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Tech Notes

Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

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February 29, 2000

Our Golden Anniversary Issue

Tech Note - 050


Talent does what it can, but genius does what it must!

Our Mission: Sharing experiences, knowledge, observations, concerns, opinions or anything else relating to Electronic Cinema, DTV, etc., with fellow engineers and readers. We do hope that everyone will participate with comments, experiences, questions and/or answers. Please note the new E-mail addresses.  To remove yourself from this list, send an E-mail to: in the subject place the word Remove.  We now have over 580 subscribers & growing.  This is YOUR forum!  The Tech Notes are posted and past issues available at:  and


Subj: Why are we keeping It a Secret?   

By: Larry Bloomfield

Unless you live in or around Los Angeles, the name Chuck Henry probably doesn't ring much of a bell, but in the nation's number two market, he is know for his abilities both in front and behind the camera.  Like most all television personalities, Henry has worked at several stations in the market, but most recently and notably as news anchor at the NBC O&O, KNBC-TV, channel 4 and KNBC-DT, channel 36.  It's not what Henry has done in front of the camera that is of interest to us here, but his production talents behind the camera and his philosophy. 

Henry is the Executive Producer of a magazine format type show, "Travel Café."  Despite the educational interest value a show of this type inherently has, where Travel Café departs from other magazine format type shows is that it is done in High Definition. 

Again not particularly earth shattering, but if you can pin Henry down long enough, with his busy schedule, the man is passionate about his philosophy on how the show is shot and aired.  Although different in today's commonplace approach to production for hi-def, his ideas are valid, make sense and he can back them up.  

Travel Café's been on the air for about a year now.  It airs almost continuously on KNBC-DT, Channel 36, for demonstration purposes, as well as during its weekly time slot on the NTSC channel 4.  Reflecting back to the early days of the show, Henry said:  "We started shooting the show with the 4 by 3 aspect ration in mind, but after the first show, we gave up.  That was a dumb idea to do it that way (4 by 3).  It seemed like we were trying to hide the fact that it is a Hi-def show.  I took the position that we're in high definition and we wanted everyone to know it.  We shoot it 16 by 9 and asked the station to air it that way on both Channels 4 & 36."

Henry said that when he told the station (KNBC-TV) that he wanted the show aired on both NTSC and DT channels in 16 by 9, they told him he was crazy and would get lots of complaints.  With a very definite note of pride in his voice, Henry said:  "In the year we've been on the air with Travel Cafe, we've gotten over forty-thousand pieces of mail and not one of them have ever even mentioned the letterbox format, much less complained about it."  Henry assured me that they have had a few derogatory comments, but they had nothing what so ever to do with the aspect ration, letterbox or high definition television.   

When asked about production costs, Henry said that Hi-def tape costs about three times as much as beta-sp.  He said that after they shoot the show in hi-def, because of the high costs associated with a hi-def edit suite, the first thing they do is make a down-converted dub to everyday NTSC.  With the plethora of edit suites available, they can economically do all their editing on an Avid, which generates an edit decision list (EDL).  When they get a show in standard def "in the can," they can then, using the EDL go into a hi-def suite and in a faction of the time, cut the hi-def show.

Henry said he could not understand why so many of the high definition shows are hiding the fact that they are in HDTV.  Yes, some of them have a brief few seconds at the opening with a lower third billboard saying they're in Hi-def along with the name of sponsor who paid for the HDTV transfer, but that's about it.

Henry makes it very clear that local HDTV shows can be done, without having to hock the queens jewels to do them and as long as you're putting all the time and effort into doing them in HDTV, tell the world about it, and regularly. 

It's hard to watch the Tonight Show with Jay Leno after seeing all the press about touting it as being the first and only nightly show in HDTV.  There sets all that fine HDTV equipment being used to produce the top rated show in its time slot and nothing is said on a nightly basis nor is there any indication to the NTSC viewer that the show is still being done nightly in HDTV.  Sure does bring new light to the "out of sight - out of mind" concept. 

