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"Workbench" columnist, John Bisset

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Feb 16, 2015 11:02:00 AM

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TWiRT 246What’s your most important engineering tool? An oscilloscope? Volt-ohm meter? Infrared thermometer? Diagnostic software? John Bisset says your most important tool is one you probably already own! Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack are talking with the Workbench Wizard, John Bisset on TWiRT.





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Announcer: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 246, is brought to you by Lawo and the new crystalCLEAR Virtual Radio Console. crystalCLEAR is the radio console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface. By the Telos Hx1 and Hx2 telephone hybrids. The most advanced hybrids ever developed for use with analog phone lines. And by the new Axia Fusion AoIP Mixing Console, packed with features and capabilities refined from over a decade's worth of IP-Audio experience.

Hey, what's today's broadcast engineer's most important tool? An oscilloscope? Volt-ohm meter? Infrared thermometer? Maybe diagnostic software? John Bisset says your most important tool is one you probably already own. Chris Tobin and Kirk Harnack are talking with the Workbench Wizard, John Bisset on TWiRT.

Kirk: Hey, welcome into This Week in Radio Tech. It's the show we talk everything in radio, engineering wise, but I won't care what records you play. We just want to make it sound good. Everything from the microphone to the light bulb on the top of the tower, this is the show where we talk about it. Engineering, audio, RF, tip and tricks, and that's going to be a good subject for today. I'm Kirk Harnack, founder of the show, been doing the show for, gee, almost, has it been almost five years? I think so. Time flies, and we've talked about a whole lot of subjects. One of our co-hosts is with us right here. It's Chris Tobin, the best-dressed engineer in radio. Well, maybe not today. From Manhattan, New York. Hey, Chris.

Chris: It's still a sporty outfit. It may not be a button down shirt, but it's a sporty outfit.

Kirk: How you doing? How's the weather in New York City, Manhattan?

Chris: Actually, it's a balmy 38 degrees right now and the flurries have subsided, and now I'm told, watching the weather forecast, we're going to get down into the teens tonight. Actually, I think single digits, so it's... And then the report was tomorrow, debilitating cold temperatures.

Kirk: Ooh, debilitating. Debilitating, holy cow! That's terrible. It's warmer there than it is here. It's like something like 30 degrees here in Nashville right now. It's chilly and going to get a little colder. No snow, though. But speaking of snow, I was talking with our guest, John Bisset. Let's go ahead and bring him in. John Bisset's our guest. Hey, John, welcome in.

John: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

Kirk: A lot of you may know John from his "Workbench" column in Radio World Magazine. John is the editor of that column. He puts together in every episode, every column, every edition, he puts together two, three, four, five tips and ideas, things that are really truly helpful for your studio and transmitter sites. John, how long have you been doing that column in Radio World?

John: Kirk, I was thinking about that. It was the early '80s. I don't know the exact date, but somewhere along '82, '83, so it's been a long time, a lot of tips.

Kirk: Wow, reading Radio World from cover to cover was one of the ways that I got educated on how to do engineering back in the early '80s when I started my company in, in 1984, I guess it was. I did, and went out and did engineering full time, and had to read that cover to cover, and so I know I read plenty of your tips and tricks. So thank you so much for educating me back then, and now.

John: Kirk, that's one of the things that are kind of neat about doing the column. You write it, but you never know who's going to read it, how it's going to help people. And I can't tell you the hundreds, probably thousands of people that have come up to me over the years at trade shows and places like that that have said they've gotten something out of the column, and, "Do you remember such and such a tip?" and, "That really bailed me out," or whatever. So it's really neat work to do and it's very rewarding to see the kind of help that not only myself, but also all of the other engineers that participate and send tips in, use this column to help one another. So it's really a great camaraderie.

Kirk: John, we're going to get to our first commercial quickly here. But first, give me a quick weather report. You and I were talking before the show and the snow is coming. I don't even know where you live. Is it up in the northeast somewhere?

John: Yeah. I'm, I'm up in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Kirk: Wow.

John: And the snow is coming down pretty hard. We get these snow squalls once in a while, and we definitely had one today, and we were just supposed to get a dusting. I think we got about three inches that are outside now. And talk about temperatures, about 7 degrees.

Kirk: Oh, man.

John: As a high.

Kirk: Oh, gee.

John: So, yeah, it, it does get cold up here, that's for sure.

Kirk: Hey weatherman, we've got three inches of dusting on the ground right now.

John: That's exactly right.

Kirk: Hey, our show, This Week in Radio Tech, is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo. Lawo is a console company. They make big consoles. You may know them for that. But they also make smaller radio consoles. And the one that I want to tell you about is this one called the crystalCLEAR. It's what you might call a virtual radio mixing console. Now, the crystalCLEAR is based on the same mixing engine that the Lawo Crystal mixer is based on, but instead of a hardware surface with faders and buttons, physical buttons that you push, they decided to, "Hey, let's try this. Let's put the surface in the form of an app and we can make it beautiful. We can make it context-sensitive so when you touch a button on the screen, you get the options that only have to do with, with what you're touching right then with a microphone or a codec."

Now, there's a video of Mike Dosch. He is in charge of the virtual radio projects at Lawo, and he's demonstrating the Lawo crystalCLEAR virtual radio mixing console. This was done at the last year's NAB Show, and he's describing how this context-sensitive arrangement. The on-screen console app gives you eight faders, plus, of course, a fader for your speaker levels and a fader for your headphone levels, a real-time time of day clock and date, of course, on that, countdown timer and stuff like that. And channel on/off controls, all the things that you'd have in a hardware console, but you get them in a piece of software that's running a mix engine with audio I/O that's over in a rack somewhere.

In fact, there, he's pointing to it right there. It's actually a one-rack unit. It's one of those units that sit in the rack. That's where you bring your audio inputs and outputs to, this one rack unit box, mic inputs, line inputs, AES inputs and outputs. It has dual redundant power supplies available. And it also speaks Ravenna and as a consequence, it can speak AES67. So it's ready to go for audio over IP and compatible with anything else that is claiming to be AES67 compatible. So you have a lot of options there for audio I/O, very convenient installation, neat wiring.

And hey, if the PC that's running the console app, well, if it ever dies, you just fire up another PC, put it on the network and tell it to control that mixing engine. And you get your broadcast, you get your control back of your broadcaster station. Of course, it has all the things you'd expect in a normal console, like Program 1, Program 2, preview or, or queue. It has headphone volume controls, headphone outputs. It has the ability to save a scene and then recall that scene. So if your morning show is different than your midday show or maybe your news talk hour, then you can just recall the scene that sets up your faders just exactly how you want them.

So that video that we were watching, you can go to the Lawo website and watch that video. It's about eight minutes long, and Mike Dosch explains all about the crystalCLEAR Virtual Radio Mixing Console. If this is interesting to you, go ahead and do it. It's Lawo. That's L-A-W-O. It's a German name. L-A-W-O.com, and then look for the radio consoles and look for the crystalCLEAR. And right on that page for the crystalCLEAR Radio Console, you'll find a link to that video where you can just get the complete demonstration. Check out if you would. A pretty cool idea. And now that it's AoIP, compatible with the rest the world that is the AES-67 compliant. All right. Thanks to Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right. Chris Tobin is with us. And Chris, you and I are going to listen a bit while John Bisset gives us some ideas and tips and tricks. And I've got feeling that John's going to ask us some questions too, so we've got to pay attention to the show.

