The Artisan Radio Blog


September 20, 2022 10:06 Pacific - Ramblings

I've spent the last couple of days adding to the programming of Artisan Radio (approximately 2-3 months, depending on the show).  Next up is adding to Books Over the Air.

It appears that the politics of greed, hate, and fear is rising around the world.  Italy is set to get its first extreme right wing Prime Minister since Mussolini.  And we all know how that turned out.  Sweden's far right wing parties eked out a narrow win, although they will be going with a more moderate Prime Minister due to disagreements within the coalition.  The party that got the 2nd most votes there arose out of a neo Nazi movement.  In the U.S., the Republicans are fighting to see who could be cast as the next leads in the reboot of the movie Dumb and Dumber (we all know who is Dumbest).  Finally, Canada's Conservatives (I refuse to call them Progressive) overwhelmingly chose a Trump Mini-Me as their leader.  In the past, I'd have said that Canadians are too smart to elect someone like him, but now I really don't know.  Ignorance is rising everywhere.

I feel comfortable with the decision to drop my aspirations for an RSS 123 license, and stick to BETS-1.  From what I understand, ISED just wants to see you using the appropriate certified transmitter.  There still may be ways to extend my over-the-air coverage slightly using such a transmitter.  I will continue to program Public Domain material only, as I will be maintaining the internet streams.

September 18, 2022 21:56 Pacific - Frustration

Well, that went well.  Not.

The form I was sent by the ISED was for a radio broadcast license.  The Spectrum Manager seemed to think that I could still be licensed under RSS 123, but I would have to contact the CRTC to confirm.

This is getting way too complicated. I don't think that this is the way to get an RSS 123 license, and I also don't think that the folks at the local ISED office really know what they're doing with this. I was told they just don't see these kinds of  requests. My guess is that people just buy whatever transmitter, and go ahead and use it without getting a license.  It's unlikely they''ll be caught unless someone complains, and it's unlikely someone will complain unless they're using a flame thrower and generate interference.

I think I'll just keep doing BETS-1 and my little internet streams with public domain material (OTR, book readings). I honestly don't know how others in Canada have gotten away with running a low power radio station under RSS 123.  I can't even get straight answers trying to do what RSS 123 was intended for.  And I want to stay legal.

September 14, 2022 16:00 Pacific - I Know Somebody Who Knows Somebody Who ...

I may finally have gotten an advocate within ISED.

After asking for a paper form, I received a phone call from a Technical Support person in ISED.  They listened very carefully to what I was trying to do, and they are going to follow up with another Spectrum Manager.  And call me back, hopefully by Friday.

We both agreed that not many people in Canada are attempting to get an RSS123 license, and my understanding is that those that are are scattered throughout the offices in Canada.  She's never dealt with this kind of thing before either, and questioned whether I was getting the right type of license.

I think it is the right type, but I believe, after the trials and tribulations, that you have to fill out a paper form to get it, as the online form is not set up for it.  Anyway, she was interested, and I think at the very least I will get some sort of answer.

The beat goes on.

September 14, 2022 11:35 Pacific - Comedy of Errors

It all started with my wanting to expand Artisan Radio to a Public Information Service covering the downtown (City Hall block) of where we are located.  I've had a Spectrum Manager assigned to this endeavour from ISED.  I was told to apply for the Base only of a Base-Mobile radio license.

From the beginning, it's been obvious that the online application forms were not created for this purpose.  They are intended primarily for industrial applications, where a base station communicates 2-way to a series of mobile stations (such as a truck fleet).  I've made multiple attempts to fill out these forms, but keep getting validation errors.  The response to my latest series of questions to the Spectrum Manager seem in direct opposition to what I was told previously (for one, use the Mobile section to fill out the information about the wireless microphone,entering in 0Mhz for the requested channel, etc.).  It's becoming pretty obvious that there is a lack of knowledge about wireless microphones and RSS123, which is somewhat understandable - it's probably not very common.

So I'm going to request a paper application, fill it in as best I can, and send it back to ISED.  What will happen, will happen.

In the meantime, I'm not holding my breath on getting the license, and will continue to work on ways to increase my BETS-1 and/or RSS210 coverage.  For the latter, the way I figure it, ISED and the CRTC obviously don't consider a Public Information Service a broadcasting endeavour, as no CRTC license is required.  Therefore, it is permissible to use an RSS210-certified transmitter to provide such a service, as you can use such devices for anything but broadcasting.

I suppose I could pay the money, and get the Decade folks to fill out the application.  But to be honest (I always am, sometimes to my detriment), I'm not sure that I trust the information that will be provided.  I believe that others have pulled some fast ones to get their RSS123 licenses (it's not supposed to be used for broadcasting music to the general public, regardless of whether Industry Canada regulates content or not).  I want to do this totally above board, do it myself, and if that means I don't get it, so be it.

September 12, 2022 11:12 Pacific - Last Effort

I've sent off another e-mail to ISED asking for yet more help with the online licensing application form for wireless microphones under RSS 123.  I've also asked if paper applications are available, as the trouble is with the automatic data validation, and the online forms really aren't set up for this type of licensing.

This may be my last go at it.  It's becoming far too aggravating, in an endeavor that's supposed to be enjoyable and satisfying.

September 12, 2022 11:00 Pacific - Canada's Trump

I don't think I'll be able to mock the U.S. anymore about voting for Trump and continuing to support him.  The Canadian Progressive Conservative Party has just gone ahead and elected populist/far right winger Pierre Poilievre as their leader.  They can no longer be considered Progressive, and should change their name.

In some ways this is good, as a majority of Canadians fall into the moderate and left wing categories, and the Liberal Party should be able to take advantage of that.  On the other hand, it's rather sad that right wing extremism is growing in Canada.

I guess there are whack jobs everywhere.

September 10, 2022 15:13 Pacific - H265 & Video Streaming

Tested out a Maxwell architecture Nvidia graphics card today, which supports H265 (but no B-Frames).  Quality was great, much better than AMD's VCE at comparable bitrates, and also much faster (at least twice as fast - I was getting over 400 fps with the GPU running under 10%).  The downside is the size of the files, at least compared to X265 (software encoding).  There was somewhere between 15-20% premium in the size of the hardware encoding.  That may improve with B-Frame support, but you have to go to Turing architecture for that.  If I see something reasonably priced, I'll give it a go.

September 9, 2022 20:14 Pacific - Various Things

I've received some pushback on my pondering whether to continuing streaming when/if I get an RSS 123 license.  The major concern I had, as always, was copyright issues.  If I stream, I either have to make sure that I don't stream any content that may be copyrighted, or, continue on with public domain-only programming.  I just don't want to go through the hassle of getting licensed by not only SOCAN, but ReSound and all the other licensing bodies that are lurking in the wings, looking to take money.  Plus, the logging requirements can be pretty onerous (on Bowen Island, I just ignored them and sent Socan (the only license I obtained - ignorance is bliss) what I had, i.e., Zara logs - but I can't count on that for everyone.

For music, it's no issue.  I don't intend to transmit any copyrighted music, period.  But as an example, I was hoping to get the library on board with book readings - in fact I was hoping that they might be tempted to do some.  I either would have to have the stream go dark during that programming, or ensure that the books are in the public domain.  The latter might be too restrictive and discourage involvement.

Then I realized that it's only under BETS-1 that Socan and the others will give over-the-air broadcasting a pass.  If I do broadcast copyrighted material, I'd need licenses for that as well.

The long and short of it is that I will continue streaming, and have to figure out how to make public domain stuff compelling.  In some ways, the end result may be better, as there will have to be more original programming.

As for the RSS 123 license, I received answers to my questions, got further in the process, and then ran into more difficulties.  Kids, don't try this at home.  Back to the Spectrum Manager I go - this time, the application is rejecting virtually every combination of input into requesting a channel.

For the application, you first have to provide general information about your station.  Check.

You then have to provide information about the transmitter/antenna and location (they call it an emission - no bad jokes please).  Check.

