May 29, 2001
Tech Note – 081
Sponsored by: Bloomfield & Associates
Thanks to our regulars and welcome to the new folks.
This is YOUR forum!
~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~
From: David B. Thomas
I couldn't agree more with Larry's comments regarding the fact that there are lots of station engineering personnel that don't have a clue. I'm reminded of a telephone call that I received several years ago form a station maintenance engineer looking for "Studio Sized" chip and logarithmic charts from Port-a-Pattern. He was incensed when I told him that Port-a-Pattern had been out of business for several years. Hey pal it's a new world.
The simple truth as I see it is that broadcasting no longer has broadcasters in it, and the sad part is no one has told them so.
RE: Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments Tech-Notes #80
Stacy Siroky of NAB admitted that there was a problem with this year's attendance when she said she was "comparing last year's final, 115,293, to this year's # of registered attendees through Mon., Apr. 23, 112,776".
The point is that there was no final count - of badges actually issued - published this year, so no like for like comparison. Any experienced NAB attendee who was in Vegas this April agrees with your original point, that numbers felt like they were around 20% down.
The well-publicized boycotts were not the reason, I feel, not least because they were very poorly enforced boycotts: the big names from every network were in attendance.
For what it is worth, my view is that the whole industry is deeply, deeply confused at present. American television broadcasters are still reeling under the change to digital. Worldwide people are worried about whether they are broadcasters or Internet publishers. Should they be taking video on mobile phones seriously? Will there be a way to maintain revenues when a single broadcast medium is replaced by broadband, bluetooth, WAP and all the other gee-whiz technologies looking for an application?
A lot of companies responded by scaling down their usual NAB contingents and playing the waiting game, waiting to find out what is going to happen. But wasn't it great to be able to get a cab or a table in a restaurant when you wanted one!
My good friend Sharon Adcock also makes the point that, while the new south complex at the LVCC will be open next year, the Sands will still be in use. My understanding is that, for 2002 that is true. Whether it will continue to be a part of NAB in perpetuity as the LVCC continues to develop is still under discussion.
I understand, though, that NAB is prepared to book the Sands and leave it empty rather than risk another exhibition in town at the same time. Which would really screw up the cab lines.
(Ed Note: Dick Hobbs is a writer and commentator on technology based in England, and editor of the IBC Daily News.)
From: San Francisco - SBE Chapter 40 Newsletter May 2001, Roy Trumbull - Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Wallace, Mr. Measurements, gave a talk (April meeting) on the results of comparative studies done in the Baltimore/Washington area and in Cleveland, OH. In excess of 5000 measurements were taken. The stations involved in the first test were WUSA Ch 9, WETA 26, WRC, & WBAL. The Cleveland test used WKYC.
The 4 dB difference in threshold between the two systems showed up fairly consistently giving 8VSB an advantage at the mid to distant locations. The advantage of COFDM showed up in the strong signal areas subject to high reflections.
Sinclair protested that the COFDM receiver didn't use a pre-selector and that caused a disadvantage. That's probably true, but whether it would have had an impact in the weaker signal areas is uncertain. It's pretty hard to find a COFDM receiver designed for a 6 MHz channel; let alone, one with a preselector.
The eyebrow raiser was the test in Cleveland involving a Ch2 - Ch3 combination. In that test, 8VSB beat COFDM 2:1. The bad news was that only about 26% of the sites worked. The culprit was impulse noise. Impulse noise is bad in lo-band VHF and is particularly deadly to COFDM.
Two questions came up as a result of this test. One is whether lo-band VHF can be used for DTV? The other is whether the planning factors used to set power need to be revised? It may be that lo-band will require much higher power levels than are presently permitted.
Oded BenDov of Dielectric published a paper a few years ago to the effect that the planning factors used for DTV ignore a number of well-known factors and are downright absurd with regard to receiver noise and line matching. Oded is on my short list of people I consider to be experts.
(Ed. Note: It is our understanding that a group of station owners have commissioned a task force to study impulse noise in the low band VHF (2-6) channels. Would appreciate any input on this.)
From: Craig Birkmaier email@example.com (not by him)
High-speed Internet connections currently reach only between five and six million U.S. households, partly because of the terms of the law covering regional Bell companies' entrance into the long-distance data market. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, local Bell carriers must substantially open their networks to long-distance competition before selling broadband directly. Only five states have so far approved Bell Company plans to open their networks, an obvious sign the Telecommunications Acts is not working, critics say.
