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Naughty or Nice? Christmas Gifts for Engineers

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Dec 11, 2015 2:01:00 PM

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TWiRT 284Who’s the engineer on your Christmas list? Perhaps it’s you! From network and audio analysis tools to weather stations, cameras, and stocking stuffers, Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack check out some gift ideas for us engineers to put on our wish lists.





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Kirk: This Week in Radio Tech Episode 284 is brought to you by the Axia Fusion AoIP mixing console, Fusion, where design and technology become one. By the Telos Hx6 talk show system, perfect for request line callers and serious newsmakers alike, six lines and two digitally clear Telos hybrids in one rack unit, the Telos Hx6. And by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. crystalClear is the console with the multi-touch touchscreen interface.

Hey, who's the engineer on your Christmas list? Perhaps it's you. From network and audio analysis tools to weather stations, cameras and stocking stuffers, Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack check out some gift ideas for us engineers to put on our wish list.

Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack and oh I looked all over the house and I can't find my Santa hat. I've got a lovely Santa hat. It flops over at the top just right. I can't find it. I've only got a few more days.

What's today? December the 10th and we're heading into Christmas, December 25th and this show is about Christmas gift ideas for engineers, things that they like and that they won't tell you or things that they didn't know they wanted or things that they're just maybe too shy to say. We're going to try to point some of them out.

It's Kirk Harnack here in Nashville, Tennessee at my home office and the headquarters for This Week in Radio Tech, I suppose. And Chris Tobin is with us from New Jersey. Hello, Chris, welcome in.

Chris: Well, hello. I'm doing well. Actually, it's a great day today. I enjoyed a personal-sized pizza in the park, 62-degree weather, sunshine, blue skies. I look at the calendar and clock and I'm like, "Wait a minute. This is December 10th." I must be in a different time. This doesn't make any sense. It just means that we're going to have a nice comfortable winter or we're in for a doozy in January.

Kirk: Well, yeah. Can we really predict any of that?

Chris: No. It's just something we have to say and talk about and people make money doing that.

Kirk: A butterfly flaps its wings in China and changes our weather here and there's a little bit of truth to that.

Chris: Well, if time travel existed, boy would we be in trouble.

Kirk: We can go forward and see what the weather is going to be. We'd always be right. Didn't Marty McFly do that?

Chris: Yes. Or you can be The Doctor and travel back and forth.

Kirk: There you go. Yeah. Sure can. So, this episode, Chris Tobin and I, two erstwhile traveling, mumbling, bumbling engineers, we're going to hand out advice on Christmas gift ideas. Chris, I had the chatroom open earlier. Let me see if I still do. Chatroom is open. If you want to be in the chatroom, you're watching live, go to GFQLive.tv. Give yourself a name. You can be anonymous if you want to. Join the chatroom and tell us where we're going wrong and tell us what you'd like to see for a Christmas gift.

I have a few knickknacks around here. Chris has some ideas as well that he's been working on for Christmas gift ideas for engineers. I know we're hard to buy for. Chris, I don't know about you, but for me, my wife, it's always a problem what to get me. I want weird things that she wouldn't really know how or where to get. So, I end up getting socks and soap and cufflinks, things like that.

Chris: I'm more than happy with just Christmas dinner. That's fine. No need to shop for me. I'm fine. I've just got the strangest things that I like and toys. I'm a kid at heart and fortunately, I'm always looking for things that make me laugh and have fun. So, a nice dinner together and I'll be happy.

Kirk: I'm really the same way. Get me a card. Give me a hug. I'm really fine. That's all I need. How about a day of relaxation? I'm not a sports fan at all. I'm really not. But look, let me just sit back on the recliner and watch a football game and bring me some ham.

Chris: Yeah. I'll enjoy a good game, a curling match and soccer, I'm happy, since baseball season doesn't happen right now. There's no baseball.

Kirk: Hey, our show is brought to you... let's get our first commercial done because these people make it possible. Speaking of Christmas, these people give all year round. I'm talking about our sponsors. On this show, Axia, also Telos and also Lawo. They are our sponsors. They have been for quite a while. It's their participation, their financial participation in the show and you listening to their ads that make the show possible because it does cost money to do this show.

All right. Our first sponsor is, in fact, Axia. The folks at Axia have this console, this delicious, beautiful console. It's called the Fusion. It is just amazing. What a gorgeous piece of equipment. Just from a mechanical point of view, you see it there on the screen. This console has got an anodized aluminum top. Every piece that you touch there on the top is metal.

The double anodized aluminum is pretty amazing. You may have owned consoles in the past that had Lexan on the top to make the markings, to mark the on and the off and program buttons and maybe mark next to the faders, mark your DB mark next to the faders, the text and the markings that have to go on a console so you can have some idea of what you're doing there.

Well, on most consoles, these are printed on Lexan. The predecessor to the Fusion console, the Element, these were on Lexan, but this Lexan was actually embedded about 1/32 of an inch into the metal. They actually routed out the metal and cut the Lexan out the exact same size, to the thousandth of an inch as the depression in the console.

So, you actually cannot, on the Element console, cannot get your fingernail under that Lexan. We have to take off at the factory if you send it in and need something changed. Well, on the Fusion console, the folks at Axia did something different. They decided to laser etch and double-anodize. That means there's no Lexan. There is absolutely nothing to ware out marking-wise on the top of this console.

Now, speaking of where at, what about the faders? What about the buttons? Well, the faders are these ingenious faders that are, I don't know how you describe their grade or quality. We've tested them for well over 100,000 operations. Instead of the fader, maybe it's called the tang. It's the part that sticks up out of the fader and you plug the knob onto on the top, those things, on so many consoles, those things wear out and wear out and wear out. I own some Axia consoles that use the same fader. They haven't worn out. They haven't even gotten sticky or hard to move yet. They just feel great. They feel like new.

These faders on the Fusion console and the Element, actually all the Axia consoles, instead of going down from the top and having an open area in the top of the fader where dust and dirt, dander, spills, all that kind of stuff can go right in there. The tang wraps around the side. It's kind of a C-shape and it goes around the side. It enters the fader body from the side and slides up and down that way, see?

By doing so, you don't have the problem of gravity, at least, pulling dirt and dander, fingernail stuff, hair, whatever you've dropped on the console won't go down into the fader. It will just fall right off the side of the fader because the fader doesn't have an opening on the top. It's on the side. This is an ingenious design. It's one of the things that makes an Axia console last and last and last.

Now, if you ever do want to or need to rebuild the faders, they sell a fader rebuild kit. I personally don't know of anybody that's used one, but we have them. There's also the on/off buttons. These buttons are incredible. They call them aircraft grade. What does that mean? I don't know exactly.

I do know that the button design itself was tested by our engineers at Axia. They actually built a little robot with a finger. It pushed the buttons. After 100,000 times, they said, "We're going to buy these buttons." The buttons are just extraordinarily reliable. And of course they're all backlit with LEDs. So, you don't have the light bulb burnout problem with those.

Really built well... on the new Fusion console, everything that you touch is metal. Well, the fader top knobs aren't. The button tops are plastic. But the top of the surface as we've said, double-anodized brushed aluminum. The over bridge is metal. The end caps now are metal on the Fusion console and the bullnose, the part that's in the front, the part that takes all the abuse of disc jockeys' wrists sitting on them, that's made of metal too.

So, the whole thing is metal. It is so strong and firm and sturdy, the frame upon which it's built, you can stand on this thing. You can actually get up on the console and stand on it. It's just supported by the ends in a drop in situation and it doesn't bend, not that you can see anyway. Maybe if you had a micrometer, you could measure it. It's just really super, super well-built. I love this console.

