I’m a little annoyed with having to deal with air conditioning nonsense right before a weekend I don’t get any time off from work because we’re so understaffed. We have an HVAC contractor who is supposed to deal with this but they’re completely clueless when it comes to large systems. They have one guy in the company who understands the Metasys controls and somehow I know more about them than he does.
The last big issue I had was with this one air handler / fan coil unit on the roof that cools both control rooms and our newsroom via a Medusa head of VAV boxes. First it had been shutting down, it turned out the variable frequency drive was on an HVDC overvolt fault and didn’t automatically restart. I programmed it to do so. The service company looked at me like I was speaking Martian COBOL when I explained this to them.
I also asked them if the belts to that blower it runs were too loose. They don’t know. They couldn’t advise me on this and didn’t know how to check. I’m not touching this with a social distancing pole.
Today it was acting up in a different way and I found Metasys reporting the cold duct pressure was 0.1″ water column. When I opened the blower access door on this totally turdly air handler, it jumped up to 0.7″ and the VAV boxes actually started, you know…… working. Opening the door took an unreasonable amount of force and only after I opened the door, the system started calling for less than 100% blower speed. Hmmmm.
Gee I wonder why there’d be that much airflow restriction on the inlet? Let’s see, shall we?
These coils were supposedly cleaned! Uh…. No.
On a side note, the fact that our chiller’s variable output capability is simply not used and instead it was just saddled with this foam rubber covered Chipotle burrito tank and set to on/off cycle makes me wonder
Here’s to hoping this hot weekend goes uneventfully.
Sometimes things just hit the wall behind the scenes but the show must go on. In this post… Teleprompter Troubles!
At some point an executive decision was made that we need to not have a prompter operator and instead the people on set should control the prompter’s scrolling. These dumb “gas pedal” controllers were installed at great effort (like, long runs of Ethernet and USB Ethernet extenders had to be installed) and it worked for, oh, about a day.
I found the problem. Springs. Why did it have to be springs?
Why I wish I never had to— oh no wait no I’d better not do that!
The coil spring around the pot shaft that returns it to zero when you let go of the pedal, which has two springs to pop itself back up, was binding up and causing the pot not to return. I coated the pot spring with grease to fix it, and coated the pedal springs as well to eliminate loud crunching sounds that’d get into Tina’s mic because she prefers to leave the pedal on the desk and press it with her hands. This worked fine and left Tina to concentrate on things like presenting the news and making adorable snack handbags for hamsters. You think I’m kidding?
A few days after I’d gotten rid of the pedal problems, the system just seemed to be hitting the wall completely with increasing frequency and vigor. First it started occasionally losing the pedals; the USB com port devices would vanish and that pedal would lose control. If it had been pressed when it happened the scroll would run away unrecoverably and you’d just have to exit and restart. On one of its more spectacular crashes it pissed off the QBox, which crashed. I power cycled it and it didn’t come back with video. Show-stopping oopsie…
This particular system from Autocue uses two parts. A Windows based PC reads the stories out of Avstar/INews or a text file and provides the user interface, and the QBox generates the actual video for the monitors.
The QBox is a Mini-ITX computer in a solid little metal box with a handle on it. It boots Linux out of a weird solid state disk module in the ATA socket and there’s a strange little three port video distribution amp bodged onto the composite video out connector from behind. I added a fan, it originally didn’t have one.
I got very anxious seeing one popped capacitor right away but that didn’t seem to be holding it back.
The issue was just a dead CMOS battery and lost settings.
After the machine going to fsck itself a minute, it came right back.
Then it just started crashing entirely, which was new and awful. On Friday it decided it was done for good and would not last through an entire show, so I started trying to get a backup image of the system to run on a newer computer. Cue four hours of massaging the drivers into Windows including loss of the USB controller entirely and having to dig up PS2 input devices….
So why did this thing put us through such acrobatics?
I opened up the PC in the control room and was greeted by this.
The SMSC chip is a “Super I/O” that lives on the pci bus and priovides serial, parallel, SMbus, GPIO, and a lot of other interface functions. Adjacent to it is an Intel chipset debug/jtag port with no connector soldered to it, just lots of corrosion. I don’t know what the substance is. I don’t want to know. It didn’t smell like anything and was pretty much solid like cement. Ew.
The other contestant earlier in the week was the WSI Max weather workstation. It’d been getting flakier and flakier for months and is due for replacement, just not soon enough.
Long story short, the video card was rotting out. I suspect the capacitors in the buck converter at the end of the card are failing as it basically ran just fine until you made the system render graphics at which point it’d just start melting down with weird memory looking issues.
