Oops I clogged the Space Station Toilet

Aerial view of a broadcast tower with "HHHHHHH" emanating from the transmitter building.
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Down in the river delta this morning, a circuit breaker went TWANG, and eventually, an engineer went HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

The Space Station Toilet transmitter dumped one cabinet. While I was waiting for one of my coworkers to get there on site and see why it wouldn’t come back up, the first order of business was to remote in and change the combiner mode so the dead cabinet was no longer in the system (which caused a large amount of power from the other two surviving cabinets to get dumped into the combiner reject load due to the mismatch).

 

The Space Station Toilet is an older generation of Harris transmitter using their old eCDI user interface system. Their newer stuff uses a weird looking but far easier to use interface which does not require FECKING JAVA (!!!!) and has a nice block diagram sort of layout. You can see it in action here on a HPX series FM. Since it’s natively designed to work great on touchscreens, the newer GatesAir TV rigs come with a cute little pull out shelf where you just set a generic tablet PC in there to use as the front panel UI. But uh, eCDI is a confusing dated looking mess, and its design contributed to an… incident.

I went in there, took the dud cabinet out of the combiner on the mode tab, then noticed cabinet 1 had no IPA power or beam voltage. I decided since it was not working correctly to switch it back to BG heat until it could be serviced.

BG heat is kind of a keep warm mode that leaves the ESCIOT tube filament on at reduced voltage, and I think also leaves the ion pump on. It’s basically a warm standby that keeps the filament ready to go, and helps maintain the hard vacuum while the tube isn’t actively online. Well….

 

Two minutes later I got a call from our director saying “hey, we’re off the air, and I think it’s because you did the same thing I did…”

Sure enough… Note the two screenshots. See the difference?

Blink and you miss it. It’s not the difference of which button is selected at upper right.

The issue is, if you’re in the HPA tab at the bottom, the Beam On / Standby / BG Heat / Off buttons affect the state of one HPA cabinet, as selected by the 1/2/3 buttons. If you’re in the TX tab, guess what they affect the state of….

KERPLUNK. FLUSH. BEAM OFF. ZERO WATTS. ENJOY BUSH’S BAKED BEANS.

Beans. Mmmm, beans.

The day this thing is to be decommissioned I want to see what happens if I fill the cooling system and high voltage power supply cabinets with beans and turn the transmitter on one final time. BEANS ON, BABY! Mwahahahaha.

Ah, that time of year when the spooge trees are in bloom

It’s invasive. It makes a mess. It’s of no real value other than looking pretty when it’s in bloom…… accompanied by the lofty smell of stale jizz.

Callery Pear, Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryana, Callery pear… By any name it still smells like a jizz rag

Please, do not plant these little shits. Research native trees in your area, plant those instead, and consider replacing existing jizz trees.

we’re all doomed under capitalism

Citrix posted this really feel-good cheeky shit to Twitter and I had to be a smartass and reply about how a lot of businesses are exploiting work from home to sneak extra work into every hour of employees’ days …

…. And then a company that makes surveillance spyware for companies to use on their remote workers comes along and fucking likes my reply.

Thank you Mr. Hitchcock

Yeah sure you’re keeping up with maintenance

good jorb sweaty, totally glad we’ve been paying for a maintenance contract on this thing all this time

Upon having the staff working below complain they were pretty much freezing down there and looking in this confusing mess and seeing a suspiciously weak output air temperature… it was time to go investigate so I can tell the HVAC company how to fix it.

They do not successfully ever do diagnostics. I basically have to tell them what’s wrong and have them fix it.

Sometimes I wind up fixing it anyway because they have absolutely no clue how.

This is hopefully not entirely one of those.


entirely.

wishful thinking.

but at least there’s no variable frequency drive involved. just a toasted drive belt that’s about two days from snapping off like an over-fried onion ring and leaving us shivering.

i don’t know i’m six days into what should have been a four day work week and my brain is just a bunch of aktivschaum.

anyway I found the thing having trouble lighting, short cycling, and periodically letting out gas farts because the “intermittent pilot” (a high voltage spark ignitor) was all fouled with crap… along with the venturis to the burners…. and pretty much….. everything

glorious!

can i go home already?? youtube is recommending a video to me called “calm your anxiety”.

