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.
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)
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".
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
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.
In many ways, this is an even bigger deal; 102.7 had a hefty vent fan system that could move a lot of air. Sure, if the air outside was hot, it means the air inside was hot, too. Usually you can't cool a room using outside air below about +10F degrees above outside air temps. So if it's 90F outside, it's 100 to 105F inside...ugh!
And at 88.1, we didn't really have even that. The transmitter site is an 8x10ft shed with a single 12 inch desk fan blowing air out one of the wall vents, and no insulation whatsoever on the walls or ceiling. Temps routinely broke 120F inside, even when it was only 70 to 80F outside.