Monthly Archives: September 2015

Clay’s Corner for October 2015

September 27, 2015
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About a month ago, Saturday August 29 to be precise, we got some rain, and with it, considerable winds resulting in about 250,000 without power, falling trees killed 2.   Some were saying it was a normal November storm….Really early.   Biggest loss to a broadcaster was at KCIS where, reportedly a tree fell onto one of the stations towers taking down the structure.   Lesson here – Remove any trees whose height is equal to or less than the distance to your guy wires!   Tom Pierson (DOE at KIRO Radio) reported he had 4 generators running, two on Vashon, one at West Tiger and one at their studios on Eastlake Ave.   Not sure if this is a ‘sign’ or not. Understand that Cliff Mass said that this was one of the worst August Storms …Ever!   I chatted with Will Voss in Bellingham, lots of power outages in that area also due to very strong winds.

Unfortunately the rain that soaked Western Washington did little to douse the raging fires on the other side of the Cascades.     I did get called out to go up West Tiger Mt as one of the stations I look after had a piece of equipment that either did not like all the power bumps we were experiencing due to all the falling trees and branches, or objected to the transfer to the Generator when the power failed.   Making sure that there were no blow-downs on the road to the site I brought my chain-saw…..Now don’t laugh.   The sure way to –NOT-have a tree across the road is to bring you saw with you.

The ¾ of an inch of rain that fell the last weekend of August certainly helped Western Washington, for sure.   In fact it made it tied for the 5th wettest August on record.   But this is a ‘blip’ …Time will tell.   Let’s hope that this El Nino will bring plenty of snow and precip. to the mountains…with that being said, the forecast for the fall and winter are not encouraging with NOAA’s weather prognosticators calling for warmer and dryer than normal, i.e., more of the same…. The drought continues.   I chatting with friends on the other side of the country they are having a tough time getting their head around this one.   How could a place where it ‘rains all the time’ be having fires and a drought ??   Damn William Shatner, if he had not suggested that California should ship Seattle’s excessive rainfall south, everything would have been normal J

Received a note from Bill Frahm in Boise in late August – He wrote – The HD FM count in Boise is back up to 2! Thanks to a new FAX40 at Sinclair and a FAX30 at Impact. Not my stations. The 2 University stations don’t have the funding to replace the dead equipment.  (Note- We know Sinclair from the stations they own here in Seattle….Impact is a privately owned group of radio stations in the Boise area)

In this column I have continued to point out how HD Radio appears to be size of market driven.   Seattle is market #13 and one can name on one hand those radio stations that are not running HD Radio…Possibly the reason for this is that Seattle is radio market #13…and Boise is radio market #97.

The major factor is likely related closely to the size of the number in the bottom line.   Stations in the Nielsen top-10 in Seattle likely have a spot-rate that is many times that of the top ten stations in Boise.

Likewise, stations in the bottom 10 in Seattle have much smaller bottom lines and are less likely to spend money for anything that does not guarantee a quick return on investment.   There are exceptions, of course.   As Bill mentioned two stations in the Boise Market recently installed new transmitters and HD Radio equipment. I suspect that those stations were doing rather well, financially, and could afford it.   Then again, perhaps they were positioning themselves for the future.   With new cars being delivered with HD-R as standard equipment, they may well feel that broadcasting in that mode (while others are not) will indeed bolster their ratings and with it, their bottom line.

The announcement, on Sept 3rd, that Ibiquity, the developer of HD Radio, was being sold to audio technology company, DTS, certainly surprised many. The DTS website rather quickly posted this headline – DTS and Ibiquity Digital Corp to Make the Drive Better with HD Radio Technology

HD Radio

The big question now is what will this $173 megabuck deal mean to the future of HD Radio?   Most of the media stories about the deal are positive, especially in the area of receivers available to consumers….Additionally, DTS perhaps has a larger global footprint that should help with off-shore adoption.   We will see.

Here’s a picture of Bob Ricker taken at West Tiger in the KING-FM Space.   Bob is now out on his own doing electrical work.   Many put him to work at Transmitter sites because of his familiarity with the unique situations found there.

 

Bob Ricker

Just happened by this piece of equipment the other day with camera in hand.   Found the jack for composite video interesting…Especially when this was at a –radio- station transmitter site.

Comp Jack

 

The following picture was taken by WSU’s Don Eckis.   Interesting how they protected a transmitter facility from the raging wildfires in Central Washington.

Fire Protect

One measure of how fast an area is growing is to look at its local airport.   In the case of Seattle, some recently released numbers give you a good idea –   In 2014 total Air Passengers – approx. 37.5 Million They are on the way to passing 42 Million this year.   According to a piece in the Times recently, Sea-Tac is one of the fastest growing airports in the country and will soon run out of room to expand.   All eyes are focused on Paine Field in Everett as the next logical location for handling what’s next.     Airports are famous for the term NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).   In this respect airports, broadcast and cell towers share the same issue…Everyone wants them, just not near them.    Our area suffers from a severe lack of any place to put another airport.   Years ago there was talk about McChord, south of Tacoma.   But the Military put a stop to that.

Kemper Freeman (former owner of KFKF in Bellevue) has announced a 1.2 Billion Dollar, 2,000,000 Sq. Ft expansion of his shopping center in Bellevue.

Recent news that there is a proposal to build a 101 story skyscraper downtown.   The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was ….Oh yah?   Just how do the proponents plan to get this by the FAA that have been very firm about structure heights in the downtown area for years?.   Didn’t

The 76 story (Columbia Center) want to put antenna masts on the roof and that never happened?

Hmmmm.

According to published items, CBS is calling attention of their concern that some makers of TV sets may not be following the rules regarding the use of virtual channels on certain TV sets.   This is the mechanism that makes you think you are still watching Channel 4 or 5 even though those stations moved to UHF long ago as part of the conversion to HD.   The problem surfaced in NJ with a station moving it’s COL to another city and their wanting to use a certain virtual channel number that was being used by other stations.   This must have been interesting…trying to explain how PCIP works to the non-technical.   Virtual channels work well, until it’s revealed that this is like a ‘Stage Name’.

