Random Radio Thoughts for March

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

More MDCL in Colorado (and elsewhere)

Now that we’ve had a couple of months to evaluate the Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) operation on KLTT, I am prepared to call it an unqualified success.

From last month’s newsletter you may recall that we activated MDCL on the new KLTT Nautel NX50 transmitter in early January, shortly after we installed it. Reviewing our usage, we noted a 21% reduction in the number of kilowatt-hours, mirroring the power savings we noted on our central California station, KCBC. That is encouraging, and that consistency further cements the value of MDCL operation.

Both those stations are running the AMC algorithm, which reduces the carrier during periods of high modulation, restoring it when things get quiet. The sideband power remains unchanged. This reduces the overall peak envelope power of the transmitter, but it very effectively masks the reduced signal-to-noise ratio that any MDCL operation produces.

I have, since we turned MDCL on, made several trips to the edge of the KLTT coverage area and critically listened to the station. I couldn’t tell any difference. Up in Grand County, KLTT is usually listenable with something close to 0.5 mV/m. On my January and February trips to the Grand Lake area, I had good analog and digital coverage. We have made similar observations in the San Francisco area on KCBC.

Just for fun (and to reduce stresses in the transmitter and antenna system), we fired up MDCL on one of our 5 kW stations in Alabama earlier this year. The first electric billing cycle showed only a 5% decrease in power consumption. At first that surprised me, but then I considered that the fixed loads (tower lights, HVAC, rack power, security lighting, etc.) represent a much larger portion of the total site power consumption at a 5 kW station than they do at a 50 kW site, so that 5% is probably about right.

I filed the paperwork with the FCC to operate KLZ using MDCL and expect a grant shortly. I suspect that we’ll find the same kind of power savings there, probably even less since that site is shared at night with another station (KLVZ).

Consulting engineer Ben Dawson made a good point in a letter to Radio World recently: Aside from power savings, the AMC MDCL scheme also reduces stresses in the transmitter and antenna system. The peak RF voltage is the vector sum of the carrier plus the peak sideband power. In a normal (non-AMC) system, that amounts to something in the neighborhood of 150% of the carrier power (100% for the carrier plus 25% for each of the sidebands, more in the sidebands if asymmetrical modulation is used).

Since the carrier power is reduced during modulation in AMC-equipped systems, the peak RF voltage can be cut by 40% or more. In an AMC system, the total peak modulated power, assuming 3 dB of carrier compression, would be 50% for the carrier plus 25% for each of the sidebands. In a 50 kW system, that would result in 50 kW of peak RF power (again, more if asymmetrical modulation is employed).

This reduces the voltages across capacitors, insulators, RF contactors, spark gaps, transmission lines and everything else in the system, which can have a very positive effect on the longevity of those components and even their immunity to lightning damage.

We have for years had an issue at the KLTT transmitter site where when lightning hits one of the high-power towers in the daytime array, the low-power tower (which normally receives about 5 kW) is hit with the full 50 gallons for an RF cycle or two until the transmitter figures out there is a load problem and mutes the output. That has produced burnouts in that low-power tower’s 7/8-inch transmission line on several occasions. With the peak power reduced considerably, our exposure in this kind of situation is also significantly reduced.

 

Wind

No, I’m not talking about all the campaign rhetoric in this election cycle. I’m talking about the high winds that we have sustained around the Front Range for days on end over the last month or so. Usually those kinds of winds wait for March, but not this year. My guess is that you’re as sick of it as I am.

There were a few outages here and there for broadcasters as a result of the sustained high winds. One outage was at the Ruby Hill tower site where the mounting arm hardware on a microwave dish vibrated loose to the point that the dish ended up pointing straight down at the ground! That dish has been up there for years, and it’s never had an issue before in all the previous wind events, so that hardware was tight at one point. The vibration caused by the wind evidently caused those nuts to back off enough to let the dish move. It makes me wonder what else is loose on that and other towers in the area!

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

 

The KEØVH Hamshack for June 2012

Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack will return with the KEØVH Hamshack next month!
 

 

73’

KE0VH

www.qsl.net/ke0vh

 

 

Clay’s Corner for March 2012

This month we have seen the passing of 3 people, in broadcasting I knew

 

Wally Nelskog –

Unlike many I know, I did not work for Wally, however if you worked in Radio in the PNW you certainly knew his name.    Wally passed away recently at the age of 92 leaving behind a ton of memories and accomplishments.  Probably the one we all recall was the construction of KIXI on 880.   He worked long and hard to make that happen.   Then there was the warm sound of ..’Beautiful music, in the air, everywhere….’ (How can we forget?)  The first time I met Wally was at a retirement function for one of the local FCC crew.   Wally and I were both asked to speak, I was second.  Wally had a huge voice and following him made me feel like a tenor.   Later I would run across Wally via Ham Radio….One could never forget his phonetics – W7 Foxy Dog Queen.   Several years later I would end up working at 1820 Eastlake and got to chatting with Carol who had a cubical near my office.   We would chat about various things and one day she asked me if I knew her dad (as if I knew the relationship) I said no, I did not think so.   She explained that she was Wally’s daughter.   Every once in a while Wally would come by and we would chat.   I treasure those moments and now wished there had been more.  Ben Dawson added this comment – .  Wally and Jim Gabbert are the only two station owners I’ve ever known who came out with their tool boxes and worked all night with us to get new antenna installations tuned up.