Besides all the mechanical good stuff, it really has features that help the operators, like these beautiful sharp OLED displays that show clearly the fader number, the fader source, the pre-fader audio level coming into the fader and also if you have a back feed going on, it shows meters for the back feed. You can say, "I'm sending you audio. You can see it right there." So, really well built and full of features that you want to see.

It is the grandmaster daddy AoIP audio console, the Axia Fusion. I'm talking about it like it must be this big honking console. You can order a great big one. But you can also order one that has, I think, four faders, six faders, eight faders. You can order a small one as well, any size in between. You can totally customize the modules that go in it, from intercom to buttons to just buttons that do things to telephone modules to fader modules to the monitor module. It's just a terrific deal.

Check it out, if you would. Go to the website, TelosAlliance.com and look at the Axia Fusion audio console. Amazing.

All right. Hey, Chris Tobin, welcome into the show and you gave us a report already on the weather. You said it was a beautiful day there in New Jersey.

Chris: Yeah. The sun is set around 4:25 and there's a Christmas tree lighting taking place nearby in a park. So, the holiday season has begun in this area. So, it's good.

Kirk: I'm looking at the security cams here at the Harnack house. Santa provided those last year. It looks like some of them have switched over to their night mode. Others have not. The ones that are behind the sunset have already switched over to a black and white infrared mode. Not all the Christmas lights have come on. I can see the garage.

Here, I'll tell you what let's do, as long as we're talking about Christmas presents, flip this around. I know it's hard to see it. I'm having a hard time holding it still. But there you go. There are six cameras at the Harnack household, that way I can see when the UPS guy drives in.

Chris: It looks like a scene out of one of those spy pictures. I'm about to see it go to white noise one by one.

Kirk: Oh yeah.

Chris: Then suddenly the alarm starts ringing and the look of panic on the face.

Kirk: Sometimes I see my wife or my mother-in-law drive up and I think, "The front door is locked." They have keys, but if I can jump up there before they get to the door, great, all that much better. Once in a while, I'll see a deer amble by. I've seen a turkey too.

Chris: Oh wow. Nice.

Kirk: Sometimes I see where somebody left the back sliding door open and one of the cats will get out.

Chris: The cat's out of the bag.

Kirk: Exactly. Chris, how should we do this? We really haven't talked about a format here for showing off Christmas gift ideas. I've got a bunch here. Have you got a few yourself?

Chris: Yeah. I have a list of handy not toys, but handy pieces of equipment for broadcast engineers to use. This year has been a year of craziness for me. So, I've focused on some simple test stuff with AES and a couple of data-related items for files for PDFs for manuals and things of that sort. So, then there's also the comical like Sonic Screwdrivers for those of you that are sci-fi fans and stuff like that. But that's for another part of the show.

Kirk: I want to hear about that. Get started with something meaty. What's a good, all right, boys, any engineer is going to like this?

Chris: All right. Well, I'll tell you this is what I like. It's from OWC, the World Computer Company, I think it's called.

Kirk: Yeah, Other World Computing.

Chris: MacSales.com? Yeah. I have a 2TB hard drive, little portable one that I've been using, I'll mention that here too, for the last year or two. On it is every conceivable piece of documentation that I have come across in various projects, everything. It's just become unwieldy at times because it's a square little portable guy. So, I came across this Envoy Pro Mini. It's a 240GB SSD USB stick.

Kirk: Whoa.

Chris: Yes. It's a USB3, but it will run at USB2 at slower speeds.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: But it's an SSD on a stick.

Kirk: And it's 250GB.

Chris: Yeah. It's $179. It's powered by the USB bus and it's pretty cool.

Kirk: But instead of normal flash technology, you said it's an SSD.

Chris: That's correct.

Kirk: I'm not sure the difference in those things. Sometimes I try to see the difference and I've been told there isn't a difference. But I've got to believe there is a difference.

Chris: Yeah. There is a difference. I couldn't tell you the details to the difference at the moment. But there is a difference in the way that mapping and the memory is managed, but it's faster. It's pretty cool. I just thought it was like, "Wow, an SSD in the palm of your hand," or actually between your fingers if you want to spin it around. But it's just handy.

Kirk: That SSD, which is not a drive-size SSD, but a flash drive size, like something like this.

Chris: It's a thumb drive, absolutely.

Kirk: A thumb drive that's 256 gigs.

Chris: Right.

Kirk: Now, it came from OWC, Other World Computing, MacSales.com.

Chris: Yes. That's correct.

Kirk: I want to give you the flip coin of that suggestion. Here's what not to buy. This is a flash drive that is reportedly 1TB and it was $22 and it doesn't work.

Chris: When you're saying it doesn't work, it doesn't save anything?

Kirk: It worked perfectly for a few days and then you plug it in and it doesn't even recognize that there's something there.

Chris: That's because it's taking your data and sends it somewhere else.

Kirk: It came directly from China. It came in the postal service from China. I bought it from one of those really, really cheap companies. It wasn't GearBest, but it was one of those very inexpensive, low-priced, super-discount Chinese direct sellers or direct aggregators that aggregate products from a number of companies. Who knows, this might be a third-shift product. It's a terabyte. I wish it worked.

Chris: So, I guess what you're proving is you get what you pay for.

Kirk: Yes. You get what you pay for. All right. I want to ask Suncast in just a couple of three minutes to have the first video ready. We have a video that's a great Christmas gift idea that is called Simple Circuits. I gave them the YouTube link for that.

Let me show you one thing that I think is a good stocking stuffer. I find use for this all over the place. An engineer can buy this for himself. But I had it handy and I have used these in so many places. Now, this has got to be the super-discount model that you can't buy one cheaper. This is from Rolls. They're known for making inexpensive broadcast gear of a semi-professional nature. It's powered by a 12V wall wart, but this is the Rolls ProMatch.

So, it's like the Henry Matchbox, but this is the cheap version that I can't vouch for how great it is. I just know that it does work. So, if you have a piece of semi-pro gear that has RCA unbalanced connections on one side and you need to interface that to professional broadcast gear that needs a +4 level and balanced on ins and outs, probably on XLR connectors, then this box will do it for you.

Chris: I've used those. I have used them. They do work very well.

Kirk: They do. And look, with today's analog technology and IC chips, unless you mess up the design, it's going to perform fine. I don't think they messed up the design.

Chris: No. I've used them in remote locations, on remotes, that is, outside broadcasts. They've worked really well. The one thing with the consumer part of that is keeping the consumer cables short. If you're doing something from a laptop to that to convert audio levels, don't do a 50-foot run of unbalanced wire into it.

Kirk: Exactly. You want this to go next to the device. If you've got a VCR, a CD player, whatever it may be that you're interfacing to... I'll tell you what's fairly common or what could be common nowadays is let's say you've got an inexpensive little audio mixer, maybe a Behringer or a Mackie mixer and you need to interface that into a more professional broadcast environment that, say, AoIP.

Let's say it's a Livewire system. That AoIP system is going to have nodes that want to have balanced inputs and outputs. This is your box right here. That's how you get those things to talk to each other.

Chris: Yeah. That works well. They make a couple of good products. They're inexpensive and they do the job. Don't expect it to manage or get banged around in a hostile environment in a broadcast environment. But it definitely can be used for ad hoc stuff and get away with it just fine.

Kirk: And tell whoever is buying you your presents, maybe you can send them a link. Most any broadcast equipment dealer with sell this. I don't know if places like Guitar Center sell them. But any broadcast dealer, BGS, BSW, Gisler, Dale, Pro Audio, all those guys. They'll all have it.

All right, Chris, you got something next for us?