As you know, from time to time, I preach on the need for more STEM education …A lot of this is based on my years of experience of seeing the classic ‘deer in the headlight’ look on the faces of many when you mention those scary words – Science or Math.   Pew Research recent issued a report on the state of the average American regarding basic science facts.   They asked 12 questions on topics like Geology, physics and astronomy.   On average, 7.9 were answered correctly – Result – a solid ‘D’. Here’s a shocker – The more time a person spent in school, the better they did on the quiz!.   Check out the test and see how you do – http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/science-knowledge/

According to an item sent my way by Kent Randles, Media General is buying Meredith for 2.4 Billion.

What makes this interesting is the fact that in Portland the outfit that owns KOIN-6 is buying the firm that owns KPTV-12 and KPDX-49.   Sounds like something is going to have to give.   In Seattle we have a number of TV Duopolies, but no trifecta’s.

Jon Kasprick has made the record books with this item!.   He was recently wondering if anyone wanted this ‘jewel from the past’.   Jon….You may well have the last one of these standing and not in a dumpster!   I wonder how many others will be rolling out their white elephants ?

Cart Rack

 

From the – I’m not surprised’ department – Doug Irwin gives us a Sneak Peak of the Salary Survey in the October issue of Radio Magazine the following stats about Radio Engineers ages

Approx. 40% are between 55 and 65Ø      Approx. 20% are over 65

I think that we all realize that there are a lot of gray haired (or minimally haired) folks in this game.     On this topic – AARP has found that by 2013 some 40% of those over 55 were still working.     There is some good news on the horizon however.   Not that more younger people want to become broadcast engineers, but because broadcast equipment is rapidly becoming more computer based and this is where the younger folks heads are.   In the future the CE or DOE is likely to be an IT person.

KING-TV posted on their website video of a huge crane hoisting dishes to the roof of their new digs in SoDo.     SoDo, like SLU, has seen a growth spurt in recent years.   Thinking back, remember when KAYO was at about 4th and Lander? The old KAYO building had a lot of interesting history.

Here’s an item to watch – Certain members of Congress are accusing the FCC of failing to enforce NIER safety guidelines on towers…..(Excuse me !   Didn’t the FCC recently choose to close a lot of their local offices?).   Perhaps as a result of pressure from law-makers, there are those that are predicting that the Commish will be out with new rules on exposure by the end of this year.   OK, just how are more rules going to resolve the problem with less enforcement?   Oh yes, how soon I forget…You don’t need local FCC offices and inspections…You can replace them with selected huge fines that will drive home the message.   As I have stated before….If this system worked so well you could simply add a couple of zero’s to all vehicle traffic violations and fire most of the law enforcement officers and come out ahead.

Seems to me there is a lot about ‘policing’ that certain federal agencies need to learn.

Another huge domino game has resulted in a new signal in the Portland Area on 96.3.   If you recall Seattle experience something similar with the ‘move-in’ of 104.5.   That move caused ripples all over the area.   In the most recent action the new signal in PDX was the result of a huge shuffle taking about 11 years to pull off.   One of the changes involved in this move impacting the Puget Sound area is the re-location of KXXO from their transmitter site near Cinebar to Capital Peak…Moving 96.1 further away from Portland.   Technically Seattle’s 104.5 COL is Covington with its transmitter on Cougar Mt. long home of FM stations in the Seattle Market.   The 96.3 COL is technically West Linn with its transmitter reported to be at the Stonehenge facility on Portland’s West-Hills. Another thing in common with both of these ‘moved-in’ stations is that both of them were, at their former locations, operating with 100Kw ERP…Now both of them are operating with very modest power.   KWLZ/96.3 at 1.4 kW and KLSW/104.5 with 7.1 kW.   A whole lot less power, but a lot more people within your contour…AND – A lot more completion. You have to wonder if some engineers lay awake at night thinking up these things?   The big question, do they pencil out?   Just how much money changed hands in these situations? None of these shuffles compare with what’s going to take place with TV with its Auction and Re-Packing. The difference is that TV’s changes are being driven by the wireless industry with the support of the Feds while the FM shuffles are being driven by good old fashioned creativity and the goal of making money

Another shoe is about to drop in the continuing sage of PPM.   Voltaire is announcing that it is updating its software to give the device ‘more capabilities’.   Who would have ever thought that we’d see a situation like this one?   Unlike the radio station move in business…There is certainly money changing hands in this adventure.   Suspect we have not heard the last on this front.

Cord cutting continues to make the news, at perhaps and increased pace and this is causing ripples to stock prices of some of the major players.   Cord cutting is perhaps not the most accurate term as many consumers are actually keeping the cord just changing how they use what comes out of it.

For years the Cable (and Satellite) providers have been selling consumers packages of signals, meanwhile, consumers have been voicing their concern about paying for channels they don’t watch.

Technology has come to the rescue with ever increasing down-load speeds allowing consumers to

Finally choose what they want and ignore the rest.   Is it any wonder why the cable companies are working overtime to transform themselves into high-speed data providers?   Consumers may be dropping their Cable TV lineup as they shift their service to higher-speed Internet connections.

This situation is likely to continue for some time.   Cable will still be providing TV channels in the future, but their customer base is likely to be quite different.     We are starting to see a bit of advertising for TV antennas with pitches that make the astonishing claim that you can get FREE Network TV!. Check out the – Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna from Amazon.

One of my former places of employment has undergone yet another change.   I’m talking about one of Seattle’s first radio stations, KTW AM-1250.   For the past several years it has been known to locals as ‘Radio Disney’.   With the sale of the station to a new group the station has been re-born as Desi-1250 with programming targeted at the South Asian population in this area..   After being sold by Seattle’s

First Presbyterian Church, the station has had a number of owners and call letters, KKFX and KYAC came before KKDZ.   More recently the station lost it’s night transmitter site in Kirkland forcing it to operate with very low power at its day site at Pigeon Point in West Seattle.   Specialty programming is one place where AM continues to survive, perhaps because the owners could not afford to purchase an FM station in this market.   Somewhat related, Disney has sold their station their station in PDX to Salem.