A new piece of legislation offered by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) would eliminate those restrictions in the hope that it would encourage the continued deployment of broadband networks. Critics of the new bill say it would only enforce the Bells' monopolies in their regional markets and stifle competition. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has put forward another bill that would strengthen the Telecommunications Act instead of weakening it, as Tauzin's bill would. (Wired News, 11 May 2001)
From: San Francisco SBE Chapter 40 Newsletter May 2001, Roy Trumbull - Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Early in 2002 there will be a TIA/EIA standard on gin poles that will pretty well tie down all of the particulars of a permitted pick. Everything will be spelled out. The impact on you will be that you'll want to reference that spec. in any contract you sign for tower work. Picks not permitted by the spec. will require an on-site professional engineer to supervise the work. You need to be familiar with this to avoid potential liability. The proposed spec. is TIA/EIA-PN-4860-Gin Poles. After you read it, you'll be able to tell a "rooster head", "bridle", and "basket" from one another.
From: David K. Davies, Engineering Supervisor, ERI
There is no organization offering "certification" of tower manufacturers. NATE is, however, an organization focusing on safety compliance for erectors. However, they do not certify erection/construction companies nor tower manufacturers.
Unfortunately, qualifying a potential tower manufacturer is left to the purchaser. One suggestion is to give primary consideration to those manufacturer which actively participate in the TR14.7 - EIA/TIA-RS-222 revision committee. These companies represent the best of the industry both in engineering and fabrication. A contact for this is the committee chairman:
Craig M. Snyder
Installers can offer useful information. However, they may be bias from existing relationships of distributor deals. Anecdotal information from previous purchasers is also useful.
The best solution involves constructing a detailed list of specification for all potential suppliers that will eliminate sub-standard bids.
By Lisa Osborn
The energy at NAB 2001 may have been less euphoric than in recent years. But despite a recent move by AFTRA, which prompted most radio stations to pull their streams from the Internet, Webcasting appears to be coming of age.
A new study has revealed that nearly two-thirds (63%) of webcasters have been called by agencies placing webcast ads. That's a huge change over the past 12 months.
"The overwhelming majority of webcasters are selling advertising today," says Bill Rose, vice president of Arbitron Webcast Services, who conducted the study. "Webcasters agree that the medium's greatest strength is its ability to deliver a targeted message,"
Who's buying streaming ads? Automotive companies are the number one target for webcast advertising sales, followed by entertainment, music, dot com companies and alcoholic beverage makers. Marketers are finding that rich media (streaming) ads are much better at building brand awareness and attracting attention than banner ads.
Ad insertion companies such as Lightningcast and Hi-Wire have seen interest in their services intensify. Once the legal details are worked out, broadcasters who stream their signal on the Internet could be tapping into a whole new sea of advertisers.
Members of the International Webcasting Association, the trade group that represents the interests of webcasters, view the dispute with AFTRA as just another temporary roadblock.
"We predict resolution of these issues in the next six months," says Peggy Miles, chairperson of the IWA and president of Intervox Communications, a Washington DC-based digital broadcasting business development firm. "We believe that both AFTRA and all Internet broadcasters want to work out this situation so both parties profit equally by this new and exciting technology."
Another challenge for streaming media is to maintain clear and open communications with the RIAA and other US and international organizations to work together to make sure that the new laws for music on the Internet evolve to benefit all.
(Ed Note: Could television be far behind? FYI: Lisa Osborn is the CEO and founder of Traffic411, a network that delivers traffic reports over the Web and wireless devices. 'Live' traffic maps on Traffic411.com detail real-time freeway speeds in 12 US metro markets. Prior to founding Traffic411, Osborn owned an audio production company and worked as a radio broadcaster. Her name and voice are familiar to Southern California to talk radio listeners for her years as a newscaster and traffic reporter on popular talk station, KFI AM 640.)
From: The New York Times -- By DAVID POGUE
As the information age chugs along, most of us have accepted three inexorable trends in consumer technology: personal electronics get cheaper every year, they get smaller every year, and if any two products can be combined, they will be. At this rate, by 2020 we can expect high-definition cell-phone/camcorder/MP3-player/organizers that cost $1.99 and are no bigger than lima beans.
The miniaturization trend, however, may
be winding down. While electronics may shrink forever, our eyes and fingers
stubbornly remain exactly the same size. Some products have already reached
end-stage shrinkitis. Even though the technology exists to make them smaller
still, they would then be too small for our big, pudgy fingers to operate.
At first glance, you may not be able to
tell that these watches, with their black plastic watchbands, small L.C.D.
screens and tiny edge buttons, have any superpowers. Most are no bigger
than everyday $20 digitals. But when you slip the instruction manual under
the nearest electron microscope and begin reading the six- point type,
the fun begins.
