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Common’ Baby

Who is that old guy standing next to Chubby Checker?

Chubby Checker and yours truly

Chubby Checker and yours truly

Hey, that’s me!

And never will you meet a nicer gentleman than Chubby Checker.

As my Russian friends say:

Political Warning! Turn away now if you wish to remain blissfuly ignorent.

На сей раз Путин прав.

Who do you think you're foolin' with?

Who do you think you’re foolin’ with?

For those of you who don’t govoroo pa Rooski (speak in Russian), it says: Na sey raz Putin prav.

What, specifically, is he right about? Syria: Who caused it, the resulting humanitarian crisis, the refugees in Europe, and so on. Also, the question: What is the difference between a moderate rebel and an immoderate one? Well… Starting with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US involvement in the region has been either grossly incompetent or blatantly evil or perhaps a combination of the two. Remember the humanitarian bombs in Libya? The opening salvo of 138 tomahawk missiles ($1.2M each)? To be sure, Muammar Gaddafi was no saint, but compared to the people who are running Libya now, he was Ma Teresa.

The US has spent approximately $500M training these “moderate rebels,” but according to the CENTCOM commander, number only “four or five.”  They are just pissing away money and our kids are going to have to pay it back.  When will somebody stand up and ask: What the hell is going on around here?

By the way; Путин не мой герой, which makes it even sadder still.

The Sportable 3306LED02 Baseball Scoreboard

This post has nothing to do with radio engineering, but is full of geeky goodness, nonetheless. My son is playing Little League again this year. This is his first year in the majors division, and I have to say, I have been thoroughly enjoying watching his games. There is, of course, one minor glitch in the matrix; the scoreboard, which occasionally looks like this:

Little League Scoreboard, missing LED segments

Little League Scoreboard, missing LED segments.

Now, that is more of an annoyance than anything else. I know what inning it is and what the score is. Truth be told, most of the time the scoreboard is being run by one of the parents (read: a mom) and they can become distracted at times. Very often, the ball/strike/out count is not correct, which in turn causes the home plate umpire to angrily stare up and the scorekeeper’s window.

Anyway…

As I was saying, more of an annoyance…

Regardless, I thought to myself; jeez, I fix things, perhaps I should have a go at that sign. So I spoke to one of the Little League board members who was more than grateful for any assistance I could render.

Thus, one afternoon, after work, I got the ladder out and started poking around to see what I could learn.  These signs are relatively simple.  Each digit on the sign has one circuit board.  Each circuit board has seven segments.  Each segment has fourteen LEDs in series.  There is a Toshiba ULN2803APG, which is a 16 pin darlington driver, a LM 317 voltage regulator which is fixed with a 62 ohm resistor.

Scoreboard single digit circuit board

Scoreboard single digit circuit board

Approximate schematic scoreboard circuit board segment

Approximate schematic scoreboard circuit board segment

After poking around with the DVM for a while, I determined that the bad segments were due to open LEDs.  I measured the working LED’s and determined that each LED was dropping about 1.7 volts.  I took a board home with me and rummaged around in the parts bin until I found some orange 5MM LEDs that matched the voltage drop of the ones on the board. I confirmed my ladder top troubleshooting findings on the work bench using the DVM in diode mode.  I also noticed that the Fluke DVM had enough current to light the LED, thus making troubleshooting much easier.  There were three bad circuit boards with various segments out.

Scoreboard LED voltage drop

Scoreboard LED voltage drop

Scoreboard individual LED testing good

Scoreboard individual LED testing good

A few minutes with the soldering iron and presto:

Scoreboard, repaired

Scoreboard, repaired

Sign repaired.  I little further research and I found that an Everlight MV8104 LED (Mouser part number 638-MV8104) is a near perfect replacement.  Literally, a 23.3 cent (US) part.

In all fairness to the company that  makes the scoreboard, this unit was new in 2003 or 2004.  It has spent at least 11 years outside in upstate NY, which is not a tender climate.  They will replace the digit circuit boards for 175.00 each, plus $25.00 shipping.  My repair work used 9 LEDs ($2.10) plus about two hours troubleshooting and repairing vs. $600.00 plus perhaps an hour to replace the boards.

Modern Art

After replacing a burned out FM antenna for one of our clients, the question became; what do we do with the old antenna?  There were several options:

  • Throw it behind the transmitter building and let weeds and poison ivy grow over it
  • Take it to the scrap yard to get what ever money we could for it
  • Give it away to somebody
  • Turn it into a fountain

I have scrapped these old antennas before, they are made mostly of hard yellow brass, which does not net too much at the scrap yard.  In fact, by the time I finished removing the Radomes and separating the metal, I had more time into the job than it was worth for both myself and the client.  Therefore, I present to you the ERI LPX lawn fountain:

ERI LPX2E Rototiller FM antenna used as a fountain

ERI LPX2E Rototiller FM antenna used as a fountain

Upon completion, my wife and daughter, who are natural born skeptics, even had kind words to say. It seemed like a simple project at first; enlarge the dry well for the basement sump pumps and install some type of mounting base for the old antenna. It turned into a little more than that.

