The ability to broadcast from out in the public should be one of your high priorities for your station but making it simple, cheap and broadcast quality are some of the challenges to be posed. I have a large OB coming up where there are expected to be over 20,000 people in attendance. Making sure I have a stable connection to the studio and redundancy options are high in the priorities. Locating a good power source and an internet connection not highly bound by firewalls are all part of the challenge. We’ve managed to locate a small business in the heart of the event that has a simple internet connection that we will be connecting to via a long ethernet cable, wifi as a secondary fallback and 4G if we get desperate. The 4G is not the path we wish to take as we think with the amount of attendees that the mobile network will be congested.
I’ve also been testing our Tieline unit with a SIP VOIP connection. I purchased two Mynetfone WhirpoolSaver lines. These don’t have a DID associated with them as I only need internal user numbers for OB purposes but in essence you can use your OB codec just like a phone hybrid, an outlay just shy of $40 of which you get $10 call credit on each service but don’t use because you are calling the internal Mynetfone user numbers. It’s worth mentioning that the WhirlpoolSaver accounts are marked for residential support. For the mobile phone I have been using an app called Media5-fone which has an in-app buy in for the G722 codec. To explain further, the G722 codec is a HD VOIP codec and can best be explained for customers who are using full Telstra or Optus services and talking to another customer on the same service. These calls sound different because it is like you are right next to the person. Anyhow I set this up during the week with a little assistance from Charlie Gawley from Tieline and the results are fantastic. The only stumbling block is that the local feed from your phone mic won’t come through your speaker because it is just like a phone call but we plan to test through an iRig adaptor early this week which may overcome this issue.
Time for Technorama, rolled around again a couple of weeks ago and it was a blast once more. This time around I went to education day and I finally learnt how to solder correctly, all this time I’ve been heating the solder rather than the wire to put it on! Mike Tobin was legendary in his presentation and an honour to hear Julie Spencer with an obvious passion for what she does. John Maizels as always promoting the nurturing of technologists in the sector. While the programme was a little more basic this year rather than quite advanced technical depth it was quite enjoyable. The trivia night quiz was more of a more technical content nature and kept us on our toes. Melbourne showed off its winter coat but beautiful culture of people. It was good to meet with familiar faces and add a few new ones to the network. As a radio technologist, I find Technorama a vital component to further my education, networking and improving best practice in the sector.
So who else has an iPad 2 still? (Puts hand up). This is probably the best example of a device that is constantly trying to update applications with the latest versions. Many of our devices today have software updates available and I would not hesitate to say the average person has no idea how many they own that have updates available.
But who really makes sure their devices or software is using the latest version?! With each release there is a suite of fixes or additions that we rarely can inform ourselves with. What I would like to know is when should you update? and to be honest I don’t think it is every time. Some devices can be completely stuffed if the update doesn’t apply properly. So I think one of my questions to the Technorama team this year is what should you regularly update, how do you manage versioning and avoid risky business practice?
Perhaps it happens in all workplaces or within community groups? but an Ego of one or more persons can really kill the organisation and vision. I’ve been known to show an ego and I’d have to say I work really hard to be level headed with the vision of the organisation in mind at the forefront as much as possible.
When you come across people who appear to only have their interests and own agenda in place it really drags the vibe and moral to places it just shouldn’t go.
Radio is full of ego but that doesn’t mean it should be that way. What is driving you to do what you do, is it for yourself or is it to foster the success of the organisation? Can you do both without getting a big head?
Over the last couple of years I’ve come to understand that technology development and release is determined with those that have large amounts of wealth. Recently I learned about Nikola Tesla through a documentary video on Amazon Prime and I’m dumbfounded why this genius is not being taught about in the education system. Nikola did exceptional work with electricity, founding AC and even theories about controlling the weather not to
mention concepts of generating free or low cost electricity. On a separate occasion I came across a TV news clip of a man who had built a car that runs on any form of water or the man who created a the most astonishing heat resistant substance that ended up not being shared amongst humanity. My reason for this post is that the works of these people were withheld by government and corporate entities because it would impact the pockets of the elite with their current money making ventures on old technology.
I’m a technologist that wants to share technology that advances the human race with humanity and respect for the universe, not lining the pockets of people with obscene wealth. The title for this post was marked plastic is not fantastic as I believe this worldwide product has caused harm while holding us back from advancement and is a key failing.
Something I have often been disturbed by, particularly in the community radio sector is the occurrence of self importance over the objective of the organisation. If you are a part of a station or you yourself are still referring to your shift as “Your Programme” then this post is aimed directly at you. I see regular posts on Facebook groups of people promoting “their” individual programme and I ask myself why? is the FB group a suitable audience, do they really care about your shift? Sure if it was a networked programme there might be cause for such a post but I fear a lot of the time it is just another post to say hey look at me.
While I have respect for someone that commits to a weekly shift on-air I don’t when it is purely self indulgence without thought of the community movement or objective the station is trying to achieve.
To run a 24 x 7 service is no easy task, particularly when you are trying to improve the art of radio constantly.
- The station on-air format
- Sales Team
- Promotions Co-ordinator
- Content/Music directors
- Traffic Manager
- On-Call Incident Managers / Techs
- Station Operations Management
- Board of Management
So on the weekend I managed to assist Sunshine FM104.9 carry out the stations ‘first outside broadcast (to current management knowledge). I’m generally not good with early morning starts but I managed to wake up at 4.30am for a 7am start! Two things were on my mind, transmission reception and mobile internet reception both of which turned out to be acceptable. 10 Mins before broadcast we lost power due to one of the electricity circuits being overloaded but moved to a more isolated circuit. A remote VNC session to our playout system on our iPad proved to be a little cumbersome in control, the previous app we trialled may in fact be better but we reverted to a laptop which worked quite well.
We were monitoring the off-air feed in between breaks as I’m still to get the return path to the OB site implemented. All in all a really good start to outside broadcasts and a few lessons learned. Those being ensure an adequate power supply, set up an exclusion tape zone to prevent equipment being bumped, have someone at home monitor the station and using a laptop for remote control of playout. Later this week I will listen back to the log recordings to hear what it sounded like.
I think I’ve increased my passion for outside broadcasts and look forward to the next one with the team!
We all dread infections, but take a moment to ponder over what you would do if you lost all your data? I recently came across a backup CD I had with material I had not seen in years with some fond memories within. I can’t elaborate how much I wish I’d kept audio recordings from years gone by as some of them would be considered platinum in sharing circles.
So take the time to ensure you do backups, consider how much rework you need to do if you lost the work between backup periods to determine the period is right for you or your station. The best backup is one that is created and kept offline as well as offsite.
It’s typical to disable real-time virus/malware scanning and internet access on your playout system but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using windows update and doing a scan on it occasionally. Make sure you scan those potentially nasty USB Flash Drives before accessing them.
I’m told that best practice is not to let any internet access hit your playout system if at all possible but really I think that you need to use it at times for outside broadcasts even if it is for limited access periods.
Consider also whether your equipment hardware needs firmware updating as they may have security, bug fixes or new features you are missing.
I’ve worked for some pretty big name companies who you think would be experts in communication, well at least it seems like it on the outside. The truth is though, their internal communication procedures are somewhat shocking. I recall a trainer who I needed to ask a question of, I was told to email him even though he was in the next work cubicle.
Interestingly my first University core unit at Sunshine Coast University was called Communication and Thought. From the onset it was made clear that in person communication is the best as it satisfies all the sensory measures. By the time I left Queensland University of Technology, I was shocked that group communication was down to Facebook groups. Not only is this a really bad way to communicate but all the working documents are held on free cloud utilities, removing the ownership of material from university systems. I really do fear for emerging new starters, accountability and communication techniques are really lacking.
So why am I bringing up this subject personally? I regard myself as generation Y even though I don’t fit the specific birth years. I was one of the first to connect to the internet at school, one of only two students at school to have a mobile phone, email and chat room access. Working in a few phone helpdesk environments I’ve been pushed to solve the customers issue and get them off the phone as soon as possible to ensure department KPI statistics look good.
But, this has led to some very bad habits in terms of reflecting a personal or professional connection between myself and others. I tend to be very brief and to the point within electronic communication, forgetting the personal and nice gestures that can be evidently felt when in person. How have your communication preferences changed? Email, SMS, Instant Messaging, Social Media, Phone Calls, Mail, In Person. Technology may make the communication divide in easier reach but does it help you maintain better personalised and professional relationships.
My first step was to recognise this is an issue and the second is finding a way to gain help with finding ways to address it. Remember how you learnt to write a letter, the format has changed over the years. But who helps you write an email, CV or your social media strategy?
Technorama is always a full on weekend, heaps of like minded radio technologists sharing their passion for professionalism and enhancing their knowledge of best practice. I flew in to Sydney early Friday afternoon and took the opportunity to take up Stephen Wilkinson’s offer of a tour of Hope Media (Old 2WS Site). It was a really good opportunity to see how one of the biggest community broadcasters is assembled and the smart practices they have adopted that can filter down to smaller stations. Stephen and Anthony Eden who I’ve known from early days of stumbling over his blog at mediarealm.com.au were more than gracious with their time. Here are a few snaps that I managed to take.
Technorama was yet again an improvement on the year before, on the Friday evening I managed to get introduced to Jose Auditore who I’ve chat with across through the Radio Green Room Facebook page on many occasions. It was really great to be representing the radio station, nice to hear from others that have heard Sunshine FM and liked what they hear.
While the schedule of the conference is pretty packed, there was a big attendance this year and I find the most value is in networking between people during the breaks. Interesting to hear Chris Ryan from Dubbo explain gray import cd players needing a firmware update by CD that was very difficult to obtain. It was great to chat to the equipment vendors who assist with some financial backing. Good to see Paul Dengate and the On-Air solutions team on board this year. I used to listen to Paul when he attempted to bring a taste of the big capital commercial stations to a few hours on 2MCE while he was studying at university with a programme called “The Rockwatch”, we shared a few memorable moments in his career while he was with 2BS, One FM 96.1 and behind the scenes of Nova, Merrick and Rosso doing a Breakfast OB from the Greenwood Hotel in North Sydney.
A few key points I made of interest during the lineup:
- CBF Grants – Be thorough and prepared, evidence based and understand there are around six experienced assessors looking at your application.
- Community Radio Engineering – Studio to Transmitter link frequencies, partial band reallocation (above 849Mhz). Those impacted will be contacted by the CBF/ACMA to find alternative solutions which may involve being restacked. Emphasise to make sure your links are frequency agile.
- NBN – From all reports not a stable technology in terms of uptime. Interesting side note, Hope Media has two NBN connections with two different providers and Fibre because NBN was so unreliable. Analogue PABXs should probably be retained where possible to ease the transition. Reminder of the use of ATAs and a short conversation explaining the complexity of Fax/EFTPOS/Codecs equipment over VOIP codecs.
- Technorama Toolset – Zenbership for membership signup for stations, tested in a real environment with the Technorama organisation signup. Also the HESK issue tracking system that Damien Spanjer and I used for FM107.5 in Orange was interest to quite a few people.
- Broadcast IT Planning – “Use RAID 1”, consider VLANs in medium to large operations. Safest backup is offsite and offline. Cloud services are still prone to ransomware.
- Documenting your Station & Physical Station Relocation – Chris Deacon gave a great presentation and will be making his slides available on the Technorama website soon.
- Playout Systems – A brief mention of the names of playout systems, more detailed presentation required in my view. Perhaps what to consider when choosing a playout system?
- CD Players – Once again Chris Deacon came to the rescue of those with Denon 635 CD Players and the 3-4 issues that can be rectified with them. It seems still the most sought after professional player no longer in production.
The awards ceremony included awards to Anthony Eden and Tim Borgas, congratulations gents. My heartfelt thanks and applause to the organisers of this great event, look forward to the next one. Thank you to Damien Spanjer, my childhood friend who helped me get from A to B across the weekend.