Chris: Fair enough.

Kirk: John, you wanted to start out, I think, with a subject of the most useful tool or tools to have. And you and I talked about this before the show, and I gave you a couple ideas. And well, my answers weren't fitting what you wanted to hear. So why don't you . . .

John: Your, your answers were somewhat dated. Like mine were.

Kirk: Like me.

John: Exactly. Exactly.

Kirk: My most useful tool is a butt set.

John: There you go.

Kirk: That's not what you had in mind, though, so talk to us about the one tool you need to have.

John: Well, there are several of them, Kirk. But I'll tell you what, before I get into that, I want to give Chris equal time. Chris, on the top of your mind, what would you say is the most useful tool that you've had as a broadcast engineer?

Chris: Well, it was either my Simpson 260 Meter or my newest Fluke DVM is one of them.

John: Okay, very good. And Simpson 260 was one that I had listed down here. But one that I think is even more important than that is a cell phone with a camera on it. Stop and think about this. How many times have you been into a piece of equipment, trying to identify something and you're either not able to get your head in there to see yourself what it is, or you contact customer service and they tell you that, "Hey, do you have a camera? Can you take a picture of this thing and e-mail it to me so I can see what it is that you're looking at." So, cell phone cameras are really useful. Kirk, you were telling me that you took one up on top of a tower when we were doing some STL work.

Kirk: Sure. I live dangerously when I do tower work, which, sure, I carry my $700 Samsung Galaxy Note phone up with me. But it takes great pictures. So I was doing some tower work last summer and I wasn't ready to move my STL dishes over to the new tower yet. I was busy putting up coax and I didn't have the connectors yet, so I had to go back, well, a couple days later and put the connectors on up the tower. It was just a fault of opportunity that I had to do in that order. Normally, you put the connectors on while you're on the ground, conveniently and then pull the coax up, but I couldn't do it that way.

So I took some pictures of the coax just to help remind myself which one was which. I had pulled the coax up such that the labeling on the coax was in line with going up the tower, and the other one was in line with coming back down the tower. I had to make a note as to which was which. Aha, this is for going to that transmitter site, and this one's going to that transmitter site. But taking a picture was very helpful.

Also, I take a picture to help explain to my business partner why we need to spend some money on this or that. Oh, boy, I'm glad you mentioned the cell phone. I have a blower in a tubed transmitter that is failing. And I wanted to get a clear picture of the label on the motor so I could order a new motor. And I could have written everything down but it's hanging upside down. It's backwards.

John: Exactly.

Kirk: I would have had to get a light. It was just a real pain. So I turned the transmitter off, opened it up long enough to get the camera in there, make sure the flash was working, take a couple of pictures so the flash wouldn't glare too badly, and I could read all the data on the manufacturer's label. And, oh, even better, I guess whether you're using an iOS phone or an Android phone, you can sign up to have that go to the cloud right away. So even if I lost the phone or otherwise deleted the picture or whatever, for me, it's up in the Google world of online storage up in the cloud.

John: Yeah. That's very good. Kirk, you bring up a real good point. I'd like to, to suggest for engineers, by all means, take pictures when you're out at the transmitter site. A lot of GMs don't go out there. They don't even know where the transmitter site is. You see things that they do not see. If you want an idea of the level of support and I guess just a respect that you will earn, let them see a snake. Let them see a six-foot snakeskin. Let them see. Yeah, right. Let them take a look at the squirrel that got caught in the transmitter and fried inside there. And let them see the flames coming out of the top of a transmitter when you hit the thing and you've got a short.

These kind of things that they're able to see will give them a better picture of what your world is all about, that you're not just going out to the transmitter site to goof off or take a nap, that there's some serious things out there. And along with that, whenever I've done work as a contract engineer many years ago, I always took either the program director or the general manager or the owner with me. Believe me, when you turn the power onto a Collins Power Rock and that 15 kilovolt supply you shorted and the flames shoot out of the top of it, somebody's going to change their pants, and it's usually the general manager.

They have no idea what you're going through, and letting them see some of these things really does help as far as the respect that you need and, and like you say, if you need a piece of equipment or if something is broken, let them see exactly what's the matter, and the camera phone does a good job of that.

Kirk: Wow. While you were describing that, photographs are great and we need to use them. But when you have something that's intermittent like that, maybe you take a little movie because if you've got a phone that takes pictures, it probably takes a movie.

John: True.

Kirk: And I was thinking of, hey, let's say that you're an engineer and you're not familiar with how a transmitter might normally be behaving or with the misbehavior that it's showing. Take a movie of the meters wiggling the wrong way or what happens when you turn this control or that control, and send that movie to the support department that you're talking to, or maybe a trusted engineering friend, your Elmer, if you will, somebody who's teaching you about engineering.

And sometimes just by the characteristic of, "Oh, I see that the plate voltage meter is ticking downward some time." Well, that indicates a poor connection that maybe, well, maybe there's some arcing that's going on. Maybe the power is ticking backward. Or maybe the reflected power is ticking upward with audio, or maybe not synchronous with audio. These are all clues. And if you don't exactly know what that means, take a little movie of that happening, and sometimes the way that something is behaving in real time is a real clue to what's wrong.

John: So, an excellent, excellent point. And I think having, having that and not being afraid to share it with other engineers. We're not supposed to know everything. I know we would like to. But the reality of it is there's no know that we can know everything with regard to radio engineering. So that's where, as you said, the Elmer, your other engineering friends, folks at the SBE, or, or even field service.

And let me touch on that for a second. People don't like to use field service because they feel like it's a signal of defeat. I couldn't fix it, so I've got to go ahead and keep working at it. I made it kind of a rule of thumb that if I couldn't diagnose the problem and get it corrected within about 10 or 15 minutes, I was on the phone to the field service people. And here's the reason why. When you buy a piece of equipment, a portion of that cost is figured into field service or customer service on the phone. So if you have a problem and you're not using it, you're throwing away that amount of money. So it's like, look, you've already paid for it so you might as well get some use out of it.

Kirk: Gotcha. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's very true. And in the broadcast world, in our industry, we do expect a certain amount of customer service, support service by phone or by e-mail at no extra charge. In other industries, that's not the case. You're going to pay for everything, every contact with the company. But in, in broadcast, part of that is built in.

Chris Tobin, what are your thoughts at this point? I love the camera idea. If I could just remember to do it more often.

John: There you go.

Kirk: I'd be better off.

Chris: Yeah. I've been doing the camera thing for a long time. I've got several hard drives full of pictures of sites and things I've done. The cell phone, now, just makes it easier. But I would definitely say that's on the list of things to make use of.

Well, I agree with John. I have no problem calling service, the service desk. A lot of times, I mean, I look at it as, "Hey, they do this for a living. They built it. They designed it. They have access to stuff I don't have access to." I was just working on a high-powered UHF transmitter about a month ago and working with two guys, and we got everything working pretty much where it's supposed to. The book was pretty clear. I mean, it could've been better, but it wasn't.