The following cartoon strip recently dealt with the decreasing popularity and value of AM Radio stations

WYNE

I recently posted the following comments on a national radio oriented remailer –

Anyone who has even considered history quickly learns that ‘change’ is going to happen.   You either accept change or are doomed to suffer from your reluctance.   Looking at Broadcasting we have seen a lot of changes, and, the future will see the process continue. With now 54 years in this business, I’ve seen more than my share. (I could eat up a lot of this bandwidth with a rather long list)

The demise of AM Radio is just one of the many changes that we must control our emotions and look at the ‘writing on the wall’ …and, if we are so inclined, make the best of a bad situation. No amount of Band-Aid applications is going to change the fact that AM has entered a new phase.

One of the contributing issues is the fact that the number of choices and sources of entertainment and information today continues to increase.   This is not simply a matter of AM being replaced with FM…It’s a matter of the survival of the fittest.   Granted some of the demise of AM is self-inflicted….However, I have to believe that it there was a way to stop the bleeding someone in this country would have discovered it and everyone would be rolling out their copy.

AM is already undergoing major changes and with that the number of stations is being reduced…Perhaps this is a good thing.   Do the math – comparing the number of stations vs. the number of listeners (not just potential ones) and you will see that the building boom in years past cannot be supported going forward.

When I got into this business, I worked for a little AM station that was squeezed in between two existing, adjacent channel operations. For a while new stations were popping up all over.   Existing stations were seeking power increases and installing multi-tower arrays to get there. Consulting engineers were busy squeezing in new or improved signals.   Today the reverse is taking place, for very good reasons. This is all about supply and demand. Sure, there are zillions of radios out there….Perhaps like there were zillions of phonographs, tape players of various forms, cart machines etc etc.

So what will the future hold for the legacy band? Perhaps today’s popular use holds a key….Talk (Sports, telephone etc.) Perhaps those stations that survive will be those that can continue to make money with the medium while those that cannot will go dark. Perhaps many of the DA’s and nighttime power reductions will go away….Perhaps AM will look somewhat like it did before.

And, perhaps too muddy the water a bit more – A couple of former FCC Commissioners have jumped into the AM revitalizing issue stating that the Commish needs to take serious steps to revitalize the legacy band.   They proposed an FM Translator filing window exclusively for AM stations.   What is not explained is where the spectrum is going to come from for all these translators….Especially in light of all of the new LPFM’s going on the air.   Sounds to me like they are proposing spectrum re-location is the solution. Ahem!   Is this not just what I have been proposing and what Brazil has already started?

Before we leave the topic of what about AM – It’s interesting to note that Brazil is moving ahead with something that I have advocated in this column in the past – Creating a new aural band out of Channels 5 and 6.   Related to this move is this ad from antenna manufacturer, Shively – http://www.shively.com/141208_6277_announcement.pdf.   The question being raised now is who can listen when you can’t find any radios for the spectrum? (seems to me we heard the same thing about HD Radio in this country).   This is a classic cart-and-horse problem.   How does that country get anyone to invest in transmitting infrastructure when there are no receivers?   Some are suggesting that the Chinese could change that almost overnight and flood the market with new receivers.   We need to consider the fact that radios today are extremely easy to construct using a couple of ‘off the shelf’ chips.

Another fascinating story to follow. Guess what I love about this is that there is never a shortage of new things to write about.

Looking for work in technology in Radio?   Bicoastal Media has an opening for an Assistant Chief in Eugene, Oregon.   You can email your resume to eugenehr@bicoastalmedia.com. Demonstrating how varied the tasks are for today’s radio engineer – they are looking for someone that can –

  • Diagnose and repair all broadcast related equipment
  • Repair and maintenance of high power AM and FM broadcast transmitters and directional AM arrays
  • IT Systems installation, maintenance and support
  • Component level repair

Meanwhile, on the other coast, Adams Radio Group is looking for a Radio Chief to work in Ocean City…They too want a person with strong RF and IT Skills.

Looking for an engineer with Strong IT and Transmitter Skills is interesting and demonstrates just how much this industry has changed.   I recall the days when Radio engineers also had to have multiple skills, in those days many Engineers worked at a station dividing their duties between checking tubes and being on the air as announcers or DJ’s (Been there)

An interesting couple of retirements to note….First, Bill Johnstone, president of the Oregon Broadcasters Assn will be retiring on Sept 30.   Then, at the end of the year, Mark Allen steps down as president of the Washington Assn.

Looks like TFT is no more.   I recall the first piece of TFT Equipment I worked with – A TV Modulation Monitor. Over the years they made a number of items for this industry, perhaps the most well-known was their EAS 911 EAS endec. They were perhaps also known for their classic Black front panels.   Apparently they have shut down and laid off all their employees. Rumors are floating around that someone is trying to make it come to life again…Guess we will have to wait and see.

Here’s a stat for you – Can you believe that eBay has been around for 20 years?

If you are keeping track – Portland based Alpha continues to gobble up radio properties.   They claim to be the 4th largest in terms of number of stations and 3rd largest in terms of number of markets. This may well be true, however their revenue is likely to be behind groups who own properties in the top tier of markets.

Here’s a change that has sent ripples all over the place.   Shannon County (S.D.) is now Oglala Lakota County.   Stop and think in terms of your stations EAS Equipment. It came loaded with the names of all of the nation’s counties.   NOAA has had to make the appropriate changes.   Don’t know if there are any broadcast stations there, but they would be impacted also.

Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb here.   Now that they have officially changed the name of Mt McKinley to Denali – Is it not time to change the name of the highest peak in Washington State back to Tahoma?

I, for one, am very much in favor of it.   Perhaps so would the Tahoma School district. Who knows, perhaps Tacoma would change the spelling of their city….Mt Tacoma High School could be simple letter change too.   For Toyota – They could keep the name Tacoma if they wanted.

Was very saddened to hear about the passing of Dave Hultsman.   Dave was with Collins and Continental for many years and was one of the nicest guys you would ever know. I had the privilege of knowing him.   I fondly recall one event involving Dave in our area.   For some reason (I forget what) he was in Seattle and I got to take him to the then, Entercom site, on Cougar mountain where he got to see 6 Collins FM transmitters still in service.   He told me that the thought he’d died and gone to heaven.   As it turned out, that’s exactly where he is- Rest in peace my friend….Will see you in the not too distant future.