 

Danny Holiday –

I was working at KBSG in Seattle as Chief Engineer when I learned that Danny had been hired to work evenings. I recall hearing him in years previous on KOL (before it became KMPS) Not sure how long Danny worked at the station, but it was several years.   I would work remotes with him and often his wife, Joyce could come along.   Always a gentlemen.

As radio goes, Danny left the station, but we would exchange emails once in a while.   I knew that he moved ‘up north’.  Dwight Small said he saw Dan a while back, he was in town seeing a doctor, Dwight said he did not look well.  Dan’s last name was Thigeson.   He adopted the name of Holiday many years ago for obvious reasons.

 

Lynn Olson –

Lynn worked for several stations in this area and most recently was doing some feature reporting for WSU’s Northwest Public Radio, this is where our paths crossed for the first time. Lynn was a very warm and sweet person.   She said that she had some medical issues, but never stated what was wrong.   Always warm and caring.   I recall installing equipment for her at the KVTI Studios in Lakewood on the campus of CPTC.   Her passing was a shock to us all.

 

I can’t help wondering how my passing will be observed and what accomplishment will be attributed to me….Perhaps placing the first broadcast station on West Tiger Mountain in 1987?

As you reach your ‘sunset years’ (that what they call people my age) and you realize you are only passing-through, those thoughts are hard to ignore.

 

Looking now at other things going on –

The little radio stations in Forks have been sold…..Again.  My work with NWPR takes me to this little town in the Twilight every once in a while these days.   The new owner is Mark Lamb of Kirkland.  The announced sale price was $50,000.   Not many signals in that area. 1 AM and 4 FM’s …The rest are Canadian.

Congratulations to the crew at KOMO Radio for being the first AM station in years to make  the top spot in the ratings.   This is exactly what they have done.    I recall, many years ago, writing about the ratio of AM to FM stations in the top 10.  Interestingly KIRO-FM is right behind them at  #2.    Lots of memories for me there too as I went to work for then KNBQ in Tacoma (was KTNT) back in 1982, the very same 97.3 that I moved to West Tiger in 1987.  Some other observations about radio ratings in our area – KUOW is ranked # 4, not too bad for a Non-Commercial station.   KJR-AM should be pleased coming in at #9 making them the 2nd AM in the top 10…Interestingly, further demonstrating the popularity of KUOW, their streaming came in #37.

Not often I get to write about technical advancements for AM Radio.  The interest in what’s known as MDCL is considerable, especially with those stations with higher power levels.  For sure there will be lots of interest in this technique at the NAB show in April.  Harris and Nautel, the dominate makers of 50 kW transmitters are both deeply involved.    I suspect that it won’t be long before we see these systems put to work on one or more of the many 50Kw AM’s in the Seattle area.   Anything that can save on the power bill is likely to be supported by management.

Business is good at American Tower.  They recently reported that 2011 Q 4 their revenue increased 19%.   A lot of that growth was beyond the U.S..   ATC owns 3 Sites on West Tiger and two on Cougar Mt and is the land lord to many radio and TV broadcasters not only in the Seattle market, but nationwide.  Interestingly that increase is likely greater than most broadcast stations that are their tenants.

In the event you have been keeping track – Heinrich Hertz – was 155 on February 22nd.  Still bothers me that we had to change ‘cycles’ to Hertz…To name of a car rental company after him is another mystery.

Remember how Satellite radio was doomed to fail ….uh-huh …They have reportedly now 22 million subscribers and revenue of 3 Billion.

Happy to report that Mark Allen (WSAB) is working on Legislation to stiffen laws regarding copper theft.   The State Senate Judiciary Committee was to hold a hearing on HB 2570 regarding metal theft.  The bill sets up a task force to come up with recommendations to the 2013 Legislature for combatting metal theft.  The bill provides that one of the members of the task force is to be from the AM/FM broadcasting industry.   If any station in the State has been the victim of copper or other metal theft, but sure and let Mark know.  WSAB is supporting this bill.  Thank you Mark !

For those you that still tune into shortwave broadcasts, you likely remember the days when the Russians jammed radio signals from the West.   Now it’s Iran. Five international broadcasters are now complaining about Iran’s jamming of radio and TV signals aimed at that country.  I trust more are concerned about the impact on gas prices.

Gotta love this one…..

The problem with quotes on the Internet is the difficulty of verifying their authenticity”       Abraham Lincoln

 

A while back I wrote about KSTW-TV and how this station has been reduced in size over the years.    Thinking about that, I recall the first time I met Ken Williams, he was CE at KTVW in Tacoma.  Their entire operation was in a Butler Building at the transmitter site.   Now look – They moved to Seattle and have expanded.   Now it’s time for KVOS.  The once proud little station in Bellingham has seen its coverage be reduced from its once regional status on Ch12 from Mt Constitution and undergone a series of ownership changes.   The most recent one has he station being combined with another in Seattle (KFFV).   Reports are now that the new owners are making considerable staff shuffles. The local newspaper in Bellingham ran a story about the stations history and how the station has struggled over the years.

The annual NAB show in Las Vegas is just around the corner.  The BWWG is working on having some EAS related events there.  If they do, I will likely make the trek to the desert this year.  Last year I did not go, after many years attending this event, it felt a bit funny.

The Mike and Key Club annual Electronic Flea Market will be held this year at the Puyallup Fair Grounds on Saturday March 10th from 9AM to 3 PM.   A huge event that is traditionally very well attended.    Hope to see you there.

