Posts Tagged ‘RCS’

Fixin’ Things: Week’s Update

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!




Break-Through, Breaking, Broke, Fixed

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

That sums up this week.  Break a few things, get good news on an old issue, and fixing stuff.  That’s my life.

Cleaning up is my number one To-Do this week and I can walk into my office now.  Hall cleared, office cleaned up, and Station Logs files for 2013 are made.  (year, really.)  As we progress I got to cleaning up my remote control situation even more and creating automated tasks with macros.  This turned into a 2 day exercise as I had a chat with my pals at Burk Technology with some questions when I find out they posted updates for the ARC Plus firmware, now at, and AutoPilot 2010, officially 2.8.4.  Not resisting something “new” I had to update.  All went well except for 2 ARC Plus units.  The configurations I saved prior to the update messed them up when loaded back in!  Doh!  To quote Homer.  I figured that out and loaded configurations I had saved last week when I made a couple of macro changes.  Lesson learned:  Save that configuration as soon as you make a change!  Now I can proceed with some more macro building and some JET flowchart learning.  Yeah, I’m lagging on that.

The break-through is from RCS and our on-going NexGen v. Sage Endec IP control issue.  WE CAPTURED AN EVENT!  I received and email and RCS is working on code to install within NexGen to more closely evaluate why NexGen did not respond to the incoming alert.  We await this little update to the A-serves.  I ask again, anyone else out there doing IP control between NexGen and Sage?  I wish I knew a bit more of the inner workings of this system.  On the other hand I would not want to see that internal road map as the software in its basic form has been around for years!

Broke:  AT&T.  Nuff said?  We’ve had a series of T1 failures.  Some responded to quickly, others just lie in wait to annoy us.  I would suspect our Moseley equipment, but history proofs otherwise.  I do wish Moseley had a better self monitoring system, but the equipment is older and we are looking at upgrading to newer systems.  Bottom line is it sucks to not have line-of-site to transmitter sites so I can use a reliable microwave STL, I want a new 11GHz system so bad with a large bandwidth!  I can dream, can’t I?

As things settle down, other than AT&T, I am now going to sweep the studios and clean up some dust bunnies.  I think I have a battery replacement on an UPS due, too.  Love the holidays!


PS: Glossary for those new to this stuff:

STL = Studio Transmitter Link.  Conversely TSL = Transmitter Studio Link, the opposite path.  In radio we are mostly concerned with getting audio to the transmitter site.  In this modern world with data, along with monitoring/metering, the return path is for this information.

11GHz = 11 Giga Hertz microwave systems, is the band that carries audio, data.  “Classic” STLs are in the 950MHz band with limited bandwidth.  For comparison, 802.11 WiFi routers run in the 2.4GHz band with wireless N also in the 5GHz band.  Wireless mice and keyboards are also in the 2.4GHz band.


Hell Week or Just Plain Busy

January 21, 2012 Leave a comment

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!


One Busy Year and a Happy New Year!

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Sitting here on the last working day of the year for me and reflecting on the busy year that just occurred and the upcoming year.  I hope the economy improves a bit for the radio industry.  Though we did good by corporate in terms of being able to clear some much needed projects, the operating side needs a bit of economic help as I suspect many of my peers may agree.  Anyways, let’s see what we did this year.

Recently Tweeted events was the RCS NexGen installation.  Not a huge installation, nor a small one.  Let’s say moderate in size at 18 computers and all the fun that goes with installing them.  We met our deadlines having all our stations on the system before the end of the year.  We will continue to work out the little bugs as they pop up.  The most recent bug, as that is the only term I can reference at this moment, is the Export data can only be assigned to a single network.  Our audio servers have 2 NICs (Network Interface Card) to keep NexGen traffic separate from other data and external sources.  Exported data such as RDS, HD PSD, and streaming must be sent out.  We happen to keep our transmitter network separate from house and streaming, and we keep streaming off the house and transmitter networks.  While configuring Export data for a station we are lead to believe you fill in the appropriate information and if TCP/IP one types in the port and IP address of the receive machines.  Well, this works pretty good for the data we send to the transmitter network (RDS and HD PSD), but not so good with the streaming network.  We find that the export data can only feed one NIC.  Ouch!  Next week we decide if we install a basic router or we press the issue with RCS.  Other than little things like this the system appears to be working as advertised.  Now if Programming and Traffic departments can play nice.  The last accomplishment of the RCS install is we are connected for console control and EAS (Sage ENDEC) control via IP.  No GPIO devices are used (for the time being).  Now that is cool.

