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War Stories of 2014 - with Shane Toven

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Dec 29, 2014 11:20:00 AM

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TWiRT 2402014 witnessed some major stories, changes, and advancements in broadcast technology. Who better to talk about their implications than Radio magazine editor, Shane Toven? Shane joins Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack talking about FCC enforcement, Rule changes, LPFM, EAS, new tech from green transmitters to IP-audio, and what we might expect from 2015.

 

 

 

 

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Announcer: This Week in Radio Tech episode 240 is brought to you by Lawo and the new crystalCLEAR Virtual Radio Console. It's the radio console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface. By the Telos Z/IP ONE IP Audio Codec, easy to setup and use with sophisticated options under the hood. And by Axia Audio and the new Fusion AoIP Mixing Console, packed with features from over a decade's worth of IP audio experience.

Hey, 2014 witnessed some major stories, changes, and advancements in broadcast technology. Who better to talk about their implications than Radio Magazine editor Shane Toven? Shane joins Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack talking about FCC enforcement, rule changes, LPFM, EAS, new tech from green transmitters to IP audio, and what we might expect from 2015.

Kirk Harnack: Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. So glad you're here. It's our final show of 2014. It's the last one. This is the show where we talk about everything about radio technology, from the microphone here to the light bulb at the top of the tower, both of which are in this office. I just can't show you the light bulb right now.

We've been doing the show for quite a while. It's our 240th episode. Usually every ten episodes is a war stories episode, and so we've kind of got war stories today. We're going to be reviewing what happened, of importance, in 2014 with broadcast engineering and more specifically radio engineering. I was just going over the list. It's pretty impressive. This has been quite a year for technology changes, improvements, and upgrades. Some bad news as well, we'll get to cover the bad news. And my friends and co-hosts here to help me out on this show are as usual the best-dressed engineer, including and especially today in radio, it's Chris Tobin from Manhattan. Hey, Chris. Merry Christmas.

Chris: Hello. Merry Christmas to you Kirk and Shane. Yes, I thought since it's the year-end, why not get into the spirit both visually and enjoy the spirits of the nights. So it's what, two days to go? And we have a great time. Yeah, a couple of stuffed animals, a crazy hat, and a couple of eggnogs in the back that are somewhat spiked.

Kirk: Man, you set the pace. Gee whiz, I tell you. You should've sent out a memo and we all could've been dressed like that.

Chris: I can assure you, this came to me about 15 minutes ago.

Kirk: Oh, okay.

Chris: I just happened to be talking with some folks, we were laughing about some things, and I said "Gee, you know, this would be pretty fun," and I just grabbed some stuff. Right now the living room is bare with missing some ornaments.

Kirk: So before we introduce our guests, Chris let me ask you, have you been naughty or nice?

Chris: I have been both, because nowadays you can be naughty and still nice.

Kirk: Just post the nice stuff on Facebook.

Chris: Exactly.

Kirk: All right, speaking of naughty and nice, this guy knows all about both. We're very pleased to have... last time, let's see, Shane, last time you were on the show. I'm sorry, show Shane's picture. Sorry about that. Shane Toven, welcome in. That's not Shane. Ah, there he is.

Shane: Hi guys.

Kirk: Last time you were on our show, I think you had a different job at NAB 2014. Yeah.

Shane: I did, yeah. I think last time I was with you I was at the NAB show in April.

Kirk: Yes.

Shane: And I was still the director of engineering at Wyoming Public Media. But shortly after that, I took a new gig. Starting in June, I became the editor of "Radio Magazine" and it's been an exciting whirlwind seven or eight months here.

Kirk: That is quite an auspicious title. You know, some fantastic people have been the editor of "Radio Magazine" Skip Pizzi, Chris Shearer, you.

Shane: I am number three.

Kirk: Who am I leaving out?

Shane: No, that's - nobody. That's it. I am the third editor of this publication in oh my goodness, I don't even know how many years it's been. Something like 17 or 18 years? It's had a long history. So back to when it was "BE Radio" many, many years ago.

Kirk: Maybe you'll let me write an article for you as your predecessors have.

Shane: It's entirely possible, Kirk.

Kirk: I think actually a lot of magazines have a little conflict if somebody works full-time for a given company. Then their article may not carry the same weight. And so the times of my life when I've been a contract engineer or an engineer for a group of broadcasters, that's when I got to write for some publications. It was, I guess, "Broadcast Engineering" which then spun off "Radio Magazine".

Shane: Yeah, it was "Broadcast Engineering" then "BE Radio" and then "Radio Magazine".

Kirk: That's right, "BE Radio". Yeah, wow. Well, glad to have you on the show and we're going to cover some very cool stuff because Shane, as the editor of a magazine about broadcast engineering, you keep track of this kind of stuff. For the rest of us, it's kind of in our heads, you know?

Shane: I try to.

Kirk: What happened this year?

Shane: I try to, anyways. Like I said, it's a whirlwind. There's a lot going on in this industry and some exciting stuff.

Kirk: You've got a great list including the closing of a few legacy companies. We'll talk about mobile and streaming. Some big things at the FCC happened this year, and I've got something that's kind of close to me: I think IP audio turned a big corner this year, and so we'll get to all that.

Our show is brought to you in part... Well, we have three sponsors, Lawo and also Telos, and Axia. So let me tell you a little bit about Lawo, our sponsor for part of the show, and Lawo has this beautiful new console. They introduced this thing. They showed it at the NAB show where Shane was on our program along with Chris Tobin. It's the crystalCLEAR Virtual Radio Mixing Console from Lawo. L-A-W-O, Lawo.com.

This is very cool. If you're like me and you're a bit enamored with touch-screen technology to control things in real-time, man, you need to check this thing out. This is the crystalCLEAR. Now what it is, it's an audio mixing console that is meant for small to medium-sized operations. If you want 47 faders, you're not going to get it in this package. But if you can do with a smaller console, eight active faders at the same time, and you know what? For most folks, that's enough. That takes care of your mics, your automation inputs, and a couple more things. And it's virtual. It's on a touchscreen.

The DSP engine is a one rack-unit box where all your audio inputs and outputs go. You wire them up. You have some analog line-level inputs and outputs, you have some AES/ABU inputs and outputs. You have some microphone-level inputs, so you don't have to have a separate mic pre-amp although you certainly can use one. Then you have also a great possibility for expansion using RAVENNA or AES67 which is now a subset of the RAVENNA standard. So you can expand this out to other devices which are also either RAVENNA or AES67-compliant. That means you've got a whole world you can connect to with this console.

Now the cool part, the part that you touch, is actually a touchscreen. It's a big, honking HP touchscreen. It's multi-touch, which means... All ten fingers that most of us have, you can touch that screen and move ten faders, push buttons. You can do several things at once. You're going to love the way it works, because everything on the screen is context-aware, context-sensitive. So if you have an options button with a mic fader and that fader is being a microphone, you touch that options button and you get options that have to do with the microphone that you're using.