Every once in a while a neighborhood finds something causing problems with radio controlled garage doors.  This time it’s in St Charles, Mo.  The source has not been found, but suddenly, after Christmas, garage doors on 5 homes stopped working.  The home owners complained to the FCC.  The makers of the equipment blamed ‘frequency pollution.   Wonder what Johnny got for Christmas?

This one has been around for a long time – In the event you have not seen it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmYDgncMhXw

Will we see FM radios in cellphones?   The push for this was started by NAB a few years ago and seems to be gaining some supporters.  Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked the FCC for a hearing on the topic.

Speaking of Cellphones….I –finally – retired my very reliable and small flip-phone for what is called a ‘smart phone’  Now I get to carry a much bigger device on my belt and pay a whole lot more for service.  Price of progress I guess.   Not sure that I will ever use everything the critter is capable of.

The Commish has granted a CP to Tribune for a DTV translator for Ch13 that will operate on Ch. 22 in Seattle.   Interesting how, after all the dust settles on the big shuffle that Tribune lights up RF channel 22 again.

A bit of a milestone – HD Radio stations are starting to show up in Arbitron’s diary ratings.   It’s take a while.    I wonder, if Arbitron had been around when FM Radio came along, how long it would have taken for those stations to show up?   Many who are critical of HD Radio were not around to see how FM struggled to be accepted.    History is a great teacher, as any person my age will testify.

Here’s an interesting story about an FCC fine – The Commission has fined an AM station in Puerto Rico.  The station was, apparently, sold, however they were not, formally, informed of the change of ownership of the stations tower as the tower was not listed in the sale agreement.  Ooops – The rules state that the FCC must be informed as to tower ownership.   The FCC is asking for $4500.

Then there is the Florida AM Station that has been asked to pay 4 Grand.   What the station did not know was that the FCC was monitoring the stations field strength and noted that on several occasions they did not reduce power at night, as they were supposed to do.  In FCC lingo, this is willful and repeated.

The FCC is, apparently, pleased with their decision to auction broadcast spectrum for use by mobile systems to the point that the Chairman suggested, in a speech in Italy, the FCC’s methods could be used globally.

The FCC has been checking speeds….Really, check out –  http://tinyurl.com/SpeedTestTwo

$44,000 is a big fine…This is what the FCC is asking a legendary station in Chicago radio station, WLS, to pay.   The problem was an apparent spot that did not include sponsor ID information.

Another recent FCC action concerns LightSquared.  This is the outfit that proposed to use spectrum adjacent to the frequencies used by GPS.   A lot of money was likely spent on this idea.   Check out –  http://tinyurl.com/FCC-and-LS-Break-Up  and      http://tinyurl.com/LSquaredNixed      for more info.

I passed on reporting on the FCC’s efforts at fighting Pirate Radio, even though they did nab several this past month.  What is interesting is that the FCC is, as part of their 2013 budget request, asking for $3.6 million to purchase new DF equipment and vehicles specifically to help them track down more pirate operators.   This move certainly signals the amount of concern they have about the problem.

This past month a naked man climbed a tower in L.A. and agreed to come down after receiving McDonald’s hamburgers.    Perhaps with our weather we don’t have to worry about this problem. However, also in California, a woman climbed a tower and jumped to her death, apparently a suicide.   All this reminds me of how important it is to make sure that un-invited types cannot gain access to your tower.   A few years ago a person climbed the Boeing tower at West Tiger 2 and jumped to end their life.

Last month I passed on some pictures taken during my travels…Due to positive response…I will try and continue.

Here are a couple of pictures taken on the West Tiger Road.    For those of you whose trip to the transmitter consists of negotiating city streets….I still feel I have it better.

 

To end this edition  – I leave you with a definition that I found to be somehow appropriate in this election year –

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc’-Ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to  sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers

 

Hope to see you at the next Seattle SBE Meeting –

Clay, CPBE, K7CR

 

 

Time to renew SBE memberships

Stay connected to a network of more than 5,000 broadcast engineers and receive the many benefits of membership. Renew online and take advantage of the convenient and secure renewal system on the SBE website.

Members may also return renewal forms they recently received by mail to the SBE National Office using the return envelope provided or fax renewal forms with credit card payment to (317) 846-9120. Those who did not receive a renewal letter by mail should contact Scott Jones at the national office.

Take advantage of the many membership benefits including free and discounted educational programs, SBE certification, technical books, access to SBE JobsOnline, insurance coverage, and chapter programs and renew today.

The SBE looks forward to a productive and successful year. Thanks to those who have already renewed their membership.

 

Nominate SBE Members, Chapters for SBE National Awards

The SBE membership includes many who serve or achieve at the highest level broadcast engineering. The SBE National Awards, presented each fall, recognize these individuals and chapters. Nominations for the SBE National Awards are being accepted through the June 15, 2012 deadline.

Take a few minutes to consider a chapter member who performs their craft at the highest level and is respected by their peers. Individual nomination forms are available on the SBE website to nominate a deserving society member.

Members may nominate their own chapter or other chapters for efforts relating to chapter newsletters, websites, conventions, overall interaction and frequency coordination. 2012 is the first year for the new award for best chapter social media site. Discuss with other local members and consider nominating your chapter for one of the chapter awards. Chapter nomination forms are available on the society’s website.

