Engineer's Corner

Engineer's Corner
11:03 am
Mon March 30, 2015

TheEC: More 102.7 Shutdown for Tower Work

The "utility" rack of equipment for 102.7FM
Credit Aaron Read RIPR

102.7 SHUTDOWN: TUES. MARCH 31 12-3PM 

Now is the winter of our discontent...

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.

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Engineer's Corner
12:34 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

TheEC: 102.7 Shutdown for Tower Work on March 28th

The 102.7 tower. The three orange antenna bays at the top are the WRNI-FM array; AT&T is the white vertical lattice below it.
Credit 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)

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Engineer's Corner
8:02 pm
Sun November 23, 2014

TheEC: "Whistling" While the (88.1FM Transmitter) Works

An Orban Optimod 8100A audio processor.
Credit 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".

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Engineer's Corner
11:13 pm
Sat November 15, 2014

TheEC: Better HD Radio for 102.7FM

Spectrum analyzer of WRNI-FM's signal, with adjustments in progress.
Credit 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.

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Engineer's Corner - Programming Announcement
4:48 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

TheEC: New NPR Clocks

Your Intrepid Engineer attempts to puzzle out the new NPR clocks.
Credit 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.

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Engineer's Corner
11:52 am
Tue September 30, 2014

TheEC: iOS8 and Streaming Problems

Credit 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.

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Engineer's Corner
9:42 am
Wed September 24, 2014

TheEC: 8pm Newscast Tuesday Night

The USNO Master Clock
Credit 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).  

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Engineer's Corner
6:10 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

TheEC: New STL at 88.1FM

Your Intrepid "Engneah" poses with the new 950MHz Microwave STL transmit antenna on the roof of WELH's studios on the Wheeler School campus.
Credit 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!

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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
10:17 am
Thu May 22, 2014

TheEC: Air Conditioning at 88.1FM

New portable A/C. Note the pink foam insulation along the walls.
Credit Aaron Read RIPR

Regular readers of the ENGINEER'S CORNER might recall my story about air conditioning at our 102.7FM transmitter in Narragansett Pier.   Well now I'm pleased to report that we have air conditioning at 88.1FM WELH in Seekonk as well!

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.

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