Category: Technical

The Sad State of Broadcast Engineering – Part 2

| December 4, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

raytomNEW YORK — Around Labor Day, I wrote an article that asked, “Where have all the broadcast engineers gone?”  I was inundated with responses, which is why it has taken me so long to write a follow up article.  Obviously, I hit a nerve with everyone.  I have heard from Australia, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Ireland.  Obviously, this is a universal topic and I have been overwhelmed.  That, and I’ve been working on a large project with not much time to put electrons to the screen.

Additionally, I was both surprised and not surprised at the bitterness in many of the responses.  Broadcast engineers are a unique group.  It’s difficult, though not impossible, to find a more dedicated group of people in any business.  We take it personally.  The station becomes part of us and is what we do.  And once that is disrupted, even if the person is in a much better place, it is taken personally.  I can relate.

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Just What the Heck Is a Codec?

| September 11, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Got a call recently from someone inquiring about IP codecs and looking for an explanation as to exactly what they are.  I was puzzled at first because to me, it’s an easy-to-understand topic.  But not everyone is as tech savvy as I am.

So first, let’s look at our old friend ISDN – you know, the thing that’s eventually going away (in New York at present, you cannot order an ISDN line from Verizon – they are no longer installing them).

We use the term ISDN to describe…an ISDN codec.  These are devices that have two main parts – the audio coding section and the transport section.

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DISTURBING TREND: Where are all the radio engineers?

| September 5, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Being that Labor Day has just passed, I was thinking about a disturbing conversation I had with a colleague last week.  He is an Engineer and had been looking for an assistant.  I noted recently that he was no longer running his ad and assumed he filled the position.

He and I had occasion to chat the other evening.  I asked how his new assistant was working out – and who he found.  His response?  “I pulled the ad because I could not find anyone!  There is no one out there!!”  He ended up hiring someone with IT skills who had an electronics background and is training him.

This tends to be a trend in the industry – a disturbing one.  If there are no engineers, who will be taking care of our broadcast facilities?

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More on Alerts: Useful Weather Warning App

| June 20, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — You may remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about a set of PSAs released by FEMA that used the Emergency Alert System two tone attention signal.  I also stated that warnings on your cell phone were something I didn’t ask for and there is no way to get rid of this app.

Well, I just found an app that is a helluva lot more useful than what FEMA has mandated on your cell phone in regards to weather warnings.  And, it has great potential to be a tool for your broadcast operation, whether you’re on the street reporters, newsroom, or just the announcers and jocks are equipped with it.

The app is available for iPhones and Android devices, and is called Alert FM.

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My Professional Opinion: Do NOT Run the FEMA/Ad Council PSA!

| June 3, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

Ad CouncilFEMANEW YORK — You may have seen my warning in Friday’s edition regarding a PSA that was released by the Ad Council, under the auspices of FEMA, extolling the virtues of the emergency alerts the public can now receive on their cell phones.  A great idea.  Worthy of getting the word out.  Even if the PSA promotes a service available on cell phones.

Only one problem.  The PSAs (there are several, and they are also available for television) use the EAS two-tone alert tone as part of the message.

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WTOP Hacking – Why You Should Worry

| May 28, 2013

By Steven J.J. Weisman
RadioInfo
Legal Editor

weismanBOSTON — As reported in Talkers earlier in May, Washington D.C. radio stations WTOP and Federal News Radio had their websites hacked resulting in the possible infection of anyone who accessed the two websites using the popular Internet Explorer web browser prior to the discovery and correction of the problem.

The hacking of these two websites is particularly insidious because unlike infections that occur when a computer user is lured to a phony infected website set up for the specific purpose of infecting unwary computer users — a technique called “phishing” — in this case, the computer users were infected when they went to legitimate websites that they believed were trustworthy.

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Crud and Other Stuff

| May 24, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

First the Crud

NEW YORK — So I was working on this transmitter today.  Seriously – I know this starts off like a joke.  Problem was actually a bad air switch.  All transmitters have a way to sense air flow.  If there is no air flow in the transmitter, if, for example, the blower motor quits, it will shut down.  In the case of a tube transmitter, this is to prevent the final amplifier deck from melting down and starting a fire.  In a solid state transmitter (which also uses temperature sensing in the final amplifier), it prevents the transistors from self destructing causing a fire and/or other severe damage to the amplifier.

Anyway, this isn’t related to the air switch, but it could be (the air switch in this case was 33 years old – it simply had enough).  The air filters on the transmitter were caked with crud.

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Lighting Up the Stick (and Painting it Too)

| May 10, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — This week, I was going to write about a computer program that stations could use to experiment with IP codec transmission.  And possibly actually use it on the air.  Problem is, I ran into a snag with it and haven’t been able to get it to work correctly.  Perhaps next week.

So I’ve decided, since it’s spring, to talk about tower painting and lighting.  The FCC has several “hot ticket” items they can get you on if your station is inspected.  Tower painting is one of them.  So is lighting.  As an ABIP inspector, I have a particular interest in these topics.

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Transmitter Site Maintenance: Time for Spring Cleaning

| May 2, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
RadioInfo
Technical Editor 

NEW YORK — For most of us, spring has finally sprung, which is good news for that pesky groundhog.  I just came across an interesting recipe for groundhog stew.  Maybe next year.

But spring generally means spring cleaning.  I don’t know about where you are, but here in the northeast, the winter was a bear.  Snow, ice and wind can cause issues for your transmission facilities.  So it’s time to do a thorough inspection of your transmitter sites – both the main transmitter sites and anywhere you may have an STL transmitter or receiver. Read More

IP in Our Broadcast World:
Don’t Fear the Internet

| April 19, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
RadioInfo
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — We have been discussing, on and off over the past couple of weeks, IP and IP codecs in our “broadcast” environments. This was a discussion that quickly escalated when Verizon quietly started telling customers in the northeast that ISDN was soon to be history.

At the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas, nearly everything I saw was IP based in some form or another. So the truth of the matter is, IP is here to stay and it’s up to us to make it work.

First and foremost, there was a comment by someone who stated, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Would you trust your high dollar sports remote to an IP connection over the public internet?” Apparently, CBS television has answered that question.

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