You can do an auto-level if you want to pre-set the level for a particular talent or a particular microphone. There's some auto-mix capabilities which are really interesting that can mix multiple people together automatically and keep them all at the right levels.

There's automatic mix/minus. There's three stereo mixing groups. You can, of course, program different scenes, so you can have different shows and different inputs on various faders. Precision stereo PPM meters, redundant power supplies, and also a large time-of-day clock which, of course, you can sync to an NTP timeserver.

There's a panic button that clears all your... if you mess something up and you don't know what you did, touch the panic button. You're back to normal. Everything's fine. You can breathe easy and go about and do your show and maybe try to figure out what it was you touched that was wrong.

Advanced DSP for microphones and external sources. You know, all the goodies that a modern DSP console is going to have is in this console. Really cool. If you go to the website, Lawo, L-A-W-O, Lawo.com, and look for "products" and then look for "radio consoles" and the "crystalCLEAR" console.

There's a link to a video on the site with Mike Dosch. Mike's been a console designer for I think as long as he's been alive and you can check the video. He'll explain how this console works and what some of its benefits are for you, and you might just be interested in checking it out. Lawo, known for making great, big consoles, now making smaller consoles as well, and they connect with AoIP, AES67 AoIP. Thanks Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, we're here on the show with Chris Tobin from Manhattan, the best-dressed engineer in radio. And Chris, have you got a quick weather report for us? I'm sorry I failed to ask for that earlier in the show. New York City weather?

Chris: New York City weather? Let's see, mid-40s, rain. Wind will be picking up at around 30 miles an hour and steady coming out the northwest, and tomorrow it's going to be up to, I think, about three inches of accumulation of rain over the 24-hour period.

Kirk: Oh, rain. Rain but no snow? No snow?

Chris: No snow. As far as I know, the temperatures will not get done, the dew point will not drop, and everything will be just above the point of snow.

Kirk: Yeah, it's about the same here in Nashville. We've got days and days of rain. In fact, I looked at the radar. There's so much stuff, rain on the radar headed our way, it just may rain forever. It may never stop.

Chris: Well, it's been raining today on and off, and then it stopped, and now it's started again. Tomorrow it's supposed to pick up, and I have to drive to Delaware tonight so it should be fun.

Kirk: Well up there in the mountains in Wyoming, Shane, you don't have any snow do you?

Shane: Oh my goodness. No, no. No snow at all.

Kirk: I saw some pictures that...

Shane: You probably saw that picture that I posted on Facebook the other night.

Kirk: Yeah. They closed down I-80, or is it 85?

Shane: They did, yeah. It's going to be a white Christmas here, that's for sure.

Kirk: Wow, wow. All right, well let's jump right into it. Our story, our top stories from this past year. Shane, okay, editor of an august publication, "Radio Magazine", what do you think might be a high point or two that you want to jump right into?

Shane: Oh boy. Well, it started out the year, very early in the year, and you were talking about AES67 there a little bit ago. That was kind of the first real high point of the year where the AES67 standard really got going here. That was this year, wasn't it?

Kirk: It was announced in September of 2013 but then the holidays came along.

Shane: Then it became official.

Kirk: People didn't really start talking about "What does this mean to us?" until this year, 2014. In fact, one of the engineering sessions at the Association of Public Radio Engineers in Las Vegas, so that would've been in April. We... Some guys from Telos, the Telos Alliance, did... Well, actually representatives from several different companies did AES67 presentations. So yeah, it sure kicked to the forefront.

Shane: So that was kind of what kicked off the year there. I mean, it really has kind of been another... We've seen IP coming down the pipe, coming down the pipe, and 2014 has been no exception. It's been another year - the year of IP in broadcast once again.

Kirk: I've got my own thoughts that I'd like to save for a bit later in the show. Another high point, you put down SBE. What happened with SBE?

Shane: It is the 50th anniversary of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. What started out so long ago with John Battison, who became the first president of the organization, has now grown into a very distinguished group. The number of training initiatives and great things going on from an advocacy standpoint with the FCC, it's been a great 50 years for the SBE. We spent the year looking back, actually, on what they've been doing over the past 50 years in our magazine.

Kirk: You mentioned education, to me the word "education" is kind of uninteresting and so is the word "training". But man, I sure do enjoy learning. I don't know why that's in my head that way. But one of the things I love to learn about is are the new technologies, especially to do... how do I deal with this world of networking? And we had a guest on last week, Wayne Pecena, from a college station in Texas, at the university there, and he does webinars that you can go get later on. They do cost money, but they're worth it. So he does training, and with SBE sponsoring that training. So what a great service that SBE does after 50 years of training people in what they really need.

Shane: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a real gap that needs to be bridged still with engineers. I mean, you've got a number of engineers out there who have been learning RF for years. I mean, it's the same story, different year. New skills, and the SBE has done a great job in kind of trying to bridge that gap and teach old engineers new tricks, so to speak. While also educating the newer generation of engineers. Yes, there is a newer crop of engineers coming up in the ranks. They've been doing a good job of trying to teach them about, not only the IT stuff, which they're probably getting from any number of other sources right now, but also the traditional stuff. The audio, the RF, I mean, that stuff's not going away, at least not any time in the immediate future.

Kirk: Shane, your third high point was all-digital testing on the AM band. Of course I haven't heard any of this because I'm not sure there's a radio to tune it in, but what are you talking about? Tell us about that.

Shane: Well actually there have been a number of tests that have been conducted over the past year or so with the NAB doing testing of all-digital modulation on the AM band. HD radio on AM has been one of those topics that a lot of people have mixed feelings about, and just HD radio in general and digital broadcasting in general. Well, and revitalization of the AM band is another topic. This is a topic that a lot of people feel very passionately about.

Anyway, the NAB has been doing some testing of what all-digital operation on the AM band might look like and what the results would be. There have been some very encouraging test results there. The good news is the receivers to get it are already out there. If you've got an HD radio receiver that does AM, it will receive all-digital modulation. So it will receive that mode. Like I said, the bandwidth usage is more efficient. It's fairly noise-resistant to impulse noise, things that typically affect AM modulation.

The last tests were in Everett, Washington and we actually had some accounts on that that we published. It's been really encouraging. We don't know what it's going to look like going forward. You know, what the FCC is ultimately going to authorize, if they would ever authorize full-time, all-digital operation. If operators would ever adopt full-time, all-digital modulation. But who knows? It could be one solution to the question of what's going to happen on the AM band.

Kirk: Yeah. Boy, this is a subject that actually kind of ties my stomach up in knots, not because I'm so terribly frustrated, but just because there's a lot of emotion. There's a lot of tradition in there. There's just so much that goes into the notion of the AM band. And a lot of folks want to save the AM band. I'm not sure... I don't know what that looks like. I don't see that happening, especially by changing a little rule here or a little rule there. I don't see changing the AM band, it doesn't make sense to me. But wholesale changing of it, maybe you've got a possibility there.