You then have to request a channel and I'm stuck there.  Again, the form is oriented towards business base/mobile VHF communications, and doesn't want to accept anything in the FM band.  I'm sure there's a simple way around it, but I can't find it.

Finally, the application is also giving me a validation error on the mobile section of a base-mobile application, because I haven't got one.  I was told just to apply for a base.  So I have to get rid of that section somehow.

I'm going to write a guide on how to do this once I'm finished.  It's definitely not for the faint of heart, or the unmotivated.  Now it's become a challenge!

September 8, 2022 20:14 Pacific - Ups & Downs

Artisan Radio & Books Over The Air have been up and down the past few days.  Butt (the latest version) has started crashing randomly again after several days of 24/7, and I've also been having some difficulties with the wireless network driver on one of the computers.  It took some 'magic' to get it going in the first place (there are known problems with the driver) and that magic appears to be wearing off.

Both computers generating these streams (and over the air broadcasts) are running on laptops of various vintages, and both are running Windows 7 (generally much more stable than Windows 10, plus you don't get the unwanted updates forced on you).  Historically, I've found that tower computers seem to be more robust (the computer serving the streams to the Internet and hosting the website stays up for weeks on end until I reboot just to be safe), and I'm planning on moving the station automation to one I recently picked up once (I might as well be positive) I get the RSS 123 license.  I'll probably go with Windows 10 on that computer to start, and fall back to Windows 7 if there are stability issues.

I'm also thinking that I might move the audio processing from software (on the automation computer) to hardware (a Symetrix 421M), as multitasking isn't a strength of Windows.  It does OK doing one thing, but it's less so running multiple, interacting tasks.

Streaming is still up in the air.  It may not make a lot of sense with the hyper local programming I'm planning.  Besides which, I want people to listen in on their radios, not their computers or smartphones.

September 8, 2022 19:41 Pacific - The Queen is Dead

Canada's Queen passed away today at the age of 96.  While the idea of a monarchy is pretty old-fashioned, she was by all accounts a unique individual who never took herself too seriously and who had a great sense of humour.

In homage to this wonderful lady, I'm posting a link to a video clip from the SCTV series.  Some may think it's disrespectful, but that's certainly not the intention.  And I can't help thinking that Queen Elizabeth II would approve.  Here is The Queen Haters.

September 8, 2022 15:34 Pacific - Broadcasting in Canada

Much is being made about the term 'broadcasting' as it is used in Canada.

Broadcasting in Canada is transmitting over the radio waves with a CRTC license.  If, in their infinite wisdom, the government regulatory bodies have determined you don't need a CRTC license for your particular application, then, by definition, you aren't broadcasting.

Trying to come up with any further distinctions between broadcasting and not broadcasting is just wasting time and effort.

So what are the exceptions?  Well, the CRTC has detailed a list of exemptions (not entirely sure if this is up to date) to the requirement for a broadcasting license.  One of those exemptions is for ultra low power transmitters that they call Low Power Announce Systems.  The ISED (Industry Canada) technical requirements for those transmitters can be found in BETS-1.  There are others, where you require an Industry Canada license (RSS 123), but not a broadcasting license.  I'm hoping to slot into the Public Information category for RSS 123.

To that end, I've fired off an e-mail to the Spectrum Manager at ISED that I've been dealing with.  I've asked questions regarding power output (I need to determine it to calculate field strength at the coverage boundaries, while the application asks for what you want), antenna (they ask for detailed antenna info, including height, whereas the antenna I would be using is fixed to the transmitter) and public consultation (the application is worded such that it seems to be expected - for a wireless microphone?).

The answers I get back will go a long way in determining whether I will be getting my hopes up about receiving the license.  Somehow, I can't see every wireless microphone applicant filling out that form without entering in a bunch of N/A's (which you can't do, as it's validated before being submitted).

September 6, 2022 12:54 Pacific - RSS 123 Application

Approval was obtained for the Spectrum Canada website.  I then attempted to fill in an application for an RSS123 license.

Unfortunately, I hit a few snags.  The entire principal of RSS123 is to cover a fixed area (otherwise, you're broadcasting).  The license application is set up to ask for antenna info & power, the exact values of which can't be known until you do some experimentation to find the field strength of your transmitter at the boundaries.  I suppose you could theoretically calculate the required power necessary to generate 100uv/m at the boundaries, but that doesn't take into account obstructions and other unknown factors (which can be significant at power in the low mw range).  In fact, the RSS123 document itself talks about locating the transmitter and aligning its antenna to obtain the allowed boundary field strengths.  This is a classic chicken & egg problem; you need to experiment to find the appropriate location & power for your transmitter to get a license, and yet you need a license to experiment.  This is something that I will be contacting my Spectrum Manager about.

Other interesting problems.  There were numerous questions about public consultation regarding the antenna being used, and the transmissions.  If you answer no to all of these (which I will), then you have to provide explanations.  Presumably, having an RSS123-certified transmitter with a fixed antenna running a public information system is enough.  Also, the height of the transmitter antenna was asked for.  But with what reference?  In reference to my apartment, about a meter.  In reference to outside, the 8th floor of an apartment building or about 75 meters.  But the antenna is inside a concrete building, not outside on a mast, and that will skew any potential range calculations they can do.  I'll think on these answers some more - I doubt that the Spectrum Manager will be of much help.

It's pretty obvious that the license application is oriented towards industry communications, rather than limited area transmissions.  I can only hope that my answers make it clear what I'm attempting to do.  A lot of the form could best be filled out with N/A, at least for my purposes.

September 6, 2022 10:04 Pacific - Part 15 Forum History

When I started Artisan Radio up on Bowen Island in 2006, Part15.us was a mature & vibrant Forum.  It was, after all, the only one of its kind.

Hobbybroadcaster came online in 2008.  The ALPB, although not intended as a Forum only per say, came into existence in 2013 or thereabouts.

So when someone talks about copycat Forums, remember that all of them post 2006 copied Part15.us (now Part15.org).

September 6, 2022 07:57 Pacific - More Video Experiments

Needed a modest video card for a new computer I picked up at a thrift store a few days ago, so purchased a new AMD RX550.  This is an entry level gaming card, but it's largest advantage (other than the price) was that it supported VCE H265 hardware encoding.

Although comparing Nvidia's Nvenc to AMD VCE is rather like comparing apples to oranges, you can draw some conclusions.  H265 encoding on the AMD was slower, much slower in fact, than H264 on Nvidia.  I was getting anywhere between 200-300 fps with H264, and between 100-150 fps with H265.  Both, however, are more than fast enough for streaming.

Quality (and size) was the difference.  I got acceptable full 720p quality with H265 using bitrates of 450kbps.  Similar quality using H264 required bitrates of 600-650kbps.  Both hardware encoders had difficulties with high motion scenes, understandable since they use 1 pass only.

In comparing the H265 (hardware) results to X265 (software), the hardware encode was larger (160MB vs 135MB) for about 44 minutes of video, and the 2 pass X265 had much higher quality, particularly in motion scenes.  But you can't use 2 passes for streaming; that's suitable for offline video encoding only.

Still, the results were reasonable, and it's unlikely that a Part 15 station would stream much high motion.

Supposedly the later (Turing) generation Nvidia cards have higher quality H265 encoding, supporting B-Frames (which gives you greater compression).  The world-wide shortage of graphics cards has greatly inflated prices, and they're just gradually starting to come down as availability increases.  It may be some time before I can find such a card at a justifiable price.

Edit: Forgot to mention that audio in the tests was encoded in Opus 64kbps.

September 3, 2022 13:44 Pacific - Ripping the Shroud of Illegality Off Low Power Radio

Very few people in the low power radio field are willing to talk specifics about what they do.  It gives off the aroma of illegal activity.  While I've come into contact with a few, honest to goodness, pirates in the low power radio industry (and they were even apparently tolerated over at the ALPB under the initial and now current chairman, as long as they didn't overtly talk about it), most do attempt to follow the rules.

I'm not sure why the unwillingness to share.  Maybe it's paranoia (the government will get you if you don't watch out) and they don't want to call attention to themselves.  Maybe they don't want to open themselves up to criticism from others.