Chris: Yeah. I meant to run down and get my bag that I had some of them in, I could show and tell. I can talk about it.

Kirk: I'll be glad to take over for a minute while you get your bag.

Chris: You want to do that? I looked down and realized I didn't grab the bag. I'll be back.

Kirk: This one, this is an IP camera. Now, there are all kinds of IP cameras available, but you find more and more uses for an IP camera. In fact, this one is made by Ubiquiti at UBNT.com. This one is about $120. It takes power over Ethernet. So, you just run your Ethernet cable in there. They provide you with the power supply to insert Ethernet, insert power, I should say, onto the internet. Then you plug it into your network and you run their program. And there are some other programs that are compatible that can let you see the video from it. I think you can see it with a browser as well if you browse into the unit.

Well, cameras are probably going to continue to get cheaper and cheaper. Just on Facebook yesterday, our friend, former cohost here, Chris Tarr posted that he's using a pan tilt, I don't think it's a zoom also, pan tilt camera from D-Link. It's very inexpensive. It gets very mixed reviews. Chris said he likes it pretty well. He provided a picture from it.

But it's on Amazon for about $65. It's a D-Link. I want to say it's got the number 600L in it, but I could be wrong. But look for a D-Link pan tilt IP camera for $600. It has a Wi-Fi interface if you want to use that. it also has a wired interface so you can plug it in and watch it remotely. You can overcome router difficulties and firewalls.

They offer a D-Link cloud service that lets you easily watch it without having to do a lot of router configuration. So, hey, these remote cameras are cool and you don't have to spend $200 or $300 on them anymore. You can get something that's at least decent, apparently for $65 on Amazon.

All right. I have another couple of stocking stuffer ideas. Don't throw away this idea. I really appreciate this myself. I'm always running out of batteries here at the Harnack house. I've got a five-year old son. There are always three toys needing batteries. Well, for years and years, it seems like this Rayovac brand was always considered second rate. Maybe it still is, but that's not how I view it. They do advertise it lasts as long as Energizer.

These are Rayovac alkaline batteries. I think part of it was for decades it seems, everyone else was making alkaline batteries and Rayovac was making super heavy duty batteries that were not alkaline. I could be wrong about that, but that's just what I seem to find in the store. Now Rayovac, for some years they've been making alkaline batteries inexpensive.

I want to say I paid about $14 for 60 batteries, maybe $17 at Home Depot, just picked these up and restocked my battery supply. You can get one of these and boy it will fill a stocking. Engineers, well, love/hate relationship with batteries. You hate it when you don't have them when you need them. So, here at the Harnack house, we've got a ton of them.

Now, smoke detectors. I know you've got smoke detectors in your house. Everyone is supposed to have them nowadays. Here at the Harnack house, we've probably got six or seven smoke detectors. In fact, there's one right here in this office. And you know, you're supposed to change the batteries on those things twice a year.

Well, I found at least for me, the best way to get these batteries, 9V batteries is in a box like these. These are Procells from Duracell, Duracell Procells. Look, I know there are plenty of engineers, you already know to buy them in this box. They're cheaper this way. You can buy these on Amazon as well. There are probably other places too.

I started seeing these in the professional environment of a TV station. Until they went to rechargeables, they were buying a lot of these boxes for the wireless mics and the wireless IFB systems for the talent. So, I see in these boxes around Procell. Okay, I'll go look at those.

I forgot how much these cost, but I buy one of these boxes every six months and I go replace, there are a dozen of them in there, I go replace the 9V battery in all of the smoke detectors around the Harnack house. Good stocking stuffer. You put these together and you've got about six pounds worth of stuff to go into your stocking.

Okay. So, that's what I've got so far. Is Chris Tobin back yet?

Chris: I am back.

Kirk: Hey, good. All right. So, I went through some stocking stuffers and an IP camera while you were gone, the Ubiquiti little IP camera. Chris Tarr mentioned one on Facebook yesterday that he's pretty happy with and it's on sale right now on Amazon for $65. It's kind of a standalone pan tilt camera that also does Wi-Fi or wired and it's a D-Link product. It's gotten mixed reviews. Some people say they hate it. But from the reviews, it sounds like they were expecting it to do things it doesn't promise.

Chris: What was the model number of that?

Kirk: I'll go look that up. I should provide that. So, while you're talking about yours, I'll get the model number.

Chris: Excellent. What I have here is a Ward-Beck Systems Audio Bit Spitter, not splitter, Spitter, ABS-1. Now, you may say, "Why would I want this?" Well, you know what? Nowadays, as you know if you're a fan and product user of Axia products, you know that there are some products that don't have analog audio inputs and outputs anymore, it's strictly AES or Livewire. So, in that case, you're going to need something like this to generate AES signals and testing.

It's a handy little box. It has sampling rates of 48, 44-1, 32k and external clocking, if you like. And then it gives you audio output levels on tones for 400 Hz and 1 KHz. It's minus 20, minus 12 and 0 Db full scale, which translates to minus 16 DBU on a minus 20, minus 8, minus 12 and plus 4 DBU on the 0 Db full scale.

A little history of this particular unit, in a previous employment, I worked at a facility where we had to relocate our primary studios for a period of, I always think 12 hours or something to that effect. Part of the operation at the top of the hour or the bottom of the hour, a tone had to be placed on the air to time hack to let everybody know what time it was at the top and bottom and the announcers would coincide with that.

However, since we'd be physically offsite and would not have our usual time tone-generating equipment, believe it or not, the output of this guy at 400 Hz through a relay, the relay which was on a portable master clock from ESC, at the bottom and top, when the relay closed, the audio tone out of this went through the relay, went across the program mix bus that I created with the mixer and the temporary studio we had and we had time tone twice an hour for 12 hours.

Now, you may say that's nothing. But the reality is we had to set the studio up days in advance to make sure it was going to work so that we could not have a failure. Now, you may say what's the big deal? It's just a simple couple of hours over night. Well, when you're a news operation, today is a normal day. But what if there is a breaking story? Now what do you do? You're off-site. You've got to make sure you can still manage the breaking story situation, which would mean we probably would stay at that offsite location longer than we had planned.

So, this box was running for close to a week prior, generating tone twice an hour as we did all the tests offline for our 12-hour or 18-hour temporary offsite location. So, it's a handy little box and it's really rugged and works well. That's just a little tidbit for fun, something you can do with this little guy if you had to in a pinch. I do some crazy things from time to time.

So, I have something else.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: One of the things that people overlook, I actually loaned this out to a friend of mine recently. He was grateful because he's like I couldn't believe I didn't realize what the problem was. Another Whirlwind product, I talked about one earlier. AESDA, nice little box. A lot of folks out there are probably familiar with it. If not, it's something very handy.

It's these things that you don't realize it's worth the investment. It's a couple hundred bucks. I have the list prices somewhere, depending on what you call cheap or expensive or inexpensive. The point is it gets the job done so you minimize the chaos of somebody yelling and screaming and saying, "Why couldn't you figure this out earlier?"

This box has been handy. I've used it for a lot of things. It gives you the digital monitoring so you can tell if your AES signal has errors in it or not. You can also decode with the level meters, see the audio levels and know what's exactly going on. The nice thing is it does balanced-unbalanced, so you have the SB diff and then you have the standard AES balance.

Very important that you don't mix the two because SB diff, as we know, is 75 ohms and it's 0.2 volts from peak to peak. The AES3, which is 110 ohms is approximately I think it's 5 volts peak to peak. So, it varies. It's like pro and [inaudible 00:28:56] audio. There's about a 14 Db difference in level.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: It's important to know these things.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: It's handy. You can also get a digital output or analog output by just a flip of a switch on this guy. So, it's really cool. It's battery operated so you can carry it around and do things. Or if you like, there's a wall wart option and you can plug it in permanently. Now, these are handy little things I have in a kit. Notice it has a handle? There's a reason for that.

