Engineer's Corner

Credit Credit: Ryan T Conaty

The Engineer's Corner is an occasional series penned by RIPR's IT & Engineering Director, Aaron Read.  

Any time he thinks there's something useful, important, amusing, or otherwise interesting enough to write about?  This is where you'll find it.  The highest compliment he gets, and frequently, is from readers who assure him that even though they have no idea what he's writing about, they love that he's writing it.

Astute listeners probably noticed at 8pm on Friday night (Jan.20th) that RIPR was airing our new "Double Content Delivery System."   It's still technically in the prototype stage, so there's some bugs to work out, but overall we were very happy with its ability to put out twice as much content at once.  Soon we'll roll it out across our schedule, and you'll barely be able to make sense of all the content we'll be throwing at you!

Okay, so, yeah, that's a joke. :)

RIPR's Intrepid Engineer sips cocoa during the storm
Lisa Read / RIPR

With the forecast being for 10 to 15 inches of snow (!!!) across the Providence region today, why is your Intrepid Engineer smugly sipping hot cocoa in his kitchen, instead of frantically sweeping mounds of snow from the satellite dish?

Tower crane
Aaron Read

UPDATE 03/06/17: AT&T reports they are   FINISHED!  WOOOOOT!!!  :)  No more reduced power days on 102.7FM!

UPDATE 03/03/17: Unfortunately, if not unsurprisingly, AT&T was unable to finish today.  They'll be back on the tower Monday 3/6 at 9am so reduced power on 102.7 again.

UPDATE 03/02/17: AT&T is baaa-aaa-aack! They're doing some work on the ground Thursday afternoon, and then tomorrow...Friday March 3...they'll be back up on the tower.  That means reduced power on 102.7 from mid-morning until early afternoon.  (scroll down to the original post for the details of exactly what that means)

The foreman tells me that the plan is to "swap some equipment on the tower, let it run for an hour or two to let it stabilize, then take the readings" to confirm proper operation.  Assuming it's working right, they take a few pics for documentation and that's it - the whole project is finished.

So hopefully all will go well and then we won't have to do this again for a very long time!

UPDATE 01/02/17:  I don't know exactly where things are with the AT&T Tower Crew.  When last we spoke, before the holidays, they didn't think they'd be able to complete the video documentation and final system checks of the new cellphone antennas/radios in one day.  That was in the morning, and I wasn't able to get back to the site until after dark when they'd already left for the day.   So I'm vaguely assuming there will be another day of reduced power coming up this week.

While annoying to RIPR and you, our Faithful Listeners, I must admit a respect for these folks: they don't mess around on documentation.  They do a LOT of documentation, and that usually makes life a lot easier down the road for any maintenance or upgrades.  I shudder to think how long this job would've taken if they weren't so thorough about it.

UPDATE 12/22/16: perhaps not surprisingly   (it was raining a fair amount in Narragansett today) the tower crew needs to go back up on Friday 12/23 to finish the work.  So reduced power again tomorrow.

UPDATE 12/22/16: The crew is back on the tower today which means reduced power for our 102.7 FM listeners.

UPDATE 12/05/16:  As you may have guessed from looking out the window, the weather is not permitting of tower climbing today.  Forecast looks nice, well, nicer, for Tuesday, so we're expecting climbing and reduced power then.

UPDATE 12/01/16:   Tower crew foreman says no more power reduction this week; they're currently scheduled for December 5 & 6, weather permitting.  

UPDATE 11/28/16: Weather forecast looks lousy for tower work both Tuesday and Wednesday.  That's the good news.  The bad news is the tower crew is finding that the new cellphone equipment is not working the way it should; things aren't "talking" to each other properly.  They need at least another day or two, quite possibly more, to iron out the kinks.  Check here for updates!

UPDATE 11/28/16: We're at reduced power for the day on 102.7FM. 

UPDATE 11/25/16: The tower crew is here this morning, so we'll be on reduced power for the day.  Rain picked up, tower crew had to pack it in.  Back at normal power at 11:50am, but the crew will be back next Monday 11/28.  Likely Tuesday, too.

UPDATE 11/23/16: I'm told the tower crew fell behind schedule on Tuesday and couldn't make it up today, so they're scheduled for more work on Friday 11/25.  Same time (9am-4pm).  

