Friday, December 29, 2006

KERA 90.1 FM is cool

I got to visit the studios of KERA radio and TV today. They're the main public radio and TV outlet for Dallas. Sweet building, indeed. Cool folks, too.

I had a moment of professional pride when I instantly recognized the look of their studios as being done by the fine folks at Russ Berger Design Group. Distinctive design, and acoustically very nice, too. KERA does their own daily talk show called "Think" and the layout is very well done for that role...unfortunately I wasn't able to hear the show (they're on vacation this week) so I'll have to check that out on the web next week.

In other news, Dallas got hammered with thunderstorms today...made for hairy travelling but a cool celestial light show. And of course, Saddam Hussein was executed a few hours ago. I'm not sorry to see him go, but I do think the Boston Globe has a good point in their editorial "A Reason to Keep Saddam Alive". Honestly I don't know if that would've been reason enough for me...especially after seeing what a mockery of justice the Slobodan Milosevic trial was. But certainly that editorial gave me pause, even if it didn't give a pause for Saddam.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Edy's and Dreyer's Ice Cream

I thought Texas, as a state, was just fucking with me again whilst I was at CVS today and saw "Dreyer's Ice Cream" that looked exactly like my favorite "Edy's Ice Cream". A quick Google search revealed that the company markets the ice cream differently to each half of the US.

I suppose this isn't that funny to an outside observer, but considering how much I consider Texas, as a state, to be constantly fucking with me...well, my wife burst out laughing anyways.
Damn this state.

And I just KNOW that Texans like fucking with us New Englanders. Oh they do, I just KNOW it. :-)

Frickin' Christmas Lights!

I know this is dumb, but damned if I can find any christmas lights with both white lights AND white wires. The wife and I want some to use for lighting in our living room (which doesn't have an overhead lamp). But we haven't been able to find any...not even searching all over Boston for three weeks before Christmas.

Now we're visiting the family in Dallas, and there's none of these damn lights here, either! Not that many lights, period, either. Real dearth of them this year; go figure.

Friday, December 22, 2006

More partisan meddling at CPB?

Okay, I freely admit that it's possible I'm reading too much into this. After all, this is a quote from a newspaper. And it's a "juicy quote", meaning some reporter or editor saw a quote and realized it made the person look really good/bad...and that's the sort of thing readers just eat up. Never forget that newspapers exist to sell themselves, not to educate readers. Ditto for radio and TV, I might add...but I digress.

That all said, here's something Warren Bell said to the LA Times about his recess appointment by President Bush to the board of CPB. Bell's nomination had been stalled in the Senate since September, no doubt due in part to Bell's reputation as a staunch conservative and his (apparently) total lack of any public broadcasting experience.

Here's the "juicy quote" in the LA Times article:
Bell, executive producer of ABC's According to Jim said in an
interview that he hopes to strengthen public broadcasting during his time on the
board. He added that the nomination process "has not been a lot of fun."

"The whole thing completely blindsided me," Bell said. "I don't think I was remotely aware of what a hot spot public broadcasting is politically."

Okay, so you've got a guy who's just been appointed to the CPB board, and he wasn't even "remotely aware" of what a hot spot public broadcasting is politically?!?!? Give me a break! Especially after all the brouhaha over Ken Tomlinson.

I hope Bell will decide to learn from the experience and try to do his best to accomplish what's good for CPB, but I'm not holding my breath. Bush appointees historically have seem determined to do only one thing with CPB - destroy public broadcasting. And it's obvious Bush is trying to "sneak this one in" before the Democrats come in to the Senate and kill any chance of Bell making it in.

sigh

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A little bit about burning audio CD's