We installed a new remote control system.  We decided on the Burk ARC Plus system along with various peripherals they provide.  I will say the overall project was a success.  I will also have to say I may want to rethink some of the work I did.  I also must say that 2 ARC Plus units had to be returned for factory repair due to memory corruption of which I updated 3 units to a new firmware version that should take care of this.  I am also going to help Nautel and Burk troubleshoot a SNMP error that is occurring with, between, or something the PlusConnect-NV and the Nautel AUI.  The PlusConnect-NV talks with the AUI (Advanced User Interface) via IP, so I have no more physical relay closures to the remote control, it is all done via IP.  These errors are not causing trouble, but it fills my Burk Event Logs, so it is annoying.  Also, no occasion I will receive a false alarm of an NV output power is below lower limit which is most likely due to the error and time-out of the SNMP request.  This will be interesting to troubleshoot because it is an area I do not normally get to play: SNMP, Agents and Traps.  Another fun time is the network between studio and transmitter sites.  All are slow connections in some way or another.  Part of two sites depend on the Moseley LanLink which I have noticed is not the most reliable, but works.

On the line of Burk and the remote controls, the series of devices help connect many items.  One site has the IIU (Integrated Input Unit) and ICRU (Integrated Command Relay Unit), all sites have at least one Plus-X 300 which is an input/metering/relay box, and a site with 2 PlusConnect-NVs and 2 PlusConnect-HZs.  The PlusConnect-HZ box connects to the Harris Z10 controller board via a serial connection and then talks to the ARC Plus via IP.  Pretty cool on both accounts.  In a way you may say that we are nearly all IP connected in some way or another.

We ran a firmware update of our SAS 32KD and RioLinks before the RCS installation.  We updated all the RioLinks to work via IP.  We also added the capability to change show configuration on the Rubicon consoles.  If that was not enough, the firmware allows us to add silence sense to outputs. With this I plan to wire some alarm statuses to the remote control for various silence events.  Another micro-management and troubleshooting tool.

Early in the year we upgraded our old Nortel PBX phone system to a new Avaya.  This phone system is capable of using digital phones (which made our transition easier) and VOIP.  We will be testing and implementing a bit of this here in the future.  We also took advantage of the Avaya and integrated it with our Telos 2101 Hub.  Now we have in-house extensions in the studios.

We continued to study and test various ways of doing live remote broadcasts.  Verizon 4G LTE has been a live saver in some cases and has been a defacto go-to for other broadcasts.  In all cases we had at least, if not better, a 98% success rate using this method.  We use Tieline Technology codecs and an external 4G router and 4G LTE USB modem.  I won’t mention that Tieline has developed an USB module which we plan on testing for them in the near future.  Speaking of Tieline we decided to purchase the Report-IT application for iPhones and iPads.  We have done a couple of successful long form broadcasts using just an iPad on WiFi.  We plan on future testing of the Mic Adapter and Genie.  Speaking of iPhones, we are using the iPush to get surf reports to our NexGen system.  No more calling in and recording.  Audio quality is much better and the reports are seamlessly inserted in the logs along with beds.

Lastly I want to mention that my Nautel NV20’s were delivered 12/24/2008.  They are 3 years old!

As we wrap up this year, I wish my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.



Wow, We’ve Been Busy

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Real quick to catch up. If you have been following my tweets, when I remember to tweet, we have changed automation systems at our facilities. Per corporate request we installed the RCS NexGen (formerly Prophet) system. It was an interesting ordeal from the initial planning to the final results. The bottom line, and to quote the RCS installer, “That was smooth.” It is great to have an awesome staff (only 3 of us) to make this happen. One quick pat on the back here: No GPIO in the installation; we run console control via IP and we also have IP control of our Sage Digital Endec. With IT there (thanks JR) we are sucking in our traffic and surf reports. Shoot the surf report is pushed from the guy’s iPhone! All automatically. We had fun making this stuff up! I will make an effort to blog some details here shortly.

I know, promises, promises. I can only try! Cheers!

