Clearly, this has not been a pleasant winter for anyone in New England, and our 102.7FM tower site in Narragansett is no exception. This past Saturday (3/28) we had scheduled time for two different AT&T Wireless tower crews to go up on the Narragansett tower to work on their cellphone antennas.
During such times, we shut down 102.7FM (if possible we'll only reduce power, but in this case it has to be all the way "off") so the tower climbers don't get RF burns from our FM signal.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and it snowed a lot of the day on Saturday. One crew had to bag it entirely, and the other was highly limited in what they could do. It's not just a question of it being safe to climb the tower in the snow; these guys are pretty hardy and can climb in almost anything. The real problem is the equipment itself can't be exposed to too much precipitation or it shorts out. Normally there's rain/snow/ice shields on it all, but they have to open those shields up to work on the antennas.
Accordingly, we're going to have more shutdowns in our future. The next shutdown of 102.7 is scheduled for between 12noon and 3pm on Tuesday March 31st. We're not sure exactly when, but it shouldn't last for more than an hour or so.
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).
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.
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
When you’re a broadcast engineer, you get used to receiving calls at odd hours proclaiming things that tend to fall outside the bounds of “normal.” It’s just the nature of the job. But even your intrepid engineer can be surprised sometimes. Friday morning, August 23rd, was one of those times.
That morning I got a call informing me that WCVY, our 91.5FM signal for much of Kent County, was off the air.
Air conditioning. Cool heaven for those who have it, blazing hell for those who don't. It didn't used to be terribly common in broadcast engineering, but it's become moreso in the last ten years. The reason is that, more and more, audio processors, RDS encoders, audio encoders/decoders, studio/transmitter links, remote control systems, and even the transmitters themselves, have all become increasingly "computer-like" with IC's, hard disk drives, power supplies, electrolytic capacitors and the like. All things that fail quickly when operated in temperatures above 80 or so, and the warmer it gets, the faster they fail!