One cannot help but muse about how things are different today when compared to the early days of color TV -- You know back in the days when NBC had the peacock spreading its tail feathers in front of your face every half hour or so or the color TV cameras and boom-mikes did their little dance to the fanfare music. I guess we've lost sight of the fact that that was back when NBC, through RCA, had a vested interest in getting color off the ground.  Well, with only 6 years left before NTSC is supposed to go away for good, you'd think somebody would start drawing attention to DTV and it's obvious premier headliner, HDTV.

If attention were drawn to the fact that a show is in high definition by airing it in its true native aspect ration of 16 by 9, it would be a reminder through out the show that something different is afoot. It shouldn't take a Harvard or Stanford graduate to figure that out.  Added to that, a small, unobtrusive caption to the NTSC letterbox presentation in the black (or other colored bar) at the bottom saying, something like:  "This show can be seen in superior quality High Definition with a digital television set on KNBC-DT, Channel 36."  The sales of HDTV sets might just take off like you wouldn't believe.  We certainly don't seem to have a problem with the network or local bugs competing for the lower right-hand corners of our programs.  When this idea was mentioned in passing to some of the folks at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), it was met with great enthusiasm.  

It's a good thing we didn't have the mind set in the early days of television that we have now, or we'd still be trying to justify the move to 525 lines for NTSC television, not to mention the CBS color wheel or RCA compatible color.  As you've seen in this column before, lead, follow or get out of the way because someone is going to take the bit in his or her teeth and win this horse race, banking the big purse that goes with it! 

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Subj: Some Thoughts on Digital Cinema

By: Jim Mendrala

Digital Cinema is in its birthing pains. Seems that everyone who is involved with the digital cinema effort has a different idea as to what is needed. Some want multiple languages so that theaters can run films

in different languages. As an example, Tuesdays could be "Spanish Night" and Thursdays could be "French Night", etc. But these kinds of things, even though technically possible, are like a two-edge sword and add a certain amount of complexity. Some want to be able to have a "G" or "PG" rating in the afternoon and a "NC-17" or "R" rating version in the evening.

Digital cinema is supposed to reduce the cost of distributing 35 mm motion picture films and provide a higher level of security to the movie by reducing the threat of piracy. To do this, the quality of the digital

cinema product must be equivalent to 35 mm film. But listening to the various people involved, the quality or "film look" has yet to be determined. Kodak published an ad that states that film has 4,096 lines

of resolution. Others say that film is only 2K resolution and that 1,920 x 1,080 is good enough. This brings to mind the movie "Blair Witch Project" which was shot with consumer grade home video equipment then transferred to film for distribution. It obviously only had 480 lines of resolution but it made a lot of money in the box office.

In the audio department, all digital cinema demos and releases to date have had uncompressed audio, but the compression people say that we really need to compress the audio to allow more room for the compressed picture. The question then becomes--whose compression system to use, should it be Dolby, DTS, SDDS, MPEG or some new type of compression?

Some advocate that live TV has to be a part of digital cinema. Who is going to license TV broadcasts to a theater where you have to buy a ticket to view the program? Does live TV have 35 mm quality? I don't

think so.

What should be a simple solution for the movie industry at this point seems to be becoming very complicated and is lacking direction, but this is why SMPTE has set up a Study Group on digital cinema (DC28). The idea is to put forth suggestions and requirements, then run them up the "flag pole" to see who will salute. After that, SMPTE working groups can be set up to set the standards for digital cinema.

A few things are obvious to me.

1. Have a film delivered to the theater digitally that is at least as good as 35 mm film if not better.

2. Use an encryption scheme that will thwart the would-be pirate.

3. Provide at least CD quality audio with at least 5.1, but preferably more, channels of audio.

4. Allow better content management and feedback to the distributors/studios so that better films can be produced and marketed.

5. Make the presentation in the theater as simple as possible but with a quality that is better than today's film projections.

The key to the success of digital cinema is to keep it simple (K.I.S.S.). The distribution of films today is not broken and does not require fixing, but digital cinema should offer some exciting new alternatives to the distributors and studios with a better quality to the moviegoers.

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Subj:  Seminars

From: Dave Hill at Larcan Transmitters

LARCAN is pleased to announce a unique DTV seminar at our Toronto facility (Mississauga) structured to enlighten all members of the TV Broadcast Community.

