Sometimes it is the little things that catch the eye. When I was installing a Nautel transmitter recently, I was admiring the circuit boards used for the transmitter controller. I have seen a few circuit boards that are functional, but leave a little to be desired in the form department. Does it really matter? Perhaps not, but often times those tiny, almost insignificant details come back to bite you. Little things like having the voltage regulator pins correctly placed or putting a toggle switch on the correct side of the board. I have seen both mistakes from another, well known transmitter manufacturer.
Nautel NV controller board
Anyway, these are a few photographs of some well designed, well laid out circuit boards.
Controller board, NV transmitter
This is the main controller board.
NV controller board surface mount components
Surface mount components.
NV controller board
Nautel XR harmonic filter, part back part is the circuit board
Part of the harmonic trap for the XR series transmitters.
It really is the little things that make big differences. A circuit board under a cover that few people will ever see may seem like a very small and insignificant detail, but I notice and admire these things…
Light posting this week as finals are here. This semester was one of the more challenging not just academically, but personally as well. Work hours, an illness in the family, children’s sports schedules, and other general life happenings have made it interesting to say the least. Thank you to all my loyal readers who check in on a daily basis, send thoughtful e-mails and comments and general encouragement.
The summer work schedule is shaping up, so there will no doubt be many more radio engineering stories forth coming. At this thing we do here, we are approaching three milestones at the same time; first is 1,000,000 page views, the second is 600 posts and finally, in the end of June it will be 4 years of bloggin’ for your humble scribe. It is fun, I most certainly have learned new things, made new contacts, acquaintances and friends from all over the world.
Thanks, as long as you guys (and girls) keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
My apologies. As of late, there have been several service disruptions on this site. In speaking with my web host, they have identified the following issues:
On Thursday 4/11 and 4/18 between 6-10 am local time (1000-1400 UTC) the server that hosts engineeringradio.us was subjected to a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, where approximately 200,000 login attempts were made per hour from 90,000 different IP addresses. This was part of a greater attack on WordPress websites.
On Wednesday 4/24 there was another DoS attack of a more limited and focused scale around 3-4 pm time frame
On Tuesday 4/30 beginning at 5 am, (0900 UTC) there was a server issue which returned an error 404 message to anyone trying access the web site. The .htaccess file was somehow corrupted, which later caused a error 500 message. This outage lasted until approximately 2 pm (1800 UTC) when the .htaccess file was reloaded.
I have taken several steps to secure the web server and web site against intrusions and other attacks. A distributed DoS attack is very hard to track and combat, the best course is to beef up security policies and weather the attacks when they come. I have contemplated moving this website to my own server, but that is more work than I have time for right now. Perhaps at some future point, if reliability continues to be an issue, I will do that.
Congress, is yet again contemplating a cyber security bill, this time called CISPA. This one has some worrisome privacy implications for the general internet user. I recall, not too long ago, another such measure called SOPA/PIPA which created a huge uproar and was voted down. For Congress and its corporate sponsors, this development was just a slight inconvenience when applying the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” legislative method.
Not mentioned in this particular bill is the internet kill switch, which exists now in one form or another, and the unofficial back doors into operating systems and routers. Those things are in place but their use is not codified. The internet can be monitored, user data can be stored indefinitely and it can be restricted or switched off at a moments notice. That is the reality of the world we live in.
This is why a vibrant, independent radio broadcasting medium is important. After doing some numbers crunching over the weekend, I came upon some pretty interesting data points:
Large and medium large (over 30 stations) group owners account for approximately 2,300 AM and FM stations
NPR affiliated stations number about 900
There are 4,736 AM, 6,603 commercial FM, 3,917 educational FM and 802 low power FM stations licensed as of March 31, 2013.
There are 77 AM and 178 FM (not counting translators) stations known to be silent
Therefore, approximately 3,200 of the 15,803 stations on the air are controlled by major corporate interests or media conglomerates, the remaining stations are owned by medium small groups (less than 30 stations) or individuals. Those figures create an interesting situation when discussing the future of radio. What does the majority of owners and listeners want? Ask the market.
The fourth dimension, at least in theory. We keep track of time in a linear way, each second marking a particular point that will happen only once and never be revisited. There will never be another 10:42:30.1 on April 17, 2013, for example.
Point in space and time
Of course there are several ways to record the same time:
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC): Which is the time at the prime meridian, 0° Longitude. From there, time zones span out to +12 or -12 UTC, meeting again at the International Date line. In military parlance, UTC is known as Zulu because it is in timezone Z.
Local Time: In any given location, is determined when the sun is directly overhead (± sidereal correction) at noon.
Local Timezone: One of twenty four arbitrary divisions where the sun may be directly overheard (± sidereal correction) somewhere within the division at noon.
Unix Timestamp: The number of seconds that has transpired since 0000, January 1, 1970. Unix time stamp 1366209730 equals 10:42:30, April 17, 2013. In hex looks like 516F0260. Used by all Unix/Linux variants.
GPS Time: UTC – LS (Leap Second) + 19 s.
ISO 8601 date/time: 2013-02-17T10:42Z
Julian Date: A continuous count of days and fractions of such since noon Universal Time on January 1, 4713 BCE. April 17, 2013 10:42:30.1 equals 2456399.946193
One thing to note and mark your calendars: Unix (and variants) may have a problem on January 19, 2038 because of a 32 bit integer issue. This is known as Y2038, and a smart man would start planning now.
A phone conversation that occurred one Saturday morning:
DJ: (answers hotline) Hello?
Myself: This is Paul from Radio Engineering Services, you called the answering service and said you are off the air?
DJ: Yes! The red bat light is flashing and everything!
Myself: Okay, did you try to put the backup transmitter on?
DJ: No. I didn’t want to mess anything up.
Myself: You are off the air; I don’t know how things can be more messed up than that
DJ: (laughing) Okay, you’re right.
Myself: Do you have the directions for the backup transmitter?
DJ: Yes, they are right here
Myself: Okay, go ahead an do that, I will call the local engineer and see if I can get him out to the transmitter site, then I will call you back.
DJ: Okay, thanks.
The good news is the backup transmitter came on and they were back on the air. It is also nice to know that the station has a live DJ on Saturday morning at 7:00 am, many do not. The main transmitter power outage was likely due to a utility company transient, the area had suffered an ice storm the day before and they were out restoring power that morning.
At least this was a real emergency, I used to get calls at home that the headphone jack on the console was loose. I took the home phone number down after that.
I have been following a video blog called “Real Russia” which has the stated goal of portraying life in Russia “as is, no BS.” This is a quick video of Radio Mayak, a state owned/run radio network in Russia. The network originates from Moscow but has a local morning show in various cities. This video was taken in Ufa (Уфа), which is the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan. It is a little beyond this blog post to describe the political divisions of Russia, if interested, one can wander around in Wikipedia and figure it out.
According to video host Sergey Baklykov, Radio Mayak has been on the air since the USSR days, which explains the very cool (and retro) interval music played at the end of the video.
My take away; radio is radio. Morning show personalities appear to be universal. Radio studios have missing ceiling tiles and wiring hanging down no matter what country they are in (excepting perhaps Germany, but maybe there too). Except for the language spoken, this could have been any radio station in any city in the country.
This is from several years ago. We rebuilt the WBPM studio using a reconditioned AudioArts R-60 console. WBPM is licensed to Saugerties (Saw-ger-tees), NY, however the studio is located in Fishkill, NY some 50 miles away. As such, the air signal is not listenable at the studio and off air monitoring is done via the T-1 STL line. I am sure that this is what the FCC had in mind when they wrote the Main Studio rules.
WBPM, Saugerties NY air studio
The studio is a fairly small setup, but functional. It is located with co-owed Pamal stations WSPK and WHUD.
WBPM Saugerties NY
I always try to get several pictures of the studio before it gets turned over to the DJs. Come back the next day and it will look like this:
I am asking assistance from my intrepid readers: What type of posting would you like more of?
I have returned to school this spring semester, thus I am busy with all things computer networking. It is interesting and I am enjoying the process. That being said, I have run into a bit of a wall regarding topics for this blog. I have many ideas, however, all of them will take considerable work to carry out, thus, it might not be the right time to work on them. Therefore, what general topics would you like to hear about? I’ll break it down into broad categories:
New Technology: Cutting edge developments and new directions
Repairs, troubleshooting and maintenance: Things that I have encountered over the years, tips and tricks and perhaps a few war stories
History: Documenting some of the older installations and radio stations in the area
HD Radio: I have a few ideas on HD Radio things that are not discussed which should be
Computers: Been fooling around with Linux a good bit, be happy to pass on some to the things I have discovered
Networking: I can delve deeply into the subject of IP networking, something every broadcast engineer should know about
Politics: Effecting radio broadcasting or in a broader sense
Anything else: All other subjects, preferably something that has to do with the technical aspects of radio broadcasting
Let me know what you think; leave a comment or contact me off line.
The title is a nautical situation; a vessel has lost its way (engine or rudder) and it blocking a shipping channel, which is undesirable for a number of reasons.
We are scrapping several old transmitters these last few weeks as part of a site upgrade A couple of Harris FM20 and 10H transmitters are out the door.
Harris FM20H transmitter, circa 1970
Some people like these transmitters. I am not one of those. I found that they were of dubious reliability, tended to drift out of tune and have AM noise problems, and had multiple catastrophic failure modes. If it was not tuned just right, it also had a tendency to have HF oscillations and internal arcing in the PA cabinet.
Harris FM20H3 PA cabinet modification
This transmitter had a non-factory authorized modification installed as a tuning aid. Tune for best efficiency, minimum AM noise then check and see if it is arcing. It is also advisable to wear hearing protection during the tuning process.
Harris FM20H3, circa 1972
This particular transmitter was my nemesis for a couple of years. It is actually possible to hate an innanimate object, I can tell you. Goodbye you piece of shit.
We tend to scrap these instead of dumpster them. It saves the client a little bit of money on dumpster charges. If all the metal is sorted out by category, e.g. all the copper windings are cut from the HV transformer and PS filter inductors, all the brass, aluminum, and wiring harness are separated, then it is almost worth the time and effort. Personally, I’d rather see all that material reused than land filled.
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.
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.
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.