Kirk: The name of that is what, the name, the model?

Chris: That is the Whirlwind AESDA.

Kirk: AESDA. Okay.

Chris: So, you can actually look that up on their website.

Kirk: Well, Chris Tobin is showing the expensive Christmas items.

Chris: Well, this is for broadcast engineers and things that get the job done. If you want your personal stuff, that's between you and your loved ones. I'm not going to get into that. That gets all crazy. That's like Hatfields and McCoys.

Kirk: I guess it occurred to me, we are showing some things you would ask the station owner or manager for and other things you would ask your family for or your friends, Christmas gifts for your friends. Here's a gift that I always wanted one and I still don't actually have one that's my own. This one belongs to my employer. But everybody recognizes that. That is a GoPro camera.

A GoPro camera can be very handy. It's actually pretty small, but by the time you put it in a case... the camera, it's got a back on it that provides monitoring, but the camera itself is this big. They've got a newer model out now that's even smaller, just a little cube. There are so many competitors now. The GoPro seems to be the standard. I don't know that it's the best. It may be. But it certainly is the standard.

Well, engineers, how might you use a GoPro? Lots of ideas. Have you ever thought about putting one of these into a piece of equipment to see something that you can't see? This won't take pictures in the dark, but it would be interesting to see if this would operate inside a tube cavity. You can catch some occasional arcing going on if you had to. It might be interesting.

You can remote control this with Wi-Fi. So, there's an app for your phone that you can remotely start and stop this. I did that at the NAB show in Las Vegas last April. We wanted to do a time lapse of people arriving at our booth. So, I mounted this way up high, got a big wide, panoramic view of our booth, the area where people would walk from.

But the battery life on this thing is only so long. I'm actually a little bit disappointed with the battery life. Maybe I've got some old batteries. But we've remote controlled this thing to turn on as people were arriving. It captured 20 or 30 minutes' worth of people arriving, turned that into a time lapse and it worked really well. But a GoPro is a good idea. They're available anywhere from about $300 to $400 depending on which model you get. There are all kinds of accessories.

One of the more popular accessories among tower climbers, do you have a tower climber on your list, is the helmet mount. There are great videos on YouTube with tower climbers with a GoPro on their helmet so they can show you climbing the tower and fixing whatever it is that they're fixing and describing the work as they go.

In fact, we've had some of those videos here on our show with John Hettish. He was a guest on our show and he uses a GoPro all the time to document what he's doing, document it for his customers and to make interesting YouTube videos. So, I think a GoPro is a good Christmas gift.

Chris, what have you got for us?

Chris: Another nice Christmas gift could be a jumping drone. The folks from Parrot, who make the drones of all various types, they've got a new one that's got two wheels. It doesn't fly. Well, it sort of jumps if you choose to make it jump. The Jumping Sumo, it's pretty cool.

I've seen videos of it. It's got a camera. The nice thing about it, the best part about it is it's a smartphone control. You can use your phone and watch the video and move around. It's pretty cool. It's about $120. I think the popular place like Best Buy, Brookstone, things like that. The Jumping Sumo.

Kirk: We're talking about gifts for engineers, gift ideas. Have they been naughty? Have they been nice? The folks at Telos have put out a Santa video that's kind of fun. We'll put a link to that in the show notes. It's on YouTube if you look up probably Telos and Santa or you look at the Telos Facebook page, it's there as well.

As long as we're talking about Telos, let's hit them as a sponsor of the show. By the way, right after we get back from them as a sponsor for the show, I'm going to show you the gift that has caused so much buzz on Facebook, friends and family, jealous engineers saying, "I want one of those." That's coming up right after this announcement about the Telos Hx6 telephone talk show system.

Hey, a lot of people get started with a new talk show around the first of the year. They're dedicated to saying, "We're going to have the mayor on every week," or, "We're going to do a medical talk show and bring some doctors on every week."

Well, the Telos Hx6 is an inexpensive and yet very, very high-quality way to get into doing talk shows on a broadcast facility. By the way, you can use it whether you're a podcaster full-time, any kind of content creator, if you're creating live content and radio and TV stations are good candidates for this, but not just limited to those.

So, the Telos Hx6 is a six-line phone system that has two telephone hybrids in it. What does that mean for you? What do six lines and two hybrids mean? Well, six lines means that you order form the phone company or you can create yourself through an Asterisk PBX. You can create a hunt group, what people often call rollover.

So, if you're new to this, there's some documentation at Telos and the Telos engineers can give you some ideas about how to do this, either from the phone company, from Vonage. If you're a Vonage user, you can easily create a hunt group by subscribing to several Vonage lines and you can also do it with inexpensive VoIP lines that you would setup yourself, especially if you have an Asterisk PBX, which by the way you can run in a raspberry pie if you want to get really inexpensive about it.

Well, the Telos Hx6 phone system takes these six phone lines, up to six phone lines coming into it, you can then have those lines roll over. So, you just give out one phone number and people call that and if that first line is busy, it rolls to the next line and rings that one. If that line is busy, it rolls to the next one and rings that one. If all six are busy or however many you've defined in your hunt group, then the caller gets a busy signal and they're going to have to call back. But that's how radio stations have done this for years.

Well, what makes the Telos Hx6 cool is the telephone interfaces are built right in. You just plug their phone lines either from the phone company or from a PBX or from an analog terminal adapter if you're coming from VoIP lines, different ways to get POTS into this thing.

And then it has two telephone hybrids. Now, what does that mean for you? Well, two telephone hybrids built in means it's easy to do conferencing. So, you can have an expert guest. Let's say I'll do the numbers again. Let's say you make a hunt group of five lines. You have one line that's not part of that hunt group. It's just a line that comes in. That's a line where you put your expert guest on.

So, you have the mayor call in or you call out to the mayor, to a doctor, to an expert in whatever subject you're talking about. That expert guest stays on that line for the whole show. Then your listener callers call in on the hunt group. You can have that expert guest on all the time on their own hybrid. So, their quality is always good, as good as it can possibly be from a telephone and then you put your callers on one after another. They can hear that expert guest. They can hear you and the expert guest can hear you and the callers.

Now, you may think, "That sounds pretty complicated to set that up in my audio console." Here's something else that the Hx6 gives you that's very cool. The Hx6 will work with any console, any audio console as long as it has at least one mix-minus or auxiliary bus. In fact, if you really have to, if you just want to have just the announcer's microphone to feed the callers and the expert guest. Well, you can do that too.

You can make that work with a console that doesn't have any other provision for handling phone calls because internally in the Hx6, the two hybrids can conference to each other. That means, without getting into too much detail here in the weeds, let's say your expert guest is the mayor. The mayor can hear the callers. The callers can hear the mayor and the Hx6 will mix in your microphone with all that.

Now, if your audio console offers mix-minus, then you've got that too. If you want to have complete control, you can have two mix-minus buses from your console and the Hx6 will work with that as well. The point is lots of different scenarios, lots of different ways to make this work really professionally for you.

The other cool thing about the Hx6 is each hybrid has its own audio processor from Omnia. That means that the callers' voices are going to sound as clear as possible, even clearer than you might hear them on an ordinary telephone, either a cellphone or a regular dial phone. The Omnia processing really clarifies the callers' audio and makes it so that everybody can hear each other with as much clarity as possible.

So, that's the sales pitch. It's really a wonderful device, like fifth generation of Telos hybrids are in there. An enormous amount of engineering went into it and yet the cost is the same as the venerable, no longer made Telos 1x6 plus another hybrid. So, take a 1x6, add an inexpensive hybrid to it and you've got the cost of the new Telos hx6.

