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.

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.

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102.7FM tower
Aaron Read RIPR

Beginning at 10:00am on Saturday March 28th there will be an extended outage of RIPR's 102.7FM signal.   It is expected to last several hours at least, possibly until sunset (around 6:30pm).

We may be able to continue operating at reduced power.  But it's likely that 102.7 will just be completely off the air.   Please note: whenever 102.7 is off, our WCVY 91.5FM signal in Coventry will be off as well.  (it gets its content via a radio receiver tuned to 102.7)

WWBB Blanketing Contour Map
Aaron Read RIPR

(Update 12/31/15 1:15pm) Please be advised that in late November 2015, WWBB installed a new antenna.  This antenna actually should help REDUCE blanketing interference in the downtown area, but nevertheless it's a change and that resets the one-year clock described below.

(Update 02/03/15 5:00pm) B101 has officially moved to One Financial Plaza (aka Hospital Trust tower) in downtown Providence as their new permanent home.  A "license to cover" has been granted by the FCC

What does this mean for your listening to 88.1FM?

If you live within approx. 1.5km of One Financial Plaza (see map at right) and you are experiencing blanketing interference to RIPR, then the FCC rules (47 CFR § 73.318(b)) mandate that WWBB must "satisfy all complaints of blanketing interference which are received  by the station during a one year period."   That period began 1/27/2015 and ends 1/27/2016 but please don't delay! (EDIT: after changing antennas in November 2015, the clock resets to end in November 2016)

You can contact Troy Langham at (918) 664-4581 or FCCcontact@iheartmedia.com to log a blanketing interference complaint and request assistance from their engineers.  Make sure to mention it's under "FCC rule section seventy-three dot three-one-eight".   Give your name, physical address, and a way to contact you (email or phone).

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Optimod 8100A
Gearslutz.com

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".

Spectrum Analyzer
Aaron Read RIPR

Friday night and mid-day Saturday (Nov.14 & 15) ended up being a bit of a saga for what was supposed to be a routine upgrade for our 102.7FM signal in South County.   So first off, an apology to our RIPR listeners on 102.7FM, and to MVYradio's listeners to the 96.5FM signal in Newport.  There were several dropouts, periods when RIPR was on backup transmitter (and thus 96.5 was off entirely), or when both transmitters were down.

Exactly what happened could be described as an avalanche of minutiae, but I'll lay it out as best I can.

Aaron Read puzzles over the new NPR clocks
Dave Fallon RIPR

Starting on Monday Nov.17th, the clocks for Morning Edition, All Things Considered (both weekdays and weekends) and Weekend Edition  will be changing.  

Today's Engineer's Corner is co-authored with our Operations & Production Manager, James Baumgartner.  He and I are the ones directly responsible for organizing all the clock changes' impact on Rhode Island Public Radio, and we've put together this synopsis of what the changes mean for our listeners.

Buggiest iOS Ever?
Aaron Read RIPR

We have heard reports from fellow public radio stations that some users with older iPhones (like the iPhone 5/5S) who upgraded to the new iOS 8 are having problems listening to stations' webcasts.

There doesn't seem to be any particular pattern at this point, other than the problems started when the user updated to iOS 8.  Nor are we at RIPR aware of any RIPR listeners experiencing this problem.

102.7FM tower
Aaron Read RIPR

UPDATE: today's scheduled shutdown is not going to happen, due to a nesting osprey up on our tower.  The climbers have to wait until winter when he/she will leave.

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This Saturday (Sept.27) beginning around 1pm and possibly lasting until sunset, our 102.7FM signal will be either off the air, or operating at reduced power.

USNO Master Clock
Ben Simon

If you were listening to the 8pm newscast on Tuesday night (Sept.23) then you got to experience our new service that helps make sure your watch can be set to the most precise time possible!

Okay, that's not really what happened.  The newscast started out with the USNO's "time guy" (you can hear the automated time announces by dialing (719)567-6742 in Colorado; the DC numbers don't seem to work).  

New Production Studio at RIPR
Aaron Read RIPR

Late last week I was very happy to execute the final changeover to RIPR's new PRODUCTION STUDIO.  This is a big deal for us; our studios were originally designed and constructed by WBUR, way back in the late 1990's when they owned RIPR (then just "WRNI") outright, and most of the "back office" personnel were still located in Boston.

Accordingly, we only have one "studio".  It's two connected rooms: a "control room" with the usual mix board, producer's station, director's station, etc...and a "mic booth" with just a trio of mics.   The idea was that a lot of the day-to-day, off-air, production work was happening up in Boston, where WBUR had four main studios and seven edit booths.  So the workload on RIPR's end would be pretty light.

Fast-forward to 2007 and now we're an independent news radio station with nine news staff and a ton of daily production needs.  Yet only one studio to do it in!  AAAAAHHHH!!!  Scheduling conflicts were rampant.

TheEC: New STL at 88.1FM

Jul 18, 2014
RIPR Chief "Engneah" poses with the STL antenna
David Schiano

UPDATE 7/22: After a weekend of solid operation, we've moved out of "beta" and into "gold", meaning when you listen to 88.1, you're hearing audio that's coming across the new microwave STL.

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Good news everyone!

Longtime Engineer's Corner readers know that we've had, well, "issues" with the STL or "Studio/Transmitter Link" for our 88.1FM signal in Providence.   The STL is what carries the audio from our studios in downtown Providence to the transmitter/tower at the Wheeler Farm in Seekonk.

Now a couple weeks ago we revealed that half of a new wireless microwave STL was installed, and that the other half would be installed soon.  Today, we fired it up for the first time and the results were gratifyingly positive!

Not nearly as romantic as "Lost in Austen", but the hefty thunderstorms that roared through Wednesday morning dumped a lot of rain and dropped a lot of lightning, both of which conspired to take RIPR's 102.7FM (and MVYradio's HD2) off the air for an hour or two.

New STL Dish Being Installed
Aaron Read RIPR

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!

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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.

Keep watching our Twitter feed for updates.

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