And then, all of the sudden, we realize something else was amiss because we couldn't get the exciter to stay on. The transmitter would come up. All the amplifiers would come up, and everything would make full power. Then, all of the sudden, they would burp. So we called the manufacturer and explained to him what we did, followed the instructions. The first thing out of his mouth, he goes, "Which version of the service manual do you have?" I have the one that was shipped with the box. "Okay. What number?" We give them. He goes, "Mm, yeah. Okay. That calibration alignment procedure you did." "Yeah." "That doesn't work." "What?"

So that was the first conversation of the first call to the service desk to say, "Hey, we're not sure why this works for a while, then stops." And we discovered that the book we have is no longer valid because during the time, I guess, of the manufacturer shipping everything else, changes were made, but the books weren't. So I would suggest if you take over a site or you're at a site, contact the manufacturer now while the boxes are working normally. And make sure you have the most current documentation for it.

John: That's very good. And, and Chris, something else, double-check and see what kind of updates the factory has provided. As something is out in the field and operating, they're going to find that there may be a better way of doing it, and they'll have a service update that you can go ahead and install, which may have some bearing on future problems that you're looking to get solved.

Chris: Oh yeah. Well, I worked at a radio station. It was a 10-kilowatt directional. It was a Continental transmitter, a Doherty oscillator design. And I had a problem and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get it to work right. And I'm going through the book, the manual, and I'm like, "Something doesn't add up." I contact Continental, explained to the guy what I'm trying to do, and he says, "What do you have, the 10 kilowatt? Yeah, give me the serial number." So I go and look at the serial number. It's says Serial No. 100.

John: Okay.

Chris: And I'm like, I'm like, "Oh no. Oh, I know, I know where this conversation's going." Well, that was, as it says, 100 off of the production line. The, the exciter stage has been changed considerably. A lot of changes they found, discovered and made to the box and updates had not been done to the unit over the life of its existence. However, as Continental has always been in the past, they were good enough to send me the information and some parts, and said, "Do this, do this and this, and you should be in good shape and you shouldn't have any issues with that modulation, nor should you be getting a call from the FCC about your very wide band carrier across [inaudible 00:20:52].

John: Yeah, that's not good.

Chris: I was like, "Okay." But the guy I would talk to, he was not retiring yet, but he was coming close, he said to me, he goes, "Oh yeah, I remember those transmitters, the first-generation. They were good boxes, but they were kind of broad, a little more than we thought they should be." I was like, "All right, at least I got him." But it was well worth the call.

Kirk: Hey, John.

John: And Chris, that's such a good point. Let me mention real quick.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Go ahead.

John: You're talking at the service folks. Sometimes when you're talking to them, you won't even get the whole problem out of your mouth before they'll tell you, "It's change R57." And the point that Chris makes that they built this stuff, they designed it and they're servicing it every day, they know what's going to go wrong. So when you call them up and tell them that, "I'm getting this overload light," or, "I'm getting this meter indication" or, "this LED that was normally on, is not on," they're going to tell you exactly what the problem is.

And especially these days where it's not one engineer per station. It's one engineer per three or four or five stations or more. You don't have the luxury of sitting there all day long trying to figure it out. Your job is to get it fixed, and get it fixed as quickly as possible. And if you need to have someone else help you diagnose it, it's just good engineering practice.

Chris: Oh, yes. Yeah. I have a good story regarding that, but I think that Kirk has something. I think we have to do a commercial, or what?

Kirk: No. Well, we do in a minute. But what I wanted to say is that we don't always think to try to share information via a picture, which is what we were talking about. And so, maybe it's if the service department... if a picture will help convey the information that needs to be conveyed or a little movie will, you might suggest to the service department, "Hey, I've got a picture of this thing misbehaving," or "I've got a movie of this thing misbehaving. Can I e-mail it to you?" And, and because the service department they may not think to ask you for a photograph of how it looks.

And by the way, this also kind of has to do, I guess, with remote access too. A lot of our problems are things that we're looking at on our computer screen, the thing's not behaving right. And so, if we can make sure that we have some method of reasonably secure remote access that we can offer up to a support department, or the support department can offer you, like go to support.com where they can look into your computer, with your permission, over an encrypted connection. Then this can be very helpful as well.

John, you said there are several tools that should be our most important ones. And the cell phone, we had a great conversation about the camera in a cell phone. What else might be on your top list of two, three, four, or five different things to have?

John: I've got a couple of others. But first, since you're talking pictures, you can always send them to "Workbench" and earn a little money for your submission. I'm always looking for that kind of tip to help other engineers, and just simply, my e-mail address will take them, and Kirk will provide that later on in the program.

But one other thing that I think is just invaluable for engineers is the Sharpie marker. You can do so many different things with a Sharpie that are going to help you out. And let's start with marking things. It's so important that you have your equipment labeled. Kirk, you were talking about coax, labeling coax with a Sharpie. You can write right on the brass connectors so you know exactly what connector goes to which antenna. Marking coils inside an AM phaser or coupling network, especially where the coil taps are, those sometimes come loose and fall off. And rather than spend half the night trying to retune the network, if you have marked a Sharpie marker on either side of the where the coil clip is connected, you just take it and plug it right back in, and you're back in business. So a Sharpie is another inexpensive but very useful tool.

Kirk: That's a great idea. And sometimes people have different opinions about marking up equipment. And, of course, you can write things down. You can take a picture. A picture is probably better nowadays, now that we have the cameras. But I'm, maybe not always think of the camera. But on transmitters that I have a habit of when the transmitter is operating exactly right, I'll go put a little dot with a Sharpie marker on the meter itself, here's where this meter is supposed to live. This is where, when it's operating right, here's where the power goes, here's where the voltage and the current and a couple of the multimeter things. So here's the filament and, and the grid current or whatever.

And I'll I won't mark it up with a big mark, but I'll just put a little dot there. Now, nowadays, it may be better to take a picture and then print the picture out and post it on the transmitter. That could be better for you. But that's the way that I like to document things, so that I can send somebody to the transmitter site and have them look at it. "Well, it's below the dot now," you know.

What you mentioned, John, about marking equipment is so crucial. I'm on the phone with one of our guys at our stations in Mississippi, and I tell him, "Hey, go to the, the Windows Utility PC in the middle rack." And he'll have no... I mean, there's seven PCs in that rack. And he'll have no idea what it is until, until we used a Brother P-Touch and labeled it, "Windows Utility."

John: Absolutely. And, and I think that falls in line with the Sharpie marker, is the Brother P-Touch. You can use those things for all kinds of labeling. And it not only helps you, but if you have someone coming in, say, you get that vacation time and someone else is watching the place for you, having everything labeled will make things a lot smoother for that person to troubleshoot a problem.

One last thing with the camera phone, I don't want to beat this thing to death. But it just occurred to me when we were talking about how many stations engineers are in charge of, I've talked to several directors of engineering who have maybe hundreds of stations under their belt that they are responsible for. And they put together a photo gallery of each station, the transmitter site, the racks, and the equipment in the studios.