Shane: Well, the big 900-pound gorilla that's not going away is environmental noise in the AM band. That's one of the biggest problems affecting it right now. And that's not just AM, it affects everything, but AM in particular. And you know, there are people talking about "Well, we need to enforce Part 15 rules better. We need to force the power companies to clean up their transmission lines and fix arcing insulators." But I don't know, I think the horse is out of the barn. I don't think that that kind of stuff is going to happen. I don't think we're going to see the environmental noise, affecting these services, drop. I don't know.

Kirk: Got you. Hey, we're just talking to our producer there. Oh, it's gone. Never mind. We'll continue on, soldier on here. Hey Chris Tobin, so what are your thoughts about this?

My thoughts have been that we ought to do something to allow AM broadcasters to move off the AM band into something else, and that would mean opening up some more FM channels that were just for these AM broadcasters, and then letting those who remain, either continue what they're doing, or switch over to an all-digital mode. But then you've got to have cooperation. You've got to have receivers out there. It seems like receivers are a huge part of the chicken-and-egg problem. Anyway, that's my thoughts on it. What are your thoughts, Chris?

Chris: I have mixed feelings. I think part of the problem is not the technology part as much as it is the willingness for broadcasters to actually program and do something that makes sense. Because there are a lot of stations that do just fine with what they have for their analog systems. Their signals are in great shape, but their programming is just lacking in driving people to the radio. You know, maybe doing a hybrid approach would make sense in some respects.

If you have a translator and you have your signal in the translator that gives people an opportunity to sample what you're about as long as you have something worth sampling, there's always that QM [sounds like 00:19:31] issue. I don't know, it's hard because the industry has shifted in such a direction now that no one's willing to take risks to do anything. You know, that's what built the business.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: I'm not trying to be a pessimist about it. I'm trying to be optimistic. But in digital radio reception, whether it be in AM, FM, television, land mobile, amateur radio, you name it, it has issues when the signal is not right. If you don't have enough of a signal or programming that people want to go after and are willing to tolerate the digital cliffs, you just add insult to injury.

You know, the big thing people always say is "Oh, AM stations don't have in-office listening." Okay, so maybe you promote the hybrid approach of a website that they can stream during the day and come home to your radio in the car.

Kirk: And you know, that is more and more viable. I remember, and you probably do too, and Shane you remember the days when streaming wasn't allowed on your corporate LAN because it took too much bandwidth, too much of your Internet connection. Now as we move forward Internet connectivity just gets better and better. I'm sorry if you live somewhere where it doesn't, but for the most part, it gets better and better and better and you get more and more and more.

I mean, I'm streaming six different things here in my office 24/7, and I hit my Comcast cap about the 27th of each month which they just charge an extra $10 for, if you go over.

My point is it just gets better, and I think we're living in a world where it's going to just get better. Hey, Google's going to put fiber in Nashville. At least they're threatening to. I see Comcast is preemptively pushing their speeds up. So it's good for everybody when that kind of competition happens. But yeah, to get back to what you said, streaming as an alternative.

Shane, one of your big stories here is mobile and streaming. What do you have to say about those subjects for 2014?

Shane: It's true, and the big thing is you've heard about Pandora and people were freaked out. "Pandora is going to impact radio listening." Well, yes and no. I mean there are some things that you don't get with Pandora that you do get with radio listening, but of course if your radio station is just a jukebox, well, you might have a little more to worry about. You've got that connection with your local hosts, assuming your station has local hosts. That's one of the things that's really going to build value for your station that the listeners can't get anywhere else. But not only is it Pandora. I mean, there are other apps now. Not just music apps. You've got apps like - NPR just introduced something called NPR One now which basically is like Pandora for talk radio.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, it's great. It's really good.

Shane: It lets you pick stories. You thumbs up and thumbs down to various stories and basically tell the app what kind of stories you want to hear, and it will put together a compilation of those stories. There are a couple other apps that are very similar to that.

Kirk: In our show notes, you mentioned the Giant Pixel Antenna app. What is that? I haven't heard of it.

Shane: Basically, it's another app like that. And what they're trying to do... I talked to this guy earlier in the year, and what they're trying to do is create, essentially, what NPR did with NPR One and just customize that listening experience for talk radio.

They've taken a bunch of podcasts and things that are freely available out there on the Internet and they allow people to, kind of, create their own talk listening experience basically through that app.

Kirk: Then what about the providers? The carriers, the cell phone carriers, some of them offering "Hey, if you're streaming music, probably from a service that we're partnered with in some way, these bits don't count against your cap."

Shane: Right.

Kirk: That's a pretty recent development. I think T-Mobile may have started that, and I thought AT&T had followed suit with some partner.

Shane: Right. I forget what the specifics are of each of those partnerships, but there are several of them now that have done exactly that. I think we're going to be seeing more of that, especially if there is some revenue potential to be had there for the parties involved.

At the same time, the days of unlimited data have gone away, so you really have to be careful when you're streaming on your cell phones and your mobile data plan. I have a legacy Verizon plan that's still unlimited that I kind of hold onto jealously, but it is something that you have to be conscious of.

Kirk: Let's look at a few other issues that shaped our world last year. You mentioned in manufacturers Nautel made a big splash, in your mind, in 2014 with a new transmitter series. What turned you on about that?

Shane: Right. The big thing is they've made some big steps in terms of efficiency improvements with their newest series, the GV series. I mean before that they had the NV series which was... did I lose you guys? Hello?

Kirk: I've got you.

Chris: We hear you just fine.

Kirk: Yeah, we've got you fine.

Shane: Oh, there you are. You guys froze up there for a second. Anyway, Nautel had, of course, the NV series which was pretty impressive. Then they improved on that with the GV series, additional enhancements in efficiency and a number of other features. Boy, solid state transmitters are really, really starting to look more and more attractive now, even if you're not doing digital broadcasting.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, in fact, the group of stations that I'm part-owner of, we're all lower-power. Not low-power, but we're all Class As and Class Bs, and of all of our transmitters, only one is a tube-type transmitter. The rest are all solid-state. So, love the low power bills. We finally, at one of our sites, we got into some LED lighting so that's helped out a bit too on the power bill. All right.

Any other manufacturer news that comes to mind?

Shane: Oh my goodness.

Kirk: I was thinking GatesAir.

Shane: Yes.

Kirk: I wasn't sure what to expect from them when they announced the whole sale, and then the GatesAir name coming in. I'm a little bit impressed with these guys. I think they're doing a couple of good things. So what's been your impression of how GatesAir has resurrected itself?

Shane: I would agree. It's going to be interesting to see what comes of that. I think being cut away from the larger Harris group that's more involved in the government contracts and military radio and things like that, that may give them a little more freedom and a little more flexibility to do what they want to do. It's still the same group of people basically in Quincy running things as far as the broadcast side. So I'm looking forward to see what they have in the pipeline.

Kirk: Chris Tobin, I think you were about to say something about manufacturers' progress last year.

