I was pleasantly surprised to learn that after a two month sabbatical, Radiodiscussions.com has returned with an updated look and all of it’s archived posts intact.
Radiodiscussions.com screen shot
I am pleased that the current owners had a change of heart. Radiodiscussions.com was not perfect, however, it was a good place to gain insight, take part in conversations, read up on rumours and innuendo, follow the flame wars on various threads, etc. In other words, observe radio people in their natural habitat.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and hopefully, a prosperous 2014.
Another year has gone by, and there were few things remarkable about it. Among those are:
From the digital radio front; HD Radio continues to be a non-factor in the bigger broadcasting picture. FM HD Radio continues to make very small inroads, especially with public radio groups who’s HD Radio expenditures are mostly tax payer subsidized. AM HD Radio continues to backslide slowly from it’s high water mark of 310 stations in 2007. It is difficult to nail down the exact numbers of AM HD Radio broadcasters, however, Barry McLarnon notes that 177 stations are currently transmitting AM HD Radio. No official numbers are available from either the FCC or iBiquity itself.
The great 2003 translator log jam (Auction 83) was finally fixed so that the FCC could move ahead with the LPFM application window in October. In the end, some 1,240 translators were granted, with more conflicting applications still in the works.
The LPFM filing window opened in October amid the government shutdown. Many groups were predicting 10,000 new applications for 100 watt LPFM licenses. The actual number is closer to 2,800. The final number of Construction Permits issued with likely be somewhat lower as defective and competing applications are dismissed. This number seems low to some LPFM proponents. When I approached a local interest group about launching a low power radio station, I was basically met with indifference. With a very complex set of application guidelines and operating rules, plus very low power levels, it is not surprising at all.
The NAB and the FCC have been working diligently on revitalizing the AM broadcasting band. Results of these efforts are yet undetermined as the proposal works it’s way through the regulatory process. The so called “analog sunset” still lurks in the background somewhere, waiting to be trotted out at the most opportune moment. I remain skeptical of the current proposal.
Cumulus Broadcasting purchases Dial Global and renames it West Wood One. Some people lose their jobs.
Nielson buys Arbitron rating service and renames it Nielson Audio. Some people lose their jobs.
Clear Channel tries to fly under the radar with “staff reductions.” Some people lose their jobs.
Long time online radio forum “Radiodiscussions.com” ceased existence. Starting out as Radio-info.com in the mid 1990′s, radio discussions was largest, longest running radio forum in the country. It held tens of thousands of posts on almost every radio topic under the sun. Unfortunately, it was bought and sold a few times over the last few years and the new owners could not figure out how to monetize it. The end.
Bernie Wise passed away on December 13th. This is truly unfortunate as Bernie was a character perfectly suited to the radio business. He started working for RCA and is responsible for UHF television broadcasting in the US.
On the blog front, we continue to grow in page views and readers. As of this date, Engineering Radio gets approximately 540 page views per day and has 227 RSS subscribers. The split is 60/40 percent domestic/international readers. The top five international traffic sources are; Canada, UK, India, Germany and Brazil.
2013 stat counter image
There are some 634 articles with 2,640 legitimate comments and 429,600 spam comments.
Regarding site outages, there were 343 minutes of server down time. Two DDOS attacks lasting six and three hours respectively and one incident of a corrupted .htaccess file rendered and error 500 message for six hours. Total down time 1,243 minutes or 20:43 hours which gives a 99.87% availability for the website. Not bad, but we can do better as the uptime goal is 99.99%.
On a personal note, my college studies are progressing well. I have three more classes or 10 credit hours left until I am done. My GPA is 3.90 which is not terrible considering I am working full time and going to school almost full time. Truth be told, I cannot wait until it is finished.
This contactor was used to replaced the Furnas contactor installed as original equipment when the transmitter was manufactured in 1986. Furnas is no longer in business, thus the ABB A145-30 was substituted. It purchased from directly from Broadcast Electronics for an FM35A transmitter:
ABB A145-30 contactor
It was installed about 18 months ago and has been in nearly continuous use since. The broken white plastic housing surrounds the contactor coil and is responsible for pushing and holding down the contact fingers.
ABB A145-30 contactor coil cover
Looks like the coil is running too hot and damaging the plastic. This resulted in a failure of the contactor to make and no high voltage to the transmitter PA. Obviously a problem. I spoke to BE about this and they did not have a good answer. Actually, what they said was “That contactor is rated for 220 amps,” which is true enough. The only thing that I can think of is the coil is rated for 208 volts and the transmitter is connected to a 240 volt delta service.
A new contactor was ordered and installed yesterday.
I will investigate the coil voltages further, but for now, the 27 year old transmitter remains on the air.
Broadcast Electronics FM35A
The new engineer (banana for scale)
Update and bump: The many great comments about the SBE certifications got me thinking about what a Broadcast Engineer actually does. I remember typing something about it quite some time ago, thus, I dredged up this old post originally from August 8, 2009 out of the archive.
The other day, the NTR (Non-Traditional Revenue) person came to me and said “Great news! We hired a new web guy, he knows all about engineering too!”
So I spoke to the new Web Master/Broadcast Engineer for a bit. As it turns out, he knows how to do things like reboot the XDS satellite receiver, reboot an Audiovault server, he has been to a transmitter site a few times to take meter readings. I suppose these days, that is what counts as being a broadcast engineer. Someone with this level of experience could get by for a bit until something really bad happened.
Sadly, I think (my former employer) upper management and ownership believes that this guy could do my (old) job. To them, I am an employee number, with a salary and benefits package worth X. If they can replace me with someone that makes <X, that would represent savings. Plug that guy into this spot, everything will go on as it did before.
I don’t think they understand exactly what a Broadcast Engineer does. On any given day, I may:
- Program an automation computer
- Change the battery on a backup generator
- Change the battery bank in an 18 KVA UPS
- Clean a transmitter
- Aim a satellite dish
- Trouble shoot a DS-1 Circuit
- Trouble shoot a T-1 MUX
- Repair a microwave transmitter or receiver
- Take a set of monitor points
- Repair a tower light flasher circuit
- Install a console (analog, digital, IP routing, TDM routing)
- Repair a CD player
- Trouble shoot a transmitter RF module
- PM a generator
- Work with a tower crew to place an antenna on a tower
- Install an RF connector on 3 inch transmission line
- Wire an air conditioning unit at a transmitter site
- Repair lightning damaged ATU
- Trouble shoot an AC unit
- Aim an STL antenna
- Repair an RPU transmitter
- Design a computer network
- Trouble shoot and repair a FM transmitter
- Wire a new rack room
- Coordinate a complex format change
- Install a translator
- Program and wire a new satellite receiver
- Wire a transmitter remote control
- Hike to a transmitter site to after a natural disaster
- Trouble shoot an audio hum
- Pass an FCC inspection
- Install and program an EAS unit
- Wire a new studio
- Design a tower light monitor circuit
- Fix a studio phone system
- Install an audio router
- Match an AM transmitter to a new tower
- Wire an ethernet patch panel
- Program a wireless access point
- Install an IP router
- Manage a new tower project
- Install a new transmitter
- Re-install an old transmitter
- Make NRSC measurements on an AM transmitter
- Repair a corrupt OS
- Replace a hard drive
- Reboot a server
- Fix a reel to reel machine
- Install a computer program
- Clean a console
- Pass an inspection by the fire marshal
To name a few. In other words, there are a lot of complex systems at a multi station radio facility. Some of this can be learned at various schools and colleges. A lot of it is experience. There is no substitute for an experienced veteran broadcaster who has seen almost everything and can think on his or her feet.
I have had this discussion with the market manager, and he gets it. I know that he understands who knows more about the ins and outs of all of our studio and transmitter sites. Things like, where is the water shutoff, the handle is broken off of the toilet on the second floor. Of course, I know it is down stairs in the furnace room next to the fire sprinkler system.
I know where the skeletons are buried. I have the inside numbers for the utility companies and the phone company. I know the code enforcement officer for most of the municipalities where we own buildings and property.
Yet, the only thing they see is X.
I am toying around with the idea of reinstating my SBE certifications. At one time, I was certified as a Senior Radio Engineer. That certification lapsed several years ago for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost was my desire to find another career outside of radio. At the time, I was working for a giant flaming asshole who prided himself in causing his subordinates health problems; things like strokes and heart attacks. The sign over his desk read “The floggings will continue until morale improves.” I was also busy at home with a new, very young child and an old, broken down house. There was not enough time to come up with enough professional points to re-certify or study for a test. So, it went by the wayside.
Lately, however, I am beginning to see some advantage in having an SBE certification:
- It comes in handy as a skills benchmark for potential clients and others
- It lends some amount of credibility among fellow broadcast engineers
- There is a support network for job searches
Thus, when I went to the SBE website and found the Jubilee Project, I was intrigued. The SBE is offering to reinstate those former members with lapsed certifications until April of 2014 provided the applicant can supply enough recertification points. I am also contemplating taking the Certified Broadcast Networking Engineer test for much the same reasons listed above. I will let you know how it goes.
Incidentally, my ability to deal with giant flaming assholes as increased in the intervening years. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
The popular discussion board, which was started in the mid 1990s has been terminated by it’s current owners, Streamline Digital. It seems that the site was not making any money and thus the plug was pulled.
There are other engineering type discussion boards such as The Virtual Engineer and… Hmm, Anybody?
Where a vacuum exists, nature abhors it. The question is, will anyone step up and fill the void?
One of our clients has or rather had, a BEST FERUPS 18 KVA UPS. It has stopped working and I was given the following report:
Radio guy: The power went out, the generator started, then I heard a bang.
Myself: You heard a bang?
RG: Yeah, a big BANG!
Myself: You heard a big bang.
And so he did:
Best FERUPS 18 KVA control board.
Best FE18KVA control board, MOV destruction
The primary damage is around two MOV’s mounted on the other side of the board. This is the power sense (voltage sample) input to the board. We have attempted to repair it, but alas, it is not repairable. A replacement board runs over $1,400.00 from Eaton Powerware. Since this unit also needs a new set of batteries, it is likely best to replace the entire unit.
UPDATE: I notice that Radio World has a little star rating system on their articles. According to the rating, twenty one people think I suck… That is okay, but when I started looking around at all of the other articles on the website, I noticed most have but one or two votes. It seems odd to me that my little opinion piece would have so many negative votes, especially in light of the e-mails, phone calls and personal interactions I have received supporting my position.
Perhaps a few of you could run over there, read the article then objectively decide what you think… Here is the link: AM Efforts Should Include Tech Solutions
I am deeply immersed in all things networking, yet again. I regret the sparse posts, but there are a few things of note:
- It appears the the WYFR shortwave site in Okeechobee has been sold to the operators of WRMI (Radio Miami International). This is a good turn of events for shortwave broadcasting. WRMI programmed mostly to the Caribbean and were difficult to hear in these parts.
- Nielsen Radio, formerly Arbitron, says it will increase the sample size for the PPM program. This is good, larger sample size means better accuracy and fewer extrapolation related errors and strange rating spikes.
- I published an commentary in Radio World Commentary: AM Efforts Should Include Tech Solutions. What do you think? Should the industry be looking at something other than HD Radio?
- Then, from across the pond there is this:
Which is a digital radio promotion from the BBC. It seems Great Brittan is trying to force an all digital transition. A glimpse of things to come?
- In spite of the lack of posts, the blog continues to grow, averaging 550 to 600 page views per day with about 180 RSS subscribers. As far as content goes, I can assume more of the same will suffice.
As time becomes available, I will post more.
Not related to radio, but interesting nonetheless. Mozilla, the designer of the Firefox web browser has come up with a cool way to see tracking data for any HTTP sessions. It is an add-on called Lightbeam. I tried a little experiment, after installing lightbeam, I surfed around a little bit then looked at the results. A screenshot of the graphical output is below:
Mozilla Lightbeam graphical output
The round circles are the sites that I visited. The triangles are third party sites connected to the visited site. During the real Lightbeam session, a mouse over the icon will show the name or url. It is an interesting exercise. Visiting 27 web sites nets a total of 172 third party sites or approximately 6 third party sites per visited site. Commercial news sites like CNN and NBC seem to have the most connections to third party sites. In this case, it appears to be mostly innocuous advertizing. Even so, it is an enlightening experiment.
Hopefully that title is descriptive enough:
ATT bucket trucks, , mobilized via landing craft to Pleasure Beach
We loaded a couple of ATT bucket trucks on a landing craft and waged an assault on Pleasure Beach. This is to finalize the repair work from Hurricane Sandy last year. The other factor is the construction taking place on the Island. The City of Bridgeport is constructing a park, which involves extensive repairs and renovations to the buildings. Construction vehicles driving under the old lines have ripped them down several times, thus repairing the lines on the new utility poles was necessary.
ATT truck offloading
ATT truck offloading
ATT is the LEC for the Bridgeport area, something they don’t do in most other parts of the country, from what I am told.
Landing Craft Challenger
It took approximately four hours to complete this work and reload the trucks back on the landing craft. The boat itself looks like a slightly modified LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized), which were produced from 1943 onward. This is an LCM-8.
WICC towers almost in line, I was about one second too late with this shot. This would be “down the bore” of the daytime pattern into downtown Bridgeport.
Another shot of the WICC towers. These were designed to hold up a horizontal T top wire antenna strung between the two of them. At some point in the early thirties, somebody realized that the tower itself could be excited as a vertical radiator and the antenna configuration was changed. Up until the mid 1970′s there was a horizontal wire which supported third wire element hanging between the two towers, making it a three tower directional array. This was removed and it was then that the current phasor and two tower DA-2 system was installed.
All in a day’s work.