The two highest individual awards that the SBE has presented since 1991, the SBE Engineer of the Year and SBE Educator of the Year, will be awarded with new names starting in 2012. Moving forward, the awards will be known as the Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year Award and the James C. Wulliman SBE Educator of the Year Award. Both Flanders and Wulliman are past presidents of the SBE and are credited with making significant contributions to the direction and programs of the society in its early years, which continue to have an impact today.

The SBE also recognizes lifelong accomplishments with the John H. Battison Award for Lifetime Achievement. Named for the founder of the SBE, this award recognizes members for outstanding achievements accomplished over 40 years or more. Nominations for this award are accepted at any time throughout the year. When a member is selected to receive the award, a surprise presentation is made during the SBE Membership Meeting held during the spring NAB Show

Recognizing the professional accomplishments of members is part of the mission of the SBE. Efforts of members to nominate an individual or chapter helps the society achieve its mission. The 2012 awards will be presented on October 24 at the SBE National Meeting in Denver, Colo., held in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain A/V Expo and the Broadcast Engineer’s Boot Camp, presented by SBE Chapter 48 and the Rocky Mountain Section of SMPTE.

 

January Meeting Report

Cable Labs Presentation and Tour

Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Time: 6:00PM Refreshments, 6:30PM Meeting/Tour
Location: Cable Labs, 858 Coal Creek Circle, Louisville, CO 80027
Topic: Tour of Facility and Talk on Current Research at Cable Labs

SMPTE Rocky Mountain Section and SBE Chapter 48 met at Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. in Louisville, Colorado onJanuary 18, 2012. There were 35 attendees for the CableLabs presentation and tour.

Chris Lammers, Mark Guzinski, Kari Hiatt and Tina Tindall, were our hosts from the Labs.  Chris Lammers presented an overview of the Cable Labs organization, mission and technology activities.  Notable activities include the DOCSIS cable modem standards, SMARTLife (security, monitoring and automation) and IPv6 transition support. Current video work includes efforts with respect to tru2way™ middleware, Online Content Access (use cases, technical requirements, protocols and architecture to allow digital video subscribers online access to their subscription programming content) and home networking. Business extensions to PacketCable™ include defining communication interface requirements for business telephone features and enterprise IP-PBX interconnection over broadband networks.

 The tour of the Lab’s faculties’ by Mark Guzinski took the group through labs and facilities used for certification, qualification, and verification testing as well as for product development by various providers of products and services for the cable industry. 

Thanks to the CableLabs staff for their hospitality and a very informative meeting at and about this world class high technology facility.

photos by Tom Goldberg

Random Radio Thoughts for February

Cris Alexander, CPBE, AMD, DRB Crawford Broadcasting Company

KLTT NX50 and MDCL in Colorado

My apologies for not getting a column out last month. Year end is always a challenge around here, and this year was a triple whammy with year end, holiday vacation (hah!) and a transmitter project that I couldn’t keep my hands out of.

KLTT CE Amanda Alexander with her new Nautel NX50 transmitter

The new KLTT Nautel NX50 transmitter arrived on the Wednesday after Christmas, the delivery truck showing up a few minutes before the crew that Amanda had lined up and the forklift! Once everyone got there, it didn’t take us long to get the new rig off the truck and into the building.

We got the transmitter, transformer and ancillary stuff uncrated in short order, then levered everything off the skids onto the floor using a pry bar, the biggest one that Lowes had on hand. We had also purchased three 4-foot lengths of ¾” iron water pipe, and we used that as rollers to get the transmitter across the floor into place and the transformer (1,300 pounds!) into the transmitter.

The electrical work had mostly done the week before Christmas; all that remained, or so we thought, was to make the final connection into the transmitter. As it turned out, there was a safety interlock switch that goes in the 480-volt line that was not mentioned in any of the pre-installation documentation or even the installation manual. That wasn’t a lot of work, however; the electrician mounted it right next to the disconnect and used a short nipple to get the three phases into and out of the safety interlock.

While the electrician was installing the rough electrical the week prior and we had the power off, Amanda and I removed the 7/8-inch transmission line from the old aux transmitter, a Nautel ND2.5, and we punched out the hole in the top of the phasor to 3½ inches and drilled out the six 3/8-inch holes for the EIA flange bolts. We made the new connection inside the phasor and re-plumbed the RF to make the main the aux and vice-versa.

On installation day, by about 2:00 PM we had power to the transmitter and started going through the commissioning checklist. We were making (unmodulated) RF into the dummy load a short time later, cranking it all the way up to the licensed 52.650 kW TPO before shutting it down to start working on control and audio cabling.

The following day we wrapped up the remote control, audio and Ethernet wiring and were ready to modulate. Our first attempt resulted in two separate audio sources modulating the main (analog) carrier, one a second or so out of time alignment with the other. We finally figured out what was wrong and got that cleared up, and in short order we had it sounding great in both analog and digital. In fact, the digital adjustments were a snap and took just a couple of minutes to optimize. KLTT’s digital lock time on every HD radio I have tried is about a second, the fastest in town!

The KLTT NX50 Screen

The following week we activated the Modulation Dependent Carrier Level (MDCL) feature, which in the AMC algorithm reduces carrier power during periods of heavy modulation. The theory is that as long as sufficient carrier is maintained for proper demodulation, you really don’t need a full-power carrier during high modulation. When the modulation is reduced (during quiet passages or periods of silence), the carrier comes back to full power so that the AGCs in receivers doesn’t run up the noise.

