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Engineer's Corner
7:25 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

TheEC: New STL Dish at 88.1 - INSTALLED!

New 950MHz microwave STL dish being installed on WELH tower in Seekonk.
Credit 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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Engineer's Corner
2:36 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

TheEC: Logitek Audio's Mosiac Mix Board

Logitek MOSIAC mixer demo in the RIPR studio.
Credit Susan Greenhalgh RIPR

This week Frank from Logitek Audio was in town to provide RIPR with a demo of their MOSAIC mix board.  To turn a phrase, this is not your father's mix board!

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Engineer's Corner
2:24 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

TheEC: NAB2014 in Vegas

Your intrepid engineer presents at PREC.
Andrea Toven

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).

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Engineer's Corner
12:42 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

TheEC: Audio Dropouts on 88.1FM

Can you hear me now?

UPDATED 5/8/2014.

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.

Read on for the explanation of both!

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Engineer's Corner
1:11 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

TheEC: Heartbleed and Donations to RIPR

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!

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Engineer's Corner
10:08 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

TheEC: 88.1 Studio/Transmitter Link

Screenshot of the Comrex BRIC Link web GUI
Credit 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...

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Engineer's Corner
11:49 am
Tue January 21, 2014

TheEC: Browser Extensions that Spy on You

Credit 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.

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Engineer's Corner
4:50 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

TheEC: 1290AM Heard in Norway

Longwire antenna used to successfully receive 1290AM in southwestern Norway.
Credit 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!   

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Engineer's Corner
1:43 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

TheEC: 91.5 is Back On the Air

From top to bottom, Bext LEX30 transmitter, Dayton 210 FM receiver tuned to 102.7 to get programming to feed the transmitter, and Inovonics 631 FM receiver to monitor 91.5 on the speakers above.
Credit 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.

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Engineer's Corner
12:39 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

ARRRR - Pirate Broadcast on 102.9FM

Close up of a whip Antenna, believed to be the source of the 102.9 pirate.

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.

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