Chris: Oh, I think everybody progressed very well. As Shane pointed out with Nautel and the solid state transmitters, they seem to be becoming more and more popular, and size, they're shrinking them in size and power capacity is going up and power consumption is more efficient. So whether you're digital or not, that's still a smart move.

Then with GatesAir, I'm hoping that the folks, now that they're separated from the mother ship and they don't have to worry about the ups and downs of what Wall Street wants Harris to do and the $600 million dollar gorilla that's part of the $4 billion dollar monster doesn't have to try and catch up, I think there's opportunity for them. I think they'll definitely go after it from what I can see. So 2015 should be fun for a lot of folks.

Shane: Yeah, I'm looking forward to NAB 2015. It should be a good show.

Chris: Yeah, I think so.

Kirk: You are watching or listening to This Week in Radio Tech. It's episode 240. I'm Kirk Harnack along with co-host and regular Chris Tobin and also with us is the editor of "Radio Magazine", Shane Toven, from his office in... are you in Laramie, Wyoming?

Shane: I am indeed. I am indeed.

Kirk: Wow, what a great place. I got to go there once. I almost bought a radio station. I didn't, and should have. Should have.

Shane: Yes.

Kirk: Yeah. Hey, we're talking about 2014, some of the big events that shaped radio and engineering and broadcasting, where we are now.

Let's talk about FCC actions. Nobody likes this unless it's a pirate we're shutting down, then the pirates don't like it. What are some of the things that are tops on your list, Shane, for FCC enforcement actions or decisions?

Shane: Oh boy. The FCC, believe it or not, as much as we like to poke at them sometimes, they've been busy over 2014. Lots of enforcement actions, if you go back and look, mostly related to things like equal employment opportunity compliance, the public file, main studio locations. Along with that locations of facilities even like your STL links. Licensing, make sure that's all up-to-date. Tower lighting, EAS violations. That's another subject. We'll get into that in a little bit. But lots and lots going on with the FCC, and that's just in the enforcement side of things.

Kirk: I don't mean to minimize anything that's important to some individual person, but a lot of what you just mentioned just seems like rearranging the deck chairs. Did they do anything that actually helps broadcasters put a better signal to more people?

Shane: Oh boy, that's debatable.

Chris: Not really.

Shane: That depends on who you talk to. Actually, one thing that they did do over this past year was the LPFM window. There's still a number of LPFM signals that are in MX, but they're slowly getting those cleared out, and there are a number of those LPFMs on the air now that are... Well, some of them are doing quite well. But I guess time will tell for the rest of them.

I'd have to go and look and see exactly how many have actually filed for the licenses that they received construction permits for. I suspect there were a good number of them that actually went on the air and are now actually actively serving the public.

Kirk: All right. What about this thing of having radio stations... Forcing them to put their public file on the web? On their website.

Shane: That's the most recent thing. Television has been doing it for quite a while now. So at first glance you'd go "Oh, no big deal. Just let the radio stations do the same thing the TV folks have been doing." Wrong. No, it's not quite that simple. The fact is there are a lot of really small radio stations out there who may or may not have the resources and the knowledge to know how to actually accomplish this. So they're kind of looking at that right now and going "Okay, what's the best way to actually go about this and make it so it's not a huge burden on radio stations?"

Kirk: I would counter that. You know, I'm rarely in favor of making somebody do something a certain way. I'm not even sure I'm in favor of having to have a public file. But anyway, that's the contrarian in me. But it seems though, some company or companies could come along and say "Hey, look, for $500 a year we'll put your public file on a website that people can access."

What it may actually do is it may force stations who, right now, just pay lip service to public file or don't know what to do or it's horribly organized, if it exists at all. Or it's at their attorney's office or at the public library or some place that's not... Because the station doesn't really operate where they should. It may make a station, "Okay, I've got to provide this company, this web services company, with this document and this document and this document." Then it may actually get done because someone's got to pay attention to it now.

Shane: Well, exactly, and a lot of things that are required in the public file are pretty straightforward. I mean, you've got some common things like the public in broadcasting. I mean, that's one document that's required.

Kirk: If the station is required to have this document in its file, why can't the FCC have it on their site? The people who want to see the "public in broadcast," why can't they just go to the FCC site and see it? Why does it have to be on the website of 13,000 radio stations?

Shane: You know, that's an excellent question. We may be at a time now where that's the case. Maybe they rewrite the rules such that "Okay, if we're going to do an online public file, you really don't have to have that in your public file. We'll just put a link to it on the FCC's website." So it's a very valid point. But yeah, I think you're right on that it may, in fact, force some stations to take a closer look at this.

Kirk: You know, you have to have your licensing documents in the public file, right? Well, aren't those on the FCC's website? If you're a concerned member of the public and you want to check out the license document for WXYZ, well you can go to the FCC's website and see it right there. Why does it also have to be on the radio station's website? Or even in a file that they may have? Why?

Shane: Exactly. Yeah, that's another good point. I mean, the picture has changed a lot since the rules for public files were written so many years ago.

Kirk: Here's an even better idea. I'm sorry to keep interrupting you. If the FCC is going to require this, and it sounds like an unfunded mandate, why don't they provide the space to which you update and check off "Yes, I have this document and this document and this document, and all these letters are all scanned and uploaded too." The FCC provides the space. They're requiring it.

Chris: You could also look at it this way, right? The public file was produced in a time when access to data was manual. You know, it was handled in the post, and that's why you had copies of your license and stuff locally. Today, let's fast-forward. We have electronic means which we can shuffle. So how about two things? We do electronic public files for both television and radio. What it is is it's data-secured because we have to make sure we have some type of protection because it is public information, but still information that could be used in a nefarious way, if not properly handled.

Two, how about the radio station's public file electronically, the e-pub, how about you just simply have links to the FCC's database of your valid license? Of your valid tower registration? Of your valid information that you've submitted, that you have on file. Rather than recreate everything as you pointed out Kirk.

Kirk: Sure.

Chris: So the onus on the radio station or the broadcaster is just to make sure the documents are current with the commission, and when people want to see what's going on, they go to the website of the radio station that has the public file. You click on the link and it takes them to the FCC database.

Kirk: That's a fine idea. I'm just suggesting something even simpler than that. If you want to find out about your location WXYZ, sorry they have convenient call letters, you go to the FCC.gov radio station public files. You click on that. Find your radio station, WXYZ. You type that in. There's their public file right there. There's all the documents that relate to it.

Now some of these documents may have to be uploaded from the radio station, if they keep those rules around, like correspondences or political advertising or whatever it is, sorry I don't know, that has to go in there. But a lot of this...

 

Chris: That's the stuff you keep local. The political advertising and that stuff you keep local, because that's not going to be static, that's going to be dynamic.

Shane: Yeah, your public issues reports. Your quarterly public issues reports.

Kirk: You know, let us put that on Facebook. Everybody has Facebook.

Shane: Well, these are all excellent points. Several people have told me, and I would tend to agree, that generally if somebody is coming to see your public... nobody comes in to see the public file. How many stations do you know of where somebody has actually come in and said "I want to see your public file," that did not have some kind of ulterior motive?

