Category Archives: Engineering

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.

ChrisTarr2_300
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: 

fcc-1b_700

On the next screen, click on EAS Test Records:

fcc-2b_700

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

fcc-3b_700

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

fcc-4b_700

Form Two just has two questions: 

fcc-5b_700

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:

fcc-6b_700

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

fcc-7b1_700

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

fcc-8b1_700

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/

EAS National Test Next Week!

eas-logo_300The next national test of the Emergency Alert System is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 28, 2016.  (A secondary test date is October 5, 2016, “if necessary”). EAS participants must be prepared to take part in a test on both the primary and alternate test dates. 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 results of the nationwide EAS test will be captured and analyzed using the new EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).  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.

2) EAS participants shall file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three on or before November 14, 2016.

The FCC’s ETRS page is here.  The Broadcasters Desktop Reference website has a resource for broadcasters “Meet the ETRS.”  (Visit that site here.)

All EAS participants were required to register with ETRS and complete the filing on ETRS Form One on or before August 26, 2016.

In addition, the FCC has released an updated EAS Handbook available for download to print locally here.  A copy of the Handbook must be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and be immediately available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.  Please note that the new EAS Handbook requires licensees to “fill-in” information on various pages throughout the handbook and that stations should review the Handbook before placing it in a normal duty position.

There is also a Microsoft Word version of the EAS Handbook available here that may aid some stations in customizing the handbook for their operations.

Engineering Spotlight: Craig Bowman

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

bowman_275Craig was nominated for the Engineering Spotlight by Caleb Gordon, Assistant Engineer and Radio Journalist at MacDonald Broadcasting.

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Craig:
I sort of live multiple lives as a contract engineer for Krol Communications (WRSR, WJSZ, WMLM), Liggett Communications (WPHM, WSAQ, WHLS, WHLX, WBTI), and Synergy Media (WWKR, WKLA A/F, WKZC, WMLQ, WLDN), where I am an owner. In addition to these Michigan stations, I also serve as SVP of Technology for Futuri Media and Futuri Canada Corp (FCC).

Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Craig:  I began my radio journey along the banks of the French Broad river in Marshall, NC while in High School. My best friend was working in radio and his older brother (Jobie Sprinkle, former APRE President) was an engineer at a local station and had a lot of contract clients in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and I was more than willing to help do whatever unskilled thing he would let me do. Jobie mentored me and he led me to my first engineering endeavors. We built AM’s, studios; you name it. While getting my start, I worked as a land surveyor, at the National Forest Service, at a Mobile Home Supply company driving a truck, and even as a USDA inspector in the apple packing houses of WNC. All this to support my radio hobby.

Eventually I landed a full time On-air (afternoons) and Chief Engineer position in Waynesville, NC. From there I moved to Greenville, SC to build WMYI, a move-in from Hendersonville, NC. At WMYI, I worked closely with Bob Herman of Herman and Associates, who was our consulting engineer. When Bob decided to take on partners and expand his consulting business, re-branding it as RF Projects Corporation, and, he recruited me to join the new company as Director of Special Projects. RF Projects allowed me to learn more than I ever knew existed about FM antennas and how the mounting arrangement changes (usually not for the better) the actual pattern of the antenna. We had clients all over the country and even the government of Morocco. Our biggest challenge was to add WYNY to the master antenna system at the World Trade Center in NY. There is nothing quite like the pressure of taking 10 NYC radio stations off-the-air on a Sunday night and holding your breath at 5A when they all come back on. We worked closely with ERI, Tom Silliman and Robert Rose in particular, to manufacture the hardware to modify the RCA combiner.

In 1990, I got a call from Dan Stewart at WHNN (Saginaw). They were unhappy with the signal they had in Flint after building a new 1,000 ft. tower in Quanicassee, MI.  So, off I went to test the range of a full scale model of the new antenna. Before the FCC approved the new antenna, I traveled to Saginaw to do some studio work for Dan.  I also went on another trip to Lansing to help WFMK with a pesky Harris FM-25K transmitter problem. It was this trip that I got to know Jim Jensen of Liggett Broadcast Group.  Soon, Jim convinced me to move from Raleigh to Lansing. Since being a Director of Engineering was clearly missing from my resume I figured I would move to Michigan, live here for a couple years, then go off to work for Westwood One, AM-FM, or one of the other big groups I had worked with while at RF Projects. Well, that was August 5, 1991 and I am still here!