So if there is a problem and it's hundreds of miles away, they can call this up on their computer and they can look and exactly tell the engineer or the operations guy, "Okay. The third piece of equipment down, that's the one I want you to look at. Tell me what it's doing." So you don't have to keep all of this in your head. You've got sort of a cheat sheet, if you will, of folders with all of the pictures of everything in the station.

Chris: I used to do pictures with, with remote kits. People used to laugh at me. Like you had just mentioned.

John: Oh, that's a great idea.

Chris: I used to send out reporters and news folks and sports with a remote kit, simple stuff. I never sent them out with a bag of connectors. I just was not into that. Adapters and stuff, that's just not my thing. So I would take a picture of the complete kit, the way it should be set up, put it on a nice tabletop and lay it all out connected. All the cables had numbers and markings, so you knew exactly what to do.

And that way, I think if there's a panic mode phone call, whoever called into the radio station engineering office, all they had to do is say, "Do you have the book?" "Yes." "Good." "Open it up, look at the picture, tell me that you have this, this and this. What do you have?" And if they couldn't find all the picture parts, then we knew somebody didn't properly pack. And it saved so much time because right away we knew exactly what they had and what they didn't have and how to work around it while they were out in the field. So the pictures do work really well. It's just, got to be smart about it.

Kirk: John, do you recall if, if a station owner in Tennessee named Paul Tinkle, has he ever been a contributor to your column, "Workbench"?

John: Yeah. Yes, he has. That name is familiar.

Kirk: He's one of the guys who preach to take a picture of the remote kit and this is how the stuff goes in. Yeah.

John: That's really great. I've seen people . . .

Kirk: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.

John: ...with the remote kits, Kirk, using suitcases and laying everything out inside the suitcase. So everything is organized. You're not grabbing out of cardboard boxes. And it looks a lot more professional for the radio station in the eyes of the, of the client when you show up and open up this suitcase and pull things out using the foam inserts to hold everything in place.

Kirk: Well, that's the truth.

Chris: It's true.

Kirk: That's the truth. So we have the cell phone with a camera. We have the Sharpie marker. I wouldn't have thought of a Sharpie marker, but you're so right. It makes your job easier. What else? What else might be important to carry?

John: We've got the Brother P-Touch, and let me throw in a little commercial for Sharpie marker. Telos has got really nice fine tip Sharpies. We had them at the NAB last year. I'm pretty sure we're going to have them again this year. And if you get out to the NAB, come on by and we'll get you one. If not, see the Telos field rep in your area and they'll get you squared away. The Sharpies that are fine tipped are really the best ones to use because you can write real small and it's that permanent marker thing.

Kirk: Look, if, if they can take my camera for a second. There it is.

John: Oh, there we go. Hey. Absolutely. Look at that.

Kirk: The last time I was in Cleveland, I broke into the prize closet. Yeah. Got me one.

John: Very good.

Kirk: And these are great for writing notes on your hand. Let's see, part numbers, you know. I do that.

John: [inaudible 00:30:39]

Kirk: I'm sorry, John. Go ahead. I just wanted to show that, yeah, I got one.

John: No, I'm glad you got one. It's interesting, Chris mentioned the Simpson VOM. Volt-ohm meters, well, the digital voltmeters are fine. But the problem is when you're measuring AC currents or AC voltages that there can be a back feed and it'll show you that there is something there when it really isn't, and that can be somewhat misleading. So the analog version of the Simpson voltmeter is an excellent tool to have. It's easy to use, and it's very, very rugged. I would definitely say if you don't have one, get online and take a look and see the units that are out there. I'm sure that you can find some used units that will do just fine for you.

Kirk I'm good.

Chris: They're great for checking transistors and diodes, too.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: Oh, yeah.

Kirk: The tough thing about a Simpson Volt-Ohm Meter is that you have to know how to use it.

John: Well, that one's pretty easy to learn how to use, but the others may not be. But you were talking about different things. And just thinking about this, Fluke is really a neat company with the products that they've come out with. They have a remote meter DVM. And what this is, is the guts of a meter, and the display pops off and communicates with the main unit with no actual wiring. So if you're inside a high-voltage device of some sort and you need to make a measurement, you hook this thing up, you pop the meter off, you close everything up, turn the transmitter on or the equipment on, and you get an indication without your hands being inside, or without you having to defeat interlocks to get inside there.

Two other things that Fluke offers is, I mentioned the volt pen. This is a pen. It looks kind of like your Sharpie marker there, Kirk, but it's got a clear end or a translucent end. And whenever it comes near an AC, the tip of it glows red. So where this is really useful is if you think that there is no power into something and you run this little meter, actually this pen around, and if the tip glows red, you know that you've got voltage there and to watch out so you're not going to get yourself zapped.

Kirk: That's handy.

John: One other thing. Yeah, it really is. And, and in fact, it's funny. I think it was the Texas Association of Broadcasters, a couple of years ago, they provided volt pens to every attendee of the TAB Show. And I thought, "Wow, what a great idea to make sure that engineers aren't going to get electrocuted." So a very good piece of equipment to have. And it's not very expensive. I think it's like around 20 bucks.

Kirk Oh, yeah.

John: I mean, your life is worth more than that, so it's really worth it, worthwhile.

Kirk: Hey, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, the show where we talk about radio technology. We're talking with John Bisset. Chris Tobin is here with me. And John Bisset has joined us. He's the columnist who's been writing the "Workbench" column in Radio World Magazine for years and years and years now. And I thank John so much for providing plenty of tips that help teach me a lot of things about broadcast engineering as I was growing up in the field.

Coming up on the show, we're going to be talking about satellite dish maintenance. This should be interesting. A walking tour of Lowe's and Home Depot. Now, I think I know most everything about Lowe's and Home Depot. But I'll bet you John will tell me some things I've overlooked. Plus, signal flowcharts, and how to get started in AoIP. All that coming up, if we can buzz through it, as the show continues.

This Week in Radio Tech is brought to you in part by the folks at Telos, and the Telos Hybrid is so popular. The folks at Telos just ship, literally, hundreds of these every month. They're very popular. This is the Telos Hx1 and Hx2 telephone hybrid. Now, these are, on the one hand, kind of good old-fashioned telephone hybrids. You plug a POTS line into them or a POTS extension from your business phone system, or from an analog terminal adapter to convert SIP to POTS.

Anyway, you plug a POTS into this. The Hx1 has one phone line and one hybrid. The Hx2 will accommodate two phone lines and two hybrids. And the hybrids, internally, I mean, hey, the connection may be old-school, but the internal hybrid is really sophisticated. It's a Telos fifth-generation hybrid, and that means everything that Telos has learned over the past 30+ years about telephone hybrids and getting the best quality sound out of a phone call and sending audio to the caller, in the best possible way, all that information, all that engineering, has gone into these telephone hybrids.

Now, the Hx1 and the Hx2 are very international in scope. There's a dipswitch setting inside that lets you set the phone line interface, for the characteristics, the official characteristics, for any country in the world. So if you're in France, you may have a certain loop current and a certain voltage that you're looking for, or a certain ring cadence you're looking for, you set it for France. If you're in Russia, if you're in Ukraine, if you're in India, if you're in Singapore, if you're in Canada or Venezuela, you have dipswitch settings for these countries. And that will help the phone interface properly detect when it's ringing, help it go off hook properly, and help it go back on hook properly so that it works no matter where you are, you plug it in and it works.

