Posts Tagged ‘HD’

HD Radio = Headache

January 27, 2021 Comments off

What is up with HD Radio? Why is it so complex when normal networking protocols have been in place for years? Ever asked yourself these questions? The end user does care how it is received, but if you have to install and configure such a beast you could go bald pulling your hair out. (Assuming you started with hair.)

Since the inception, we have managed to run the E2X, Exporter to Exgine, stream over our MPLS network. We have all the equipment at the studio end for simplicity. More on this in a bit. My 3 stations were humming along without issue until it was time to replace old, aging, or even failed equipment. Now all of a sudden where this stuff is located becomes an issue.

Manufacturers tend to do things differently. This is to be expected. Each radio facility is expected to do things differently. Again, expected. My issue is that those who design and provide this stuff think that radio facilities do everything the same. Guess what, folks. Each facility is build with some basics “standard”, but customized to fit the need of the format, personality, and mentality of those that build it. For my installation I look toward simplicity. I like to keep things simple, so why cannot I install my Exporter or now combo box at my studio location? I’ve done so in the past, but now your new box won’t work this way? Does it not make more sense to install this at the studio especially if it is a combination Importer & Exporter?

Let’s evaluate this. If a combination unit is installed at the studio, then I can have my metadata, my other HD channel audio, and my control locally with a SINGLE data stream to the transmitter site. If this unit is installed at the transmitter site, then I must send a data stream with metadata AND multiple audio streams to the transmitter site. Bandwidth becomes a real issue, especially since we, here, are a full IP based STL distribution system. It is just more convenient and efficient if this is located locally at the studio end. All I need to send to the transmitter is a single data stream for HD and my main audio.

Right now Nautel makes this happen just fine even with their new HDMC+. As I write I have discovered that Gates requires the E2X to be on its own subnet. Nautel I just drop the data on the network at it goes. To make the Gates work on one station an extra box is required, called the IPLink. This encapsulates the E2X on the pipe that connects to the site. Why do I need another box? Save money they say. How? You have to buy another box or redesign your whole audio chain. Seems crazy.

Whatever happened to standard networking protocols? Why does HD data have to be so special? How different does it have to really be? We can squeeze Zoom meetings with video and audio on fairly conservative network, but we cannot send a simple, supposedly, UDP data stream from point A to point B on a different subnet? A private one at that?

If we did everything the same, then we may as well have automatons do our work. Thanks radio for spending so much time eliminating the people that make the medium unique.


Categories: Equipment Tags: ,

Playing with HD 2

February 8, 2013 Comments off

Well, I will start by saying I am not a huge fan of the HD technology for digital radio here in the U.S.  I see all this progress on all digital DRM and DRM+, but I do not, and have not follow it that much.  I do believe the future is an all digital solution, but what type and when is not clear.  In any case, as an engineer we are at the whim of either programming or some corporate mandate.  This week it is at the whim of programming wanting to utilize an HD2  channel.

First, as I know some other mandates are coming down the pike, I decided to update all my Exporters and Importers to the latest software/firmware.  Believe it or not it was not that difficult.  Over the years it seems to have gotten a bit more stream-lined.  The thing that makes me laugh is that, just now, the Importer software supports Windows XP SP3, so I had to update the machines from SP2 to SP3.  Since SP2 is no longer really supported, I had to download from Microsoft a update executable to SP3.  Once installed all the Windows Update stuff started working again.  My question is will any of this stuff work on Windows 7 or 8, or will it go to a Linux based OS like the Exporters?  I guess I will know and learn about that some day!

To add to the complexity, the HD 2 will be run on our simulcast stations, so I first attacked the main and got that running.  I then performed the configurations for the simulcast station.  All works pretty well I might add, but I did discover an oddity.  When configuring the Capture client for the second station, I noticed that I had one, and only one choice of sound card.  This made me wondered how I would know if I have my audio feeding the “right” one.  I did a bit of digging and everyone says that if there are two sound cards, they should show up in the list to be selected.  That is definitely not the case on ANY of the Importers I have with that software and version.  All have 2 sound cards.  No where can I find in any configuration where the capture client gets its information on sound cards.  The Windows OS shows both, the Orban software shows both, but not the iBiquity stuff.  When I receive a definitive answer I will follow up with a note.

So, I had to determine which is the “right” sound card.  Yes, the station is “out of range” to monitor HD at the studios, so the only test would be to feed audio to both cards, get to a receive location, and then disconnect one to determine which is correct.  Logic prevailed as I chose the proper one initially.  Now if this programmer goes nuts and wants an HD3, well, then we have a new issue:  How to get the second sound card to feed that stream.  I guess I will cross that bridge when we  get there.  For now, things are ready to roll when the programmer decides to pull the trigger.

My conclusion is nothing is easy or intuitive with HD and the iBiquity hoops we jump through to make this work.  Some day I will gather my thoughts and post what my future of radio will look like in the fully digital world.