Check it out if you would at TelosAlliance.com. There's a picture of it. It's a good box. We use it at our radio stations. It's used at radio and TV stations all over the world. Thanks to Telos for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right. Chris, I've teased it pretty big, this thing that everybody wants to have. I'm embarrassed. I don't have a long enough wire. So, I'm going to unplug it. I've got a little battery in it, so it holds the time. It's a clock. Yes. That's a clock. Kirk brought a clock to school. This is the... it's hard to see with this light, isn't it?

Chris: That's very cool.

Kirk: It's very shiny. It's an analog clock that shows the time in hours, minutes and seconds on volt meters. The volt meters, the kit includes stickers to make new faces on the clock. They electronics really is already built for you. It's based, I believe on an Arduino. But it's a custom-made little circuit board in there.

Most of the kit putting together is assembling the case, which is a little... it takes some finessing and then a fair amount of the time is spent re-facing the meters because they come as just inexpensive meters with a big V on them, but they send you these stickers to put over the meter face, the original meter face and give you hours, minutes or seconds.

You plug the thing in. You can put a battery in it if you want it to hold the time while it's unplugged. And then it's got a big knob in the back that you turn to set the time, forward or backward, fast or slow. It is called, what is this thing called? We had the picture of it a minute ago there.

It's from Wicked Device. That's the name of the company that makes it. It's the Angular Clock Kit from Wicked Device. You can buy this at various places around the internet, various DIY places. If you pay more than $60 for it, then someplace is selling it for more than the suggested price, which is fine. If you want to find it, $60 is the going price.

I mentioned this to my wife. I said, "Hey, honey, here's something that would be pretty cool." I'm telling you, it wasn't a couple weeks later that was sitting in my lap, "Oh man, I've got a project for tonight." I put it together and it worked, well, not out of the box. It worked after I got done with it. How about that? Which was almost out of the box.

Chris: That's very nice.

Kirk: It will be the talk. I put it on Facebook. I made a little movie of it on Facebook that shows the second hand ticking up. I've gotten so many comments, people saying, "I've got to have one of those." Great gift, $60. They're on Amazon too as well as other DIY shops.

Chris: Very nice. I have some more fun stuff. We're going to go with the geeky techie stuff that all of us probably enjoy in some part of our psyche, but just don't tell anyone about it. So, if you're a "Dr. Who" fan, and those of you who are "Dr. Who" sci-fi fans can appreciate weeping angels coffee mug that changes from one angel to another when it's hot and cold. That's a nice little set. Or keeping along on those themes, you can get a TARDIS mug. That's the time travelling device of The Doctor.

Or if you're a Marvel Comic person and keep things in the hiding, you can also get a S.H.I.E.L.D watch. That's a very nice executive looking thing. It's subtle. It's quiet. You can be in a meeting and simply cross your hands while you're talking and show off your S.H.I.E.L.D. You could do it that way.

And then if you're somebody who's strictly non-sci-fi and just want to be in the IT crowd, you can get a mug that I believe when you heat it up, "Have you tried turning it on and off?"

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: So, when you get that IT call, maybe what you do is you fill the mug up, head over to the person with the IT issue, just place the mug on the desk and wait for them to read it, pick it up, sip it.

Kirk: I want one.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: I want one that says, "Let me Google that for you."

Chris: That would be a good one. Yes.

Kirk: I'm sure they're out there. I'm sure if you Googled, "Let me Google that for you," coffee mug, you would absolutely find it.

Chris: Absolutely.

Kirk: So, Chris, I've got some rapid fire things to go through here, but I welcome your comments on any of them, if you've used them or not, if you can recommend them or you know a good place to buy them. All right. Thing number one, Google Cardboard. Have you played with the Google Cardboard yet?

Chris: Yes. New York Times sent out a piece for people who are subscribers.

Kirk: I heard that. This one, I had to buy the extra super large size one because I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is kind of a super large size phone. But it fits in there like that and then the front closes and then you open the app that is the... I forget the name of the app, if it's Cardboard or if it's something else. If you've used this, you know what I'm talking about and you probably know more about it than I do.

I used it for about 20 minutes and thought interesting science experiment. Not going to wear it all day. Not going to get tons of movie enjoyment or anything like that. It's got a place in technology. The whole Oculus thing is going to, I think, could take off. It's a little bulky in the front, kind of weighs the front of your head down because you're putting your phone in front of your head.

Chris: That is very strange, putting an RF device closer to your forehead.

Kirk: That's true. The way you navigate is you actually... you want to reach up and swipe the app, but no, you don't do that. You actually turn your head to look at different icons in the app.

Chris: Right.

Kirk: And then there's a button on the side that you flip to tell it to do this, do this, do this.

Chris: Very nice. So, you're talking virtual reality. You don't have to leave your home.

Kirk: There are all these different kinds of virtual reality. There's augmented reality and there's virtual reality. Augmented is when you use the camera in the phone and that displays to your eyes, so you're seeing the world around you as if you didn't have this on, but then the app is adding things to that like identifying.

That was the idea behind Google Glass, right? You wear Google Glass, you go to a cocktail party and you say, "There's Bob Williams. He's the CEO. There's his wife, Mary. There's the CFO of the company and you may want to introduce yourself to the sales manager." That's what the promise of Google Glass was supposed to do.

Chris: You can also look back in time and say "Surrogates" the move, 2009, Bruce Willis talks about these things. Rather than waste your time running about town, you just get a surrogate to do it for you and you watch through the augmented reality, virtual reality or some type of connection to your brain stem. It's pretty good stuff. I see the direction we're going in. This is good.

Kirk: Let's change direction on this. This is another thing to look through. I've always found many engineers, can't speak for all of them, but many engineers like beautiful mechanical devices. Here, for example, is a kaleidoscope.

Chris: Cool.

Kirk: This was made by a friend of mine and given to me. It is just beautiful. It was made from a kit. I think a gift like this, this has sat on my shelf for probably 20 years now. Every once in a while, I'll take a look and delight my eyes with the enjoyment of the kaleidoscope patterns. It's got some brass and polished metal. I just think stuff like this, I as an engineer, I really enjoy beautiful mechanical devices that are kind of old-fashioned. I like that.

Now, if it was a cardboard kaleidoscope, I wouldn't be so interested. But this is nice. This is not something that you throw away. It's very nice. What do you think?

Chris: I like it. It's nice. I'm curious, what does your son think of it?

Kirk: I don't think I've shown it to him. I need to.

Chris: Today I had lunch with a few folks. The gentleman I was talking to, his 69th birthday was this week and he's fascinated by how things have changed in technology and social media and everything is so instantaneous, instant gratification, whatever you want to call it.

He said, "I've observed many things. One thing I've observed is we've become less interested in imagination, creativity and just talking about it. I can't seem to get people to talk anymore. When I do talk about something," say in this case your kaleidoscope, "They look at me as if what are you trying to speak down to us?"

When I thought about it, I said, "That's interesting." We're working with a couple of folks quite younger than I am and have a different perspective of the past and where things are going in the future. Sometimes I slip into my tinkering mode and I start talking about, "What if we did this? What if we did that?" they look at me like, "Why would you do that?"

I'm like, "Well, maybe because the outcome could be something more interesting, maybe do more for us, maybe it's something we should be thinking about because it helps to expand our understanding of what it is we're working on." It didn't go over well. I'm curious if that particular time, it looks like stained glass and lead beading on the sides. It would be interesting to see how your son reacts to that.

Kirk: I'll find out.

Chris: Given the other external stimulus he gets from other things.