The effect of all this is what I can best describe as “extreme carrier shift.” The very thing we worked so hard to prevent all these years is now desirable! We have the AMC carrier reduction set to 3 dB right now, so we see the carrier power drop to a little over 26 kW when the modulation is heavy. The sideband power is not affected by the MDCL operation, so loudness and coverage area are not affected.

We have been operating MDCL on our 50 kW station in the San Francisco market for several months now, long enough to get a read on the power savings. In both November and December, we noted a 21% decrease in power consumption over the same billing period last year. That’s nothing to sneeze at, an $800 per month savings! We look for similar savings at KLTT going forward.

Because demand is such a big part of the electric utility cost, it occurred to me that if we were to operate the Nautel ND50 auxiliary transmitter at full power for more than a very few minutes, we would push our peak demand back up to its old level and that would negate most of the savings we would have achieved with the NX50’s MDCL. So we did a firmware update in the ND50’s exgine and IBOC exciter to incorporate MDCL in that transmitter as well. It works great, producing the same carrier reduction with modulation that we are seeing with the new transmitter.

When walking into the KLTT transmitter building, we notice two things these days: quiet and cool. The NX50 is practically silent compared to the 1995-vintage ND50. And all that waste heat that we could always count on to keep the building comfortably warm in the winter months is now gone. The exhaust air from the NV50 has very low volume and is just a few degrees above ambient. That means that we actually have to run the heat in the building to keep the temperature above 50 degrees when it’s cold outside!

If you want to see some photos of the project, they are available at http://www.crawfordbroadcasting.com/Eng_Pics/KLTT_NX50/. These were taken with several different cameras and as such are in chronological order by camera, not in straight chrono order from start to finish. The folks in the photo are Cliff Mikkelson (Salem-Denver CE), Mike Kilgore (general contractor), Keith Peterson, Amanda Alexander and yours truly.

(Copper?) Thieves!!
At 2:00 AM on January 12, thieves tried to gain entry to the KLTT transmitter building.

They used bolt cutters to cut the chain on the gate (we know this because they left their bolt cutters on the ground by the gate post). Then they evidently used a hammer to break off the doorknob on the front door, which freed the “realtor box” hanging on the knob.

And they then presumably smashed the realtor box to get to the key inside, then put it in the deadbolt and unlocked it. But they didn’t get in – in smashing the door knob froze the lockset mechanism so that it would not turn. They did, however, rattle the door sufficiently to trip the burglar alarm, and the alarm company called the Adams County Sheriff, who responded to the attempted break-in along with Amanda and her assistant Keith Peterson.

Before they took off, they evidently took a swipe at the door handle on the back door as well, so we ended up replacing both deadbolts and both locksets. We upgraded the exterior lighting, and we are also upgrading the alarm system and expanding it to include the tower base areas. We have never had an attempted break-in or any copper theft at that site (although a prairie dog exterminator did have his unsecured ATV stolen from behind our building last year), but now that the site is “on the radar,” we will beef up security at the site.

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

KEØVH Hamshack for February 2012

Jack Roland KEØVH@q.com

Greetings all, I hope you had a great beginning to the New Year, and now that we are in the swing of writing 2012 in our checkbooks, time for some new projects.

For a long time I have been fascinated by converting old computer power supplies into something useful for the work bench or powering a radio.  Never hurts to have an extra power supply on hand too, for whatever the reason.  There are many articles on how to convert a computer PS into a bench supply to provide 12 volts for whatever use you might need.  A few years ago I converted one that I have used for many applications such as powering a business band 2-way radio, and then after that was done I used the same PS to power an APRS beacon that I ran on Lookout Mountain for a year or two.  I won’t bother with listing all the ways to do this as there is plenty of information on the internet, but I will show one of my conversions here.  The main thing is to bring the regulation up by providing a resistance across the 5 volt lines, and many supplies are either adjustable or can be modified to do so.  The easiest way is to provide a 1 ohm 10 watt resistor across one of the 5 volt lines to ground to do this.  Again, all the technical explanation is easily found on the internet.

Interior of the Power Supply

In the picture above the leftmost blue adjustment pot allowed me to set the PS to about 12.9 or so volts.  You can experiment with this or other ways of raising the voltage to the proper level depending on the supply.  The resistor to bring up the 5 volt regulation is shown below.  It is mounted on one of the heat sinks where there is room with heat sink compound on it to the metal sink.

    

          The front of the supply        The 1 ohm 10 watt “regulating” resistor

I installed an LED on the “Power Good” line for on indication and a toggle switch to turn the PS on and off from the front panel using the pair of wires indicated for power on and off.  The circuit board in this case was labeled where the wires were attached, but again this information is available on the internet easy enough. I installed an Anderson Power pole thru holes drilled in the front and another pair on another 12 volt/ground wire pair out the back of the PS.   The PS is being used right now as a bench supply or backup where needed.  This one delivers 12.9 volts at 15 amps, and I will experiment in the future with different uses and see how it holds up.

Another great project that I have a real interest in is what my friend Kenny, K4KR in Chickamauga, Georgia near Chattanooga, Tennessee has been up to lately.  He obtained an amplifier module from Bruce, WA2ZST, who is an engineer with CBS-TV in New York City, which originally helped to power the Harris transmitter for WCBS-TV.  Kenny has built a 50 volt 50 amp power supply to run the amplifier, and will soon be putting a kilowatt out on 6 meters with this!  What an historical and cool piece of gear this is!  Several of these were obtained by ham operators around the country and are being converted for ham use.  Once Kenny gets this all racked up and mounted in his shack, he will be feeding a big 7 element with a 28 foot boom 6 meter yagi with it and will truly be a “big gun” on 6 meters.  More on this story as it develops!

