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

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