Once you've plugged in the proper code, sure enough, the watch controls your television from up to 16 feet away. It has buttons for power, volume, TV/VCR and changing channels, in addition to channel number keys. A Mode button gives all these keys secondary personalities that control your cable box.
The watch also offers a clever Learning mode that lets it operate stereo equipment and other gear that the watch doesn't "know about." In that mode, you can assign the watch's 16 buttons to any functions of any remotes in your house. When you press a button on such a remote, the watch memorizes the resulting infrared signal, and that makes it ready to control the new component.
It's amazing to see the Wrist Remote work so well from so far away. This is one remote that won't wind up lost in your couch cushions. Too bad we can't strap more of life's remote controls to our wrists.
On the other hand, shrinking a remote control to Tom Thumb size is a recipe for compromise. It's a real pain to have to switch among modes (TV, cable box, learned signals) and remember which mode houses each command. When 16 buttons were crammed onto the Wrist Remote, thoughtful ergonomics was the first thing to go. The power and volume buttons are big and easy to push, but the number keys are the size and shape of half-dissolved Tic Tacs - if you push with your thumb, you trigger nine of them at once. Pointy fingernails are highly recommended.
Casio's WQV1D-8CR Wrist Camera ($230) suffers no such ergonomic difficulties. One push on a huge silver camera button turns the inch-square screen on your wrist into a viewfinder that lets you "look through" the pinhole lens on the far edge of the watch, and another push snaps the picture. Reviewing the pictures you've taken on the gray-scale screen is also extremely easy - and flashy. Your wrist will never get so much attention in public.
But for Dick Tracy fans who are already heading for an electronics shop, a reality check is in order. The watch really does take pictures (there's even a brightness control); 100 of them fit into its memory. But these aren't exactly Kodachrome prints. This camera takes 16-shade gray-scale pictures, so they look like stills taken by a black-and-white security camera. (A new model, due in August, will take color photos.) And they're only 120 pixels square, about the size of a Triscuit. (You can see the photos at an amateur gallery called Camborg (www.camborg.com/camgallery.htm).
On the other hand, remember the old saying: It's not how well the bear dances, it's that the bear can dance at all. Despite the crudeness of the images, as I wore this watch around town, I frequently found myself ready to snap (pictures, I mean). Break-dancers in Times Square, cool prototypes at a trade show and just about everyone I know wound up on my wrist.
The Wrist Camera also makes secret photos possible. I don't mean the situation shown in Casio's own feeble-minded ads, in which men with the watches snap pictures of the women they meet. But at a meeting with a book publisher, I was tempted to capture a couple of paragraphs of a confidential document that I was allowed to look over, but not take with me.
An optional $50 kit lets you send photos, via an infrared transmitter, to a Windows PC as JPEG or BMP files. Or, after downloading the free software from Casio.com, you can beam your photos to a Palm or Pocket PC organizer. If you can get past the low image quality, you'll get more fun out of this watch than any watch you have owned.
"Fun" isn't the word that comes to mind when inspecting the ProTrek Satellite Navi watch with G.P.S. receiver, the PAT2GP-1V ($500). Even a glance tells you that it's a far more serious piece of equipment. Thanks to the bulky built-in antenna, it's like wearing a minivan on your wrist.
But once again, Casio's technology is amazing. This watch reads the invisible signals from the Global Positioning System. If the watch has a clear view of the sky, it calculates where you are on Earth with 10-foot accuracy. Using the Windows software provided, you can plot a route and transfer it to the watch. As you travel, the watch checks the satellites, updating your latitude, longitude, speed and altitude, and shows you the direction of the destination. When you arrive, the watch even plays a celebratory chirp.
But the watch is not, by any means, one of those friendly dashboard units that says, "Turn right at the next light," as you drive. It's aimed at hikers, campers and other people who are experienced with satellite navigation systems. Despite immersion in the manual and the aid of Casio's excellent help line, much of the satellite information was (forgive me) way over my head.
If you are indeed conversant with terms like global datum and dilution of precision, you'll appreciate the nice touches Casio built into the watch. For example, the combination PC cradle and battery recharger can be powered either from a wall outlet or by six AAA batteries - handy when you're in the wilderness.
As these watches demonstrate, there's no such thing as perfect miniaturization - you can't have great ergonomics, powerful features and tininess all in the same gizmo. But Casio has struck as careful a balance as technology permits. Except for the G.P.S. model, each watch is small enough to serve as your everyday watch (and stopwatch and alarm). You pay no penalty for the secondary personality of each.
