Category Archives: Engineering

A Day in May

Tim Moore

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By:  Tim Moore,
Managing Partner,
Audience Development Group

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the largest natural disaster visited on the American landscape in the new Century. At 5:34 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado’s 200 mile per hour winds cut a mile-wide swath through Joplin (Missouri’s fourth largest metro) killing 158 and injuring more than a thousand.

In its aftermath only Zimmer Radio’s in-house radar and engineering foresight linked the market with the outside world. Three TV stations and other radio companies were decommissioned by the tornado. The following is a verbatim e-mail between two members of Zimmer’s highly respected engineering team 48 hours after the storm:

From: David Obergoenner to Morgan Grammar Date: 24 May 2011 Subject: Joplin 11:39 PM

Thanks, Morgan. As of this afternoon we still had two staff members missing. Many of our people including the air staff lost their homes, cars, everything. But there they were, all day today, on the air, helping other hurting folks via radio. We have such a great staff!!! Much of our broadcast day was taking calls from people trying to find friends and family…and helping folks find food and shelter. Some of the calls tore my heart out. So many good people in that town…

We’ve brought in a couple of RV’s for staff members to use who don’t have homes anymore…or theirs’ are too badly damaged to safely return to. All of our stations were on simulcast wall to wall; with weather coverage from an hour before the storm hit Joplin. We knew it was going to be a bad one. 6 of our 7 signals stayed on the air without missing a beat through the storm. Zimmer stations are about the only thing left on radio or TV.

Our 5 kw AM took a direct lightening hit as the storm blew through and was off the air until about 4am when Mel got it fixed. The BE AM-6a was still fine. The generators at all the sites saved our butts again. The tornado just missed our 1,000 foot Joplin Super Tower (with 3 of our FM’s on it) and just missed our studio complex by a couple of blocks. The winds at our studios were so strong it tore out several trees near our parking lot. Several of our staff’s cars were parked there and it really tore them up too.

I have no idea how our STL tower survived that…I guess that ERI tower I insisted on is pretty tough. We still haven’t been able to get to our old location which also has a 400 foot tower. Mel says he saw the tower but not sure if the building is still standing. Our TV tenant has been off the air since the storm hit, as has most of the TV here. That’s about where we are this evening. Joplin will not be back to normal for a VERY long time.

Zimmer had previously installed actual radar when they launched their News -Talk KZRG. Operations Manager Chad Elliot had fortuitously worked out a text warning system with some Kansas Sheriff’s departments to the west. Elliot came immediately to his facility on learning a massive multiple-vortex storm was making up over Kansas and headed for Joplin. He alerted local emergency departments and a large local high school with commencement ceremonies that afternoon! The damage was beyond description, including the 10-story St. Johns Medical Complex, actually deformed over a foot on its foundation; only part of the $2.8 billion in damages.

In the weeks that followed, Zimmer radio was appropriately hailed as a savior for so many who, thanks to the advanced warning, were able to take shelter. The company was visited by countless agencies including the NAB and many broadcasters who simply wanted to know “how they accomplished it.”

The answer was of course foresight and an investment in “overbuilt” facilities including their in-house radar. As for Zimmer’s human assets, it’s fair to say they were priceless.

 

 

Protect Your Station from WannaCry


Contributing to this article:  Jason Walther, former Chief Engineer, Townsquare Media (Lansing) and Ron Kramer, Michigan Network Consultants (Lansing).

One of the largest cyberattacks ever is currently eating the web, hitting PCs in countries and businesses around the world. WannaCry can invade your computers without any action on your part and encrypt your files and hold them ransom until a payment (usually $300) is made to the perpetrators behind this attack.

WannaCry exploits a hole in unpatched Windows computers in order to infect them.  While Microsoft provided an update months ago that will prevent this exploit, computers that have not been receiving and installing automatic updates are at risk.

Some advice from our experts:

1-Make sure your Windows machine is updated so the file sharing SMB client is newer than SMBv1.  Simply updating your machine for both Windows and Linux users fixes this.

2- Make sure you do NOT have your machine connected directly to the Internet without some kind of firewall appliance (in your router or otherwise).  Make sure you have not opened any port forwarding or triggers for port 449, or anything else for that matter, unless you’re sure you know what apps use which ports on the network. Most cable modems include a firewall so you are probably good if you’re on a consumer grade data service.

3- If you do not need to share files, turn OFF file sharing – do a Google search to learn how. If you are really ambitious, create users and set passwords and then turn on password protected sharing (there are plenty of good examples of how this is done on Google).