I'm not sure it'll happen; the weather forecast isn't good.  Keep watching the @RINPR twitter feed for updates.

UPDATE 11/21/16: no tower work today; weather forecast is too nasty.  That means no power reduction on 102.7 for Monday.  More likely tomorrow and Wednesday.  

UPDATE 11/18/16 evening: WHEW! Omnia processor is fine. Turns out our backup STL was misconfigured and was positively blaring electronic white noise.  So loud, in fact, that it caused "crosstalk" inside the Henry Engineering AutoSwitch that automatically changes the primary STL (Studio/Transmitter Link) to backup upon silence.  "Crosstalk" means the noise on the inactive backup side was bleeding into the active primary side.  Quite loudly, in fact.

As for the tower work: no word yet on specifics, but we're still expecting they'll need reduced power during the weekday on Monday 11/21 thru Wednesday 11/23.  I'll post updates here and on the @RINPR Twitter feed as I get them.

it appears our Omnia 6exi audio processor has failed.   This might explain why many of you reported hearing so much static today; it wasn't just the reduced transmit power (as we and all our remote telemetry monitoring would've indicated) but instead the audio processor has decided it's going to output a little bit of program audio and a LOT of white noise.

As of 4:30pm, we have bypassed the processor for the analog broadcast of 102.7FM.  We don't have that option for HD Radio listeners, so if you have an HD Radio might hear audio for a few seconds, then it goes silent.  I'll be working on this tonight and/or tomorrow morning to get something in place, even temporarily.

I've already called Omnia Audio and at worst we'll have a loaner unit in place by Tuesday or so.  We might be able to rig something up tonight that'll at least sound decent, even if it's not 100%, and get audio on for both analog and HD Radio listeners.


UPDATE 11/18/16: today the tower crew is hoisting the last of the three antenna arrays using a giant crane.  That'll take most of the day.  

The foreman tells me they're expecting another two, more likely three, days of work to install the remaining antennas onto the new arrays, secure the RF cabling, and finish cleaning up the site.   So probably more work next week (11/21-11/23) but I don't have exact dates/times yet.

MVYradio 96.5 listeners; the device we use to get audio to the transmitter for the backup STL (Studio/Transmitter Link) is a Barix Exstreamer and it has been acting very weird.  It just spontaneously resets the connection once or twice an hour; during a reset it's dead air and it takes 20-30 seconds to rebuffer and get audio playing again.  There are some functions that are not behaving like the manual says they should, so we're not sure if this is a problem with the data connection, or a problem with the device itself.  We are trying to make it more reliable but we're limiting what we experiment with since each change to the Barix forces a reset and, therefore, some dead air.


UPDATE 11/14/16:   no work scheduled for today (Monday) nor Tuesday or Wednesday.  I'm told the tower crew wants to try and finish up on Thursday and Friday.  Updates will be posted here and on our @RINPR Twitter feed.

UPDATE 11/9/16: between setup delays, inclement weather today, and predicted high winds on Friday, the tower crew is behind schedule.  This is unfortunate, but not unsurprising; it's also why we wanted to have a system in place where 102.7 was still on the air, at reduced power, instead of just completely off.

The good news is that we were at normal power throughout election day and through a lot of post-election coverage today.  More good news, we'll be at normal power all day Friday, too, barring a significant shift in the forecast.  And we'll be at normal power over the weekend as well.

The bad news is that we'll probably have to run at reduced power between 9am and 4pm on various days next week (11/14 thru 11/18).  The foreman tells me they usually need one day each to remove an antenna array, and replace it with a new one.  There are three arrays (one for each side of the tower) so after Thursday there'll still be two more days, possibly three...maaaaybe four...on the tower where reduced 102.7 power is necessary.

Keep an eye on the @RINPR Twitter feed (you don't need to be a Twitter user to read it!) for updates as they happen.



Between 9am and 4pm on Nov.8 thru 11th (that's Tuesday through Friday), our 102.7FM signal may be operating at reduced power.  About 300 watts instead of our usual 2000 watts.   Those of you listening "on the fringe" (as the saying goes) of our broadcast area might notice it, but hopefully it won't be too bad.  Our HD Radio will not be functional during this period, either.

This will NOT affect our 88.1FM signal, nor our webcast.  With luck, it will not impact MVYradio's 96.5FM signal (we're trying to rig a temporary audio path).

