Dumbest connectors ever.

image

These pieces of turd infect some Harris Broadcast products to this day.

Sure, IDC connectors seem like a good idea at the time except… A) they use them on stranded wire, making them failure prone, and B) they put them on cable assemblies that experience vibration from blowers….

It’s a surefire recipe for very difficult to troubleshoot problems.

Same great taste, new package

And none of that Grocery Shrink Ray thing Consumerist whines about either.

I kinda liked how the old theme looked but there were things utterly broken in it … like the line spacing. It never made any logical sense or conformed to my wishes in any way, so I changed to a theme that actually works.

Here, enjoy this secret message that wouldn’t have worked before:


fnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnord
FNORDFNORDFNORdFNORdfnordFNORDFnordFNORDFNORdfnoRDFNORDFNORDFnorDFNORDFNORDFnord
fnORdfnordfnORdfnORDfnordfnORdfnoRDFnordfnoRDFNordFNordfnordFNOrdfNOrdfnordFNOrd
fnORdfnordfnordfnORDFnordfnORdfnORDfnordfnorDFNordFNordfnordfNOrdfNOrdfnordfnORD
fnORdfnordfnordfnORdFNordfnORdfnORdfnordfnordFNordFNordfnordfNOrdfNOrdfnordfnoRD
fnORdfnoRDfnordfnORdfNOrdfnORdfnORdfnordfnordFNordFNordfnordFNOrdfNOrdfnordfnoRD
fnORDFNORDfnordfnORdfnORdfnORdfnORdfnordfnordFNordFNORDFNORDFnordfNOrdfnordfnoRD
fnORdfnoRDfnordfnORdfnoRDfnORdfnORdfnordfnordFNordFNordfnORdfnordfNOrdfnordfnoRD
fnORdfnordfnordfnORdfnorDFnORdfnORdfnordfnordFNordFNordfnoRDfnordfNOrdfnordfnoRD
fnORdfnordfnordfnORdfnordFNORdfnORDfnordfnorDFNordFNordfnorDFnordfNOrdfnordfnORD
fnORdfnordfnordfnORdfnordfNORdfnoRDFnordfnoRDFNordFNordfnordFNordfNOrdfnordFNOrd
FNORDFnordfnordFNORDFnordfnORDFnordFNORDFNORdfnoRDFNORdfnoRDFNOrDFNORDFNORDFnord
fnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnordfnord

 

Quick guide to programming the Baofeng UV-5R from the keypad

Well…. I was today made aware that the Baofeng UV-5R dual band handheld radio dropped to below $30 on Amazon, and people are buying them and being, uhhhh, not exactly enlightened by the wonderful instruction manual they come with.

You got the technical writing you paid for, right?

Okay….

It is not necessary to buy the programming cable. While it makes life easier… you don’t absolutely need it.

Here’s the quick rundown:

Press Menu, scroll through until you find the options SFT-D, Offset, T-CTCSS, R-CTCSS… make note of the number for each one (you can just press menu then this two digit number to quickly access them afterwards to save a TON of time and button presses). Find the AL-MOD option and set it to SITE, and set RP-STE to OFF. (These latter two only have to be done once; they eliminate a couple of common annoyances with the radio … as in, a couple of “features” that tend to annoy others. Trust Me, I’m An Engineer.)

Common oddities: When you’re in VFO mode (the voice if you have it on will say Frequency Mode), the offset and shift direction are assigned to the individual VFO register – as in, top or bottom of the display – not to the specific band. These radios are not smart enough to remember that the common shift is 0.600 mhz for VHF and +5.000 mhz for UHF. They are also not smart enough to autoselect the proper shift direction on VHF or to not slop right out of the band if set up incorrectly.