Based on Casio's success in shrinking cameras, music players and remote controls, here's looking forward to the wrist-size cell phones and TV sets that are rumored to be in the works already - and to the watch-format CD players, microwave ovens and electric shavers that will surely follow.
(Ed Note: With the advent of television displays on cellular telephones recently announced in Japan, perhaps wrist-sized televisions aren't too far away.)
From: Mark Schubin email@example.com
Canada and U.S. satellite TV - Multichannel News reports that DirecTV has sued 80 people in Federal court for providing Canadian equipment illegally in the U.S
Infocomm shootout - Barco, Christie, Digital Projection, Epson, In Focus, JVC, NEC, and Sony all appear to have pulled out. Here's one line from Epson's statement: "The Shoot-Out is no longer necessary to see just how good the image quality can be." Here's a line from NEC: "The booth gives us a chance to show our people, services and new technologies that can't be properly displayed in the current Shoot-Out format.
Representatives of 70 channels of cable programming lobbied members of Congress recently against dual (analog/digital) must-carry, according to stories in Warren Communications News and Television Digest newsletter.
For what it's worth, I've been sent some comparative data from tests of various set-top ATSC receivers. It shouldn't come as any surprise that there are differences in performance nor that those differences allow some stations to be received only on some boxes.
More surprising is that one receiver that otherwise picked up a station fine wouldn't decode its audio (the others did). Two other receivers refused to recognize an audio-only service that a different station was transmitting. Yet another two identified the PSIP but wouldn't decode the audio. A fifth, relatively old receiver decoded it just fine.
I have been told (but have not confirmed) that a number of proponents are pulling out of the MPEG digital-cinema testing next month.
From: Des Chaskelson
Data for these reports was derived from an extensive survey of US television stations from November 2000 through April 2001. Product Reports include a written category analysis, plus quantitative summary tables and charts showing installed base and annual purchases (units and dollars) fro SD and HD, 2001-2003, brand shares, average prices, incidence of purchase etc. Product Reports are available for 23 product categories -- view table of contents online at: http://www.scri.com/sc_hdtv_2001products.html
-- Subscribers to Tech Notes Eligible for a 10% Discount!! --
With all the development of miniaturized television receivers, someone might even get the idea of interactive wrist-sized devices with servers built in for delaying their favorite TV programs. This whole issue raises several questions, mostly rhetorical: "Will it be 8VSB or COFDM?" and "Will this bring a whole new meaning to winding up a broadcast?" I once knew a guy who, just after the introduction of self-winding wrist watches, would try to wind his, nightly, for the next 50 years, but then we won't go there: too much information.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) reports on their WebPages that as few as 195 U.S. stations in 65 markets are transmitting DTV. 30 stations of those 195 are non-commercial. According to our figures that leave 1,288 commercial stations with only 11 months to meet their deadline. Do the math! That means that better than 3 stations must go on the air DAILY to meet the deadline; and that's including weekends and holidays. I have my doubts. What about you? You can get an up date on the front page of our website. Click on the "DTV Station Status" below the DTV spectrum analyzer display. We'll try to keep that link current.
Despite the congressional avarice for the money expected from the auction of spectrum, the "forced" move from Channels 52-59 prior to the end of the DTV migration period is vociferously opposed by both NAB, who thinks any broadcasters that move from that band must be voluntary and America's Public Television Stations (APTS), who support the idea that broadcasters can stay put through the end of the DTV-transition period, continues to be making quit a clamor. Should we see any muscle, you can bet it will get quite ugly for all concerned, but then as one observe says: "No surprises here."
California's San Joaquin based Pappas television group is pushing the FCC to act on four "long-standing applications" for stations in the 52-59-channel band. These apps were filed before the 1996 deadline. One cannot but wonder what's up with the Washington band. If they are not going to grant the apps on those channels, at least say so, so that Pappas can get on with the business of asking for other frequencies or abandon the quest, which is not likely.
Speaking of quests, Qwest, under whose dominance your humble servant is now "forced" to receive telephone service from, seems to oppose the Pappas applications taking the greedy attitude that advanced-wireless services can't peacefully coexist with broadcasters in the same spectrum. How rude!
The mere mention of Qwest brings to mind the ongoing, burning question, in the light of the forced telephone deregulation, when is the FCC going to give us a choice of local phone companies? If and when, then maybe we'll get a quality of service deserving to the American public!
Had an interesting conversation with Dale Cripps, a new neighbor, now that I'm holding court in Oregon, and publisher of an HDTV newsletter. There'll be more on this and the conversations with the engineering managers mentioned in the last Tech-Notes in the not too distant future.
That's it for this time; let's go to press!
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