UPDATE DEC.1, 2014: our demo unit of the BW Broadcast DSPXmini-FM SE audio processor arrived today. It's been installed on 88.1FM and initial tweaking is complete. The sound seems markedly improved. I'll be fiddling with it further to adjust it across different programs.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: About a week ago, your intrepid engineer made some changes to the airchain on our 88.1FM that should've, in theory, been wholly beneficial and with no potential for downside. However, around that same time I started getting reports of an odd whistle...or just high-pitched static...that would come and go with no apparently rhyme or reason.
These reports aren't widespread, but there's been enough that I'm no longer inclined to think it's just an odd run of people happening to have poor reception. The only commonality is that it seems to occur only when reception of 88.1 isn't very good to begin with. Not necessarily "poor" reception at all, just not "super-solid".
UPDATE @ 1pm : 88.1FM is back at normal power! Pics are available on our Twitter feed here, here, here and here. By the way, many of these pics were taken with a stock iPhone 5S using this telephoto lens attachment. Pretty good for $45!
On Wednesday June 18th, beginning around 9:30 or 10am, 88.1FM will be running on the backup transmitter & antenna for a few hours to install new equipment on the top of the tower. We must run on the lower-power backup for the health & safety of our tower climber.
The backup operates using a one-bay vertically-polarized omnidirectional antenna and about one-tenth our normal power.
THIS WILL NOT IMPACT OUR 91.5 OR 102.7FM SIGNALS, NOR OUR WEBCAST.
As promised, here are some pics of my six days and seven nights in Las Vegas for the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, one of the biggest conferences in the USA, with over 98,000 engineers, managers, vendors and content creators all crammed into the truly massive Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).
The morning of April 30th saw several odd "dropouts" in the audio on 88.1FM, usually lasting 5 to 8 seconds each, happening as often as 2 or 3 times a minute, but more commonly once every 10 to 15 minutes.
There was also an odd "repeating audio" effect some people noticed, when the audio came back.
The big news in computing this week is Heartbleed, a serious security problem with secure websites. Specifically, it's a two-year-old bug in the near-ubitiquous OpenSSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol...most commonly recognized when there's a "https" (instead of "http") at the beginning of a website address.
It's a big problem, and I'll explain why in a second, but first I wanted to let everyone know that the RIPR donations website is secure and never was vulnerable to Heartbleed. They use a hardware-based implementation of SSL, not OpenSSL.
So if you have donated or plan to donate to RIPR, you have nothing to worry about in regards to Heartbleed and that donation. Whew!
In light of ongoing issues with the Studio/Transmitter Link (STL) for WELH 88.1, we have implemented a new STL schema. If you heard a lot of odd audio dropouts on 88.1 today, that was the reason.
The good news is that we should have a pretty good temporary solution in place, and a solid path for a permanent solution is on the horizon (tentatively scheduled for mid-March). Best of all, I was able to put in a new(er) Orban Optimod 8100A audio processor to replace the less-capable Inovonics DAVID-III. There's a little sibilance still, so I need to tweak the settings. But overall the sound should be much louder, fuller, and more consistent.
Taking a break from broadcast engineering this time on TheEC, and instead we'll look at the other side of my job: computers. In particular, here's a heads-up to a recent story that's lit-up the geekier realms of the internet, but may not have percolated to your inbox just yet. It has to do with BROWSER EXTENSIONS and how they might or might not...probably might...be spying on you.
We've talked in the past about skywave propagation, but it's cool when you heard about real-world examples of it. Recently I've gotten several emails from "DX'ers" (Distant Reception enthusiasts) in Europe saying they've been able to hear Latino Public Radio on 1290AM all the way across the Atlantic!
We have put a temporary setup in place with a donated 30 watt transmitter on loan (with the antenna array's gain factor of 2.1, it's really more like 63 watts of Effective Radiated Power), and a special radio that's tuned to 102.7FM (there's a high-gain FM antenna on the rooftop tower) and puts out the composite signal directly into the new transmitter. This effectively makes 91.5 into a "repeater" of 102.7FM.