In the end this was one of those “this system is discontinued, out of support, out of warranty, go source your own parts and pound sand” cases so I put an old Quadro 5600 card we had as a spare from an older generation of WSI system into the traffic computer that only renders things in 2D and liberated its monster card too revive the weather machine that does 3d…..
… just in time for us to get an ugly new graphics package company-wide with terrain that looks like dirty crumpled paper. Ewwwww!!
Me at the age of 10, watching the computing industry flourish and invite lots of opportunity and innovation: “Wow, this sounds like a fascinating place to work”
Me at the age of 18, watching the computing industry get cost-engineered, offshored, asset-stripped and shoved down a hole in the back of a former mattress factory in India: “Maybe I should use my skills in radio instead…”
Entire broadcasting products industry: *lazily runs out of ideas and switches entirely to mostly software-based products running on a cost-engineered offshore sourced PC for even the most basic and mission-critical systems*
Me at the age of 37: “man, I’m glad COVID-19 mitigation policies required me to be wearing a mask right now, as it just helpfully filtered out all the hot flying ammonia from an exploded Hong Kong fake capacitor”
Meet the old Chyron Mosaic. We have replacements to the old Chyron Mosaic racked up and ready to go, except that we were supposed to have Chyron’s assistance in turning up the systems but their support staff (who PREVIOUSLY worked from home all along, best I can tell) were furloughed months ago and have never been brought back to work.
Yesterday it mysteriously dumped a drive in its RAID array, which apparently is not a new thing for it. It has a RAID with five Samsung 512 gig SSDs and one just simply… ceased to be. I pulled the failed drive apart and looked inside but didn’t see any obvious signs of parts being blown up.
The objects below are a mic lavalier clip that simply isn’t strong enough to survive our extremely rigorous use (notably, nobody remembering to unclip it from their jacket before trying to put the mic away?)
Today it started freezing and locked up REALLY nicely to where I had to actually remove and reapply power to the box. Upon reconnecting the cord to the upper power supply, the machine powered up and all the fans came on. Upon reconnecting the lower one, it gave me a Capacitor Money Shot right in the face with the powerful stench of ammonia and metal oxides.
Somehow, though, after about five reboots, it lives just enough to be functional on air. What.
Why is everything on the SHITTIEST PCs imaginable? Sometimes I’m lucky when PC issues arise and it’s something as simple as the damn thing having overheated due to dust accumulation. This weather computer was lucky. One in our other studio just let out very expensive smoke that the vendor is balking at forcing back into it under warranty since the card that smoked went out of production before they even shipped the machine to us and its only replacement is several grand more expensive.
You may notice that in this video, as I take apart the weather computer, not a single thing inside it even remotely resembles industry standard PC parts, aside from the video cards. This Fiorina-Shenzhen (“HP”) workstation contains no standard replaceable parts, not even the cooling fans. They’re all molded into a giant plastic tray that costs several hundred dollars. Last time I had a fan failure on one of these, the tray things were still available. I have no idea if they still are.
The power supplies for the particular flavor of server chassis the Chyron Mosaic was built on are long out of availability and can’t even be opened for repair – they are spot welded shut. This was an “innovation” I first saw on Foxconn provided parts for “HP” servers.
Ok, for like the sixteenth time this week I’ll explain this – I’m getting tired of this shit. I’m putting this up here so I can just send the link to people fighting over it instead of repeating myself a zillion times.
Note: If you were sent this link, you have probably been a victim of fake news!!!
First off, before you even read what I’m going to say, please take a moment to educate yourself on how to spot fake news. Many of the convincing looking articles out there that are trying to convince people that there are health risks linked with 5G wireless technology, or worse yet, that it is somehow “powering” the COVID-19 viral pandemic, are literally just fake news being propagated via a variety of sources including Russian propaganda bots. (Why, I wonder? I… frankly don’t care.)
I also highly recommend checking the Ad Fontes Media Bias Chart which ranks media sources on both their reliability for factual reporting and their level/direction of bias. If the source doesn’t even appear on the chart OR appears way down at one end or the other of the bell curve, look elsewhere.
5G wireless is not harmful. It is not harmful to people living, working, or playing near towers, using mobile phone handsets, or even to properly trained tower workers and technicians maintaining the base station equipment. (In fact, the physical supporting tower itself is the only significant risk, mostly from fall hazards.)
It is not using hazardous ionizing radiation which can cause cancer or other health problems. It is not using high RF power levels that can cause injury from heating or thermal burns to tissue. It is not generating strong magnetic fields. NOTHING.
IT IS CERTAINLY NOT CONTRIBUTING TO OR RELATED IN ANY WAY TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, YOU MORONS. If it was still supported in modern browers I’d pepper in the fucking <blink> tag to make sure you see this.
