Burst Group To Help Idaho TV Station Convert to Digital
This article was first published in Front Range TechBiz, Volume I, Issue 16, and appears here with permission. A subscription for Front Range Techbiz is free by writing to www.frtechbiz.com.
By Rod Franklin, Staff Writer
A federal mandate requiring television stations across the country to convert from analog to a digital format prior to May 2002 has resulted in a two-month consultation contract for the Burst Group of Englewood.
The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Burst Communications Inc., will help lead the transition of Idaho Public Television to a digital platform.
The $70,000 contract will focus on converting the master hub at KAID TV Channel 4 in Boise. "They had an analog facility that had been in there for about 15 years," said Scott Barella, chief engineer for the project. "they knew it wasn't suitable for current technology. Many broadcasters are challenged with the transition from analog to digital, especially the smaller stations, which have cited budget constraints or other logistical reasons."
Idaho Public Television is physically networked through three of the state's major cities: Boise, Pocatello and Moscow. Microwave transmission conversions between those hub cities already have been completed.
The purpose of the Burst Group contract is not only to update broadcast equipment, but also to fulfill the technical stipulations of a Federal Communications Commission ruling requiring the changeover.
The consultation project will result in a working design upon which digital updates to the facility's core infrastructure for video, audio and data can be based. Burst will provide all schematics, wiring lists and budget information.
Following the design phase, the company will write bid specifications for the actual installation at the station.
Digital television promises to deliver cleaner pictures and improved reception. Television sets and converters based on the technology already are commercially available.
Barella has worked as a chief engineer for AT&T Digital Media Center, KCNC Channel 4 in Denver, KTWO Channel 2 in Casper, Wyoming and DDTU Channel 33 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He has more than 25 years of broadcast engineering experience.
The November 2001 Meeting of SBE Chapter 48 and Rocky Mountain SMPTE
From Bill Harris, Chapter 48
Our November gathering brought us together at Burst Communications off County Line Road on South Akron Street. The folks from Tektronix had put together a presentation entitled "Monitoring MPEG Transport Streams for TV Broadcasters", and they wanted to share it with us! As we enjoyed sandwiches, soft drinks and cookies provided by Burst, SMPTE section chair Rome Chelsi introduced the SMPTE and SBE officers and gave the group a quick rundown of upcoming events.
Then Rome turned things over to Scott Barella of Burst Communications and immediate past chair of SBE.
Scott introduced Steve Holmes, Video Applications Engineer with Tektronix, who passed the laser pointer to Bill Boxill, Tektronix Sales Engineer, and we were underway.
Bill's presentation focused on the need to be able to test digital television to ensure a quality product:
Bill went on to discuss Transport stream analysis, the ATSC standard, DTV system layer architecture, and the issues with video quality of service. He then provided an overview of how a MPEG-2 system multiplexer works:
He went to explain that more than one video and/or audio plus additional data can be multiplexed onto a single 19.39 Mb/s payload. One of the key elements that must be monitored and controlled is timing, and given the unique program clock method used in MPEG-2, Bill highlighted how jitter in the signal can occur and be rectified. A number of locations along the way can be monitored to insure signal integrity:
Tektronix provides a number of ways to monitor system parameters in their MTM300 MPEG Series Monitor product. Contact them at 1-800-TEK-WIDE or on the World Wide Web at www.tektronix.com for more information.
Many thanks to Steve Holmes and Bill Boxill for their time to speak to our group.
From Fred Baumgartner - SBE Chapter 48 Chairman:
I suppose that even our little newsletter should make some reference to the tragedy in New York, and so we shall. First, the SBE did and is doing an amazing job through the Ennes Foundation of collecting donations for the families of the broadcast engineers who lost their lives on 11 September. The SBE staff went way out to support the effort.
I will not repeat what has become fairly public knowledge, and certainly the SBE Signal will have much more detail. So far, almost as much money has been collected for this effort as the Ennes Foundation's educational trust has in trust. As it has been collected, it has been distributed to the families.
I probably ought to explain that the Ennes Foundation is not the SBE. It is incorporated as a trust under the appropriate tax rules (an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, to be accurate), a completely different set of rules than the SBE or a chapter is organized under, and hence it can serve as the SBE's vehicle for such things at the direction of the Ennes board and trustees. One nice thing is that the Ennes trust spends nearly nothing on administration or overhead. The SBE provides most of the office, record keeping, communication and legal support at no cost to the Foundation. And the NAB is kind enough to supply a meeting room and free ice water for the Ennis meeting once a year. The arrangement allows the Foundation to directly channel the donations to the families quickly. We're rather proud of that efficiency and purity of purpose, and you should be also.
I had an opportunity to visit the AT&T facility located on the Battery a few weeks ago. The Battery is the Southern tip of Manhattan with the Hudson to the West and the East River to the... well that's redundant. The whole place is smaller than my subdivision. Ground zero is 1800-feet to the North, Wall Street a few blocks to the North East, and the Battery due South. When I arrived, the one block wide strip our facility sits on had just been reopened. The Battery was filled with troops and tents, the area around Ground Zero cordoned off entirely. Power had just been restored, and one of the three subways reopened. Compare a new subway map and an old one and the change is immediately obvious. Even a week later, your nose was enough to know that this was Wall Street Station. Electrical fire smell.
