Friday and my family was in L.A. I was planning on taking the train up to meet with them as it as Grandma’s birthday, but it was contingent on how the week was heading. South, that is where it was heading!
Sitting at the my desk doing a couple of things the the silence alarm goes off. Not just one, but two stations collocated. For that to happen their are only two things that will cause that, main STL to the site or power. I quickly switch one to the our Aux site, the other I poke at and switch STLs. Back on. Off to the site I go. Mind you I get a low power warning, and both transmitters were on at about 3kW each. Each transmitter is a Nautel NV20, the very ones that I have posted about before. In addition a get an high room temperature alarm, so HVAC is down.
I get to the site. Sure enough the TV station’s generator is running. I open my door and greeted with hot air. My lights work, but two of 3 UPSs are beeping away running on battery. Looking at my surge suppressors, two phases are missing! Yes, two, and one NV20 was on. I had turned one off earlier when I switched that station to an Aux site. Out comes the Fluke and I start measuring the phases. One is running fine at 120V, the other two are running 66V. One rack is powered while the other two are on battery. I make provisions to route power to equipment in a backed up rack preparing for the batteries to die. I look at the transmitter running. 3.6kW TPO and the status tells me 2 phases are missing. All I can say is, “wow.” I had a similar incident years ago with a single phase loss, but this time 2!
Once I had my stuff stable, I noticed the power company, SDG&E, was already outside on the street. Ah, they were doing something and it went wrong. Of course the guy in the truck had no update nor did he know where the issue was. The guys at the fire station, following protocol, had moved their trucks out and were talking with another SDG&E person. Eventually 3 trucks were up the street. Within about 45 minutes of being on site, power was restored.
Chalk another one up to Nautel. The power distribution and fold-back on the NV20s worked flawless. Needless to say, my HVAC recovered and all other equipment survived the trauma. Let’s see if the rest of the weekend remains quiet.
Figured I would try and and get back into the swing of things and update a bit more often. Mostly boring stuff, but, hey, someone has to do it! This week I have a bit of F.O.R.D. action to mention along with plans to repair a Nautel NV20. Also a little fun with NexGen and Sage communications. A little bit of everything.
F.O.R.D. = Fix Or Repair Daily. Harris Z10. This box just sits there and is used on occasion when I do a Nautel update. As it sits, it fails. No, it doesn’t need to be turned on, it just fails. I should clarify, it shows Faults. Currently 4 when I look at the logs, used to be 5. Let me remind you, it gets these just sitting idle. Apparently 2 of the 4, was 3 of 5, are PA modules showing the PS#_OT, or over temperature fault. Again, it isn’t running. A little research and some interaction with tech support a couple months ago, I finally ordered the parts through Mouser and did a test repair. This repair entails the replacement of a capacitor and thermistor. Easy enough except they are surface mount, so I finally got a chance to experience this type of repair first hand. All I can say is it takes patience. Needless to say, the test PA module installed and fault is cleared. I have 2 more to do. The other faults I will act on when I get these obvious ones out of the way. Unfortunately it looks like one of these pending faults corresponds to a dead PA.
But, wait, did I say a Nautel repair is imminent? Yeah, I guess I pushed the old beast a bit too hard as I prepare for an HD carrier increase. I began to adjust the HD PA voltage to accommodate the new power increase and two PA modules said they did not like that, and Poof! I just finished doing some research and I have all the parts to replace them. I even have the tools! What did I find out today? I have version A of the modules and all the latest documents show they are up to C, and they look more modular! The old ones require de-soldering and then replacement. At least it doesn’t look to bad. I also get to perform the modifications that the modules required a few years back to improve efficiency. All in all, I call this fun.
We us IP to control most everything these days, and this includes how the RCS NexGen communicates with the Sage Endec. Sure enough, this week I noticed that the RWT did not fire properly. This is normally caused by the old architecture of NexGen where it just decides to not talk. After a couple of tests I had to do the old CTRL+Alt+Shift+F4 on the A-server so it would load a fresh database. Why it decided to start doing this is beyond me. The other two stations do not have this issue. I know we will be moving off this system some day, so whatever we use better be IP savvy in running all tests and alerts.
Interspersed among all this fun is Microsoft and Windows 10. Thanks. Apparently there is an issue with Win 10 and USB 3.0. At least with some of our stuff, more specifically Digigram and the UAX-220v2. Thought he device uses generic Windows drivers, the system will throw a fault and reboot spontaneously. When trying to track it down, the Event Logs show nothing except the “previous shutdown was unexpected” error. I finally caught a memory dump and analysed it. A reference to a USB device was there. As a test I removed the UAX and that machine has settled down. I think I will need to experiment with a couple of other USB sound devices and see if it is isolated to Digigram or it is more universal issue. Sad if it is the UAX as the beauty of it was plug and play with no special drivers.
If you get a long weekend, enjoy! If not, take advantage of the time you have!
Ever been so busy that you cannot dig out? Well, I’m finally digging out! I will start out saying that I need more time on the floor and will have to look for ways to weasel more time, but last week it would not have mattered since as the day I returned to work we had a station launch. Welcome the new Sunny 98.1! I could start writing on all the things I didn’t get done from my list, but that would be boring, so let’s dive in and see what I did see physically, and what I feel is the number one trend by many. First the products that stood out to me.
Tieline Technology (www.tieline.com) introduced the ViA. A compact codec with an new improved user interface. Designed around the world of IP connectivity the unit has built-in WiFi, a physical network interface, and USB ports for a customer provided USB modem. If you are familiar with the Report-IT app, then the use of the codec will be intuitive. The codec comes with 3 XLR type inputs and 3 headphone outputs. Location of the headphone jacks are next to their respective inputs making it very convenient for all cable runs. I do see room for improvement, and rest assure I will be in contact with them. I hope to be able to spend a bit more time with this device when they roll them out. It is no secret that I’m a Tieline supporter and have tested and evaluated a number of their devices.
Wheatstone (www.wheatstone.com) has acquired Audion Labs VoxPro. Did you know that? Yeah, I did. VoxPro is a very strong and well used phone editor and I am glad someone picked up the product, and they appear to be very serious about it. They retained the developer, Rick Bidlack, who seems to be getting the support he needs to move the product forward. VoxPro 5 was released a while back with some improvements, and 5.1 came out just a month or so ago to address some very important issues. As you can tell, with the release of VoxPro 6, they are standing behind the product. The physical controller now has a new paint scheme, but enough of cosmetics, the new UI which came out with 5 is looking good in 6. The ability to detach the hotkeys will make some morning show folks quite happy along with the capabilities to record while playing back. I have not tried that, but we’ll see how the hardware (PC) handles that work load. Finally a little multi-track editing capabilities are there for those who want to get more complex in their work. I have experienced some issues with Windows 8 and 10, and they appear to be OS issues. I feel for software developers that have to deal with such headaches as Microsoft isn’t making it easy for them! I am continuing to watch here as I feel there will be more coming soon.
DEVA Broadcast (www.devabroadcast.com) continues to impress me. Each year at the show I see something new and I just want to try it. Maybe this year I will be able to get my hands on a couple of their devices. I could list a whole slew of devices that are new or upcoming and that would be space consuming, so I will give a mini list of what I liked.
Confidence monitoring, both HD and FM in the DB3011 (HD) and the DB3010 (FM). Both are radio monitors with IP audio streams, so you set them at a site and stream the audio back. Listing what you can do with these devices will take many pages, so hit their website. Noteable is you do it at your computer. You can monitor nearly everything and then some. They think of almost everything.
Audio processors. Did you know DEVA does processing? I did not. On the floor I spent some time listening, via headphones, and I was quite impressed what a single rack unit box can do. Look for the DB6400(4-band) and the DB6000(6-band). Again you can access these via IP and front panel. The details you can get into is amazing.
Finally the DB7007 Re-Broadcast receiver. If you are in need of a receiver for a translator site or even a booster, this may be your choice. It is feature packed and has fail-over to many options like IP stream or even MP3 with a built in SD card slot. In addition, and an issue some stations have, is RDS re-encoding. You can get the proper station calls on that station and even the slogans. Now if we can get one that can re-encode PPM, eh? Again, this unit can be accessed via web interface to monitor and control.
All the devices come at a very good price point. If budget is a concern, you may wish to look at these.
