Category Archives: Engineering

Engineering Spotlight: Gary Langley (Interlochen Public Radio)

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

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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.  

More Barix Box Hijacking: FCC Now Involved; Issues Advisory

Barix_300Over the past several weeks, stories of Barix device
hijacking
 have popped up from around the country. Most recently, hackers have been taking over the signals of radio stations, substituting regular programming with a recorded loop of an “obscene anti-Donald Trump song.”

Radio Insight has been reporting many of these recent hacks.

In April 2016, MAB News Briefs reported on the initial hacking of Barix STL devices by unknown person(s).  The advice given then and still holding true today is to change the default passwords on any Barix streaming devices that may be in use by a station.  Read our original article here.

On February 4, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) issued the following advisory at the request of the FCC:

The SBE is sharing the following message with our members at the request of the FCC.

The Federal Communications Commission is requesting your assistance in disseminating the information below to your organization’s members.

It has come to our attention that unauthorized persons recently may have illegally gained access to certain audio streaming devices used by broadcasters and may have transmitted potentially offensive or indecent material to the public. We believe that the reported cases involved unauthorized access to equipment manufactured by Barix, which some licensed broadcasters use for studio-to transmitter (STL), remote broadcast (remote) and similar audio connections. We understand that the unauthorized access to the devices may be due, in part, to instances where the licensee fails to set a password for devices with no default password, or to re-set default passwords on the Barix device.

We urge licensees to take all available precautions to prevent future unauthorized transmissions. In many cases, there may be simple, practical solutions to prevent such situations from occurring. For example, we strongly encourage licensees that use Barix devices, as well as other transmitting equipment, to check and, if necessary, add a password, or reset existing passwords with new, robust passwords. Similarly, if a broadcast station experiences turnover in staff who had access to passwords, we encourage licensees to reset the password to ensure future security.

We also recommend that broadcasters investigate whether additional data security measures, such as firewalls or VPNs configured to prevent remote management access from other than authorized devices, in some cases, could be implemented to preserve this potentially critical part of the broadcast transmission chain.

If you suspect that broadcast equipment has been subject to attempts at unauthorized access, we also recommend that you contact the equipment manufacturer and/or a data security firm. We also suggest that you notify the FCC Operations Center at 202-418-1122 or FCCOPCenter@fcc.gov of suspected unlawful access.

If you have any questions, please contact Lark Hadley, the regional director for the Enforcement Bureau’s Region Three via WR-Response@fcc.gov.

Engineers: 10 Reasons You Need to Attend GLBC 2017!

glbc_678From important engineering meetings and networking opportunities to the ever popular “Beer & Bull” Welcome Reception, here are the top reasons why you should attend GLBC 2017!

  1. The ENNES Engineering Workshop on Tuesday, March 7th features speakers that will provide you with the latest information in broadcast and media technology. You do NOT want to miss this popular workshop!
  2. The Broadcast Engineers State Meeting on Tuesday, March 7th is an absolute must for anyone wanting to keep up-to-date on all things ‘engineering!’
  3. The “Beer & Bull” Welcome Reception at the Waterfront Grill…enough said!
  4. The GLBC Exhibit Hall will feature innovative ideas and new technology presented by the industry’s leading companies that you’ll want to work with!
  5. You can enjoy a few days out of the office with industry colleagues!
  6. The Advanced IP Workflow session will teach you all you ever wanted to know about NewTek’s Advanced IP Workflow.
  7. Have a radio or television engineering issue? You’ll learn Cheap Cures for the Common Station from presenter Christian Arnaut, IT Manager at Newforma, Inc.
  8. The Engineers EAS Update session is the place to hear the latest info and updates about the EAS system and emergency alerting for broadcast engineers.
  9. The Broadcast Excellence Awards Ceremony is a great opportunity to support your industry peers!
  10. Meet and mingle with Emergency Managers from your EAS region!

Invest in yourself and your future…attend GLBC and be inspired!

Register for GLBC Here

Question Everything

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.

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Chris Tarr

By: Chris Tarr, CSRE, DRB, CBNE

I’ve seen a picture floating around the Internet lately – it’s a quote painted in a stairwell that says something along the lines of “The most dangerous words in the language are “We’ve always done it this way.” It’s an interpretation of a quote by Grace Hopper: “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ I try to fight that.”