If you are programming memory channels, you must have the silly voice turned on or you could get a surprise annoyance if there’s something already saved in that channel.Using the radio simplex: Switch to frequency/VFO mode. Press menu, go to SFT-D, press menu again, use the up/down arrows to set 0, then press exit until you’re back at the frequency display. Go to the menu for T-CTCSS and R-CTCSS and set these if you need a PL tone on transmit or recieve; otherwise make sure they (and the T-DCS and R-DCS) are set to off.Turn off dual watch (TDR) before trying to save things to memory or frustration may occur.Saving a simplex frequency to memory: Once everything’s set up how you want it, go to menu -> MEM-CH (I believe it’s 27, your mileage may vary based on firmware version). Press menu and enter the desired channel number, then press menu again – the voice should say “Receiving Memory”. If it said “Transmitting Memory”, there was already something there — you will need to go to DEL-CH, delete the channel’s contents, then go back to MEM-CH and save again. Exit the menus, go back in and do the same thing, the same channel number will still be set under MEM-CH so you only need to press menu twice and the voice should say “Transmitting Memory”. You’re done.Using the radio for repeaters: Start from VFO mode. Note what I said about the oddities above, it’s probably best to always use the top for VHF and bottom for UHF to avoid having to keep messing with the offset.On whichever side you use for VHF, set OFFSET to 0.600. On the UHF side, set OFFSET to 5.000.

Use the menu for SFT-D to set the proper split for the repeater. On UHF this is always +, on VHF it may be + or -, usually + at and above 147.000 (note that our 147.000 in Princeton has a nonstandard negative offset — in other areas it will almost always be +!)

Set the VFO to the output frequency of the repeater.

If the repeater requires a PL, use T-CTCSS to set it now. Once this is done, key up, it should work! Watch the frequency on the display to make sure it shifted the right direction/amount when you began transmitting.

Saving a repeater to memory: PLEASE NOTE THIS IS DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER RADIO YOU HAVE EVER USED, unless you’re already used to the Wouxun or other Chinese radios. The offset/shift settings WILL NOT be automatically saved. You have to program the memory channel twice!

From VFO mode, set the VFO to the output frequency of the repeater. The offset/shift settings do not matter and will be ignored by the radio. Go into the menu and set T-CTCSS as required for the PL tone on the repeater input. Here in Miami-Dade, most of ours take 94.8. Once you’re set up there, go to the menu for MEM-CH and enter the desired memory channel number. The voice should say “Receiving Memory”. If it says “Transmitting Memory”, go to DEL-CH, delete the channel’s contents, and save it again.

You are now halfway there… 🙂

Exit the menus, set the VFO to the repeater input. Go back into the menu, MEM-CH, pressing menu twice should make the radio say “Transmitting Memory” as it saves it. Now you’re done.

Quick note on the programming cable: If you buy a programming cable for the UV-5R and are going to use it on a Windows 7 64-bit system or Windows 8, try to ensure that the cable uses an FTDI serial chip or a genuine Prolific PL-2303. There are TONS of cables out there that use a counterfeit PL-2303, or a different chip that works similiarly but emulates the PL-2303. Prolific got tired of this happening and added a check to their driver which will cause the serial interface not to start (code 10 error in Device Manager). This problem will never affect you on a Linux or Mac computer.

Those weird fittings on the Andrew pressurization gear

High power broadcast feedlines are usually pressurized with dry air or nitrogen gas to lock out moisture (which would lead to a Very Expensive Problem). The Andrew/Commscope pressurization gear for doing this has weird tubing fittings on it for the air hoses that hook up to the feedlines. I tried doing a job on one of these systems using little brass tubing fittings from Home Depot and it just didn’t all work right, it was a pain in the /dev/ARSE to get everything to stop leaking. Come to find out, well… The fittings are actually a different system – Parker Poly-Tite.They’re apparently most common in dental office equipment and car washes.

Thank you, Dan Houg, for solving this mystery.

Burning the SWR bridge?

Yeah I can look this fabulous at a transmitter site at 1 AM and you probably can't.
Your evil Quest is over

Harris Broadcast’s sales and support team yelled at me recently for speaking rudely about their company. To be fair, I can now see why, they’ve really cleaned up their product line and support since my dealings with them around like, 2007 or so.