AT&T Tower Climbers on 102.7 Tower
Aaron Read RIPR

UPDATE 3:15PM: The tower crew needed a few extra minutes to finish up, but they are done and down from the tower...and we are back on the air!


To our South County listeners: 102.7FM may be off the air for periods between 11am and 3pm on Tuesday June 21st to allow AT&T Wireless tower climbers to perform emergency repairs on their equipment.

Radios on Omni Hotel Roof
Aaron Read RIPR

This week we have crossed a new milestone for our Studio/Transmitter Links (STL) for WELH 88.1FM.  Longtime EC readers know that we've had, well, "issues" with the STL for a long time.

102.7FM is off-air from about 1:15pm to 2:30pm or so on Saturday Dec. 5th for emergency tower work by AT&T Wireless on their antennas, which are a few feet below our FM transmission antenna on the same tower in Narragansett.   We have to shut down to get the power levels low enough for the safety of the tower climbers.

They say it shouldn't take more than about an hour.

Front and back of SureStreamer

Transmitting audio over the internet is a fact of almost every radio station's life these days, and RIPR is no exception.  In fact, we use it even for mission-critical purposes like getting our main programming audio from our studios to our transmitters in Seekonk (88.1FM/Providence) and South County (102.7FM/Narragansett Pier).  But while audio over the internet is so ubiquitous that everyone takes it for granted, it's important to remember that, strictly speaking, it's a terrible idea and the internet was never designed for it.

That's where nifty devices like the new APT SureStreamer come in.

Logitek Mosaic mixer
Aaron Read RIPR

Our new Logitek Audio-over-IP (AoIP) mix console system, and its accompanying ENCO automation system, is in the process of being installed.  We'll have some on-site visits starting Nov.2nd and the big changeover will be the week of Nov. 16th.

Starting on August 18, 2015 we've added a new feature to the homepage: you can download MP3 audio files of the three most recent local newscasts!  So if you just missed the news, but still want to get caught up on the most breaking of breaking developments, fear not - you can get it right from our website!

Lost mode in Find My iPhone

We've all been there.  Even your Intrepid Engineer has done it.  You're having a perfectly lovely day.  You decide you want to check your email, so you reach for your phone and...


...where's my phone?

...WHERE'S MY $#%%!@*^& PHONE?!?!?

Oh no, you've lost your phone. Now what?

Cute dog listening to headphones

Listening to RIPR online gets easier every day!  But since the webcasting world is constantly changing, we have to change, too! If you've got a problem hearing us on your Android phone, or you want to know what's going with the stream on our website?  Or maybe you need a little help choosing a wifi radio?  

All is revealed on our Streaming Help page at

Check it out for all sorts of helpful info on how to keep the bits flowing and RIPR on your speakers - now freshly updated by your Intrepid Engineer with new info on podcasts and NPR One!

RDS on 881FM
Aaron Read RIPR

Ever looked at your radio and noticed there's text there, showing the artist and title of the song you're hearing on your favorite FM station?  Ever wonder what that is? I'll tell you: RDS!  Starting in the early 1990's, radios in the USA had the ability to display Radio Broadcast Data System text information, more commonly known as RBDS or just RDS.   

Multiple TV's in Studio A at RIPR
Aaron Read RIPR

Thanks to a recent major grant that RIPR applied for and received, we have added several 40-inch LCD TV screens to Studio A, our "air studio".   Four total, plus a fifth existing LCD TV.  So we can watch ALL the things!!!

AT&T Tower Climbers on 102.7 Tower
Aaron Read RIPR

This past Saturday, AT&T Wireless performed a hardware upgrade to their cellphone antennas that're on the same tower RIPR's 102.7FM signal is, in Narragansett.   This entailed two tower climbers spending nearly six hours up on the tower, within about 20-30 feet of our Shively 3-bay antenna.  Fortunately between the laws of antenna physics, and judicious reduction in transmitter power, RIPR could stay on the air without jeopardizing worker safety!

WRNI-FM utility rack
Aaron Read RIPR

UPDATE: More tower work Saturday April 11th beginning at 10am.

The second AT&T crew is returning for another try for antenna replacement on Saturday 4/11 starting at 10am and lasting most of the day.  

Based on previous experience, we are hoping to maintain normal operations on 102.7...or at worst just run at half-power.   Check the @RINPR twitter feed for updates.