|Clay’s Corner for January 2023 Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986|
Welcome to the New Year!
Winter certainly got underway prior to the ‘official’ start of Winter with a lot of below normal temps…and lots of snow in the mountains …and period of it in the lowlands too. This picture, from one of the AccelNet Web-Cams, shows conditions at the summit of West Tiger. The tracks from a previous visit were now covered by new snow fall.
Travel to broadcast facilities, like West Tiger, with snow depths like this, are impossible with a rubber-tire vehicle with chains. In the past, we would rely on the services of a fellow that had a small snowcat. Those days are now gone thanks to the development of, smaller, 4 wheel drive, ATV’s fitted with Tracks. More recently, AccelNet, has purchased a couple of these machines to service their own equipment at West Tiger. Thankfully, they are based in Kent and have offered transportation services to others who have to get up there.
Travel to sites like this has changed, rather dramatically, thanks to the development of Tracks that replace rubber tires on ATV’s. These machines come from many different makers and in many different styles and models. Some, like the one pictured, can carry two people, larger ones can take more. The term now commonly used for them is ‘Side-by-Side’ a reflection of their seating arrangement.
Here’s an example of one –
The advantage of these machines is that they are smaller and weigh less. With their rather large ‘foot-print’ (Amount of surface area on the snow) they are able to go ‘over’ snow that a rubber-tire vehicle could not.
I found the following picture, on-line, of Browns Point. The white structure on the left is the historic Lighthouse. The tall-skinny pole on the right is the transmit antenna for 1360 AM. According to news reports, the Lighthouse and park area behind it were covered with water. This would likely mean that radio antenna had its base in the water as well. The good news is it’s shunt-fed. I have a lot of experience with this site as I was the Chief Engineer at KMO when the station moved to this location…Way back in the last Century
Last month I wrote about EVs and their impact on the power grid – Not long afterward I received this from Kent Randles…A short article on power for electric vehicles.
A slightly longer article, that notes that the fossil-fuel industry is behind the misinformation about charging electric cars.
We are, certainly, living in the age of the ‘Hacker’. A number of broadcasters have been hacked, in one way or another. I found it interesting that a flaw has been discovered that would permit a hacker to gain access to a vehicle equipped with SirtiusXM that would allow them to unlock, start and honk the horns of cars of subscribers. Apparently, they were able to patch the problem before some bad guys discovered it.
An old trick revisited – Recently one of the technical remailers frequented by broadcast engineers had a thread whereby several contributors recalled the old ‘Light bulb speaker protection scheme’. The issue was that DJ’s, especially those whose hearing was shot due to listening to excessively loud audio, would crank-up the volume on speakers in the studio to the point that damage would be done to the speakers. Some Engineers would simply put a fuse in series with the speaker…When the DJ complained a speaker stopped working, you would explain that it was their fault – etc. The lightbulb solution was an automatic one. It involved placing a 12 volt lamp, commonly used in automotive tail-lights, in series with the speaker.
With this the higher the volume, the lamp, acting like a current limiter, prevented the speaker from being blown. Of course, today’s vehicles are swiftly moving away from ‘Light bulbs’ in favor of LED’s. Has anyone else used this method?
The FCC has proposed new rules to bolster the security of the nation’s emergency alerting system (EAS). The new NPRM wants broadcasters and cable systems to report incident of unauthorized access to their EAS equipment to the FCC within 72 hours. Frankly, this is all well and good, but – what about those stations and cable systems that are operating un-attended for long periods of time? I can fully understand, and appreciate, the intention here, however, I have to wonder if the proposed rule was fully thought out? Oh well, this is why they call it a ‘Proposed’ rule making. Will be interesting to see how responding parties address it.
On the subject of EAS – The CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), on November 23rd released an advisory for those that employ the DASDEC EAS equipment regarding its apparent vulnerability to hacking. If you have this equipment, you have already probably been advised and have installed the ‘Patch’
But wait, there is more!
EAS participants must soon submit their annual Form One filings for 2022. The filings shall be submitted via the FCC’s ETRS, no later than Feb 28th. The Commish’s Rules require EAS Participants to renew their Station Information (Transmitter Location, Monitoring Assignments, make and model of their EAS equipment etc.
And – As you may have noticed, there was no National EAS Test in 2022. A date for the 2023 test has not been announced, assuming there will be one.
The FCC is upholding a $20,000 fine for a violation that goes back many years. The Station involved is KSCO licensed to Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz California. From what I understand, the AM station is licensed to operate with 10,000 Watts Day and 5,000 watts at night. Apparently, the owners determined that their coverage at night was better if they operated with 1,000 Watts, non-direction rather than with their licensed 5,000 Watt Directional Antenna system —- So that’s what they did. With one catch – They did not receive FCC approval to do so. And – They did this for 30 years !
It’s that time again – Time to mark 2023 Calendars with major events for the year.
Here’s one to add – The NAB show in Las Vegas will be held April 15 thru the 19th at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Incidentally, this is the 100th anniversary of the ‘Big Show’
I recently started work on a new project –
Replacing the Auxiliary Transmitter for KING-FM at Cougar Mountain where they share the American Tower Master Antenna with a number of other broadcasters that use the facility to back-up their Main transmitters on West Tiger.
Not long ago, KIRO-FM (97.3) did the same thing, for similar reasons. Should the station have to use their Auxiliary, other than the difference in coverage (West Tiger is twice as high as Cougar) making use of the facility transparent to the listener. The present Analog FM transmitter at Cougar will not transmit HD Radio signals, meaning that KING-FM’s listeners to their HD2 and HD3 programming would, when the switch is made, have the station disappear from their radios.
The new Auxiliary Transmitter will be a Nautel GV15, almost identical to their West Tiger Main which is a GV30
Underscoring the issues with obtaining components, the transmitter will not arrive here to be installed until April.