I could fill a novel about all the vagueries about burning CD's, but here's a fairly quick tip on the subject. If you're burning audio CD's, there are three key rules to follow, and you'll get a good burn every time:
  1. Never burn at faster than 16x. Burns done faster than 16x will have errors. Data CD's can usually be safely burned as fast as 52x because CD-ROM drives have lots of error correction built-in. Audio CD players don't have that error correction, and they'll make a bad burn play audio that sounds like it's underwater...if it plays at all.
  2. Always use high quality CD blanks. There are varying options, but Taiyo Yuden blanks have been consistently good quality. They can be hard to find, and sometimes they're re-branded and sold under another name. But I've found that Taiyo blanks are consistently the best. Try searching for 'em on Amazon.com. One caveat, Taiyo's can't be burned slower than 8x. It's odd but true...use the Taiyo's, but burn somewhere between 8x and 16x.
  3. What burner you use DOES matter. Like the CD blanks, makes & models tend to vary...and what's the best today may change tomorrow. But Plextor tends to make very good CD burners. Equally important is that CD burners do eventually wear out, too. If you burn a lot of CD's, you can expect to start seeing bad burns when the drive is starting to die; time to order a new one...they're usually under $100.
I routinely have to burn 50-100 audio CD's every week, using a automated duplicator/printer. Over the past two years, that means thousands of CD's. After I started following those three rules, I've had maybe a half-dozen (only a half dozen) bad burns. Hard to argue with that success rate! :-)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Who was that masked man?

I got to play Tech Director at Living on Earth today. They're a few stops up the Red Line subway from us, and their TD had jury duty today...poor bastard. :-)

Since my regular job had a slight problem with fire last Friday and is kinda shut down today, and since I already knew their setup, he asked if I could fill in for him. No problemo, my man.

It was kinda fun, actually. Not that I loathe my current job or anything, but it's always fun to see how other folks do the same thing you do...it's not unlike going to a conference. Speaking of which, if you're thinking of going to NAB in Vegas in April 2007 (and you damn well ought to be thinking of that!) then you'll want to book your flights and hotels right away. Even Vegas fills up amazing fast when there's 130,000 radio and TV geeks descending on it for a solid week...last year at this time NAB-reserved block was already booked at 53% capacity a full four months in advance!

It'll be a hot time in the old towne tonight...

Well, don't count on as many blog posts over the next week or two. As you may have heard, the building where The Infinite Mind's studios are located had a major fire on Friday. Fortunately everyone in the building got out okay, although sadly an NStar technician died (see below) and about 100 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Those of us at Infinite Mind are shaken but otherwise okay.

A quick visit on Saturday seemed to indicate that our space escaped any major damage from smoke or fire. We won't know for sure for several more days; an NStar utility worker was killed in the transformer explosion that caused the fire, so a full investigation is being done. Plus, since it was a transformer fire, there's a risk of all sorts of toxic chemicals (PCB's, asbestos, etc) having been dispersed throughout the building by the smoke. Again, so far initial reports are that we're lucky and there wasn't any toxic chemical fumes...but the tests won't be done for several days. So the building is completely closed...we can't even get in to get our equipment out. Until then, I'm working from home and scrambling to keep the bases covered.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Verizon Razr V3M

My wife's old Motorola V400 (cingular) cellphone's charging circuit died over Thanksgiving. It wasn't the charger...the phone itself just wouldn't recognize that a charger was attached. Well, it was over 3 years old, I suppose.