Apparently that heat exchanger isn’t original. We had another one of these units on which the heat exchanger cracked and Modine has entirely washed their hands of this series – no parts available anymore. The new one that was installed in its place is twice the physical size, makes huge banging and whistling noises, took ONE YEAR from order to delivery, and required a weird custom roof curb to sit in. Charming.


oh and the video is actually a pretty awesome lo-fi compliation

hp Instant Ink Tehpwnzriation

So I’ve known about the HP Instant Ink program for a while and I always hated it. Basically it gives you DRM encumbered ink cartridges as a service, which HP can disable at any time… Yeah uh… No thanks

This requires the printer and/or drivers to phone home to hp all the time, I never really thought of the mechanics of this until I saw someone post this response from Fiorina-Shenzhen, I mean, “hp” support ….

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I don’t even have words to describe how terrible an idea this is and how terrible their product design is if it requires this. And yes… I’m sure that firmware can be exploited rotten for entry and lateral movement upon your network once you fucking DMZ your goddamn inkstortion device. Have I said fuck enough times? No. Fuck this actual shit!!!

Picture somehow related, I’m sure

The Tale of the Tech Bros, or, Don’t Toast Your Brakes

Looking down from Shasta Bally
Looking down from Shasta Bally (click for fullsize)

Let me tell the tale of the Tech Bros and Shasta Bally.

Shasta Bally is a mountain in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, between Redding and Weaverville, California. It’s not exactly a widely well known place, but it’s pretty neat, and Whiskeytown Lake (an artificial reservoir) has the distinction of having one of those weird fascinating bell-mouth spillways that descends into the void somewhere.

The peak of Shasta Bally houses a weird little complex of radio towers and buildings. It’s home to KRCR-TV, KNCQ-FM, and countless microwave and 2-way radio relay stations, as it’s the only peak that has unobstructed line of sight paths to the cities of Red Bluff, Chico, Redding, and Weaverville. Amazingly, one of the few things it does not have up there is an old Western Electric Long Lines site; they used a relay station out to the east instead on Hatchet Mountain.

Access to the peak is via a very… interesting… little unpaved road. It is maintained sporadically by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, I forget which. It is closed to the public in the winter and a Sno-Cat or helicopter (!) are required to access the peak once snowfall has occurred. In the summer or fall, though, you can get up there via a 4WD vehicle with nice knobby tires.

It’s not exactly a fun drive though. Ever time I made it, if I was in my Subaru Forester, the road was just too much for it and would overheat the transmission (the rare case of an SUV actually being approprate for the conditions, yet, the conditions being too rough for the SUV? not your average grocery run). With all the frequent stops to let it cool down, it took a long time to get to the peak. Coming back down also required repeated stops to cool the brakes as the low gear wasn’t low enough to control descent speed.

If I went up in a 4WD F150, it’d deal with it better, and would manage the downhill just fine, but I pretty much had to put it in 4LOW 1st or 2nd gear.

One day I was up there working on the KNCQ-FM transmitter.
On the way up I found the road was unusually jammed. I was in the Forester, so I was at a snail’s pace with all the stops for cooling. I was behind a strange convoy of six brand new 4WD Ford and Toyota pickups going up, all of which had parking permits in the window from Oracle Corporation, which I’m guessing indicated they were all tech bros on a weekend trip up from the bay area. They were going up much more slowly than I normally would even WITH all the cooldown stops!

We could normally take this off the air for maintenance as needed as long as we had the aux over on Linguini Mountain running – the KNCQ transmitter would just overpower it on the air and your receiver would hear whichever signal is strongest thanks to capture effect. I was spoiled by this I guess, you can’t do that with 8VSB television! Oh well. Anyway, I had the aux up, and had just started looking into why the transmitter was having intermittent glitches on air when I found the harmonic filter, a very large and expensive assembly you sure as hell can’t buy a spare of at the corner ace hardware, was burned up. Oops.

Then the radio in the corner went from playing lousy pop country to static. The aux had died. There was no way to bring it back up by remote control because its transmitter was a piece of turd that didn’t reset from the remote – once it was out, it was out until you physically reset it.

The confused and increasingly angry phone calls began. I had to get over to the mountain on the other side of the lake to reset that aux as there was no way in hell I was going to be able to get the old Continental 816R running with the filter that crisped. It’d just arc out. I walked out of the little “camouflaged” green shack (which stood out like a sore thumb because the Forest Service required it be camouflaged by being painted forest green despite the fact it was above the tree line on a mountain made of gray granite!) and started back down the road.
After the first switchback I found myself behind the same convoy of six trucks.