I could write a book about what it is like to be there, but this is a newsletter. So the one thing I will observe is that never in my life was it so obvious how poorly TV relayed the immensity of the event. I walked around Ground Zero twice, once in daylight and once at night. The imagines and smells are burned in my mind. I listened to the stories of the people I have worked with over the years, and I have nothing to compare, no point of reference. This is off the scale.
It's nothing in the great scheme of things, yet it is something important, the Ennes foundation and the support of SBE members across the country have given. Something big happened here.
Looking north along the West Side Highway from the roof of 17 Battery, 26 September 2001. The buildings to the left are Battery City and back up to the Hudson. The pile of junk at the bottom is a staging area where they are sifting through selected ruins of the WTC buildings.
Relief Fund Grows For Wtc Victim's Families
The relief fund, established to benefit the families of the six broadcast engineers and technicians lost as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center September 11, has drawn the attention of individuals and companies from across the country. As of November 1, almost $50,000 had been raised for the fund that was initiated by SBE and the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust. Initial checks to the nearest family member of all six men were sent by October 31. Due to the generosity of so many in the broadcast engineering industry, we were pleased to get some much-needed financial help to the families so quickly. Since the fund continues to grow, another check will be sent to each family in the coming weeks. There is still time to make a tax-deductible donation to the fund. 100% off the money raised will go to the families of the victims. There is no overhead of any kind involved and there is also no restriction on how the recipient may use the money.
Make your check payable to "Ennes Educational Foundation Trust" and mark it "Relief Fund."
Mail to: Society of Broadcast Engineers, Inc.; 9247 N. Meridian Street, Suite 305, Indianapolis, IN 46260.
Certificaton Exam Session Dates Announced For 2002
The SBE National Certification Committee has announced exam session dates for 2002. Check the list below for the exam period that is best for you. For more information about SBE Certification, see your Chapter Certification Chair or contact Linda Godby, Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SBE Leader Skills Seminars Set For 2002
SBE will once again present the Leader Skills Seminars for Broadcast Engineers with seminar leader, Richard Cupka. The three-day Course One will be held at the Marten House Hotel and Conference Center in Indianapolis on June 5-7, 2002. The seminar is open to anyone interested in learning the skills necessary for managing the broadcast engineer function at a station or similar facility. The seminar is appropriate for both current and aspiring managers. The follow-up Course II seminar will be held August 7-9, also at the Marten House in Indianapolis. Participants for Course II must have completed Course I or any of the previously held five-day Leader Skill Seminars. A minimum of ten and maximum of 18 participants insures a quality program with plenty of individual attention. Mr. Cupka has led the Leader Skills Seminar for Broadcast Engineers for more than 30 years. More than 1,000 graduates can be found at stations, networks and cable facilities across the country.
To register, call the SBE National Office.
Chapter Representatives Invited To SBE Strategic Planning Day
SBE will be holding a special strategic planning session on Saturday, January 12 in Indianapolis. The purpose is to help focus the Society's programs and services to meet the needs of members in the coming years. The chapter chairman, or other representative from each SBE chapter, is invited to attend. Also participating will be the national Officers, Directors and staff. The session will be led by professional facilitator, Tom Zoss of Bloomington, Indiana.
Attendees will need to provide their own transportation and lodging. Lunch will be provided for all participants on the 12th. A location in Indianapolis was being firmed up as of this writing and will be announced soon on the SBE web site and in the December issue of the SBE SIGNAL. Chapters - think about covering the travel cost of your chairman or representative. He or she will be representing all of your local SBE members.
DTV Antennas and Your Legal Rights
By Roy Trumbull
Of all the ink that has been spilt over HDTV, hardly a drop has been spent on the fact that it's dependent on outdoor receiving antennas. Rabbit ears won't work and cable won't be carrying HDTV signals any time soon. The need for outdoor antennas is troublesome because many communities and Homeowner's Associations have tried to outlaw them. Following the enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (section 207), the FCC adopted 47 C.F.R 1.4000 which pre-empts local ordinances and "Homeowners Agreements" with regard to prohibitions on the mounting of antennas on dwellings. The person putting up the antenna must have "exclusive use and control" of the site. The Homeowner's Association or community may require no fees or permits with regard to the mounting of an antenna. The only local prohibitions permitted are those involving health and safety and historic preservation. For example, mounting an antenna on a fire escape or placing it too close to a power line can be prohibited by ordinance. Rules based on esthetics aren't permitted. But if a signal can be received equally well from two different locations, a Homeowner's Association might specify one over the other.
The case law that has developed with regard to this rule has come from the mounting of DSS dishes. There is still scant case experience with regard to conventional TV antennas.
The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) was one of the groups which lobbied for this rule. Many of the retailers selling DSS equipment belong to SBCA. Because the various satellite services lack local TV channels, retailers have a vested interest in installing combinations of DSS dishes and TV antennas. Thus the case law on TV antennas should develop.
When one is confronted with a Homeowners Association rule or a local ordinance, a petition must be filed with the FCC along with copies of the rule or ordinance. Once that petition is on public notice, it's unlikely that a fine or other action can be levied against you. However, if a court has already ruled against you, the FCC won't take the case away from the court. A consultation with an attorney who specializes in communications law is advised.