Ever heard anything about Maxxcasting? http://geobroadcastsolutions.com/maxxcasting

Rumors are that a local broadcaster may be getting involved with this system.   Will be interesting.

I love it when someone comes up with a cute name for a product….Especially for something that has had the same name for a very long time.   May I present – The Quickie Bulldozer –

Quickie
Now for a little Phun with our language…..

I’ve been recently thinking about the word ‘LINE’.   I was taught that a Line, or at least a straight one, is the shortest distance between two points.   But just what is a LINE? Wikipedia sheds a little light on this stating that a line, when used as a unit – means 1/10 of an inch.

Let’s look at how this rather simple 4 letter word is used –

ELECTRICAL – Power line, transmission line etc.

TELEPHONE – Telephone line, off line

RADIO – Remote Line, Line level

VIDEO- Lines of information making up a picture

RF – Transmission line, delay lines

MAGNETISN – Lines of flux, Lines of force.

PRINTING – Lines of text

PRINTERS – Off line, line printers

VOCATION – a line of work

ACTING – Speaking ones lines

DANCING – Line dancing, chorus line

CLOTHING – Lines of clothing

VEHICLES – Break lines, break lining

POLICE ACTIVITY – Police lines – Walking a line (sobriety)

SPORTS – Foul line, base line, center line, yard line, line drive

UTILITIES – Water, and sewer lines.

MONEY – Lines of credit

DOWNTOWNS – Sky line.

TRANSPORTION – Bus, air, truck and shipping lines

VERBAL COMMUNICATION – Laugh lines, pickup lines, one liner

VERBAL (Negative) – Don’t give me that line of guff

This is my, off the top, short list. The bottom line (oops there’s that word again) is the word LINE appears to be used in a large number of places.   No wonder those that are trying to learn this language have such a hard time.   I would be hard pressed to define the word Line, how about you?

Well….Enough lines of text for this month –

C.U. Next Month in most of these same locations…..Enjoy Fall !

Clay, aka, K7CR

SBE #714

The KEØVH Hamshack for August/September 2015

September 23, 2015
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TheKE0VHHamshack Logo

 

              The KEØVH Hamshack for August/September 2015

 

01 JackHike

 

Jack Roland, CBRE, CBNT, AMD, on the way to Torreys Peak (behind me)

Things are changing again in the Hamshack in Wheat Ridge. I now have a “new to me” Yaesu FT-897D as my main rig in the shack. Yes, the ‘tradin’” bug bit again. I decided that my Yaesu Ft-817ND was fun, but I wanted to get something that could be semi-portable but with more power. Plus I had carried the FT-817 up 14’ners twice now and had not been able to operate. The second trip up that I said I was going to make turned out to be a turn around before I got to the top of Torreys peak (the second attempt) due to thunderstorm formation and I even had a little hail come down on me during the trip down. Better safe than not on a 14’ner. SO, I sold the little 817 to a policeman in Oregon who is really into backpacking (younger than I!) and was looking for one. Then, I turned around and purchased the 897 from another ham in Ft. Collins.

 

 

The “new to me” Yaesu FT-897 in the Hamshack

 

The rig came with the onboard power supply that fits neatly into a battery compartment on the bottom of the radio and also with the LDG AT-897 antenna tuner. Having an automatic tuner in the shack gets rid of any extra mis-tunes with any antenna’s and sure is convenient! Plus it has many memories so when you go to a frequency you have been on before it is very quick to re-load the memory match and away you go. Ham Radio Deluxe interfaces into the rig via the Rigblaster Advantage and of course

02 897

you have full control of the radio plus digital mode operation is a snap. I am really enjoying this rig. Plus the digital modes are really fun and low signal work with the 897 is a snap as mentioned, and this radio has allowed me to make some contacts on 2 meter SSB and 432 Mhz during the VHF contest the weekend of 09/12 & 13. I had never really had any contacts on those bands and modes before.   Propogation wasn’t great during the weekend, but there were lots of folks in and around the Denver area to contact on 432.1 and 144.2 SSB. And I was only using my dual band J pole VHF/UHF base station antenna, so I couldn’t hear everyone although I heard some local Denver guys working out a couple of hundred miles. I have a homebrew 2 meter beam that I will be putting up in the near future at the QTH in the horizontal polarity so that I can take advantage of some of the fun to be had on 2 meter SSB. Another plan I have been thinking about too is to build and put up a pair of Moxon antennas for 2 meters and 440 for LEO satellite operations easily done by the FT-897. More on that to come here hopefully over the next few months.

 

04 WSJT

Working JT63-HF on the 897 via the Rigblaster Advantage on the FT-897D

 

So, some might be asking, “what about the Icom 746 he was so proud of”? More on that to follow down the page. Keep reading ! J

 

I really have begun to have a resurgence of interest in the RTL-SDR/Ham-it-up converter. I had written about this awesome little SDR USB dongle and shortwave (ham band) in a previous “Hamshack” article. I started playing with it again now in Windows 7 and it is really a great way to monitor the ham bands and seeing what is happening in the panadapter video on the computer screen. The RTL-SDR USB dongle along with the SDR Sharp software, which is free by the way, can be a powerful spectrum analyzer plus a great audio and RDS monitor. The SDR Sharp software also has included ADSB aircraft signal decoding software. It can be used to track commercial aircraft right on your computer screen. I use software called ADSBScope and it is very easy to get running using the ADSB Sharp interface within the SDRSharp program. If you ever try it and need some assistance, feel free to let me know.

 

Using the Ham-it-up converter and the RTL-SDR USB dongle is really easy so you can have shortwave coverage all the way up to 1.7 gigahertz or so. The converter has a bypass switch to allow it to cover above 27 mhz or so, it is easy to get all the coverage you might want to look for. For frequencies below 30 mhz I use the (free) HDSDR software. Here are some pictures of what I am doing in the Hamshack with the dongles and software.

05 SDR

Receiving 88.9 Mhz with the USB Dongle and SDR Sharp Software

 

06 RTLSDR and Converter

The RTL-SDR USB and NooElec Ham-It-up Frequency converter

The connector you see on the left in the above picture is connected to the antenna system in the shack. The units use MCX and SMA connectors so adapters are needed for standard use. By the way, all of this system can be purchased from Amazon.com, the RTL-SDR USB stick is around $10 to $15 as different models are available. The Ham-it-up converter is around $55. Makes a great receiving system with panadapter capabilities.