Kirk: Half the time, it's vindictive ex-wives.

Shane: That's either an FCC inspector or somebody who has some axe to grind with the station for some reason or another. They want to see your public file. So I don't know, these are all very valid points and I would encourage people, who are interested, to file comments with the FCC and let them know what your thoughts are.

Kirk: Good point. Good point. We could go on about that, but let's not. Any more FCC? You mentioned the LPFM window, and so licenses have been issued. So there's more LPFMs on the air now than there were a year ago, right?

Shane: There are also more FM translators for AMs on the air. There's been talk of things like another window possibly for FM translators for AMs but nobody knows when that exactly could or would happen. So that would be the other thing in terms of new services on the air. And then of course the usual shuffling the deck with minor mods and things like that, that people are always doing.

Kirk: Now the last thing that's on your list Shane is worth touching on. That's false EAS activations.

Shane: Yes.

Kirk: The EAS duck-fart tones which contain critical data in promotional material, commercials, things like that. Where do we stand? Where do you think we're going with that?

Shane: Right, it seems to be on the rise lately, and there were a couple of high-profile instances lately. Once was in a syndicated show. I think it was the Bobby Bones Show, they aired... they actually aired a recording of the national EAS test that had occurred a couple years ago and it triggered some stations downstream. It even got into a cable system and locked up the cable system, and all the cable system said was "There's a message from the White House." So you had a whole bunch of people going "What the heck's going on here?" It certainly did get the FCC's attention.

So now they're seeking comments on how to address this issue and maybe if aspects of EAS need to be made more secure. That, to me, that's kind of a "Well, duh", especially now that you're connecting your EAS units to the Internet. I mentioned that on my list here too.

Kirk: I think we should return to pink envelopes.

Shane: I like it. What were those words?

Kirk: Bravo whiskey.

Shane: For that one activation that was also a false activation by a completely different means? I forget.

Kirk: I'll tell you what, I hope the guy who had the pink envelope contract, I hope he retired well. If you don't know what we're talking about, you're not old enough.

Shane: The station I started at still had one of those even after the EAS system went online. Just for grins, I opened it up and I looked at the thing and was like "Oh, this is kind of cool." I probably committed some federal crime or something.

Kirk: This tag will only be removed by the end consumer on my pillows. All right. Hey folks, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech. It's episode 240. It's kind of war stories. It's war stories of 2014. Chris Tobin is with us from Manhattan. He is in the holiday spirit, a festive mood, with his elf hat on.

Also, Shane Toven is here with us from his office in Laramie, Wyoming. He is the editor of "Radio Magazine". I'm Kirk Harnack. Glad that you're here. Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Telos, and I get to encourage you to look even again at the Z/IP ONE.

Oh, this thing is so cool. This thing is just so cool. I've got one right here next to me in my office and I call all around the world. I get music from Austria. It's right over here. I get music from Austria, from Sydney, Australia. There's a Christian radio station that one of our friends works at. I connect to them.

I've been connected to my radio stations in Greenville, Mississippi. We're on two different Internet providers and we don't think so much of their Internet provider down there in Greenville, Mississippi. But you know what? The thing just connects and it works and it works and it works and I get great music and talk programming from there. You know what? It's low-latency. So sure, you can stream audio if you need to listen to something. But if you want bam, the lowest possible latency, then that's what the Z/IP ONE does.

What is the Z/IP ONE? It's an IP codec. It's like a Telos Zephyr, you know? An ISDN Zephyr. But it works over IP connections, and that could be the public Internet. In fact, the Z/IP one has a number of features built into it that are meant just exactly for dealing with the problems of the public Internet. The dropped packets here and there, the packets being received out of order, packets, some of them having jitter that is some more latency than others. The Z/IP ONE can automatically adjust for lost packets and for packets out of order and for packets that have a lot of jitter in them.

So the Z/IP ONE in its most basic form, literally in most cases, depending on your router but 95% of all routers just work this way, you plug it into your network. Use DHCP if you want to. You know, let it get an IP address automatically. Register with the Telos Z/IP server. It's free to use. Then just go and find your buddies in the phone directory and add them to your local phone list and just call them. Just call them with your Z/IP ONE. You're connected.

If the other guys have a port forward to their Z/IP ONE, you're connected immediately, just like that. If they don't have a port forward, if the Z/IP server is going to negotiate the NAT traversal, then it takes about ten seconds to get connected with the other Z/IP ONE.

But man, this Z/IP ONE is being used right now, right this very minute, for national talk shows, for national programming that's going on satellite, for international connections, for morning shows when talent has to stay at home or work on the road. Hey, even when the "Dave Ramsey Show" has gone to Cancun, Mexico, they've used the Z/IP ONE to get the audio back with good interaction with the phone callers.

More and more people are using this thing. It's just full of codecs. You've got lots of choices, the whole AAC family, MPEG layer 2. You've got G.711 and G.722 for compatibility even with SIP phone systems. Just so many benefits and cool things.

Oh, GPIO that is synchronized with the audio. If your audio is delayed by let's say 500 milliseconds, the GPI, the closures that go along with it, are also delayed by that much, so it's always in-sync with the audio. I can't say enough good things about the Z/IP ONE. I love this thing.

There's videos on the Telos website about hooking it up quickly, making it work, and about making the Z/IP ONE work with other people's software and applications like Luci Live so you can do a live remote broadcast with your iPhone, your Android phone, or maybe your iPad. We did a live remote, if you will, from a bar here in Nashville during the World Cup games. It's just pretty awesome.

The Z/IP ONE. Check it out. Go to telos-systems.com. That's the Telos Systems website. You'll be redirected to Telos Alliance. Click on the IP codecs under the Telos link there and you can get to the Z/IP ONE. Love this thing, awesome box. And hey, the 2.0 software has, I think, just been released so that's cool too.

This is This Week in Radio Tech episode 240 and I want to bring this up. Here's a sister publication to Shane's "Radio Magazine". It's owned by the same company. Here's "Radio World", and this one is dated December 17th. I just got mine today. I was a little bit late in getting mine apparently in the mail. Some other folks have already gotten theirs. And if you'll tear into page 12, why look what you'll see right there, a beautiful article by Philip Mulivor about TWiRT and about Andrew Zarian and the GFQ network, how he gets the TWiRT podcast on the air.

So hey, for me this is one of the stories of 2014 that the TWiRT podcast stayed on. We're still here and have a great partnership with GFQ and great sponsors too. Sponsors from Lawo, the Telos Alliance, Axia and Telos and Omnia too. So there you go.

All right, let's jump back into our conversation. Chris Tobin is with us and so is Shane Toven. Shane, what do you want to cover next? What's the next big thing from this past year?

Shane: Well, before we move on, I've got one more thing about FCC actions that's going to be kind of interesting to a lot of people.

Kirk: Yeah?