Seizing the opportunity to dump Cingular (and it's obnoxious GSM audio interference) we picked up a pair of Razrs through Verizon's website for $50 on Black Friday. The phones arrived a few days later, I thought I'd share some early impressions...
  1. Yay! No more dit-dit-dit, dit-dit-dit, dit-dit-dit interference!
  2. Yay! Good reception at work, both me and the wife!
  3. Boo! Verizon really cripples the OS of the phone to drive you to buy Get it Now crap. Emailing and web surfing is very hard to do.
  4. Boo! The UI is nowhere near as good as the V400's. Not sure if that's a Verizon thing or whether Motorola screwed up, but it's bloody hell annoying. Texting is much harder.
  5. Boo! Web surfing is very limited; chews up minutes unless you're on nights & weekends
  6. Yay! Call quality is definitely better...more signal and generally fewer lost calls so far.
  7. Yay! WE HAVE SIDETONE!!! YAY! YAY! YAY! My wife & I aren't shouting into the phone because we can't hear ourselves anymore!
  8. Yay! Phone is definitely slimmer and more comfortable in the pocket. This is a big deal for me, since now I can leave my phone set to "vibrate" instead of "ring" all the time. A V400 on vibrate is useless when you have to carry it in a belt pouch (I couldn't find a holster that lasted more than a few months; fragile POS's).
  9. Meh! Voice dialling. I liked the V400's method of letting you record a phrase and assigning it to a number. The Razr literally just reads your voice, but that means you have to know how to pronounce (or how the Razr pronounces) every name in your phone book...first and last.
  10. Meh! Camera. It's definitely better than the V400, but at 1 megapixel it's not really "great" either. I don't really use the phone for camera things, though.
  11. Not tried. MP3 player. This appears to be really crippled by Verizon as well, but supposedly the Razr makes a decent MP3 player if you add a 1GB (max) Micro SD card. It's no iPod though.
  12. Not tried. Bluetooth wireless high speed modem for your laptop. Looking forward to trying this out over Christmas with the inlaws in Dallas.
  13. Yay! Bluetooth headset. The teeny little Jabra headset Verizon tossed in for free actually works surprisingly well. It's fairly comfortable, has decent talk time, is reasonably loud, has a good mic, and yet is really tiny. It was a little hard to set up but not too bad...once I got it working it works fine. I don't think I'll ever use it all that much but for free it's a great deal. :-)
  14. Boo! Games. Not impressive so far, but my wife uses them a lot more than me. We'll see what she thinks in a few weeks.

I'm planning on trying some SEEM hacks pretty soon with this bugger, seeing if I can get around the Verizon crippling. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Final judgement? As of now it seems like the Razr is a superior phone but as an all-around platform (which most cellphones are these days) it's kinda lacking. Since I really need it for a phone more than anything else, I guess that gets the job done!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yet more Radio Shack and HD Radio

Just a quick one this time...this weekend I discovered my local Radio Shack now has an Accurian model HD Radio on display sitting next to the Boston Acoustics Receptor HD model. Even though they had the rabbit ears antenna I helped them hook up still attached to the Receptor HD, the Accurian had NO antenna connected to the FM co-ax jack and a twisted loop of speaker wire (what the hell?) attached to the leads for the AM antenna.

Not surprisingly, there was zero HD reception on the AM band, and even after I popped on the rabbit ears there wasn't very good FM reception either. At least some FM stations came in on HD, though...I put the rabbit ears on the Accurian and left it tuned to WBOS HD2 since they were playing an Everything But the Girl song I liked.

Friday, December 01, 2006

MBTA Google Map

One more quick MBTA note before the weekend - I found this handy Subway Map / Google Map mashup not all that long ago. It's quite convenient b/c it shows where the subway stops are in relation to a street map. Something few maps provided by the MBTA itself actually do.

God help the Green Line

So the much-ballyhooed MBTA "CharlieCard" is due for a head-on collision with us starting next Monday. This is the RFID-based "smartcard" for fare collection...the final stage of the process that killed off the not-quite-beloved "T Tokens".

I dig the idea of smartcards, but I gotta say the entire process has been a giant fiasco. Two glaring issues bubble up the top...one I dealt with this morning. The first is that the automated gates are way too easy to fool; you can squeeze three or four people through in one opening of the gate and the gate has no idea. Prevent fare-loss my ass.

Second is this morning's travails...my Green Line trolley had one of those new fareboxes that are complete crap because you have to carefully feed in the coins one at a time. No easy task when there's a queue of a dozen angry commuters behind you, and you're wearing winter gloves. The dollar bill accepter is very similar to a vending machines' and you all know how well those damn things work. It's basically saying "if you want to pay cash, go take a taxi and get the f**k off the subway".

Fortunately I possess a monthly pass which is a pretty quick swipe-n-go. But the poor bastard in front of me was still trying to put his coins in after he'd gotten on at the stop before mine! Finally the T driver shooed him away saying "Let's get a move on - it's Friday!" Prevent fare loss my ass, again!

Sigh I'd like to think the MBTA is at least trying to make things better. Between the fare increases and this crap, I somehow doubt that's the case. :-(

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Unlock that Cellphone!

