Workflow is critical to success

Radio Workflow

Lately I’ve been testing out at online Customer Relation Management software for radio stations called Radio Workflow which is free to use for your first radio station otherwise a paid subscription is required. It’s the first time I’ve seen a case study (in their help documentation) of the process from sales right through to invoicing. Concerns over data ownership and implementing manual procedures when the system perhaps goes offline, are on my radar. Anyone given this software a go?

It makes me wonder how many community stations are out there just running jukebox like radio rather than formatting their hours with IDs, sponsors, community service announcements and very importantly music arranged by format rules rather than all these components very randomised. Is there room for a business to come into the market to provide traffic and music logs prepared for at least community stations via some sort of subscription model. I query this because I know quite a lot of stations struggle to get the human resources to do this properly.

 

SMS

I’ve given RDS a bit of a break for now, replacing with another three letter acronym of SMS (Short Message Service). I’ve always wanted to know how to get text messages into the studio on the cheap. So with the help of an old USB modem/dongle, a $2 Amaysim SIM card, a $10 pay as you go plan (365 day expiry) and software called SMS Enabler it has been tested.

Initially I tried a $5 Pay as You go SIM card (365 day expiry) from ALDImobile but it did not permit use with non phone devices, so I now use that in my emergencies kit with a backup phone.

It would appear that I was quite lucky to get my project phone number to include the station frequency within the number. If you don’t like the number allocated to you or the range to choose from you have to pay a fee to a service provider for a premium number then port it across when possible.

In my test so far, if there is not sufficient signal strength the message can get delayed for over an hour or more, although I haven’t worked out whether the baud rate or RTS/CTS flow is required. Not all USB dongles internet connection software will let you see your preferred service provider signal strength and you can only purely notice by the colour or sequence of a light on the modem. Most people would not realise that most of these devices allow for an external antenna to be added if necessary, I know this especially from trying to do outside broadcasts. A common external (outside the building) antenna is the RFI Wide-band MIMO 4G Panel. The text messages are currently set to send to a studio email address but can go to a number of options including on screen window, database, webserver, auto response or text file.

 

Streaming

How many stations out there are just relaying their FM off-air signal to their internet streaming? what’s stopping you from taking it from the station before the transmission path? I’ve been following the tracking of changes from Oddcast to Edcast to Altacast, it’s rather messy. But I found a link to Winamp 5.61 which allowed let me get a copy of enc_aacplus.dll which lets Edcast or Altacast to stream AAC+ or alternatively just Winamp with the DSP plugin will do the job.

Radio Rules!

So as a traffic manager I’m responsible for the scheduling of all sponsorship announcements and training others in the process while liaising with production, sales as well as the content director. The average listener would have no idea how many rules we put in the software or in general our on-air presentation and I dare say most volunteers in community radio have little knowledge as well. Professional stations, particularly in capital cities have very strict rules about what goes to air and when, we call this format and in general it is based on a lot of expensive research over the years as to what works best for the target demographic. Also some stations have changed their traffic departments name to be called airtime management as they were receiving phone calls about road reports, just a little confusion there!

I’m still trying to capture RDS through my rtl2328u dongle, I’ll keep at it until I find a method that works. Interested if anyone else has had any success here.

Hope you’ve had a DABber day!

This week I’ve been focusing on aspects of getting systems back online when they lock up and the complexity of preventing access to playout systems from remote locations while still needing to send info out to the internet!

I’ve also been researching the capability of the rtl2832u dongle, successfully being able to use welle.io although unable to hear the audio due to running windows 7, I was able to scan the band coming from Brisbane. Qt-DAB eventually was the winner sending through a crisp clean signal. Just waiting on an old PCI audio card capable of 192kHz to arrive so I can pull RDS through RTL-SDR, Virtual Cable and RDS Spy. Oh how I feel like a right radio nerd today!

Moving up in the world

It maybe a strange title to give this post, but I think it is rather true considering what has happened over the past few months. I’ve moved up from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast to a beautiful new estate called Brightwater in Mountain Creek just down the hill from Buderim and beside the Sunshine Coast Motorway. Loving the people, the surrounding and all that has come from this great move. I have also started working for Sunshine FM in Buderim, primarily as their Traffic Manager and it is great to work with such a fine team of people. I’ve just managed to order a stack of quality cables from WES electronics in Sydney as I’ve found the quality of product is difficult to acquire over eBay. So over the coming days I will be rewiring a lot of my home connections. I’m going to try and provide more frequent updates to this site, but for the moment I’ll leave you with a pic of myself at the Beautiful Buderim Falls within 10mins from my new home.

Big end of town

So back in December it was about time to get my bone density checkup and I arranged to get a referral so I could have this carried out. At the time of booking I alerted that this was a followup and was given a time. When I arrived I was informed they would do the test then find an appropriate Medicare code. When this did come around they advised because it was not exactly or past the 2 year waiting period that I could not be covered and would have to pay $100 out of pocket. Now for someone that is currently trying to make ends meet through a government benefit this is a big ask. I took the matter up with the agency then eventually the health ombudsman to no avail. The lack of communication from Queensland Diagnostic Imaging was appalling. So now I will no longer use their services and I’m posting this so fellow Queenslanders don’t have to deal with this disgraceful company.