It’s actually kind of hilarious in a sad way that this happened.

That being said I actually think it looks like their FAX series transmitters look quite respectable, and I’d actually consider recommending one for a station now. I’m also glad their service department will still speak to me after that whole mess. I was just needlessly mad after having to deal with a couple of their older, now thoroughly discontinued products.

Yes, this is *THAT* transmitter sitting behind me in this picture… the execrable Quest series. I titled this post as it is after the hilarious directional metering coupler I found inside one of the two units upon which NONE OF THE COMPONENTS HAD ACTUALLY BEEN SOLDERED TO THE CIRCUIT BOARD! They were all through-hole parts, and were just hanging on by bent leads and/or friction. Thankfully, it would seem that they have since really cleaned up their act. 🙂

HD Radio is bullshit.

The following is not necessarily the opinion of anyone else including the station named in these screenshots… however, I can assure you that a great majority of broadcast engineers agree with it.

IBOC subcarriers
IBOC subcarriers

“HD Radio” is complete and total bullshit.

 

What is HD Radio? Basically, it was iBiquity’s attempt to enhance AM and FM broadcasting by adding the ability for a station to incorporate additional digital audio streams to their signal, which can be decoded using a compatible radio and offer the listener additional programming choices… and in theory, offer the station an additional source of revenue, as ad space can be sold on the alternate programming as well.

What did it turn out to be? A colossal clusterfuck. That’s what. I can say fuck on the internet without having to hit the dump button, right? 😉

Here’s what’s wrong with “HD Radio” [Heavily Distorted, Highly Deceptive, Horribly Derpy…]

 

1) Royalties. iBiquity charges broadcasters $25,000 for a license to broadcast in “HD”. Does a station ever recoup that? Probably not. In addition… this is just for broadcasting the same audio you have on your primary analog program in compressed digi-poo. Want to add an HD2/HD3 additional program? That’s fine…. but you have to pay iBiquity a monthly licensing fee that’s somewhere in the low four figures. See Translator Abuse below.

iCockBlock disabled. Trust me, it works better this way.
iCockBlock disabled. Trust me, it works better this way. The warning is due to a loss of Exporter sync which is totally harmless when in analog mode. I’m still stuck in linear transmitter mode though, because this whole system is bullshit and is ALLERGIC TO TRANSMITTER EFFICIENCY.

2) Receivers. HD Radio is a totally closed, proprietary system. To decode it, you need a chip licensed by iBiquity. Some of the first ones I had the misfortune to play with drew up to 30 watts of power (I’m totally serious…!) and required a heatsink the size of a sandwich. Newer ones have improved, but their market penetration has not. You still have to pay at least $30 for an HD receiver. They’re being integrated into SOME car stereos and stuff, but it’s just not out there enough. Soooo how are ad sales going on that medium, where nobody can actually listen to it? Flatter than the compressed audio.

3) QRM!!! [QRM = interference from a manmade source]
HD radio places streams of data in spectrum that SHOULD be empty. This includes guard bands in the FM stereo composite that includes the monaural and l/r difference channel used for normal analog stereo. Some receivers will hiss as a result. In addition, as you can see in my screenshot off a Harris FrustraMatic— I mean, FlexStar HD exciter’s self-monitoring spectrogram, it makes the FM channel wider on the dial. This can make reception of a station on the next adjacent frequency impossible under some circumstances.

AM IBOC/HD radio is even worse. I don’t have a spectrogram of that nightmare handy, but what it looks like is this: the AM audio signal is bandwidth limited to 3 khz, making it sound like you’re listening over a distant telephone or something, and socked in by two solid bands of pure hash. This unyielding block of junk makes reception of distant analog signals impossible; it makes a more effective radio jammer than even that bubbly sounding thing Cuba uses! Reetch.

