WOIR-AM… There are no words


Greetings! I am FAILTUNER! Enjoy my field of nightmares!

I saw two AM towers I’d never noticed before while driving away from the site WDNA-FM is on after fixing a major case of explosive Z-Bola (more on that in another post). I’d never seen them lit before despite them having beacons at the tops? I drove in for a closer look and whooooa brother is there ever a mess to be found here. This is a good example of bad broadcast engineering and maintenance practices. FOUL!!!
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It feels like everyone’s Harris Z transmitters are rotting out all at once lately… We’ve been calling it “Z-Bola”.

These are pretty solid boxes with lots of redundancy and failsafes, but they’re getting a bit old and weird failures are cropping up in the units in the field.


Tonight’s adventure was brought to you by the letters ” P O W E R S U P P L Y C O N T R O L L E R” and the number 2. No clue why — it just up and quit talking to the CPU, disabling one of the two IPAs* and half of the final output modules. Removing power from the controller and reseating the card and its worrisome nest of ribbon cables cleared the fault. However, I was now faced with a new horror: CB1, the circuit breaker in the back which serves as the disconnect for the controller and fan power, would not stay closed, and we were thus more seriously off air! I finally managed to get it to stay latched on by opening the big three phase breaker across the room from the transmitter, closing CB1, then closing the big evil breaker again.

Pheeewwww. It’s always a new adventure with this rig.

* Intermediate Power Amplifier: An amplifier stage used between the signal source and the final amplification stage. Can also stand for a kind of beer. If I liked beer more, this box would have made me want a nice cold one on many many occasions.

Oh, if you’re wondering what holds the controller cage like that, it is NOT hanging by the delicate ribbon cables. It jams against two screws as seen here 😉

Radio Shack is weird

One of their latest death thrashes: the cell phone displays have now become a station for a cellular mvno dedicated to armed forces members and veterans?


Not entirely understanding how that’s worth the floor space here…

An oblique reminder.

Hey everyone, this is a forward slash: /
This is a backslash: \
Trust me, when you’re reading a website URL in ad copy, you do not mean backslash. The backslash is not commonly used in anything other than local file paths on CP/M, DOS, and Windows computers. NOT www.somebusiness.com/specialradiooffer. Trust me on this. It’s just “slash”. And this is Slash. Clear? Good. Stop saying backslash.

Not particularly oblique. See what I did here?

Photo by William Hames / Atlas Icons.

Y’alls on crack.


I bought some Lite-On led displays with integrated shift register driver a few years back. They’re kinda cool, reducing the microcontroller pin count needed to drive two digits of alphanumeric displays to a mere three — chip select/enable, clock, data in. Not bad at all, even if they don’t have serial out like a proper shift register; the last cell of the shift register is connected to output latch to remove the need to externally fire the latch.

But good luck reading that datasheet.


So far so good, right?




AAAUGH. WHY?! WHHHHYYYYY??!!! All this is missing is a liberal use of Comic Sans.

Please, do not do this.

Fiber Seeking Backhoe incidents are uh, phun


Even more challenging when your backup network connection is an old AT&T “Business Class” ADSL that gives you 786 kilobits *when* it feels like working, interspersed with random 1-7 second dropouts. Oh well. Crank the Delay Cushion on the Comrex Access up to 10000 mSec and have, uh, …. phun.

GE Orion VCO adjustment / alignment for band changes

What you’ll need: Multimeter, dummy load, Orion programming software OrionVCOs(Programmer for Windows or the older DOS software), radio code files for the radio (used when programming; re-uploaded each time the flash memory fills up).

If you are moving the band split (and this is probably why you are here), you also need the SC or SC4 files.

Full instructions follow this silliness…

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The Westinghouse Prog Stom Ass’y, or Lost Arts in Electronics

IMAG2765…You read that right, the module has an ancient TYPO on it.

Today I was at the Miami-Dade County Store, and somewhere in the shelves of weird old broken network hardware and PCs that had been picked clean by creepy Jamaican exporters, this one bronze colored anodized aluminum mystery box peeked out at me. The thing just had a strange energy about it, I couldn’t really explain it.

This box has silently served hundreds of thousands of people on their way to work, to play, in good times and bad. But what is it? And what’s with the typo?

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Mac OS X is beating your hard drives to death. Here’s the fix.

You read that right.

Quick link to the fix before I get to my usual rambling: hdapm. Install it and it will automatically set itself to auto-start on each boot and disable the auto park feature for all your drives.

Under Linux you can also use the hdparm command. Please note that you still need to fix your Mac OS X system with hdapm though as it will by default reset the power management on each boot!!
hdparm -B 255 [device]
or, if that throws an error
hdparm -B 254 [device]

device is usually /dev/sda.

My usual rambling as to the background on this problem follows…. 🙂
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