 

07 HDSDR

The HDSDR Software running thru the RTL-SDR USB stick and Converter.

 

So, to that end, I (as of this writing) am in the process of obtaining a Flex Radio 3000 series SDR that I have actually had my eye on for a few years, but at the cost new of $1699 was definitely out of my price range. Incredible filtering, many ways to make signals much better in receive, 100 watts of output power, an on board antenna tuning unit are just some of the features. Now, the 3000 is discontinued (hence some beginning to come on the market now at under $1000) but has really been upgraded in performance by the POWERSDR software that runs it. I will be writing about it and let you know what I think in an upcoming article. I must admit I am really looking forward to giving it a whirl and get to know it. Part of the $$ to pay for that came from a couple of other radio sales via the QTH.com classified website. Works really great.

 

So, that is where the Icom 746 went. To a great home with a good friend.

Hopefully we will hear him on the air from Laramie WY here soon with the radio

 

08 K0SDT

Shane Toven, KØSDT in the KEØVH Hamshack, in front of the ICOM 746

which he then took home!

 

Don’t forget the Monday Night Broadcast Engineering

IRLP (and Echolink) Hamnet, every MONDAY EVENING

At 7pm Mountain time (9pm Eastern) for radio discussions, both

Broadcast engineering and amateur radio. The first and

3rd Mondays are also SBE NET nights. Details on how to

Join are at http://www.ke0vh.com/net/net.html. 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! de KEØVH

 

Clay’s Corner for Sept 2015

September 11, 2015
By

 

                  

Certainly one of the top stories this month has been the weather and our continued drought thats been punctuated by massive wildfires all over the area.   The following map underscores the situation.   I can’t recall ever a time when all of Western Washington is classified as either a severe or extreme drought!   Look at the normally wet Olympia Peninsula, home of the famous ‘Rain Forest’ it’s even in that category.   What are folks going to say in other parts of the country … Are they going to have to re-invent their concept of Seattle upon learning that it does not rain all of the time?

  USDroughtMonitor1            

This situation is likely to have an impact on all of us…Our traditional reliance on cheap Hydro-Power will be replaced with higher costs for electricity.   Fires will become more wide-spread. …The list goes on.

Then again it depends on who you believe.     The Farmer’s Almanac is out with their predictions for the coming winter.   According to this old publication – The PNW is going to get a lot of snow in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid to late February….Have not heard what they have to say about rainfall.

Wonder if William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk) will retract his idea of building a pipeline to Seattle to get water from where it rains all the time?

The big question on everyone’s mind – – Is this going to get better or worse – Well the forecasters don’t paint a pretty picture of the road ahead . Look at these maps and you can quickly see that this is not just a California problem, it’s the whole left side of the country. (see the following map)

 DroughtOutlook

I recently attended a workshop for the Cascadia Rising exercise that is dealing with a potential mega-earthquake.   From this a number of issues have come to light.   Most importantly, the likelihood that the EAS will be either knocked out of commission, or will be unable to handle the volume of information flow from Emergency Management to the electronic media that will be required.   In the ‘good old days’ of the EBS, we had wireless systems installed between Emergency Operations Centers (EOC’s) and certain radio stations (in those days they were call CPCS’s).   These systems were largely removed as the design of the EAS called for the distribution of emergency messages via – ALL – broadcaster (and later cable systems) instead of a particular station.     Cascadia Rising, and the wild-fires we are having, are causing me to want to re-consider or reverse this decision.     The underlying thought is what can we do – beyond EAS – to provide this vital communications link.   The fact is, should the EAS go down in a major quake- There is no existing method for the major EOC’s to communicate status information to the electronic media.   This is something that must be fixed.   In fact SBE 16 is working on just that.   In the smaller markets impacted by the fires, we could well be better serving the citizens in that area with those old systems of radios linking EOC’s to those systems that can reach the public.       Perhaps there is a roll for all of those old Marti RPU systems and, perhaps, that old EAS endec that you removed a while back?   This is a discussion that needs to take place ASAP.   After the ashes have cooled with the wildfires, there will be many conversations on what we could have done better.   I hope to be a part of this and I invite you to join me.   Drop me an email, let’s have lunch and come up with improvements that go well beyond the EAS toward an improved communications infrastructure.  

In a somewhat related subject – The concept of having FM Receivers in Cellphones appears to be gaining traction.   Recently the CEO of locally based T-Mobile said it would activate the FM chips in certain handsets, joining Sprint and AT&T.   This would be a great addition to the WEA messages that you now receiver on you phones.   The problem, however, is knowing what station to tune into should there be an urgent reason to do so.   The other issue is that, in some cases, the stronger FM signals (that would be easier for these hybrid devices to work with) may be FM stations that have no news departments, are automated juke boxes etc.  

As my readers know…I work in the broadcast industry almost always near towers of all shapes and sizes.

Every once in a while I get to see a picture of a tower that just happened to be in a picture whose focus was on something else.   In this case, the goal was to take a picture of the Blue Moon from last month. The tower, located in Istanbul just happened to add the touch that caught my attention – Great shot!

TowerMoon

Keep wondering if those are FM Broadcast antennas on the right side of the tower?

Another great picture was forwarded to me by DOE of KIRO Radio, Tom Pierson.   This one of the FM Panel array on Farnsworth Peak, the major FM/TV transmission site for the Salt Lake basin.   In the event you recognize the name of the place – Farnsworth is named after Philo Farnsworth who is credited with the invention of television.   He died in 1971 and is buried in Provo.

4SidedAntenna 

The antenna is a 4 sided array with 7 bays.   Unlike the Seattle area where we have our broadcast stations scattered at various sites – (Gold, Cougar and West Tiger , Queen Ann and Capitol Hill)   Farnsworth of the site of choice for that area.   Like West Tiger, there is more than one facility on the mountain (Tower and/or transmitter building)     Together this mountain is the site of choice for 17 FM stations and 19 TV stations of various powers and classes.     Farnsworth is located at the south end of Salt Lake and West of Salt Lake City.   Coverage from the site is extensive thanks to its physical location relative to the cities it serves and it’s elevation (Just over 9,000 feet).