4) TRANSLATOR ABUSE!

A Beautiful Place Out In The Country...
A Beautiful Place Out In The Country…

A quick description: A broadcast translator is a special station used to fill in a gap in a radio station’s coverage area, or to expand its coverage where it is impractical or impossible to increase the primary transmitter site’s coverage. It works by RECEIVING the primary broadcast off the air and retransmitting it on a different frequency. I’ve installed two of these to extend WRGP-FM at Florida International University so you can actually hear the university’s radio station on their campuses – the primary signal comes from far away in the middle of a farm in Homestead and doesn’t otherwise reach very well.

For whatever reason, a couple of our major friendly radio conglomerates figured out that the letter of the law can be bent to allow them to use an analog output translator  fed by an HD2/HD3 stream off of another station they own in the same market as if it were a completely new station. It’s so much easier to buy up an unused translator license or apply for one than it is to go through the FCC auctions to get a new broadcast station license, so they’ve been doing that…. There’s a reason we call them Cheap Channel…

Nowadays since sales of HD Radio software licenses are flat, iBiquity has actually been PROMOTING this. Okay, how about no.

5) Audio quality. It sounds HARSHLY compressed. If you’re using the HD2, and heaven forbid, the HD3 subcarriers, they REALLY suffer.

2013-08-30 00.36.346) LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN! It takes a few seconds to compress and process the audio for the HD channel, thus, you have to delay the analog audio to match up so that a listener does not experience horrible time skips that make the station unlistenable whenever their receiver switches between digital and analog. The equipment to do this, the HD “Exporter”, is… uhhh… special. It seems almost like it was tacked on as an afterthought, and when it gets out of sync (and it will), your listeners are in for a treat. It’s about as pleasant to listen to as it was for me to wear this giant quarter-pound Teflon feedline spacer as an ear cuff. You know… I think there’s a general “making really disapproving faces at things in radio stations” theme going on here as of late.

For when just a few watts of horns.aiff aren’t enough

 

2013-10-07 18.04.56I forget just what was going on at the moment but I drew this depicting the best way to say “NO” ever: warm up a big honkin’ transmitter, hit plate on to put it on the air at full power, and blast horns.aiff… Or, better yet, a loop of alternating horns.aiff and the soundtrack to nope.avi. Sure, why not.

I wish the blower on the big crybaby of a Harris Z16HD+ I maintain blew out the front like that to create dramatic hair flowiness action. Ehhh… I’m just sufficiently happy with it when it’s not popping blower motors like candy.

This is my "HD Radio" face
This is my “HD Radio” face

Okay maybe it kind of does if you open the front PA cover and let it go all leaf blower. I dunno.

Some thoughts on the Axsis of Evil

The Shitty— I mean, City of Miami has been going positively ape for these giant piles of turd as of late. This is an American Traffic Solutions RLC-300 red light extortion camera. When it detects someone entering an intersection on a red light, it shoots two still images and one video clip, and the violator receives a bill for around $160. The appeals process is completely rigged and if you lose, you pay $300. Cute little scam, right?

The City of Miami has been installing these on almost every intersection with traffic lights and has even put in signals at intersections that didn’t have them before to open up the gates for even more camera revenue. Foul.

So here’s what you’re facing when you approach the intersection. First, you will see a fairly standard sign. They’re not stealth, in fact I’ve seen at least one that has a warning light above it.

figia12_longdescThe camera installation itself varies. Some installations are the original Axsis RLC-100 setup and will have a TON of cameras aimed at the intersection – a little tree of video cameras is aimed down at the stop line, with one looking over the intersection itself. A second pole holds a high resolution DSLR in a box sort of thing and a control unit, and a strobe is either mounted on that or on a third pole. The newer Axsis RLC-300 is usually on a single pole with the video and still camera in one box, a radar sensor, and a strobe.