Ever seen a really cool-looking cellphone and then heard the dreaded "available exclusively from (insert wireless carrier here)". You're bummed, man...you dig that phone but you know that Verizon doesn't work in your apartment. Or that T-Mobile's coverage stinks in your office. Or that Cingular really screwed you over when they bought your AT&T Wireless service.

Well, apparently you don't need to worry about that anymore! CNN is reporting that the US Librarian of Congress James H. Billington approved new rules that allow owners to break software locks on their handsets in order to use them with competing carriers. It should also allow certain features that may be inherent to a phone, like MP3 playback, to be unlocked if the wireless carrier (or the RIAA) decided that they didn't want you to have that feature.

The rules were announced on Wednesday Nov.22 and are in effect for the next three years, at least. Call up your cellphone provider and demand the unlock codes today!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who Needs Vinateri When You've Got WMWM in the Clutch!?!?

Now this is what college radio is all about. Apparently the recent sale of local AM station WESX left the annual Thanksgiving Salem/Beverly high school footgame game without a signal to broadcast on. This game is a big deal in these suburbs of Boston...it's a VERY old rivalry (started in 1900) between the two towns' high schools.

But with less than 48 hours notice, brave volunteers and students for Salem State College's WMWM 91.7FM set up a deal with MooreStuffOnline to simulcast their web feed so everyone got to hear the game! And this year, in stereo FM no less!

Congrats to all on a job well done!

Congrats also to Stephen Gostowski; the Patriots' kicker nailed a 52 yard field goal this weekend against the Bears...longest of his career!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Git-R-Done!

Lately I have seen a few examples of several companies getting so hung up on the details that they're not getting work "out the door". Some of these are small companies, others huge corporations.

The context on the reports I've seen is that this is a bad thing. The counter-argument is that it's better to not put out anything than to put out sub-standard work.

Personally I think it's usually better to put out something rather than nothing...but I can see both sides' arguments. What's your take?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More Radio Shack and HD Radio

I hear Radio Shack will be selling the Accurian tabletop HD Radio for $99 on Black Friday and the weekend. Quite separately, (and not through RS) the Sangean HDT-1 is alleged to be available commercially by Christmas.

Don't expect the Accurians to be in stores, though...the top few thousand RS outlets might have them but not the rest. Call ahead or just order off the website. I have seen the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD in RS stores, though.

I have heard from reliable engineering sources that both the Accurian and Sangean radios are pretty good. The Accurian's speakers leave something to be desired, but it should be a good kitchen radio (it doesn't have an alarm clock so not much good for the bedroom). The Sangean supposed has lots of nifty little engineering/techie indicators of signal-to-noise and whatnot that'll make the geek in you very happy.

Methinks I'll have myself a nice HD Christmas this year!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Clear Channel's loss could be College Radio's gain?

Let the feeding frenzy begin! With this buyout, Clear Channel is divesting itself of dozens of stations across the country. Supposedly none of them are in markets above Arbitron #100. But that could mean that a decent signal could be up for sale near your college, quite possibly for "cheap".

Of course, it'll still be many thousands (more likely 100's of thousands) of dollars. But the reality is that's still cheap for a decent AM or FM signal. And since you pay once for an item that reaps benefits immediately and continues to reap them for decades...it amortizes nicely. A perfect candidate for a capital campaign, no? Remember, it doesn't matter if you want a non-commercial/education station; the FCC allows you to make a station in the commercial band (92.1-107.9) into a NCE if you want. It's just commercial operations that can't run in the NCE band (87.9-92.1).

Below is a list of markets that CC has filed with the SEC that they have intentions of selling a station(s) in. Check it out, if there's something near your college...start talking to your college administration!