Kirk: And he gets plenty of iPad and cartoons. You know what's interesting that I find that he's watching a lot nowadays is he's watching YouTube videos. There's a YouTube Kids app, which is really good because you can trust that stuff he's going to watch is good stuff. It seems to be curated.

There are so many videos that are parents and children playing with toys. They're basically showing you how to play. They make up scenarios for little characters to inner-operate, to talk to each other, fight with each other. If it's a war game sort of thing, one dinosaur eats another guy. But he watches those and then he plays with his own toys and makes up similar stories.

In fact, we put a story like this on YouTube. He wanted to do a movie and I wanted to do a movie with him. So, he did a movie using his toys. In every scene, the good dinosaur beat the crap out of the bad dinosaur.

Chris: Good versus evil.

Kirk: Yeah. It wasn't just dinosaurs. It was also rescue bots. I was wondering, "How is he going to get rid of the bad character each time they fight? What's going to be the end?" We were filming it on a table. The ending of every fight was exactly the same. The good guy basically pushed the bad guy off the table.

Chris: That's like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Over the cliff he goes. Yes.

Kirk: Exactly.

Chris: Every episode no matter what happens off he goes in that little puff.

Kirk: On the subject though, I was at a flea market about a month ago with my wife in Brooklyn, actually. They had some art displays, some artisans were displaying their wares. The most fascinating one for me was where you take these old items that are salvaged from old buildings, for example, old pieces of equipment, light stanchions, sconces from the wall. You remake them with typically a lot of them are made with these Edison filament bulbs that have real fancy filaments in them.

This guy was doing a great business. To me, repurposing this old stuff that's beautiful, so much of it was built in the '20s, '30s, '40s, maybe '50s and then we got in the space age, in the plastics age and the drywall age. So, a lot of the stuff went away. Now when it's salvaged, you have artisans that make beautiful art with it. I love that stuff. I would love to enjoy something that's 100 years old and is doing at least something. It's either looking beautiful or it's providing some light or something like that.

Back when I got my degree in meteorology, I became very interested in these inexpensive weather stations that people used to put in their homes. I probably bought a dozen of them on eBay at various prices, $10, $20, $30. I almost never use them, actually, but I look at them. There are four more of them right now over on a bookcase here in the office.

So, that's an idea. You can scrounge eBay for cool things. As a weather nut, to me, this is a very cool thing. It shows temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. That's what they all do. There were tons of these made in all different kinds of cases with different themes and looks, designs to advance any décor.

Chris: Those are classic. They make you think. They're great.

Kirk: Yeah. On top of the house, I've a perfectly modern weather station that reports in, in fact, this would have been a good thing... is the cable long enough? Here's the modern equivalent. This was I want to say $150 or so and the sensors that go on the top of the house.

And this is tied into a repurposed TP Link brand little travel router that's flashed with totally new software that makes it do all kinds of weather functionality. So, a lot of engineers are weather nuts as well. It's a science. So, weather related paraphernalia can be pretty interesting as a gift to an engineer. That one is made by Ambient Weather.

Hey, if you just go to your local Sam's Club or Costco, big box store, you're going to find weather kits in the range of $70 to $100 or maybe $120. A lot of them are wireless weather stations. Look for that, a wireless weather station. You put a sensor up on the house as high as you can and it reports back to a panel that you can see in the house and it records all that too. It does a little bit of weather prediction based on changes in barometric pressure.

And I like to be remote from the house. I was in New York checking how much it was raining back here at the house. It rained an inch and a half one day when I was in New York. I think it's a good gift and typically under $100 at the big box stores.

Chris: That's handy. It does two things for you. It's for your personal enjoyment and edification, but also if you maintain transmitter sites or rooftops or antenna structures or tower structures, knowing what the weather conditions are going to be day to day, that's actually very handy. You can map it and understand what's happening.

Kirk: Yeah. Some of those are Ethernet-connected. A lot of the weather stations have an indoor temp and an outdoor temp rating. If you put one of these at a transmitter site, let's say you have a mountaintop transmitter site. That's very interesting to know the weather at the mountaintop. Since the panel is typically indoors, it has an indoor temperature reading. That's also typically where the barometric pressure reading is too because it's about the same indoors as outdoors.

The point is that if you get one that can be remotely accessed, then you can monitor easily the temperature in the transmitter room. You may be doing that already, but this is just another way to get it done. And monitor the temperature outside, "Oh, it's 72 mile an hour wind out there and it's minus 12 degrees. I better bundle up."

Chris: Yeah. It's very handy.

Kirk: Have you got something else for us, Chris?

Chris: I don't have any little geeky stuff, I just have another tester if that's okay with everybody.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Again these are things that help you get through the day and other stuff. This one has helped me a lot. It's actually saved my... I won't say the bacon thing again. This is a classic. Let's see if we can make this look good on camera. It's a Fluke product. It's called a Cable IQ.

And you can use this to determine whether your Ethernet cabling systems are proper or whether it will pass 10/100 gig E VoIP protocols, things of that sort. Let's see if we turn this on what happens since the battery is charged. There we go. Okay. Good. So, this basically is the unit in my hand. Then you separate the cable and tester and you plug it in. I've used this on many occasions to certify cable installations I've worked on.

You can also connect this through a computer, USB, and print out the results or store them if you'd like. I actually have compared this to other systems and had companies come in to certify a plant and I said, "Let me do my thing first. I'm going to get my notes together and come back and see what you come up with." Believe it or not, we came up with the same. The only difference was in price. So, it's very handy.

A lot of times, believe it or not, I helped build I think it was two or three years ago, I helped a friend build a regular facility. We had four studios, cable runs, the whole bit, cat 5 everywhere in the offices as well. Three or four days later after they moved into the new facility, he called me and said, "We're getting all these problems with the computer. I don't understand this. They log in to the network. They're doing fine. All of a sudden they drop. People are telling me things just aren't right."

So, we come in with the tester. I remember reading a whitepaper somewhere and they said probably 98 percent of Ethernet infrastructure problems can usually be trace to the end points. In this case, it would be the wall plates or connectors. I said, "Let me try this theory."

So, we went from each cable run from the desk cable connector back to the switch point, to the patch panel and we started qualifying the cables. We discovered that the cables that were crimped were not properly crimped or crimped well enough. The cross-tog on some of those cables, the near end cross-tog was enough to cause standing waves, remember, it's an RF signal, on the wire right at the connection point.

So, the various computer Ethernet cards, some could handle the reflected signal, others couldn't. Some of the laptops collapsed completely. Desktops ran the gamut of almost all of them worked fine and occasionally some didn't. It was interesting. All we did was take a crimping tool, crimped the connector tighter and actually solve the problem about 90% of the cables. A few of them were just done wrong. The color code was totally off. But a lot of them was just the crimp was enough.

But without this tester, you'd never know it. You'd be chasing your tail thinking, "It's a bad cable. I'll pull another one out of the cabinet. We'll just do another one from the rear of the computer to the wall and be done with it." A lot of people overlook that infrastructure, the wall back to the switch room can actually be a problem not the short run or the last mile, if you will, the last ten feet.

Kirk: Now, that tester tests very dynamically, right? It actually puts some signal in the cable.

Chris: It's not just a DC continuity tester, no, no, no, no. This little guy, it does a number. I've tried that just to make sure I wasn't spending $1,300 for nothing.

Kirk: I never have been able to buy one of those. I've had to depend upon myself or a contractor to do the connections right, but I have found mistakes that I've made using the DC-type testers. You can buy those for $7 or $10 or $15 at the most at various places. They're just testing for the proper wiring and make sure you've got DC continuity and you don't have a split pair where you shouldn't or a disconnect where you shouldn't.