Inovonics (www.inovonicsbroadcast.com) is my go to for the space saving INO series of tuners. Their new 638 is the HD Radio SiteStreamer which is the HD evolution of the 635 FM/RDS SiteStreamer. All accessible via IP and web interface you now know what is happening at the site with all the data. A nice feature is polling. One box will poll your HD, HD2, HD3 in a time frame set by the user all with silence monitoring and alarm notification. Get that, one box. I also like their 650 Arron FM Rebroadcast Receiver. This one introduced the re-encoding of RDS information, and an improved tuner to really pickup that main station if you are way out there or in an area of marginal reception. I acquired an 808 Justin for diveristy delay on one station. The box works well. I have had little time to research on of the other devices out there, but I know they exist. I feel more enhancements are coming to the 638 than what I saw at the show, so place this on the watch list.
While poking around the booths, the one trend that I picked up was monitoring and control. IP accessibility at sites have improved with better land and microwave connectivity. Manufacturers are embracing this. WorldCast (www.worldcastsystems.com) introduced the WorldCast Manager. Burk Technology (www.burk.com) introduced SNMP monitoring in their ARC Plus Touch remote control. Both systems are delving deeper into the SNMP data gathering. Those with an ARC Plus Touch can upgrade to this capability, those with the ARC Plus only can look into their upgrade package deal. What is make the life better for Burk users is the SNMP monitoring is now at the local site and you have channel assignment capabilities. Those of us with the older ARC Plus rely on the AutoPilot software for SNMP monitoring which may be at one location thus requiring an always up data connection. This upgrade now gives local options and redundancy.
Look for more monitoring and control solutions out there. I know there are others doing it, I just did not have a chance to visit them. As operators cut staff and the fact that technology allows for more granular monitoring embracing this will help minimize off-air situations and help with troubleshooting. Know where a system fails based on status points will quickly show where an issue lies. Boxes that can communicate with each other will help expedite switching to alternate audio feeds. If you have not begun to build such a system, you may wish to consider it.
Two days on the floor was not enough for me this year, but I made the best of it. I enjoy catching up with colleagues year after year. I like to see what is new, or in reality, what has improved. New is lacking, but improvements abound, and you can see who is embracing the improvements and incorporating them into their systems. And, if anyone can find a better, rack mounted, HD radio that displays Artist Experience other than the cheap desktop thing, I sure would like to know about it. Now get back to work, y’all!
It’s that time of year again. I’m headed to the NAB convention. It will be quite a quick trip as I’m lined up to see a bunch of folks, but I do not know when! Also learning the nuances of the new company is interesting. Key points for me is some AoIP stuff which I already have, just needing supplemental items, staring down transmitters with HD (Nautel), and getting a look a Tieline’s new Via. Wonder where they got some ideas from?
I will say I’m not impressed by the credential world. I signed up in December. Decided to check and make a minor update and discovered they want so much more personal information now then when they first had me sign up! So after signing my 1st born away, I have the “proper” email confirmation as they have a new system to pick up badges. As the saying goes, Oh, boy, this is gonna be great! I understand they have had abuse of badges, but at least be consistent and don’t change registration in the middle of the window, or at least notify those that did register they need to “update” some information. Here’s the kicker: A colleague went to update his information and he was charged $25! Bad customer service, IMHO.
Anyways, I’m looking forward to seeing folks I have not seen since last year, and to meet new people, some who actually work for the company. I’ll be posting during my short stay, so check in and get my field reports!
I read the trades and hear the talk of the future of radio. The competition between Internet radio and broadcast radio. Many years now we have had this radio stigma that we are the best. Best at what? All of it to me is a moot point. Looks like we in radio are better at content providing than leading the charge to innovate and improve technology. The future will soon see a paradigm change that will split radio as a whole into Content Providers and Content Delivery (technology).
I have talked with some colleagues and manufacturer reps about the future of radio. I get asked the question all the time. Many focus on the immediate future, but I think about the real future as I see it. We are at the beginning with HD radio and I watch closely as other countries move to digital. I watch the trends of our own digital development. I see we keep putting a band aid on old technology like the new RDS2, granted is really cool, and we keep adding to the HD sidebands. This is not enough. I see the trends of where and how content is consumed. I see a change. As we move to all digital, we are looking at the analog carrier going away and becoming one large digital carrier. We can split digital sidebands into multiple channels. Look what we can do with a single digital carrier.
We take a digital carrier and we can split it into a number of channels. For the sake of argument, we choose 100 channels. Yes, that may be too many for a single carrier and it may take a wider bandwidth, consuming the adjacent radio channels as we saw in the Nautel presentation at the NAB show earlier this year. Open you mind and let this sink it. 100 channels. What does that mean? 100 streams of content. Place 10 FM stations on the air with 100 channels each. 1000 streams of content. We see a change. One facility as we know it no longer can handle 100 channels. Content providers must split from the content delivery mechanism, or hardware provider. A large radio group becomes a large content provider group. Look at iHeartMedia. They have an app for that. Content being pushed across all mediums. They are unloading transmitter sites no longer wanting to be the landlord. What next? The transmission systems themselves?
Yes. The transmission systems. The delivery systems. A new business model emerges. Content providers will lease from the “delivery” providers, or Content Delivery companies. The delivery folks will offer bandwidth for a price. No more maintaining a technical department, the providers now can concentrate on content, advertising, business. The deliverers, or whomever you want to call them, maintain the delivery systems. This splits open a whole new world for the providers. They can concentrate on what they do best. The content delivery companies do what they do best. They provide a means to get that content to the masses. They do it now. They just do not have the mass delivery capabilities, but they will.
Who are these delivery companies? Look at your mobile device, and you have found the new content delivery company. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, even Sirious/XM You name it, the game is, or will be, in their hands. The paradigm shift; these companies will hold the licenses to the “big sticks”. This will give them the means to get the mass, one direction, streams off their standard network, and put it out there on their “broadcast” network. It will be the same data we see today, but it is now totally wireless. New “radios” will be capable of picking up and “tuning” into any stream a user/consumer wants, seamlessly between the off-air network and the Internet network, as they will become one and the same. These same companies own their wireless cell networks. They have 4G LTE, 5G, or whatever. These cell sites fill in the gaps and supplement the broadcast signal. The radio hardware will be capable of switching between the two or three delivery paths. The hardware will allow the consumer to provide feedback, or interact, with the content because there will be a return path, the cellular network. The two, broadcast and cellular, will work side-by-side, hand in hand, seamlessly. Look at the connected vehicle. A single point to receive content. A single point to respond and have an input. The mobile phone, or smart phone is the other. The device becomes the center of interaction, and the content provider will now have a direct connection to their “audience”.
This may be difficult to digest for some. This is a paradigm change. Many little changes will take place. The obvious is the physical hardware of the transmission facilities. All digital transmitters will most likely mean lower transmitter power output (TPO), so a currently licensed 50kW ERP facility may be now become 20kW ERP or less. The licenses will transfer from traditional owners to the new content delivery companies. Imagine an AT&T or Verizon owning a broadcast license. Difficult to imagine, but it will happen in this shift. The very heart of regulation will change, too. The Federal Communications Commission media bureau will have to change. The rules will have to change. The way emergency information is spread will change. Go back to our original 100 channel block. A low bandwidth channel may be set aside for emergency information only. The “receiver” will automatically change to that channel if an alert is issued. Alerts can be issued to specific geographical areas. It can be done. The old ways will change, and that will leave a bad taste for many, but it will have to happen if radio will survive, and it is human nature to detest change. Change is painful, but constant.
This change will not happen tomorrow, or even 5 years from now. It will be slow, but it will happen. It is very exciting to think about this paradigm shift. Consumers will be happy getting, and interacting, with what they consume. No more ambiguity for advertisers on how and where their audience is. Content providers will get the metrics they need directly from the devices in cars, in pockets, on belts. It is all data. The delivery companies are already in place doing what they do, delivering content to their network subscribers. A win all around. These are some of the thoughts I have. Maybe I have too much time to think, and maybe now that my thoughts and concepts are out there I can get credit for this paradigm changing concept of the future. (That’s my ego talking.)
Stay connected and I will pursue posting more thoughts on this as it develops.
Another week has gone by and wouldn’t you know it, that exciter of last week made me take a step back. That Superciter was working just dandy on the bench when I shut down on Friday of last. I had it up to 30 watts running happy as a clam (wherever that phrase came from) into a load. All afternoon it ran until I pulled the plug for the weekend. Come Monday of this week, Mr. Murphy struck.
As usual with these things, I felt I should run another bench test before calling this exciter good. Plugged it in and let it run. It started out just fine at 30 watts. I’m happy that nothing changed while it sat doing nothing for a weekend. We all need time off. I wander through the shop while doing other things. I walk right by the bench late morning and stop. Take a couple steps back and look at the forward power. 16 watts! Huh? Fan is working and I pop the top open. Not heat. Shoot, it’s even sitting under an air conditioning vent. Time to pull it apart and take the test point readings. I start to see a couple of anomalies, though for the most part all readings were good.
I sit down with the schematic and refresh my brains on the previous week pointers on what drives what and who and where. Take a couple more readings as I watch the power drop down below 10 watts. Something is failing and failing slowly. No faults, just no power. OK, if those don’t get enough drive what happens? I’m starting to get the feeling there is a drive issue. Why it didn’t show last week is interesting. I have a brief email exchange with GatesAir. I describe the situation and how it changed from last week. The same conclusion that something is not giving enough drive. We are going t concentrate on the RF drive produced by the FM Synthesizer board. I have a couple of parts ordered, so we wait until they arrive. Let’s see if this takes care of it.
In the meantime, we had our annual fire inspection. Meetings. A last minute invite to Al Salci’s (of SAS fame) presentation of AVB (Audio Video Bridging) was a highlight. Great presentation if you get a chance to witness it. At least I had time off from wrestling with that exciter! Every week is a learning experience, so take advantage when you can. Next week more meets and greets. Let’s see what I learn and maybe even get an exciter repaired.
Motivation has been lacking. Been waiting a while for the sale to go through, so now we are a new company. Very cool and it looks to be quite fruitful with the resources that appear to be had. Many little/minor repairs have been done since my last post. If you read the trades much in terms of streaming and connected media. While all that goes on there is still radio and still needs to be met. As a broadcast engineer the main deed is to keep our stations on the air!
Granted I had no off air time this week, I did have to deal with a couple of issues. One is an auxiliary exciter that decided not to produce power. This bad boy is an old Harris Superciter. I believe it to be a post-Digit exciter and dates back to 2006. As I had a spare Digit I was able to bring the Superciter to the shop for work. Acquiring the schematics and manual was fun, and I dug up a schematic set, but no manual. GatesAir was able to forward me a manual and another set of schematics. After poking around I got frustrated as I did not know what readings I needed to see as certain points to determine what direction to go. A few more emails and a better understanding led me to testing each stage. Eventually I got really curious, so when I got to the Power Amp (PA), I began static testing the transistors which began to look good. As this exciter is an Aux and just sits there with a quarterly turn on and run I figure it was time to really look for dirty contacts everywhere. Anything I saw I cleaned. I reconnected everything and had forward power! Crossing my fingers, I put the box back together thinking it won’t turn on when I do. Luck on my side, it came on again. Ran it for over an hour into a load without issue. I’ll fire it up again Monday to verify and plan on taking it back to the site.
As if this exciter thing was a pain, one of my main transmitters started doing something odd: It began having power fluctuations. This is an “old” Nautel NV20. Yeah, remember, I have the oldest ones out there at 6 1/2 years old now, so I get to experience the aging process. No faults were showing except for PA module foldbacks and, sitting down, “Module # not responding.” If a PA module is not responding there must be some fault somewhere. I looked at everything. I ran it into the load and watched it. It didn’t matter which module it just randomly picked on as not responding, or two, three…. What else can I do?
I did what anyone would do. Shut it down. Remove each PA module and reset it. While I did that I also checked the fans on each, though not showing failures, I’ve had a couple fail from old age already. Found 2 that showed signs of failing and replaced them. I check the connections to the exciter. All good and tight. Flipped the disconnect back on and let the AUI boot up. I took it slow and selected a low power preset. I stepped to to a low power with HD preset. I went for the gold to full TPO of 10 kW. I watched it with eagle eyes. I dared it to do something. Rock solid. Heated that room up good running it into the load for 20+ minutes. Time to put it back on the air, and it came right up. Again I eyed it. Both via front monitor AUI and via remote web browser, one on the main screen and the other on the status screen just waiting for it to mess up. Rock solid. Absolutely no power wavering. I watched that thing for an hour, and then called it good. The conclusion: Even 20 kW Linux computers need to be rebooted, from a cold boot, on occasion.
Hope all your repairs turn out to be as simple and successful as mine have. Look for the signposts while troubleshooting and take the proper path. The repair becomes easy. (Oooh, a Zen moment there.)