(Thanks to John Devecka via the CBI listserv for this list!)
Boise, ID * Market 203   1A   108
Lancaster, PA * Market 393 1A 113
Victorville, CA * Market 344 1A 127
Reading, PA * Market 147 1A 131
Shreveport, LA * Market 208 1A 132
Burlington, VT * Market 337 1A 136
Fayetteville, AR * Market 267 1A 141
Salisbury, MD * Market 347 1A 146
Ann Arbor, MI * Market 350 1A 147
Tyler, TX * Market 288 1A 149
Albany, OR * Market 230 1A 150
Montgomery, AL * Market 300 1A 151
Huntington, WV * Market 329 1A 156
Rome/Utica, NY * Market 151 1A 159
Poughkeepsie, NY * Market 339 1A 162
Anchorage, AK * Market 248 1A 172
San Luis Obispo, CA * Market 384 1A 173
Lincoln, NE * Market 273 1A 176
Fort Smith, AR * Market 268 1A 177
Binghamton, NY * Market 245 1A 179
Lebanon, NH * Market 392 1A 180
Lubbock, TX * Market 284 1A 182
Midland/Odessa TX * Market 286 1A 188
Tupelo, MS * Market 379 1A 189
Amarillo, TX * Market 277 1A 195
Yakima, WA * Market 242 1A 201
Tri-Cities, WA * Market 407 1A 202
Duluth, MN * Market 424 1A 204
Santa Barbara, CA * Market 186 1A 207
Medford, OR * Market 231 1A 212
Bangor, ME * Market 352 1A 216
Fargo, ND * Market 361 1A 223
Laurel, MS * Market 381 1A 227
Rochester, MN * Market 371 1A 230
Charlottesville, VA * Market 174 1A 231
Muskegon, MI * Market 375 1A 232
Marion/Carbondale, IL * Market 380 1A 235
Eau Claire, WI * Market 348 1A 242
Abilene, TX * Market 360 1A 243
Wheeling, WV * Market 330 1A 248
Lima, OH * Market 220 1A 249
Parkersburg, WV * Market 410 1A 249.1
Battle Creek, MI * Market 294 1A 258
Billings, MT * Market 403 1A 260
Wichita Falls, TX * Market 387 1A 261
Texarkana, TX * Market 287 1A 262
Augusta, ME * Market 377 1A 266
Williamsport, PA * Market 159 1A 269
Sioux City, IA * Market 395 1A 272
Mankato, MN * Market 370 1A 273
Lawton, OK * Market 276 1A 282
Cookeville, TN * Market 107 1A 284
Bismarck, ND * Market 211 1A 285
Grand Forks, ND * Market 244 1A 287
Jonesboro, AR * Market 374 1A 289
Cheyenne, WY * Market 240 1A 290
The Florida Keys, FL * Market 123 1A 291
Mason City, IA * Market 372 1A 292
Meridian, MS * Market 408 1A 295
Casper, WY * Market 239 1A 297
Ashland/Mansfield, OH * Market 369 1A NR
Ashtabula, OH * Market 368 1A NR
Bozeman, MT * Market 404 1A NR
Burlington, IA * Market 197 1A NR
Centralia, WA * Market 237 1A NR
Chillicothe, OH * Market 214 1A NR
Defiance, OH * Market 217 1A NR
Dickinson, ND * Market 363 1A NR
Fairbanks, AK * Market 249 1A NR
Farmington, NM * Market 262 1A NR
Findlay/Tiffin, OH * Market 218 1A NR
Fort Dodge, IA * Market 200 1A NR
Frankfort, KY * Market 411 1A NR
Gadsden, AL * Market 298 1A NR
Gallup, NM * Market 362 1A NR
Laramie, WY * Market 420 1A NR
Lufkin, TX * Market 285 1A NR
Marion, OH * Market 222 1A NR
Minot, ND * Market 246 1A NR
Missoula, MT * Market 405 1A NR
Ogallala, NE * Market 274 1A NR
Pocatello, ID * Market 204 1A NR
Randolph, VT * Market 390 1A NR
Sandusky, OH * Market 223 1A NR
Shelby, MT * Market 406 1A NR
Somerset, KY * Market 391 1A NR
Springfield, IL * Market 292 1A NR
Twin Falls, ID * Market 206 1A NR
Victoria, TX * Market 289 1A NR
Yuma, AZ * Market 260 1A NR




Thursday, November 16, 2006

AM Radio Antennas

Lost in the 20+ years of ever-shrinking radios is the importance of the antenna.

Remember the antenna? Yeah, that wire that comes out the back? Looks ugly? Usually you stuff it behind something else?

Sigh Yeah, that's the antenna. And it's at least half the equation when it comes to static-free listening. Ever wonder why your walkman, or your clock radio, has such crappy reception? There you go...there's almost no antenna whatsoever in those things.

So today I'll share with y'all a great list of AM radio antennas I saw on the wonderful PUBtech listserv. If you've always thought of AM as a vast wasteland of static, consider some of these antennas. Many you can make yourself for less than $10, or contact your local SBE chapter and some engineer will likely make you one in trade for a cool, refined libation. Some you can buy for less than $50, too. Virtually all of them will make SOME improvement to your AM reception.

Even if you don't have connections for an external AM antenna, some of these models (like the Select-A-Tenna) will improve reception even sitting next to your radio. Nifty, eh?

http://beradio.com/notebook/radio_shieldedloop_am_antenna_2/

http://www.mindspring.com/~loop_antenna/amloop_calc4.htm

http://www4.tpgi.com.au/users/ldbutler/Loop18MHz.htm

http://www.selectatenna.com/

http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/cgi-bin/commerce.exe?
preadd=action&key=SM100


http://www.mindspring.com/~loop_antenna/

http://www.hard-core-dx.com/nordicdx/antenna/loop/hulaloop.html

http://home.datacomm.ch/hb9abx/loop1-e.htm

http://www.frontiernet.net/~jadale/Loop.htm

http://entropy.brneurosci.org/loopantenna.html

http://www.io.com/~n5fc/loop_ant.html

http://www.schmarder.com/radios/misc-stuff/loops.htm

http://www.wellbrook.uk.com/


Don't forget to connect that ground wire, too!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

HD Radio in Radio Shack

Old time engineers have bemoaned the lack of radios in Radio Shack for some time now. But Radio Shack is taking the lead, sort of, when it comes to "HD Radio" (aka "digital radio" or "IBOC"). They're the first major nationwide retailer (AFAIK) to start selling HD Radios in their stores. Locally, Tweeter ETC has been selling the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD for several months, but Tweeter isn't as ubiquitus as Radio Shack is.

Unfortunately, Radio Shack's "You've got questions, we've got confusion" mantra is still sort of in play. The early versions of the Recepter HD radio had a gawdawful "rat tail" antenna that made it next to impossible to reliably receive any radio signals, much less HD Radio signals. I stopped by my local Radio Shack and discovered that they had the rat tail and, sure enough, I couldn't get any HD signals reliably.

Now, to this Radio Shack's employees' credit...when I suggested they put a pair of "rabbit ears" antenna on the Recepter HD, and when it took a few adapters to make that work...not only did they gladly do so, they were pretty enthusiastic about the improved reception.

However, it pains me to think that these nice folks didn't know that to begin with. Why didn't they at least try another antenna? Even a [shudder] amplified one? That simple rabbit ear solution was under $10 and 10 minutes of work, and it made an unjustifiable $250 for a radio suddenly "worth it" because customers could now actually hear the multicast channels.

Moreover, why aren't local radio stations...that have shelled out $75k, $100k, $250k for their HD Radio transmitters...going around to all the local retailers and making sure they're aware of this stuff? How else can they expect listeners to pay for those HD Radios to hear their big investments?

RANT: The MBTA route maps goes OLD style

Visitors to Boston quickly learn that our subway system, the MBTA...or just "The T"...is mighty damned confusing. What visitors don't know is that even us locals are usually pretty perplexed!

The system is inherently confusing to begin with; part of the legacy of being over 100 years old. But the MBTA is notoriously bad about signage. Last weekend my wife and I really got a taste of just how bad when we went to the Copley Square / Green Line station. On the outbound platform they're doing lots of construction, and it appears that a old subway system map was ripped off to reveal an even older map. How old, you ask? Well, it still shows the Red Line ending at Harvard, which it hasn't done since 1985. Yikes! There were also all the old Orange Line stops like City Square and the Washington Street Elevated that were all torn down in 1987. Sure hope nobody planned their trip based on that system map!