Shane: Are you familiar with the term "Franken FM"?

Kirk: Yes. Isn't that when a channel 6 analog television station...

Shane: It is.

Kirk: They transmit an audio carrier which can be picked up on many, not all, but many FM radios, like 87.75?

Shane: 87.7. Yeah, right down there at the very bottom end of the band.

Kirk: Yeah.

Shane: You may recall that a lot of non-commercial stations had to do channel 6 protections for a number of years because they were so close.

Kirk: Oh yeah.

Shane: Anyway, in fact there's one of these Franken FMs on the air down in Denver just south of me here. But anyway, the FCC is actually looking at legitimizing that and looking at turning those into something akin to an FM broadcast service. So I know there are probably a lot of mixed feelings about that, but it's on the FCC's radar and they're looking at addressing it.

Kirk: You know, not that anybody asked me, but if they did, I'm all in favor if they open up the whole of channel 6...

Shane: Oh, I agree.

Kirk:...and give first dibs on those to people who want to vacate the AM band. I don't know how you handle the allocations and separation. That would have to be worked out. Would it be the same as public? The public band? Would it be the same as the rest of the commercial band? Would it be something else? But hey, I've got an AM station. I think we'd probably like to vacate the AM band if we could get an FM frequency, over time.

Shane: Well, in fact, there are a lot of areas. There are several areas of the world, anyway, where they're doing that. They've got the FM band now going down into the channel 6, what we know as the "channel 6 spectrum", down to like 72 megahertz or something like that. There are actually FM receivers out there that will go down that low in some areas of the world. So it is. It's another option, another option to consider.

Kirk: I think the FCC has taken enough money from us in user fees over the years to pay off all the people still on channel 6 to move, and then pay all these AM broadcasters, who want to vacate, some money for vacating to help them get started building a transmitter site where channel 6 used to be.

Shane: Well, and it certainly wouldn't take much for the receivers to accommodate that. I mean, it's relatively trivial to modify receivers to get that portion of the band.

Kirk: Agreed, but even so, it would take a long time.

Shane: Yeah, it would.

Kirk: To have a critical mass of receivers.

Shane: Like any other change in this technology in this business.

Kirk: Chris Tobin, you don't have any opinion about this do you?

Chris: Well, I'm not sure if I like the idea of a TV station being used like a radio station. But I think if the AMs could migrate up to an open section, why not consider it? I mean it makes total sense. That part of the band, channel 6, probably has nice propagation. It would do very well. You know, TV 6 is gone. It doesn't need to be there anymore, so why not make that a use of the spectrum? Isn't that why we're doing these auctions, for spectrum efficiency and proper management? Or is it just to placate the carriers who have the billions of dollars they want to get from broadcasters?

Kirk: I don't know how many devices are actually out of FCC compliance. I'm told that many are. But part of the reason why AM is less usable today than ever before is not only because there's too many AM stations, but there's too many devices in our homes and businesses that spew energy in the AM band that makes the AM band less and less useful. By the way, less useful whether it's analog or digital. Now I realize digital has a cliff. You don't hear the problem until you get to the point where it just doesn't work anymore. But I'm sure there's places in my house where even if we did all-digital AM, there's places in my house where a few Nashville radio stations probably still wouldn't work at all because the noise is just horrible.

Chris: Sure.

Kirk: And that tells me "Hey, FCC, have you been doing your job enforcing consumer devices spewing energy in the broadcast band?" I think the answer is no.

Shane: Sure, and we touched on that a little earlier, the issue with environmental noise. It certainly is a big one. But again, I'm not sure there's a solution. I think the horse has already left the barn, like I said, and it's going to be tough to get that one back. I mean I look around my office here and I see no fewer than at least two dozen devices that are all spewing RF. If I tried to tune in to even the local five kilowatt radio station, when they go to 1K at night there's noise all over the place. Let alone trying to receive... I'm also a ham. Let along trying to receive anything on HF, it's ridiculous.

Chris: If you have a digital phone system, they all have local oscillators and signals around 1.5 meg and stuff so that knocks out most AM reception. Back in the day, the Merlin phone systems from AT&T operated at like 1.5 or 1.6-something, so if your station was anywhere near 1500 kilohertz or 1560, as we had here in the city, your reception in the office was pretty much useless and that goes back to the 1980s.

Shane: Sure. I mean we're looking at cases where there are 50 kilowatt AM stations that can't even reach their local markets anymore. That's how bad it's gotten.

Kirk: And this is why I'm not at all sanguine about "saving" the AM band through little adjustments here and there. Sorry to be that way, but I just think we've got to get off of it. I don't see any improvement in millions more consumer devices coming into the U.S. every year. You know, there's charger power supplies and phones that I've got here in the office that nobody is going to make me throw them away. They're going to be here for years to come. I don't think that we have a winnable situation with regard to noise on the AM band.

Shane: No, and I have to agree unfortunately. I mean like I said, I know it's an issue that a lot of people are very passionate about but I don't see that changing.

Kirk: So HD radio in cars, is that a story for 2014?

Shane: It is. In fact, HD radio is kind of one of those things. It's not at the point where you can just go out and pick up any old radio and it's an HD radio, which I think is where it needs to be eventually if it's going to succeed. But in cars is where we're really starting to see that continuing stream of HD receivers. People are going out and buying cars now not even realizing that they've got HD receivers in them, and suddenly stations that are broadcasting HD are getting reports from listeners, "Hey, my radio is broken."

Or dealers are getting reports that "Hey, my radio is broken." Really it's not the radio that's broken, it's the radio station that's broken, because they're broadcasting HD and either they're not putting audio into the HD chain or it's out-of-sync or something like that. Those reports are on the rise.

We heard one story earlier in the year where GM was pulling HD from selected models and there was some speculation as to whether or not that was an indicator of their direction with HD. Now the story is they're only backing off just temporarily on that and they're constantly evaluating technologies. GM is the same company that's now putting Wi-Fi hotspots in cars. So they're trying to hedge their bets and just see what direction the marketplace is going. But overall, we are. We're seeing more and more HD in cars and I think especially in 2015 and 2016 that number is going to continue to increase.

Kirk: How about BMW is dropping AM. Was that an electric car?

Shane: Well yeah. Speaking of impulse noise, they dropped AM from one of their electric vehicles. In fact, I'd heard from somewhere they're actually considering dropping it from all their vehicles. I don't know, they don't see it as being... Well, I don't know why they're dropping it, but the problem is noise and the signals basically. That's ultimately the reason they're getting rid of it.

Kirk: Okay then. How about deploying 4G? Boy, it sure does seem to be in more and more places. I'm a T-Mobile customer, and sometimes I'm just amazed at the speed that I get on this little phone when I'm in the oddest of places. Not out in the country, okay? We know that T-Mobile's business plan is they cover cities and interstates. But then I've got friends who may be on Verizon out in the sticks and they're getting pretty good 4G speeds. Verizon is going to what, voice over LTE? VoLTE you might call it. Chris Tobin, you keep on top of this stuff. What do you know about LTE and VoLTE in 2014?