I would have to guess that a certain percentage of your problems could be found with those. I certainly have. But if you have a cable that passes the DC, it doesn't imply for certain that it's going to pass... that your twist is right, for example. If you untwist it too far and crimp it, it can pass DC but it may not pass a gigabyte or maybe not even 100 megabytes.

Chris: Right because remember you're talking RF signal. If you understand RF and many of our audience do, you know what happens when you have a poor connection or just not right. The other thing that the fluke folks do is they have a fox and hound, if you want to use that phrase, tone testers, tone selection. This is interesting. This device will do standard straightforward tone that we're all accustomed to. Then it does what they call Intellitone. You say, "That's a funky tone. That's pretty cool." Actually it is.

I tested this. I put the tone on a pair of wires in a bundle that was probably six inches across and then I went and started sniffing out the tone in the rack room. Believe it or not, the Intellitone, I was actually able to find faster than the traditional fox and hound. It was more accurate. It has to do with the way that what you're hearing those tones, it's actually like a code and it actually is able to figure out what's going on. I was just sitting there going, "Wow."

The reason I'm pointing this out is not just for the fun of it. In several occasions, I've managed, maintained and helped install AoIP infrastructure. The density is getting higher and higher as the months go by. These tools, trust me, it is a godsend when it comes to troubleshooting a problem after you've installed, say, several hundred cat 5 cables on a distributed AoIP and you have audio issues and clocking.

Everyone looks right to the computer. "Did you reboot the computer? Is the driver up to date?" "Yeah." What about that one piece that's in between all of these things that nobody really looks at? Oh, right, the Ethernet switches, the Ethernet cabling. This box also, you plug it into an Ethernet network, it can tell you what ports on the switch are not active so you can manage what's going on. There are a few things it does. It's pretty wild.

But I used this in an Axia installation years and years ago. This is what introduced me to this. I've had this for a long time. It worked. It made sense. I was able to troubleshoot a few things. I was like wow. The IT guys I was working with immediately looked at the computer. They said, "Your driver is the issue, not this, that and the other." I'm like, "No, this doesn't make any sense. This behavior doesn't follow drivers."

Sure enough, it was cable-related. It was cable related. But these are the things I'm talking about. The density of what we're doing nowadays with Ethernet is just out of control. So, between AES and AoIP, these tools are essential. So, granted it's not something you're going to get form your wife.

Kirk: That tool from Fluke is called what?

Chris: It's called the Cable IQ Qualification Tester.

Kirk: There you go.

Chris: This particular kit, I think it lists like $1,300. I picked this up second hand from somebody. It was an IT company. They were making changes and upgrading equipment. A buddy of mine said, "We're getting rid of a lot of stuff, if you want. We're just selling things. Pick a number, if it's a worth it, we'll take it from you." I'm like, "Really?" So, I got it real cheap. It has worked really well. I've kept it up to date.

It's interesting. The DC testers are, as you point out, ideal for certain applications, but you just need to remember Ethernet is a RF signal. You've got to treat it that way, same with bending the cable, tying it together. You don't tie wrap it so you can see the impression of the teeth.

There are a lot of things. Steven Lampen, if you ever read any of his papers, I will tell you probably 90% of the papers I've read from him, I've ran into 90% of those issues and he was right.

Kirk: He knows cable. We ought to take his advice too. You're right. We can think of cable as good and you get a funky problem and you spend all your time, money and energy trying to solve the wrong problem. It turned out to be the cable.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: We're going to take a quick break and be right back with our last items of the show. You're watching This Week in Radio Tech Episode 284. It's Kirk Harnack and Chris Tobin. We're just kicking back this time talking about gifts for engineers. We haven't talked about gifts for naughty engineers. Maybe we just don't have time for that. We're talking about gifts, hey, maybe gifts that you ought to ask you general manager for or maybe gifts that you ought to ask your family for. That's what we're talking about.

Our show is brought to you in part by our friends at Lawo. They make audio consoles and they make some really big audio consoles. So, if you've got a big truck, a production truck, if you've got a live mixing venue to take care of, maybe an enormous house of worship or television production facility, check out those big consoles. If you've got a radio station or other audio content creation facility, Lawo has got a couple of interesting consoles for you. One of them is the crystalCLEAR. It's a virtual radio mixing console.

What does that mean, a virtual radio mixing console? Well, you see on that picture right there, the person's finger is touching a knob? That isn't a knob. That's a screen. It's a touch screen. In fact, it's a touch screen that will allow you to do multi-touch, up to ten finger touches at once. I couldn't do that that accurately myself. I can certainly handle moving a couple faders up and down myself.

So, the crystalCLEAR console, the concept is you've got the hardware unit that sits in a rack somewhere and this is where your audio inputs and outputs actually connect to your microphones, analog and AES audio inputs and outputs.

Then it's also got an Ethernet connection that will give you AoIP via the Ravenna standard and AES67. So, you can connect it to all other AES67 compliant devices over the same network. It's got a couple of power supplies in there as well and all the brains of the mixing, all the presets and things that you save and your shows, they're all saved in this box.

What about controlling it? What about having a console to touch? That's what the clear part is, the crystalCLEAR. That is an app that runs on a PC. It runs in a Windows environment. It takes the entire screen up, though, so you think you've got a console in front of you. They've designed the buttons and the knobs to be the right size to accept your fingers to move things up and down.

The other thing they can do, because it's running in software and they don't even have a physical surface to deal with is that all the buttons can be contextual. That means if you have a disc jockey that doesn't quite understand how to run a regular board, this board could very well be a lot easier for them. Touch the button and what pops up are options that just have to do with what you're doing right there. Touch a mic button and you get mic processing or mic gain setting.

There's an auto-gain for microphone, so you can have your guest talk into his microphone, touch this button and the gain of the pre-amp is automatically set so that you don't have to worry is this guy going to be really loud or really soft? It's already set for you. So, you can run your faders are kind of a normal level.

So, many features are just built into this thing, what you'd expect, actually, in a modern DSP-based software-based console. As I said, multi-touch, a very intuitive graphical user interface. There are three stereo mixing buses. There's program one, program two and a record bus that's built in. Integrated pre-fader or preview is built in. You have scene presets.

So, if you have a morning show that has different requirements from the midday show or a weekend sports show, just touch a button to bring up a scene, bring up the number of mics and inputs that you need there. There are precision PPM meters that are built in, both Euro-style and US-style operating modes for fader start or button start. Over in Europe, they do things a little differently than we do in the US. It's what they're used to. It's what we're used to as well.

A beautiful time of day clock that stays accurate to NTP server time. Support for guests with talkback, so, let's say you're doing a talk show and you need to tell the host, "We need to wrap it up right now." Just touch a button, whisper into your microphone and it comes out in just that person's headphones. He knows, "Hey, got to wrap it up." Twenty-four sources are available. Any eight can be on the faders at the same time. It's an eight-fader console

Plenty of room to put your fingers on. It looks good. It feels good. If this was an intriguing idea for you, I wish you'd check it out. Go to Lawo.com and go to radio products and radio consoles and then look for the crystalCLEAR console. On that same page, there's a video with Mike Dosch explaining how the crystalCLEAR console works and why it might have some benefits for you. Thanks, Lawo, for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

It's Kirk and Chris. We just have a couple of moments left together and then we're going to leave you. Chris, I wonder if you have a final tip or a final gift selection. I have just one myself.

Chris: Oh goodness, I don't. I ran out. That's my list.

