(I actually fell asleep with my finger on the H key for a moment)
So, three days and a grand total of about 6 hours of sleep into a 5 day work week with ugly overtime that should have been 4, I came in and one of the two transmitters had SHIT ITSELF. It was putting out like 19% normal power. Curious. Logging in and taking a look around, I saw that the B side had cut out and would not come back on willingly. It was time for a quick visit to the site that would turn out to be 12 1/2 hours of grind for no benefit.
Here’s the poor thing in question. Ignore the red toolboxes, they aren’t part of the transmitter, but this is the system. Note the big blue cabinet at right, it’s a Bird “Digital” air load, and it corresponds to the resistor logo shown between the A side and B side in the diagram above. It’s the main reject load that will dump any power resulting from an imbalance in the system. The combiner is the big black chungus (it’s kinda X shaped if viewed from below) above the right side of the transmitter cabinets. The black object above the Bird load is the antenna switch, corresponding to the “baseball” switch on the right side of the diagram – it lets you select between the main liquid cooled test load (not seen in the picture, it really doesn’t look like much either – just a weird canister with two big hoses) and the antenna system.
This is the architecture. The temporary line that bridged the A side to the Space Station Toilet is seen near the top of the picture. It was used when the Space Station Toilet was replaced with the Great Wall of RF or whatever the hell that thing is. It looks like the above transmitter but taller and newer. I dunno. It’s a combined bunch of ULXTE cabinets and Just Works.
So, the reason this temp line came into play and I noted it here is that this transmitter had to play double duty for a little while. It’s basically two independent ULXT-40 transmitters combined with this MSC2 interface in the middle cabinet to be one bigger transmitter. While the Space Station Toilet was being removed and replaced, the A side was its stand-in. The B side remained in place and I guess had been set up to bypass the X shaped hybrid combiner. The vertical rectangles before the filter are the boxy hybrid couplers (?) seen above the cabinets in the photo and the resistor symbols correspond to the big tall vertical Bird loads on the shelf. The resistors here are big enough to definitely not be futile.
Later on, it was restored to its combined state, and it came back on and started making the Bird aircooled load go start roaring away, battling the air conditioning.
ORIGINALLY, its fans barely had to run at all. And finally, the transmitter noped out.
The original cause was the B side tripping out on high VSWR. I was suspicious of why that happened but the A side did not report unusual reflected power. I got it running again at 100% power, but I noticed about 3KW being dumped into the big blue Bird load. When either side is off, approximately 50% of the running cabinet’s output gets dumped in the Bird.
I switched to the main water cooled dummy load after turning up the aux site, and was trying to get both A and B to run together into the load without much luck. After an initial call to GatesAir support, I pretty much just had a recommendation to power cycle everything. After power cycling everything…. the A side came back with no web interface!!! It just threw a generic 404 error. Now the central controller thing couldn’t see it anymore either, probably due to missing software. It still booted up enough that I had a web server, just with no content. I was able to telnet in and get some screens of readings and commands, but that was it.
At this point I had the support person very stumped…. but finally I remembered there was a much less documented interface on that server at the path /isp/. It let me flash the firmware again, and now I had a web interface in the normal location. Weird, right? More like HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH—––
Now I could try to turn BOTH on from that DualTran interface! Perfect. Oh wait, they both fall on their faces with their ON / OFF lights wigwagging in unison like a railroad crossing, three retries then cutting off. After some fighting with it I got both to work at reduced power, screaming of excessive dissipation in the reject loads pretty much all the way back through the system.
I was on the phone with GatesAir support and the support person told me to just not pay attention to the reject power going to the Bird. Oh, sure—
….say, this looks like a phasing issue, right?
……..boy, that required some pretty coarse adjustments to do it, but the reject power is peaked towards zero…
…………did anyone before me ever bother to check the phasing???
WHO HURT YOU? Geeeez. After over an hour of rephasing things via a really wonky slow interface, I had it looking REALLY good. It was gleefully yeeting 60 kilowatts of heat out into the evening sky via the outdoor heat exchangers.