Their brake lights were on solid.

Shasta Bally road. The grade here is about 25%.


uh-oh.

One thing you will learn if you drive heavy trucks cross-country or in mountainous terrain, or if you deal with super steep long roads like this, is that you CONSERVE your brakes. You do not ride them. In fact, you want to manage your descent speed with engine braking first, then use the brakes in very short bursts or for emergencies. This is something tech bros driving around San Jose do not know about I guess. All of them were riding their brakes.

About one mile down the road (elevation change = probably about 800′), the smoke started rolling out of the wheels of the TechBro convoy and they all came to a dead stop. Luckily, most of them did so into areas where the road was wide enough to pass.

Also lucky I guess that they COULD stop — if you were to suffer a complete brake failure on this mountain, your only way to avoid being yeeted off a cliff would be to jam your vehicle in the trees or scrape it against the mountain face on one side of the road until you get stuck in it. Neither would be particularly great and I can’t really entirely fathom how one would get a tow truck up there to recover a broken down vehicle.

I stopped too and got out and helpfully instructed all of them how to downshift and get themselves off the road…. and how to get to the Les Schwab Tire Center back in town to get their brakes replaced.


I had never seen so many ‘tribal’ tattoos on fake tanned skin before in my life.

Upon arriving on the other mountain I found the aux’s antenna was toast, but I could swap things around and put a Crown transmitter on it which would cheerfully broadcast into a wet piece of pasta, so we were back up again. Exactly how this was resolved afterwards is a blur in my mind, though the ultimate solution was “watch as the Carr Fire burned over the whole mess and we got to rebuild it all in a working state”.

Nice knowing you, Just In Time manufacturing

I hate Just In Time manufacturing. It screws everyone over for weeks with a ten ton lead dildo whenever any sort of supply disruption occurs.

So right now, go to the store and you’ll see this.

Not shown, the news helicopter overhead, the fights breaking out, and the checkout lines around the store.

So what’s the supply disruption here? There…. isn’t one. See, Just In Time always expects that demand is predictable or completely inelastic, so when you have any sudden unexpected demand…

Finished product isn’t waiting in warehouses.

Subparts of products aren’t available (supposedly, production of toilet paper and paper towels have halted due to lack of the cardboard roll core tubes, but that’s an unconfirmed rumor!)

And who the hell knows why everyone snapped up the instant ramen. Uhh.

The supply chain breakdown hit hard and ugly in the electronics industry first as that depends almost entirely on parts from China. (Sadly)

Now it’s hitting domestic products and people are getting slammed into empty shelves over the last box of baby wipes.

Could you really say nobody saw this coming?

Stores are starting to put rationing measures into place, but those are far from fair as they’ll let some dude who lives alone buy the same amount of cleaning supplies and paper towels as a mother of four who comes in for the week’s groceries.

Shit’s Fucked, Man.

dasHECK

Original image from @2clouddogs

The Monroe Systems / Digital Alert Systems DASDEC is a special sort of wonderfully awful. I mean, it takes the usually wonderfully awful state of existence that is any part of the flawed-ass Emergency Alert System and adds its own layer of questionable toppings. It’s an overly complex Linux based PC with a web interface that looks like something I would have hacked together on an old junked PC barely chugging along with Linux on it in my parents’ living room in 1999, and it’s theoretically “compatible” with a couple of different flavors of video/audio keyers used in TV airchains for inserting text crawls and audio, but that works about as reliably as asking a shoobcloud with selective hearing something other than “would you like to go on a walk”?

I’ve heard of them working just fine and dandy in radio stations where they’re part of a far simpler setup, ie, not a setup dependent on poorly written and tested software (internal to the DASDEC) communicating on poorly written and tested software (yes, yes, I am indeed referring to Evertz keyer firmware, what ELSE would I be talking about here?).

A day in the life. We had to jump through hoops to ensure the thing would successfully air the national test, and it did, but we had to add distribution amps and other things that we shouldn’t have had to add because we had the Monroe “multi player” and I don’t even want to think about this anymore.

I’ll be over here thinking happy thoughts about cloud dogs.