Chris: Well, the Voice over LTE which is VoLTE, I think Verizon and AT&T have been doing a lot of field measurements. I think they're getting closer to what they believe is a comfortable carrier-class audio pathway. I think 2015, you're going to start to see something come of it because they have to, at some point, divorce themselves of the CDMA 3G voice traffic because I believe they've reached a point now where they can't provide the capacity that they need to do.

If you think about it, the CDMA system that we're all familiar with, 3G and 2G then the 1X, the 1xRTT, that stuff basically was limited by design. It was designed in a principle similar to TDM, similar to circuit-switched systems. So 4G, LTE, whatever you want to call it, ETSI, it's all IP. It's packet-switching. You can imagine what you could do or would like to be doing if everything you travelled on your network was IP.

I think 2015 is the year you're going to see Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and maybe a few others start to introduce this new voice-over-LTE. What they'll call it, I don't know. I'm sure they still haven't figured out how to market it and charge per-message because they're still using the old phone company methods, the methods or terminology. You know, they restrict themselves because that's just the way they are. Remember, you still have a phone number when you do your bills and you still get a phone bill from the company that calls themselves a communications corporation. So just keep that in mind.

Now VoLTE, next year I think you'll see stuff start coming out. I know in the public service or public safety sector LTE has been pushed a lot for the national broadband stuff for public safety, APCO-25, and has not been met with the best results just yet because of the way packets work. So that might be foreshadowing why Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile may not be jumping all that quickly with VoLTE. But 2015, I think that's when you're going to start to see it. They'll start to introduce, or be introduced.

Shane: Yeah, and I agree. I have an iPhone 6 Plus here. I don't know if you guys can see that or not.

Kirk: Yeah, sure.

Shane: This is 4G LTE here in Laramie, Wyoming. 30 megabits down, 3.7 megabits up, and that's as fast as my cable broadband connection that I'm talking to you on right now. I get that fairly consistently wherever there's LTE service in this state, and this phone does support VoLTE as well which is a new feature which I noticed them adding with this series. But that said, there's still a lot of areas where it's going to take a long time for broadband to get to that level of penetration.

It's coming, and it's getting there, and it seems to almost be exponential, in terms of the deployment of LTE, but there are going to be a lot of rural areas that are going to be the last to see this kind of service. I'm thinking in particularly really sparsely-populated areas where there's just not the justification for these cell companies, revenue-wise, to put up a bunch of towers and to put that kind of bandwidth out there. But you know, I'd like to be wrong on that. I guess time will tell.

We'll see whether those that are truly out in the sticks end up getting this level of connectivity or whether it comes via some other means first. There's talk of deploying fiber to some of these areas as well. But yeah, like I said, I guess we'll see.

Kirk: Yep. Yep. All right. Hey, you are watching This Week in Radio Tech episode 240. It's our year-end wrap-up with Shane Toven, the editor of Radio Magazine, and Chris Tobin. A Toven and a Tobin. Boy, that's been tough for me to keep straight. And I'm Kirk Harnack, a name like no others. Hey, our show is brought to you in part by - by the way, stay tuned, because we've got a wrap-up with some of the problems we saw in IT this last year and a couple of obituaries that are sad to see go but you need to know that they're gone.

Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Axia, Axia Audio, and the new console, we mentioned it on last week's show and got a great response from people asking "Hey, we want to know more about this console." So I'm going to try to hit some more different points. It's the new Fusion AoIP Mixing Console from Axia.

What makes the Fusion different? Well, the folks at Axia have had several consoles out in the ten, almost eleven years that Axia has been around now. It started out with the SmartSurface, the Element, and then some smaller consoles, the iQ and the Radius and the RAQ and the DESQ consoles. Well now there's a new high-end console, and I'm going to tell you this console just does everything. It is so flexible, so amazing, you can do complex - sophisticatedly complex -remote broadcasts with it. You can do fantastic recording, offline recording. The options and the simplicity of use are just amazing.

You the engineer, you set it up to do these cool things that it can do, and then the operators, they just press a button. Or it happens automatically depending on what the function is. If you want to check it out on the web or walk along with me here, go to axiaaudio.com or just go to telosalliance.com and look under Axia for the Fusion Console. Anywhere from four up to forty faders. You can have a big honking Fusion console if you want, or just four faders if you want.

Of course like any modern AoIP console, you can assign any source to any fader so you've got that flexibility right there. The Fusion has these high-resolution OLED, that's Organic LED, OLED displays above each fader strip and they display the selected source. You have full-time conference metering. This is like a pre-fader level, so you can see if there's audio there when you're going to rejoin the broadcast of the ball game. You can see the level there. Talkback status is right there. Pan and fade information is right there, and of course you can go to other screens on the top of each fader strip and display more things.

Integrated intercom capability includes built-in IFB, two-way communications to individual talent positions, headphone feeds and mics, plus a variety of optional drop-in intercom modules that connect to Axia IP Intercom, whole plant intercom, systems. So what that means is without dropping anything else in you can talk back to virtually any source that's coming in. If there's a path back to a source that's feeding a fader, you can talk right back to it and you get great feedback of the status of that, from those beautiful OLED displays.

There's an expert mode that allows the construction of customized mix/minus IFB behavior so you can talk to stereo or mono things. If you've got a stereo back feed going out to, say, a remote broadcast, maybe you're using a Z/IP ONE and giving you stereo audio in both directions over the Internet. Well, you can have a split left/right feed going back to the remote's site so one side maybe is program material, pre-delay program material, and the other side is the IFB, Interruptible Fold Back, so you can talk to the talent out there. The people who are at that remote site listening to the PA speakers, they don't hear of course the talkback that's coming back.

Rugged construction, extruded brushed aluminum, real integrity. You can walk on this console. It's just amazingly strong. Not that you'd probably be doing that, but you could. There are four main stereo outputs, program one, two, three, and four, plus there are four stereo Aux sends and two Aux returns. Of course they're stereo.

You get your choice of metering options. You can do VU, BBC, DIN, PPM, NORDIC, EBU Digital. There's all these interesting options. No matter where you are in the world, if you're used to seeing NORDIC meters, by golly you've got NORDIC meters. Just select them. Every channel has a preview cue function, built-in 5.1 discrete mixing capabilities for production use if you want to do that, plus stereo up-mix and down-mix capabilities all built right in.

The number pad is built-in for dialing of codecs and such, and Axia's trademarked long-life plastic conductive faders with side-loading actuation. That's a big phrase, side-loading actuation. That means that water doesn't get in from the top. If you spill something, it's very likely not to go in the fader at all because the fader is not open from the top. The slider bar connects around to the side. It's a really awesome design, very clever.

Check it out on the web, the Axia Fusion Console. It is gorgeous, and it's now shipping. There's some going into I can't say where. Let's say out on the west coast in a beautiful location, and there's some in France that are probably on the air right now, and I think there's some in Dallas as well. The Fusion Mixing Console from Axia Audio.

