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.