In any event, I'm taking the opposite approach in my application to get an RSS 123 license.  I'm following the correct processes, and doing nothing wrong.  It may even help some as to what they can and can't do here in Canada.

If I don't get the license, no harm done.  I'll just continue on with BETS.

September 2, 2022 15:56 Pacific - Applying For an RSS 123 License

I've had another response from Industry Canada.  Licensing for wireless microphones under RSS 123 is done by applying for the Base portion of a Land Mobile license.

The first step is to register using the Spectrum Management System.  You have to be approved before going any further.  There was one question whose answer was not immediately clear (I just did it).  I was asked to specify the type of industry I was involved in (obviously, a holdover from business licensing).  I answered Public Administration, as this is going to be a Public Information System.  However, my guess is that that answer is not particularly important at this stage.

Once (or if, although I can't imagine being turned down for that) I'm approved, I then can apply online for the base mobile portion of the land mobile license.  You can't even see the form until you get the approval.  I suppose I could go to an ISED office and get the form, but it's much more convenient to do everything online.  You can even pay the license fee online once/if approved.

I think that the completed license application goes to the local ISED office, where I already have a Spectrum Manager assigned.  I expected a more detailed 2nd answer than what I got today (just a 2 liner pointing me to the website and confirming the type of license), based on their comments in the previous e-mail.  I don't know if the brevity is a good sign or not.

No matter what happens, this is useful exercise.  I'm particularly interested if ISED will ask for field strength measurements on the boundaries of my proposed coverage area.  I'm hoping to be able to do a poor man's version, i.e., walking around with a Tecsun radio while transmitting at increasing power levels until I can hear the station everywhere (and not too much beyond that).  I'm also going to have to get the relative db/dbu radings for 100uv/m for my particular Tecsun radio.

The plan is to use a Decade LX-75, which is power regulated according to Mark, and allows between 1-80 mw of power to a fixed, telescopic antenna.  I'm closer to some of the coverage boundaries than others, but should be able to mitigate the field strength to allowable levels close by by judicious use of concrete obstructions and placement of the transmitter/antenna.

It's far too early to think about programming specifics, but since there's City Hall, the Recreation Centre, a Seniors Centre, a Public Library, Ambulance & other services, a park, a public school and possibly other venues in the coverage area, there are plenty of choices.  Book Readings immediately come to mind.

September 2, 2022 10:21 Pacific - Hardware Video Encoding

I've been doing a bit of research on the technology that allows gamers (and potentially Part 15 radio) to live stream over the Internet.

Most modern video cards above entry level can support some form of hardware video encoding.  H264 is most commonly used, but H265 (HEVC), because of its reduced bitrate, is becoming more popular.  Nvidia (which calls their hardware encoding Nvenc) has a fairly complete HEVC implementation on cards from 2019 on, although earlier cards had a partial implementation (no B-Frames) since around 2015  AMD's hardware encoder is called VCE, and it's been around about the same length of time, but doesn't support B Frames.  B Frames allow for greater compression (i.e., lower bit rates).

Unfortunately, I currently own an earlier Nvidia Kepler generation video card - it supports H264 only.

My initial impression (converting several movie files) is that hardware encoding is extremely fast, with the GPU doing the bulk of the work.  The CPU is only required for audio encoding.  On a very minimal setup, I achieved over 150fps, with the bit rate making virtually no difference in encoding speed.  However, the resulting quality suffers in comparison with software only encoders such as X264.  To put it another way, you need a higher bitrate, with correspondingly larger files, using H264 (hardware encoding) to achieve the same quality using X264 (software encoding).

For live streaming, all you really care about is speed and CPU load, so it's ideal.

I can hardly wait to test a Turing generation (2019) video card, which supports HEVC with B-Frames.  These cards are relatively expensive, even today, so I may first test a Maxwell generation (2015) card first (containing the first implementation of HEVC without B-Frames).  These can be obtained for under C$100.

September 2, 2022 10:07 Pacific - Laughing, Laughing, Laughing

That's the name of a song that I really like from the teenage doowop era.

It's also what I did after reading a recent post over at Hobbybroadcaster.  Several went on a diatribe, mocking an attempt by a record pressing company over in Europe to produce 'green' vinyl (made from recycled plastic).  One even made a comment that the 'greenies', since they're always complaining about something,  will now have to find other things to complain about.  This, from a group of curmudgeons who complain about virtually everything that doesn't fit within their view of the universe.

Reminds me of a story told by the Smothers Brothers (slightly amended).  Studies have shown that those on the political left wear fewer clothes than those on the political right.  Not sure why, but maybe it's their less rigid views on life.  The study labeled them the Less-Ons.  Right wingers?  They were the More-Ons.

September 2, 2022 10:01 Pacific - Finally...

heard back from Industry Canada regarding my enquiry re wireless microphone licensing.

All I wanted was for them to point me to the applicable license required, but instead, a Spectrum Manager asked me some questions I thought would be more appropriate on the licensing application.  Such as what equipment I would be using, what power, what frequency, etc.

I responded, but I'm not holding out much hope for a positive result.  I figure that the northern and rural Ontario RSS 123 stations I've referenced previously were just given a pass because of their location, which meant lots of open space on the FM band (thus, greatly reducing the possibility of interference).  I suspect that Industry Canada is going to be far more diligent for more urban areas, where the FM band is relatively full.  But we'll see.

August 26, 2022 11:47 Pacific - If At First You Don't Succeed

Still haven't heard back from ISED (Industry Canada) about the type of license required to run a public information service on the FM band using a wireless microphone under RSS 123 (and as per CPC 2-1-11).

So I sent off an e-mail.

They're not going to get rid of me that easily.  Although this does show the priorities given to those other than the big, licensed stations.

August 26, 2022 11:30 Pacific - Interesting Issue

In today\s Blare Blog, an interesting issue is brought up, i.e., the use of artificial intelligence to create digital TV (and maybe radio) hosts.  Supposedly it's already being done in Southern Asia.

I've been pretty outspoken about my disdain for what is so inappropriately labeled as artificial intelligence.  While these things may be artificial, they certainly doesn't contain intelligence other than which was originally programmed in by their creator(s).  They're really just (sometimes sophisticated) computer programs utilizing different nomenclature to attract research and/or entrepreneur funding.  Artificial intelligence systems don't reason, therefore they can't explain their actions; in fact, they are totally bound by the constraints of the world view programmed into them.  They're more like artificial stupidity than anything else.  Kind of reminds me of a certain orange-skinned politician.

That being said, a news anchor just reads the news as presented to them, without comment, so whatever you want to call the digital copies, they may serve a role.  I don't think I'd be interested; I'd rather read the news myself rather than see it presented through a filter.

August 24, 2022 13:24 Pacific - Ups & Downs

The thing about blogs is that you get to see all the ups and downs of the blogger as time goes on (unless you're like Hobbybroadcaster, and freely revise posts).

It appears that the VankleekFM station is no more.  The last post on their Facebook page is from about 2 years ago, their smartphone apps no longer exist in the app stores, and if you attempt to listen to their stream, it fails.

Don't know whether that is because they just decided to call it quits, or it's something to do with their assumed RSS 123 license.

I'm still optimistic, but maybe less so now.

August 24, 2022 11:40 Pacific - RSS 123 & Public Information Service

I haven't been able to get through to ISED (Industry Canada) so had to leave a message.

Upon reviewing another low power FM station in Canada, VankleekFM, I'd have to say that it is running under RSS 123.  On their website, they state that they are a public information service explicitly, and also the fact that while they have an assigned frequency, it is unprotected.  They also state that they are using a Decade MS-100, but no technical information on their installation is given.  They could be using the same setup Joel Legace is - an MS-100 with an external antenna, which will give you field strength levels far above BETS.

Update: Just heard back from Spectrum Management, sort of.  They are passing along my query to a Spectrum Manager (I guess us lowly plebes who phone in questions can't talk to them directly).  If I don't hear back, I'm supposed to e-mail them.  Funny, because I did e-mail the general office of Spectrum Management, who told me to phone.  Though I did get a different e-mail address this time, so maybe I'm closer to the answer.