K4KR 50 volt 50 amp power supply and former WCBS-TV Harris VHF amplifier.

 April is not too far away, and with it will come the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the H.M.S. Titanic in 1912.  If you are familiar with the story you will know that Jack Bride and Harold Phillips, the wireless operators aboard Titanic of course are remembered for sending out the CQD’s in morse code (then the equivalent of SOS) that made the Titanic’s plight known to the world.  There will be Ham Radio special event stations commemorating the event in honor of these radio operators, the passengers and crew lost, and the event that still captivates so many  My friends in England will be operating the GM100MGY (MGY being Titanic’s radio call sign) again as they did back in 1990, under the call sign GM90MGY.  From their official News Release:

To commemorate his heroism on the centenary of the disaster, a Surrey radio club – Wey Valley Amateur Radio Group – will set up a special radio station in April, 2012, located at Charterhouse School, on the outskirts of Godalming.  Transmissions in morse code on the amateur radio bands will begin on Tuesday, 10 April (the day, 100 years ago, when Titanic sailed from Southampton).  They will pause at 05.46 GMT on Sunday 15 April, the exact time at which transmissions from Titanic ceased and the vessel sank.  Titanic’s radio call sign MGY will be remembered by the station’s special UK call sign: GB100MGY.

A very special commemorative QSL card will be offered!  I will be in the hunt for that one for sure!  More information on the activities of the special station and sponsorship opportunities can be found by contacting Mike, G3IAF or Mike GØEFO via    GB100MGY@gmail.com

The QSL from the 1990 event

 WØS will also be operating out of Branson Missouri at the Titanic Museum April 14th and 15th 2012 and offer a really cool QSL card too from stateside.

Jim, KCØRPS made a “hut trip” to one of the cabins way up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to do some back country skiing and relaxing miles from any civilization.  The 10th mountain division huts, interspersed in the back country of the Colorado mountains and are accessible by hiking or skiing in offers solitude (unless you take a lot of friends, which is great fun), back country skiing, and the spectacular views of earth and sky that testify for sure to the handiwork of the Lord!  One of his companions on this trip took video and pictures to chronicle the weekend getaway!   It also is a great way to do some ham radio operating from great remote locations too.  Jim and I have talked via the Colorado Connection repeaters at various times, and he is working on a QRP 40 meter CW rig that he plans on taking with him soon.  Check the spectacular video of this trip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzql4b2H224&feature=youtu.be

Bob Heil, K9EID, and Gordon West, WB6NOA recently visited the set of ABC’s “Last Man Standing” starring Tim Allen, who plays a married father of three tries to maintain his manliness in a world increasingly dominated by women, and, is a ham radio operator!  Mike, KA0XTT, Allen’s character, operates a ham station on the show and on this facebook page there are pictures of Bob, Gordon, Bob’s lovely wife Sarah, and Tim Allen.

 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.285406404850423.74590.269589906432073&type=1

Full a full write up about the show and Tim’s character, see this ARRL Article at:

http://www.arrl.org/news/em-ham-radio-in-hollywood-em-amateur-radio-makes-its-debut-on-em-last-man-standing-em

AND, Tim Allen isn’t the first ham in a sitcom.  Check this out for a “monster” great ham station:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqx2ZCwHKa8&feature=related.

And, finally, have you seen the latest radio entry from China into the US market?  I and several others I know own the Wouxun (pronounce “OH-cheng” like “ocean” with a g at the end) dual band HT and are really happy with how well it works and sounds, not to mention the under $100 price.   Now, there is a $48.00 or so dual bander!  The handheld BAOFENG UV-3R (Mark II)136-174/400-470Mhz Dual Freq Display HT.  (See it at http://www.409shop.com/409shop_product.php?id=106279).  Wayne, WA2KEC, Jim, KCØRPS and several other hams we know are really happy with it.  And at this price how can you miss?  I look forward to seeing how this is received by the US ham community.  See reviews of this radio at http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/9749 .

The radio also comes in many available colors, see the Rigpix pictures at: http://www.rigpix.com/mischam/baofeng_uv3rmk2.htm.

Don’t forget the SBE IRLP/ECHOLINK Hamnet, the 1st Saturday of the month and the 3rd Tuesdays now.  Details on how to join us are at http://www.qsl.net/ke0vh/sbehamnet

73’
KEØVH
www.qsl.net/ke0vh

Clay’s Corner for February 2012

On the 11th of January we held our State EAS Committee (SECC) Meeting at the Sand Point at the offices of the National Weather Service.  At some point in the meeting, WCM Ted Buehner mentioned that some weather was coming that we might want to be concerned about.    As predicted we had snow.  Not as much in the Seattle area as the ‘Low’ went inland a bit south of where it was projecting, however south of Olympia received a huge dump of the white stuff. With reportedly 18 inches in some places.   Like all snow fall in the Puget Sound area, it does not last all that long.   The forecast called for warming with the snow changing to rain (like normal) and we were all assured that the weather was about to get back to normal.   What really happened, was it rained (they got that part right) but the temperature failed to increase above freezing resulting in a record setting ice-storm.   Just to add good measure, we got another 2-3 inches of snow on top of the ice.   This time NWS, Cliff Mass and all the TV forecasters got it wrong.

