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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive for June, 2010

More Tech for the 2010 Radio Show

With a little more than 3 months to go before the 2010 Radio Show, details are starting to be released. I was concerned that there would be no real technical element to the convention. It seems there will be something for the tech crowd after all.

The NAB announced the tech slate recently, and we shared it in the Radio Currents:


The NAB Science and Technology Department has put together a series of panel discussions on various topics. The panels will include representatives from manufacturers to discuss their various fields of expertise. The session announcement noted (several times) that nothing is off limits for the discussion, and controversial topics will not be avoided.

In addition, the exhibits will be called The Marketplace. It appears these will be table-top displays outside the session room and will feature the companies who are speaking on the panels.

The 2010 Radio Show will be a modified format from the previous NAB Radio Shows of the past, and it seems many details are being set as the event draws nearer. What initially appeared to be initially a sales, management and programming conference has now added a serious engineering component.

A Little Tech at the 2010 Radio Show

The details on the 2010 Radio Show are still vague, however, I see two updates that are worth noting.

The location: A recent press release says the show will be held at the Washington Convention Center. There is no mention of the location on the convention website itself, although I thought there were previous notes of it being held at a DC hotel. If it’s at the convention center, it seems the planners anticipate a big event.

The sessions: About a month ago there was no mention of any technical sessions at the convention. There is still no rundown of sessions at this point, but there is a list of themes and topics. In these lists are two items of interest to the engineers. Under themes it includes “Engineering: Ask the Experts”, and under topics it lists “Engineering/Technology.”

With just less than four months to go until the convention starts, we’re still waiting to see if the event is worth an engineer attending.

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The Business of Business Casual

You probably don’t wear a tie to work. Or a suit. That’s ok. The world has become a more casual place.

I’m sure you’ve seen photos of people working at a transmitter site or in a studio wearing suits while carefully taking hourly readings or attentively adjusting an audio program level. It seems funny that things were so formal then.

My office is officially business casual attire. Yours probably is as well. But do you adhere to the business element or simply the casual? Too often, it’s the casual.

I have always focused on encouraging broadcast and media engineers to work to improve themselves and their professional images. An easy place to start is with personal dress. No, ties aren’t needed — but sometimes they are appropriate.

Early in my career, I worked with an engineer who kept a tie in his desk drawer. I asked him why. This was the time when the telephone company made regular visits to the station because everything we did involved leased lines from a single source. When a telephone company installer would arrive, the engineer would be sure to have the tie on. Why? Because installers did not wear ties, but their supervisors did. By wearing a tie, the engineer immediately put himself in a position of authority with the installer. This was not an effort to put the installer down, but rather to ensure the engineer had authority.

There was a mind trick there. And while some may think it was evil tactic, the truth is that it worked.

The same principal can be applied today. While it’s easy to get into a routine to wear casual clothes every day, it’s just as easy to select clothes that look good and are still practical when you have to climb up to the roof. On days when you know you’ll be burying radials in the mud, wear the appropriate clothes. But on days when you expect to be working on the budget, dress for business.

It’s a good idea to have a change of clothes on hand for the appropriate need. I know one engineer who wears a tie every day. He also keeps a pair of disposable coveralls on hand in case he expects to get dirty.

If you dress like a beach bum you’ll likely be treated like one.

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Americans Are Oblivious to Broadband Speeds

The headline from a June 1, 2010 FCC press release:
“FCC Survey Finds 4 out of 5 Americans Don’t Know Their Broadband Speeds”

Whoa! Really? And you know what else? 4 out of 5 Americans probably don’t care either.

More from the FCC press release:

“The Federal Communications Commission released the results of a survey on the consumer broadband experience. The survey found that 80 percent of broadband users in the United States do not know the speed of their broadband connection.”

Well, that’s good to know, right?

“FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, ‘Speed matters. The more broadband subscribers know about what speeds they need and what speeds they get, the more they can make the market work and push faster speeds over broadband networks.’”

I agree that speed matters, but is it really that critical for Mabel and Homer to know they have 720kb/s or 1.4Mb/s download capability? There are lots of technical details consumers don’t know or really need to know. They just want it to work.

And no matter how well something is explained, it often makes no sense in the end. The short answer is to simply say, “You need to pay a little more each month and step up to the next level of speed.

There is one benefit to the study. The FCC wants to verify that advertised connection speeds are actually being delivered. I typically lean towards buyer beware, but this is a case where Mabel and Homer will likely never verify their Internet connection speeds.

Still, are Mabel and Homer depending on a lightning-fast connection in the first place?

This is all part of the FCC’s efforts to push broadband improvements. Sure, let’s improve the broadband infrastructure for everyone. It’s the opening headline that made me laugh.

But on the serious side, the FCC looking for 10,000 volunteers to participate in a study to measure home broadband speed in the U.S. Specialized hardware will be installed in the homes of volunteers to measure the performance of all the country’s major Internet service providers across geographic regions and service tiers. The FCC is partnering with SamKnows Limited in this effort, the same firm that successfully conducted a similar test in the United Kingdom. A Public Notice asking for comment on the test plan was released in April 2010 and can be found at http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-10-670A1.pdf.

Anyone can register as a volunteer for this national test at www.TestMyISP.com. Volunteers will be able to track the performance of their own broadband service, as well as providing valuable data for the FCC, Internet service providers, and the public at large.

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