Again, it's hurry up and wait.  I have to admit, I'm getting a bit more optimistic that this may work out, as I really do intend to provide a public information service to the City Hall Square where I live.  I'd have no objection using an MD-100 with an external antenna, but since I'm in an apartment, that really wouldn't work out.  I'd probably have to use an LX-75 (or maybe even get a Decade 800 or 850) in the low milliwatt range (sufficient to cover about 400 meters).  The one thing I worry about is my location, which is in a densely populated area, as opposed to the rural and semi-rural areas of these other guys.  I have to wonder if they're being shown lenience because of that.

August 23, 2022 21:14 Pacific - RSS 123 License Enquiry

I sent an e-mail off to the Spectrum Management division of Industry Canada yesterday, asking what kind of license is required for a wireless microphone running under RSS 123.  I noted that I would be using either a Decade MS-100 or an LX-75, both RSS 123 certified.  I got a reply back today (amazingly) to contact my local Industry Canada office.  I was hoping to avoid that, but it is now on the agenda for tomorrow.  I wonder if I'll talk to someone who actually knows what RSS 123 is?

August 22, 2022 07:55 Pacific - After the Dust Has Settled

A summary of what I've learned so far about video streaming with OBS and Icecast.

IceCast can support video streaming, but is limited in the types of containers it will support.

OBS is really just a GUI front end for FFMpeg, which can feed IceCast via its protocols.  OBS also has limitations in what it can do, most notably support HEVC in software.  It also has some arbitrary limits built in, around such things as video frame rates audio bit rates, etc.  You may be able to get around those limits by directly supplying arguments to FFMpeg.

It's an interesting exercise and I will continue to play around with it, but I'm still at a loss to know what to do with video streaming.

August 22, 2022 07:38 Pacific - RSS 123

I've been carrying on a conversation (via Youtube comments, if you can believe it) with someone in Canada who did a Decade MS-100 range test, and was claiming ranges of 1.2 km with a clear signal (on a Tecsun 660 radio).

This flies in the face of my understanding of BETS and I challenged him on it.  His reply is very interesting, and if accurate, throws a whole new light on potential Part 15 broadcasting in Canada.

He claims that he has licensed his stations under the Wireless Microphone sections of Industry Canada's rules (CPC-1-2-11) with RSS 123.  Those wireless microphone rules allow for output of up to 1 watt or what Industry Canada deems a coverage area of 500 meters (100uv/m @ 500 meters).  Since Industry Canada doesn't regulate content, you can do whatever you want, as long as you don't cause interference with licensed stations.  The CRTC doesn't consider RSS 123 use as broadcasting.

I'm not so sure about this interpretation, as the RSS 123 rules specifically state that they are to be used either for short term duration events, or in specific areas (such as public places, private land, etc.).  But then again, the wireless microphone rules don't specify anything of the sort; perhaps RSS 123 licensing is just used for them to avoid introducing yet another, confusing licensing mechanism.

I have asked the individual to supply me with the exact name of the license(s) he's obtained, and I will be contact Industry Canada to see if I can follow suit.  I just happen to own several Decade MS-100's and an LX-75, all of which are RSS 123 certified.  The former are also BETS certified, so can be used unlicensed.  The latter cannot be used unless you have an RSS 123 license.

August 21, 2022 10:01 Pacific - Getting OBS Running with IceCast

This is not at all trivial.  Quite simply, the documentation sucks, and I had to go to a lot of websites and do a lot of experimentation to get things running smoothly.  I managed to get several windows showing in the video stream (Zara & VSTHost with a compressor plug-in), and audio piped in (which it seems you have to do separately), before calling it quits for the day.

There are a lot of restrictions in OBS, such as the minimum frame rate for the output being 10fps, no HEVC (X265) encoding, etc.  IceCast also doesn't support a lot of stuff that OBS can do (such as Matroska-MKV), although I easily could have been doing things incorrectly, there's very little to guide you).

I got an MP4 stream going within a TS container (which Icecast seems to support nicely, couldn't get OGG going) and Opus audio (although, again, the minimum bitrate was 32Kbps - there might be ways around that, as OBS lets you pass arguments through to the various FFMpeg encoders so it's possible you can override that restriction).  You have to provide the info for the Icecast directory through these arguments (FFMpeg has an icecast protocol).

I think I'm going to write up a quick guide to getting these things talking to one another, but that's a project for another day.

OBS is definitely not professional video software, but then, you can't beat the price.  And it's really designed to work with servers such as Twitch, Youtube, etc. (which do entirely different types of streaming as opposed to IceCast).

August 21, 2022 15:42 Pacific - Success!

I just created a test video stream using OBS and IceCast, with input from both a video capture card and another window on the laptop.

The only problem I had was that I had set the maximum number of sources in Icecast to 2, and the video stream made it 3 (currently running is Artisan Radio and ArtisanRadioBooks); Icecast just rejected the source connect with a 403 (Forbidden) error, and it took me a little bit to figure out what was going on.

I'm now going to try different encoding schemes (I used a .ts container, with x-264 video @1000 Kbps, and Opus audio @ 48Kbps).  Also different video resolutions (the one I used was 710x400) and different audio bit rates.

But in the meantime I just have to figure out what I would stream, if indeed I decide to do so.  Thanks to the Blare Blog for giving me the incentive to try this.

August 21, 2022 11:50 Pacific - Preliminary Thoughts on Video Streaming

It looks like Icecast (which we currently use for audio streaming) can also be used for video streaming.

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) can be used as the encoder, feeding Icecast.  It has the ability to encode the entire display, a specific window, or input from a video capture card.  Since I have several of the latter, I think I'd go with that.  I also have a couple of camcorders lying around that can be hooked up to the capture cards.

OBS is free, so it doesn't have the features or flexibility of the professional (and pay ware) video encoding software.  But it's a good place to start and experiment.

August 21, 2022 07:37 Pacific - Want Food Advice?

Go over to an unlikely source, Hobbybroadcaster.  I guess things have been slow on the google front for the webmaster, who's taken to posting photos of his latest meal, and initiating discussions on local foods.

Maybe he plans on starting a new website - FoodBroadcaster.

August 21, 2022 07:29 Pacific - Video Streaming

A recent post over at the Blare Blog talks about the possibilities of creating a companion video stream to your audio stream.

I've thought about that as well, as far back as when Artisan Radio was on Bowen Island.  The video stream would have shown a view of Howe Sound, and the ferry (the lifeblood of the island) comings and goings.  I never did act on the idea.

I've never been a fan of the traditional radio video stream - the radio host(s) sitting and chatting.  Radio is truly Theater of the Imagination, and there are reasons why most of these hosts are in a pure audio medium.

If I were to do a video stream, I'd want it to be relevant to the audio being streamed, or at the very least the station.  Then there are the bandwidth considerations of any sort of stream, although you could make it extremely slow (such as 1 frame every 10 seconds, which is the interval in which Artisan Radio refreshes its audio meta data).

I'll have to do some more thinking about this.

August 18, 2022 13:34 Pacific - Questions About Range

I mentioned the range I'm getting noise free in an earlier post with my current transmitter, an MS-100.  After receiving some questions, I thought I'd clarify a few things.

The transmitter is operating in mono mode, which does give you slightly more noise free range than stereo.  The maximum range that I can actually hear it at is much more than 150 meters, but the signal is fairly noisy at that point.  Range, of course, is highly dependent on a number of factors, most importantly obstructions.  The transmitter is located by a window, but the surrounding building is also made of concrete and steel, which I'm sure attenuates the signal no matter where the transmitter is placed.

I currently own 2 MS-100's, and both have roughly the same signal strength level as measured (relatively, not absolutely) by a Tecsun PL-368 (around 6500 db with the radio a foot or so from the antenna).