Of particular interest is the "Meade Kansas preemption order" which is available on the FCC web site at: http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable.
NPR Wins Ruling
In a move that could have profound repercussions for the future of non-commercial vs. commercial radio, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled in favor of National Public Radio in their appeal of the Commission's prior ruling that noncommercial educational (NCE) stations would be required to take part in an auction if they decided to file for non-reserved (commercial) frequencies. As a result, the broadcast auction that was scheduled for this December (after being delayed several times prior), has been put off indefinitely.
Depending on how the FCC (or Congress) reacts to this watershed ruling, it may be that non-commercial applicants will have the inside track to obtaining all future commercial frequencies.
What We Did With Our Fall Vacation
Fred Baumgartner - Chapter 48
SBE/SMPTE members Tim Cutforth, Craig Roberts, Tom Mikkelsen, and myself, meet outside of Socorro New Mexico Friday October 26th for a "cooks" tour of the Very Large Array (VLA). Recently the array starred with Jody Foster in the Movie based on Carl Sagan's "Contact."
The VLA's 27-antennas can be moved on three sets (two sets of two rails each in parallel) of standard rail track by the two 90-ton movers to one of three configurations. The "A" configuration which is the closest in and most photogenic greeted us. Each 25-meter antenna can be steered in unison, and the output converted to an IF in the low GHz range and sent back to the "correlator" via three waveguides, one following each track. The correlator is a fast ECL based machine built in the 1970s that combines the signals in the manner of an inferometer to produce an effective antenna larger than the diameter of the array itself. This is a resolution of 0.004 arcseconds at 50 GHz and .2 arcseconds at 1.0 GHz.
We learned that they could resolve a Volkswagen in LA from New York. With planned improvements (the old girl has been on line since 1974), they will be able to read the manual. Still the array has failed to collect enough energy in this entire time to light a LED for 1 us. So a source of 10 microJansky/beam is detectable... whatever that means.
All of the gear is "off the shelf" so you could build one yourself if you wished. Shortly they will move to fiber optics, better than the Hydrogen cycle cooled LNAs and add more antennas up to 250 km away to give it more than an order of magnitude improvement in all of the categories.
There is a visitor center, but a special tour is not common. The occasion was the swap fest held in Socorro the next day. We spent 5 hours there, and the rest of the time driving, eating and talking radio.
Standing below the antennas as they all silently moved in unison from reference stars to observation runs is an awesome experience, and humbling. These are truly big toys.
Tower Industy Part 11 - Tower Harassment
By Vicki W. Kipp
In this article, we will discuss pranks and malicious mischief that can occur at towers.
Often located in isolated areas, towers may be vulnerable to high jinks because perpetrators feel that they are unlikely to be caught. Occasionally, unauthorized people will visit a tower site just to check it out. People may even free-climb on a tower, even though it is illegal and could potentially lead to injury or death. Trespassing brings other issues. "I've picked more pieces of apparel off of towers than I can count," reports consultant Rich Wood of Resonant Results, LTD. Nuisance vandalism activities may include tire spin out marks, litter, and graffiti. On May 23, 2000, a radio transmitter building in Eddington, Maine was vandalized as a consequence of a large party in the area. Vandals removed and burned the building's door, and stole a portable radio.
Considered a thrilling extreme sport by some, base-jumping is a nightmare to those who oversee towers. This reckless sport is like parachuting, except that the person jumps from a lower height. Base jumping involves jumping off of a still object, free-falling for up to three seconds, triggering a hand held pilot chute, and then maneuvering to land on the ground without injury. The sport's name is derived from a composite of the platforms base jumpers leap from: Bridges, Antennas, Span, and Earth. The word `Antennas' refers to antenna towers. On Super Bowl Sunday 1998, base jumpers climbed and jumped from the WHWC-TV tower in Menomonie, WI belonging to the Educational Communications Board. Tower neighbors witnessed the incident, but did not inform site personnel until later.
Tower technicians complain of airplanes flying obnoxiously close to their perch on a tower. Thrill seeking pilots in crop dusters and high performance military jets will slalom their planes between guy wires. For example, there is an 800-foot tower in Villa Rucca, Georgia near a military base that is regularly subjected to close flybys.
The relationship between college students and tower pranks is a long-standing one. Tech Tower, a tower building as opposed to a steel lattice broadcast tower, is the oldest and best known campus landmark at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The tower once suffered recurrent student shenanigans. In 1902, college senior James Anthony climbed the tower to paint the message "T + M `02", an apparent display of his class spirit. Initially, the identity of the prankster was not known. Students feared punishment from Georgia Tech President and strict disciplinarian Lyman Hall. "We may all get sent home for this," lamented one member of the class of 1902. Anthony eventually admitted to his prank, and was forced to remove the graffiti, pay for the damage, and publicly apologize to the college. "TECH" signs were later added to the Tech Tower, inspiring the jovial tradition of pranksters stealing the "T". Although past administrations genially tolerated this tomfoolery, this custom has been abandoned as it is now sternly condemned. Alarms, motion detectors, and other increased security measures have effectively prevented further attempts to steal the "T." It is rumored that fraternities sometimes haze pledges by requiring them to retrieve a light bulb from a communications tower. One tower technician climbed a tower to replace a light bulb after a tower light failure had been reported. Reportedly, when he climbed up to the light, he found that the light bulb had been removed from its base, and was sitting by the light lens on top of a six-pack of beer. In a reverse prank, tower technician Russ Prieve mentions mounting a plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament that he and Rich Wood found at a tower site at the exterior of a tower light for the amusement of other technicians.
BAD AIM OR BAD JUDGEMENT?
Bernie Heinemann, owner of Wave Communications/ Skyline, recounted a tower job where he was contracted to replace a tower top light bulb that had failed. When he climbed to the top of the tower, it quickly became apparent why the light was out. Someone had shot a bullet through it. It didn't take too much imagination to cite a possible source of the bullet. When Heinemann looked back through the bullet hole in the tower light to determine the bullet's path, he saw the back door of a house. Ironically, the owner of the house had been quite vocal about his opposition to the construction of the tower near his home. The land that the tower had been built on was the object of a purchase dispute between the land's seller and the homeowner. While the month of November is celebrated as the season for deer hunting, it sometimes becomes open season on towers as well. There are reports of tower lights, antennas, and transmission lines being shot. In fact, tower technicians who perform tower inspections are trained to visually inspect every inch of transmission line for a ballistic puncture. Wave Communications/ Skyline Project Manager Russ Prieve recalls, "I've replaced ten tower lights that have been stolen or shot during the past six years. If vandals have shot the transmission line, the repairs can become expensive." Shooting at a tower or tower appurtenances is illegal and wrong, but people still engage in tower target practice. What prompts this bad behavior? Some attacks on towers are motivated by the attacker's hostility towards the tower. People who were opposed to having a tower built near their homes may harbor resentment towards the completed tower. The "Not In my Backyard!" (NIMBY) proponents may be so bitter that they would actually commit a harmful act against a tower. Another scenario is a bullet fired by hunters who are frustrated with their lack of success hunting. As the hunting season draws to a close, they vent their anger by taking a shot at an unarmed tower. Still others take aim at a tower not because of ill will towards the edifice, but because they are overcome with temptation to shoot at a large non-conforming structure.
On September 21, 1999, vandals cut four -inch transmission line cables on the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) tower in Sillusi Bette, Washington. The CSEPP manager speculated that a heavy tool such as a bow cutter would have been required to cut the lines. In what was possibly a deliberate attempt to sabotage CSEPP, the lines that vandals cut fed an alarm system that would trigger sirens and traffic message boards if toxic chemicals were released from the nearby Umatilla Chemical Depot. Despite damage to the tower hardware, CSEPP would have still been able to trigger the alarms via a computer remote control. On December 30, 1999, saboteurs toppled an 80-foot steel high-voltage electrical tower in Bend, Oregon by pulling the bolts from the tower guy wires. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. If the motive was to cut power, then the mission failed because other lines in the electrical grid began compensating at once. Although it sustained nicks and scratches, the tower was otherwise undamaged. The tower was raised and returned to service the next day. On September 16, 2000, a radio pirate broke into Wisconsin Public Radio's (WPR) Green Bay radio station WHID-FM. The pirate cut the WHID incoming audio feed, and spliced a battered CD player into the transmission path. The CD player played a satanic message over WHID-FM until WPR staff were notified and intervened. The Brown County Sheriff Department, the FBI, and the FCC investigated this crime. Green Bay, Wisconsin was targeted again between December 25, 2000 and January 1, 2001 when someone burned down the WZOR-FM transmitter facility in the nearby Town of Denmark. Arson was determined to be the cause of the fire. The 6,000-Watt transmitter and transmitter building belonging to commercial rock station `The Razor' 94.7 FM were destroyed. WZOR was off the air for two weeks.
PENALTIES IF CAUGHT
Unauthorized tower visitors may face consequences for their actions. If caught, they may be charged with trespassing, criminal damage to property, burglary, or other crimes. After speaking with a local law enforcement professional, I gathered the following general information applicable to Dane County. Laws and consequences vary by location. Please consult with law enforcement or an attorney for information applicable to your area. While some lesser crimes committed at a tower site are considered misdemeanors, graver crimes are considered felonies and are punishable by a more severe sentence. The penalty for trespassing at a tower site is no different than for trespassing at any other location. Although you can't be arrested for trespassing, you could receive a county or municipal citation, depending on the location of the tower. The dollar amount of the trespassing citation varies by county. For example, a trespassing citation costs $150 in Columbia County and $200 in Dane County. Whether a person enters the tower grounds without permission or climbs up the tower, they would receive the same citation. The trespasser may be let off with a warning, at the discretion of the officer. One site engineer explained that he felt it was better to let trespassers off lightly, with hopes of keeping the incident quiet. He feared that any media attention of a trespassing incident might encourage others to try the same thing. Trespassers may be subject to additional citations, depending on their actions at the tower site. Committing vandalism at a tower site would be considered criminal damage to property. This infraction is a misdemeanor and is an arrestable offense. The dollar amount of the citation for criminal damage to property is based on the cost of the damage caused. When a tower trespasser steals something from a tower site, including a tower light, this is a burglary felony. Criminal damage to property and burglary crimes that affect the signal transmission may be referred to the FCC.
Most tower site staff have taken steps to reduce the likelihood of their tower being vandalized. Site personnel are advised to install fencing around the tower base and guy anchors (Figure 1). Signs that warn, "Danger-High Levels of RF energy" (Figure 2) or "Danger-High Voltage" (Figure 3) may discourage some unwelcome visitors. Maintaining a good relationship with the tower neighbors gives you a lot more people to keep an eye on your tower site. Some sites have invested in motion sensors and alarms, or tower cameras for remote monitoring.
Even if you don't have any type of security device in place, consider giving the [false] impression that the site is under constant electronic surveillance. Tower neighbors and visitors may spread this information around. The threat of electronic surveillance suggests that your tower is not an easy target.
Unfortunately, towers sometimes have unwelcome visitors. Offenses ranging from minor pranks to criminal mischief can occur. There are actions that you can take to discourage unauthorized persons from visiting your tower. Next month, we'll continue our discussion of the tower industry with a look at a course that teaches tower technicians to climb safely. Information for this article came from the following sources: Campus Life "Ramblins- Students Love, Vandalize Symbolic Tech Tower"; ComTrain Tower Climbing Safety and Rescue Course; East Oregonian "Authorities Investigate Alert System Vandalism"; Educational Communications Board (ECB): Delivery Engineering; MFSF "Spires on the Skyline"; PageWise, Inc.The Basics of Base Jumping"; Resonant Results, LTD.; The Oregonian "Crews re-erect BPA Tower Toppled Near Bend"; The Post-Crescent "Fire Damage Takes WZOR Off The Air"; Wave Communications/ Skyline.
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
As 2001 starts to draw to a close we are certainly in a different world. The events of Sept 11 have changed so many things all we can do now is look back at, and long for, 'the good old days'. We have moved swiftly from the Condit to the Antrax era. What will the immediate future hold for us is anyone's guess. We are all being told to move on with our lives and get 'back to normal' while at the same time to be prepared for more terrorist attacks on our country. I have found over the years that there are things that have helped me through things... permit me to share them with you... 1- Faith - The stronger your faith the stronger you will become and the better able you are to withstand the pressures of the world. 2- Work - Work has a therapeutic aspect to it, keeping busy is very helpful. Remember the old phrase 'an idle mind is the devil's workshop'? 3 - Friends and Family - In times like these the benefit of close friends and family relationships cannot be overstated. 4 - Humor - Readers' Digest said it well, "Laughter is the Best Medicine". Those that can laugh in times of adversity have a great edge on dealing with adversity. Enough of the personal side... Let's see what's going on -
In my last column I noted that all 'give-away' time that our industry devoted to getting the news out after 9-11, coupled with the soft economy and the post 9-11 softening, would cost a bundle, industry wide. The numbers are starting to come in. Radio figures it lost some 300 million dollars in revenue. Right now no one seems to know which way it's headed. With the 'R -word' now on everyone's lips... the next items seem to be how deep and long. I guess it's simply time to hold on and be prepared for a wild ride.
The SBE National meeting that was scheduled for Sept 12-13 in Syracuse, N.Y. was, of course, cancelled due to the tragic events the day before and the lack of transportation services that resulted. The SBE Board quickly re-scheduled this event for Nov 27 and 28 and just a couple of days ago I received my Banquet tickets for the event... this is a good sign.
As a result of the anthrax matter, the FCC said that it will no longer accept hand or messenger delivered filings. With most of this being done electronically today this should not result in major difficulties.
With every change in times our society seems to find a way to adapt. For example, lots of firms are laying off people... yet companies that deal with security are scrambling to find new employees. If you are an inventor or a company looking for a product, these events represent opportunities. One company that makes gas masks was just about out of business and had recently sold much of their production equipment... now they are scrambling to buy back the equipment necessary to start up production. Many firms, responding to the mailed anthrax threat are trying to come up with techniques and equipment for processing mail and getting the 'bugs' out. Our mail rooms may have to be made bigger to accommodate this terrorist driven technology.
Here's another example of how recent events impact business. The sales of Scanners and Shortwave Radios have dramatically increased recently. On that subject... if you want a great source of international news... consider the BCC World Service audio feed on the Web. I have it bookmarked.... Give it a try.
Law enforcement is being severely taxed these days with terror-related issues... but technology is driving thieves in other directions. Recently, police broke up a ring in Southern California that has been stealing wide-band amplifiers from Cable Systems. In the case of Charter Communications, they reported some $300,000 in thefts. Apparently the thieves would open up the boxes and steal the amps; the goods were going to Central America.
George Bisso, in the last Chapter 16 luncheon, made the case for the need for more engineers to get involved in Frequency Coordination. With many years under my belt in not only Broadcast but Amateur Coordination this is very rewarding work... but I do agree 100% with George... we need help. If you are only SLIGHTLY interested in the work of coordinators, WE NEED YOU. Give me a call, or call George Bisso and we will explain how you can get plugged in. Coordination has expanded over the years from the days when our SBE group simply kept a list... to today's world of NFL Game Day Coordination and SBE's full blown involvement to tomorrow's frequency coordination efforts in/at many other venues. As I point out at the meeting, one day George will be gone and then what? (Do you hear a calling?)
From the Pubtech remailer, and Chuck Lakaytis at KBRW, via Lowell Kiesow at KPLU, comes this very timely item...
What to do to keep padlocks functioning in cold weather -
1. Get good locks. Chuck suggests the American H10 Series and their slider bar hasps (895 series) These are very rust resistant steel, chrome plated, heavy and expensive. Bolt cutters often do not phase these requiring a power cuttoff wheel to defeat them.
2. Set the new lock on a rag and pour about a thimble full of Mobile One synthetic oil in through the hasp hole letting it drain out the keyhole. If you can find it, use a grease rated for 'Arctic Conditions" and use this.
3. Get a can of 'Neverseize' and pack the lock full of it. Careful, it stains everything it touches.
4. Get a piece of old inner tube and make a 'flap' to cover your padlocks to keep out the water that can freeze up your locks.
. When you unlock a door in the cold, never take the lock inside. It will be cold and moisture will condense inside and when you take it back outside into the cold, it will feeze up. I can also add a couple of things to this list.... Things I keep in the truck during the winter season..
1. A cheap BIC lighter... it can be used to warm up that stubborn lock.
2. A small squirt bottle of alcohol. This is great for car locks and for when you want to help out that ice-scraper on the windshield. An alternative is one of the commercially available pressure cans of windshield de-icer... this works on locks, too.
3. When things get rough... I have a torch with one of those piezo-electric starters, just pull the trigger and INSTANT flame.
4. When all else fails.... Under the seat... a 3 foot long, red, 'master-key.'
Chuck also reminds us that Neverseize has another great use... on the threaded adjustment rods on Sat-Dishes. You might want to get a can and keep it handy.
Bet you never would have thought that you'd wake up to find that Boeing is involved in the Broadcast Industry! Its happened, sort of. Boeing Capital Services and Boeing Satellite Services will DEFER payments on 31 megabucks that XM owes for their birds that are the 'transmitter sites' for their Satellite Radio System as well as $35 Million in new financing. Together with the $125Mil in cash XM has they will be able to continue operations into the next quarter. Sources say that XM will need $200 Million to get through 2002. (and you thought terrestrial broadcasting was expensive?) Another problem has come up for XM. Apparently their birds will not last as long as once thought and will have to be replaced sooner than expected. If you want to learn more about Satellite Radio, the November issue of Popular Science has an interesting article. Time will tell whether or not Satellite Radio will take off or turn into a 'pumpkin'... perhaps this will become clear by Halloween of 2002.
On the business side, one of my predictions has come true (Dang! I love to write this) with the announced sale of Ackerley's Radio/TV/Outdoor business to Clear Channel. Locally this will mean that the firm's five radio stations (KUBE, KBTB, KJR, KHHO and The Funky Monkey) as well as KVOS-TV in Bellingham will become part of what is becoming MONDO BROADCASTING. Certainly Clear Channel has wanted to be doing business in our town as it was the largest market they were not in. The closest they had come was their purchase of KELA/KMNT in Centralia a few years ago. As to what this will mean for the 'rank and file' here in this area, it's too early to tell. According to folks that I have talked with (that have talked to other folks) apparently there will not be an LMA that would signal immediate Clear Channel takeover, rather they will wait for the deal to close post FCC approval. I called Kelly Alford to get his response, left a message, he had not called back at this writing. On yes, the purchase price will include Clear Channel's assumption of $281 Mil in debt. So how big will Clear Channel be? Huge... they have over 1220 radio stations and 19 TV's.
Perhaps a bright sign... Seattle City Light has cut a deal with the folks building the big wind farm over on the eastern part of Washington to buy power for our area. By late 2004 Seattle could be receiving 175 megawatts. Now this sounds like a big number... but it's only 1 percent of the total load. This big windmill project is expected to perhaps produce 2,000 megawatts when completed... that is, when the wind is blowing.
IBM is making news with their new high-end Regatta server technology. Inside is the Power4 chip that contains 174 million transistors with data moving along at 125 gigabytes per second... whew!
AOL-Time-Warner is feeling the pinch, their reported net loss for 3rd/01 is up to $996 Million. The only bright spot seems to be high-speed data subscribers, they now total 1.66 million.
Sprint is out with a new cellphone, their new SPH-1300 made by Samsung is a color Palm/Cellphone/GPS enabled gizmo. With this unit, when you make a 911 call they will know where YOU are... perhaps even if you don't.
TV cameras have been getting smaller all the time (remember the TK41?). Thanks to mini-cameras and fiber-optics doctors can now probe your insides... but up to this point your plumbing between your stomach and colon were still unreachable. Not any more. Now they have come up with a TV camera and transmitter in a pill. You swallow the pill, wear a belt clipped receiver/recorder. A couple of days later you take the 'recording' to your GI Doc who now has a video tour of your entire system. I still have a couple of questions... does this mean that you have to sleep in a lit room?... and perhaps you have to 'strain' for the camera? Makes you wonder what the future of ENG equipment will look like.
The FCC has created a task force to review the ongoing transition to DTV and to make recommendations to the Commission. The FCC Chairman, Powell, has made it clear that this task force will help them re-examine the assumptions that the FCC has been running on in their efforts to move DTV forward. This is nothing short of 'Federalspeak' for the 2006 date will be pushed outward considerably. Ya hatta know that this was coming.