I did leave Liggett to work for Scott Studios, helping Dave Scott design and install automation systems, which allowed me to stay in Michigan while traveling for them.

About six years ago, a kid named Daniel Anstandig called me with this crazy idea of placing a voting window on a radio stations web page that would allow listeners to vote for songs to play on-the-air and have it connect to the automation system. At first I thought this was the craziest idea ever, but Daniel’s contagious enthusiasm quickly spread to me and a partnership with Listener Driven Radio (now Futuri Media) was born. I, along with Daniel and Brian Seeders, am named on several patents surrounding the technology we developed, so it was a natural progression for me to focus more and more on our products.

In November of 2015, Futuri purchased Stream-On, a Canadian company based in Edmonton, AB. Stream-On is the only broadcast streaming company using HLS streaming technology and integrates with AdsWiz for commercial replacement. We wanted to create a new four station Streaming Transmitter made with commercial grade motherboards, processors, audio cards, etc. I pivoted from my role as the head of development in Cleveland to overseeing the operations in Edmonton and growing the product line. Responding to the cry for easy podcasting (I do hate that term, btw) or on demand audio on social media, I began development of Futuri Post. Post captures the station like a logger but via now playing and mic logic cuts the entire broadcast up into easy to find elements. A new feature of Post is a very quick and easy audio editing system that displays only the stations talk breaks, has a built in editor, pre-licensed images from ShutterStock that will simultaneously push to all of your social media, RSS feed, etc. and posts to a widget embedded in a stations webpage to allow for immediate sharing of content.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Craig:  When I worked in Greenville, SC at WMYI, the station owner was George R. Francis, Jr.  George was a bigger than life character that truly had a “nothing is impossible” attitude. One day very early in the station’s history, during a staff meeting, George gave us his typical pep talk assuring us we were the best and brightest in the business and then paused and sincerely asked us to enjoy ourselves and emphasized that life is too short to work a job you do not like. Please, he said, don’t stay around out of some strange sense of loyalty.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings by pursuing your dream. Out of the countless times in my life I had heard the “Life’s too short” speech, I think this was the first time someone actually meant it; and I try to live up to that standard each and every day. You can probably tell by everything I have written above that I clearly love what I am doing!

“Because I know it’s There”

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

There’s a Steve Jobs story that gets passed around quite a bit. It goes back to the days when the Steves (Jobs and Woz) were designing one of the early Apple computers. Steve Jobs kept changing the arrangement of the chips on the motherboard because they didn’t look appealing to him. When asked why he cared so much for something that nobody would ever see, Steve said “Because I know it’s there.”

There is absolutely something to be said for that level of attention to detail. It shows that you don’t want to just get something done, instead you want to get something done right.

In fact, that kind of thinking can extend to relationships as well. Sure, you can ask how a project is going, or you can actually engage and deep-dive into what’s going on in an effort to truly understand how a project is coming along.

In my professional life, I “live that quote.”  I operate several unmanned broadcast sites that most people will never see. Yet, they’re clean, well built and well maintained. Why? Because I know they’re there. When I build relationships with my team, I try to truly understand what their challenges are, because I want to really know what’s there. Even when it comes to my supervisors, I want to understand what their goals are, for the same reasons. It’s only by approaching everything with a high attention to detail that we truly understand what it is we’re dealing with.

Yes, some of that detail is superfluous. Some of that detail won’t move the needle in the grand scheme of things. However, I don’t think those Apple computers would have sold as well had Steve not cared about the layout of the chips. Why? Because that would have meant that he probably didn’t pay attention to the many other “little things” that made the entire experience of owning one of those computers great.

It’s not about the one little thing. It’s about the entire collection of little things as a whole.

Little things make a big difference.

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.

Reprinted with permission of the author.