Wednesday, October 26, 2005

HD Radio Importer options

There are more options available now when it comes to purchasing an Importer for HD Radio transmission. Prophet Systems has an Importer installation that integrates into their NexGen software and allows multiple streams and will send PAD to both Main and Secondary Audio services. This will be helpful to us in planning our upcoming digital radio project.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Instant Messaging

For the first time, I am seriously using IM. It all started when I installed the Google Talk client and messaged some of my family that I had sent Gmail invitations to. After reading about the client and network, I found that it uses the Jabber protocol for the IM portion. I had heard of Jabber before, but never got around to using it. My first thought was: Could I use this open-standards based messaging protocol for secure, encrypted communication with people in the office, say, during fundraiser time? Google led me to the GAIM project, an open source, free IM client for many platforms and services. This client also has two different plugins available for encrypting text communication between endpoints. It can work on Google Talk, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and a slew of other services simultaneously. And since it works with the Jabber protocol, I can setup a Jabber server on Windows or Linux and do it all in house if I want. At the moment I am using GAIM to chat with developers at Prophet Systems while I beta test some new software and I can chat with everyone else at the station using their preferred service wherever they are. I also found software that will connect an automated program to a Jabber network (they call these bots) and use it to get information about various things. As more stations get "now playing" information from their systems, I can see that a listener could have your station as a buddy in his IM client and ask it questions about what is on, or it could send a message to people who want to know what's coming up. It will be much easier once this station data is all encapsulated in XML. For now though, my next project will be to set up a Jabber server for fundraiser. Who knows what will come after that?

New podcast software

We are beta testing a new podcast module for our automation system. The software is called "Pod XLR8R". It looks like it will make it very easy for radio stations to generate podcasts using the same production processes as they use for normal operations. I am looking forward to using the software to podcast some of our locally produced programs.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Finding the time

Reminder to self: work in some time to update the blog.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Podcasting + mobile wifi = New radio?

An interesting research project sponsored by a major car manufacturer that has been talked about in the blog world.
It would take a long time to match the market share of broadcast radio, but it is still a neat idea.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Multichannel audio over existing delivery infrastructure

After doing a lot of research about various digital multichannel formats, I found that there are a few MPEG standards already for multichannel audio files. The most intriguing to me from a practical standpoint is the MPEG2 standard. NPR uses MPEG1 Layer2 for audio files delivered over Content Depot at 256 kbps. The MPEG2 Layer2 audio stream is backwards compatible with the MPEG1 Layer2 stream but allow additional channels of audio to be sent in the stream. An MPEG1 decoder will playback the multichannel file as a regular two channel stereo file while an MPEG2 decoder will play all the channels, giving you discrete multichannel audio delivery. I have not had time or proper test material to do rigorous testing, but I think it is a neat idea. I found that these two tools allowed me to create a multichannel MP2 file from 6 single channel WAV files that could be derived using a multichannel mix bus in software (Sony Vegas) or hardware (mix board with sub-outs).

First is a Microsoft utility that will put many single channel WAV files into one container. This tool actually uses AVI as a container because the file size can be greater than 4GB, unlike WAV files.

Then, I have used Hypercube Transcoder to create a multichannel MPEG2 Layer2 audio file that can be played back on any computer. If the computer supports multichannel MPEG it will produce 5.1 channel sound. Otherwise it is just stereo.

Solving Complex Problems

A good read -- a three part series about solving IT problems and implementing new systems.

The author demonstrates that the principles apply to other disciplines, like architecture. I like the "define, design, build" approach. I know this stuff goes without saying, but sometimes I like to remind myself. The "pipe-and-filter" idea is very interesting and to me seems to have some applications to processing of text streams, i.e. radio station PAD data. It is also worth noting that the next Microsoft command-line shell (MSH) makes extensive use of pipes and objects.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Issue/Trouble Tracking Software

A series of presentations at the 2005 NAB show about IT in broadcasting (Radio World 6/8/2005 p. 34) got me to thinking. Why can't I apply some of the principles of software development and IT management to our station's operation? For my own benefit, if no one else's, I looked around for a lightweight trouble-tracking software package. I found a free personal version of Issueview, which allows you to track and organize equipment problems, feature requests, configuration changes and even project management. There are more suggestions in the above article in Radio World. The presentation on IT services management at the NAB show gave me a few ideas. Now, I don't mean to suggest that anyone should have their station staff jump through hoops submitting a trouble ticket or call a help desk to get a problem fixed; there may be some operations that are large enough to justify that, but most of the engineers I know wear ALL the hats. I do think this sort of software will be useful for recording what goes on at the station as far as repairs, installs and upgrades. I have so far not been very good about keeping those sorts of records, but maybe this software will make it easier. It looks promising to me.

Monday, June 20, 2005

GIS info on the Internet

GIS is all about mapping stuff. I found some links to free GIS software. The US Census Tiger database is also available for download. Now all I have to do is think of things to map. Like our stations coverage in analog and digital transmission. Use your imagination.

Also, the coverage contour maps posted on the FCC website pointed me to an interesting method of generating maps using the tiger data:

If you notice in the instructions, you pass all the info about what you want on the map in the URL, including a link to a file that can contain many marked points. If you had a mathematical function that would generate a coverage contour (like your station's 60 dBu) of GPS coordinates, you could create your own contour maps with any of the other TIGER data that is available.

Example of marking a single point, inspect the URL

Lastly, if you haven't looked at Google Maps yet, wow are they cool.

I would really like to try some coverage map kind of stuff with Google Maps, but haven't had time to look at the Google Map hacks. I did try some of the other stuff with Firefox and Greasemonkey and I am very impressed by how programmable their service is.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

EAS (or any other kind) logging made easier

A recent issue of Network Computing led me to a suite of free or low cost utilities intended for providing syslog function in Windows at Among these are a utility that can pull text input from a serial port and send it to a syslog server over the network. It may be possible to pull EAS log messages from our EAS encoders and send them over the network, maybe even email the messages out when they are logged. I am one step closer to my project for electronic EAS logging. I might also be able to use the Windows syslog server to receive error messages about Content Depot devices, which are Linux computers.

Cable plant wiring

A brief but good overview of best practices for equipment rack wiring at Network Computing.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Car of the Future

I read an article in Network World about the car of the future and the networking technology that will improve things like navigation and mobile entertainment. What bothered me is that nowhere was there any mention of terrestrial FM or AM radio. In this particular article, satellite radio provides the delivery of mobile data and content services, while WiFi is used to download even more data from the Internet at wireless hotspots or from household networks. It seems the source of information for this article has not heard about the new digital terrestrial radio services that are coming online all around the country and the new data streams this technology will enable. In any case, the radio industry is going to have to get the word out about digital radio soon or we may be left out of the future of mobile entertainment.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Network Testing

I found some information and free software for network testing at The Iperf program is also available for handheld computers running Familiar Linux. Gives me an idea for testing network bandwidth and other parameters, especially important since more and more stuff is getting transported over IP these days.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Surround sound on radio

While researching ways to create surround content, I came across a very useful program called BeSweet which allows you to encode multiple sound files into a variety of multichannel formats. I can't wait to tinker with it. Combine multichannel audio files with a technology like Axia Livewire and you can send discrete uncompressed multichannel sound all over the place.

Free test audio files available here