The resulting ice storm caused a huge number of trees to loose limbs that fell into power lines causing about 500,000 to lose power.  The area of major impact was the Eastside through Tacoma and Olympia and south to Chehalis.    In my town, Auburn, 50% of the city was out of power.

Cougar Mt got about a foot of snow, topped with ice and, of course, no power.  Hauling a 4×4 of diesel to the site it became clear why; one phase was lying on the ground.  All together 70 hours of generator use at that site.  Our thanks to Steve and the crew at Don Small Oil for hauling in diesel in a big 4×4 when the usual suppliers said they would not go up there.

At West Tiger, both of the power lines feeding the site went down resulting in some 80 hours of generator time.  As murphy would have it, the road to the site was snowbound.  Not knowing how long it would take for a thaw, or power restoration, the road was plowed out.  If you think that Seacomm does nothing but tower work…Guess again.  John and crew went way over the top in coordinating the plowing of the West Tiger road, cutting a huge number of trees and hauled in some 1000 gallons of diesel.    To add to the problem, the only highway reaching the Tiger Mt Road is SR-18 which was closed from I-90 to Auburn!

From behind the wheel driving to West Tiger Mt.

Some stations were not so lucky and did not have back-up generators.  Others, like KVTI in Lakewood have an antenna that is very sensitive to ice without radomes or heaters. Reportedly the Capital Peak FM’s were off the air as was KSWS in Chehalis was off the air due to lack of access and a snowed in dish, KCKA-TV, at the same site was reportedly off the air, not sure why at this writing.   The ice on STL and Satellite antennas created Ice-fades that are hard to overcome.  In one instance, a station had heaters on their satellite antenna reflector, but the LNB and feed were put out of commission due to a heavy coating of ice. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was closed due to falling ‘Bridgecicles” for several hours.   Then there is PSE that encouraged their customers to report outages via their computer.   Perhaps they fail to understand that most computers don’t operate without power.

Through all of this, a couple of things stand out –

1-    Over the air broadcasting is pretty hard to beat, especially when you are dependent on a system between you and the station you wish to receive.

2-    Reliance on an intermediate carrier for TV, Telephone and Internet can cause you to lose a number of services at the same time.  Something about eggs and baskets.

3-    My windup radio really was put to good use, kudos to KOMO and KIRO-FM.

4-    The Blue/Yellow and Red Jacket guys on the local Channels certainly did a great job of keeping us informed, even though it appeared that they were having difficulty coming up with new material

5-    Power line crews from all over – Working at Cougar Mt was a crew from BC

6-    The sounds of chain-saws and smell of wood smoke.

 

At the homestead, I was lucky in that we only lost power for about 6 hours; however, our cable was out until late on the 22nd.    My normal means of getting email etc. is via DSL and that did not return until the 26th.   I did, however, have POTS so I can see dial-up access to my ISP is going to be a must.    Thankfully we have a gas water heater, range and a great wood stove…fuel for that is laying all over the place.  Jim Dalke lives near me and on one of my drives by his place I could not help but notice that he must have a generator as his was the only house in the area with lights on.

On the West Tiger Road – Lowell Kiesow and Nick Winter from KPLU -The reason for the smiles….The road was just plowed and the going was easy.

Spotted something in a recent Issue of Consumer Reports – They did a survey asking which innovations from the past few decades would be the hardest to live without.  26% said Microwave Oven, 19% said home computer, 15% said cellphone and 14% said cable and satellite TV.   No mention of over the air broadcasting.

Another sign of the times is the fierce amount of competition for the automobile dashboard.  Car makers are racing to install the latest whiz-bang toys to the point that radios are now likely to be integrated into a larger package of electronics.   In the view of at least one maker, GM, it’s time for the CD player to go.

According to a recent piece in TV Technology, TV Antenna sales are booming, the main reason cited were cutting costs and video streaming video sites.   During our recent ice-storm those with antennas were probably better off for other reasons.

The FM version of HD radio is spreading a bit in various places in the world.   News reports this month tell of a new HD Radio Station in Dhaka Bangladesh.  The station is using a package of BE equipment.   Interesting how there is so many in this country reluctant to embrace the system while a new station in Bangladesh embraces it.

From the list of – I know where you are from by the way you drive comes this description of someone from Seattle. [One hand on latte, one knee on wheel, cradling cell phone, foot on brake, mind on game]

The 31st annual Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club Electronic Flea Market will be on Saturday March 10th this year at the Puyallup Fair Grounds Pavilion Exhibition Hall.   Been an annual event for me and several friends.

Seems to me that I have been writing about this for a very long time, like 3 years.  They are projecting that Tribune (owner of a couple TV stations in our town) may exit bankruptcy by the 3rd Qtr. this year.    I’m not going to bet on it.

I understand that George Bisso has had additional amputation surgery has a part of his advancing diabetes.  We wish him well.

As I mentioned in the last Chapter Meeting, I was reading the latest QST and was saddened to discover that W7JPH is a Silent Key.   For those of you that don’t follow ham radio call letters, W7JPH was Don Rose.   In years past Don was a regular at our Chapter meetings.  I remember him as the salesman for EEV.

National Public Radio elected to drop the word Radio from their name becoming simply NPR.  Now it’s Clear Channel Radios turn to drop the work ‘Radio’ from their name becoming Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.   So CCR is now CCME.   For the time being the firm will own some 850 Radio Stations….or perhaps Point-Multi-Point Aural Entertainment Facilities?

