Monthly Archives: March 2013

Clay’s Corner for April 2013

March 30, 2013
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 A lot of attention was paid to  a couple of EAS Events recently – First was the Zombie Attack when some likely fun-loving folks found out how to get in the ‘back-door’ of brand-X EAS equipment and have a little fun.    This quickly, got the attention of the FCC who put out an urgent email telling everyone to change the default pass word.   You’d think that folks would know better…But not everyone did.   Second was the airing of a movie trailer (part of a spot for the film) that contained EAS data bursts.    Can’t blame the studio or the ad agency etc. because they don’t need to know about EAS rules…However, broadcasters that air them are potentially in violation of FCC rules.   Again, You’d think that everyone would know better, but, alas, this was not the case.

 I am happy to report that our State EAS Committee, the SECC, has recently augmented its Technical Committee (TC) to include representatives from all stakeholders in the EAS.   I appointed Lowell Kiesow to be the TC’s initial chair where he will represent Radio.   Marlin Jackson from KXLY in Spokane is the TV Rep.   If you would like to assist the State EAS Technical Committee, contact Lowell at 253-525-8758 or email him at lkiesow@kplu.org.   One of the first tasks for the TC is to get to the bottom of issues involving Dasdecs. 

 On March 20th I received this email from Marc Kaye, the GM at Sandusky radio cluster  –

After a courageous battle with many health issues, I am sad to inform you that our former Chief Engineer George Bisso has passed this morning”   We have all known that George was medically retired, but this came as quite a shock.   Throughout that day many Chapter members were making comment on the Chapter Remailer – For the benefit of those that did not read what I posted – –

To say the least George left his mark on the radio side of this industry.   I recall first meeting him at the Ram at Northgate…He had recently moved up from the Sacramento area of California.   When I started the project that would become the first broadcast site on West Tiger, he was involved with the planning of the facility on behalf of KMPS….Always eager to contribute.   George had a very kind side and would often come to the aid of many in their time of need.   He had a number of loves – Marti RPU systems, Continental FM Transmitters and Audio Processing.   In more recent years he got his Amateur Radio license, KD7LXB which he quickly changed to his initials with the vanity call of W7GLB.      Along the way he was also involved with helping NOAA Weather Radio and the WWCIC (Western Washington Cooperative Interference Committee) the latter was right up his alley as he loved to hunt down those pesky signals that would crop up where you did not want them.   Let’s not forget the time he spent as our local, below 1 Gig Frequency Coordinator.    Not many radio chiefs were as active as George was…He will be remembered by many for a long time.

 We lost another member of our family with the passing of Mary Lewis (W7QGP) on March 12th  I recently spoke with their son, Gary, WA7BBJ, at the Puyallup Flea Market.   He indicated that Mary was not doing very well…If I recall correctly, saying she had recently suffered another stroke.

 Understand that they are now living in a retirement home in the Olympia area.   Harry (W7JWJ) and Mary (W7QGP) were Mr. and Mrs. Ham radio in this area for years – and – they were also involved with broadcasting and attended many SBE Chapter Meetings in years past.   The family is requesting that you do not send flowers. Cards can be sent to: Harry W. Lewis PO Box 5204 Lacy WA 98509-5204.  Any cash donations received will go toward the purchase of an ARRL Diamond Terrace Memorial Brick to remember Mary Lewis W7QGP as a Silent Key.

You have read my comments over the years regarding being prepared for emergencies.   A recent article in the Seattle Times on March 10th underscores that I have been talking about. In the article, titled ‘Planning for the mega quake and After’ – A new report paints pretty grim picture of what our area will look like after ‘The Big One’.  Before you dismiss all of this, consider that the geologic evidence is very clear – These major quakes have happened in the past and are certain to happen in the future.    What concerns me is that after a major quake, citizens will be relying on Broadcasters to provide them with extremely valuable information and the majority of broadcasters have not really planned for dealing with it so they will be there to provide this service.    Let me give you some examples, based on the information presented. 

1-      The report estimates it could take one to three months to restore power supplies to 70 percent of normal adding it could take 1 to 3 years for complete restoration. 

2-      Crews won’t be able to repair power lines until the roads are fixed…But road workers can’t run their trucks without fuel and, in most cases, there will be no fuel available without power (see how this works?)

3-      Phone lines and Internet service won’t be back to normal for one to three months.

4-      Underground things are not immune – Water, Sewer, Natural Gas lines will be out of commission for who-knows how long.

5-      WSDOT states that the ‘hope’ to be able to open I-5 and I-90 to ONE LANE within a months and 1 to 3 years to get things somewhat back to normal. (Can you picture a one-lane I-5?)

6-      Airports could be impacted for up to 3 years.  (Look what the Nisqually quake did to Boeing field)

7-      Ferries could be impacted 3 months to a year

8-      The study points out that the current advice of stocking up with enough food and water for 3 days is laughable (we need to prepare for at least two weeks)

So based on this how do I see it –

Very few radio stations will be back on the air very soon, the majority will likely be off the air for weeks.   TV will likely be worse off due to their lack of redundant transmitter and studio facilities.  Then again, with the projected massive power outages, who is going to be able to watch TV?

With the level of dependency on Cable and the fact that cable goes off when the power goes off,

TV’s ability to deliver the info we need will be very limited.

 Those radio or TV stations that do get back on will be faced with a woefully inadequate auxiliary power generation capability.   How many stations can operate their generators for 2 or more weeks with their existing/on-site fuel supply?  What the fuel runs out, what then?   How many stations are ready to operate from their transmitter sites, assuming they survive?

Sorry – I see a very bleak picture here.  I suspect that there is a lot of dice rolling going on in high places in our industry, along with praying that it does not happen on their watch.  To be sure there is an economic factor.  Being prepared for the ‘Big-One’ is an expensive proposition.

