Broadcast television engineering related tech topics, rants and motorcycles!

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A New Transmitter Problem – ‘Paper Cap’ Short!

2 March, 2015 (14:14) | DTV, HDTV |

Quite suddenly and without warning on February 27th, the V2 cabinet for our KBCW was constantly crowbarring (a safety function on high-voltage/high-power transmitters to prevent a tube short or other high beam current event from destroying the Inductive Output Tube) and would not hold high voltage for any amount of time putting our transmitter at half power – our other amplifier cabinet was working normally.  As soon as we went to ‘beam on’ and high voltage was applied the crowbar circuit would trip and the only fault would be a very generic and mostly unhelpful ‘crowbar fault’ – nothing else.

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20.4% of US Broadcasters are ‘Transmitting’ Mobile-TV? Seriously?

23 June, 2013 (12:10) | DTV, MobileDTV, rant, TV |

Recently SCRI published a teaser article claiming that across the board “…over three in ten TV (30.6%) and almost four in ten cable stations (37.5%) are already transmitting mobile-TV broadcasts.”

The article cites an international study they performed which makes pretty bold claims and then links to their for-a-fee marketing report.  Which, as we all know, can be skewed any number of directions based on the questions/wording posed.  Their question of “When will your facility be transmitting mobile-tv broadcasts” already shows the poor choice of words and lack of specificity to make the answer meaningful. Read more »

Old Media Takes It On The Chin From Scott Adams – Inadvertently.

27 April, 2010 (11:00) | Computers, Fun, rant, TV |

Scott Adams wanted to make a topical comic about the recent iPhone 4G drama that’s been all the buzz recently and realized that his normal outlet (a newspaper) has a propagation delay of about a month.

“I worried that the story would become stale before my comics would work through the pipeline.”

His only option in order to be topical and current was to post his comic online.

“I think the soonest I can get something published is in about a month, perhaps a bit sooner…”

Wow.  I don’t believe Scott meant to take a swipe at newspapers per se, but his comment shows just how little has changed in that business despite their use of computers for composition and wire feeds via data circuits.

Granted, Scott is not (nor am I) an investigative journalist, but when Scott, I and others can create content, publish it, be indexed by a search engine and be seen by millions (Scott, not me) in a matter of minutes – the value of traditional outlets for media, news and commentary plummets quickly.  Since this is nothing new, the real story here is that after years of TV and newspapers being pummeled by the new and recent content outlets on the Internet they still can not refine the process for something as simple as publishing a comic.

If Matt Stone and Trey Parker can accomplish the seemingly Herculean feat of being topical in their weekly animated South Park episodes, why can’t a newspaper do the same for a three-panel comic?

I believe this underscores the challenges and difficulties that entrenched media outlets face.  They have very old and set ways of performing a function with very narrow and short-term views interested only in placing controls and locks on the dwindling amount of content they still create.

Moreover, in order to keep up with rapidly changing times the internal resistance is too great to overcome and inevitably the changes that are made are incremental and often lagging behind the younger companies that “get it”.

Get it?

iPad Mobile DTV FAIL [Pic]

12 April, 2010 (22:55) | DTV, HDTV, NAB, TV |

While checking the Mobile DTV pavilion at the NAB convention in Las Vegas today I came across several mobile and portable devices showing off how well they can decode and display the new mobile DTV signals being broadcast.  All save one…

A Good Engineer Is Hard To Find… For TV Anyway.

5 April, 2010 (00:23) | Computers, Education, HDTV, rant, TV |

I was recently talking with a sales rep I deal with and we got on the topic of the aging TV engineering workforce.  He told me a rather depressing story about a recent SBE chapter meeting in his area where one of the old timers started poking fun at a couple  younger members who were working on their Mac laptops and had iPhones – apparently he felt that broadcast engineering was PC only which just shows how out of touch this guy is.  The upshot here is that these were interested young technical professionals who just came to a broadcast engineering meeting to learn something new only to be berated by someone who probably won’t be in the business very much longer.  What incentive do these young men have for returning to the next meeting when one of the people that should be passing the torch is instead using it to burn bridges?

Recently, a broadcast publication, TV Technology, published an overdue article lamenting the fact that well trained, or at least interested, young technical talent is hard to find and even harder to retain in the broadcast engineering field.  If you need proof, just stop by the annual Society of Broadcast Engineers member’s meeting that goes on every year during NAB – you’ll walk in and see a lot of gray and balding heads (mine will be in there too).

In the article James Careless goes on to list several key elements that could be used to lure attract entice interest fresh faces to the field of broadcast engineering:

  • Emphasize the IT side of the broadcast plant.
  • “Jazz Up” the image of broadcast engineering.
  • A new IEEE course being developed called “Bridging the Broadcast/IT Gap” to bring older engineers in touch with newer technologies that could work in reverse for IT-minded youngsters.
  • and “it couldn’t hurt to boost the pay”.

I think the last item is where James buries the lead.  The last item on the list really should be the first item on the list.  Boosting pay is the only way to attract young geeks (like me) into the non-standard workday/workweek and workplace that is broadcast television. Read more »

Terrestrial Radio. It’s as bad as I remember.