Categories: Equipment, IT Tags: , , , , ,

Radio and the Future IMHO

September 20, 2012 Comments off

All this talk about secret meetings and radio’s future at the NAB Radio show really bothers me.  The future of radio is divergent between programming and technology.  The big radio companies of today, and little ones, will have to decide are they in the programming business or the transmission, or delivery business.  Here is my take from the technical point of view.  (Drop government regulations for a moment and open your mind.)

We already see a divergence between programming and transmission of programming with this thing call HD Radio.  Many programmers find this a waste of time and money.  Even engineers find it a waste as I believe they see the potential of digital, all digital, in the future.  Radio needs to grow up.  My take is to get rid of this duality of HD and Analog transmission.  This is the 21st century, so why not push for all digital.  Drop this analog and transform.  Once a signal is all digital and the right minds build it well, it becomes a digital carrier capable of, say, 50 or 100 independent channels for an example.  This could be more or less depending on the brains behind it and can it be split based on required bandwidth.  The divergence is clear at this point, what radio station owner has the ability to program 50 channels, they cannot even program a single channel.

As the two diverge, I see the physical radio plant becoming a technical operation center for the distribution of content, not the origination, and I see programmers becoming content providers.  I see radio station owners eyeing the money at becoming content providers.  Great!  Concentrate on programming something well.  The technical side now splits off and companies that know how to distribute, technically, start looking at owning the actual signal.  The plant becomes a technical operating center (TOC) or a network operating center (NOC).  Now the programmer leases a channel or more from the distributor. Sound familiar?  Cable, satellite television, satellite radio, the Internet?

Who buys the technical side?  Who is already capable of wireless transmission?  The wireless companies are!  The licenses of the radio stations will be purchased by the likes of Verizon and AT&T.  The “big” signals become the focal point of pushing data to the wireless world.  The cellular system becomes the receiving end of the system and a fill for the areas that do not get covered by the broadcast signal.  You now have your bi-directional communications.  It is all about pushing data and this is a good medium for doing such.

At this point, yes, radio as we know it needs to change.  The FCC would have to treat the licenses of radio stations similar to cellular wireless.  The purpose of radio stations needs to be redefined.  Name a radio station that actually serves the public interest.  Do not give me music stations.  Public safety notifications or whatever propaganda the government wants to feed must be dealt with in a new way.  I foresee an allocation of a channel or two for such services based on the geographical area.  I also see them pushing a means, like EAS, that the TOC or NOC owners will need to be able to insert.  The burden moves from the programmer to these owners.  Programmers will not have a choice if an alert or emergency that meets a certain criteria occurs, it gets pushed on all channels.

At the same time the choices of programming become more.  Again, depending on how this digital carrier is built and how much can get squeezed in will determine the number of channels available.  The whole argument of an FM chip on a cell phone will go away as regulations would change and most likely these channels will be available on other data feeds, read Internet, that the point it moot.  If not, this could actually go the opposite way and cellular devices, smartphones, will get FM, or even AM, chips as this medium becomes the backbone to pushing data for wireless carriers.

All in all there will be a paradigm shift in the radio and broadcasting world.  It is a matter of when.  All this half-assed business with HD and iBiquity is just a start.  A learning experience.  Eventually someone will suggest an alternate future like this.  The picture will become clear.  The divergence of programming and distribution will occur.  How that is handled is up to us in the industry.  What side are you on?  I am an engineer.  I am on the distribution side.  You?


PS:  As my thoughts congeal, I may post more on this.  Please openly send comments and smack me down or add your thoughts!  I, for one, would like to know how you really feel about this subject.

NAB Observations

April 20, 2012 Comments off

Back from the NAB convention. It is always great to see people and see what is going on. Here are four observations from a list of many. What did you see, hear, or ignored?

1.  Radio was slow. Lots of elbow room on the floor. No real “wow” factor items on the floor. I did see stuff to improve the plant, but with no money one can only wish. Seems once the subject of money came up no one wanted to deal with you. That is a shame as I am always looking to integrate items into capital projects.

2.  Manufacturers selling analog only transmitters. I found it quite interesting the number of smaller market folks were looking at transmitters. They were not looking at HD, either. This was quite evident at the Nautel booth where they were showing the NV LT, an analog only version of the NV transmitter. I even stopped by and saw John Bisset at the Elenos Booth. Seems it is too expensive too license from iBiquity, both for manufacturers and end users.

3.  GoPro booth was hopping. I could not miss this Booth as it was right next to the radio section. Oh, and I have a friend that works for them. I own a Hero 2. It is fun. The buzz around their booth escalated around 3pm at their drawings. The NAB decibel police even monitored what was going on.

4.  Way cool interactive signage by Cisco and Verizon. Wandering the South Hall was interesting. We started at the upper level which seemed slow. I was looking at data delivery options, so I here’s up there. Maybe it was early, thus the lack of activity. Once downstairs we hit more crowds and happened on the Verizon booth. We talked to a Cisco Rep who showed us a great interactive display with a media player. What we saw is great for large office buildings and campuses, but we saw potential for clients. JR has medical clients so he immediately saw a unused there. Coupled with Verizon’s 4G LTE we saw potential display possibilitiiies for radio station lobbies showing live shots from remotes or a guest in studio.