All right guys, we've just got a few minutes left and Shane I wanted you to hit just a tad on embedded computing, IT security, the Internet of Things. What do you think was a top story there this year?

Shane: Oh boy. It's definitely been a year for embedded computing. For those of you who aren't familiar with this topic, you remember engineers for years have put together little gizmos and little widgets from discrete components? Well things have gotten a lot easier in the past few years as the variety of micro-controllers have gotten out there. I mean most of you have probably heard of the Arduino.

Kirk: Yeah.

Shane: We've got this little guy here. It's called an Arduino UNO, and basically it's a little logic controller on a chip. You've got 14 digital I/O. You've got six analog inputs. Those digital outputs can also be used as pulse-whip modulation to do some kind of pseudo-analog type outputs. So all kinds of fun stuff. If you can think of a little application, you can do it. Not only that, but they've got versions now that actually run Linux. This is a little different version of that board. It's got Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB, SD card, all kinds of fun stuff onboard and a little incarnation of Linux. So you could pop one of these things down and make it a little router, or again, just about anything you can think of at a station.

Kirk: Shane, you're blowing my mind here. I used to be able to whip up anything with three relays from Radio Shack and a 555 timer.

Shane: Well, yeah, I used one of those actually once as the world's most expensive latching relay, because why? It's what I could get. It's what I had available at the time.

Kirk: Yeah. But you're right, we do have so many Internet of Things appliances including boxes that are made by manufacturers like Telos, like Omnia. These boxes behind me here are running Linux.

Shane: Sure.

Kirk: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

Shane: You've got devices like this. This is the infamous Raspberry Pi. This is one of the earlier versions. It's got on top of it a little DAC, an A-to-D/D-to-A converter that will do up to 192 kilohertz. So that's kind of cool. It's got HDMI outputs. It's got Ethernet. You can make it do Wi-Fi and all kinds of fun stuff. Even those have shrunk in size. This is the latest version of the Pi and they just keep getting smaller and smaller and more and more capable. It's just absolutely amazing, and then you pair something like this with it, this is basically a little software USB receiver. You've got a spectrum analyzer for like $40. It's ridiculous.

Kirk: But these things can be vulnerable to hacking. I mean, bad hacking.

Shane: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, absolutely. That's something that is going to become more and more of an issue. There is this whole trend called the Internet of Things, basically little appliances that are connected to the Internet to communicate information or to control devices. Security on those is going to become a big, big issue. We haven't seen any major hacks related to IOT, the Internet of Things, type of stuff yet. But we've seen a number...

Kirk: I can imagine there's going to be Chinese Wi-Fi light bulbs that have vulnerabilities that once you're into that you're into the Wi-Fi network.

Shane: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, like with anything else, you want to practice safe networking. Make sure you've got them firewalled and make sure you've got all the appropriate precautions in place. I mean even that's no guarantee, but you don't want to just be hanging these things out there available to the general public.

Kirk: Hey, we've got to wrap it up pretty quickly here. Let's end the show on a sad note.

Shane: Yes.

Kirk: Legacy manufacturers that have closed or disappeared, tell us what's going on there. We just heard in the news that Dayton Industrial, makers of those wonderful little rack-mount AM or FM or weather radio receivers, that they're closing down, and we've got a ton of those at our radio stations for our EAS purposes.

Shane: Sure, and they were great little receivers. But yeah, I mean, we heard earlier this year about LARCAN who made a bunch of FM translators for a number of years. They're back to the old TTC days. They're gone. A company called SRS Electronics which actually is kind of the legacy of the original Marty line of things, George Marty was still working there, they're gone now. Energy-Onix, they're gone. And then like I said, or like you just said, the most recent one, Dayton Industrial. It's kind of a testament I think to... I don't know, to the fact that some of these engineers are slowly going away.

Kirk: Yep. A lot of folks are sorry to see Energy-Onix go, and of course when Bernie Wise, the founder of Energy-Onix passed away and left it to, I believe, his son or family, I don't know how much interest was there but it really hasn't... it must be essentially shut-down now.

There's money owed and there's people not answering the phones. Luckily, Energy-Onix transmitters are reasonably simple so some parts may be a little bit hard to come by but they're reasonably simple there. And LARCAN hasn't been so much in radio lately. They've mostly been television, haven't they?

Shane: Mostly television, yeah, but I mean they're still another one of those legacy manufacturers that started out with some radio products. In fact, they had developed a number of translators that people had used for years. Mostly translators.

Kirk: Yeah. Oh, that's right, translators. Hey guys, you know, we are out of time. We've gone past our usual time. It's been a good wrap-up for the year 2014. Shane Toven, thank you so much for first of all keeping track of these things. I know it's your job as the editor of a magazine that we all read, but thank you for coming on the show at the last minute and walking us through 2014 and some of the bigger stories.

Shane: Thanks Kirk.

Kirk: I realized I never got around to really mentioning the audio. I said earlier in the show that I feel like IP audio has turned a corner, and I'll just tell you what that corner was. At the Sochi Olympics, some broadcasters who were planning on using ISDN were sorely disappointed with the quality of ISDN service provided by the telco providers at Sochi and they brought their back-up units. They were IP codecs, and those worked wonderfully. And so if you listened to radio coverage of the Sochi Olympics, chances are very good that you heard that over an IP codec, and the people in the television world found out that they were getting really good results using IP audio codecs to get audio back.

One more thing, we know that the folks at Swedish Radio, they connected not compressed audio-over-IP but linear audio-over-IP from Sochi back to Radio Sweden. Just bit-for-bit linear audio over a network that the broadcasters in Europe have setup, and that of course worked perfectly.

So that kind of told me that audio-over-IP turned a corner and now today there are major networks that distribute audio, maybe by satellite. Well we got to backhaul that audio to the uplinks somehow. A lot of that now is over IP. So this stuff works. It's coming of age, and eventually it's going to displace the old circuit-switched technology that is still hanging on.

Chris Tobin, final comment?

Chris: No, I agree. IP is definitely growing and there's a lot that can be done with it. I've done some projects recently and they've switched from the traditional ISDN or traditional video TDM to IP and it's working very well. Just learn how to make the pathways robust and you'll be in great shape.

Kirk: Absolutely, robust pathways. That sounds like a show title for an upcoming show, "Robust Pathways". That would be a great name for a company. Hey, change that IP codecs company to Robust Pathways. Hey, you've been watching This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack along with Chris Tobin and Shane Toven. Thank you gentlemen for being with us. I sure appreciate it very much. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you guys in 2015.

Shane: Same to you.

Kirk: Our show's been brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo and the crystalCLEAR Console. Also Telos and the Telos Z/IP ONE IP Audio Codec. And Axia and the Fusion AoIP Mixing Console. Check them all out. We usually have links for them on the show notes, both on the GFQ website and on thisweekinradiotech.com. You guys have a great rest of the year. See you next year on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye, everybody.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering