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A Techs Blog

Whilst we are broadcasting 7 days a week the small technical team are working behind the scenes. For those that might be interested I thought I start a blog of the sorts of technical problems and projects we have at Vintage Radio. I only enter stuff in this section at random, as and when the moment occurs. 

Silence is golden - not!

We have spent some considerable time updating our silence detection system to provide greater resilience in the event of studio failures, presenter no shows etc. so that when this happens we can minimise any dead air by playing some of our archive content.

We have been fine tuning our silence detector algorithms and now have two systems, one for our analogue domain and one for the network domain. The software send out an email to the technical team.  We finally installed our trial system this Sunday 28th July 2015 but we noticed the levels were a little awry but it all seemed to be working - until this Monday when it was noticed that the sound just wasn't right and there was some sub-sonic fedback occurring, plus excess noise being introduced into some of our audio codecs which we had been puzzling over for a couple of weeks. The problem we found was that we had managed to create some classic earth loops. It now works well and our audio levels are back on line. The oscillation was affecting the amplifiers and codecs causing the levels to be depressed. We also had some faulty cables which didn't help. We had to spend another couple of hours on Monday sorting it all out whilst live programmes were going out. We had to introduce quite a few programme breaks which didn't help the presenters whilst they were trying to broadcast and conduct interviews. There being two grown men lying on the studio floor recabling and setting up various pieces of electronics under the studio desk!

Reducing the numbers of back office PC's.

Our next project is to remove a PC from our back office systems, basically to free off a PC for another use.

We currently use Simplecast and Icecast on a PC acting as a desk encoder. This streams our audio across our studio LAN to our streaming software (Radio DJ) which inturn connecets via Simplecast to out serviec providers Shoutcast and Wowza servers. . We are looking to see how to get both functions on the one PC. We didnt expect it to be a major task but has been surprisingly complicated. We have almost finished sorting out a stable configuration but still have some more components to add and test. Hopefully this Saturday will be successful.

High Quality trial

After a short lived attempt to start a high quality (well higher at any rate) 128kb/s trial last year we have finally started again this month. Its on a test player on our web site Home page. If successful we anticipate changing all our feeds to 128kb/s. We are still streaming in mono and we may try a stereo trial at some point but as our streaming costs are based on net aggregated bit rate we would probably have to drop back to 64+64kb/s to keep the price the same. On balance I prefer 128kb/s mono.


I hate anti-virus software - not really!

I haven't posted on my Techs Blog for some time. We did some routine software upgrades last Saturday to our studio jukebox and to our streaming system. Both worked well. Managed to lose a few database entries on the jukebox but nothing that couldnt be easily fixed. Sunday morning came and no broadcast! Logged in remotely and no streamer! Attempted to reload remotely - nothing doing. So frantic drive into studio.Evntually worked out that it was possibly the  anti-virus but station back on air and then I had to drive to Stafford.  Monday morning came. Same thing. Dashed into studio. This tiem checked the forums. It seems that our anti-virus software (Microsoft Essential) has been flagged on the  Radio DJ forum as corrupting Radio DJ installations. In fact it had decided that the Radio DJ code was Malware and emoved every instance of it from the system. Odd but some werent't having anuy problems. We have now changed our Anti-virus software and have put in an excpetion just in case.

The story doesnt stop there. I wnet home, had a coffee and was monitoring teh system. teh new Av sofatwre asked to do an initial run. It worked quite happily then my remote access screen went blank. Back into studio. For me a 16 mile round trip,  the new anti-vrus software had decided our remote access software was malware and blocked its operation! Again another exception. Tuesday and all seems calm.


Its been a while since.....

Its been a while since my last post. We have stripped out our server room (actually a large ventilated cupboard would be more accurate) and completely recabled and labelled everything. A considerable improvement as the previous cabling was a bit of a dogs breakfast. We have some rack mounted distribution amps in the studio area which distribute analogue audio feeds to various destinations in the studio which has been moved away from prying fingers. We have finally managed to upgrade all our PC's to Windows 7 or 8 apart from 2 elderly PC's which are used frro browsing which we have built with a Linux distro - MINT. Works well, gives a windows style desktop which people are happy with and runs Firefox.

Thuis month our distress purchase of a years subscription of LogMeIn expired and was replaced by a new application from Remote Utilities.  It seems to do everything LogmeIn did but faster and free - at least for the number of PC's we wish to remotely access. LogmeIn gave all users about 12m ago of its free service about 24 hours - with zero notice to leave or pay a years subscription. We chose to do the latter as remote access is key to the way in which we work and maintin our systems.

We updated our scheduling software about a week ago to version 1.7.6 of Radio DJ. Its been up 2 weeks ona Win 7 Celeron system from Dell and its been rock solid - touch wood so far. the previous version suffered from two very annoying bugs. Firstly it misreported the length of mp3 files, getting some wrong by displaying a time that was 1000 times longer than it should have been,  this has been fixed in the latest version. The second bug, which we can only wait and see if its fixed,  is that events sometimes failed to start. We are reasonably certain it is Radio DJ V1.6 that was the culprit rather than Windows 7. But it was random and could run for several weeks before it manifested itself. It was partly the cause of our outages over the Christmas period. Apparently our new version of radio DJ was used at the Winter olympics in Sochi for some of the  public announcements.

We now have a live audio feed to our green room on live days which are now 5 days a week. We record all our audio from the studio onto a large RAID array. We use  PlayIt Recorder to schedule the recordings as it will allow us to record all audio in hour long chunks, starting on the hour.

Our home made Live mic light keeps blowing bulbs. Annoying really.