I like both versions, though I prefer Grace’s version better for several reasons. First, simply because it draws attention to Grace, who was an amazing woman and fellow geek: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper and, second, because I think it speaks much more directly than the first version.

There was a fundamental shift in my industry about 15-20 years ago. The last generation of Broadcast Engineers were mostly military trained and came from a time when Broadcast standards were much more rigid. Some of the rigidity was necessary due to the broad tolerances of older gear, some if it was due to over-regulation of technical operations by the FCC. Some of it was simply because the Engineers were used to that because of the military. That generation of Engineers started to retire.

I have a deep appreciation for those who came before me. In many ways the job was more difficult – all of that gear needed constant maintenance, and some of those regulations were pretty onerous. However, it did have the effect of creating some very linear thinking. Studios were designed to be very much alike. Design was very utilitarian. There was very little “thinking outside the box”.

Then guys like me came along. I came from the creative side. People like me who may not have been considered for such a job because we “didn’t fit the mold” were now getting hired. It really was necessary, since there was this huge wave of Engineers that were trained in the military who were retiring and there were more jobs opening than people available to fill them. A change in regulations meant that station managers were free to hire whomever they choose to fill those jobs (under the “old rules” the Engineer needed to hold a “First Class” FCC license). It was up to them to determine if the person was qualified or not.

The unexpected side-effect of this change? We began to see some *gasp!* creativity in the industry!

What happened was that people like me began to question the reasoning of utilitarian design. Sure, studios have always been designed the way they were, but why? Yes, we’ve always used miles of cable to run audio, but why not convert that audio to 1’s and 0’s and carry them over a network? All of a sudden we started to question everything.

That’s not to say that we questioned the people who made the decisions. Those that came before us are some of the brightest, most resourceful people I know. They go in my Rolodex under “People smarter than me.” Plus, some things have to be done the way they’ve always been done due to rules and regulations. However, the next generation is working with the FCC to re-think some of that as well.

The changes really benefitted the creatives in the building. For years, anytime an air talent wanted to “color outside the lines” by doing something different on the air, technical restraints created roadblocks. These days, I look at myself as the person who removes those roadblocks so that people can be as creative as they want. Instead of saying “we can’t do that,” it’s “tell me what you want to do, and I’ll get you there.” It has created some very interesting, creative and compelling radio.

It’s easy to default to “we can’t do that”. It’s the easy answer. It’s the fastest way to get on with your day. It’s also the quickest way to achieve adequacy. I choose to elevate everyone around me to “amazing” status by giving them the tools they need to be creative geniuses.

It all starts with a simple statement:

Question everything.

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.  

Engineering Spotlight: Gary Williams (WLNS/WLAJ-TV)

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

Gary Williams is an engineer for WLNS-TV and WLAJ-TV in Lansing. Gary was formerly Chief Engineer for WLAJ-TV, prior to the station entering into a shared-services agreement with WLNS-TV in 2013.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Gary:
I started at (the original) WWJ-TV (Detroit) as a vacation relief engineer back in 1967, while attending Michigan Tech. I worked my way up to engineering management (and was the highest ranking person to survive the transition of WWJ-TV to WDIV-TV).

After 17 years at WDIV-TV (WDIV-TV VP/Chief Engineer Marcus Williams, “my brother,” was going to be at the station forever), I moved into corporate video for 17 years for companies including
GM, Chrysler, VW, and more).

I then moved back to broadcasting, spending three years as Chief Engineer at WSYM-TV (Lansing).  When Journal bought WGBA-TV in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I became Chief there along with WACY-TV, also in Green Bay.

After three years in Green Bay, I moved back to Lansing as Chief Engineer at WLAJ-TV.

When I started in engineering, I made system engineering a priority. I figured, every manufacturer had a manual for their specific equipment, but nobody had information on how to get box A talking to box B.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know:
Gary:  
I still ride my unicycle occasionally, but never thought I’d occasionally be leading singing at church.

 

 

Engineering Spotlight: Gerry Heyn

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

wbup_700Gerald H. (Gerry) Heyn is Chief Engineer for Lake Superior Community Broadcasting Corporation stations, WBUP/WBKP-TV in Ishpeming.  He’s been there since 2005.

