “VOA Radiogram.”
  • HF is always susceptible to changing propagation.  However, it can be reliable enough, especially when frequency diversity is employed, to overcome these issues when no other method of communication is available.
  • DRM and MFSK can be decoded using a simple shortwave radio and a computer sound card.  A DRM CODEC is required, but those are readily available for download.
  • Analog shortwave broadcasting using AM is still viable.  AM has the advantage of being extremely simple to receive and demodulate.  Simple receiver kits can be built and run on 9 volt a battery.
  • While the Soviet Union had an extensive jamming network, those sites have long since been non-functional.  Most countries have discontinued the practice of jamming with the exception of China, North Korea, Cuba and perhaps some countries in the middle east (the usual suspects).

Sample of DRM reception via shortwave:

If the internet is censored or somehow becomes unavailable in that part of the world,  shortwave may be the only method to convey an alternate point of view.

Hopefully, things will settle down and return to at least a civil discourse.  However, it never hurts to have a plan.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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