We have a number of cool things in here like digital dynamic equalization. So the caller's audio is constantly dynamically EQd, trying to get the best audio quality of base, mids and highs out of the phone caller. And this makes for better call-to-call consistency as well. Plus, there's audio processing in the Hx1 and the Hx2 from the folks at the Omnia Division of the Telos Alliance. So the call volume should be always consistent, call to call to call.

There's an option for AES/EBU inputs and outputs. So if you want to hook it up your digital plant, you'd buy the option for AES/EBU inputs and outputs. The internal digital structure is all of a 24-bit sampling with 20 dB of headroom and +40 dBU nominal levels. And all that means it's very professional audio. You're not going to run out of headroom in the digital section to get great audio into or out of it. By the way, you can buy the analog I/O version later on, if you need to convert the AES/EBU version. It's easy, just order the AES/EBU kit, open it up and plug those daughter boards in to give you AES/EBU. The quality of this thing is just amazing.

You go into so many newsrooms around the country, around the world, actually. You go in to podcasters, production areas. You go to reporters' desks. You go into radio stations where they don't have a multi-line phone system, but they might just have one or two lines to put on the air or in production. You're going to find the Telos Hx1 and Hx2. It's that popular.

If you really want bang for the buck, look at the Hx2. You get two hybrids and two lines for a really popular price. And the Hx1 is not bad priced either. Check them out, if you would. Call your nearest dealer or go to the Telos webpage at TelosAlliance.com, click on the Telos label, and then look for the Hx1 and the Hx2 digital telephone hybrids. Awesome stuff. A lot of work has gone into making them sound terrific. I get pictures from studios sometimes from around the country, around the world, and sure enough, there it is, the Telos hybrids of the Hx1 and Hx2, so many times.

All right. Let's move on. Our guest is John Bisset. Chris Tobin is here with us. Chris is in New York where they've missed the snow again, I think.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: And John Bisset is in New Hampshire, where they're getting snow. So [inaudible 00:39:07].

John: That's correct.

Kirk: You may be snowed in for tomorrow, huh?

John: You never know. That's one of the nice things about working out of your home, though. I can't really use that as an excuse.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: [inaudible 00:39:17]

Kirk: Yeah.

John: Let me tell you about one other piece of Fluke equipment that you should consider.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: It's called a Fluke Infrared Thermometer. These things have come way down in price. They're like $30 or $40 now. And where these things are useful is in checking the temperature inside an electrical box, the temperature of the wires where they tie into the breakers. Fires can start. If the setscrews are not tight, you can have problems like that inside phasers, inside transmitters. What you're able to do with this is just point it at a specific component or whatever it is that you're looking at, and it'll tell you what the temperature is.

So you were mentioning keeping records of things. One of the things that you can do is take a record of your inside transmission line, for example, and especially at the elbows where there may be a potential for a split bullet or a problem with a bullet failing and the transmission line failing. Look at the temperature there, and keep a monitor on that every couple of months and see what it's doing. Going up the tower. Measuring the temperature of especially, the rigid line, as it goes up the tower, it can tell you if you are going to have a problem there.

These infrared thermometers, though, are really a lifesaver. And the first time that you find a hot connection where the plastic on the breaker is starting to melt because things have gotten too hot in there, this thing has more than paid for itself because being down, having a transmitter down or having equipment, sensitive equipment down because of overheating is something that you just want to try to avoid at all costs so you don't have to have a problem with that.

Chris: It just so happens I have one right here.

Kirk: Oh.

John: Oh wow, look at that.

Chris: That's because I do a monthly test, maintenance for a TV and FM station here in the city, and I started measuring the temperature of their transmission lines and they all looked at me, like, "Why are you doing that?" I said, "The first place there's going to be a failure is when the resistance builds up. I'm going to find it before it burns the place."

John: Chris, that's so true.

Chris: And it works like a champ.

John: That's great. That's really good. I'm glad to see that you got one and, and that it's been so useful for you. And again, they're, they're a variety of prices. But you don't need a real expensive one, but just to have one. Treat yourself to that and let it help you diagnose problems around the station.

Kirk: Can you take your temperature with that when you're sick?

John: You probably can.

Kirk: Oh, I wish I had . . .

Chris: I chase the dogs around with it.

Kirk: I wish they had that around when I was a kid because my mom had the thermometer that didn't go in your mouth.

Chris: Yes. Yes. Ah, those days.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: I think we all did. Hey Kirk.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: Let's take a walking tour around Home Depot and Lowe's.

Kirk: Okay. Let's do it.

John: Be my student. You know everything about those places, but . . .

Kirk: I thought I did.

John: Well, you probably do. And what you don't know, though, is that they change stock quite regularly. So, what they had, say, in the spring, they may not have been the winter. You can find all kinds of neat things. And one thing that I found that is just really, really useful, especially talking about Chris' remote gear, is these pieces of Velcro that are on a roll that have the hooks on one side and the loops on the other. So you cut the piece of Velcro for as long as you need to loop around the cable bundle. And this is in the plant section. They use them for holding plants or seedlings up to a stake. And it's one of these things where, for five bucks, you've got, oh, I don't know, maybe five, 10 feet of hook and loop Velcro cabling ties that you can customize for all of your stations.

Kirk: Cool. Okay. All right. So, so what else will we find at Lowe's and Home Depot that's, that's going to be helpful? I like the 5-gallon orange buckets at the entrance to Home Depot.

John: Those are helpful.

Kirk: They're good for carrying stuff around, yeah.

John: They're good for a lot of things. One of the other things that I like are the assortment of LED hats that they have, where they have LEDs in the brim of the hat or a clamp-on light that goes around your head so that when you're in dark areas, you can see. These are all LED light, so they're not burning out. And speaking of that, the LED trouble lights. We've all had trouble lights where you drop it and the bulb burns out. Getting the LED ones . . .

Kirk: Are we...I, I think I may have a small example right here.

John: Yeah. Let's see. Hey, there we go. You've been to a Lowe's or a Home Depot.

Kirk: Yeah. And if you get in trouble, you can put the thing on red like that. See. I'm not sure.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: I guess you'd use the red in, what, a darkroom? Oh, if you're piloting a plane and you don't want to ruin your night vision, you'll turn on the red . . .

John: There you go.

Kirk: ...and use that. The only problem is then you don't mark up your aviation maps with a red marker. It won't do any good.

John: That's definitely, true.

Kirk: And this thing is really handy. I forgot that I had it until you just mentioned it.

John: I'm impressed that you guys have these things. That's really great.

Kirk: Well, they're gadgets, man. How can we not have them?

Chris: That's what we do.

John: There you go. There you go.

Kirk: But it's like your cell phone. You've got to remember that you have it to take a picture.

John: There you go. Exactly.

Kirk: I totally forgot I could have used that thing when I was fixing some vacuum cleaners a few weeks ago. And I'm trying to hold a flashlight and fix the vacuum cleaner and stuff. That would have done the job right there. And I've seen the ones with the lights in the brim. I think my wife bought one for her stepdad for Christmas, because it was just kind of cool. But that's a great idea.