Mark (from Part15.org) pointed out a range test on youtube for the MS-100 (here it is), and I duly watched it.  Even though it claims to measure that MS-100 operating under BETS ...  it really isn't.  An external antenna is used (I can't tell the type, but it doesn't look to be a standard vertical) and a fairly long length of coax is used to feed the transmitter.  Such a setup will produce a field strength far above BETS allowed levels, and it's notable that the field strength isn't measured (or even compared against a standard Decade with a fixed antenna, which the guy also owned).  The Tecsun radio used for the testing looks to be a PL-606, DSP, which means that it can do the relative signal strength measurements.

That it isn't truly BETS compliant is revealed in the range obtained - 1.2 km almost noise free with that Tecsun radio.  These radios usually have sensitivities in the 5uv range for FM, but they don't even hold a candle to the sensitivity of car radios (1-2uv, some even less than 1uv).  I'd bet that a car radio would receive the signal well over a mile.

When I was running on Bowen Island, I put an MS-100 in a weatherproof box, used the fixed attached antenna, and placed the assembly on a rooftop overlooking my target coverage area.  That was truly BETS compliant, and I could maybe get reliable coverage of 1/4 to 1/2 km on a car radio (with some noise, depending on obstructions).  At a distance of around 1km, in just the right spot, I could hear the signal faintly in the background.

Decade did sell an MS-100 with an external antenna connector, but it was meant for licensed RS-123 operation.  It is not BETS or RSS210 compliant (and I also noted that when the video showed the FCC and IC numbers of a Decade, he did not use the one with the external antenna connector, but another with a fixed antenna).  Even if the telescopic antenna on a BETS certified Decade was replaced at some point by the owner with an external antenna jack, that makes the transmitter not BETS compliant).

There is no doubt that Part 15 (BETS) FM broadcasting is much 'better' here in Canada than the U.S.; we are allowed greater field strength, which, under ideal conditions, translates to greater range.  But not the kind of range being reported in the video.  One day I intend to do a real range test to show what can be done legally.

RSS210 AM in Canada is still your better bet if range is all you are after, and you are not located in a concrete jungle.  I've managed to obtain well over a mile range with a good AM installation and in directions with few obstructions.  The signal was weak but still listenable, much better than the FM signal I got on Bowen at 1km.  I've obtained that kind of range with a Talking Sign, a ProCaster and a Hamilton Rangemaster, all in the Vancouver area in spots with excellent ground conductivity.

August 17, 2022 21:48 Pacific - Another Heat Wave

The temperature got up rather high today, but I was able to avoid shutting things down.  Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter, so we'll have to see what happens.

August here in the Pacific Northwest has been much hotter than July (and here we were thinking we could escape the heat waves hitting most of the continent).  It's supposed to be hotter than normal until early September at the very least.  And, of course, it's much hotter still, high up in a concrete, glass & steel apartment building (think a greenhouse, and you get the picture).

As the famous song by the Animals says, I've gotta get out of this place...

August 17, 2022 21:41 Pacific - Some Thoughts About Range

I spent the evening being entertained by musicians giving a concert in the park adjacent to where I live.  The distance was about 150 meters, and I could hear everything clearly.

That's about the same range that I get noise-free from my Decade MS-100 on FM.  It's rather sad that Part 15 broadcasting, even in Canada, is limited to distances that can easily be exceeded by audio on the lower frequencies.  And the performers don't have to worry about the FCC or Industry Canada shutting them down.

August 17, 2022 21:13 Pacific - Are Forums Important?

Mark (moderator over at Part15.org) responded to my Dead Forums post, saying that a positive of the Forums is the camaraderie they inspire.

I agree to some extent.  I have met some very nice, interesting and creative people through the various Forums I've been a part of.  Those I continue to keep in contact with.  But for the most part, I've found they are the exception, rather than the rule.  Most individuals I've dealt with have been egocentric, hypocritical, biased and/or downright ignorant (not to mention racist, sexist, etc.).  I wouldn't want to associate with them outside of a Forum, so why would I want to deal with them inside?

It's like the difference between working for someone, and having your own business.  While there are some advantages to the former, I much prefer being my own boss, and doing my own thing.  Anyone can contact me here and I'm more than willing to publish and debate (where appropriate) interesting, signed e-mails.

Early on in the blog's existance I received some unsigned garbage, which promptly went into the great bit bucket in the sky.  If someone is too much of a coward to not take responsibility for their words, then they will be given the attention that they deserve.

August 17, 2022 09:17 Pacific - Principled Politicians

There aren't too many of those around, which makes it even sadder when one leaves the arena.  I don't know much about Liz Cheney, other than she stood up to Trump, and that's good enough for me.  I actually think it's advantageous that she is not running for the Republican Party in Wyoming, as the party is rotten to the core.  I know she's stated that she wants to change its direction from within, but it's probably a lost cause.  I wish her good fortune, whatever she decides to do in the future.

And as for the result of that primary, where a Trump toadie got chosen as the Republican candidate in the next election, it's important to remember one thing.  She was chosen by Republicans,   Even in a state where 70% voted for Trump in the last election, all it would take to keep her out of power is for those who didn't vote for Trump, as well as those who voted for Cheney in the primary, to collectively get together and vote as a bloc for the opposition.

August 16, 2022 20:31 Pacific - Dead Forums

Recently, there have been posts over at both Part15.org and Hobbybroadcaster attempting to explain the lack of activity in the various Part 15 Forums.  Hobbybroadcaster seems to think that they're a hive of activity, but then, I guess 2 or 3 posters (other than the owner, who still posts by far the most) are better than none.

While it is true that the Forums are pretty much dead, it isn't true that most Part 15 broadcasters are disappearing, or not as active, or have nothing new to say.  At least, these were some of the reasons postulated.  And the U.S. Pirate Act doesn't affect those outside the U.S. (it's also arguable how much it does affect those inside).

It's just that the most vocal of these Part 15 broadcasters (myself included) have moved on from the Forums, and are doing their own thing.  Blogs, as an example. The one big advantage of operating a blog is that it gives you the freedom to express your opinions, without being potentially moderated by a third party with their own issues and biases.  Once you start deleting and/or criticizing posts and posters, it doesn't take long for those posters to find other places where they might be better appreciated.  Although it's a gross simplification, that's part of the reason why the ALPB is defunct, Part15.org is pretty much empty, and you can count the number of unique posters on one hand over at Hobbybroadcaster.

Even though there's a new moderator over at Part15.org who is more reasonable, unfortunately, once posters leave they don't tend to come back.

August 16, 2022 20:26 Pacific - Books Back Over The Air

Books Over The Air is back up.  Programming is still not complete but it's a start.

I'm still plodding onwards with the goal of creating a third stream, consisting of OTR comedy and variety shows.  The stream will likely be turned off for the variety show block to avoid potential issues with music copyrights (BUTT can be controlled via the command line, so it's relatively easy to turn it off for those shows, and then turn it back on).

I've decided against amalgamating everything into one stream.

August 10, 2022 21:48 Pacific - Banana Republic?

Trump & his toadies (i.e., the Republican Party) are 'outraged' at the FBI 'raiding' his home.  They've likened these actions to a 'banana republic'.

The fact of the matter is that this was not a 'raid', as it's been called, but a lawful search and seizure.  A warrant had to be obtained, and a judge had to be convinced that sufficient evidence existed to justify that search.  FBI Director Wray is a Trump appointee, so he can hardly be called a Democrat stooge.

No, all this rhetoric is just an attempt to politicize the pursuit of justice, and to hopefully (from the Republicans point of view), obfuscate (Trump supporters, look it up) the situation.

No one should be above the law, including the former (that word is often left out in describing Trump) President of the United States.  If Trump is innocent, he will be exonerated.  If he's guilty, then he should be punished to the full extent of the law.  Otherwise, you do have a Banana Republic.

August 6, 2022 19:52 Pacific - OGG/Opus

I've come to the conclusion that OGG and Opus are great codecs to use for low bit rate (under 64Kbps) files.  Mp3's, because of their wide support, are preferred at bit rates >=64Kbps.