Again, this malware spreads via exposure to the internet and does not utilize any provocation on your part to execute. To setup house, it does need an unprotected Windows computer and it can encrypt files on any share.

Tethering using a coffee shop, public WiFi or hotspot on your cell phone is a vulnerability, especially with Windows 7 and before. Starting with Windows 8, firewalls automatically turn on, but before that, they did not.

The Key here is making sure you have Windows up to Date!

Please be aware that unless your computer does NOT have a cord plugged in, it needs to be updated.

Help Sink Pirate Broadcasters!

While the MAB has not had any reports of any significant pirate radio activity in our state in a number of years, legal broadcasters are asked to report known pirate radio operations via the FCC Unlicensed Broadcast Station “Pirate” Reporting form.

Reporting pirates helps keep legal operations free from interference.  Additionally, unlicensed broadcast pirates don’t pay licensing and regulatory fees as well as music licensing expenses as legal broadcast stations do.

The pirate reporting form is here.  In addition, stations are encouraged to also file a complaint about any unlicensed broadcsters with the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center here.

Thank you in advance for your help.  Feel free to share any reports of pirate stations with us at mab@michmab.com.  We’d like to be aware of any activity around our state.

Are you a Contract Engineer?

Transmitter_300The MAB is putting together a new member resource:  a list of available contract engineers working in the state, available for stations in the event they need assistance.

The list will appear on the MAB website.

To be included, please send your name, company name (if applicable), location and contact information to Dan Kelley dkelley@michmab.com.

Feel free to pass this information along to contract engineers you may know.

We hope to debut this new service, which will benefit both our member stations, and you, soon.

FCC Post-Incentive Auction Transition Workshop Video Available on Demand

FCCvideo_300On March 13, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau held a public workshop on post-auction transition procedures and the following agenda topics:

  • Overview and incentive auction status update;
  • Step-by-step review of the procedures for broadcast stations filing applications for construction permits during the 39-month transition period;
  • Review of procedures for submitting bank account information to ensure payment of reverse auction winnings and reimbursement of eligible expenses; and
  • Question & Answer session with panel of FCC staff.

A recording of this event is now available on-demand for viewing here.

GLBC Day One Engineering Sessions Preview

2015SBElogo_300This year’s Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference (GLBC) kicks off on Tuesday, March 7 with a full-day of engineering sessions presented by the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE).

The all-day program, known as the Ennes Engineering Workshop, will feature multiple topics and speakers that provide television and radio engineers with the latest information in broadcast and media technology.

Sessions Include:

9:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Using Category 5e, 6, 6a for Audio and Video Applications
Presented by Steve Lampen, Belden
Can you use Category 5e, 6 or 6a “augmented 6” to carry analog and digital audio? Or analog and digital video? How about S-video, RGB or VGA? Or HDMI? Or broadband/CATV? Of course, you can! For some applications, baluns are required. Sections on Ethernet AVB and HDbase have recently been added. Included is a tutorial on balanced lines and how they reject noise and crosstalk.

11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Introduction to ATSC 3.0
Presented by Fred Baumgartner, CPBE, CBNT, Nautel
Fred Baumgartner will discuss the ATSC 3.0 standard, addressing the changes this new technology brings and what broadcast engineers will experience during the transition to this new standard. ATSC 3.0 provides multimedia gains that can compensate for the spectrum loss of the TV repack.

(Lunch on your own 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
The SNMP Protocol in Broadcast Facility Control
Presented by Tony Peterle, Worldcast Systems
In this presentation, we will introduce the Simple Network Management Protocol. Long familiar in the IT and networking world, SNMP is increasingly a part of the toolkit of broadcast engineers. This lightweight protocol can be used to monitor and control equipment, and coordinate actions between different sites, at any distance. Our goal is to present a basic Primer on SNMP, along with illustrations of practical applications of the protocol in current day broadcast operations. Further, the attendee will receive information on how to explore the possible useful applications of the SNMP protocol in their own facility.

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Grounding and Lighting Protection
Presented by Jeff Welton, Nautel
This presentation will discuss various aspects of facility grounding with respect to reducing potential lightning damage as much as possible. As computers firmly establish their presence in the broadcast domain, utilizing good standards of grounding and lightning protection in studio and transmitter site becomes more critical than ever before – it’s a very rare site that doesn’t have at least one microprocessor controlled doohickey somewhere! We’ll look at how routing of grounding conductors can improve (or decrease) a device’s chance of surviving a transient event, how to lay out a new site or studio to minimize chances of lightning related damage and discuss some thoughts on how to improve existing facilities without breaking the budget.