Keep in mind that SLC is already at 4327 ft. AMSL.   The following is a picture of Farnsworth in the winter. …If you look close, you can see the towers on the summit. Just to the right of the blue sign.

 MountainsSnow

 

Just for fun, I compared certain Farnsworth to broadcast TV and FM facilities to those in our area in our area. As you can see, Farnsworth works quite well.  

 

Site Station Height above average terrain Power (ERP) Service Contour length
Farnsworth KSL-TV 1267 Meters 546 Kw 525 Miles
West Tiger KWPX-TV 716 Meters 400 Kw 430 Miles
Queen Anne KOMO-TV 224 Meters 1000 Kw 324 Miles
Farnsworth KSL-FM 1140 Meters    25 Kw 370 Miles
West Tiger KMPS –FM 698 Meters    69 Kw 299 Miles
Capitol Hill KUOW-FM 224 Meters 100 Kw 261 Miles

The TV stations located at Farnsworth are looking ahead and see some potential bumps in the road.

 FarnsworthSummer

FarnsworthWinter

Specifically the impact of the move to ‘repack’ the TV channels?.   Reportedly 8 co-located TV stations at Farnsworth are concerned about the impact on Interference, intermod etc. and the cost that resolving these issues could mean.   The question is – Did the FCC consider co-located TV stations when they proposed a, post auction, repack?   There are a number of markets where this could well be an issue that should be a part of the re-pack equation.   For example – Look at Chicago and NYC where there are a lot of co-located stations on roof-tops.   As I noted in a previous issue….Site owners (I used the example of Mt Sutro in SFO) are rightly concerned about suddenly being faced with government mandated changes in frequencies etc.     Seattle is fortunate in that we don’t have everyone in the same location….The closest we have to that is Capitol Hill where we have 3 stations that are in very close proximity.   Certainly moving to another site is not going to be a viable answer.     Another factor impacting Farnsworth is the fact that, like FM stations, TV has an 8 input combiner for channels 34-48.   Betcha they never thought the Feds would ever want to shuffle the deck as they are now proposing.   Historically, once a station signs on – It’s on that channel for good. All I can say is – whadda mess.   The admonition of ‘hide and watch’ seems appropriate.

Repacking will certainly involve our neighbor to the north due to failure of the 49th parallel faraday shield project.   Apparently the US and Canada have reached an initial agreement on how this would work for stations along the border.   Nice to know that the two governments are in agreement on this…The wild-card remains what will take place in the auction.   Then there is the proposed category of TV station that would come from those that give up (sell) their RF spectrum and work out a sharing agreement with more or more other stations in the market.   Can you just see KING programming on KOMO etc.   All this made possible by sharing the RF ‘bit stream’.     If someone 20 years ago had predicted that TV would come to this – They would have been thought of as a candidate for the ‘funny-farm’

As if this were not enough – There are those that are telling us that ATSC-3.O arrives everyone will have to get a converter box (again)   Makes me wonder who is working harder to kill Television in this country?

While I am on the subject of transmitters – As reported in a previous column, KIRO-FM replaced one of their Continental 816 transmitters with a new Nautel GV30.   Apparently the one displaced will be heading east to Lewiston, Idaho where it will have another life.   Here’s a shot of it leaving the building it’s called home since 1987 –

GuysMoveTransmitter 

Meanwhile, KING-FM is moving one of their Continentals from West Tiger (it was much newer than KIRO’s) to replace their auxiliary at Cougar which is a Collins 831G2…Now that unit is looking for a new home.  

 HD Radio has been slow to take off for a number of reasons, principally because, unlike TV, there is no government mandate behind it.   (Think the All-Channel law and shift from NRSC to ATSC). This has caused many station owners, especially in smaller markets to be quick to state that they will not make the investment until such time as there are more receivers out there. (Perhaps transmitting to no-one might not please the average bean-counter)   That excuse may be starting to evaporate with all the new vehicles coming out with HD built in.   Previously, if you wanted HD in your vehicle you had to go out and buy one and have it installed (unless you are like me and do this yourself).   According to Ibiquity, the outfit behind HD-R, of the almost 250 million vehicles on the road, 10% or about 25 million are equipped with HD built-in a percentage that is bound to increase as time goes by.   Interestingly, HD-R is viewed very differently in smaller markets.   Here in Seattle, we now have a number of stations that have purchased new transmitters …A decision that has been partially driven by the desire to increase HD channel power levels and coverage, yet in smaller markets, HD transmitting equipment is still not in the budget.   User experiences are likely going to drive the future here.   A station operating with -14 or -10 dbc HD carriers is going to have superior coverage to those that are still operating -20.   No broadcaster enjoys having another one get the best of him.   The smaller markets have been pretty immune to the HD-R movement because of poor receiver penetration.   With vehicles now coming with the mode built in…They may well change as well.     If you are old enough to recall – The very SAME THING happened with FM.   Early on, only geeks (like me) had an FM in his car (an add on box that I had to purchase and install)…Finally radios were coming with FM built in ….and the rest is history.  

Familiar with the AFCCE ? They are the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers…Recently noted that a fellow whom I worked with at West Tiger is now their President.   At the time Eric Wandel was working with ERI and we were putting our heads together on how to ‘back-feed’ the original West Tiger combiner for HD-Radio.

Last month I wrote about old equipment and manufacturers – How could I forget the Kinescope ?   For years I would hear, on the air, a statement telling viewers that the following program was a ‘Kinescope recording’.   The problem was, no one knew what this meant.

Here’s a picture of one of the devices that did the work of transferring video to film.

Kinescope

Obviously film was put out to pasture with the advent of video tape and now tape has joined film with servers doing the work.

If you’d like to know more about broadcast terms – Look here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_broadcasting_terms

Thanks to everyone that sent me emails from all over the country about this topic…Certainly caught the attention of many.   From the ‘I stand corrected department’ –

 Mark Huffstutter at KING5 – Wrote –

 Clay! –     I think You have been out of the TV Station line for too long! Or at least The Studio. In the Studio, a “Truck” is a Left or Right movement of the camera, Relative to the set. There is no “Truck” in or out. You “Dolly” in or out.

End of Whining from TV Boy!

