During the impending doom that is/was Hurricane/tropical storm Henri, I decided to bust out the old Kenwood R-2000. This venerable radio has been in my collection since 1989, when first purchased at the AFEES on Andersen AFB, Guam. Over many a year, it has given me lots of great service. However, last time I tried it a few years ago, the frequency tuning was all haywire and it seemed to be inoperative. I set it aside, as I always seem to have something important to work on. Not so much today.
As I discovered, there were two problems; first being a dead lithium battery and the second being the dirty pots on the VCO stepper, which are common failure modes for these units. I unsoldered the lithium battery and ordered a new one (CR 2032 with leads). The VCO stepper issue was corrected with a few slight turns of a small screw driver. There are a couple of Youtube videos on this procedure. Truth be told, the entire unit needs an alignment, which I will do once the replacement battery arrives. The service manual is available from several sources on line and it gives very good directions on how to perform an alignment.
Tuning around the Shortwave bands, I heard the normal things; some hams sending CW, some good some bad. A few messages from the Air Force Global HF network. On the broadcast side of things, Brother Stair seems to have multiplied… Then I came across an interesting signal on 9395 KHz. KMRT was broadcasting the K-Mart shopping sound track from the 70’s – 90’s, interspersed with spoof adds for “Plummet Mall.” As the story goes, these cassette tapes were saved from the rubbish bin by a store manager in 1992. Now, they are being broadcast for everyone’s enjoyment on the short waves. I can say, I felt like I was pushing that shopping cart down the very narrow isles looking for a pair of Adidas.
I will finish the alignment/repairs of the Kenwood R-2000 and put it back in service in the upstairs equipment rack. Enough of these software driven dongles, it is nice to just listen to the radio without having to boot up a computer.
Westwood One, Premiere, Skyview Networks, et al. will be changing their satellite from AMC-8 at 139° W to AMC-18/SES-11 at 105° W longitude. More from AMC8transition.com. There are several considerations for this move:
Dish design and two degree compliance
Two degree compliance is going to be an issue for many stations. Those old 2.4 and 2.8 meter mesh dishes are going to have issues with 105º West because that is a very crowed part of the sky. From New York, it looks something like this:
TELSTAR 12 (ORION 2)
TELSTAR 12 (ORION 2)
Generally speaking, dishes need to be 3.7 meters (12.14 feet) or larger to meet the two degree compliance specification. For many, this means replacing the current dish. This is especially true for those old 10 foot aluminium mesh dishes that were very popular in the 90’s because of the TVRO satellite craze.
If the existing dish is acceptable, then the next issue may be obstacle clearance. Generally speaking the 105 degree west slot (south of Denver) will be easier to see that the 139 degree west slot (south of Honolulu) for much of the United States. Still, there may be trees, buildings, hills, etc in the way. Site surveys can be made using online tools (dishpointer.com) or smart phone apps (dishalign (iOS) or dishaligner (Android)). I have found that I need to stand in front of the dish to get the best idea of any obstacles. While you are there, spray all the dish holding hardware with a penetrating oil like WD-40, Rostoff or something similar. Most of these dishes have not moved since they were installed, many years or decades ago.
Transponder frequencies will not be the same, so when the dish is aligned to the new satellite, those frequencies will need to be changed. The network satellite provider will furnish this information when it becomes available. This generally requires navigating around various menu trees in the satellite receiver. Most are fairly intuitive, but it never hurts to be prepared.
The window of opportunity is from February 1, 2017 (first day of AMC-18) until June 30, 2017 (last day of AMC-8). Of course, in the northern parts of the country, it may not be possible to install a new dish in the middle of winter. It may also be very difficult to align an existing dish depending on how bad the winter is. Therefore, the planning process should begin now. A quick site evaluation should include the following:
Network Satellite Receive Location Evaluation
Dish is 2°compliant? (Y/N)
Distance to receiver location:
Dish Azimuth (T):
Dish Azimuth (M)
Dish Height AGL:
(permanent or removable? Owned or not owned?)
A .pdf version is available here. Based on that information, a decision can be made on whether or not to keep the old dish or install a new one. We service about 25 studio locations and I am already aware of three in need of dish replacement and two that have obstructive trees which will need to be cut. This work cannot start too soon.
With the pending LPFM filing window in October, I decided that perhaps I could spread the information to some local groups that might want to put a community radio station on the air where I live. Back over a decade ago, there were a couple of local commercial AM and FM stations in the area, but they moved out of town to a larger city some 24 miles to the east. If local legend is to be believed, the AM station was very popular, with its studios and offices over the local pharmacy. That station is now running 24/7 comedy, which given the area, is ironic almost beyond words. As it stands now, this is one of those rural areas that, on paper, looks well served by several different radio stations. Truth is, there are radio signals receivable here, but there is no local radio. The last time anyone from those previously local stations had a meaningful thought about the respective Cities of License was months if not years ago.
With all this in mind, I first approached a local community non-profit group. They seemed mildly interested, but expressed doubt about finding a studio location. Their basic take was, we can help, but we want others involved. Seemed to be a lukewarm, but understandable and not totally unwarranted response.
I then approached the local school board. The idea was to get the high school involved with the station broadcasting sports events and teaching kids how to do play by play and perhaps other types of radio shows. They fainted interest at first, then decided that they didn’t have the staff to deal with a broadcast program and there were other excuses like “liability issues.”
I then approached the local governments (two different towns) who were almost openly hostile to the idea. While they didn’t say as much to my face, they rather implied that it would be a waste of time and the town(s) were not interested.
I have approached other local groups, which don’t seem to be interested at all.
Has radio lost its mojo with the local population? Are we who still remain in the radio business simply fooling ourselves into thinking that somehow this is important? I don’t know.
The hazards of rural LPFM; large area, few people, generalized indifference.
For all of us that work at radio stations but are not programmers, Sound Hound great app for those “WTF is the name of that song?” moments. As I get older, this seems to happen more and more. These are either senior moments or I am just not keeping up with the new music today. Probably a little of both.
To use the application, one can play, sing or hum the song in question and if Sound Hound can match the audio to a known song, it will return the song title, version if more than one and artist to your mobile device. It will also provide links to lyrics, chart information, artist concert dates and Youtube videos, which is pretty cool.
It comes as a free version with banner ads. For those of us that hate banner ads, a paid version is available as well.
I fooled around with this for a while playing songs from youtube club videos. If the audio is not too distorted (some of those club videos are pretty bad), it will work. It will also pick out live performances (and include venue and date if available), club mixes, etc.
Best of all, it makes me look like a genius to my kids. Any help I can get in that department is most welcome.