imageThis one pictured is at the intersection of Coral Way and 27th Avenue in the City of Miami. This intersection has VERY long queues approaching it, unusually short yellow lights (I haven’t timed them to see if they’re in compliance with Florida state law, but they’re definitely on the lower end of the allowable spectrum if they are) and a severe visibility problem, in which someone following a tall truck is very likely to hit a red light without even seeing it.

image

 

The camera’s control unit has a pair of antennas on top of it. I’ve seen rumors floating around that this is a WiFi based system of some sort. I have no idea what they speak on newer cameras but my BlackBerry used to be able to detect a nonsense SSID being beaconed by the old RLC-100 installations. Using a wifi card in rfmon mode and KisMAC or similar tools will probably reveal more interesting info. There seems to be a limit as to how many lanes of traffic the RLC-300 can handle, as I’ve seen installations up in Broward County with two or more of them aimed across wide intersections.

At the top of the pole is a radar sensor. The RLC-300’s logic appears to be this: If the light is red AND a magnetic loop at the intersection’s stop line changes state AND motion is detected by the radar, then a recording cycle begins. I used to be able to regularly false trigger the RLC-100 series cameras in the City of Miami Gardens by pulling up rapidly then stopping just before the stop bar, since they had their magnetic loops installed all wrong. Some peon sitting in an office somewhere had to sift through the resulting videos and enjoy a daily video of me NOT committing a red light violation. I like to stick it to The Man, but the RLC-300 is too smart to record if no violation actually occurred. In fact, it is smart enough to abort a recording cycle already in progress and can the data if it sees that nothing interesting happened. Poo. 😛

The newest installations, called AutoPatrol RLSC-3D, also feature a radar sensor on the opposite corner of the intersection; this is used to track the oncoming traffic and improve the reliability of violation detection.


AutoPatrol_3D_HowitWorks
Now if you find this post because you’re curious as to how to fight a ticket — I have no clue but I’ve heard it’s nearly impossible. Consult an attorney to see if you have a chance, but be warned, you’re probably just going to pay more in fees. In Florida, the red light camera tickets do not count as points against your license but they are available as public record; I recall someone using them as a mudpie in a recent bout of political mudslinging. Good times. I don’t know if insurance companies receive that data as well or use it against their clients.

 

The way to deal with these cameras is to avoid them. Waze and Trapster will provide advance warning, though the signs aren’t exactly inconspicuous. The key though is to be ready to stop early, especially in wet or slippery weather, and don’t follow tall trucks closely. Take a momentary glance at the pedestrian crosswalk signals at the sides of the intersection – if the white WALK indicator’s up, you’re pretty well safe to cross, but a blinking STOP indication means the money-grubbing cycle is about to commence. The signals with an LED countdown timer are especially handy here, and they seem to be present on almost all the intersections that also have cameras, just as a matter of ongoing modernizations. Just watch out, I have seen some intersections within the City of Miami set to have as little as a 2 second yellow offering almost no chance to stop safely from normal traffic speeds (US1 and 32nd Avenue is a common offender here).

The State of Florida is currently considering banning the cameras. I can’t say I’d miss them. They have actually made intersections MORE dangerous, as there is a mad dash to stop or to beat the quickly changing light on the approach. I’ve seen several T-bone type crashes at over 80 mph in areas with a 45 mph speed limit that occurred from someone trying to beat a light. Please… don’t speed.

One other hilarious thing I discovered: As of 2008, ATS, like many other business ventures that subsist by nickel and diming the American middle and working class out of existence, is now under the portfolio of GoldBallsacks… I mean, Goldman Sachs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--(Business Wire)--
American Traffic Solutions ("ATS") announced today that Goldman
Sachs has become its first institutional investor. Goldman Sachs was
invited to invest in ATS as a minority shareholder to support the
explosive growth in the company's photo traffic safety enforcement and
electronic toll payment businesses, according to Jim Tuton, president
and CEO of ATS. ATS is the largest independent, privately held company
providing photo traffic enforcement services in North America. The
company's 2007-08 quarterly compound revenue growth rate exceeded 80
percent.

   Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Tuton reported that
Goldman Sachs will be represented on ATS' board of directors.

   Jim Tuton founded the American photo traffic enforcement industry
in 1987 when he introduced "photo radar" to the small community of
Paradise Valley, Arizona, in the Phoenix area. Photo traffic
enforcement is now used in approximately 300 communities in 25
American states and the District of Columbia. ATS currently serves
more than 125 municipalities in 18 states, the District of Columbia
and the Province of Alberta, Canada. New York City, Philadelphia,
Washington, D.C., Houston, Fort Worth, Phoenix, St. Louis, Seattle and
San Diego are all ATS customers.

   Budget-constrained communities across the country are turning to
photo safety enforcement because it improves public safety at no cost
to the local police departments, explained Tuton. According to a 2007
study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (www.iihs.org),
red-light cameras reduced violations by as much as 96 percent in
Philadelphia. St. Louis experienced a 49 percent decrease in
violations. And from 1994-2005, red-light-running violations decreased
73 percent in New York City.

   "Cash-strapped cities are finding it more and more difficult to
deploy adequate police resources to fight serious crime," said Tuton.
"Our cameras handle the routine traffic enforcement duties so officers
can spend more time in their communities. We help cities improve
public safety by providing solutions that also generate needed revenue
by shifting the financial burden from the taxpayers to the violators."

   "Goldman Sachs was attracted to the industry and then identified
ATS as a leader with tremendous growth potential, an exemplary track
record and a high-quality management team," said Raheel Zia, vice
president in the principal investment area at Goldman Sachs. "ATS has
been at the forefront of the photo traffic safety enforcement industry
with the company's speed and red-light camera programs. The company's
worldwide expansion into electronic toll collection and
transportation-related commercial services present attractive growth
opportunities."

   "We have grown ATS from a small, single-client company in 1987 to
a company with more than 125 customers," explained Tuton. "We have
been profitable every year since we started the business. This was
accomplished with a national team of 425 employees and managers and
without any private equity investment." Tuton noted that the company's
client base grew by nearly 100 percent in 2007.

   "Our relationship with Goldman Sachs will provide a strong
platform and access to capital resources that will enable ATS to
continue on our amazing growth trajectory," Tuton continued. "Goldman
Sachs is one of the largest and most prestigious investment companies
in the world. They are a terrific fit for ATS because they share our
culture and mission of serving state and local governments with needed
operational and financial services."

   About ATS:

   American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is a leading provider of
technology and business solutions for traffic safety and electronic
toll collection programs worldwide, including PlatePass(R), which is
an automated electronic toll payment service that enables Avis, Budget
and Hertz customers to use high speed, cashless electronic toll lanes.
ATS is a private corporation, which serves more than 125
municipalities and government agencies. ATS is the largest provider of
photo traffic enforcement programs to America's big cities with active
programs in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis,
San Diego and Seattle; Houston, Fort Worth, Irving and Arlington,
Texas; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Phoenix, Tucson,
Mesa, Glendale and Scottsdale, Arizona. ATS also serves Canada's
largest digital red-light camera and speed enforcement program in
Calgary, Alberta. The company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz.
For additional information visit: www.redlightcamera.com or
www.atsol.com.

   About Goldman Sachs:

   Goldman Sachs is a leading global investment banking, securities
and investment management firm that provides a wide range of services
worldwide to a substantial and diversified client base that includes
corporations, financial institutions, governments and high net worth
individuals. Founded in 1869, it is one of the oldest and largest
investment banking firms. The firm is headquartered in New York and
maintains offices in London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hong Kong and other
major financial centers around the world.

American Traffic Solutions
Josh Weiss
Director of Communications and Public Affairs
480-596-4613
josh.weiss@atsol.com
or
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Andrea Raphael
Vice President, Media Relations
212-357-0025

Copyright Business Wire 2008