Quite unlike a lot of today’s electronic equipment, Broadcast Transmitters are built very well and are asked to work – 24/7/365 for many years. Not many 35+ Year old transmitters still running, when you find one that is – it’s a testament to the people who designed and built it as well as those that have maintained in over the years.
Here’s some interesting data from a recent survey regarding what are called ‘Cord-Cutters’
- About 20% of TV Viewers do so via and Over-The-Air (OTA) Antenna.
- Back when TV Started, they were called, simply – TV antennas
- When Color came along, they were ‘Color Antennas’
- Today they are called (you guessed it) – Digital Antennas.
- 58% of antenna owners say they are interested in local news and information about their local community.
- The term ‘Linear-TV’ is becoming popular. Perhaps because OTA Viewers watch the output of a station in a linear manner.
- Apparently most that watch OTA TV are happy with the experience, however, many long for the ability to have more channels to view (Cable or Satellite hangover?)
- Over half of TV viewers are interested in OTA, but many remain confused as to how to go about it. 13% of these say they are planning on making the switch.
Now to a topic more related to the Broadcast Engineer that installs and maintains todays Radio broadcast equipment. Soldering! Yes, we are occasionally called upon to solder something, but not often. (I recently had to make repairs to that old transmitter at KVTI I wrote about last month, the defective part was ‘soldered’ into a circuit). Today, there are many in this industry, especially with the advent of computer/IT equipment that features connectors that don’t require soldering, like the RJ45 that is rapidly becoming the connector of choice for not only computer based things, but audio as well. With that being said, there are times that you wished you did not have to solder something, especially when you don’t have soldering equipment with you.
The makers of equipment have been listening and have come up with a number of nifty solutions where connections that used to require soldering, can now be made using the little screwdriver commonly called a Greenie
Following are some examples of what I mean –
THE DB CONNECTOR –
The DB connector, available in Male and Female versions with 9, 15 and 25 pins being common, used to always required soldering. It was delicate work, not something you wanted to do standing up on a ladder etc.
To make things faster and easier and eliminate soldering, a number of new creations or ‘work-arounds’ came along that involve crimping ‘pins’ on the ends of the appropriate wires and pushing them into the connector. That method may still be viable, however, we have newer devices that don’t require little pins and a specialized tool – For these- All you need is something to strip the insulation off the end of the wire so you can push it into the ‘euro’ connector and use you ‘Greenie’ to tighten the screw. I call these ‘Greenie Compatible’
These are commonly called ‘Breakout connectors’ The one pictured below is for a DB -25 Pin Male. This model includes a ‘shell’ and clamp to hold the cable.
Here is a DB-15 Female – Minus the cover shell and cable clamp.
Here’s one for the popular DB-9. You can get these with or without hoods to cover the individual connections.
Newer on the market are these that eliminate the need for soldering when using the XLR connector. Certainly, these would be useful when working with a cable where there is little or no strain on the cable involved, such as within an equipment rack. For a Microphone cable, where there are mechanical and stress challenges, those are still best soldered.
Here are a couple more examples of Greenie compatible connectors. On the right, a Greenie compatible 3 conductor phone plug, with cable
How about a- Greenie compatible- 2-conductor, ¼ inch Phone Plug
Greenie compatible RCA type Audio Connector
Perhaps a Greenie compatible 1/8 inch or Mini 3-conductor phone plug
DC Power connectors come in various types – Here’s the answer for them
Not only will these little critters make life easier in wiring equipment that is not subject to human interaction…But I can think that having a collection of these in your tool box, ready to go, for surprize challenges would be a good idea.
If you have some other ‘finds’ in the area of ‘Greenie Compatibility’ Please send them my way.
B&H Photo has been around for a very long time. Perhaps, at one time or another, you thumbed through their extensive catalog? Evidently, they have been selling things they should not have…Namely, FM Transmitters that we – NOT- authorized to operate on the FCC’s controlled FM Bands. Now these were not big and powerful, transmitters but little ones that could be used to connect, perhaps, a smart phone to a car radio (something you would normally do via Bluetooth) An example was the Rolls Model HR 70, pictured here –
Apparently this was just one of several they were selling. The FCC was not amused and told them to stop selling them. If they don’t – expect to pay $22,000 for each one sold. In another action, the FCC hit Pyle USA with a $685,000 fine because some of their wireless microphones interfered with FAA spectrum (A big no-no)
This item has absolutely nothing to do with Broadcasting…but everything to do with answering a question that, perhaps, many of you have had …
WHAT ARE THOSE LITTLE BLACK DOTS FOR ON THE EDGE OF YOUR WINDSHIELD?
Here’s an even better question to ask the person that usually has an answer for everything –
What are they called?
- Back in the last century they started using an adhesive to hold the windows in place. Previously they used a metal trim (Remember?). The edges of the glass nowadays have a black ‘rim’ around the edges to hide the adhesive.
- They wanted to have a ‘pleasing transition’ from that black rim around the edge to the clear glass….so they decided to use a series of ‘Dots’ with decreasing frequency to soften the transition using what’s technically called a ‘Half-Tone’ pattern. Oh yes, those Dot’s have a name – They are call ‘ FRITS’
There are some other technical reasons for the ‘Frits’ …but that’s another story.
Now you have a question for ‘Mr. know it all 😊
Once again Copper Prices are expected to rise in ’23 due to the War in Ukraine, Covid in China and other economic factors. Why am I saying this? Because those that would like to claim some of the copper items in your broadcast plant will have some additional incentive for doing so.
That’s it for this month – Hope the Holidays were good to and for you.
Lord willing, I’ll see you here next month.
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member # 714
Since March 1968