Mounting base for ERI antenna fountain

Mounting base for ERI antenna fountain

It took several hours of backbreaking labor, a concrete form and a few bags of ready mix concrete to create the mounting base. Several wheelbarrow loads of gravel, some rocks from the old wall in the woods and a pond pump from the hardware store round out the installation.

ERI LPX2E Rototiller FM antenna fountain

ERI LPX2E Rototiller FM antenna fountain

I am not sure what else to say.

Nice Olympic Hockey coverage, NBC

Hockey is about the only sport I care about these days.  The Olympic hockey rivalry between US and Russia has been epic ever since the Lake Placid games in 1980.  Why then, does NBC not broadcast the game live?  In order to see the game live, one has to subscribe to NBCsn, which is in the premium tier on my cable system.  No, they would rather force people to pay lots of money because they can.  Such if life in the land of Monopoly.

Well, for every problem, there is a solution.  Mine involved a VPN connection to somebody else’s network.  I watched the game, but the commentary was in Russian.  I didn’t understand most of it, however, as to the results of the game; I got the general feeling that the Russians were not amused:

Not time (for/to) smile

Not time (for/to) smile

It seems the referees made a few controversial calls, including denying a Russian goal because the US net was out of place.  I wonder how that will be mentioned on the repackaged replay.

There were other streaming options as well, one just needs to hunt around to find things.

In the information age, it seems the establishment’s control of the narrative is slipping away.  I view this as a positive development.

 

Mozilla Lightbeam

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

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.

Bumper Stickers

I found this box of bumper stickers at a transmitter site the other day. And you might say “A box of bumper stickers, wow.” which would be nearly identical to the reaction I had. But then I started looking through them and realized that many were from the eighties and early nineties.

It is sort of like a way back radio promotions time machine.  On the back of most of these bumper stickers there is some type of offer; 10% off, $2.00 off, etc  from different local businesses.  You remember those things; tire repair shops, miniature golf, non-chain restaurants and fast food places, retail stores that aren’t WalMart, and so on.  There were several that had bumper sticker spotting contests, including one, where if the bumper sticker was spotted covering another radio station’s bumper sticker, they would stop you on the spot and give you $1,500.00.  Now that is exciting!

I picked a few of the more interesting examples out:

Radio Station bumper stickers

Radio Station bumper stickers

Being an engineer and coming upon new, unknown data, I decided to quantify it.  Therefore I made a spreadsheet of all the different radio stations and any other information I could find on the back of the bumper sticker:

Call Sign or Identifier Frequency Location Date
92 MOO 92 FM ?? ??
94.9 ZHT 94.9 Mhz Colorado 1998
B.Rock 97.7 MHz ? ?
B96 96 FM Chicago, IL 1990
CFX-95 95 FM Central Michigan ??
FM 96 96 FM Montreal, QC 1985
Groove 103.1 103.1 MHz ?? ??
KAKS KISS 108 108 FM ?? ??
KATD 95.3 FM ?? ??
KAT-FM 92.9 MHz ?? ??
KATT 100.5 MHz Oklahoma City, OK 1988
KBBY 95 FM ?? ??
KBOO 90.7 MHz Portland, OR 1986
KBPI 105.9 MHz Colorado ??
KCFO 102 FM ?? 1984
KCFX 101 FM Overland Park, KS ??
KDKA 1020 KHz Pittsburgh, PA 1986
KEDG 103.5 MHz Las Vegas , NV 1993
KENO AM Stereo 1460 KHz Las Vegas, NV 1988
KEGL 97.1 MHz ?? ??
KFMG 107.9 MHz San Diego 1983
KGBX 1260 AM ?? ??
KHIP 93.5 MHz San Francisco, CA Early 80’s
KHTR 103 FM St. Louis, MO 1983
KIIS 102.7 MHz Los Angeles, CA 1988
KISS 108 FM 108 FM Medford, MA 1992
KLBS 1330 KHz ?? ??
KLZX 93 FM ?? 1989
KMEL 106.1 MHz CA? ??
KMEL 106 FM CA? 1990
KMET 94.7 MHz ?? ??
KMGX 104 FM ?? ??
KMJI 100 FM Englewood, CO 1986
KNCI 98.5 MHz ?? ??
KOMP 92.3 MHz Las Vegas, NV 1986
KOUL 103.7 Mhz ?? ??
KPXI 100.7 MHz ?? ??
KRKO 1380 KHz ?? 1990
K-Rock 1310 AM Stereo Albuquerque, NM 1989
KRQR 97.3 MHz San Francisco, CA ??
KSHE 95 FM St. Louis, MO ??
KSHE 95 ? St. Louis, MO 1995
KTAR 620 KHz Phoenix, AZ ??
KTYD 99.9 MHz ?? 1984
KUFO 98 FM ?? ??
KVIL 103.7 MHz ?? ??
KXOJ 100.9 MHz ?? 2000
KXXX 105.3 MHz Kern County ? 1990
KYMS 106.3 FM CA ?? 1986
KYNK 1430 AM ?? ??
KYST Radio Alegria 920 KHz ?? ??
KZOK 102.5 FM ?? ??
KZST 100 FM Santa Rosa, CA ??
KZZP 104.7 MHz ?? 1989
Pirate Radio 100.3 MHz ?? ??
Pirate Radio 100.3 100.3 MHz ?? ??
Power 104 104 FM Huntsville, AL 1986
Power 106 FM 106 FM Los Angeles, CA ??
Q-105 & 1380 AM 105 FM/1380 AM Tampa, FL ??
Q-106.5 106.5 Mhz St. Louis, MO 1989
Q-94 94 FM Cookeville, TN 1983
Rock 103 103 FM Memphis, TN 1984
Rock 105 105.9MHz Nashville, TN ??
Rock 107 107 FM PA 1983
Top 106 FM 106 FM ?? ??
TV-69 Channel 69 Gainesville, FL 1986
WAAF 107 FM ?? ??
WAIL 99.5 FM Key West, FL 1987
WALK 97.5 Mhz Long Island, NY 1992
WAPE 95 FM Orlando ??
WAZY 96 ½ 96.5 MHz ?? 1990
WBAP 820 Khz Dallas, TX 1986
WBFG 97.7 MHz Effingham, IL 1987
WBT 1110 KHz Charlotte, NC ??
WCBW 105 FM St Louis, MO ??
WCCC 106.9 Mhz Hartford, CT ??
WCKX 106.3 MHz ?? ??
WCNX 1150 KHz Middletown, CT 1984
WCUZ 101.3 FM/1230 AM Greenville, SC 1987
WDVE 102.5 MHz Pittsburgh, PA ??
WGN 720 KHz Chicago, IL 1986
WHHU Y-102 102 FM ?? 1988
WHLY 106 FM Orlando, FL 1986
WHTZ Z-100 100 FM New York, NY Early 90’s
WIYY 98 FM ?? ??
WIZN 106.7 Mhz Burlington, VT 1990
WJMX 106 FM ?? ??
WJZM 1400 AM ?? ??
WKLH 96 FM ?? ??
WKVT 92.7 Mhz Vermont 1992
WLIZ 98.7 Mhz Detroit, MI 1985
WLLZ 98.7 FM ?? ??
WMAS 95 FM Springfield, MA 1990
WMAS 1450 AM Springfield, MA 1990
WMJQ 102 FM Gainesville, FL 1993
WMLI 96.3 Mhz Dane County ? 1989
WMMQ 92.7 MHz Lansing, MI 1985
WMMS 100.7 MHz ?? ??
WNEW 102.7 FM New York, NY 1989
WNFI I-100 100 FM Ormond Beach, FL 1984
WOVR 103 FM ??
WPSC 88.7 (TV-6) Wayne, NJ ??
WQUT 101 FM ?? 1986
WQXM 98 FM Tampa, FL 1983
WRKT 104 FM/1300 AM Broward co, FL 1984
WRO 95 FM ?? ??
WRQK 107 FM 1986
WRRO 1440 KHz ?? ??
WRSI 95.3 FM Greenfield, MA 1985
WRX 103.7 Mhz ?? ??
WSHO SHO Radio 98.3/103.5 FM Schenectady, NY 1989
XX FM 95 95 MHz Honolulu, HI 1986
Y-95 95 FM St. Louis, MO 1988
Z-100 100 FM New York, NY ??
Zeta 94.9 94.9 FM ?? 1987

Right.

Well, if anyone is interested in any of these, contact me off line.  There were some other, generic stickers like “Good times, Great Oldies” that did not have any identifying information.

Goodbye, REM

Off the topic of engineering, but apropos radio, the Alternative Rock band REM has called it quits.  REM was perhaps the first band to bridge the gap between main steam rock and punk, using mostly word of mouth and college radio to gain early success when commercial radio shunned them. By the mid 1980’s and through the 90’s they were wildly popular until drummer Billy Berry left after a brain aneurysm in 1997.

You are missed, good luck.

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!