5G wireless is in most cases using the same radio frequency bands and low transmitter power levels that 4G, 3G, EV-DO, LTE, whatever currently in use, are using. The only odd exception is that T-Mobile’s implementation, in some areas, is going to also have some millimeter wave channels in use for base to mobile transmissions. Users will not be exposed to high RF field strengths unless they physically climb the tower and give the antenna a big hug. So, uh, don’t do that.
The handsets you’ll have will continue to transmit at 600 to 800 Mhz as always, at very low power levels as they do now. Consider the fact that a mobile phone handset has to run off a battery of limited size and actually, you know, run on that for a long period of time. In all cases I’ve seen, the mobile phone’s CPU and screen consume 2-10 times as much power as the radios.
I’ve seen the TMobile millimeter wave system compared to the military’s active denial system, but that’s a really shitty comparison as the ADS uses kilowatts of power focused by a huge truck mounted dish for truly crazy effective radiated power levels. Specifications on the device are hard to come by but a smaller version was specified in a WIRED article as sending 30,000 watts. From speaking with a TMobile technician about it, he told me that the transmitter power (I don’t recall if it was effective radiated power or transmitter power output) will be approximately 50 watts, HOWEVER, the path loss is HUGE at those frequencies, so once you’re just a few feet away from the antenna sectors, you’re back down within safe RF exposure limits. They pretty much expect to only use the millimeter wave stuff within a few outdoor urban areas where there’s a high density of subscribers who will use it. It will not pass through trees, walls, or windows at any usable level.
It’s all entirely harmless to everyone except for the deluded consumer who thinks it’ll actually give them more bandwidth. Nobody’s actually investing in improving the bandwidth and reliability of the fiberoptic networks behind all this shit, so it will continue to be garbage. It’ll just be garbage in a fancier can.
Please, do not listen to Russian propaganda bots and clickbait websites. Do not listen to Alex Jones / Infowars. Don’t go chasing chemtrails, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you used to.
Another day, another case of being thoroughly perplexed by RF Central gear—
When the mast goes up but the signal doesn’t go out, it’s time to investigate.
The forward/reflect/12vdc return meter always seemed to show 00.0 if the PA was off… -1 if the PA was on, in any field.
TWO different bad amplifier units…. one was waiting on the shelf as a spare, one just came off the truck.
So what’s inside? I forgot to take a photo but if you remove the hex screws on the back it reveals a Stealth Microwave SM2025-44L, 25 watt linear amplifier for 2000-2500 megacycle DVB applications. Sadly. Stealth Microwave is long gone.
Interestingly the amp bricks are specified as having an internal output isolator. Nifty.
The other major part inside the amp brick is a bias tee that splits 12vdc power sent up the coax out to run the fan and the amplifier.
And now, it gets… horrifying.
I found a datasheet on the SM2025-44L and it’s specified as taking a mighty 8.5 amperes. I mean, at least it isn’t gonna arc furnace anything, but the voltage drop CANNOT be nontrivial anymore.
This has to get to it on the coax. The coax from the indoor unit in the truck to the outdoor amplifier unit is not a short sweet little run. See the big black coil up the mast in the first pic? There’s probably at least 45 feet of coax in there, plus another dozen at least to land it from the feedthrough in the roof to the IDU in the rack.
WHY DID THIS EVER WORK AT ALL? Or does it? I don’t….. I can’t even——- No——— I need to go home and collapse in bed and place the kitteh on top of me and stop trying to think for this week. DONE. I’m so done. What the hell.
Shown here is a Dexter Thoroughbred 600 washing machine I pissed off. And how did I piss it off, you may ask? I left a penny in my pocket.
The newer Dexter machines appear to not have this same issue, but these older ones (looks like it’s from the 90s?) do.
A lip behind the door edge is just the right size that a penny can fall into the space between it and the rotating basket, and get wedged in the rubber gasket, causing the machine to urinate.
A quarter just kinda sits there.
The offending lip (tub edge?) and basket edge. The rounded edge is what the door gasket seals against. The rubber ring seen at the bottom is just where the front cover of the machine meets the tub and is there to fill a gap and prevent the whole thing shaking and banging.
And the penny doesn’t exactly come out unscathed from the ordeal.
Stuff like this is a good example of why, when you test a design, you must consider some unusual use cases. This could have been prevented if someone had just noticed that the spacing of this assembly easily allowed small flat objects to get sucked in and jammed there.
And maybe Grass Valley Group could come up with a newsroom video archival and playout system that doesn’t toss its cookies every time the moon is in a certain phase, but that’s clearly asking too much. *Growls in frustrated engineer*