John: Yeah. And when I say the walking tour, what you do is just go up and down each aisle, just kind of walking around and just see what they've got and think of different uses for some of the things that are there.

Kirk: Well, but, no, no, no, no, no. That's so wrong. Man, my credit card can't handle that. Are you kidding?

John: [inaudible 00:45:55] very good.

Kirk: I'd fill up three baskets. Three shopping carts.

John: [inaudible 00:45:58] it's true. It's very true.

Chris: You can find some good stuff there. I did recently. Well, last year, I guess it was. I have in my riggers bag, when I'm climbing stuff, I have the come-alongs and they're the nylon. It's 1-inch wide web strap. And recently, we were doing some work up on the Empire State Building and we had to lash down the ladder we were working on, and the guy's like, "Oh, [inaudible 00:46:24], we don't have enough rope." I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no, no. We're going to do it better." And I took out my three little the come-alongs and I said, "Here we go." Strapped it in. Rock solid. That thing didn't move. The guys were like, "This is unbelievable. Where'd you get those?" I'm like, "Home Depot."

Here they are with these huge, huge ropes and, and everything else going, "They're not really tightened down." And I said, "No, this tightened down really nice and it doesn't stretch. It doesn't shift. It stays in place." It was really good.

John: Chris, that's a real good point. And they are. They're really solid. There's another company that has stuff like this on the web. It's called Harbor Freight.

Chris: Yes.

John: One of the things that they have that I picked up when I was doing contract engineering was a stamp kit that allows you to identify copper or identify pieces of metal. These are little stamps that have all the numbers and the letters of the alphabet and you just tap them with a hammer, and you can identify things that way. But you'll find all kinds of great, great tools in there. And the thing that's nice about Harbor Freight, I'm not sure where all the items come from, but they're pretty well built and they're inexpensive, which with today's engineer's budget, is always a good thing.

Kirk: All right. Hey, I've got a question, then. What can I find at Home Depot? Let's say I'm taking apart...Well, I've got a project coming up. I've got a laptop across the room here, and I have to replace the CPU fan in it. And I'll tell you what, there's a video on YouTube that shows how to replace this fan. You have to take everything in the laptop out. The fan is the last thing. You can't get to that unless you take everything else out.

So my question is, what can I, what, what's the best thing to use as a little parts bin that I can put screws, and even better, if it has little sections to it. I lose screws here on the desk, and they fall on the floor and I know there's a better way, something I can put screws in. What do you think?

Chris: Vitamin jar.

John: That works. A muffin tin is good.

Kirk: Oh.

John: And if you've seen these multiple pill containers that . . .

Kirk: Yep [inaudible 00:48:34]

John: ...allows you to hold like seven days worth of pills.

Kirk: Yeah. Okay.

John: Dropping stuff in there. The point is that what's nice with the muffin tin you can always upset that and the stuff goes flying. But with the pill containers, they have a little top that snaps shut. So you've got it sealed until you need it.

Kirk: So these are my screws that I took out on Tuesday. And these are my screws I took out on Wednesday.

John: Got you.

Kirk: That's a, that's a great idea. No. Okay. All right. Good. And I think there are probably other flat cases that have little compartments. That's a good idea. I'll look for that before I begin my project to take the laptop apart.

John: Very good.

Kirk: All right. Hey, are there any chemicals or cleaning solutions that are indispensable nowadays? It seems like I remember we used to use some cleaning solutions that you can't buy anymore. I forget what they are. I forget what we called them, but there is stuff that you just can't find anymore. What's good nowadays for cleaning things? Getting dust and grime off of motors and parts and stuff like that?

John: Well, what you're referring to is Cramolin, which is available if you go over to Europe. I understand that Germany, especially, that it's not a problem buying it over there. But as far as distributing it here in the United States, you're going to have a hard time finding that. The company, Caig, C-A-I-G, and you can Google them. They have a new product called DeoxIT, which does a good job of lubricating. It doesn't work as well as Cramolin, but it's a good lubricant and cleaner. So it will clean the contacts for you.

Kirk: Okay. I was thinking of a more volatile spray that we used to use. It seems like you could buy it from . . .

Chris: Tetrachloride?

Kirk: ...Lauderdale Electronic Labs.

Chris: With tetrachloride stuff?

Kirk: Maybe that was it. Yeah.

John: Well, that could be it.

Chris: Yeah. That was popular. That was used. It smelled like paint thinner, but it was, it was more volatile than that.

Kirk: I'm one of these guys that like the smell of paint thinner, so it never bothered me.

Chris: Yeah. No. I know what you're talking about. There were a couple of them that we all used to use and keep at the transmitter shop or in the studio shops. Yeah.

Kirk: Now, I guess everybody . . .

Chris: Take the paint off the console.

Kirk: ...everybody knows this, but when I was doing full-time contract engineering, and I still have every one of them, I would bring all kinds of parts, popular parts with me to radio stations, and I had tools, specialized tools, and even things to lap heads with to refinish the heads. We don't do that much anymore, but I had all that. And I used fishing tackle boxes to put all the stuff in. I would label the boxes to hey, this is all parts, and this is all RF connectors, and this is all audio connectors. So fishing tackle boxes were very helpful in my engineering career.

Chris: I still have two of mine.

John: And I was going to say, you'll find them, again, at Home Depot or Lowe's. What's nice is if you're ever around the hospital with EMT guys, you'll see that the EMTs use the same plastic bins to store all their bandages and syringes and everything. So they're very, very useful. And Plano, P-L-A-N-O.com is one of the companies that has probably the widest variety. So see about getting something like that. Because you're right, it's nice to have everything organized so you know where it is.

Chris: Well, actually, the more organized you do it, the better you are troubleshooting because you have less time looking for you stuff.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: Well, there you go. I wondered why you were laughing.

Kirk: Yeah. In fact, that Plano or Plano, whichever you pronounce it, that's exactly what several of my boxes are. So they've been terrific.

John: Okay. Good.

Kirk: I've had them for, oh, I struggle to think, I've had them for almost 30 years now.

Chris: I have two of the Planos as well. Mine are orange and white so people think I'm a medic or something every time they see me.

John: There you go. That's great. Clear the way.

Chris: But I purposely did that so they would stand out when I'm at a transmitter site or a multi-use, a multi facility, where there are multiples of stations. This way, my box, I can look across the room and go, "Oh, there's my box." Then I can go grab it.

Kirk: John [inaudible 00:52:50].

Chris: How could somebody have the same one?

Kirk: One topic you wanted to talk about was satellite dish maintenance. Now, look, I mean, maybe I'm being simplistic here, but you keep the snow off the dish. Isn't that about all there is to it, or did you have something more in mind?

John: Well, there are a couple of things here, Kirk, which I think would be useful for viewers to consider. The dish being cleared is certainly one, and with the snow going on outside, it's something that I know people in the Northeast are concerned about. One of the things that you need for that is what we call a roof rake. And you can't find them in Wal-Mart or Lowe's or Home Depot. They've just all been sold out.

There is a company called millerfence.com, and those folks are in Worcester, Massachusetts. And they are making those things like nobody's business. Let's see, the 10-foot one is $60, and I'm sorry. The 5-foot one is $50, and the 10-foot one is $70, I believe. But these things will allow you, they've got a long handle, it'll allow you to get up into the dish and pull the snow out so that you're not scraping the dish and you're not deforming the dish, which is one of the concerns. I've seen engineers go behind the dishes, especially the mesh ones and just start beating them with their hand. And when they're done, they've got all of these lumps in the dish and they can't figure out why they're not getting a signal anymore.

Kirk: Well, their signal went down.

John: Exactly. Exactly.

Kirk: Oh, no.

John Now, the other thing with these is to mark the bolts with a Sharpie marker. So if somebody decides to come and tamper with the dish, turn screws, turn the bolts or something, you know where the bolt was, so you can get at least close to where the alignment was. And then, finally, for tuning in the final alignment, this is a tip that I think is going to be in the second February issue of "Workbench," this engineer took the cable coming off of the LNB and cut it and mounted it on a feed-through that he mounted on the back of the dish.

What this allows him to do now is to break that point and actually plug in to see what's going on, so he's not crawling up on the back of the dish on the ladder, balancing the receiver trying to tune everything in that way. So you can do it down on the ground. And when you're done, you just reconnect the feed-through and you're all set.

Kirk: The feed-through is a great idea. I hadn't thought about that. I tend to...I always make about a 10 or 15-foot jumper, depending on the size of the dish, that goes between the LNB and just the backside of the dish. And I coil it up a couple times, put an F connector on it and then I bring the cable that's going to the building or down into conduit, and bring that up and coil it up a couple times, and hook them together with an F barrel connector.

That way, behind the dish, I've got coiled up cable and I can disconnect it there to, like you said, bring a receiver outside so I can do some tweaking up or aiming of the satellite dish while I'm right, right out there. And it's much more convenient than any other way. Boy, I think I did it the hard way a couple of times, and said, "Just screw this! This is for the birds!" I'm going to just make my cable point in the back. And now if you're in a tough neighborhood like some of my dishes are, you've got to cable tie the stuff up and put it up out of sight, out of mind, out of easy reach.

John: Exactly.

Kirk: When it's time to get it down, there's your connection. But the feed-through is a great idea. I always come down the leg and then go over the edge of the dish.

John: Right.

Kirk: And much, much smarter if I just drill a hole, put just a RadioShack wall feed-through or some kind of little bulkhead feed-through right there and poke that RG6 cable through it.

John: I think they're, like, $2.39 on the sites on the web. So very inexpensive but it'll save you a lot of time. It really will.

Kirk: Great, great. Hey, speaking of time, we're almost out of it. We're going to come back and have one more tip, one more trick, but we'll just have a minute or two to do that.

Our show is brought to you in part by the Axia Fusion Console. It's now shipping, and it is amazing. We're going to, we're going to see if we have a little video to play right here for it. If we don't, I'll tell you about it. If we do, let's, let's roll the video.

[Start Commercial]

Clark: Hi, I'm Clark Novak from Axia Audio, and I'm here to introduce you to the new Fusion AoIP Mixing Console, the newest modular AoIP console from Axia, the company that invented AoIP for broadcast in 2003. Let's take a quick look at some of the unique features found only in Fusion.

After 10 years and more than 5000 consoles, people constantly tell us how attractive Axia consoles are. But a console isn't designed for show. It's made to work in challenging conditions 24 hours a day year after year. Here's a look at some of the actual design choices Axia has made to ensure that Fusion meets that challenge. Some companies cover their console work surfaces with paint, which can rub off, or with plastic, which can tear or be ripped. Not Fusion, its work surface is all metal, solid aluminum. Not only that, its double anodized markings are sealed in. They can't ever rub, peel, or flake off, which means that Fusion will still look as good in five years as it does the day you begin using it.

At one time or another, we've all had the task of replacing light bulbs in console switches. Fusion does away with all that. All switches are lit with LEDs made to keep on shining for hundreds of thousands of hours. Oh, and those switches themselves are aircraft grade, specially sourced and tested by us to sustain millions of on/off operations without failure. So you won't ever have to worry about replacing those either.

Fusion's frame is made from thick-machined aluminum, too. It's RF proof, but also lightweight. No worries about whether your tabletops can hold up. Fusion is designed for drop-in installation and it's very low profile, no giant tub to intrude on under-counter space. Where other consoles use dot matrix readouts for channel displays, Fusion comes with easy-to-read, super high resolution OLEDs above each fader. They show the assigned source, tallies when Talkback or other special features are enabled, and full-time confidence meters to help prevent dead air. Talent doesn't have to wonder whether that caller is dropped or a satellite feed is ready to join, they can see it clearly before they pull a fader up.

No wipers to wear out on our rotary encoders, they're all optical. Some of the most important parts of any console are the faders. One of the reasons faders fail is from dirt and grime and, of course, liquid that falls through the slots in the modules. Fusion's faders are special, premium conductive plastic faders that actuate from the side, not the top. That way, dirt that falls through the surface slots falls past the faders, not into them. They stay smooth and silky, nearly forever.

That's a fast look at how Fusion Consoles are designed to last and built to perform just as beautifully as they look. We'll see you next time.

[End commercial]

Kirk: Thanks, Clark. That's Clark Novak with the folks at Axia describing the Fusion console you can check out. There's a total of four videos where Clark is talking about different design aspects, different workflow aspects of the new fusion AoIP Console from Axia. You can check it out on the web at axiaaudio.com, or you can go to the main site if you want to. That's that telosalliance.com and look for Axia and the Fusion console. Shipping now. It's gorgeous. And hey, we just had a whole bunch of dealers of the Fusion console come into Cleveland. Did a big training seminar with them. And so, hopefully, be able to answer your questions and, and if you want, ask the folks at Axia about the Fusion console.

All right. Let's wrap the show up here. John Bisset, do you have a closing tip or trick for us?

John: I do. And it falls right in line with the Fusion console. AoIP is really kind of growing and growing and growing. A lot of folks say, "How in the world do I get started with this? I may not need to replace my studios." Here are two ideas. First off, using an Axia xNode, which allows you to put analog into one end, and then connect the other end with an Ethernet cable. You can make an audio snake. So you can have four audios in, four audios out going from one location to another. An inexpensive and simple way of connecting up for AoIP and getting you started. And then, later, when you install your AoIP studios, those, xNodes can certainly be used for that.

Kirk, we've got another product that has really been very popular over the years. It was called Profiler, and the new product is called the iProfiler. And what this allows you to do is, basically, air check everything coming into the station or going out of the station, as well as air checking your competition, if you'd like. Using an iProfiler, software with a computer, and with a Axia mixed node, which gives you GPIO as well as audio in and out, you're able to connect all of this stuff together, and very simply start recording your station breaks or either skim it, or keep a full-time logging of your audio, and also look at the audio of your competition.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: So again, it's something that's not real expensive to do, but it'll get you started. And again, the nodes that you're buying are things that you will eventually be using. It will never really go out of style.

Kirk: Awesome, and it's a great building block to have. And our sponsor, Axia, would, would be delighted if you'd get that. But yeah, the Axia xNode can do a lot of that. In fact, the very first use of an AoIP node, John Bisset, was as a snake between a studio building and a transmitter building, separated by a parking lot. And as you might imagine, at the transmitter building, there was a tower, which is a big lightning attractor, and so the multi-conductor cables under the parking lot, well, whatever gear was hooked up at both ends of that kept getting blown up. So they pulled a piece of fiber under the parking lot and just used a little fiber converter to convert Ethernet to fiber and fiber to Ethernet, and hooked up some Axia nodes at either end of that. That was, I think, 12 years ago, and it's still running . . .

John: Amazing.

Kirk: ...just fine.

John: That's great. Well, and Kirk . . .

Kirk: Hey, Chris Tobin.

John: ...with regard to...

Kirk: Yeah, go ahead.

John: ...with regard to the iProfiler, I have a schematic drawing of how to hook all of this up. If our viewers would like a copy of it, please contact me, and a real simple e-mail address, J-O-H-N, the letter P, B-I-S-S-E-T at Gmail.com. And there, you can see it on screen. And just ask for the iProfiler schematic drawing, and we'll get a copy of that out to you and you can take a look at it.

Kirk: Well, we'll put that e-mail in the Show Notes, and folks can jot that down, johnpbisset@Gmail.com. That is the same e-mail address that's mentioned in your "Workbench" columns in Radio World.

John: That's right.

Kirk: So if you want to submit something to John, a picture of something interesting at your transmitter site, some advice on how to handle a problem, then you can just send it to John Bisset at that address. johnpbisset@Gmail.com.

Hey, Chris Tobin, any parting words for us? We've got to go soon.

Chris: No, no. Just if you're going to be troubleshooting and doing work, just keep your tools handy and organized, and you should be in good shape. And don't be afraid to call for support or service, because those folks do it for a living and you don't, so it's helpful. It's a good thing.

Kirk: Yeah.

John: Very good.

Kirk: It's okay to ask directions.

Chris: That's right.

John: Absolutely.

Kirk: Yeah, tough for us guys sometimes.

Chris: Especially if you're doing a 50-kilowatt transmitter and you hit the wrong button. That could be a little . . .

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: I've seen it happen.

Kirk: Yes. Well, I got more education about electronics from the support folks at ITC 3M, at Harris, and at Continental. Back in the day, well, that's where I got a lot of my education. "So tell me again how this solenoid circuit works."

Chris: Yeah. Trust me. I had the same experiences. Yes, exactly. And then, Collins Continental folks, that was where I was getting it early was I'd call them up for, I took over a station. The method that the engineer before me used to keep the plate breaker on was a broom handle propped up against the breaker. And the reason for that was because they said during certain storms or power-out conditions during the summer, that the transmitter would trip, the breaker would trip. I was like, "Oh, that's odd. And usually, if a breaker trips, it means it's an over-current condition, so maybe your currents are too high." "No, no. Everything is fine. It's exactly how it's always been." I'm like, "Really?"

I got there, the plate current was about 200 milliamps, no, I'm sorry, an amp and a half over what the tube spec is. The plate volts were hovering around 5500 volts, when the tube is supposed to be at 3500. So I'm like, "Okay. There's a problem here." And I looked through the books, the old logs, and sure enough, it's been this way for a long time. And I said, "This doesn't make any sense." So I called Continental and I said, "Look, I've got, like, a Rockwell Collins 3-kilowatt FM." A 310Z was the exciter at the time. And the guy goes, "Ooh, that's a classic," he goes.

I said, "Yes, it is a classic, but it's my primary right now. So the, the Collins V1 is the FM 1-kilowatt backup, so I've got to keep this alive." I told him exactly what happened, what I experienced. He goes, "Oh, I know what the problem is. Your transformer is tapped incorrectly for the plate voltage. It's real simple."

I was like, "Really? But there's no other taps in the transformer." He goes, "No. Yes, there are. Did you look at the transformer and notice there were two screws that are not labeled, there's no markings?" And I said, "Yes." "That's what you want to use." I'm like, "Oh, I didn't see that. I didn't see that part of the manual. Sorry. That's the stealth mode, I guess." He goes, "No, no, no."

He goes, "Go in the back and tell me you have the bleeder resistor is on the right-hand side of the cabinet, and then just below them, you'll see two little resistors, and there's a relay box, right?" I was like, "Yeah." "And to the left of that is a huge plate transformer, right?" "Yeah." "And there are five posts for power, but only three of them are labeled and probably tapped." "Yeah." "You want to tap the fifth because your voltage is above." He goes, "We built those transformers because in the Midwest, the voltages vary considerably, so we used to have to change it for folks and tell them just tap it all the way out and you'll be fine. You'll be back in range."

I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" He goes, "No, no. Trust me. I used to build them. You're talking to the guys who used to build these." I'm like, "Do you still work there?" He goes, "No, I'm retired. The guys at Continental called me up and said to give you a call because they couldn't figure out the problem you had."

John: Oh.

Chris: I learned so much from that one conversation, that over the years as I went to places that had the same transmitter, the first thing I would look at is the taps on the transformer. And I kid you not...

John: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: ...I'd tap that transformer the way he explained it, and all the voltages and currents came right in line. I never had to use that broom handle again for a breaker control, but I did use it to sweep the floor occasionally.

John: That's great. Chris, one of the things that's kind of neat about that is those guys could've made a fortune if they had sat down and put all of those things to paper, all of those tips to paper.

Chris: Oh, yes.

John: There were a couple of guys, Ken Branton and J. Fred Riley with Continental.

Chris: J. Fred Riley. Oh my god. Yes.

John: That's the ones, and those guys knew everything. And it just amazed me, the wealth of knowledge. And I think we all had the opportunity to talk to them, we walked away knowing something that we didn't know before we called.

Chris: Woo-hoo!

Kirk: And guys, on that note, we, we, we've got to wrap it up. We are flat out of time. I want to thank John Bisset for being here, being our guest on This Week in Radio Tech. Be sure you look at Radio World Magazine and look for the "Workbench" column in Radio World and get the latest tips and tricks and ideas and things from the field that John edits and puts together. John, thank you for being with us from snowy New Hampshire.

John: My pleasure. I hope we can do it again soon.

Kirk: I would love to. And Chris Tobin, from non-snowy but cold Manhattan, New York City.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: Thank you for being here as well. I appreciate you very much.

Chris: Yeah. Any time. Any time.

Kirk: And if folks want to get hold of you for some consulting, they would send an e-mail to?

Chris: They can send an e-mail just simply to support@ipcodecs.com, and we'll take it from there.

Kirk: You do IP codecs, but other things, too.

Chris: Yes, actually, I have been. You saw the pictures last week of the TV antenna work I've been doing.

Kirk: There you go. There you go. And thanks a lot to Suncast and to Andrew Zarian, producers of the show, This Week in Radio Tech. And our sponsors as well, Lawo and the crystalCLEAR Console, the touchscreen interface console, and the Telos Hx1 and Hx2 telephone hybrids. And then also, the Axia Fusion AoIP Audio Console. Check them all out.

Watch the Show Notes. Tell your friends, please, about This Week in Radio Tech. They'll like you and they'll appreciate you for telling them or reminding them about it. And subscribe if you want to at our website, thisweekinradiotech.com. We'll see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye, everybody.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering