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For those concerned people

I have received a few comments and off line inquiries about my well being and the status of the Engineering Radio blog in general.  First, let me say; thank you for your concern.  There are many things going on right now, both professionally and personally.  Some of those things are good and some are bad.  In other words; typical life stuff.

First, from the professional side:  The company (?) I work for has undergone some internal changes. We are, in general, very busy and I myself have at least five or six irons in the fire when it comes to projects.  These include things like two complete studio projects, a couple of transmitter site rebuilds, some STL installation work, a couple of new IP data links, etc.  On top of this there are, of course, maintenance issues and emergency calls, irate general managers, frugal owners, old equipment, and so on.  We have had a pretty good cold snap over the last weekend (-10 to -15F), which has lead to numerous failures; pipes freezing, diesel fuel gelling, UPSs quitting, etc.  <s>All in, it has been so much fun I cannot believe I actually get paid do to this </s>.  If you have worked in the business for a while, none of this should surprise you.

When I get time, I will put together some posts on the above projects, as some of them are quite interesting or at least somewhat entertaining.

Secondly, from the personal side:  Youth hockey season is here and I have been carting my son around to practices and various hockey games in upstate NY and western Massachusetts.  Last weekend, his team played in the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York.

Lake Placid hand shake

End of game hand shake, USA rink, Lake Placid, NY

For any fan of Hockey, a trip to the Herb Brooks Arena can be a semi-religious experience.

In addition to this, another common radio engineering problem has occurred; marital discord.  So much so that alternate living arrangements have been considered.

Thus, my time and very often my mood has been constrained.  Hopefully, after youth Hockey season ends in next month, I will at least have more time to do some quality posting.  Your patience is appreciated.

Six years

That is how long it has been since I started this blog. Six years and 727 posts later, I find myself wondering how much longer I can continue this.  I have not been posting too much lately because I seem to have run out of things to say.  Posting just for the sake of posting seems to dilute the good material with mediocre stuff that has to be deleted later.

The radio business has changed little in the last six years; fewer owners, AM is still plagued with technical issues and poor programming, the FM band is getting jam packed with translators and the occasional LPFM, HD Radio is, well HD Radio.

My situation changed as well with the change in jobs, a new degree, more family responsibilities, etc.

I was thinking about ways to make this more interesting and perhaps doing more with my under utilized youtube channel would be fun.  I was called an “old timer” a few months ago as a compliment and I am not sure how I feel about that.  After a bit of reflection, I realize there is some truth to it and there are fewer and fewer of us out there that can do what we do.  Perhaps some informational things on how to trouble shoot and find problems, what a day in the life of a radio engineer is actually like, radio station people, etc.   I know that good trouble shooting is an art form.

I would need a tripod and a better camera.

In the mean time, here are a few statistics from the last six years:

  1. I have typed a total of 812 posts, of which 727 are public and there are about 30 drafts on various subjects hanging out, waiting to be finished and posted. Out date material is usually deleted when I get around to it.
  2. The blog has a decent following, with an average of 700 page views a day, approximately 120 regular readers and 185 RSS subscribers.
  3. There are 3,494 comments and the spam filter has eliminate 1,102,631 useless, fake, ridiculous or otherwise stupid machine generated garbage.
  4. There is also an international readership, with approximately 40% of visitors coming from outside of the US. According to my flag counter, these are the countries that have not visited yet:
    • British Indian Ocean Territory
    • Central African Republic
    • Christmas Island
    • Comoros
    • Guinea-Bissau
    • Mayotte
    • Nauru
    • Niue
    • Norfolk Island
    • North Korea
    • Saint Barthelemy
    • Svalbard
    • Timor-Leste
    • Tokelau
    • Tuvalu

    Everyone else has made at least one appearance.  I am a little bit disappointed that no one from North Korea has graced our presence.

  5. Top six non-US countries are Canada, UK, India, China, Germany and France.
  6. There are approximately 1,380 images of various interesting things. Most of them are my own, some are borrowed from other sites or the public domain.

I hope that I can continue this thing in some way or format.  I have certainly enjoyed meeting many people, reading comments, replies, off line emails and such.  It has been an overall positive experience and I value everyone’s input.

Happy New Year

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

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.

A few updates

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

  5. 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.

Server isssues

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.

For now, your patience is appreciated.

Commenting and other blog housekeeping

Recently, a comment was placed on the blog regarding donation of used consoles. This comment generated a lot of interest. However, I attempted to contact the commenter using the email address supplied, which bounced back.  I have since put the comment and all related comments into the moderation queue until I can contact the owner.  If it turns out to be legitimate, I will put it back up.

Regarding commenting in general, I don’t mind people putting things up for donation or whatnot, but use a real email address when you do.  Those that wish to contact you will do it off line.  Once that person to person contact is established, I am out of the loop and not a part of any deals that develop as a result.

WordPress uses email addresses to establish commenting identity.  All first time comments are placed in the moderation queue until I can look at it and approve it.  All comments with links also get moderated.  I do not do anything with the information collected by the blogging software, other than to occasionally squint at the email addresses of those comments in the moderation queue to establish identity.  You can use a fake email address if you want, however, I often contact people off line if there are questions etc.  Do not place your email address or phone number in the comment itself as you will be inundated with spam.  When I see this, I remove the contact information before the comment is approved.

I am busy with school, hence the lack of new posts.  I should be temporarily out of the woods after finals in the middle of December.  There are many projects going on which would make interesting posts, I just do not have the time to do the subject matter justice.

We are experiencing technical dificulties, please stand by

There appears to be some issue with my version of WordPress, the server in use and the version of PHP. The ISP recently upgraded my sever and migrated my site over to a new unit, which was supposed to be transparent. Right. I am working with the ISP to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and return to my regular blogging.

In the mean time:

Update: All fixed, for now anyway. Something about a mismatched password in the backend. To all those that tried to comment, my apologies. It should all be working correctly now.

Unabashed self promotion

Once per year, I celebrate the creation of this blog. Thus, three years ago today, I unleashed Engineering Radio with the idea that not too many other people were telling the story about technical aspect of radio broadcasting.  At the time, Radio World, a fine publication by any standard, seemed to be moving away from technical details, anecdotes and other useful bits of information.  I felt that is was something that people would like to read, and I was correct.

Without further adieu, here is my observations from the past year:

  • We have taken on sort of an international flavor, this last year.  A slightly greater percentage of visitors are coming from overseas, which I welcome.  According to my flag counter, approximately 62% of visitors are from the US, the other top five countries are; UK, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, and Germany.  I have also fixed the translator plug-in for word press.  In Russian the blog is translated as: Радиоинженерия, (thanks Geoff in Oz) which translates to Radio Engineering.  I am not sure “Engineering” can be rendered as a verb in Russian.
  • Also, I have noted that of the 195 recognized countries in the world, 183 have visited this blog.
  • I posted 162 stories last year, an average of 14 per month, making the total post count 470.
  • There are 1,441 legitimate comments and 175,108 spam comments.
  • There are about 120 subscribers to the RSS feed
  • I receive an average of 438 page loads with 62 returning visitors each day
  • Total reach of ~143,000 page views from ~93,000 unique visitors
  • Busiest day of the week is Thursday, I don’t know why.
Visitors 2012

Visitors 2012

I did some housekeeping, cleaning out some no longer relevant stories and other such things, therefore the story count is slightly off from last year.  No matter.

This year, I have greatly enjoyed meeting fellow radio enthusiasts like Mike Fitzpatrick and Scott Fybush among others.  The blog is a constant learning experience and I enjoy greatly all of the personal interactions; blog comments, facebook posts and off line emails.

Thus, it has been a good year.

With my return to school last spring, the time constraints have somewhat reduced the quantity of posts, while hopefully not the quality.  As I have said in previous years, this is a labor of love and I will continue to write as long as you guys (and girls) continue to read.

Studying for final exams this week

My apologies to the regular readers here. I have been busy studying, working, and managing family life.  The good news is my last final exam is this afternoon.  Even better news, the next semester is starting on May 22nd, during which I will be taking English 227, which is a Technical Writing course.  It is my hope that you all will be benefiting from my labor.

Old Year SWR

This time of year is when we all sit back and asess things that we did in the past 365 or so days. It is called reflection, which is just a civilian term for SWR (Standing Wave Ratio).

Thus, I though I would take a little time and make a few observations about the business, my part in it, and this blog.

1.  The business of Radio:

Let us be honest, Radio is not what is used to be.  Many times, what it used to be was somewhat of a free for all, wheeler dealer radio station owners cutting corners and making do with less than optimum equipment and staff.  And trade, lots and lots of trade. Only in large metropolitan areas did radio stations make enough money to throw it around, but sometimes not even then.  Radio was by no means a huge money making operation and therefore, those that worked in mostly it did it as a labor of love.  That may or may not have come across on the air.  By far, the funnest station I ever listened to was run from a closet, with a sound reinforcement board and the program directors CD collection.  What made it so much fun was they had nothing to loose, there were no restraints placed on the staff.  Once that on air enthusiasm translated to ratings, then to revenue, the magic was gone and they were just another radio station filling a spot on the dial.

The radio business has fully transitioned from a fun, seat of the pants entertainment operation to a mega money making corporate mentality under the control of mostly non-entertainment types.  Even those stations owned by smaller group owners are forced to rely on the tactics developed by the big two in order to stay in business.

Group owners will continue to extract money in whatever way they can until the money train runs off the rails.  Then, radio will be replaced by something less.

2.  Radio Engineering:

Engineering will continue to grow smaller, with more emphasis on computers, networking, and IT infrastructure.  The future distribution of music and program material will take the form of streaming (live events), pod casts (specialty shows) and subscription services.  Over the air free radio will become less and less relevant as younger “listeners” trend toward new media.  The idea of listeners may be archaic in lieu of “subscribers” or “users.”  Thus, in order to remain relevant, broadcast engineers are going to have to keep their skill sets current.  I would recommend to anyone getting into the business to get current with routers, routing tables, Cisco equipment and whatnot.  The cloud is coming and will rain on all those not adjusted to the new “broadcasting” reality.

3.  My part in the business:

A somewhat superannuated broadcast engineer who’s skill set lies mostly within the RF and heavy duty electrical areas, I am going back to college in January.  Cicso Network Administrator is the degree I am shooting for, for that is where the local jobs, both in and out of broadcasting will be.  Network Administrators are going to be the backbone of cloud computing, those that can configure routing tables will be desired.

That being said, I continue to be involved with larger RF projects and transmitter work.  It is fun for me, most of the time.  Having to drive two hours,one way on Christmas Eve to fix a backup transmitter, not so much, but those situations tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.

All in all, it is great fun to press the high voltage on button, not knowing if the transmitter will cycle on normally, or put on some type of display.

4.  The blog:

This little thing we have here has been fun.  I get good response to most articles.  I welcome all the comments and the off line e-mails that come my way.  My original intent, which is to provoke thought and dialog, remains unchanged.  This year, I have delved into areas not covered by the trade magazines, but do have at least some bearing on radio or radio related arts.  To that end, there have been several negative responses, which is fine.  I don’t pretend to know everything, if you know more, then by all means, speak up.  By and large, however, the majority of responses continue to be positive.

I continue to grow the overseas audience, with roughly 36% of the page views coming from non US IP addresses.  Persons from The UK, followed by Canada, Netherlands, Australia and Germany are the top five non-US readers of this blog.

So, I will continue to post about things in the coming year.  If any of you have any suggestions or requests, shoot me an email of leave a comment.

In the mean time, have a Happy New Year!

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

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

Free counters!