3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Planning for TV Spectrum Repacking and the Transition to ATSC 3.0
Presented by Jay Adrick, GatesAir
With the television spectrum repacking about to begin and an industry transition to the next generation of digital television not far behind, owners, group engineering managers and station engineers should be planning for the long term future of their stations. Many of the decisions that must be made for repack could also impact a stations transmission planning when transitioning to ATSC 3.0. Making the right choices now could save substantial dollars and time when transitioning to ATSC 3.0.

The presentation will review the planning process for repack, look at the challenges to providing uninterrupted service while transitioning to a new channel and provide an overview of where the repack and transition planning overlap and should be coordinated. Examples will be presented that show why stations should make the right choices during repack even if it means investing additional capital so that they can avoid much greater future costs when converting to 3.0.

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Exhibit Hall Preview Reception

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
“Beer and Bull” Welcome Reception, Waterfront Bar, Lansing City Market

Click here to see a list of day 2 engineering sessions

Not registered yet for GLBC? Online registration is closed, but on-site registration will be available Tuesday and Wednesday, March 7-8. www.GLBConference.com

GLBC Day Two Engineering Sessions Preview

Day two of this year’s Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference (GLBC) features a variety of engineering sessions for both television and radio:

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

ATSC 3.0: What it Means for TV Engineers
Presented by Skip Pizzi, National Association of Broadcasters
Skip will address technical issues related to implementing the new ATSC 3.0 standard at your station.

Network Security for Radio
Presented by Brian Lindemann, Broadcast Electronics
Don’t have your music library hijacked! Brian will review the latest technology for radio station network security.

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Advanced IP Workflow
Presented by Shawn Watts, Advanced Lighting & Sound, Will Waters, NewTek
This session will explore NewTek’s Advanced IP Workflow, Network Device Interface (NDI), the features of NewTek’s Advanced Edition Software and Production Solutions with this technology. This information will give you an understanding of how a standard GIGe LAN can be turned into a live production network in your broadcast environment with IP workflows, making devices visible on your network and adding inputs to your switcher. This technology will also allow for bi-directional audio and video over IP. See how many manufacturers are using this open source code technology to provide products for IP and NDI and how this technology works in a broadcast setting. We will also review the features of NewTek Advanced Edition and how Advanced Lighting & Sound can integrate these solutions for you.

Making Metadata Matter
Presented by Don Backus, Broadcast Electronics
Metadata is defined as ‘data about data’, but smart broadcasters know it’s so much more than just data…it’s information that listeners want and use, it’s material that engage audiences, enhances the radio experience and benefits advertisers and it’s ultimately a way of turning data into dollars. But satellite and streaming only sources are also using metadata for their benefit against radio. How do we seize the high ground and make metadata matter for your bottom line? We’ll discuss how you can develop a winning strategy for your stations.

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Cheap Cures for The Common Station
Presented by Christian Arnaut, IT Manager at Newforma, Inc.
Sometimes an effective solution to a common Radio or Television engineering issue is closer than you think, if you think outside the box. Several applications and solutions will be discussed that are inexpensive, effective and surprisingly uncomplicated. Learn to improvise with hardware that may otherwise be left unused and impress those around you. Cost-effective, open source, even free solutions will be discussed. The session will be an open-discussion format. Feel free to bring your ideas and share with the group.

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Engineers EAS Update
Presented by Gary Blievernicht, Michigan EAS Chairman and Don Bouffard, Michigan State Police.
This is the place to hear the latest info and updates about the EAS system and emergency alerting for broadcasting engineers.

A New Administration: What it Could Mean for Media
Presented by David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer &
Skip Pizzi, National Association of Broadcasters
After the surprising election, no one is quite sure what the next four years will bring. Join us as we address the legal, regulatory, and technical issues that may arise.

Not registered yet for GLBC?  Online registration is closed, but on-site registration will be available Tuesday and Wednesday, March 7-8.  www.GLBConference.com

Engineering Spotlight: Gary Langley (Interlochen Public Radio)

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.
GaryLangley_275
Gary Langley

Gary Langley is Chief Broadcast Engineer at Interlochen Public Radio (WIAA/WICA/WICV/WLMN/WHBP/WIAB/W234BU).