73

Mark

KB7WAL

(This one was also caught by Dwight Small)

And –

Fred Greaves from Red Lion, PA reminded us about the term ‘Mickey Mike’, which meant Micro-Micro Farad later replace with the term Pico-Farad or Pf… now more commonly call a Puff.

Factoid – Cost of renting an apartment in Seattle =- 1500/Mo or about 30% of the average workers’ pay…High you say?   In LAX and SFO land it’s about 50% more.

 AlphaMedia

Looks like Alpha Media is the big deal maker in the world of Radio these days and they continue to gobble up stations and whole groups.   So far….No Alpha stations in the Seattle area.

The latest, the way I understand it, with the Nielson/Voltaire matter – Nielson is making changes to their encoding scheme claiming that it will make the Voltaire un-necessary ….Hmmm – Could this be that Nielson is admitting that the folks behind Voltaire were correct? Does this mean that those stations that thought that Nielson results were accurate in the past are finding out that this was not the case?   What’s to prevent some legal action as a result of all of this?   Guess time will tell.

 SprintRadioShack

Here in my hometown of Auburn, our local Radio Shack is open for business.   Went in the other day looking for a couple of items (They had one). Apparently inventory of electronic parts is still pretty minimal.   About a third of the place’s floor space is now devoted to Sprint.

Kudo’s to GatesAir on being awarded a number of patents for broadcast related systems.   It’s great to know that creativity continues to move forward with the former Harris Broadcast folks.

These seven patents join the 238 other U.S. and Global patents GatesAir has received. The company also has seven other patents pending clearance.

 GatesAir

Speaking of Gates Air – Had a very enjoyable lunch recently with Jon Owen who works out of his office in West Seattle.   I got to know Jon when he was the assistant chief at Entercom’s Rochester, NY. Cluster.   Great to have you in our area Jon !

I’m always on the lookout for new technical terms – This one was new to me- A ‘VARIATOR’

 

 HydrostaticVariator

The trend continues – This time it’s Townsquare Media that has sold a number of its towers. In this case, 43 of them to Vertical Bridge.   The towers are located in 41 states and 28 markets.   As to why they did this – Their CEO Steven Price put it this way – “We are very excited to complete this transaction which will allow us to unlock capital sequestered in non-strategic tower assets at an attractive valuation level”.   Guess I never thought a broadcasters tower was viewed as a ‘non-strategic asset’     When one goes down, they certainly do !

I’m a long-time antenna watcher….Always looking up to see the latest ‘wave catcher’

This one (borrowed from Crutchfield) did catch my attention .

 House

So what is it ?

Mohu Sky 60 Amplified TV Antenna – Amplified multidirectional attic/outdoor HDTV antenna

 Wierd4waything

Kudo’s to Crutchfield who is classically known for selling upgrade options for vehicle stereo/music system for their publication on TV Antennas.   You can read it here –

http://www.crutchfield.com/S-QyAqFrzqXZi/learn/learningcenter/home/antenna.html

Taking a page from broadcasting history – the movement has begun to try and convince the FCC to permit certain LPFM’s to increase their power from 100 to 250 watts.   The same arguments, just different proponents.   But hey!….The FCC did roll-over with the old Class 4 AM’s and let them increase power from 250 to 1000’s watts even though, in many cases, it insured their mutual destruction….And they are about to drop broadcast TV into a similar ‘solution machine’.   The Commission, rather than being a protector for what’s there…appears to be on the path of doing anything to avoid having a group unhappy with them.   Why should we expect less?

What happened to 91.7 (KXOT)….It was reportedly sold, then went silent, just to remain that way??   Just listened on my truck radio and all I can hear is two weak stations (at the same time) I wrote about the sale of this station to Bible Broadcasting Network back in February.  Last I heard, they were supposed to come back on the air as KYFQ. The stations transmitter was at the KCPQ/13 Site on Gold Mt.

Another mystery is 1480 AM from Lakewood….The station was sold, along with a couple of others, but the towers are gone and, reportedly the equipment is in storae.   Perhaps this will be another place for a bit of creative antenna engineering by Jim Dalke?   Interestingly they also had an FM Translator that is also now dark.   KPLU recently took advantage of that situation by improving their View Park translator.

IBM (Remember them?) has been at work developing a chip with a million neurons that enables it to function like a human brain. This is something to be concerned about as I have observed that not all human brains function the same way.   Big Blue (as they were once called) says the device is a giant step forward for artificial intelligence.   Apparently the size reduction has the potential to cram the power of a super computer into a form factor the size of a postage stamp. Gotta love the name of their development program…..”SyNapse”

An official ‘welcome to the PNW’ going out to Jason Royals, new to the Engineering Department of WSU’s Northwest Public Radio. He will be based in Pullman.

Every once in a while I hear an expression that puts a smile on this old face….In this case a description of a radio receiver having less than desirable sensitivity…Using a reference that we are all familiar with.

“ As deaf as a motel radio’

How often have you found a great working and sounding motel radio?   The acid test is one that really works on AM.

Every once in a while I come across something that really expresses it. In this case it was a comment posted to the popular engineering remailer “Pubtech” by Michael Leclair.   With his permission –here it is-

Of course you have to first figure out if you are dealing with a complex problem or not!  It’s like when someone calls the IT helpdesk and the first action they ask you to take is to reboot the computer (is this a complex problem or not?) they are using this question to see if it is a Mencken’s Rule situation, before going off into an elaborate decision tree to determine what might be at fault.  It’s surprising how many times someone will respond,  “no I haven’t rebooted yet because I’m afraid that I will lose all my data.”  Or sometimes they just want to see if you can crank out an explanation without any information at all, like the priestesses at a Roman temple (known to occasionally answer questions about the unknowable, whether right or wrong).    

I also combine Mencken with Occam’s Razor- in a situation where there are two possible solutions the simplest one is the most likely answer.  Note “most likely,” as in “not always but most of the time.”  Which tends to somewhat contradict Mencken. 

Over the years I have encountered a certain class of technicians/engineers that always trend toward the most complex and expensive answers when it comes to finding a solution to a problem.  An example might be trying to replace all the capacitors on a pre-amp before checking to see if the microphone cable is broken.  These are people you should rarely listen to.  But sometimes they are right, in the same way that a broken clock will get the time correct twice a day.  And then there are complex problems that humble us with how much we don’t understand about the world.  For those there is Pubtech!