I enjoyed meeting with everyone there. I can see how another day for me would have been worth it. I did not have time to talk with Orban or Omnia. Maybe next year I will take a different approach to the madness.


Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: , , , ,

Hell Week or Just Plain Busy

January 21, 2012 Comments off

As promised a recap of a busy week.  If you follow my tweets, your sure already know we had a busy week.  Harris, RCS, AT&T, and the regular stuff just piled on.

My Harris Flexstar RF mute issues sprung up on me this week.  It has been on hiatus for a couple of months and then an outage on Monday and two within 15 minutes on Tuesday.  So, in answer to a phone call today, no there is nothing really to do but make sure the latest and greatest in software/firmware release is installed.  If you do not have that, you will not get much in return from tech support.  I updated the Flexstar to Exgine 4.40 and DSP to 8.33.  Since this had to be done, I had to upgrade the Exporter to 4.3.1 and the Importer to 4.3.2.  This now sets the clock on if I continue to have issues, and knock on wood I have not had an issue since the update.  On that note I still need a good answer to why HD data should be able to knock me off the air?  So if you have issues with your Flexstar, update it.  Then document exactly what the issue is.  Once you have all that ammunition, give tech support a shot and see what answers you get.  Do not be surprised if you feel a bit helpless.  The HTHD+ as an RF amplifier is great, they just need to fix the most critical piece, the exciter.

While transmitter issues were occurring we were hit with an RCS NexGen crash.  All 3 station decided to play the game.  Console control stopped, database communications became sketchy, and the whole system was just sluggish.  No apparent reason.  We noted it had to do with network traffic, so some box is flooding the network or we have a physical device that has an issue.  On that assumption we changed out the brand new Cisco switch purchased from RCS with an old 1GB Dell switch used on the old DAD network.  Everything began to run much more smoothly.  IT and RCS check the switch and all seems good.  We still have yet to switch back.

If this was not enough, concurrent failure of a T1 to a transmitter site happened.  I was on the phone with AT&T when the Flexstar decided to drop off.  It must have been a funny picture having me on the phone with AT&T while I was poking the remote control switching us to our Aux transmitter.  Multitasking at its best.  AT&T replaced a repeater and a snap-jack in the CO.  No dispatch to the site.  This particular CO seems to be having many issue of late.  We seem to cycle through which T1 goes down.  Annoying, but they were on it and problem is solved for now.

In addition to running around dealing with this, I still am working details on the Burk remote control system.  I have the sites up and in theory they should all see each other.  Reality is a different story.  I can see one site from the shop, but not another.  While at the “offending” transmitter site, I was unable to see the other sites from the ARC Plus.  Here is the odd part.  With AutoPilot I can see all the sites.  I get readings and all the good stuff.  With AutoLoad I can see all the sites.  Even at the transmitter site I had to visit I was able to see all the sites.  Why the ARC Plus does not see the others, and the site list is in it, is beyond me.  I have an inquiry to Burk on that one.  I am also going to contact Moseley to delve into a potential issue with the LanLink.  I need something a bit more robust.  A 6 mile shot should not be that difficult.

I can say at least I was busy and not bored.  Mix this with home life and it was quite a week.  I’m glad to be able to sit down and spew this out.  If you have experience with any of the items discussed or have any items you wish to see a discussion, please drop a line, leave a comment, or give a call.  Now let’s see what next week brings!


Harris FlexStar Issue

January 11, 2010 3 comments

I mentioned awhile back that we were having mysterious outages, or off-air events, with our HTHD+ transmitter.  This began May or June last year and we’ve spent much time working with Harris to determine where the problem was.  Each time we would try or look into something  as they suggested.  The events were random and quite annoying.  Obviously the station PD was becoming quite annoyed.  Random issues are the worst.

As we followed suggestions, we connected the remote control to various status and metering locations to determine what and where our RF mute was occurring.  We ended up metering the FlexStar exciter forward power.  We connected a status monitor to the RF Mute status.  Was it the transmitter telling the exciter to mute?  Was the exciter muting on its own?  More questions and no answers.  Was the APC circuit cutting out?  Nope.  We began to catch events that ruled out the transmitter and APC.  The exciter forward power muted without any mute status.  Now what?

Next became a look at the HD data network.  Could the data cause an RF mute?  It seemed a reasonable question as the exciter does lock its PLL to the 10MHz clock that is derived via the Exporter and GPS.  We began to gather PLL logs.  We did discover some latency that could affect the PLL, but it did not explain why or how it could mute the RF.  As we are running in hybrid mode, we really do not want anything that messes with the HD to mess with our analog.  We continued to gather more logs and information, but an no point were we able to tie anything together.

Harris decided they wanted the exciter for bench testing.  After nearly two weeks of bench testing we did receive an email stating that they captured an RF mute situation and it had nothing to do with the HD data or network.  Now we wait to hear what internal issue is causing the random mutes.  This whole thing has become quite an interesting ordeal.  Sometimes you learn more than your really wanted or needed to know.  Stay tune for the final word!

Categories: Equipment Tags: , ,
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