March 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Categories

Radio is dead? Don’t tell these guys then…

WXHC in Homer, New York will never be listed on the NY Stock Exchange. Is that bad?

WXHC, Homer, New York

WXHC, Homer, New York

They don’t think so. A small class A FM station, one of many that signed on in the early 1990’s as part of the 80-90 drop ins (FCC docket 80-90, for those unfamiliar). Many of these stations did not fair too well and ended up being absorbed by larger stations and groups starting with the first wave of ownership deregulation in 1993.

WHXC has remained under the same ownership since it signed on in 1991. Eves Broadcasting is a family operation, employing maybe half a dozen people. Their studios and offices are on the third floor of the Bank of Niagara right in the center of town.  The facility is very nice.  Like any successful radio station, their focus is the community they serve. The format is “Oldies” but they also broadcast high school football, Syracuse sports and so on. They host a yearly Blue Grass festival on the village green.

WXHC air studio

WXHC air studio

The air studio has an Arrakis console and uses BSI Simian automation software. They have live DJ’s from 6am to 6pm, local news, weather, sports, etc.

WXHC production room console

WXHC production room console

The production room has a BE Spotmaster 8S200A console from 1978. Aside from needing some power supply capacitors, it still works relatively well.  However, as the owner’s son said; that thing belongs in a museum.

BE Spotmaster line input card

BE Spotmaster line input card

BE Spotmaster line input card. Probably can still get all these parts if we wanted to.

I forgot to take pictures of the transmitter site when I was there.  Next time.

We will be working on several projects for these folks, so I will keep  you posted on the progress.

Installation Check Lists

On the subject of project management; often times, we need to keep track of the small details that can derail a project, blow the budget and upset schedules. A quick check list can help to identify things that might not have been planned for. I developed a checklist mentality in the military. There, we had checklists for everything. Simple day to day things like disposing of garbage over the side, or pumping the CHT (sewage) tank to complex evolutions like entering or leaving port all had a checklist.  On the aforementioned CHT tank; the Coast Guard cutter I was on had a vacuum flush system to conserve water.  Emptying the CHT tank involved a complex set of valve openings and closings to rout compressed air into the vacuum tank and literally blow the sewage overboard.  Anyone can see the danger in such a design.  Failure to follow the exact procedure resulted in raw sewage blowing out of the nearest toilets, which were unfortunately (or perhaps humorously) in the lower level officer’s staterooms.

But I digress.

I have made a series of outlines for different project types.  These can be used as general guidelines for project planning and management.  Of course, each project is different, but these are flexible enough that they can be adapted on a project by project basis.

These are for general use, and should be adapted for your own purposes.  Don’t forget to document and label all the wire runs, etc.

Also, do not forget the transmitter site maintenance checklists: FM transmitter site maintenance list, AM transmitter site maintenance list. I have used these reliably at many different sites since I committed them to writing in late 1999.

Fixing small problems

This happened recently at an AM station we were doing work for. It seems the modulation monitor was not working when connected to the backup transmitter. A quick check of the RG-58 coax showed that I had the correct cable plugged into the monitor selector relay.  Another check with an ohm meter showed the cable was okay.  Then I looked at the connector on the monitor port of the transmitter and saw this:

BNC connector pin  improperly located

BNC connector pin improperly located

Looks like the pin is too far back in the connector. This is an old style BNC connector with a solder in center pin:

BNC connector center pin

BNC connector solder type center pin

The center pin has a blob of solder on it, preventing it from seating properly in the connector body. I could have lopped it off and applied a new crimp on connector, but my crimp tool was in the car. I didn’t feel like walking all the way through the studio building, out into the parking lot and getting it. Therefore, I used a file and filed off the solder blob then reassembled the connector:

BNC connector

BNC connector

The transmitter was installed in 1986, I think the connector had been like that for a long time.

It may seem like a small detail to have the modulation monitor working on the backup transmitter, however, the modulation monitor is also the air monitor for the studio.  Switching to the backup transmitter but not having a working air monitor would likely have caused confusion and the staff might think they are still off the air.  I know in this day and age, a lot of station do not even have backup transmitters, but when something is available, it should work correctly.

I like my cool network analyzer and all that, but sometimes it is the Mark 1, Mod 0 eyeball that gets the job done.

The roof is on FIRE!

We don’t need no water, let the… oh, wait… The actual roof is actually on fire you say?

YES: Ahh! Time to run around like crazy people!

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

This happened over the weekend at one of our clients in NY. The back story is this; over the last two weeks, the area has received almost three feet of snow. This roof is pitched slightly toward the back of the building. The roofing material is some type of PVC, which is very slippery when wet. Thus, at some point the snow/ice pack shifted towards the back of the building, it broke the natural gas pipe off where it entered the unit:

Broken gas pipe, HVAC unit 1

Broken gas pipe, HVAC unit 1

The next time the HVAC unit cycled on, there was giant torch on the roof with flames reportedly eight feet high.  A local fire fighter just happened to be driving down the road and spotted the fire, thus likely saving the building from major damage.  The fire department came and cut off the gas and electric.  The building was evacuated for about 20 minutes while they overhauled and checked for internal fires.

