Aaron Read

Director of Information Technology & Engineering

Aaron leads the team that keeps our transmitters, computers and studios working at peak proficiency while strategizing future technical improvements.   Born in Westerly and raised in nearby Mystic, CT, Aaron has lived in New England for over 30 years...albeit with a five year detour to the Finger Lakes of NY and Santa Barbara, CA.  

Prior to joining RIPR in 2012, he's worked at, with, or for a multitude of NPR and college radio outlets; including WBUR (Boston University), WEOS & WHWS (Hobart & William Smith Colleges), KCSB (UC, Santa Barbara), KCBX, WMFO (Tufts University), WBRS (Brandeis University), WZBC (Boston College), WZLY (Wellesley College), and also the public radio programs The Infinite Mind and Living on Earth.

Read has a BA in Psychology from Boston University, is a Certified Broadcast Technologist in the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and relishes his "jack of all trades" reputation.  He writes The Engineer's Corner, an occasional series on technical topics involving RIPR.

Ways to Connect

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!

West River runs high through 1290AM
Aaron Read

As many of you know, RIPR owns and maintains the 1290AM site on the Providence/North Providence town line.  Our NPR satellite downlink is there, and we lease the frequency to our friends at Latino Public Radio.

In the past, the site was largely a pond (Whipple Pond) with Douglas Ave forming part of a dam in the eastern corner.   After the torrential rains of 2010, the dam broke and the pond drained.  Now the West River flows freely through the site.

  This time on The Engineer's Corner, I want to look back three weeks ago, and look back over fifty years ago.  And how little typos can have a big impact when it comes to engineering.

FullChannel Jamie Griffin
FullChannel

Our good friends at FullChannel cable, available to residents of Barrington, Warren and Bristol, are not only nice enough to put RIPR's audio on channel 799.   But also their engineer, Jamie Griffin, has started his own "Engineer's Corner" email newsletter for cable TV folks.

    

Real-time updates for weather-related school, road and event closings!  A service provided by the RI Broadcasters Association and Rhode Island Public Radio.

You can also send the RIPR newsroom tips and info at news@ripr.org or call (401)351-2244, and follow us on Twitter @RINPR for additional news updates.

TheEC: Prison Radio

Feb 3, 2014
Sony SRF-39FP prison radio
Museum of Everyday Objects

A recent article in the New Yorker about radio in prison piqued my interest.  Besides providing a window into a world that many of us know little or nothing about, it caught my eye that these Sony SRF-39FP ("FP" for "Federal Prison") radios are actually remarkably good receivers.  

BRIC Link Web GUI
Aaron Read

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.

Read on for more details...

Browser Extension Adware Malware and Spyware
howtogeek.com

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.

PCAU
Aaron Read / RIPR

UPDATE (Jan.10):  Verizon sent a trio of techs today to examine the Digital Lines.  They found a splice point on a pole near the Wheeler Farm end of the circuit where water had gotten past the weatherproofing.  The splice was re-done, with fresh (and better) weatherproofing sealant applied, and a weather box placed around it.

That's likely the culprit here: the problems started during the snowstorm, so probably water got in there and expanded/contracted repeatedly as the water froze and melted.  That expansion wreaks havoc with (relatively) fragile copper telco wiring.

As of 3pm we are back on our main STL.  We've noticed the volume levels seemed to have changed somewhat with this repair, too, so we're still tweaking things.

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ORIGINAL POST (Jan.3): Ever since the hefty snowstorm and extreme cold on Thursday night, our 88.1 signal in Providence has been experiencing "digital chirps" now and then.  

The SummerCAM/SnowCAM  is in the RIPR newsroom, looking out at downtown Providence.  It uses Wowza-based streaming technology, provided by ServerRoom.net, which should work on most devices. 

Longwire antenna in Norway
Arild Skalmeraas

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!   

WCVY temporary transmitter
Aaron Read

As of Tuesday November 12th, WCVY is back on the air in limited fashion.   As you know, WCVY suffered catastrophic damage to its equipment and facility from a roof leak during a thunderstorm in August.   The entire space had to be gutted to the concrete walls, and new electrical wiring and drywall installed.  Much of the transmitter gear either took direct water damage (e.g. electricity shorting out) or took indirect water damage (e.g. rust and other corrosion), and eventually a lot of it failed completely.

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.

UPDATE 01/21: Multiple letters sent with no response, and the pirate's still broadcasting.  A letter has been mailed to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.   If you are an RIPR listener to 102.7 and you have experienced interference due to this pirate, you can submit your own letter to the FCC as well.

UPDATE 12/19: The pirate has been found!  Well, we're pretty sure we have found the pirate.  Using a directional antenna and a signal meter, we triangulated the position to a house a few blocks from the Locust Grove Cemetery in South Providence.  

A letter of notification of interference to RIPR was mailed to this address several weeks ago, but apparently this pirate doesn't care as there's still an illegal broadcast on 102.9 from this location.

UPDATE 11/5: Thanks to a fellow engineer who informed me there is a pirate broadcasting on 102.9FM and that is likely the source of the interference people have reported (see below).  Quite possibly the atmospheric changes made it worse, but the bulk of the problem is likely the pirate.

cox fiber splice tool
Aaron Read

As all RIPR fans know, we are an NPR member station.  That means we get a lot of our programming from NPR, the BBC, and other providers, via our satellite dish.   The dish is medium-sized as dishes go, but it’s pretty big in real terms: 3.7 meters (12ft) in diameter.   There’s quite literally nowhere to fit a dish that large at our studios in 1 Union Station, so instead it was installed out at our 1290AM transmitter site in North Providence (we still own 1290, but we lease it to Latino Public R

Sharp-eared listeners may have noticed some announcements this morning on RIPR, having to do with our FCC broadcast licenses.  In fact, listeners to every radio station in Rhode Island, and all of New England, will be hearing similar announcements today.   It’s because every eight years, AM & FM broadcast licenses expire and must be renewed; these announcements are required by the FCC as part of that process.

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