2 April, 2010 (22:07) | Fun, rant |

It’s been about five years since I bought into Sirius satellite (paid) radio.  At the time, like many initial customers,  I was spending a lot of time in a company truck.  For me it was driving from hilltop-to-hilltop working on transmitters or to various studios within “driving distance” and I quickly became fed up with driving out of range of a station’s coverage during an interesting talk-radio discussion or good song coupled with the dearth of variety, but the bounty of repetition.

The initial realization when initially using satellite radio is the sheer amount of content variety which are instantly available.  Not only are various musical formats lined up to cover any taste, there are major sporting events (even football games) broadcast live.  One of my all-time favorites (since I’m not easily offended) is the Raw Dog Comedy channel.  A channel so replete with the “seven words you can never say on television” (or radio) I believe it has to be their most popular channel – although I cannot find any readily available ratings or stats to prove my assumption.

George Carlin explains the “seven words”.

Even though Howard Stern is their flagship personality with an uninhibited vocabulary and format I just don’t find him nearly as funny as the comics on Raw Dog.  And when I tire of grinning broadly and laughing like a manic hurtling down the freeway I can always find a musical mix or talk radio show to fill the empty ride.

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Cable’s Latest Attempt to Elminate Local Channel Carriage

12 December, 2009 (12:48) | Cable, rant, TV |

A new article in Broadcasting & Cable highlights the American Cable Association’s attempt to sway the FCC via a December 11th letter by the ACA President Matt Polka (in addition to the regular lobbying of cable-related issues through their PAC) to eliminate “Must Carry” rules so that they can “offer Internet speeds as fast as 100 Mbps with minimal upgrades to their existing plants through a process called channel bonding.

This is nothing short of a “land grab” for Big Cable to kick the broadcasting industry while it’s viewership and revenue is down and use the promise of amazing Internet access speeds (for the extreme minority of subscribers that could afford and/or would like to have it) to free themselves of having to pay local broadcasters for carriage of their content.

Using the CED Magazine Freq Chart as a guide (excerpt below) one can see that current cable modems, which provide the highest Internet access speeds for the average public short of FiOS service from Verizon, only occupy the space between 6MHz and 40MHz (34MHz total) out of the typical 1GHz available to modern CATV deployments.  In other words, about 3.4% of their total capacity.  Adding the space of another 4 TV channels (24MHz) increases the total cable modem bandwidth usage 58MHz (5.8% of total capacity).

Portion of the CED Freq Chart


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My Custom BlackBerry Curve Theme. Red Nebula.

2 November, 2009 (23:01) | Fun, Hacks, Projects |

I’ve been a business user of BlackBerry phones for a few years now and, although I won’t get into a rant about which phone is the best phone to buy, I will say that in having these devices foisted upon me by my oh-so-wise-and-indefatigable employers I have found them capable e-mail devices and decent phones, but not much else.  However, finding a theme that is mildly interesting to look at while being easy to read on a Blackberry’s small screen has been mostly fruitless.  So, to paraphrase an old saying; “if you can’t buy one, make one.”

Recently I was issued my latest BB, a Curve, and although I like the phone well enough as a work phone, I cannot stand the lousy theme that it ships with.  They don’t even provide a basic, no-frills, monochrome theme and background.  This is just crap:

There are quite a few free theme’s out there for BlackBerries, but I also wasn’t too successful in finding a theme that provided the contrast I wanted, the readability of icons and font size I was comfortable with and a nice red hue.  So, here is what I came up with: Read more »

Making My Netbook Sing. And Dance. And Play Movies.

16 February, 2009 (04:11) | Computers, Fun, Projects |

I’m sure I mentioned before that I really like gadgets and a few months back I bought an eeePC 1000HA for under $400. This is one of the very first Netbooks to have the Atom processor and a 160GB hard drive instead of the paltry 4GB flash drives in the early models.

I really wasn’t impressed with the device out of the box since it comes shipped with a stripped down version of Windows XP for the operating system. My initial experience with it was pretty lousy since the OS crashed hard when I tried to rearrange items on the desktop the first time I powered it up. A few more times of use were met with similar frustrations and overall sluggish response from the interface that even the addition of another 1GB of memory couldn’t help.

So, what’s a geek to do? Strip off Windows and install Linux of course! Read more »

The DTV Delay Debacle. Just cut the cord already…

6 February, 2009 (14:48) | Analog Transition, DTV, rant, TV |

Recently our congress has passed legislation to delay the DTV transition/analog shut-off yet again – this time to June 12th of 2009.  For those that aren’t already aware this makes the 2nd time the date has been put off.  The original date (created in 1997) for this to happen was December 31st, 2006, but in February of 2006 legislation was created to change the date to February 17th, 2009.

One interesting element with this administration is the online posting of the bill (as of this posting it hasn’t been signed into law) on the White House website and the ability to add public comment.  Just because I could, I added my own two cents which is likely to be promptly ignored:

I believe the delay, while appearing to be in the public’s best interest, actually will cost local TV stations more money to keep obsolete , power-hungry transmitter facilities running that will in turn, drain station budgets when they were un-prepared to absorb the expense.  This is exacerbated by the fact that it is a non-political ad year AND the amazingly bad economy.  The net result is that projects will go unfunded and station workers laid-off to mitigate the added operational expense.

They wisely limited me to 500 characters.  Meanwhile, I’ve found that my views are not just echoed by fellow broadcast engineers, but by an FCC commissioner as well. Read more »

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