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Posts Tagged ‘iBiquity’

An Importer Upgrade: Lesson’s Learned

February 22, 2013 Comments off

A couple of weeks ago I decided to pursue an upgrade to our Nautel Export+ and Importers.  For those not in the U.S., this is the equipment that makes our HD Radio channels work, or digital radio.  The old Exporter and the Exporter+ units upgraded just fine.  It really isn’t that difficult.  The Importers were a bit different.

My upgrade worked out well.  First I had to update from Windows XP SP2 to SP3.  Well, the boxes are so old I had to find an executable upgrade package on the TechNet site.  I found it and it worked.  Why did Windows Update not work?  As mentioned the boxes were so old and all automatic updates are disabled due to the fact that the software used for HD Radio does not get the continuing testing required to keep up with OS changes.  The Nautel version 4.4.7 update specifies  Win XP SP3.  The most time consuming part was using Windows Update to get all the current, laugh here, patches.  Done.

Importer update:  This was straight forward too.  I skipped a version, 4.2.1, past 4.3.1, to 4.4.7.  All installed well and even my BTC (Broadcast Traffic Consortium) station came up just fine.  As we were pursuing an HD2 channel, I looked closely at the Capture Client for the secondary service and discovered that the second audio card was not there!  My brain started to wonder what happened.  The OS saw it and the Orban PC Remote software saw the two audio cards.  Now what?

After a reinstall of the 4.4.7 software, the reinstall of the Orban audio card drivers, and more checks to see what I may have missed, I did not get anywhere.  I contacted Nautel and this stumped them.  I decided to contact iBiquity.  They heard of some issue with the Orban PC1100 cards, but did not have an answer.  I contacted Orban and they did not have an immediate answer.  More suggestions of removing and reinstalling drivers and software.  I decided to dig a bit more.

At no time did anyone mention the PC1100 version.  I visited the Orban website and checked the download section.  I discovered at some point the software and drivers for the PC1100 audio cards was updated.  I usually keep up on updates, but, again, with HD stuff you do not touch it unless instructed to or forced to.  I figured I had nothing to lose, so I downloaded the software and installed in on a machine where the Importer services have not been required.  It worked!  I notified all parties involved.  Everyone assumed that this update was applied.  Well, again, I do not apply any updates unless there is a confirmed reason when it comes to the iBiquity equipment.  It is mentioned in all their documentation that automated updates and any other updates be cleared first.  Well, a bulletin or something could have been issued with the latest requirements and no one would have had to worry about this update.

I updated the other two Importers and all audio cards are seen and work.  Lesson learned.  Update that audio card and drivers if you have not done so.  This applies to anyone with a box that is at least 3 years old or older.  I see that Orban now has the PC1101 audio card out.  This is 2 audio cards in one.  Anyone have experience with this one?

Lessons are learned, and we keep learning everyday.  Keep your stuff updated within reason!  Hopefully my little exercise will help others not fall into this little trap.  Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

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.

Cheers!

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?

Cheers!

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.

Transmitters and their Quirks

December 20, 2009 Comments off

We spent the week working with Harris on the HTHD+. More precisely we have been working with them on the FlexStar exciter. Apparently we have some sort of PLL anomaly, or at least that is what we are investigating now.

We have limited connectivity to our transmitter site, so we use a single T1 circuit that carries our main audio and our HD data. This bottleneck seems to cause a clocking issue and when it gets too far out of whack (for lack of a better descriptor) the PLL goes nuts and mutes RF on the exciter. With more information from our frequency monitoring service we discovered that the transmitter was drifting in frequency, too.

We shipped our exciter back for evaluation and have installed a loaner. We went to air on it Friday, and so far we have been on the air since. I will be checking the PLL logs we are collecting to see how this exciter deals with our bottleneck of a data network.

I cannot blame any manufacturer here. I do feel that iBiquity could have/should have done a bit more testing of their algorithms and encoding so such issues could be avoided. There are many stations with limited bandwidth to their transmitter sites. If we were not forced to jump on this HD bandwagon so soon, maybe this situation would never have happened.

Categories: Equipment Tags: , , ,

Week of Fun

September 27, 2009 2 comments

So you all saw the updates of the week via Tweets.  Some also have seen the latest post regarding the STL.  Here is a summary of stuff that will help those troubleshooting (STL) and planning (software updates) in the coming weeks.

1.  The STL.  The symptoms were quite surprising on the Moseley aural STL.  We noticed the failure via audio drop outs.  It was somewhat periodic, too, which was quite interesting.  As we had planned to drop the system to 32 quam from 64 quam to make it more robust in the first place, we began to do that from the far end (receivers at transmitter sites) back to the near end (studios).  No bit errors were being received at the transmitter site, so there was no real need to worry, yet the problem was there.  When we got to the transmitter at the studio, and after visiting the mid-point, we noticed the issue after making our Quam adjustment.
As we are running 32 Quam now, an issue like this will not show itself unless you are diligent on routine maintenance.  Now we are going to schedule monthly tests of the backup STL system by placing it on air for at least 1 hour.  We will also make sure we check the units themselves for any parameters out of range.

2.  Harris HTHD+:  Amazingly this thing will drop when you least expect it.  After spending a better part of the day Friday with tech support we are experimenting with the Exgine buffer.  The premise is the buffer is overflowing or having some issue causing a system restart.  During the restart RF is muted.  I will know more tomorrow when I hit the site and see how are buffer is doing after doing recommended adjustments to buffer timing.  If we remain unlocked, then we are looking at some issue.  If it is a data stream issue, then we may have something up with our Intraplex STL.  It would be odd if this was our issue and I would conclude that the Flexstar processing system and Exgine would need some sort of overhaul.  On a side note it also shows how critical a good network path to the transmitter site is for iBiquity HD radio.  Nuts considering many transmitter sites have little or no network access.

3.  UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies):  Never purchase a consumer grade UPS even if it is a “true” UPS.  If possible purchase an online UPS large enough to handle the plant or a section thereof.  I have 15 more batteries to replace in the next day or two.  They are running my budget up and it is killing me.  It is worth the money to protect your systems, but a maintenance nightmare.  Try to keep it simple.

4.  Remote Controls:  More monitoring is a definite requirement for major markets.  Reliable, too.  I need something reliable, versatile, and flexible.  Will it be Davicom, Audemat, Burk, or Statmon?  I am tending towards Statmon, but the cost may be too steep.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress on this one.

Enough rambling, back to more fun!

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