In the minds of many this is akin to purchasing too much insurance.   How to you demonstrate to station owners that this represents stock holder value?   Heck, some of the stockholders of local broadcast stations want to sell out now!   The economic impact of this event will be epic, but like all events like this, planning now will save money later.  But, like I’ve said, this is, in itself, a very hard sell.

For those Broadcast Engineers that are always thinking – what if – this is a very frustrating topic for they know that their bosses are not likely to be interested in discussing this topic.  They are interested in what makes money –NOW- and not interested in what ‘might’ cost money later.

As with most large scale disasters, radio becomes the primary information distributor.  Thankfully all it will take is for one radio station to stay on the air.  Hopefully it will be one that will have the resources to provide us with the news and information that we will all need after this event.   If the only station staying on the air through and immediately after the initial quake is one that now is fully automated with minimal or no staff that could hurt because at that time what we don’t need is a jukebox radio station playing the hits!

History has shown that when the power goes out and your cellphone won’t work…people head for their cars to turn on the radio to find out what happened, and, more importantly – When will the power be back on.    Let’s hope that PSE has learned to not do as they did during the last big ice-storm and tell people to check on-line for information as to when the power would be back on in their neighborhood! 

Here we go again …Another ranking for Seattle – According to recent reports Seattle ranks #1 among 50 major US cities where, when it comes to clothing purchases, comfort is the top consideration.   Interestingly Cincinnati is ranked #2 with Denver coming in #3.   Guess this explains the lack of suits at SBE Events these days.  Here, casual Friday, in many cases, has greatly expanded.   I guess I’ve always been in that category with Jeans and a Polo or Sweatshirt (depending on the season) my first choice.    I’m just thankful that this type of dress is acceptable for what I do.   Whereas most of my time is spent going to transmitter sites, guess it really does not make a huge difference.   It appears that the number of guys wearing shirts and ties and jackets etc. has been going down for years.  I recall going to NAB years ago and finding 95% of the attendees wearing ties etc…not any more – probably way less than half do so.    Borrowing from Randle Rocks, broadcast engineer in Boise who recently wrote – ‘the engineering book of fashion is the shortest book ever written…’.

On the other end of the ‘dress-spectrum’ are cities like WDC, NYC etc. where style rules.    

(Blue screen please) …But wait, there’s more!

Travel + Leisure magazine has ranked Seattle as the number ONE techiest city in America.   You might suspect why we received this ranking…Little outfits like Nintendo, Microsoft and Amazon being based here helped….so did the availability of Wi-Fi.  Perhaps they did not tumble to the fact that the Wi Fi is thanks to having a Starbucks on every corner?   Then there is what they called Tech-Savvy locals.   We have some good company here – San Francisco came in #2 followed by Austin, Texas and Portland Oregon (cool).   At the bottom of the ‘techiest’ rankings – Las Vegas and Washington DC. 

So there you go – Techy and Casual are us.

It was great to see all the traffic on the Chapter Remailer preceding the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market at Puyallup on March 9th.   Equally good to see all the broadcasters that were there.   Then again there were faces that were always there that were missing this year.   I am thinking in particular about Jon Marcinko who is in a home suffering from Alzheimer’s.   Jon had long been a fixture in our area with his many years at Radio Systems and later Washington State.  Jon and I go back to the early 70’s where he and I jointly formed the WWARA the organization that handles frequency coordination for Amateur Radio repeater systems.   There was a table of tools and test equipment belonging to George Freese of Wenatchee.   George is still with us but fully retired.     For those of you that are Hams, or just like attending these functions to look for that bargain at the flea-markets – There are a number of events coming this summer –  I picked up some brochures for others that you might wish to attend –

Ø      Coming up this month is the Yakima Hamfest – This event is held in Selah (Just north of Yakima) on the 13th of April.   I have a lot of memories of this event as I was on my way to attend when Mt St Helens blew-up.   Never got there that day, I turned around just south of Cayuse Pass when it started raining gravel and ash.

Ø       June 7th and 8th is the 44th annual Wenatchee Hamfest held in Dryden.   For those not familiar with that neck of the woods, Dryden is located on Hwy 2, West of Wenatchee, between Cashmere and Leavenworth…..Just East of where US 97, the Blewett Pass highway, runs in to US 2. 

Ø       Perhaps the biggest one is the annual Sea-Pac event held at the convention center in Seaside, Oregon May 31 – June 1&2.   This is a great event that’s been on my must-do list for many years.  

Ø      July 27th is the date for what is billed as the Northwest’s largest indoor/outdoor Electronic Tailgate Swapmeet at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in Chehalis.   August 24th the Highline Amateur Radio Club has their ‘Swap Fest’ at the Des Moines activity Center.   

For a complete list of events – check out this link – http://www.n7cfo.com/amradio/hf/hf.htm

One more thing about Amateur Radio – Congratulations to Tom Saylor who works in the Engineering Department of WSU/NWPR in passing his exam – He is now KG7BUH.  

Before I leave the topic of Amateur or Ham Radio….For many years, up until recently, Amateur Radio licensing required a degree of Morse Code ability.   Is it not interesting in this day and age of the Internet, satellite communications, jumbrotron displays, giga-watt sound systems and wireless everthing… that the Catholic Church took a giant step backward to announce the selection of the new Pope….Smoke Signals!   And you thought Morse was backward?

Remember that little ‘electrical ooopsie on the ferry Walla Walla?.  The official ruling is human-error and we, the tax payers of Washington State get to pick up the $3,000,000 tab.

The FCC has taken action. $6,000 worth, for the owner of an AM station in Texas that’s dark (Not on the air) According to the report the FCC told the owner he needed to update the ownership information on the tower, but failed to do so.  The normal fee of 3-Grand was doubled because the owner did not notify the Commish for – Eight Years.   It’s interesting how many fail to take serious the rules for keeping the Feds aware of who owns towers should the lights go out etc. 

