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.


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.



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.

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

   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

   "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

   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
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Andrea Raphael
Vice President, Media Relations

Copyright Business Wire 2008

Tascam CD-500B Button Repair

The Tascam CD-500B is one of a sadly quickly dying breed — a professional grade CD player, with balanced audio output (and AES/EBU digital) as well as RS-232 and contact closure remote control. Unfortunately, it features some very non-professional grade buttons on the front panel. I don’t even understand what on earth they were thinking.

Symptom: Buttons “fall” into front panel. Operation of button is impossible.

Broken off button
Button with broken hinge. Note that the switch is off center and sort of BESIDE the button, not directly under it as it is on Denon players

Problem: Thin plastic hinge section of button has broken.

Solution: Wedge button in place from below so it’s trapped between the front panel, the wedge, and the switch on the circuit board.

Disassembly of the player: This player is truly and sadly built like total BPC (Black Plastic Crap). You have to remove the rack ears, top cover, and the entire front panel. Carefully release the wires going to the front panel and unscrew the one visible grounding jumper. Unplug the two multi pin connectors (they cannot be mixed up – different number of pins). Remove all the silver screws around the front of the player and release the tabs on the right and left sides, then drop the front forward. Remove two screws holding in the LCD, then you can unscrew and remove either button board as needed.

Wedge the broken button(s) from below, then set them into the front panel with it tilted downwards and reassemble.

It is worth noting this player uses what appears to be a standard slotload SATA cd-rom drive as its transport! I have not tried substituting drives yet to see what happens. The buttons break before the transport 🙂

…And any other unspecified duties that may be added as necessary.

From Wm Watt Hairston on the fantastic “I Take Pictures of Transmitter Sites” group:

“Radio Engineer NEEDED ASAP, Duties shall include: Plumbing and toilet repair; Vehicle maintenance and repair; General building and grounds upkeep, modifications and repair; Removal of derelicts and other undesirables from building; Jewelry repair; emergency shoe and garment repair; kitchen appliance repair; office moves and logistics as requested; repair employees electronic equipment; equip, setup and tear down for remote broadcast as requested; install, maintain all phones, computers, as well as associated routers and networks; provide instant desktop support for all running OS and installed applications; Maintenance and upkeep of all FCC related compliance and record keeping matters; repair and maintain towers, transmitters and other broadcast equipment. Must supply own transportation and communications; On-call 24/7 is a must as well as a good attitude and willingness to take direction from anyone who ask….”

When you and your Arduino do not give a fuck

I can say fuck on the Internet, right?

the wiring is

// fucks.ino: Arduino sketch for automatically running out of fucks to give. Should work on any board, wired to an HD44780 based display or compatible. Does it look like I give a fuck?
LiquidCrystal lcd(12, 11, 5, 4, 3, 2);
// rs, enable, d4, d5, d6, d7
// on the lcd end these match to:
// 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14
// don't forget the 10k pot between gnd/5v with the wiper on lcd pin 3, ground pin 1, and +5 on pin 2,
// or a completely negative number of fucks will be given. this is undesirable but hilarious.
int fucks;
void setup()
fucks=100; // or whatever. watch me give a fuck.
lcd.print("Fucks To Give:");


void loop() {
if (fucks>=1) {
if (fucks=0) {
lcd.print(" Out Of Fucks ");
lcd.print("To Give! Fuck Off.");
delay(30000); // or just go fuck yourself

I could put up an example picture and video but I am out of fucks to give