Time to scratch myself

Hi All, well it’s been ages since I did a blog post and I keep putting it off, procrastination at it’s best. I had hoped to do a post each day but it appears to be to much effort for me so I’m going to try and do a weekly update. I carried out a stack of volunteer work with the radio station over the summer and found it to be extremely productive. It was great to work with Damien Spanjer again and the efforts are shown in this video.

2OCB Small Equipment Grant 2015 from Steven Centofanti on Vimeo.

The latest advancement has been to install a Talkswitch PBX and also to use HESK (Helpdesk Web Software) to track all our pending technical tasks. Throw in another round of grant applications, commencement of university assessments and it’s rather busy. I’m finding that when it comes to radio at least, I’m a person who just gets things done, I just get on with it because it needs to be done. I don’t question whether I will enjoy it because someone needs to do it. Big shout out to Shayne McBride (Great Lakes FM), Jamie Campbell (Radio Dungog) and Trent Geddes (2GHR) for their technical advice over the last few months. My latest frustration stems from a lack of support from Tieline and it appears I’m not the only one. If you too are having trouble updating your Tieline Bridge-IT Firmware let me know. Love hearing your thoughts, keep in touch!

A dollar a day

Most of us have had to tighten the budget to make ends meet, I’m sharing this post to perhaps help others and perhaps even get a little help myself. Inspired by my university studies on “Consumption Matters: Consumer Cultures and Identity”.

I use this Australian Bureau of Statistics document to compare my expenditure against others.

http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/CB07CC895DCE2829CA2579020015D8FD/$File/65300_2009-10.pdf

I breakdown my budget spreadsheet using the same categories then by year, month, fortnight, week then day and it can be a real eye opener. Note that I check the ozbargain.com.au website regularly for great bargains.

 

Electricity

I used the government electricity comparison website https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/ to search for a suitable plan for our needs, this way you know there is no one being paid to promote certain plans. I ended up with Click Energy but there are a few noteworthy conditions, bills are emailed, direct debited to get the best discount. If you’re interested in joining them, save even more by a member referral https://www.clickenergy.com.au/about-us/forms/mates-rates/

 

Transport

I make use of public transport here in Brisbane and have a GO card – http://translink.com.au/tickets-and-fares/go-card

 

If I need to make a desperate trip around the city I use Uber

Save with a referral link – https://www.uber.com/invite/stevenc243

 

If travelling to and from the airport, where possible I use public transport for locals:

 

Brisbane: Translink Bus to DFO then free shuttle bus to the airport terminals and vice versa. Beware the shuttle bus only operates during certain times. Saves on paying a fortune on the Airport Train.

http://skygate.com.au/files/airportvillage/Bus%20Timetable.pdf

 

Melbourne: Public bus to Broadmeadows Train station then train to city. Takes longer but saves you a fair bit rather than the Skybus. Again I use a card called Myki for these trips.

http://ptv.vic.gov.au/journey

 

Sydney: No real choice but airport train here, but use an Opal card to save money. https://www.opal.com.au/

 

Adelaide: A couple of times I’ve stayed in Glenelg, there is a public bus to this area to and from the airport.

https://www.adelaidemetro.com.au/

 

When planning flights, I use a number of tools:

 

http://www.skyscanner.com.au/

http://www.webjet.com.au to compare domestic options then book directly through airline website. Try using this link and change the required city name in the link http://www.webjet.com.au/flights/sydney/

The cheapest option is presented by each month, think click through to find what day it is available.

Like the facebook pages of Jetstar and Tiger to be the first to get bargain sales. Note if you must get to a destination in a tight timeframe you are best of with Virgin or Qantas, worth knowing if you need to make a connection.

Try paying through your bank account or direct debit card to increase your savings. Oh and if you find a cheaper flight than Jetstar within an hour of one of their scheduled flights you can user their price beat guarantee policy for a booking http://www.jetstar.com/au/en/what-we-offer/our-guarantees/price-beat-guarantee

 

Food/Groceries

I buy groceries from Coles as I prefer their product range as well as getting a discount as a member of our house is a staff member. We plan our meals in advance for the week and only buy what we need generally. We pop it into the Coles mobile app by searching or scanning the barcodes then we tick them off the app as it guides us by each isle in the store. We also use Flybuys to get greater discounts on our shopping. Note that anything you purchase and swipe with your flybuys is saved to the app so you can select it for future shopping lists.

https://www.coles.com.au/customer-service/coles-app

I buy some staples through ALDI and where it is possible some bulk items through Costco. Always buy dishwasher tablets in bulk through catchoftheday.com.au or eBay resellers. I also buy batteries through catchoftheday.com.au.

 

When going out for a meal we use Zomato to compare places through reviews https://www.zomato.com/

 

Education

I purchase my textbooks second hand through Amazon.com where possible, takes a few weeks but huge savings.

 

Ink & Toner, always buy generic through ebay.com.au and save a fortune.

 

Hotels

Booking.com is my preferred site to book hotels

 

Furnishings

I generally buy new furniture from Super Amart or Ikea, rugs through eBay. Haven’t had to buy an appliance for a while but I’m tempted by appliancesonline.com.au best price guarantee and other aspects of their operation http://www.appliancesonline.com.au/our-prices.aspx

 

Communications

Internet

I’m located in an area that has a piece of technology called a RIM which essentially means that I have to use a Telstra ADSL2+ landline service with a traditional phone service connected. If you are connecting up anywhere I recommend Internode as your first company to call, their staff are quick to tell you what is technically available, they also resell aspects of the Telstra network. The staff are at a call centre in lovely Adelaide and in my experience are lovely to deal with. I am however considering switching to Belong when my contract is up do to a shorter or no contract period at a cheaper rate. If I had the Optus network available I would choose a company called Eftel although I don’t like supporting Optus as I believe they are still owned by the Singapore Government. Be careful when selecting services particularly unlimited plans as their contention rate differs (too many users online affect your speed).

 

Phone

Landline

I use a Voice Over Internet Protocol VOIP phone line service using a Mynetfone Neosaver plan https://www.mynetfone.com.au/whirlpool/VoIP/Plans

I don’t have my number listed at no cost and have enjoyed not having Telemarketers interfere with my life.

 

Mobile

I’m with Vaya using the Optus 4G network where available on a Power Plan 18. http://www.vaya.net.au/?option=Mobile&4Gsimonly&plan=Power%20Plans

I buy my phones second hand through amazon.com

 

Health

To find a private health plan I use the government comparison website, rather than paid comparison sites. http://www.privatehealth.gov.au/dynamic/compare.aspx

 

I’m lucky that I have a local pharmacy that collects scripts at a nearby box in an estate and then delivers them next day charging to my monthly account. I buy PBS through them and buy anything else through Chemist Warehouse.

 

Recreation

TV/Movies/Music

I’m a Netflix subscriber and also purchase itunes cards on sale for use with Apple TV, I keep an eye on Harvey Norman 2 for 1 sales.

 

When watching movies in theatres, I try to choose Cineplex cinemas as they are much cheaper and have limited free parking available.

 

Banking

I use Westpac and ING Direct, I will never return to ANZ after their disgusting treatment.

 

I have Mastercard and Visa debit cards along with Mastercard and Amex credit cards of which I earn Qantas Frequent Flyers and rebates on the Amex. Note that I use either the Qantas Frequent Flyers of Virgin Velocity rewards sites before proceeding to purchase at online stores such as eBay so I gain frequent flyer points.

Come together right now…

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One of the things I find peculiar about community broadcasting in this country is that with the largest number of radio stations in the industry there doesn’t seem to be much personal networking happening. Technorama was a great way to find out what other stations are doing and learning from their experiences. The amount of time and money that could be saved if this kind of personal networking was to rise would be extremely beneficial.

Recently, I was advised that an air conditioner unit at 2OCB was at the end of its life. The unit had always been incredibly noisy and not fit for a broadcast environment. I recalled seeing the units that 2MBS was using and noting how super quiet they were. I contacted Peter Bailey at 2MBS to enquire a make & model they used in which he willingly advised Temperzone and model OSA65RKSH. I passed this information onto management to investigate further. Simple information like this can go a long way to benefit others in the sector.

I’m currently studying Enterprise 2.0 at university and the rise of applications within organisations to spread innovative and constructive advancements in processes. I recall a conversation with Stephen Hahn a few years ago while with Joy FM in Melbourne surrounding the suggestion of having a knowledge base interface at the CBAA which reminded me of the old A-Z handbook that used to be managed by them. We used to have a Forum and Wiki on the CBAA website but these have disappeared. I’m interested in introducing tools to benefit the sector and reduce the impacts on our time, finances and other resources.

While I wasn’t impressed with the efforts of AMRAP in providing websites for stations, I think there is room for a customised WordPress theme to be developed for stations that could be made available sector wide.

Ebay Wonderland

One of the sites I just could not do without is eBay, I love shopping for bargains through this website. You can obtain items at a fraction of the cost of paying retail in store. I recently wanted to buy a digital scale to weigh my luggage for trips to avoid excess baggage fees, I priced them in the stores from $30 – $60. A short time on eBay and I had one with delivery for around $3! Ink & Toner, forget retail you will pay ridiculous amounts. Sure, you will find most of these items to be generic but if you want to print something quality then use the professional services of something like Officeworks. You can also setup eBay to give you email alerts when new items meet your search criteria.

Tech Spread

I’ve just come back from holidays so there has been an absence in posts. I love to fly but increasingly I have to way up the benefit and cost factors of the trip. I would like to go to the SMPTE conference later this month but weighing up the costs involved I have made the decision to have a friend attend and have them ask a few questions of Axia for my benefit. I’ve also been pretty envious of Hope Radio in Sydney with their latest radiothon achievement. 2CBD continues to ask for a voiceover for their clients and I’m only too happy to send reads through for them. The latest is here