Gerry writes that “it’s been a very interesting and challenging job moving the studio from the Marquette Mall to the Miracle Mall in Ishpeming during the digital transition and most recently moving the antenna and transmitter from a rented tower to the new station owned tower in Humboldt.”

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Gerry: I’ve had a long career in electronics and broadcasting. 23 years at WNMU-TV and Radio where I received most of my broadcast experience. Previous to that, I worked for Communications System Co. repairing CCTV cameras used for mining, paper and pulp industries and power companies and installing commercial sound systems including Muzak.

Before that, I served in the USAF for 21 years and with 15 of those years in electronics. The last 10 of those years in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) as calibration technician.

A lot of my training came from doing correspondence courses in radio and TV FCC licenses (GROL) prep courses during overseas tours. When I was stationed in North Dakota, my supervisor wanted some broadcast endorsements on his FCC license before he retired and went to a local radio station to work during his off-duty time. He became so busy, he asked me to fill in part of the time because they needed an engineer with first phone because it was a directional AM station so I worked at night part-time, sign-off at 1:00 AM for a few months. That was my first job in broadcasting back in 1968.

I’m also a CET (certified electronics technician) with the International Society of Certified Electronic Technicians (ISCET) and Certification Administrator and administered the CET and FCC exams from 1986 to 2005. However, there is not much call for it anymore.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
Gerry:  Very few people know I sailed on the Great Lakes as a coal-passer for a few months before going into the U.S. Air Force. Knowing what I learned there kept me from enlisting in the Navy. Back then there was the draft and I had three older brothers drafted and I didn’t think I wanted that after hearing their stories.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Gerry:  I guess the best advice I ever got was being told, “get into electronics, that’s where the future is” and it worked for me.

Engineering Spotlight: Ken Selvig

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

kenselvig_275aKen Selvig is Chief Engineer of WOOD-TV and its associated stations WOTV, WXSP, WOLP, WOKZ, WOBC, WOHO, WOGC, WOMS in Grand Rapids.  He’s been there for 43.5 years!

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Ken: Ferris State College (yes it used to be a College, not a University). Started working for WUHQ-TV as a transmitter engineer on weekends before I graduated. Also worked several years in Radio TV repair and was a co-owner of a TV Sales and Service shop.

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Ken:  I enjoyed electronics and electricity. After graduation from college, I had offers from 2-way radio shops and television broadcasting. I chose the fabulous star-studded world of broadcasting!

Q:  Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
Ken:  I started school in a one room school house. I have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I was a Scoutmaster for many years.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Ken:  Honesty is the best policy.

National EAS Test Wednesday – Reporting Information Preview

A national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time this Wednesday, September 28, 2016.  A secondary test date is October 5, 2016, “if necessary.”

All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test.  This test will use the National Periodic Test (NPT) code, the location code for “All of United States.” FIPS number: 000000; and will be issued via FEMA Open IPAWS.  The FCC encourages EAS Participants to take steps to prepare for the test. The public notice is available here.

IMPORTANT NATIONAL TEST REPORTING DEADLINES

1) EAS participants shall file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 28, 2016.  This is the same day as the national test.

Form Two will be available online immediately after the test concludes.

The following information was presented at the NAB Radio Show on September 21, 2016:

To get to ETRS Form Two, stations should go to the ETRS home page and login.  Once logged in, click on the records tab at the top of the page: 

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On the next screen, click on EAS Test Records:

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On the next screen, click on the EAS Test Record corresponding to the September 28 test:

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On the next screen,  click on Submit Form 2 at the top of the screen:

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Form Two just has two questions: 

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That’s it.  Repeat again for all facilities you have registered with ERTS.

2) ETRS Form Three must be filed on or before November 14, 2016.

Use the same procedure as above, but navigate to Form Three instead of Form Two.

Form Three has three pages asking for more detailed information.  Most importantly if you received the EAS message, from what source, and from which source you first received the EAS message:

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More information requested on the second page regarding the first message:

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Finally, on page three, some questions regarding quality and/or difficulties.

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Repeat as necessary for all facilities registered with ETRS.

The FCC is available to answer your questions regarding this reporting.  Contact Austin Randazzo at the FCC: (202) 418-1462 or via email: Austin.Randazzo@fcc.gov or ETRS@fcc.gov.

Visit: https://www.fcc.gov/ general/eas-test-reporting-system/