Opus is actually OGG at bit rates > 16Kbps.  You can rename a file with an .opus extension to .ogg, and it will more than likely play.  At bit rates lower than this, another decoder, optimized for voice, actually kicks in.  Music (such as that found in OTR recordings) doesn't sound all that bad either.

Artisan Radio has an opus stream at 16Kbps mono.  Our programming, OTR shows, sound great with no sacrifice in sound quality that I can detect.  I've yet to perform tests on opus streams playing music with wider dynamic range - I suspect that 32Kbps stereo or 16Kbps mono would be sufficient.  And if that's the case, maybe 8Kbps mono would be OK for OTR (I enjoy pushing limits).

But that's a job for another day.

August 6, 2022 18:21 Pacific - Windows Batch Files & Bit Rates

I've posted previously about using batch files to automate (sound) media conversion.  Lately I've been working on improving those, and I have to tell you, batch file programming under Windows is not very intuitive.

I suppose it would have helped to read more of the documentation before wading in, but I just wanted to complete a specific task and thought things would be obvious.  While I eventually 'got there', I took a few, frustrating, circuitous routes.

I've also been experimenting with FFMpeg, Lame (which FFMpeg uses) and mp3 bit rates.

FFMpeg/Lame supports Constant Bit rates (CBR), Variable Bit rates (VBR) and Average Bit rates (ABR).  CBR is useful for streaming, and virtually everything supports it, including obsolete hardware players.  It also guarantees a certain file size.  But you waste a lot of bits where you don't really need them, and conversely, you may not have enough bits available during complex recordings when you do need them.

When you use VBR, Lame attempts to keep a constant quality, rather than bit rate.  Quality levels range between 0 (the best, 320KBps CBR) to 9 (the worst).  Within the quality constraints, Lame only uses the bit rate it needs.  For any given file size, a VBR mp3 will sound better than a CBR one.  However, file sizes will depend on the complexity of the recording, and the quality level chosen.

Generally, it's accepted that a VBR recording at quality level 5 (approximately 128Kbps overall) will be transparent (i.e., no noticeable difference between it and a CD recording).  With CBR, the bitrate would have to be a bit more.

ABR is a compromise between CBR and VBR.  You specify a bit rate, and Lame will vary it to maintain quality while keeping the average bit rate constant.  I prefer ABR, as quality is better than an equivalent bit rate CBR recording, with the same known file size.  VBR file sizes will be all over the map.  If you're constrained in space, ABR is the way to go.

Now back to the perceived quality of these files.  I have a pretty good hearing range, decent headphones, and to me, it's difficult to tell the difference between a 64KBps ABR recording, and a 128Kbps CBR or VBR recording.  Maybe a bit less of the higher frequencies, but that's about it (I understand that Lame does emphasize the lower frequencies anyway).  And when you're dealing with casual listening via headphones or streaming, or a radio broadcast, there's virtually no difference.  Particularly in the world of over-the-air Part 15, where noise creeps into your radio signal relatively quickly.

So unless you're an audiophile, or anally retentive (wait - they're the same thing!), I don't think it really matters what bit rate you use in dealing with mp3's and radio broadcasting.  Just keep it >= 64Kbps, use clean source material and you'll be OK.

August 6, 2022 18:12 Pacific - Underground Media

A few days ago, in response to my blog post Alternative Media, Mark said,

"I liked the westerns, Kid Colt Outlaw, Two Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, stuff like that."

I read those as well.  Interesting tidbit, the Rawhide Kid was written and drawn by Larry Lieber (one of the few Marvel comics that Stan Lee didn't write back then).  Lieber was Stan Lee's younger brother.

I also was a great fan of Underground comics - The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy's Cat (a spin-off of TFFFB), Dr. Atomic, Harold Hedd (originated here in Vancouver at the then underground Georgia Strait), etc.  Now these comics would be considered tame and pretty much mainstream, but back then they were only available 'under the counter'.

I guess Part 15 radio can be considered underground radio, at least if you listen to its nay-sayers.  I look forward to the day when it's accepted as mainstream media.

August 2, 2022 08:00 Pacific - Alternative Media

OK, I'll admit it.  I used to be a comic book collector.  I grew up in the 60s & 70s, when Marvel Comics was in their prime.  Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Howard the Duck (?!) ... every month I'd trundle off to my favorite comic book store in Toronto, the Silver Snail, to purchase them.  I never was really into DC Comics (Superman, Batman, etc.), although I did follow them occasionally.  Unfortunately, the Marvel (and \DC) books moved from primarily a labor of love to money grubbing in the 80s, and I grew tired of the whole business.

Fast forward to today.  During the recent extended heat wave, I decided to attempt to find out what I've been missing.  My local library carries stuff like this, only now they call them graphic novels (so they can charge more money for them), and I tried a few.  I was disappointed in the current Marvel & DC titles.  Again, they seem more intent on making lots of money than quality.  I was also aghast at what they're doing to some of the beloved characters in their attempt to 'modernize' them.

I then tried a few independent comics, sorry, graphic novels, and was pleasantly surprised.  The quality of these reminded me of early Marvel, and I have to say that I'm a little hooked again.  I started off with The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.  It had a run of 193 issues, black and white, and is very well written (which is always my primary concern).  While you can get each issue individually, I read the 4 compendiums, each comprising a little under 50 issues.  Not for the squeamish, and certainly not for kids.  Highly recommended.  The TV series was based on these comics, and Kirkman wrote some of the TV episodes, although the comics are superior in every way.

Next up, Invincible, by Robert Kirkman (again - this guy reminds me of a more adult Stan |Lee in his prime).  Really a parody of comic books, although you don't have to be a comic book follower to appreciate it, as the plots stand on their own.    It ran for 143 or thereabouts issues.  Definitely not for kids due to its graphic violence.  I read it in 3 compendiums, each containing a little under 50 issues.  This has recently been made into a TV animated series.  Since I don't watch TV any more I can't comment on the series.

Finally, and my favorite, Fables, by Bill Willingham.  Around 150 issues in 3 compendiums.  The concept is clever (fairy tale characters fleeing their homelands from an almost invincible enemy and relocating in New York) and the writing is superb.  The resemblance between the TV series Once Upon a Time (supposedly created by the makers of the TV series Lost) and the comic book is noticeable.  Fables is published by a non mainstream offshoot of DC, but unlike other DC comics, it is standalone.

There are many other independent comics that deserve mention and that I'm going to follow up on in the coming weeks and months.  While reading these isn't going to replace reading books (at least for me), they're fun and good for light reading, particularly during heat waves.

July 31, 2022 21:15 Pacific - Audio Bit Rates

I've been recently playing around with audio bit rates.  While I'm generally satisfied keeping audio for Artisan Radio stored in OGG format (supported by Zara), there are advantages in using MP3 (also supported by Zara).  It' far more common, for one, and is supported by virtually every playback device available, both currently and in the past.

I believe that I've come up with a compromise solution, using vbr mp3 encoding.  Experimentation has shown that recording music in mono, at quality level 9 (45-85 Kbps) results in a file that is 2/3 or smaller than the size of one encoded in mono, 64Kbps cbr.  It's still not as small as the OGG equivalent (OGG gives you superior compression) but it's good enough, and far smaller than the original file with little perceptual quality difference.  Of course, the latter is due to the nature of the programming material (rare 1950s-1960s recordings, many from less than stellar source recordings).  I wouldn't record Pink Floyd in stereo with these parameters.

The results are similar in converting OTR.

During the conversion process, the audio files are also normalized to meet broadcast standards, and voice tracking is added to the music recordings.

The tools?  Mediahuman for OTR, and home grown scripts for music.  The scripts use FFMpeg for format conversions, the command line version of Balabolka (balcon)  for Text to Speech Conversion (i.e., voice tracking), sox to append the music track with the voice tracking and id3 to preserve mp3 tags throughout the conversions.  mp3val is used separately to validate the original music file mp3's in large batches.  One of the Microsoft Windows 10 voices is used for the TTS generation.  I used to use an older program, Alive Text to Speech, for TTS, but Balabolka is current and supported.

July 31, 2022 20:57 Pacific - Kits

I've been having an ongoing discussion with reader Mark about the legality of Part 15 transmitter kits in Canada.  Years ago, the Canadian RSS documents stated that you were allowed to engineer and build up to 5 transmitters, as long as they met the RSS technical specifications.  That language is almost identical to what is still included in the FCC Part 15 rules.  However, those words have subsequently disappeared in RSS, so I have to assume that you are no longer allowed to do that.

It does appear that you are still allowed to build a transmitter from scratch in the U.S., as long as the components are not marketed.  If you take an existing kit, and modify it, does that then mean that the result has not been marketed, and is legal?  At what point after multiple modifications does a kit (or even an assembled) transmitter stop being a kit and become home built?

The Blare Blog also makes a valid point about the upcoming BT6000 transmitter kit that has been talked about on the Hobbybroadcaster Forum.  It appears to be a modified AMT3000.  If it is going to be marketed, doesn't that violate the intellectual property rights, copyright and potentially the trademark rights of SSTran?  If I were the former owner of SSTran, I think I'd start consulting a lawyer.

July 30, 2022 22:10 Pacific - Heat Failure

Went over to the Hobbybroadcaster site today to see what they were saying.  There was an interesting post on heat, and its potential to affect outdoor mounted transmitters.

I would assume that transmitters designed to be placed outdoors have been engineered to stand up to the rigors of summer heat and winter cold.

The issue with this heat wave is not the transmitters, but the computers supplying audio to the transmitters.  These computers were designed to run at room temperature or thereabouts, and get quite hot internally (particularly laptops).  Subjecting them to 90-100+ degree heat on top of that is just asking for trouble.  And it's not only the electronics, but the hard drives that are at risk.  I've found hard drives to be particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations.

As an aside, Artisan Radio on Bowen Island used a Decade MS-100 transmitter, intended to be used indoors.  It, however, was mounted in a weatherproof box and placed on a rooftop, where it ran for about 2 years 24/7 with absolutely no issues, through blazing summer heat and some pretty cold winters (at least for Pacific Northwest standards).  I've seen people asking why the Decade is so expensive, and now you know.  You have to pay for excellent engineering.

July 30, 2022 21:36 Pacific - Preprocessing Audio

There are significant advantages to preprocessing the audio you wish to broadcast over-the-air or in an Internet stream.  It reduces the CPU cycles on your automation machine, ensuring that they're there when needed the most.  There's also no need to store large/high quality files on your computer to broadcast or stream in much lower quality.  There's just no point in broadcasting FM stereo at more than 128kbps (or mono at 64kbps).  Using higher bitrates may give you bragging rights but it won't sound any better.

Streaming is another story, but few Part 15'ers (unless you're running a business) would need streaming speeds above broadcasting norms (or even want those kinds of speeds as you'll flood your upload channel pretty quickly).  And depending on the source material, you can usually get away with slower speeds.  OTR, for example, sounds perfectly fine at much lower streaming speeds.

We use Zara Radio for automation, and it can play a limited number of audio file types.  Of those supported, experimentation has shown that OGG files give you the highest quality with the smallest storage requirements.  I'd use Opus (my current favorite format) but it's not supported.

Most of our programming - OTR - is in the form of MP3 files, with a few in FLAC format.  Mediahuman is used to convert these files to 32Kbps mono OGG files (with the original sampling rate left intact).

Mediahuman was previously freeware.  It's basically a front-end to FFMpeg, but has some really nice features.  It allows batch processing with multiple threads, it retains the subdirectory structure of your folders in the output folder, and it basically supports every audio format that FFMpeg does.  It even allows you to send additional paramters to FFMpeg for those things that the GUI doesn't support.

I'm a bit ticked off, however, at the latest version.  I got the usual blurb to upgrade, with the promise of new features.  Well, it turns out that most of the new features, including 'Effects', are now payware, and require a license.

But remember the additional parameters that I talked about?  You can achieve all the effects that have been added by passing the appropriate FFMpeg command line options through that field.  Don't waste your money.  They're just taking advantage of users that don't understand what's going on behind the scenes of the software.

I use the FFMpeg parameter feature to normalize the audio output file to broadcast radio/tv standards.

July 30, 2022 21:27 Pacific - Artisan Radio Back Up - Sort Of ...

It's been cool enough the past day or so to start up the stream again.  It could go down, however, if the temperatures in the studio start rising again.  It's still been blazing hot outside, mid to high 90's.

The last day of the heat wave should be tomorrow (Sunday), after which the stream should stay up permanently.  Or at least until the next one.  Heat wave that is.

July 30, 2022 21:23 Pacific - Errata

Upon rereading my last post, I realized that I didn't emphasize that the range obtained on Bowen Island to the target listening area was a result of Canadian field strength rules (100uv/m @ 30 meters).  As I stated previously, you're not going to get that kind of range with U.S. rules, even in the best possible circumstances.

July 29, 2022 20:42 Pacific - Part 15 FM Range Factors

Radio signals in the VHF bands are skywave and line of sight.  We haven't really dealt with the relationship between field strength and range yet, so let's do it now.

In free space (think a vacuum), the field strength is linearly inversely proportional to the distance from the antenna.  That means if the field strength for a (U.S.) compliant FM transmitter is 250uv/m @ 3 meters, it will be 125uv/m @ 6 meters, 62.5uv/m @ 12 meters and so on.  It can be seen that it will be approximately 3uv/m at 250 meters - that will generate a signal of about 1uv at the antenna terminals of a car radio.  Some car radios are more sensitive & would give more range; some are less sensitive and range would be correspondingly less But given that the car doesn't exist in a vacuum, all this is theory.

In practice, range would be less, although there are things you can do to minimize the losses.

VHF FM signals tend to bounce off things, unlike MW AM, which tends to be absorbed.  Portions of your signal will reflect off the ground near to the antenna, interfering with the rest and causing nulls.  Buildings and other obstructions will cause reflections.  You can minimize this interference by getting your antenna up in the air as high as possible.  That will put your ground reflections further out, lessening potential interference, and it can also get you above nearby obstructions.

It's not all bad news, though.  Sometimes, but not very often, these reflections can create a funneling effect, actually increasing your range in the direction of the funnel.  I noted this on Bowen Island.  The Artisan Radio antenna was mounted on the rooftop of a building which sat on a hillside overlooking the target listening area.  Behind the antenna, there were several mountains, with a small valley between them.  I happened to live at the end of that valley, and could sometimes hear the station (at a distance of well over a mile) in my parking area.  Did that make my station illegal?  The field strength was compliant for Canada  (100uv/m @ 30 meters).  Was I responsible for the geography in which I installed the transmitter that made this funneling possible?  Luckily, I never found out, even though I know that Industry Canada was on the island checking me out after a story about the radio station in a major Vancouver newspaper.

The thing to remember is that you can minimize field strength losses by raising your transmitter antenna, but it can't actually increase your overall field strength (some form of funneling excepted).  I've seen people claim miles of omnidirectional range as a result of raising a supposedly legal Part 15 transmitter.  If you're getting that kind of range in all directions, or even in some, it ain't legal.  Sorry (not really).

The bottom line is that if you have a typical radio with 5uv sensitivity, you'll be lucky to get 200 feet range from your transmitter; think 100-150 feet.  A car radio of 1uv sensitivity will get you about 5 times that, or 500-750 feet.  Maybe with an ideal installation, direct line of sight (no obstructions), antenna high up, you may get 1000 feet.  Of course, if your radio has 0.5uv sensitivity, you'll get more.

The best range Artisan Radio got on Bowen Island, with as close to an ideal installation as possible, was close to 1000 meters, with a radio that had a sensitivity somewhere under 1uv (can't remember if it was an Alpine or Kenwood, but it was one of the best I've ever heard).  Theory states that the field strength at that range would have been somewhere between 9-10 uv/m.  Let's just call the radio sensitivity 1uv, so a field strength of 2.5-3 uv/m would be required to get any kind of reception, so you can see the losses.  One thing Bowen has is lots of trees, so they obviously played the role of obstruction.  And there are other factors at play, but that's a subject for another post in the future.