60 Grand is a pretty hefty fine, but that’s what Mt Rushmore Broadcasting in Casper, Wyoming is faced with for a list of FCC no-no’s.   

Want to know how to really get the FCC’s attention – 1) Operate a ‘pirate’ or un-licensed station and, 2) Interfere with aircraft communications at a major airport.   The station is off the air and faced with contributing to the Federal Government 5 Grand.

We have likely all been caught not proof reading what we have written – In this case Radio World shipped out a story about an FM translator in Palm Desert, Ca. that was interfering with the VHF Aviation Band.  In their story they wrote the frequency of the translator as being – 109.5…Hmmmm.   Closer inspection determined that the translator was actually on 95.5.  I suspect just because RW got it wrong was not an excuse to get out of the $4000 fine.  Interestingly the broadcaster tried to get out of hit because the interference was not intentional. 

OK – I stand corrected….All those three bladed electrical power generation devices on the east side of the cascades are, indeed, NOT windmills for the simple fact that they don’t ‘mill’ anything.   They are properly called Wind Turbines or Wind Generators.     I guess I should have known as I’m the guy that finds fault with reporters that insist on calling those machines used in paving – ‘Steam-Rollers’ (Like it’s been many years since they were powered by steam). 

Sounds like the Fisher board continues to have challenges on its Board of Directors from factions that are not happy with their rate of return and is pressing for the selling of its radio and TV stations.   Time will tell if Fisher will, in the long run, remain our only locally owned broadcast outfit.  Not long ago they were forced to sell Fisher Plaza.  Interestingly business is not all that bad.  They reported that Radio was ‘flat’ but TV was up 23% thanks to all the election spots they ran.

 In a somewhat similar move, Clear Channel recently announced that they were selling a number of their towers to Richland Tower.  I went through something like this a number of years ago when I worked for the Tacoma Tribune owner of KTNT.   For many years the newspaper publisher acquired businesses and grew their company.  In the end, they were force to sell off the company a piece at a time.  

Could not help but notice where the new Harris Rep, Garrett Wood, lives – On Vashon Island – Guess that means he is likely to be able to attend our picnic this summer?  Must be drawn to RF.   Speaking of Harris – A huge thank you to Harris for their efforts putting on what they called the Harris Road Show.  In our case, the venue was the Museum of Flight at BFI.    A very interesting series of presentations and discussions.   To their credit, this was not just a 4 hour long sales-pitch but an event where you could actually learn something.   If you weren’t there, you missed something cool.

Norway is in the news announcing that they will become the first country to plan end all analog FM services as they move to an all DAB system.   Harris won a big contract to help this process too.   I find this interesting as efforts are being mounted in this country to try and pump new life into AM Radio.  Could it be the US is marching to a different drummer?

Thanks to, super sleuth Dwight Small we learned that Forbes Magazine recently ran a story titled ’13 Surprisingly Low-Paying Job’ ….Among them – ‘Announcers who speak or read from scripted materials (Sounds familiar)…On average they early only just over 40K/Year.  What they did not apparently explain is that many of these jobs have gone away in recent years.  A couple of the reasons why Clover Park shut down their DJ training program, I suspect.   Perhaps related, in Parade Magazines March 10th issue, (distributed by a number of newspapers) also ran stories about what people earn.   For sure they wrote about movie and music stars that make zillions…It’s interesting to see how many occupations are actually paying 40k/year or far less.  Missing from their story was ‘Broadcast engineer’.    Then again, how many times have you told someone that you are a broadcast engineer just to have them give you a puzzled look and ask what that means?

Perhaps evidence that the economy is picking up…In the past month there have been announcement of several job openings for Engineers in the PNW.   Look for those listings elsewhere in the Waveguide.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has announced that he is going to ‘step-down’ pretty soon, even though his term does not end until June of ’14.   Interesting how people leaving that job ‘Step-down’.  Does this mean when they start they ‘Step-Up’?

Speaking of the FCC – It’s been a while since we have seen someone from the local FCC office at any of our meetings.   I did spot this item the other day within an FCC item –

  Binh Nguyen

   Acting District Director

   Seattle District Office

   Western Region

   Enforcement Bureau

I guess one could conclude that Binh is the man in charge of the Seattle FCC office.    I assume that this means that they have not filled the position left by the retirement of Kris McGowan.

 Dwight also came up with this item – If you keep losing stuff around the house, shop, etc. here’s a cool application:  http://tinyurl.com/cjdkrvy.   There must be some nifty broadcast application for this item …Any thoughts?

 KHJ in L.A. was, in its prime, the home of some of the most popular DJ’s around.   As with all AM’s, income and ratings are down and property for antenna systems are hard to justify.  So, the historic KHJ Towers have been taken down and the station moved to another site where it will be combined with another AM.   Historic pictures of this structures coming down can be found here – http://amp.cbslocal.com/2013/02/27/carson-daly-bids-farewell-to-amp-radio-towers/

 From the Department of Corrections Department – Last month I listed a number of AM Frequencies that are home of what used to be called ‘Local Channels’   I mistakenly typed 1220 instead of 1230.  Gord Lansdell caught it.    Perhaps I should consider typing with fewer fingers?

 Michael Wolff, writing in USA today predicts the end of the Cable TV business as we know it within 5 years saying it’s too costly and inefficient.  Hmmm – If this prediction comes true, you have to wonder what would replace it.   Granted there are a lot of cable-channels that, on their own…Without being bundled with others, would likely not make it.  However there are also those channels that indeed have a reasonable audience.  Then there is the role of distributing OTA local stations.   Frankly I don’t see Joe Citizen running out to purchase a VHF and UHF antenna with rotator for his roof anytime soon.    Predictions are really opinions and, as they say, everyone has one (or more).

 Are you going to the big show in the desert this year?   I keep thinking about it…However with my days of attending SBE functions and looking for new equipment over I just can’t convince myself I should again go to the land of high-winds, cigarette smoke and beeping slot machines.

 We recently had a ‘conversation’ on the SBE Chapter Remailer about a news story that has been running concerning LPFM’s.     Those that write and repeat this item clearly have no clue about the mechanics involved (another Steamroller type item).  In this case the story states that it will be possible to have 8 new low power FM stations – PER ZIP CODE.   >> REALLY?? <<

In this conversation I asked how many Zip Codes there were in King County – Rob Purdy responded with 128.   With 8 per zip code, this means (if you believe the story) we could have over 1000 stations in King County alone.   Quoting Rob – “Enforcement is gonna be interesting”

My question is …Why does no one challenge these stories?   There must be thousands of folks that believe this and are making plans to become local broadcasters…Whew!!

 For many years there is a segment of broadcasters and non-broadcasters alike that all feel that HD Radio is a giant waste of time and money.    I will grant you that the AM system is certainly in that category; however the FM system has been something that I have always believed in.   Obvious so do the automakers with HD becoming standard equipment in new vehicles.   The challenge has always been – Where is the ROI?   This past month something big took place in the form of a news release from Arbitron who stated that HD Multicasts reach nearly 3.6 Million persons (12+) weekly in the 48 markets where they have their Portable People Meter system running.    This is a huge story.    Radio stations HD-2’s showing up in the ratings is just what the doctor ordered to cause station owners and operators to pay attention to HD Radio as they will be able to see money in the light at the end of the tunnel.  This will benefit everyone in the industry and will likely go a long way toward encouraging broadcasters to take a long and serious look at HD power increases and better programming.     It’s taken a very long time…But so did FM.    I recall vividly having an FM tuner in the glove-box of my 1963 VW Beetle…The reactions I had then, are very similar, if not identical, to the reactions I get now when I demonstrate my HD Radio.   Gee…Getting old does have some advantage.

 More laws of Murphy –

 

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/enjoythemasti/join/  Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

  The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.

  If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

  The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

  God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.

  When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people, who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

That’s it for this month – Enjoy Spring!!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

 

The KEØVH Hamshack For March 2013

March 3, 2013
By

 

 

The KEØVH Hamshack For March 2013

By Jack Roland, CBRE, CBNT, and AMD

KLove /Air 1 Denver Engineering.

Greetings for the month of March!  I hope you had time to have a great Valentine’s day with your loved one as I did.  Now, how does this relate to ham radio for an article like this?  I can answer that!  My lovely bride and I had a wonderful trip to Florence CO and spent the evening having a fabulous dinner, a night at the Florence Rose B&B, and then the next morning visiting the shops in Florence, known as the “Antique capitol of Southern Colorado”.  My wife really loves Victorian lamps, and I of course hoped to run into some really cool tube radios.  I am the owner of a couple of tube Zenith Transoceanics and at this time a Royal 3000 solid state TO.  So I thought that while she looked at lamps I might find a radio or two to catch my interest.  Well, sure enough, there was!  For me it was a find of a lifetime.   A fairly rare Zenith Transoceanic Royal 7000!  I have wanted to find one of these for a long time after reading the book “Zenith Transoceanic, the Royalty of Radio”.  These radios cost around $270 new and to find one at all is a rarity.  Well the one I found in this antique shop was not only working but with the exception of a little dust was in pristine condition.  The cabinet had no scratches or other issues from the years.  Even the original shortwave logs and information were there and intact. 

 

Zenith Transoceanic Royal 7000

This was the third in the Zenith line of solid state receivers, 11 bands, a BFO for SSB reception, and a crystal controlled weather band, along with AM, FM, and Shortwave bands.  This radio was the precursor to the even more rare R-7000, the last in the TO line.  My radio here was manufactured as near as I can tell late 1970-71.  I am really thrilled with this find and it will be in the family for a long time I hope.  And, the sound from this radio is tremendous.   Now, my lovely bride said when she saw me looking at it “get it!”, just like that .  I am married to a wonderful generous woman that is for sure! J  And this radio sure looks good in my office.

And that wasn’t all that was that was there in Florence!

 

This console style radio

           

                                                                                                                                 

                        A Packard Bell Tabletop Radio                  

                                                                                         

 

                                                 A J-38 Morse code key

 

 

An Admiral “companion” Tabletop radio, and this beautiful Zenith “Entertainment Center” (back in its day!)

Now the lady who owned this shop didn’t know if the Zenith TV set worked, but thought it might.  She was selling this for only $150!!!  I wish I had the room to carry it home and at home, so this one is still down in Florence.  And, the lady said “someone could turn the TV into a fishbowl”!  I said, “NO!!! SACRILEGE”!!!!!  If the tv was working, or could be restored to working condition, since it receives VHF tv you could feed something into it with a VHF RF feed.  So I hope that if I couldn’t get it myself someone will take it and restore it.  If working it could be worth a lot to a collector.  Maybe even as it is.

One of the ham radio projects at the shack of KEØVH is measurements and adjustments of my vertical 5BTV antenna and a new 75 meter antenna I am in the process of finalizing as of this writing.  It sure helps to see what the antenna is really doing with the Field Fox I have handy from work.  Plus a little practice and teaching time on how to use this wonder instrument.  Here are the measurements I have been looking at so far with my antenna system at home.

 

The KEØVH 5BTV HF antenna

And yes, I have it in an “RF enclosure”.

Here are the screenshots on the measurements I did on the vertical.  I will be working on optimum adjustments

 

      The 10 meter reading       

    

                                                              

                                                                                                                   15 meters

                                                                                                                       20 Meters       

                                                                                                                       40 Meters

 

And the current setting on the 75 meter antenna thru the tuner.