Still, I wish the MBTA would pull that map down, clean it up, and put it on display somewhere in a museum or something. It's at least 20 years old, probably more like 30+...that's pretty much "historical" at this point.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

ISDN and College Radio


If you've never heard of ISDN, that's okay - it's a bit obscure. In radio terms, it usually refers to a device that uses ISDN telephone lines to make a high-quality audio connection to a remote location, with almost no delay. It's like having a cellphone but with CD-quality sound.

NPR & public radio make extensive use of ISDN...most affiliate stations have an ISDN box or "codec" in their studios. Lots of universities love having their professors and staff being interviewed on NPR. It's almost a status symbol these days.

But most of the time, those professors and staff don't want to hoof it over to the NPR affiliate's studios. They'd much rather stay on campus. At the same time, NPR always prefers to interview over ISDN instead of a regular telephone; audio quality is something they take seriously.

So this is where you, at your college radio station, come in. If your campus doesn't have ISDN...you can offer to provide it for any of your campus's professors/staff, if the college pays for the ISDN codec & line fees.

It's a win-win all around...you get a free ISDN (that you can use for sports games and other remote broadcasts if you like), your college's media relations office will love you for providing the service since NPR is bound to call on your college's professors more often, and your professors are happy to stay on-campus and not drive 30 minutes to another station.

Best of all, besides just your campus's professors, you can rent out your studios for the purpose. Common rates are anywhere from $50 to $200/hr. Say you're in a small college town, and there's a local policitian that NPR wants to interview that has nothing to do with the college. There you go! NPR will pay you to rent your ISDN for the purpose of interviewing that politician. Happens all the time.

If you're not sure if your college has ISDN already, call up the media relations dep't and ask. If your campus already has an NPR affiliate with ISDN, obviously it's all moot...but if not, and if media relations doesn't either, suggest the idea above. Odds are good they'll like it.

Telos Systems makes the Zephyr Xstream, a common and well-designed ISDN codec. Other manufacturers of good models include Musicam USA, Comrex, Tieline, and AEQ. Prices for many of these are available at Broadcast Supply Worldwide, among other dealers. I mention BSW just because they're pretty good about having prices on their website...but if you have a preferred dealer then by all means, go with them.

You'll also need to work with your college's IT/Telecommunications office to get the required ISDN phone lines installed.

And finally, once it's all set up - don't forget to publicize it! Have your info posted at these sites: http://wpr.org/isdn and http://www.digifon.com/aboutddl.html and set up a page on your website detailing what your capabilities are, how much you charge, when you're available, and who to contact about booking the studio. Example sites include studio rental pages for Living on Earth and The Infinite Mind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quicktip: Mixing levels

If you're not sure if your theme music's volume level is "right", try changing the volume on your monitor speakers approximately -20dB and then back to 0. A-B it back and forth a bit.

If it sounds right at both the lower volume, and the normal volume, you've got it pretty close... if not set properly. This is a great way to check your mix on the fly when you're doing a live broadcast.

How not to suck as a manager


So today on my blog trolling I spotted this article about "managerial entitlement" by Computerworld's Paul Glen and found it fascinating. Not just because I suspect it's more true than any us care to admit, but because I know it's more true than I would care to admit.

One thing that leaps out at me - being the kind of person who always shows up 10 minutes late to meetings, thus making everyone wait for them. I have known, many, many people who do this. Not always maliciously, but a lot of people. I'm glad I haven't worked under many of them!

Paul focuses on managers, but let's face it...how many of you have had a job you hated and started thinking all the horrible things "they" did to you "earned" you the right to steal office supplies, goof off on the job, knife someone (metaphorically) in the back, etc.?

Yeah, I thought so. I certainly know I'll be keeping an eye on myself so I won't become "that guy".

The first post...

...is always the hardest. This is just to get the blog rolling, in the coming posts I hope to have something intelligent, or at least mildly amusing, to say about my passions in life. Usually college radio, public radio, radio engineering, politics, the MBTA, life in Boston and the vagaries of being among the newly-wed.