Some changes in who does what in our market ….Sam Roffe is leaving KBCS going over to KUOW.   Taking his place will be Buzz Anderson.

We may have something new to see during our annual Picnic on Vashon Island over at the 770/1090 Spread.    I’m sure that Arne Skoog or Tom McGinley will be happy to show us the newest 50,000 Watt transmitter at the CBS station, a new Nautel NX50.   Likely the smallest 50Kw transmitter in the area.

The latest radio ratings are out and KWRM came up with some huge number in the 12+ Race…a 12.  It’s been some time since a radio station has been in double digits.  Congrats to Mark Kaye and the crew over in Bellevue.   Some other observations – KING-FM’s ratings are higher since they went non-commercial.   Something you don’t see everyday…but KRWM’s stream showed up at #38.   Two Bellingham Stations had higher ratings than KVI in Seattle and little KNHC operated by Nathan Hale High School beats 50,000 Watt, AM,  KIXI.

For some time NAB, and others, have been pressing to get FM Radio receivers in Cellphones.  One of the first to say OK to the idea is Blackberry with a couple of their models.

The Mobile 500 Alliance previewed a new mobile TV receiver at the recent CES event in L.V.  The device will be tested, here in Seattle, later this year.

A legislator in W.V. is working on legislation that would make certain copper thefts a felony.  The penalty would be 1 to 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine, or both.   Perhaps the Legislature in our state is more concerned in how to fill the budget hole than worry about copper theft?

Looks like a lot of money will be spent on political advertising this year.   Some estimates put the total at just under $5 Billion.  Almost $3 Billion will be going to broadcast TV.  Washington with now 10 Congressional Seats will become increasingly a target for some of those bucks.

The FCC is out with totals, as of the end of 2011 –

AM STATIONS 4766
FM COMMERCIAL 6542
FM EDUCATIONAL 3644
TOTAL RADIO STATIONS –  14,952

UHF COMMERCIAL TV 1027
VHF COMMERCIAL TV 360
UHF EDUCATIONAL TV 289
VHF EDUCATIONAL TV 107
TOTAL TV STATIONS 1,783

CLASS A UHF STATIONS 413
CLASS A VHF STATIONS 68
TOTAL 481

FM TRANSLATORS & BOOSTERS 6099
UHF TRANSLATORS 2997
VHF TRANSLATORS 1214
TOTAL 10,310

UHF LOW POWER TV 1644
VHF LOW POWER TV 403
TOTAL 2,047

LOW POWER FM 838 838

TOTAL BROADCAST STATIONS 30,411

 

As evidenced by some recent fines, the FCC does not care for stations recruiting policies.  In these cases the stations used only internet postings or word-of-mouth.  The take away from this is when your station has a position to fill – you’d be wise to advertise widely using a variety of means.

Pandora continues to grow as they recently reached the one-million session mark.  Traditional Radio is trying to play catch-up with the major ownerships involved.  Second to Pandora is Clear Channel with their iHeartRadio.  Interestingly the gym I go to is using Pandora over TV or local radio.

It’s not that we did not see this one coming, but the bankruptcy of Kodak certainly leaves a funny feeling to many of us that grew up with a number of Kodak products.   Gee they still say –Film at 11.   Unfortunately for the Rochester NY firm, they were late to see that film was being rapidly replaced with digital everything.  When that light finally went on, others were well down the track.

WOR-AM in NYC recently successfully tested a power saving modulation dependent carrier system on their 50Kw transmitter.   As AM’s struggle to survive in today’s world of radio, it’s likely that many of these high powered stations will be adopting this scheme.  The FCC is, apparently, allowing this use of this technology on a waiver basis.  The makers of high powered transmitters should like this as well as it takes a newer generation transmitter to operate it. My understanding is that Harris and Nautel both are offering it. Come to think about it, aren’t they the only two manufacturers to 50 Kw AM Transmitters?

Our nearest star has been mixing it up lately causing Hams to jump for joy…The impact of moving the MUF higher is felt on broadcasters too with FM stations skipping into markets where they are not licensed.   In one report a station in Florida was heard loud and clear in northern Virginia.    Several years ago I recall watching Channel 4, in Tacoma, get clobbered by a co-channel station from somewhere.   That’s not a problem now, of course, with KOMO, and others, now operating safely on UHF Channels.   Wonder what strong co-channel interference would do to ATSC Digital?

Here’s an invention, just in time for our post winter storm bout with potholes.  It’s a vehicle shock absorber that converts its motion into energy.  The devices, known as Gen-Shocks, look like a standard shock but have an electrical cord.    The rougher the road, the more power is produced.

If your station operates a Part 74 -2-way radio, IFB, ENG, RPU etc. system you probably know about narrow-banding and how this will impact your system.   The SBE as well as EIBASS has filed comments with the FCC dealing with this issue.   If you are not up to speed on this issue, I highly recommend you get that way, quickly.

Those of you that double managing a project will enjoy these definitions –

  • Contractor:    A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal!
  • Low Bidder:    A contractor who is wondering what he left out.
  • Project Manager:    The conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.

 

And finally –

The following was sent to be by Buzz Anderson –

Perhaps one could have been drawn for the TV Remote Control…Before that- The ‘couch potato was forced to actually move to change channels…but then there were very few channels.
Til next month –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

 

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