Friday, August 21, 2009

Small form-factor broadcast console...

Mackie set the standard in inexpensive, small form-factor recording and sound consoles. I own a 1402 VLZ console that fits in a small brief case and sounds great. The problem is that it is the wrong console for most of the work I do that will need a console. Coming from the broadcast side of the world and not the recording side, I want things like a cue buss that sits at the end of the fader travel, or the control room monitors to mute when I turn on the mike so I don't get feedback. I want logic that I can switch a CD player into play when I bring up the fader or hit a start button. None of these "features" are typically required on recording and sound consoles and that was where the biggest market for companies like Mackie are.

Allen & Heath, a respected name in recording consoles, has just come out with their first stab at a broadcast console in the same sort of form-factor as the Mackie 1402. It is called the XB-14 and has most of the Bells and Whistles that I have been looking for. I have been told by Mark Haynes at Leo's Pro Audio that they should have one in next week to test drive and I am looking forward to seeing if they got it right.

One "down" side of the console is the price. It is selling at just under $1,400. I have seen it advertised at $1,200. The Mackie 1402 is running around $500. I can see that the XB-14 has a some extra features to make it more of a broadcast desk, but $700 more? I hope some of these boxes sell to encourage folks like Mackie to compete for this market.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Great tool for checking Line of Sight...

Google Maps has opened up access to resources that would take considerable work and expense to access. Just purchasing software that can do ray tracing over a geographic area 10 years ago would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Now "HeyWhatsThat" has leveraged Google Maps to do just this and it is free.

Now, why would I be so interested in this site? Being a bit of a wireless geek, it is a great starter tool to understand how much coverage area a mountain top has. In the example shown in the right you can see the coverage area from the Twin Peaks communications site in San Francisco. The orange/red overlay indicates area that this site can see. You can see the shadowing of some of the hills of San Francisco affecting the coverage area.

At the top of the frame, shows a panorama of the skyline seen from that site. The list on the right shows what mountain tops can been seen and distance to them.

HeyWhatsThat is a great starting point in checking out coverage area. I wouldn't throw away your $50,000 coverage software just yet as that will be a bit more accurate using better algorithms to calculate coverage such as Longley Rice and TIREM as well as their own tweaks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Major Rant - Title 24

In its every intention, Title 24 tries to reduce power consumption for new and remodeled buildings. In its current structure, it can make it worse.

I really have been trying to be aware in my design and purchase of lighting in our new kitchen remodel. I have been looking at every different lighting option and in particular, LED in the assumption that anything that doesn't have a "heater" in it and creates waste heat, is good (BTW, this is a whole other blog regarding LED lighting). One of the first things I ran into in my design is California's Title 24 requirements. At least up to August of this year, California has standards that have a rather strange way of promoting and calculating effective power usage for kitchens.
  1. There is no limit on the power you can put into the lighting of a kitchen. (a bad thing)
  2. The wattage allocated for high efficacy lighting must be 50 percent or more of total lighting wattage. (a bad thing)
  3. Any fixture that can take non-high efficacy lighting devices like incandescent will be counted at the maximum wattage of the fixture. (a bad thing)
  4. High efficacy lighting is based on the number of lumen per watt (a good thing)
What this means is if you have 200 watts of low efficient lighting, you must have 200 watts of high efficacy lighting which makes no sense at all. In fact it could force you into putting more high efficacy lighting in that you need. In addition to this, the old screw-type Edison base for light bulbs is a standard. There are many more compact florescent bulbs out there designed for this base than for a proprietary pin-type base for recessed lighting. Guess which one is cheaper? In order to "comply" with title 24, you need to use non-standard fixtures.

If they really want to "fix" this, they could just limit the number of watts per square foot and strike out this silliness with standard lighting fixtures.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Farallon Islands' Web Cam

For some time now, as someone has had an objective to get broadband in remote areas of the world, I have been looking at some lonely islands 50Km off the coast of San Francisco known as the Farallon Islands. Back in 2001 or so, at a past Bay Area Wireless Users Group meeting, Simon Barber, suggested that we hook the island up as the main island is staffed and they just had basic two-way radios for communication to the main land. For various reasons it never quite happened until this year when a number of different interests and funding fell into place.

I was introduced to folks at AirJaldi who were looking for locations in the Bay Area to test their radio deployments. I have access to a number of hill tops around the Bay Area and suggest to them that we put a link into the Farallons. I called US Fish and Wildlife and was pointed to the Point Reyes Bird Observatory as they do the day-to-day operations and science on the islands. At the same time I reach out to them, the California Academy of Science was looking to put a high-definition web cam out on the island to stream back to the public. Bingo, we have funding and very interested parties that want fast bandwidth to the island.

After much work in planning, purchasing and deployment, the Farallon Cam was turned up a couple of weeks ago.

It hasn't been smooth. Some of the problems encountered have been links failing due to interference or hardware failure. This has caused the stream to be down more than we wanted to, but it did show for a small budget, that consumer grade unlicensed radios can provide decent bandwidth tens of km to provide the infrastructure for applications like streaming video, voice, data, etc.

Startbucks Gold Card..

Months fly by and I get back into the mode of throwing out pointers and thoughts again.

I came across a nice little deal in the last couple of weeks; the Starbucks Gold Card. For $25 a year you get 10% off of over-priced purchases but what hooked me was the fact you also get 2 hours a day of free WiFi at a Starbucks ATT Hotspot. Nice little deal when ATT wants to ding you for $6 to $10 for some part or whole of a day. Just 4 or 5 two-hour visits pays this thing off. The pricing works well if you are a light user of these spots. If I was more of a road warrior then I would look more at Boingo. As someone that is looking for a place to do some work between meetings, it fits the bill.