I like to check into the Colorado Columbine Net on 3.989 MHZ in the evening so I have to use the antenna tuner at this point for the wire dipole I have as it resonates at 4.6 mHz right now.  I need to raise it and lengthen it to be optimum on 75 meters.

SHACK OF THE MONTH!

 

This is our buddy Harvey, WØHLC, in Cedaredge CO.  I met him thru the 7.195 bunch of guys on 40 meters after hearing about him from Cris, W5WCA.  Harvey lives right under  one of my KLove translators and will listen to it from time to time to check on it for me.  I talk with him and Mark, W5REC, Edmond, OK  on 7.166 frequently.  And Patrick, my co-worker here in CO for KLove went out to install a remote monitoring system at our station there and had a great visit and lunch with Harvey and his XYL at Harvey’s QTH.  Catch Harvey and Mark on either one of the frequencies early in the mornings.  They are great folks to QSO with!

And as always don’t forget the SBE IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, the first Saturday of the month.  Details on how to join are at  http://www.qsl.net/ke0vh/sbehamnet.  I hope you will be able to join us and share your engineering and ham exploits!

73’, God be with you, & see you next time!  KEØVH

 

Clay’s Corner for March 2013

March 3, 2013
By

 

 

Clay Freinwald – Seattle Chapter 16

 

 

 

 

I was looking out in my back yard in the middle of February and, I swear, I have a tree that just about to produce leaves!   My lawn is past the point where it needs mowed and I have bulbs popping up all over the place….Can spring be far behind?    The folks that make a living talking about the weather have been noting that this year may go into the record books as one where Seattle did not get any snow.   The Mountains are certainly making up for it with Snoqualmie Pass reporting over 250 inches of the white-stuff thus far this season.  For those of you not familiar with this area, this pass is 50 miles east of Seattle.   Wow what a difference those 50 miles can make.

A sure sign of spring came in the mail recently, the notice of the annual Mike and Key Club Electronic Flea Market at Puyallup….March 9th this year.    Also in the mail is the notice that May 31-June 2 is the annual Sea-Pac amateur radio gathering in Seaside, Oregon.  Of course it’s time to make those reservations in Las Vegas for the big show – April 6-11 this year.

Thanks to John Schneider I finally found out how long I’ve been writing this column.   According to John Research the first Clay’s Corner appeared in the Seattle SBE Newsletter in September of 1986…That makes this about a 26 ½ year run….A very long time indeed.  I’m not sure how long I will continue to bore you with this.  This means that I have been writing this for about half as long as I have been in broadcasting.   My first job was a part time gig at a local station, working afternoons and that was in 1959.   In this business it’s pretty rare to spend this much time doing any one thing.    Thanks for putting up with me.

Probably the big story this past month was the hacking of EAS equipment in certain stations.  This incident created a huge amount of email on the EAS Remailers and caused the FCC to release and advisory for everyone to change their passwords.    From what I understand some stations installed a certain brand of EAS equipment whose default password was easy to come by thereby providing an entrance for those that just wanted to announce that the zombies were coming in an official way.   Hacking is a way of life these days and now EAS has joined some rather interesting company.   I read recently that even the Federal Reserve was violated by someone…or something, thinking about computer that do nothing but try to hack into systems.  As one would expect, there were those that were very critical of the new EAS system making use of the Internet and were full of – I told you so’s.   Use of the Internet for EAS message distribution is a no-brainer if for no other reason that it would cost a fortune to duplicate its ability to be a point-multi-point distribution system.  In the event you have not heard, our country is broke.  To blame the internet is like blaming streets as the reason some stranger walked into your house through an un-locked door.    Some have wondered why the legacy EAS system was not hacked in some way.  My answer to this is that the target was too small and it required the use of rather antique equipment, aka, not a computer.   The bottom line is, in this day and age, you DO NOT connect any computer gizmo to the internet with a known default password as the only gate-keeper.  Most stations, rightly, have connected their new EAS boxes to their existing network that has firewalls and other devices to keep the nuts out of everything else.   This experience has been a good one for it opened a lot of eyes.   Will there be other ‘attacks’ …You betcha.    The EAS is now likely to be on just about every hacker’s to-do-list.   This is the electronic version of the wild-wild west.

 Last month I wrote about 4 letter combinations that look like call letters but are not….I drove past this one the other day in Lakewood on my way to CPTC – ‘KAMG Management’.  And no, CPTC is NOT a Canadian Station, its Clover Park Technical College.

 More from the Seattle area bragging rights department – Amazon, another local success company, is going to start work in June on the first of their new high-rise buildings a 37 story structure.   This is no small project…to start with, they will be removing 250,000 yards of dirt for the underground parking garage…6,000 tons of steel will be used in the building above.   Looking around the number of tower-cranes is starting to look like pre-recession levels.   I heard about a unique measure of the economy – Honey Bucket rentals.   As more construction takes place, more porta-potties are required.   According to this source, their numbers are up by 30%.

For those of you not from this area.  This location is within walking distance of all the major Radio-TV stations.

 I was on my way to one of the Cougar Mt transmitter sites the other day and saw a couple familiar vehicles parked in front of what used to be called the KUBE Building.   Inside I found Buzz Anderson and Greg Ristau busy working on the installation of the new Bellevue Community College transmitter site.  

 Here’s Buzz standing in front of their Nautel V7.5

 

  And Greg –

 

 Up on the tower, just below the KRWM antenna is the new 2-bay for KBCS

 

 Headline in local papers on January 27th read….This could be big year for FM Radio on Capitol Hill.   It goes on to explain how the 80 year old medium of FM Radio (is it really that old) is about to gain a lot of low powered FM stations further explaining that up to nine LPFM’s are allowed within any ZIP code.    I’m sure that this news was one that many have been waiting for, for many years.    9 stations per ZIP code – Gee let’s look at that a moment.   My little town of Auburn has 4 ZIP Codes….Whoopee – Auburn can have 36 new little FM stations!   Unfortunately what the writer of this article and the proponents fail to grasp is that there is not enough spectrum to do what they want and therein lies the rub.  Just think how many ZIP codes there are in the Seattle Metro?  People want these new little radio stations where they live and the majority of people live in or near metropolitan areas and those areas don’t have the spectrum to support these desires.   Now if you want a new LPFM in Sappho, Starbuck or Washtucna…That’s another matter.  I can only imagine how this will play out on the East Coast where, already, FM stations are crammed together with often overlapping signals that those of us in the West can’t even imagine.  The impact on existing stations remains to be seen.   Certainly there will be some degradation around the edges as these new operations snuggle into the cracks.     In the process, the FCC tossed many applications for translators, many of which are actually satellators.     There is a great model for this process and all one has to do is look at the AM Band to see the impact.   Yessiree the Commish has done it again.   Wished I had a contract to supply shovels to the folks at the Portals.

Over the years I have come to understand what is meant by the warning – ‘be careful of what you wish for’.    This has certainly applied to Radio.   I recall when radio broadcasters, especially AM day-timers, whined to the FCC that they did not get to broadcast like full timers (duh) so the FCC, tossed good engineering practice out the window, and we started seeing Pre-sunrise operations granted.   To be sure most of them were very low power, but the effect was to ‘clog-up’ the band during those hours.    Not to forget those stations that are on 1220, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490.   They all used to be 250 watts, non-directional, day and night.   (They called them local channels) they too whined and they too get the Commish to do more window tossing and they were all granted 1kw full time.   The result – These frequencies are now ‘beacons of interference’ at night – Given them a listen and see for yourself – You can find these frequencies with your eyes closed. How about breaking up the clear channels…AM HD radio, ignored noise making devices…. (I could go on) Now that AM has fallen from favor (with perhaps help from the feds) the attention is now on what can be done – to – the FM band. The argument has been made that we should stop being concerned about adjacent channel interference and understand that more radio stations is the answer….and once again those in WDC have bowed to the pressure and said yes to LPFM’s by the gross.   As I called it, we are about to witness the ‘AM-ing’ of the FM band.    Unfortunately I am old enough to recall when the FCC was full of Engineers that made spectrum allocation decisions based on technical considerations over political ones.    Now the FCC is looking into what can be done to re-vitalize AM…Something about the horse having already left the barn.

Here’s a question for you ….Why is it when someone draws a crescent moon, depicting an evening or post-sunset time frame, the moon is drawn like the letter “C”?  If you stop and think about it – isn’t the moon being lit by the sun on our right or to the east and not by the sun on our left or to the west?   Therefore, shouldn’t the moon be drawn like a reverse letter C?   What am I missing here?

Broadcasters in Illinois are now considered to be first responders.  This issue has been talked about for many years…it’s good to see progress is being made.  Hopefully this will become a nation-wide thing.    So why is this important?   Let’s say we have a big storm and you need to get to the transmitter site to get your station back on the air, or to haul fuel in for the generator.  One of the first things you are going to run into is a police line and that’s as far as you can go.

Now in Illinois you can do your job.   In understand that they are the 2nd state to do this, Wisconsin was reportedly the first.

Metal theft continues to be a serious problem.  Hopefully Lawmakers in Olympia are taking note.   Recently State Senator Tracey Eide agreed to co-sponsor a bill that would crack down on the practice….Her timing was great as shortly thereafter thieves did more than $10,000 worth of damage to an office building she owns in Federal Way as they made away with copper wiring and pipes related to the structures HVAC system.   Recently thieves hit Sea-Tac Airport stealing wire from the runway lighting system.    I’ll be willing to bet that this theft will create a bit more interest in tracking down the bad-guys.

Seems like every month Seattle or the Puget Sound area gets ranked high for something – This time Seattle is ranked in the top 10 for urban forests.  Perhaps that’s because trees grow easily here?   Likely the Phoenix or Las Vegas ranked low here.  Oh yes, Portland (Oregon) and Denver also made the list.

 Shock and horror time – A study done by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have concluded that broadcast engineers are right!!!.   In a study, just published in the Journal Nature concluded that house cats kill about 2.4 billion birds per year and that more birds die from cats than from towers.     I am shocked – How can this be??

I can just imagine the number of applications for towers that are – now – going to include this item in their filings.  Perhaps the FAA and FCC will become involved….Who knows there this might lead?

 Got time for some new words?

 Xertz – To gulp a beverage enthusiastically and quickly – – In a hurry to get back to work, Frank preceded to Xertz his latte.

 Erinaceous – Of, pertaining to, or resembling a hedgehog – –  “I told the boss that he looked very erinaceous today”…(Making sure that it was quitting time on Friday and he had nothing to write the word on)

Macrosmatic – Having a good sense of smell – – Joe, being very microsmatic, knew something was wrong in the rack-room.

Kakorrhaphiophobia – – Having an abnormal fear of failure –  After discovering Jim had a bad case of kakorrhaphiophobia, the boss removed him from the R&D department.

I will probably get in trouble for this item – Here goes….I suppose you heard about the President’s plan to map the human brain and to make a huge investment doing so…I submit that they start working on the brains of those elected to national offices first – Lord knows none of the rest of us can figure out what they are thinking these days.

 The Seattle Times recently announced that they are going to start charging for access to their on-line news items if you are not a subscriber to the physical paper….they went on to explain that their economic picture has changed etc.    Meanwhile in Bakersfield, Ca. the local paper there is also looking for NTR (Nontraditional revenue) and has built a broadcast studio in the middle of their newsroom where they are going to be producing a 3 hour program on a local radio station and stream it live.     I have to wonder if the Seattle Times, or Tacoma Tribune, might one day consider doing the same here?   This kind of collaboration was certainly normal back before the Feds thought it was a bad idea.   

 Perhaps you did not notice…but Petro Vlahos recently passed.     Without this man’s pioneering efforts a lot of what we see on TV and in Film today would have not been possible.   He is the man that is credited with developing the blue and green screen systems that allows filmmakers to superimpose one scene over another.    He won an Oscan in 1964 for his work in Mary Poppins.   Since then many movie special effects have been made possible.  In TV the technique of Choma-Keying allows the ‘Weather talker’ to walk into their maps etc.   Petro was 96.

 Another passing we should note – in this case, John E. Karlin.    John led a team at Bell Labs that sorted out a number of issues associated with the change from Rotary Dial to what we now call Touch-Tone phones….for example – Should the buttons be round or square, how big should they be (he’d be shocked at some of the dial pads today).   How should they be arranged, in a circle or in a square.   Have you ever wondered why the 1-2-3 is on top and not on the bottom like a 10 key adding machine?  It was due to research by John Group.

John was trained in Electrical Engineering and had a doctorate in mathematical psychology (try and find a degree program in that field around here?)  This was in addition to having a BS in Philosophy, psychology and music and a Masters in psychology.  He died on Jan 28th at the age of 94.  Betcha he would have known what an Octothorpe is  !!!

The NAB has announced the 50 finalists for the annual Crystal Awards.  I spotted two call letters from the PNW – KUPL in Portland and KIRO in Seattle, both FM’s.

If that was not enough to sour you ….Clear Channel in Denver is looking for a Broadcast Engineer.   Check out – www.clearcareers.com.

Did you hear about the electric Bumble Bee?  (I AM NOT kidding).   Researchers have discovered that they develop a positive charge when they fly….and plants with pollen, in order to attract the bees develop a negative charge.   The bee lands in the flower and the pollen is attracted to the bee and sticks to it as it flies away (Bee’s don’t have a storage compartment).  Pretty cool, huh?   

Got a note from Todd Ortloff, owner of KONP in Port Angeles.   They are moving their AM stations FM translator to a new frequency on 101.7 to make room for a new allocation on 102.1.

 Then there is the story about the FM Pirate that just got nailed by the Feds for 25 Grand…This coming on top of a previously unpaid one for 10K from 2004.   This all leads me to ask the question – Just how many of these characters actually pay-up?   If the Feds can’t collect 10 Grand since 2004, what makes you think that they will actually get this guy to pay another 25? Am I missing something here?

 Long time reader of this column – Charley Shaffer, K7NW, was wondering what was the highest elevation AM stations in the country and thinks he has found the highest elevation AM transmitter/antenna sites in the U.S.  That’s not a topic often discussed, since AM stations are more often located at low altitude.  He used Google Earth, which uses Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, to determine elevation.  Doing so also allowed verification of the precise antenna locations.

 The highest?  KAVP 1450, Colona, CO, at 9,360 ft. AMSL, which uses its sister FM station’s site on a mountaintop (KWGL 105.7).  In this instance the elevation could also be confirmed with ASRN data, not always available for AM stations.  The highest 50,000 watt broadcaster is KTNN 660, Window Rock AZ, at 7,649 ft. AMSL, owned by the Navajo Nation.  KTNN is also the highest directional.

 He found 14 other transmitter sites above 7,000 ft.:  KRKY 930, KSKE 1450, KVLE 610 (may be silent), KPKE 1490, KSLV 1240, KGIW 1450, KVOR 740, KRSN 1490, KHAT 1210, KLLV 550, KOWB 1290, KRVH 1340, KWUF 1400, and KSWV 810.  Of the 16 total 7,000+ ft. stations, 11 were in CO, 2 each in NM & WY, and 1 in AZ.

 Shaffer did not set out to investigate the highest FM stations, but he suggests these two stations as candidates:  K280DZ 103.9 Leadville, CO, antenna 13,425 ft. AMSL (translator for KCFR-FM), and KMXD 100.5 Monroe, UT, antenna 11,811 ft. AMSL.  Any additions are welcomed!

 Thanks Charlie ….Must be nice to have that much spare time!

 There are some experts telling the FCC that their plans to re-pack the UHF TV Band is going to negatively impact some of those converter boxes that were sold to allow folks to keep their analog set, apparently some of them don’t have the selectivity to deal with a more congested spectrum.   This should be no problem as the Feds can just borrow some more money from China to help finance the scheme – (attitude, what attitude?)

 Comcast has been in the news this past month…Not for Cable TV issues (they are the big fish in the cable pond in the Seattle area) but for the fact that they will pay 16.7 Billion bucks for the rest of NBC Universal.   Who wudda-thot that a cable company would end up owning NBC?

 In a recent column I noted that the last FM to use the old KMO Tower at Indian Hill, KXOT, had moved away and wondered if the towers days were numbered.   Stephan Lockwood of Hatfield and Dawson reminds us that Pierce County Transit has a trunking system there.   I have a lot of fond memories, and some not so fond, of that site.   I have a picture somewhere of me with a hardhat on watching the top section of the tower going up.   Tom Pierson also has some memories of that tower….If I recall he was hired to wash it down with TSP prior to erection…The year was about 1974.   Betcha more than one person has wondered why there was an insulator under that tower.

 

And finally – a True Story about a computer problem in Florida –

Technical support,  how can I help you? 

FEMALE CALLER:  ‘Last night my computer started making a lot of hissing noises at me so I shut it down.  This morning when I turned it on the computer started hissing and cracking, then started smoking and a bad smell, then nothing’.

TECH SUPPORT:  ‘I will have a technician come over first thing this morning. Leave the computer just like it is, so they can find the problem and fix it, or change it out with another computer.  Give me your address; phone number and the technician will be there just as soon as he can’. 

When the technician got there, the lady showed him where the computer was, and said what happened to it, this is what the technician found wrong.

Take a look at the pictures… YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES …   And you thought YOU had computer problems!!! 

 

 

 

 

Well, my friends, that’s it for this month – Time to toss all these notes in the trash and delete all the inter-cranial files for another day –

Until next month – Thanks for the read – and Thanks for the last 26.5 years!

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

Random Radio Thoughts – March 2013

March 3, 2013
By

Random Radio Thoughts

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB

Crawford Broadcasting Company

 It’s Been Awhile…

 Indeed it has been awhile since I have written anything for these pages. It wasn’t for lack of something to say; rather, it was because I was busy, doing the Fred Baumgartner trick of commuting to the west coast just about every week for the past months.

What was I doing out there, you ask? I was building a new 50 kW four-tower directional array in Orange County, California. Our L.A. area station, KBRT, has broadcast from Catalina Island since 1953, but its lease is up the end of 2013. So for several years (since mid-2007) I have been hunting for a suitable site, developing the site and building out the new facility.

The new site is located in a basin at the top of Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains. Why on earth would anyone build an AM site on a mountaintop? Because in Southern California, the BANANA rule applies: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

The new site has reasonable conductivity along paths into most all of the listening area, especially Orange County and Los Angeles. And it has a line-of-sight to our studio near John Wayne Airport in Costa Mesa. We were able to make an 11 GHz path with one hop from the studio roof.

The facility features a Nautel NX50 main transmitter (the old main, a Nautel XL12, will be coming over from the island to serve as the aux at the new site), Kintronics provided the phasing and coupling system and Magnum provided the four 281-foot towers. I used a ThermoBond 12 x 30 prefabricated transmitter building (it was FUN getting it up five miles of narrow switchback dirt road to the site!).

We put a 13 foot high foot-thick concrete block wall around the transmitter building, generator and each tower base to keep yahoos from shooting up anything important. The site is on private land that we own but is surrounded by the Cleveland National Forest. Some folks don’t see the distinction between “public” and “private” land.

I used moment-method modeling to determine the operating parameters, and Amanda Hopp and I tuned the array up in less than two days. It went on the air February 28. Jim Schoedler has asked me to do a presentation on this project at one of our chapter meetings this spring. If you just can’t wait, there are photos and a full narrative of the project in the gallery at: www.crawfordbroadcasting.com/oakflat_gallery/.

Zombies

It was hard not to chuckle a little bit at the news of the EAS hack that produced an on-air warning of a zombie attack. That episode was a lot like the roadside message board hacks that have been in the news in recent months warning of the same thing.

But there is a more serious aspect of the EAS hack, and that is if someone can hack their way in and produce a somewhat humorous warning that is obviously false, couldn’t someone also hack their way in and produce an activation that is not a bit funny and not so obviously false? That kind of thing could produce a panic at worst and kill off what little credibility the EAS system has at best. Clearly we as an industry have to do more to protect our EAS infrastructure.

In our company, we have our EAS units behind a solid firewall, and the passwords are all changed from the factory defaults. There is no port-forwarding that would expose these units to a direct connection from the outside world. Those are the kinds of measures that everyone should have taken when installing their CAP-enabled EAS equipment, but my guess is that many simply plugged their units into the station router and left the passwords at the defaults. With that kind of “security,” it’s no great stretch to figure out how someone in the know could hack their way in.

If you haven’t taken at least some security measures to protect your EAS equipment, you’d better do that now. It doesn’t take a lot to remove it from the “low-hanging fruit” category.

Copper Theft

It seemed like copper theft sort of waned there for a year or two, but it’s coming back in a big way. Since the first of the year, I have had two air conditioner condenser coils stolen and the condenser units destroyed at one site, and at another site we had 90 feet of transverse copper strap stolen from the center of the antenna field.

In the former case, after the first theft we moved the unit to the roof of the building and put a fence around it. A lot of good that did. In the other case, we blacktopped over the ground screens from the tower base out to a 24 foot radius. That along with the cameras, alarms, sirens and strobes at each tower base stopped the theft for a good while, but now the thieves have moved to the center of the antenna field where we have no camera coverage, alarms or blacktop.

At the new site in California, I had some custom steel cages built to protect the emergency intake/exhaust hoods on the transmitter building. These bolt all the way through, making the adjacent wall more vulnerable than the hoods. We are now having something similar made for the condenser unit in St. Louis. We’ll tie it into the alarm system so that if it is opened or disturbed it will trigger the burglar alarm. I would rather send the copper thieves elsewhere than have them destroy another unit, even if we did catch them in the process.

 

There are some pretty good and sophisticated long-range microwave Doppler motion detectors on the market these days, and we’ve installed an array of them at our new site in California. If anything bigger than a coyote moves through the antenna field, it trips the alarm. The monitoring center then pulls up the camera array and determines whether the alarm is real or not. If it’s real, our armed security contractor is called to respond (they also make random patrols of the site). We are considering taking some of these measures at sites where we are having issues away from the transmitter building and tower bases.

Times are tough, people are desperate and copper prices are up. All of this means that copper thieves are on the prowl and broadcast engineers have got to take extraordinary measures to protect their facilities.

Reminders

A few reminders for us radio engineers…

AM annual occupied bandwidth measurements are due every 14 months. Are yours up to date? Better make sure of that.

Arrays licensed under the moment-method rules must recertify their sample systems every other year. The folks at the Media Bureau tell us that this is keyed off the license grant date, not the date the original measurements were made. Are your recert measurements current?

This is the last month of the first quarter, so if you haven’t made your quarterly inspection of “…all automatic or mechanical control devices, indicators, and alarm systems associated with the antenna structure lighting to insure that such apparatus is functioning properly,” you have this month to get it done.

 

If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at crisa@crawfordbroadcasting.com.