The 2-day seminars will discuss such topics as:  -The need for evolution, -Introduction to the DTV concept, -MPEG-2,

-8VSB, -DTV Transmitter Theory, -Corrections, -Performance measuring,

There is no cost to attend the seminar. Hotel and expenses are not included, however, we will provide lunch each day and all course materials.  The following dates are available: JUNE 12 - 13, SEPT 18 -19 and OCT 23 - 24.

These seminars are dependent on obtaining sufficient participants. If attendance is low, we reserve the right to reschedule or cancel a seminar, so please let me know if you have some interest.

Kind regards,

Dave Hill

LeBLANC Broadcast Inc.

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Subj: The Passing of Television's Last Lion  

By Larry Bloomfield

It is never a pleasant task to report the passing of anyone, especially when it is a person who has made such an impact on our industry, our nation and our lives.  The success and very existence of the American Broadcasting Company and the thousands of jobs that go with that network are the result of the vision and tenacity that this gentleman demonstrated.  If you don't know whom I'm speaking of, it was Leonard H. Goldenson. 

Goldenson, who had been ill for several years, passed away quietly, December 27, 1999, in his home on Longboat Key, near Sarasota, Florida. He was 94.

Goldenson came from a tiny farm town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a dry goods emporium and a small share of two movie theaters.  From these modest beginnings, he went on to enroll at Harvard at age 16 and eventually go on to its Law School, while working summers for a Pittsburgh securities broker.  Buying on margin and carefully managing his portfolio, he built up a small fortune, liquidating his holdings just weeks before the market crash of 1929. 

In the midst of the great depression, Goldenson pounded the streets of Manhattan, where he was eventually hired to help reorganize the bankrupt Paramount Pictures New England theaters.  As the result of his success at the movie "Theater Company" and his association with Y. Frank Freeman, when Freeman made the trek to Hollywood to head Paramount studios, Goldenson took over Freeman's position as boss.  Now, as head of the world's largest film exhibitor, he made many contacts, which would prove invaluable in years to come. 

Goldenson was stimulated by what he saw at the New York world's fair in 1939; an experimental thing called television.  Goldenson pushed Paramount to launch Chicago's WBKB, one of the world's first TV station.  As the result of the Supreme Court ruling about movie companies owning theaters, Paramount spun-off their theaters with Goldenson as president in 1951.

When Leonard Goldenson broke into television, he knew he was facing the fight of his life. Two powerful companies dominated the industry: NBC, which invented network broadcasting, and CBS, which followed the NBC model and improved on it.

Despite the hostilities that existed between the upstart, "television" and the motion picture industry, Goldenson got the directors of United Paramount Theaters to buy the failing American Broadcasting Company from Ed Noble.  Noble wanted $25 million for ABC, whose ratings placed them fourth, after CBS, NBC and the now-defunct Dumont television network.  At that time, the ABC network consisted of 14 stations total - five of its own, primitive and poorly maintained, and nine affiliates, compared with nearly 100 stations each for CBS and NBC. 

From the get go, life wasn't easy.  Goldenson was denounced by Hollywood as a traitor for entering a rival medium. On the flip side, broadcasters also maligned him for his former ties to Paramount Pictures.  He was even accused of purchasing the fledgling network to destroy it and eliminate competition for movies. Despite all this, Goldenson convinced the FCC that his only aim was to increase competition in broadcasting and to further its development. On February 9, 1953, the FCC approved the purchase.

Later that year, Walt Disney came to Goldenson with this crazy idea: he wanted to build an amusement park for children. The Disney studios were in dire straits and were turned away by banks.  Being turned down also by NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS's William Paley, Goldenson understood what Disney was offering. ABC agreed to put up $500,000, to use its theater real estate for collateral and to underwrite $17 million for construction and operation of the Park. In exchange, Disney agreed to produce a weekly show. ABC also obtained access to Disney's library of animated films, 35 percent of Disneyland and a decade of concession revenues.

The only show they had worth mentioning was "Ozzie & Harriet."  ABC was loosing their shirt to the tune of a million a year.  And besides, everyone on Madison Avenue knew there wasn't enough advertising to support three networks.

Goldenson knew he could succeed, but first he would have to find a way to break the other networks' stranglehold on stars, stations and sponsors.  He would change the rules of the game by getting Hollywood, the very people who opposed the new television industry, involved in making their programming! 

If he couldn't get big names, he'd invent them!  Goldenson when to the William Morris Agency, and hired a host of unknowns -- Sammy Davis, Jr., Danny Thomas, George Jessel, Joel Grey and Ray Bolger.  Then he'd get the studios to produce better programs, on film, than the live shows broadcast by his competitors. In a nutshell, he'd have to reinvent the medium.

Goldenson was persistent.  He went back to Jack Warner of Warner Brothers studios and after a marathon lunch, he convinced him, that television was an opportunity, not a threat. Warner opened a new division to make programs for ABC.  By the 1970's, not one major studio could compete without a television division. Goldenson's vision that motion pictures and television could serve audiences better as partners than as rivals had prevailed.

Goldenson had the formula.  He built the network to the point where it muscled it way into first place in the ratings in 1977, remaining there for three years.

Thirty-three years later, in 1986, after engineering a $3.5 billion merger of ABC and Capital Cities Broadcasting, the network had eight stations and 210 affiliates.  Seeing his dreams come true, Goldenson then stepped down as day-to-day boss to retire in Florida.

In 1996, the once struggling Disney studios, whose survival Goldenson assured with his astute 1953 investment, merged with Capital Cities/ABC.

We cannot close this tribute to Leonard H. Goldenson without mentioning his second and very significant legacy. When his daughter was born with sever birth defects, Goldenson wanted to know what could be done to help.  With his wife of 60 years and close friends Jack and Ethel Hausman, he created what would become the world's third largest medical charity, United Cerebral Palsy.  If this wasn't enough, topping off a lifetime of generosity, in 1994 the Goldenson's gave half their fortune--$60 million--to Harvard Medical School to endow research on neurological diseases.

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Subj:  My Opinion

By:  Lee Wood

We need to tone down the modulation debate and place the attention where it is truly required.  At this point COFDM would be suffering in the marketplace just as much as 8-VSB.  Lack of penetration is NOT related to modulation, but to marketing.  Before the public will clamor for digital television they must be presented with a reason why they need it.  Why is it better? What's so good about it?  Why should they


My belief is that many of the broadcasters are doing their damnedest to fulfill their portion of the marketplace equation.  You want a business plan for DTV?  Here's one:  To Remain in the Broadcasting


Let me sight two examples:   

The first comes from a sister industry, Newspaper Publishing.  Newspapers have not had an overwhelming reputation for innovation.  Black ink on paper worked for several hundred years.  Okay, lets add color for the Sunday comics and ad inserts.  No one really cares about color for anything else, besides, it's too expensive.  Coast along with that for a few decades. 

Then along comes 'USA Today'.  It starts showing up in a high-tech looking rack stand RIGHT OUTSIDE THE LOCAL PAPERS FRONT DOOR.  AND ITS IN COLOR!!  Yeah, the capital 'J' journalists may not like it because it's print gone the way of TV news (flashy, short news clips for fill, not 'serious' enough) but it sells!

Now most of the newspapers in the country are color and flashy (at least to some degree).  Do you think publishing companies would have invested in those color presses if it were not for competition?  I don't think so!!

[Aside:  For those not familiar with publishing; a color press of any size starts at around $10 million and rapidly goes up.  Our parent company will have spent more on  A color press for one of it's medium market, 20,000 subscriber newspapers than I will spend on the entire DTV conversion.]

My second example, though simpler, is perhaps more direct.  Once cable began penetrating metropolitan and new programming arrived most cable systems also up-sold you into an FM Stereo connection ($1 per month added or so).  Why would you want a stereo connection? So you could get HBO, Showtime and MTV in STEREO sound.  TVs weren't stereo (at least not then).  It usually worked. The FM connections were sold (or bootlegged later) and the children of the 60s and 70s wanted nothing less than that they had from their radio.  Finally, BTSC stereo came along for broadcast TV.  (Who among the broadcast engineers didn't have to fight for the money to convert the plant to stereo?)  Today stereo is assumed for any program of significance (though not all programs fall in this category).