Also at some point I was stuck for hours trying to figure out why I was getting an “EXT FAILURE” interlock stuck on one, then both cabinets, and eventually tracing it back to invalid configuration settings on the MSC2 – they corresponded to a combiner with phase shifters, which the weird X shaped thing doesn’t have, so of course there were no interlock switches connected to the combiner interlock as there was nothing to protect with an interlock. It was a Fnord Failure so you just can’t see it, and I kept trying to figure out if it was the interlock on the baseball switch…
also I kept suspecting some of this stuff was loose but it wasn’t.
Time to bring the signal home! I switched back to antenna. Now it would only run one side at a time, giving a lousy 25% or so of normal power. Trying to make some sense of it at all, I reduced power and got both to run…. only to be greeted by seeing I was sending 20 kilowatts up, and getting 4.8 back!
Switched to the load, and got 60K forward / “35 watts” reflect (which seems to be the zero point).
WELP. Now it’s time to have the line and antenna sweep tested, I think…
What blew up? And what blew up FIRST? I dunno.
I’m extremely burned out now and just kinda glad it’s not in my hands anymore.
Something really ridiculous just occurred to me after listening to a documentary on the Synanon cult and it’s one of those “glad that didn’t go anywhere” moments, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
For various reasons I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for a long time. I don’t know how much may be brain chemistry, how much may be environment (a LOT of it is definitely environment!) and how much may be dealing with past traumatic incidents. Back when I was attending Florida International University, they actually had a pretty good student health system that included mental health services that helped me out a lot for a while.
That is….. until the psychologist I was seeing was arrested due to involvement with Cuban espionage.
I mean— this was Miami, so could anyone be surprised? That’s a hell of a gray area. As various federal agencies came in performing parts of the investigation they COMPLETELY TRASHED the counseling and psychological services department of the student health and wellness services. Student and employee files were all seized and never returned, employees AND PATIENTS were all placed under ridiculous amounts of surveillance (yes, to the point that patient confidentiality was compromised), and most of the staff quit over it. This all basically happened over a summer semester when I wasn’t taking any classes at the university, and I came back not too long afterwards to try to see someone.
Well, that didn’t go great.
I was invited instead to join an “experimental, unstructured group therapy” model they were working on.
So this is where Synanon comes in, sadly. One of the tools the Synanon cult used for mind control and “treatment” of their members was something they called “The Game”*. This was a system of attack therapy in which participants were encouraged to confront one another and target weaknesses in an attempt to ……. improve aspects of their personalities and thinking? I don’t even know. I’m sure someone must have some bullshit non-peer-reviewed academic preprints on how this is actually supposed to *work*, but all it turns out to be is a massively traumatic experience, at least how we came out from it.
I remember of the two sessions I attended, there was no attempt whatsoever to guide the direction away from this – it was pretty much me and four other people in the group eventually just wanting nothing more to do with it as three others got very confrontational and the rest of us wondering what they were even there for.
One of the unusually bizarre aspects of this was that we were required to have no contact outside of these sessions, and it was quickly proven that we were being observed outside of them by other members of staff and clients who had been put to the task… so those of us who actually did feel any sort of connection and tried to speak outside of that first session were torn down for it at the next.
And this shit happened in a public university, of all places, which was trying to branch out into being a school of various medical disciplines. Glorious….
Needless to say this was a COLOSSAL failure, but worse, it made me feel like I couldn’t turn to anyone for help in the next few years because I was seeing a lot of private practices around the South Florida area turning to group sessions…. primarily because they were, unsurprisingly, more profitable to run. I couldn’t really imagine this going much better.
I’ve had pretty much zero luck with trying to seek any assistance since then. Usually I’ll find someone whose private practice is covered by my insurance, wait a number of months, and find that either they decide to stop accepting new patients and cancel on me, or I’m able to go in for an initial consultation after 4-7 months only to have the practice cease to exist shortly after that initial consultation. The best to date was the practice in Jupiter, Florida, which blinked out of existence due to Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” claiming its office space for Secret Service detail and a failed office move to an abandoned tapas bar. You can’t beat that for being a classic South Florida Sucks tale, can you? Unfortunately I’ve had nothing but similar false starts since I moved to California, it just seems to be the normal state of healthcare services in America.