He joined Interlochen Public Radio on September 9, 2016 after four years at WPBN/WTOM/WGTU/WGTQ.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume:
Gary:  
I signed up for the US Marines in 1992, on an open contract. This means they could have put me anywhere, doing anything. Fortunately for me, I scored very high in math and electronics, and was given a billet as a ground radio repairman. I spent one year in school at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-Nine Palms California and attended classes at Marine Corps Communications Electronics School where I graduated second in my class. I then spent three years at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport California where I maintained our radio network for operations and our search and rescue radio network.

After leaving the service with an honorable discharge in December of 1996, I applied and was hired on as a Supervising Engineer for WEYI-TV (Saginaw) in January of 1997. I spent three years there learning and digging into everything I could get my hands on. I even went back to college and picked up an associates in computer networking because I could see it’s potential in broadcasting and wanted to get ahead of the curve.

Since then, I’ve worked for KUSA in Denver Colorado where I maintained 14 remote receive sites and microwave links, communications from the Professional sporting area’s including Coors Field, the Pepsi Center and Mile High Stadium. I was also the EIC for a weekly Monday night program called Broncos Tonight where we interviewed the coach and a few players live at a small bar called Jacksons Hole.

I moved back to Michigan in 2001 after my father took ill, taking a job as an assistant chief engineer for WGTU/WGTQ-TV when it was owned by Tom Scanlan. During this time Tom decided to move operations for our sister station WBKP-TV from Calumet Michigan to Marquette Michigan. Jay Zachirios and I moved the station during a 74 hour span while maintaining on air continuity. It remains to be the longest stretch of work I have experienced since the US Marine Corps, but when it was done it was a proud moment for everyone involved. We even had sales reps helping to haul concrete blocks to the roof while we installed new 3.5 meter patriot dishes. It remains one of my greatest accomplishments.

In 2007 I missed a step on a ladder while coming off the roof after sweeping snow out of those same satellite dishes, and crushed many discs in my lower spine. After surgery and a few shiny new implants, I was told by my doctors that I should be happy that I could walk, though the constant pain kept me away from working for many years. I officially resigned from WBKP as their Chief Engineer soon after. It wasn’t until I took another fall from my front steps years later that shifted my new titanium hardware by about an eighth of an inch, and broke my back higher up, that my leg pains subsided and I began to actively seek employment again.

In January 2013 I hired on as a broadcast engineer for WPBN/WTOM who had also acquired WGTU/WGTQ. After a year there of ironing out many of the issues that were repeat offenders which took us off the air, I was promoted to Assistant Chief Engineer.

This past summer I was told about an open position at Interlochen Center for the Arts, as a Chief Engineer for their public radio department. My company had been bought out by Sinclair broadcasting and there was nothing on the horizon there as far as moving up the ladder. Ultimately, I applied and was hired on at IPR in September 2016.

The transition from TV to radio was a welcome surprise. I often say it was like coming home after years away. Currently IPR is setup with an Axia Audio over IP system, which basically makes your entire system the most flexible router you’ve ever worked on. Most of our transmitters are made by Nautel and have many of the remote monitoring capabilities built right into them. I absolutely love what I do and count myself fortunate to be working for such a great organization.

Q:  How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Gary:  When I PCS’d (permanent change of station) from the USMC. I began looking for a job right away. While I spent sometime as a bouncer for a large nightclub in Genesee County, I knew there was something more out there for me. I saw an ad in the Bay City Times for a broadcast engineer at WEYI, and applied. I got the job and worked for Garth Simms, who took me under his wing and taught me some good habits, and had the patience to endure my mishaps. I’ll forever be thankful that Garth took a chance on me for that position.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know:
Gary:
Very few people know that I have a passion for writing, and laughing. I learned at a young age that if people were laughing, they weren’t fighting. Three years ago I began performing standup comedy all across Michigan with a great local group of comedians from Falling Down Stairs Productions. I have to admit, their name struck me as ironic, being that falling down stairs is exactly what got me back on my feet again. I’ve performed with them for many fundraising events and recently took an improv class with many of those same comedians which was put on by our only local improv troupe, Good On Paper Improv.

Q: Best advice you have ever received?
Gary:  The best advice I ever received was from my old chief engineer Jay Zacharius. He told me quite frankly, “One ‘oh sh!t’ wipes out ten ‘adda boys,'” Which turns out, is a mathematical formula for success in broadcast engineering.

Engineering Spotlight: Erik Jones (Cumulus Media/Ann Arbor)

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at dkelley@michmab.com.
Erik Jones
Erik Jones

Erik Jones is Chief Engineer for Cumulus Media Ann Arbor (WWWW-FM/WQKL-FM/WTKA-AM/WLBY-AM) and IT Support Engineer for Cumulus Media Great Lakes Region.  Erik has been in his present position since October of 2012.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Erik: 
I graduated from Specs Howard in July 1997.  I went there with a concentration in video, not radio.  I was with ENCO Systems as Senior Support Engineer from September 1998 through November 2005 and with ABC/Disney as New York City Broadcast Data Systems Engineer, overseeing WABC/WPLJ/WEPN/WQEW from November 2005 through February 2008.  During this time, WABC/WPLJ was bought by Citadel Communications with WEPN/WQEW staying with Disney.

I then moved to Michigan and became IT Manger/Assistant Engineer for Citadel Communications in the Lansing market (WMMQ-FM/WITL-FM/WFMK-FM/WVFN-AM and WJIM-AM/FM), Grand Rapids market (WLAV-FM/WHTS-FM/WLAW-FM/WTNR-FM/WBBL-FM and WJRW-AM) and Muskegon market (WWSN-FM/WVIB-FM/WLCS-FM and WKLQ-AM), from May 2008 through October 2012. During this time Citadel was purchased by Cumulus.

Q:  How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Erik:  It was never my intention to become a broadcast radio engineer!  When I went to Specs Howard, it was my hope to start a career as a TV/film video editor, and I did that for a short period of time at a local small video production company before I started at ENCO. But, even while I was there, I was the one repairing the equipment to keep things working and wiring them for a 10baseT network. From there, I went to ENCO as a part time beta tester of the DADpro32 software and made way onto the support team.  Seven years later, I had a call from the director of engineering for WABC, telling me that the engineer that was maintaining their ENCO system was leaving and asked if I would be interested in filling the position.  While there primarily as the Broadcast Data Systems Engineer, I took full advantage of the knowledge of the other engineers and learned all that I could about this field and found myself wanting to broaden my career path to more than just the IT side of the business.

Adding to that, I grew up in a household that was in the engineering world, with my father holding an advance class amateur radio license as well as a general radiotelephone operator license (as he was a part-time radio engineer himself back in the early 70’s.)  He was later a radio systems design engineer for Ford.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know:
Erik:
There really isn’t a whole lot that people wouldn’t know about me if they have met me in person. I’ve been married for 17 years to my high school sweetheart (that I originally first met in preschool when we had the same class together!) I have two sons, ages 15 and 11. Also, I am a firm believer to never put random personal information out onto the web via any social media.  And, because of this, I have never had any type of those accounts and never plan to have one.

Q: Best advice you have ever received?
Erik:  Just because you may not have all the answers to an issue at that exact moment in time doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. To do this, always be well aware of your own strengths and those around you (friends and colleagues) and always make yourself available to help others so that when you need it the most others will be willing to help you. Also, let’s not forget “Always trust in Google.”  While the first search result may not be correct, just redefine your parameters and you will get the answers you need.

Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

ChrisTarr2_300
Chris Tarr

By: Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE

Warning: This tactic requires a lot of self-confidence!  It’s an often-used adage: You’re only as good as your team.

The smart managers know this. They hire “A” players, coach them and (if they’re smart) grow them to the point that their employees could replace them. The not-so-smart managers fear this and hire “C” players or – even worse – hire “A” players and hold them back, in the hopes of making themselves look good.

Many years ago, I hired an Engineer for our Madison stations. He was just a kid, but I could tell that not only did he have a strong work ethic, he also had a pretty good head on his shoulders.

Through the years I taught him everything I know – nothing was off-limits or held back. He became extremely valuable to me. I could leave town on vacation or business and not give a second thought to whether or not things got done. They always did. I was diligent about letting him try new things, and often gave him insights into some of the “higher level” duties that I had to take care of in my role.

Then about two years ago, the inevitable happened. He was ready to grow beyond what I could offer him. He received a job offer for a position that was even far ahead of mine.

So, was there jealousy, or resentment on my part? Not at all. I look at that as one of my greatest accomplishments. I helped someone achieve their dream! How many people can say that?

A leader’s role goes far beyond just “getting the job done.” A leader insures that his team is always learning and growing, knowing that the people and the business benefit.

Have you taken the time lately to make sure the people you’re responsible for are growing professionally? It’s one of the best investments you can make!

Reprinted with permission of the author.

Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE is the Director of Technical Operations for Entercom’s Wisconsin stations. He is one of the industry’s biggest evangelists and dedicates himself to helping create great radio.