Broadcasters have been saddled with old technology while the competition has moved forward into cable, satellite and other alternate distribution means - all based on digital technology.  Digital Television provides broadcasters the opportunity to break out of the old ways.  There are barriers to DTV and IMHO the modulation standard is one of the more minor ones.  Getting started is the greatest (Q: "What do you mean there's no ROI?", A: "You do want to stay in broadcasting after 2006 don't you?").

Once started you have to build the audience.  The consumer electronics industry MUST get the price down on DTV sets quickly.  Today's consumer has been trained by the industry to expect next year's model to be 1/3 the cost and more feature rich.  The CE folks have done this to themselves.  Satellite Dishes and Cell phones are examples of this.  Products that don't meet this expectation, like DAT, don't make it.  Sets don't even have to be HD, just a combo of digital and analog will do.  The improvement in picture and sound a digital set provides will sell itself.  There is consumer value there.

Now for the really dicey part:  Broadcasters DO NOT control the means of delivery of their product to the majority of their consumers.  Between 60 and 70 percent of the viewers are watching through cable.  If broadcasters are to succeed in the digital world it will be through cable first and over the air second.  Whether we want to admit it or not over the air reception is a secondary delivery service.  Yes, it has to be there so many of the cable systems can receive it, but in our market we feed over half of them directly through fiber and microwave.  Cable reception of either modulation system WOULD be accomplished even under adverse multipath (8-VSB) or power line impulse noise (COFDM) conditions.  Neither seems to have an overwhelming advantage in this area.  Cable carriage must be settled and sooner rather than later or DTV will fail.

Once there are signals, receivers and critical mass delivery means there have to be new services to attract the audience.  There are lots of possibilities for everyone to compete with success.  Whether it is HDTV multicasting, datacasting or hybrid interactive DTV, or a combination, the winners will be those who find the product their customers value and deliver it.  We're broadcasters for God sake.  We've done lousy jobs of trying to be anything else.  We know how to create content and use our delivery means to provide it to customers.  Let's get back to doing what we do best.  Broadcasting is not 'broke', but it does need to grow and change with the millennium.

[Aside:  I cannot see mobile applications fitting into a 'broadcast' model.  I do not see a lot of Casio or Sony pocket TVs on the street and they have been available for years.  In most states it is illegal to have a TV on where the driver can see it.  Cell phones are a big enough distraction to driving.  Let's keep football games and the emotions they create away from someone driving a two-ton vehicle. 

This leaves mobile TV viewing to two groups: 1) Kids, and they are happy with DVDs or VCRs and, more significantly, 2) The chauffeur driven limousines of the executives of major broadcast groups who want to be able to watch their station while being driven to the airport.]

Sorry, I ran long again.  Now you know why I'm behind the scenes and not on camera.  My opinions are just that - my opinions and are not meant to reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Lee Wood

(Ed Note:  Lee Wood is the Chief Engineer at KOIN-TV in Portland, OR)

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Subj:  "RE" or "DE" regulation?

By: Larry Bloomfield

With nothing better to do prior to going on their normal governmental end-of-the-year out of the office until January 3rd - hiatus, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to ask the question:  "Should television stations have increased responsibilities to serve the public interest as they convert to digital broadcast?"  Not that broadcasters' don't have enough to do with all the hassles in the transition to digital TV, but the FCC now wants to stir the pot further by "soliciting comments on potential public interest obligations for TV broadcasters."

What it appears the FCC wants to do is create a forum on how broadcasters can best serve the public interest during and after their digital transition. Although the FCC official we spoke to says the Commission isn't proposing new rules or policies, it simply wants ideas and public comment to determine what, if any, further steps should be taken as far as DTV public interest obligations go, but you can bet that it won't all end there.   Read on!

The explanation given us was, that with the increased capabilities on the new digital television channel, such as multicasting and data casting, "opens the door for the possibility of expanded public interest requirements.  No one should squawk.  After all, broadcasters, today, are only required to air three hours a week of children's educational programming and that isn't too much to ask of them."

In an "I told you so" pitch, it was pointed out to us that the FCC is only following an order created in April of 1997 in which the Commission said it would seek feedback about public interest obligations for digital television broadcasters.  Also sited as their impetus in this matter are the recommendations the FCC has received from the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Broadcasters.

It seems that President Clinton appointed a commission back in 1998, called the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, that recommended that stations, in general, be required to carry more public interest and educational programming.

As what appears to be the result of a letter generated by Vice-president Gore in November of last year on this matter, the FCC voted to ask for public comments on the commission's recommendations the following month.  But that's not all, the Commission is also asking for comments on a wide range of related issues.  As you've seen it said here before:  The camel's nose is in the tent!

In a typical Washington, DC speaking out of both sides of their mouth, we were told that after the Commission receives comments, which are due by the end of April, they "could" proceed to propose new rules, but the process could take months or years to complete.  FCC Chairman William Kennard said the inquiry, if nothing else, would start a "very, very important debate."

Probably the most distasteful of all the issues to come up in all this is the controversial requirement for television stations to give political candidates free airtime. Chairman Kennard backed such a plan several years ago, but went quiet on his position when he got some flack from Congress. 

FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth isn't the least bit fired up on this issue, arguing that Congress only asked the FCC to determine how to apply existing public interest obligations to digital programming, not to come up with new ways.  "I cannot support something that expands the notion of the public interest because there is absolutely no basis for that in the statute," he said.

On the other side of the coin, there are a number of advocacy groups who are look for free airtime by pushing for expanded requirements.  One such voice is that of Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Media Education in Washington, DC.  Chester told Broadcast Engineering; "Broadcasters lobbied through the biggest land-grab since the railroad land-grab of the 19th century. The idea that broadcasters don't want to turn over a small amount of time to political candidates is obscene."   Chester continued, "Every TV station was given a second channel, "free," to use for airing digital broadcasts. This public 'gift' allows broadcasters to transmit several interactive digital channels, giving them the equivalent of free beachfront property on the Information Superhighway.  The public deserves a dividend in return." 

Chester says about the move to digital:  "It's all about securing additional delivery capacity. There should be some civic quid pro quo.  It's not just about raising consumers, it a about raising citizens."  Adding to this and typical of others we spoke to, Chester said:  "Broadcasters ought to devote more attention to children's concerns."  He suggests that broadcasters be required to let schools use some of the digital airwaves and that his Center will ask for new safeguards to protect kids from harmful interactive marketing and advertising practices on digital broadcasts. Looks like it's going to be an E-Coupon ride -- stand by.

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(Ed Note: The Editors and Publishers of the Tech Notes wish to thank Des Chaskelson, Research Director of SCRI International for his generosity in posting the Tech Notes on the SCRI web site.

Subject: HDTV Marketplace Trends and Product Reports: 2000 - 2004

From: Des Chaskelson , Research Director, SCRI International

The HDTV Marketplace Trends and Product Reports are now available. Data for the reports was derived from extensive surveys of US television stations in January 2000. The Trends report contains over 100 pages of data and analysis. Each product report contains data on the percentage of stations purchasing HD and SD units, by year (2000 - 2004), plus total units (HD and SD) by year. Over 35 products are covered.  For table of contents see online at: &/or contact:

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The Tech Notes are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested in DTV, HDTV, Electronic Cinema, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (419) 710-1913 or (419) 793-8340. The Tech Notes are sent (BCC) directly only to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, however feel free to forward them, intact, to anyone who you think might be interested.  There is no charge for this Newsletter, no one gets paid (sigh), there is no advertising and we do not indorse any product or service(s). The ideas and opinions are those of the individual authors. We still administer everything manually. We don't use any "majordomo" automatic servers. News items, comments, observations, opinions, etc., are encouraged and always welcome. We publish when there is something to share. Material may be edited for brevity, but usually not. Tech Note articles may be reproduced in any form provided they are unaltered and credit is given to both Tech Notes and the originating authors, when named. If they are to be used by a publication that normally compensates their writers, please contact us first.  

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