Categories: Equipment Tags: , , ,

Studio B Complete, NexGen Install Continues

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

2 1/2 days and the production studio is back in service. SAS Rubicon installed. No issues there except for the basic neuron misfires one has when over worked. Change the address on that module you moved! Doh! Anyways, I digress. Installed we are running and we even have audio from NexGen in the room. I don’t think I’ve had a smoother console install and equipment swap. Even the reduction of the hole in the furniture went smooth.

We continue to beat out NexGen. We can get audio out of the thing, but we are fighting these KVM extenders. Labeled Dell FX-100s, they are not supported by Dell. They work when they work, but when a little change happens, like a reboot of computer, you have to reconfigure them. Thanks RCS for selling us those. We will beat it down, though. We always do.

More later.

Tech Week Review: I’m Tired

October 14, 2011 1 comment

This week was a full week if there ever was one.  We managed to dodge a bullet in the power department, survived another AT&T T1 failure, rebounded from an RCS mess, and finished the first steps of a studio upgrade.

Power.  We take it for granted.  A normal facility would have enough available capacity to grow.  Here we do neither.  This is tied into our RCS NexGen installation where we had to add  a server room to accommodate the hardware intensive system.  (not our choice, but we do what we do.)  The facility was built in the mid-80’s for two stations.  Today it house 4 stations, a minimal amount of production space, and a tech center that was expanded to handle the PPM equipment.  The tech panel is connected to a generator and is only capable of 40 Amps, max.  The limit is the generator which we cannot do anything about, yet (future project and story will accompany it), at 12.5kW.  We are max-ed out on the panel with only 5 Amps of headroom on two phases and 0 Amps on the third phase.  With a bit of juggling and shedding non-critical equipment, racks, and even production rooms, we managed to fire up all 18 server class computers and their peripheral equipment.  Mr. Goldberg would be proud of this accomplishment.

Since I dropped the RCS NexGen mess into this and it is associated with this hell, we received the equipment and it was NOT configured with IP addresses which we were told was done.  We were also not given instructions on the Dell FX100 KVM extenders which even Dell does not support.  We ended up finding out that Dell re-brands them under the model FX100 and they actually come from a Canadian company of which our IT dude contacted.  We find they are obsolete and no longer manufactured.  He did receive instructions and got them to work!  We can now proceed on learning how this beast runs and begin to deploy such beast.

On that note, in conjunction with the RCS project we are upgraded a production room.  It is finally getting equipped with a SAS Rubicon console.  Finally all our main facilities will be on the same system.  This was a project that has been postponed for 3 years!  I had the furniture modified to accommodate the smaller frame, a PR&E/Harris Legacy console was removed, and a new Rubicon 16 installed.  The console was up and running by the end of the day as I pre-configured it between the other headaches of the week.  All we need to do is finish connecting peripherals and attend to details.  I am the resident expert on SAS having installed 8 consoles in our facility, one configured as a split-console. One issue that has arisen in this installation is the Telos Console Director.  The display starts out good, but then messes up.  Operation is not an issue, just the display.  Next week begins with a call to Telos to see what I can do to verify anything unusual.  I know the cable from the I/O to the director is good and I know the Desktop Director works just fine.  Interesting that I seem to have issues with Console Directors.  I still have no resolve on my other two that just go stupid and shut down.  A mystery that needs solving!

In the middle of this fun was our routine T1 outage from our friendly folks at AT&T.  This came in the middle of our power management project.  We finally got to deal with a tech that knew what he was doing.  He was baffled by the fact that the circuit was down hard for 2 hours with no signs of problems before or after in the logs.  He proceeded to tear out the circuit and test all the way back to the CO.  He found 80 Volts of cross-battery and had new pairs assigned.  Let’s see how long we go this time.  This circuit has issues at least 3-4 months, and each time AT&T says it tests good.

I did manage to make it to the SBE meeting to hear what Nautel has to offer in the future.  Now there is a company I have not problems with at the moment.

I continue the installation of the Burk ARC Plus system as time permits.  All projects are running together now and two of our stations have gone into live broadcast mode.  We do the best we can to cover everything, it just means we delay projects to accommodate them.

On that note, it was tiring this week.  It took time off today and spent time with my daughter.  We attack next week and fit all in everything in between 3 live broadcasts.  Busy is good, it just makes it difficult to do it right and in the time allotted.  Have a great weekend!


Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: , , , , ,
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