That’s about it for this month – Enjoy summer and pray for rain !   Especially for those of use that never did like ‘second-hand smoke’

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

DON’T REGRET GETTING OLDER.   IT IS A PRIVILEGE DENIED TO MANY !

 

 

Random Radio Thoughts – September 2015

September 7, 2015
By

 

           Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB

           Crawford Broadcasting Company

HD Radio Alerting

There are lots of good things going on in the HD Radio world these days, all of which couldn’t have come at a better time. Although HD Radio continues to make steady gains in the automotive sector, overall its growth had leveled out. Some stations have even turned their digital signals off for various reasons, many times because first-generation equipment has reached the end of its life and there is no budget for replacement or upgrade. That’s reportedly what happened with KOA here in Denver, which is really too bad. I miss hearing the news in HD quality on my way in every morning.

Announced the first week in September, DTS has acquired Ibiquity Digital for $172 million. This portends good things for HD Radio. DTS has announced plans to expand HD into a greater number of consumer devices and push for integration in mobile devices and home entertainment systems as well. And DTS very likely has the horsepower to push HD Radio past the point of “critical mass” in the automotive sector as well.

Unrelated to all that, stations all over the nation are implementing a technology that connects the HD Radio data stream to EAS. Once set up and working, alerts appear on the displays of current-generation HD Radio receivers. Even when off, such radios will “wake up” on receipt of an alert in much the way that many weather radios do when a weather warning is received.

We played “test pilot” at Crawford-Denver last month and found the implementation process to be straightforward and easy. In a nutshell, it required:

• Insuring that the exporter had the correct firmware version and upgrading if necessary
• Performing a firmware update on the Digital ENDEC EAS unit.
• Setting a few parameters, including the exporter IP address, in the ENDEC
• Setting a parameter in the exporter

0915alexander1

The tail end of a test scroll at one of our Chicago stations. Sparc makes a number of good-quality, inexpensive portable and tabletop HD Radio models. www.sparcradio.com

Once that was done, a triangle appeared on the display of the HD Radio receiver we were using for testing. Subsequent tests appeared on the screen (there was no “wake-up” with the RWT and RMT but there should be in the event of an actual alert).

Now, Crawford is rolling out this technology across the entire company with good results. It doesn’t require a lot of effort and it’s something that is of great benefit to the public and something we can promote. With an HD Radio footprint of 2,300 stations covering 90% of the U.S. population and a claimed 35% penetration of the new car market, there are a lot of folks out there with HD Radios (whether they know it or not). As DTS takes over, those numbers are only going to go up.

For Want of a Part…

In mid-August we took a lightning hit in Albany, evidently on one of the array towers at the collocated 50 kW transmitter/studio site. The worst of the damage was fairly confined to main and aux transmitters plus a couple of relays in the phasor controller. The automation computers and server had to be restarted to get them behaving right again, and we have an unknown issue with the large UPS feeding the engineering/transmitter room, but those things did not keep the AM/FM combo off the air. It was the transmitter issues that were the real kick in the head.

Our very capable engineering crew in Albany jumped right on the problem but without a lot of initial success. After bypassing the failed interlock relays in the phasor controller, the main transmitter was lit up like a Christmas tree with warnings all over the place and would not run at more than a few hundred watts. The aux would come on and make RF power but would not modulate.

The decision was quickly made to focus on the aux, since the issue with it was likely low-level and easily remedied. That was undoubtedly the correct course of action but it was anything but a quick fix. Our engineers found seven different issues requiring a handful of parts from the spares kit to get it running again. The aux is only 5 kW instead of 50, but at least the station was back on. The FM, which has separate programming and transmits from a site northwest of the city, was not affected.

With the pressure (somewhat) off, our engineers were then able to focus on the main 50 kW transmitter. Expecting the worst, what they found wasn’t really all that bad. The main AC power contactor, which bypasses the step-start resistor when energized, was burned out and physically broken. The transmitter would run at very low power but not more than a few hundred watts at which point the voltage drop across the step-start resistor would reduce the PA voltage below the operational threshold and light up the status panel in red.

It seemed a simple matter, then, of calling the manufacturer and ordering a replacement contactor. The problem is that particular model of solid-state transmitter, installed in the mid-1990s, has been out of production for a few years now and the manufacturer no longer has stock on the AC power contactor. In fact, the manufacturer of the part itself no longer makes it, so the transmitter manufacturer had to scramble to source something that would work. They did, after several days, find something, but it has a 9-10 week lead time. So the 50 kW AM in Albany will have to operate at 5 kW on the aux for more than two more months until we get the part.

This is very frustrating, and it’s a situation that I have run into a number of times in recent years (although this is the first time I have encountered it with this particular manufacturer). I do understand that it probably doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense for a transmitter (or any) manufacturer to keep stock on a $2,500 part that very seldom if ever fails, but I can’t see where a manufacturer can claim a device is “fully supported” if they don’t keep stock of – or at least keep tabs on where they can quickly lay hands on – such critical parts.

More and more these days, broadcast equipment manufacturers rely on other manufacturers for such items as power supplies and subassemblies. It reduces their costs to simply order up large quantities of switching supplies (or whatever) instead of tooling up and making them in-house. In going this route, however, they give up a certain level of quality control. They can use burn-in racks to test these devices and subassemblies before putting them in their equipment, but that only weeds out the worst of the lot. The president of well-known manufacturer of audio processing and telco/IP interface equipment told me a few years ago that vendor power supplies were his biggest support headache.

Even the top-tier of broadcast transmitter manufacturers is now farming out some of its major subassemblies. We only found this out when we took delivery of a 40 kW solid-state FM transmitter a few months ago to find that a number of items had broken their solder joints in shipment. That would never have happened in the day when this manufacturer made all its own boards.

The point of all this is that manufacturers are “outsourcing” more and more and those sources often dry up. If these manufacturers don’t either invest in a significant level of excess stock or take other measures to make sure that parts will be available when needed five, ten or even twenty years down the road, users like us are going to find ourselves in a situation just like I am in with the Albany transmitter.

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