Kirk: No problem. Well, let me ask you, if you were a good engineer, would you like to receive this? This is a C. Crane Skywave radio. Now, yeah, I'm an engineer. I'm a radio geek. But I love having a couple or three or ten radios sitting around. And the C. Crane is really beautiful. Bob Crane of the company was our guest on the show one time. What's amazing about this radio is that it actually has the ability to receive AM.

So, I'm picking up an AM station down here in my office surrounded by electronics. This thing is very sensitive. It has AM, FM, weather band, aircraft band and shortwave. It also has, even though it's a little tiny electronic radio, it has an audio filter that you can set the audio on the AM and short wave bands for 6 KHz of bandwidth, which is normal voice quality.

If you've got some interference going on, you can narrow that to 3 or 4 KHz and if you really need to, you've got maybe a lot of noise or a strong interference. You can even set that down to a 1 to 2 KHz filter. Your audio is not going to sound beautiful. But it's going to get rid of noise from noise sources and interfering stations. FM, AM, weather channels one through seven, the air band from 118 to 137 MHz and also shortwave, all the way up to 26 MHz.

So, it does a lot of cool stuff. I really like this. I keep it handy here at the desk. I've used it often to check stuff, listen to stuff, see what's going on here and there. You know what? When the internet goes out, this still works.

It's a C. Crane Skywave and it is on Amazon, for example, for about $90. And $90 is a very typical price for a little shortwave radio like this. It takes some AA batteries and it also has a USB input if you want to power it from your cellphone's charger. You can power it that way too. I recommend it.

Chris, are we done? Have we filled our stockings yet?

Chris: Yeah. That was a great one. C. Crane does some great stuff. I still have my little Portable Sony SW100S. It's an AM/FM shortwave portable radio. It flips open and fits in your shirt pocket. It still runs. It's got an external powered antenna. So, I actually unspool the wire, plug it into the side and place the antenna outside the window.

Anyone who is a shortwave enthusiast will know that one. That was a classic portable shortwave radio, the SW100S, including the AN-LP1, which is the loop antenna, powered active loop antenna.

Kirk: Remember the Sony radio that would pick up AM stereo?

Chris: Oh yes. I had one of those too.

Kirk: I thought it was the SRF100.

Chris: SRF100. That's correct, the little gold one.

Kirk: I thought they were silver-looking.

Chris: Silver, gold-looking.

Kirk: I was looking for some on eBay and almost every one of them that you find has got some kind of damage. The metal was fairly thin of the speakers and a lot of them were dense. That's the first radio I ever heard AM stereo on when we made stereo the AM station in Kentucky I was working at.

Chris: I had that radio and the Sanyo, the boom box with the detachable speaker that had CQOM and the independent sideband known as [inaudible 01:13:15]. Yeah. I did both formats. I had stations I worked with that did both formats of the AM stereo encoding.

Kirk: Oh, I'm not sure that we closed the loop on the camera, the IP camera, did we?

Chris: No. You were going to look for the model number?

Kirk: I found it. Where did I put it? Here it is. It's a D-Link wireless pan and tilt, not zoom, pan and tilt. Day, night network surveillance camera. The model number shown here is a DCS 5009L. That's a lot to remember. We'll put a link in the show notes. I don't know how long it will be on sale. But it's $65 on Amazon. Again, mixed reviews, so you may or may not be real happy with it. Chris Tarr says he loves it for what he's doing with it now and he's going to buy more of them. But for $65, it seems a little hard to go wrong.

You do have to have Java or a plugin in your browser to make it work, same with my home security DVR. It's really no different from that. And there are plenty of apps for smartphones that you can go watch it with. I'll put as many times as we can in the show notes and we'll get them in there the next day or two and you can go review those.

Chris, thanks so much. Thanks for being with us here and taking an hour of your day or more to talk about Christmas gifts.

Chris: No problem.

Kirk: You know what? There's one more. I left it over to the side here

Chris: But wait, there's more. Now how much would you pay?

Kirk: I actually gave this as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago.

Chris: It does require assembly.

Kirk: Well, just a little bit.

Chris: There are small objects for children. So, be aware of that.

Kirk: It's one of these.

Chris: Yes. That's a very good radio.

Kirk: You recognize that?

Chris: Oh, I do. Yes.

Kirk: What I don't understand is... I haven't done the measurements or anything. I have talked to peers with this. This is a, I guess you pronounce it, Baofeng?

Chris: I believe is how people pronounce it. Yes.

Kirk: Baofeng, they make a huge array of handy-talky small two-way radios. You'll see them anywhere from the department managers at a Walmart store. You'll see them carrying these around. Typically they're single channel or two or three channel. You'll see ham radio people with these.

This thing was, I want to say, $36. It may have been $40. But it was under $40. It comes with charger, a charging base and I think I paid a little extra to get a programming cable for it. You can get some free software. You can program it from the front, but it's a pain. You can get yourself a repeat directory book, like this one form the ARRL. And then you can go to town programming it and carry it with you.

I love it. How can you go from for under $40? It does work. It doesn't feel like a cheap piece of plastic. It actually feels really solid. I think they've done an amazing job. I don't know how they do it.

So, the last idea. I'll put that in the show notes as well, the Baofeng. This one says a professional FM transceiver. So, it must be professional.

Chris: Yeah. That model meets part 90 of the new required... Yeah, 12.5 KHz split.

Kirk: Yeah. I think it was.

Chris: I programmed about three dozen of those things. A friend of mine's engineering firm got a contract for a local entity or actually it was a nonprofit, I think. They purchased 35 of these things for like $200 or $150 with antennas, charges, the whole but. My buddy calls me up and goes, "I've never seen these things before. I don't know what they are. We're building up their Wi-Fi antenna system on the rooftop. We're doing things. These things I have no idea. The software, nothing makes any sense. Can you take a look at this?"

I go over to his office, the shop. I'm like, "I know what these are." He goes, "Can you program it?" I pull out my cable. I have a laptop dedicated just to my two-way radio stuff. I'm like, "Sure, let's go." You make one profile like an Excel spreadsheet and just pop it in. Next one, next.

They're not bad. They have some limitations depending on how goofy you want to get with two-way radios. I can sometimes get deep into the weeds on them. For the cost... I know a friend of mine, he buys these just for throwaways. He does projects, outdoor stuff. If it blows up, it gets hit by a truck, it's like, "So be it." That's what people do with it.

Kirk: That's a great use for these things, move props. If they blow up, so what?

Chris: Exactly.

Kirk: But they do make good gifts. I gave one a couple of years ago to the hosts here on the show and everyone seemed to appreciate them.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: All right. We've got to go. We have kept Suncast over long enough. Let's let him go. Chris, thank you so much for being with us. We'll have some deep tech talk by next week, but today was fun.

Chris: Yes. Software for those radios is the CHIRP software, Dan Planet.

Kirk: Yeah, CHIRP. It seems like I got that for Mac as well. Do they have it for Mac?

Chris: I think they do.

Kirk: I want to say I did it right off my Mac computer. Alright. Our show is brought to you by the folks at Axia and the Fusion console, also brought to you buy Telos and the Hx6 six-line, two hybrid talk show system and by Lawo, makers of the crystalCLEAR touchscreen audio console.

Chris Tobin has been with us. He is available for special projects. You can probably reach him at Support@IPcodecs.com. It will cost you though because he's a valuable guy. Isn't that right?

Chris: Yes. I try my best.

Kirk: Me? My bias is I work for the folks at the Telos Alliance and also own part of some radio stations in Mississippi and American Samoa. So, I try to keep up with technology by actually doing the deed.

Thanks to Suncast for his producing of This Week in Radio Tech and thanks to Andrew Zarian, founder of the GFQ Network, where you'll find lots of other fine podcasts. And thanks to you. We'll see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye, bye.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering


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