* Not to be confused with a particularly annoying and content-free meme from a few years back. Trust me, it’s dead and you’re all free from it now.
Hmm, weird….. There are three different sets of CPUs and RAM in there!
what. WHAT. It left the factory like that. It passed “QUALITY” CONTROL. What.
You know what? I never want to see this again and maybe they were doing us a favor by using those crappy screws on the top cover where you have to drill out one or two because they’re galled and the head is made of pure nacho cheeze.
So, reportedly there is good CCTV footage of this, and it’ll get posted online once the insurance company is done with it. The user at the time kept repeatedly slamming their car back and forth under the machine until they caught it with the top brush down and backed into it hard, tipping the whole wash gantry over and crushing the roof of the car as it came to rest. Amazingly, the Istobal machine looks pretty much unscathed other than the wire/hose guide getting torn off the wall.
Wanna bet this was a GMC Yukon or a Land Rover? Those seem to be the peak derpcastle vehicles around here.
This poor thing was running on EMPTY, time to juice it up! Let’s see, uh…. wait. You can’t just let it draw the solution in out of a bucket, you must use an external pump to force it in there! The expansion tank is very much on the wrong side of the pump to make pressurizing the system the same way you do with the newer systems possible.
Oh and it’s all on the outdoor side and the pumps get all nasty due to weather exposure. Both of these units have one bad pump each. Yaaaackkkk.
I unfortunately didn’t get pictures of the mess that occurred when the charging pump blechhhhh’d all over the floor or when that main vent pictured above inexplicably yacked on the wall behind it but suffice to say mess was made here.
It’ll still start and stop recording video on time. It’ll still play out video. It still archives video properly.
But that’s where it ends because once it’s taken a nice hit (in this case due to bad LTC timecode that was passing through a distribution amp that shat out its power supply capacitors) it will just
It will just
No timecode. No more timecode. Ever.
And this completely thunderfucks your editing workflow.
Seriously. All I can get out of it after fixing the bad DA is the Summit 3G client machines assuring me in their logs the LTC timecode (which provides the time of day in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames- 29.97/sec because NTSC) is present and good and then it just
And then it Makes Shit Up as it goes along
So far I’ve received clips where the TC starts at 00:00:00.00 and never advances as recording progresses, regardless of the Free Run setting, and that’s a major Everlasting Cockstopper because it makes it impossible to set an in and out point to generate a subclip later…
I’ve gotten clips where the timecode starts rolling correctly BUT it’s 23 minutes and some odd sec/frames in the past which is really strange but you can still mark in and out…
And I’ve gotten clips where the time starts at 00:00:00.0 but counts up properly. Weird but also harmless
But until its desired behavior is fully back I’m getting nonstop phone calls about it and it’s all just a great pile of piss streaming forth from a god awful product that never, ever, fully worked as advertised and was constantly unstable for the first few months we had all our eggs inexorably in it’s basket.
Stratus, let it be known I hate your lifeless yet malevolently vile shitty software driven guts and you make me wish I could just put everything back on fucking U-matic tape.
73’s and go fuck yourself, you piece of techbro turd. Guess I’ll be trying to get an appointment with one of Ass Valley’s two support techs tomorrow.
These photos are from fellow engineer Chris Hall. The owner of an AM station reached out to him for advice after a contractor from two states away rebuilt the transmitter facility and it just wouldn’t make power. Wonder why? What’s the dielectric strength of a Mason jar? Which parts went Exxon Valdez in there?
My experience with AM antenna systems is limited but I can say that I would not trust even a single component in this ATU – it’s probably all been compromised by excessive voltage, current, and, uh, mechanical abuse, fire, and overheating. Call up Kintronic Labs, ask for a quote….
How do you do that to a poor innocent vacuum variable cap?! I mean uhhhhhhhhh. What. I’m guessing the voltage flew off the handle when it ran far off resonance, I can’t even fathom which part would have failed first, or maybe if the contractor just tried to bring up full power with the Vise-Grips not clamped on or okay that’s it I’m done I can’t even. This is why I like coming up at the lowest possible power first if in doubt….