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

A second unit suffered the same fate, only with less damage:

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

Carrier HVAC unit damaged by fire

The fire in this unit was contained to the controller area.  Same situation with the gas pipe, only it looks like the pipe was not broken all the way off:

HVAC unit broken gas pipe

HVAC unit broken gas pipe

The other two units are shut off while the gas pipes are dug out of the snow pack and checked for damage. At some point, they will be turned back on so that the heat can be restored to the second floor sales bullpen. Meanwhile, the sales people; they are complaining.

We threw a tarp over the unit with the cover ripped off because more snow is on the way:

Carrier HVAC unit tarped

Carrier HVAC unit tarped

WDST, Woodstock, New York

WDST is a well known radio station in Woodstock, NY. Formatically, I would call it Adult Album Alternative (AAA) and it is one of my favorite stations to listen to. We also do the engineering work for this station.  While I was there last week, I snapped a few pictures of the studios:

WDST air studio, Woodstock, NY

WDST air studio, Woodstock, NY

All of the studio use Audioarts R-60 consoles, which are in good condition considering their age.  Lots of guest microphones and the windows look out into a performance venue.

WDST music library, located in hallway outside of studio

WDST music library, located in hallway outside of studio

The music library is extensive.

WDST main production room

WDST main production room

The production room, another R-60 console. I don’t know where the microphone disappeared to, perhaps it was borrowed by the morning show.

WDST technical operation center

WDST technical operation center

Technical Operation Center (TOC). WDST uses NextGen from RCS for music storage, playback and automation.  Other equipment includes ISDN, POTS phone, Distribution Amps, Limiters, streaming computer, STL, etc.

WDST transmitter, Broadcast Electronics FM5C

WDST transmitter, Broadcast Electronics FM5C

The transmitter site is on Hallihan hill, across the street from the old ATT long lines site. The station uses a Broadcast Electronics FM5C transmitter.

WDST forward power meter

WDST forward power meter

Forward power, almost five whole kilowatts of flame throwing power.

WDST antenna, Hallihan Hill, Kingston, NY

WDST antenna, Hallihan Hill, Kingston, NY

The antenna is a Shively 6810 2 bay half wave spaced.

It lives! The PRE BMX III

I have just finished putting back together this PRE BMX III console.

PRE BMXIII analog audio console, reassembled

PRE BMXIII analog audio console, reassembled

We basically ripped the guts out of this unit and in doing so, I was reminded of how well these things are built.  The PRE BMX series consoles were truly wonders of audio engineering.  It is a testament to their ruggedness and serviceability that so many of these units are still in use twenty to thirty years after they were manufactured.

This console suffered some pretty bad water damage to the backplane:

PRE BMXIII module backplane

PRE BMXIII module backplane

Which was replace, along with many switches and buttons.  The Mic2, Mic3 and CD1 modules seemed to have taken most of the damage, there were several logic ICs and IC sockets that needed to be replaced on those modules.  Of course, this was not inexpensive; the parts were somewhere north of $3K plus about 40 man hours of labor… that adds up fast.

The good news, I think that the studio was back in service last night.

Message from the General Manager

Or whatever those guys are called these days:

lumbergh

Especially when that sink is located on the second floor, above the studio on the first floor.  ‘Tis but a small thing really, one of those little details, but in light of the sink also being clogged, it becomes very significant.  That, coupled with the fact that the building is uninhabited at night and disaster is afoot.

Clogged sink

Clogged sink

The water was running slowly all night…

Wet ceiling tiles

Wet ceiling tiles

It filled up the sink.  It ran across the floor.  It soaked the carpet. It seeped into the sub floor and out of the ceiling on the first floor and then into this nice Pacific Recorders BMX III console.

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining/drying

Pacific Recorders BMX III console, draining/drying

You know that burning electronic/plastic smell?  Yeah, that’s it, mixed with stale funky water, wet wood and a nondescript mildewy odor; that is what the room smells like.  Very pleasing.  The furniture below the console was soaked too:

Studio furniture after water damage

Studio furniture after water damage

Some of the input module edge connectors; they didn’t fair so well:

PRE BMXIII burned edge connectors

PRE BMXIII burned edge connectors

The backplane for the power supply buss has to be replaced and these switches with the water bubbles in them, they have to go too:

Pacific Recorders BMXIII buss select switch full of water

Pacific Recorders BMXIII buss select switch full of water

We dried out the furniture with an industrial strength hair dryer.  By three PM we had unsoldered all of the bad parts and cleaned off the modules and the console back plane.

Parts for repairs are on order from Mooretronix.  I doubt this will be repaired before next Tuesday.

Somebody came in and was all “awww, this sucks bla bla bla.”  Well, maybe, but I get paid by the hour and frankly, there are much worse things that I could be doing…

Radio Mayak: Real Russia

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.

New Studio Pictures

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

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

WBPM Saugerties NY

WBPM studio

WBPM studio

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:

WBPM Kingston, NY

WBPM Kingston, NY

Studio renovation, WBLI

A quick humorous video shot by the staff of WBLI, Patchogue, (Long Island) NY. I was personally not involved with this. The old console looks like a PRE (or Harris) Airwave. I did not see the new console.

h/t Skywalker

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!