Perhaps as part of the re-thinking that's been going on as a result of current economic conditions, Sony is considering pulling out of the TV production world.
The Commish has been keeping busy with violation stuff.... Here are some snippets:
I. KGRM-FM/Greenwood, Ms. $25K - failure to have EAS equiupment installed and to register their tower and for not having a public inspection file available.
If I were to list all the violations listed on the FCC's Web Site it would take up several more pages of the Waveguide. Take a look at www.fcc.gov for details of enforcement actions and see for yourself.
See ya next month between the Yellow sheets.
Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE
The End User
With Christmas just around the corner, it's a good time to look at things for your tech-goodie list! Here we go....
If you're always running out of space on your hard drive, check out the 100-gigabyte IDE hard drives that just hit the market. They're priced as low as $220, which translates to 0.2 cents a megabyte. I remember not too long ago when a price of $5/megabyte was considered to be a good deal!
You may want to ask for the Treo, the new PDA/cell phone/messaging product from Handspring. It's set to be released in early 2002, and is said to be "smaller than any other PalmOS handheld". It will be available with either a built-in micro-mini keyboard or the "graffiti" handwriting recognition pad, and entry-level models will be priced at $400.
Haven't bought a CD-recorder for your computer yet? Then look at the HP DVD100i drive. It's the first drive that can write to both CD-R and DVD-R discs. This unit also handles write-once and rewritable discs in both formats, and (like most late-model drives) has the buffer-underrun technology to insure you don't create unnecessary "coasters" when writing discs. Street price is around $525.
And, for a stocking stuffer, check out the USBdrive from JMTek. If you often transfer files between computers (whether PCS or Macs), these USB stick drives can make the process very easy. They mount on most versions of Windows, Linux and MacOS without installing drivers, and cost between $40 (16Mb storage) to $600 (512Mb).
On the broadband front: Last month Excite@home , which recently filed for Chapter 11, suddenly stopped accepting new orders for service, leaving cable-broadband providers scrambling to find a new service provider. Current @home users (including yours truly) will not experience any interruption in service. Excite@home has negotiated to sell its service to AT&T for just over $300 million. In other broadband news, MSN is partnering with three other baby Bells to offer its MSN service over DSL (as it does here with Qwest). The new partnerships will enable MSN to reach 90% of the DSL-enabled homes in the U.S. America Online is working on offering its high-speed service through its co-owned Time-Warner cable service network.
You may have heard that the major record labels plan to include copy-protection code on their new CD releases. This code, provided by Macrovision, SunnComm, Midbar Tech and others, allows a disc to play properly on a standard CD player, but prevents it from being "ripped" on a CD-ROM drive. The protection is designed to discourage piracy by preventing pure digital copies to be made directly from the disc. Reports also indicate CDS may soon be released with two versions of the audio-one that plays on CD players, and a Windows Media-encoded version that would play through a CD-ROM drive. Copy-protection schemes not only affect users that want to "rip" tracks to their hard drives, but also radio stations that use rippers to load music on their digital audio systems. So far, only a handful of copy-protected CDS are on the market, but that number will increase as new releases are readied.
October certainly was the month for new software releases. In addition to Windows XP, Microsoft released MSN 7, the latest version of its online service, and also has revamped its msn.com site, reportedly running 30 percent faster than before. AOL also released its version 7.0 software, offering more localized content and adding new broadband features, including an enhanced media player. Red Hat released version 7.2 of the Linux OS, adding an improved boot manager and enhanced file system features such as disk journaling. These upgrades make Red Hat even more stable for those using it to power their servers. And Apple's Mac OS 10.1 began widespread distribution last month, and reports indicate that 10.1 is worth the upgrade from the OS X release.
Last December I reported on the "next big thing" in computers, the Internet appliance. The industry was betting on the IA to shore up weakening PC sales, but it never took off like it was supposed to. 3Com introduced the Audrey ($500), which essentially was a PalmPilot on steroids. It promptly discontinued the product earlier this year. However, the Audrey now joins the ranks of the Amiga, the Apple Lisa and other ahead-of-their-time devices. Recently, TigerDirect has been selling brand-new Audreys for $90, and there are all sorts of online sites with guides on how to hack the Audrey to make it work better. I suspect Audrey will continue to have a cult following for many years.
That's it for this month. Please feel free to send your comments and suggestions to email@example.com.
All the best to you!
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H, chapter 24
Solar flux and sunspot numbers have risen since late October, but unfortunately for HF operators so did geomagnetic activity. A severe geomagnetic storm produced dramatic aurora displays. What is bad for HF can make VHF very interesting. JA7SSB in Japan reported that 6 meters (50-54 MHz) was quite active in Japan, with stations monitored from Italy, Australia, Hawaii, French Polynesia and elsewhere. Long distance propagation of low-band VHF TV stations was also possible.
Project Starshine is seeking volunteer amateur radio operators and students worldwide to monitor and report telemetry from the recently launched Starshine 3 satellite. Data supporting a solar cell experiment on the satellite is being downlinked so students and radio amateurs can participate in collecting the data. The satellite transmits 9600 bps AX.25 packet telemetry at 145.825 MHz every two minutes. Launched September 30 as one of three ham radio payloads from Alaska's new Kodiak Launch Complex, Starshine 3 is in a 500-km, 67-degree circular orbit. Nearly one meter in diameter, Starshine 3 weighs some 200 pounds and carries 1500 aluminum mirrors polished by some 40,000 student volunteers in the US and 25 other countries. Starshine 3's primary mission is to involve and educate students in space and radio sciences. The "mirror-ball" surface permits youngsters to visually track the satellite during morning and evening passes. Students record the mirror flashes and report their observations to Project Starshine, and visual data gathered will be used to determine the effects of the atmospheric drag on the spacecraft. For additional information about Project Starshine, visit the Project Starshine Web site, http://www.azinet.com/starshine/.
The American Radio Relay League has urged the FCC "in the strongest possible terms" to make no commercial allocations in the Amateur Service 2390 to 2400 MHz primary allocation. The League tentatively suggested, however, that hams might be willing to share the band with compatible government services that are displaced to make room for advanced wireless systems.
The ARRL told the FCC that advanced wireless services "are fundamentally incompatible with continued amateur access to the band." The ARRL commented in four separate proceedings dealing with allocations for advanced and third-generation wireless systems, the mobile satellite service and the Unlicensed Personal Communications Service (U-PCS). The comments also noted that amateur allocations in the vicinity of 2 GHz "have been steadily eroded" through encroachment by other services.
(Excerpts from "The ARRL Letter")
by Emilio Fahrquahr
My hopes were to make this column a source of enlightenment, education and fun but I've got to take at least one more shot at stuff that bugs me; in this case the manner in which our society allows the corruption of our beloved English language.
I know, English is constantly evolving and we even encourage the addition of new words and expressions to help us all better understand the times in which we live. Contrast that with France, where the purity of the French language is religiously guarded. Since the French Revolution, they have used the Acadamie Francaise to ensure that French is not infected by English words (such as, gasp - television). In fact, until the early part of the 20th century, one could find signs in France warning "No spitting or speaking Breton". Even today, French publishers can be fined for using non-approved language!
But I digress. It first started annoying me when feminists demanded that we take "man" out of perfectly good words: chairman became chairperson, for example. Taking this to its illogical conclusion... should human become huperson? ...woman become woperson? What about "penmanship"? And haven't those dummies substituted one masculine word for another? ("person" contains the root word "son"). The people that force this stuff upon us don't suggest rules; obviously aren't capable of coherent thought anyway. We don't need to be silly about this.
Now, more to the point. We're beginning to take many good, useful words and pervert them to new technical meanings. A few years back I noticed manufacturers saying their equipment was so good - distribution amplifiers, for example - that it was transparent. And, it was so reliable that it was robust. Can you drive a tank over it?
Now I'm learning that signals that get slowed down through circuitry have latency (we used to call it transit time), computers have clients, their data goes into clouds, and continues on into another computer where it's put into a cache (I thought the French trappers... hey, that's a French word - get it outta here). We process data by rendering it and then it goes to a portal where, if it needs to be used for something other than its original design, it's repurposed.
A lot of this seems to be computer driven. But our industry is not without fault. Because of DTV, most of us now own legacy television sets (I thought mine was just old). And one of my new favorites: equipment that does many things (rather than just one) is now said to have a bouquet of features. Just the other day I heard the term preemptive multitasking ; what in the world could that possibly mean? We make fun of the government and lawyers for talking this way and now we're doing it!
Did you ever wonder why normal folks don't understand what you're talking about? You've probably noticed it's even difficult to communicate with the guys who work for the phone or cable company. That's because you are not speaking English! (Well OK, neither are they.)
So, from last month: there are 2496.771 cubic inches in a Firkin. Firkins have been around for a few hundred years and I suspect they're not used much today because nobody understands them. - Have I made a point?
As always, Emilio
Emilio Fahrquahr, is a pseudonym for a respected Broadcast Engineer in a major metro area. His opinions do not necessarily represent those of SBE Chapter 124, nor any of it's officers. Send your comments to: Emilio@WhatisYourPoint.com
The Senility Prayer
From Clay Freinwald, Chapter 16
Due to the average age of those working in this crazy industry... I felt it was time that you all learned of the SENILITY PRAYER.
God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, and the good fortune to run into the ones that I do, and th e eyesight to tell the difference. Now that I'm older, Lord, here are some things that I have discovered, thought you'd like to know...
1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
2. My wild oats are turned into prunes and All Bran.
3. I finally got my head together, now my body is falling apart.
4. Funny, I don't remember being absent minded.
5. All reports are in, life is now OFFICIALLY unfair.
6. If all is not lost, where is it?
7. It's easier to get older that it is to get wiser.
8. Some days you are the dog, others the fire hydrant.
9. I wish the buck stopped here, I sure could use a few.
10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
11. Accidents in the back seat... cause kids.
12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anyplace.
13. The only time the world beats a path to your door is when you're in the bathroom.
14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
15. When I'm finally holding all the cards, why does everyone want to play checkers?
16. It's not hard to meet expenses, they're everywhere.
17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter... I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after.
Garneth M. Harris
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Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Societies, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE and SMPTE Newsletter is published approximately twelve times per year. It is prepared with a combination of text and graphic data. Submission deadline is 10 days before the last day of each month. Other SBE or SMPTE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE/SMPTE Newsletter.