AM next...

July 28, 2022 08:20 Pacific - Limiting Negative Range Factors

There are many factors that can limit range in AM and FM Part 15 broadcasting.  Due to the different frequencies (and their properties) involved, some are siimilar, some are different.

First and foremost the most important factor in range is the quality of the radio that is receiving the signal.  There are two properties that matter the most - sensitivity and selectivity.

Sensitivity is the ability of the radio to receive a faint signal, usually measured in microvolts (across the antenna terminals) - a smaller number is better.  Selectivity is the ability of the radio to reject adjacent interfering signals - if there is a strong, licensed signal adjacent to yours, it can easily drown out your pitifully weak Part 15 signal unless the radio has sufficient selectivity.  But there is no doubt that sensitivity is the most important factor - if you can't hear 'em, nothing else matters.

FM radios can be very sensitive.  The typical sensitivity of a good portable radio is somewhere in the 5uv range, although it can be much higher (poorer radios can be 25uv or more, some have been measured up to 100uv).  A good car radio can have sensitivity in the 1uv range, and some are much lower than that (I've owned ones that are in the 0.5uv range, with 20db signal to noise ratio).  Remember, lower is better.  Field strength is measured in uv, and, for example, in Canada, the maximum allowed field strength at 30 meters from the transmitter is 100uv.  Now, a signal of field strength 100uv/m (at that 30 meters) cannot induce a voltage of 100uv at a radio's antenna terminals - there's a loss.  A lot of mathematics is involved, but you can assume a ratio of about 2.5:1 - a 100uv/m signal at 30 meters will induce a signal at the radio's antenna of about 40uv.  If your radio has a sensitivity of 25uv, you'll hear that signal fairly clearly.  If it is crap, and has a sensitivity of 100uv, you won't (if it has a sensitivity of, say 50uv, you might hear the signal but with a lot more noise; usually, radio sensitivities are accompanied by that Signal to Noise Ratio).

AM radios tend to have much poorer sensitivity.  Typical good radios have sensitivities of around 25uv.  Communication receivers costing hundreds of even thousands of dollars might have sensitivity values approaching 1uv, but most, if not all, potential listeners, won't have those.  However, field strengths for certified transmitters are in the 10,000 uv/m range @ 3 meters.  You can see, though, that increasing that field strength, either through the transmitter or grounding, will increase range dramatically.  Conversely, poor grounding, and low efficiency final stages, will decrease field strength and range.

More later...

July 28, 2022 07:57 Pacific - Let's Talk About Range

As I indicated in my last post, the FCC and Industry Canada do not have any rules for Part 15 broadcasting that limit the range of allowable transmitters.

Instead, for FM, they limit the field strength of a signal (which directly corresponds to range).  For AM, they do not even limit field strength, but instead limit the factors that affect field strength, which are the length of the antenna/ground system, and the power input to the final stage (amplifier) of the transmitter.

There are also negative factors that decrease range, such as obstructions (which can block or absorb signals), RF noise, etc.

So how can we maximize range, while staying compliant with regulatory body rules.

In the case of FM, there's nothing you can do to increase the strength of your signal.  All compliant transmitters start off with a field strength of 250uv/m @ 3 meters in the U.S., and 100uv/m @ 30 meters in Canada.

For AM, you can maximize your field strength in various ways.  You can increase the efficiency of the final stage of your transmitter, for one.  Most transmitters have an efficiency of around 50% in that stage, which means that 100mw in translates to 50mw out.  SSTran transmitters used Class E amplfiers, which, at least theoretically, can have an efficiency of 90% or more.  More mw's out means a greater field strength, and more range.  One of the issues with Class E amplifiers, however, is that they can be difficult to tune properly.  Hobbybroadcaster found that out in their flawed AM Transmitter Challenge.

I've recently purchased an SDR amateur radio transceiver using a Class E amplifier, which has a measured efficiency in the field of around 75%.  So these things can work, and work more efficiently than other forms of amplifiers.

Another one of the issues with Part 15 AM broadcasting is the efficiency of the very short antenna.  Typical efficiency is much less than 1%, probably closer to 0.1%, which means that that 50mw into the antenna translates into 0.05mw out (with a corresponding decrease in field strength).  You want to get as efficient an antenna as possible.  While you can't defy the laws of physics (as some antenna manufacturers seem to claim), you can maximize efficiency by improving your ground.  One way to do that is to install at ground level, and use radials.  Radials that are perpendicular to your antenna, and in the earth, do not radiate, and hence are not part of your antenna.  But they can increase efficiency dramatically (closer to 1%, depending on the number and length of the radials), increasing your output power and field strength.

So you can see that claiming that the FCC or Industry Canada have a maximum range rule for Part 15 is just plain ignorant.

I'll deal with negative range factors in another post.

July 28, 2022 06:53 Pacific - More Misinformation

from the supposed 'go to' website for Part 15 broadcasting.  In a recent post over at Hobbybroadcaster, the chief 'bottlewasher' talked about the virtues of a new AM transmitter - the BT6000.  It claims to be an improved SSTran 3000 or 5000.  In those improvements, it states that the FCC mandates a range of 200 feet for Part 15 compliant transmitters, which, of course, is utter rubbish.  There is no such rule, either in the U.S. or Canada's equivalent rules (RSS210).  There is, instead, a series of range limiting rules that limit the input power to the final stage (amplifier) of a transmitter to 100mw, and the length of a transmitter/ground system to 3 meters (10 feet).  Enterprising operators can meet those rules, and achieve a range of 1 mile or more, with a receiver of excellent sensitivity and selectivity.

Again, the FCC or Industry Canada does not mandate range of compliant transmitters.

July 27, 2022 21:05 Pacific - Heat Cont'd

The current heat wave is going to last until Sunday, July 31 at the earliest.  Current forecasts call for temperatures in the low to mid 30's, but the building that houses Artisan Radio will get much hotter than that (and keep building up heat until it's all over).

Next week looks much better, thank goodness.  Although I don't know if we'll have all the changes done by that time.  I guess we'll just have to play it by ear.

July 27, 2022 21:00 Pacific - Controlling BUTT via Command Line

Artisan Radio uses BUTT (Broadcast Using This Tool) to generate an Internet stream.  While several types of streams are possible, we use Opus @ 16kbps for all OTR and Book Readings.  No additional quality is needed due to the nature of the source material, and it minimizes network use.

I (we) have been thinking of collapsing all our current streams into one (OTR drama, OTR comedy/variety and Book Readings).  I remain concerned, however, over the copyright status of the music contained within the OTR variety shows.  While there's no doubt that the shows in their entirety are in the public domain, as the copyright was never renewed, individual music contained within the shows may still be in copyright (so I'm told).  I'm not sure how that can be, but then, I'm not a lawyer (or a money grubbing music corporation).  Rather than potentially getting bogged down in copyright issues, the simple solution is to stream the voice-only OTR and Book Readings, and not to stream anything that contains music.  SOCAN (Canada's music licensing body) has already stated that they do not care about over-the-air BETS broadcasting.

It turns out that BUTT can be nicely controlled via the command line, so it is relatively simple to start and stop the streaming within Zara Radio playlists.  Theoretically, this could be done individually for each playlist, but it would be easier for the listener(s|) if shows were grouped together to stream all of the group, or not.  It means changing the schedule, but that's pretty easy as well.

I'm also thinking that, in the process of doing all this, I'll add an opera show, with public domain music highlights (there are relatively few full operas available from the early 20th century time period, as recording times were severely limited by 78's and cylinders).  I might even add a teenage-oriented moldie oldies show.  The opera could be streamed, the latter could not.

Why do I always create more work for myself?

July 26, 2022 21:39 Pacific - Shutting Down

Got an e-mail from Mark,

"I keep hearing about Carl's and your stations having to shut down and yours today July 26th because of heat.
But your stations are inside?, in what i'd think would be air conditioned?
If not I don't know how you live in that! The coast of BC and Vancouver Island has always been the moderate climate in Canada....not too cold, little snow, not hot in the summer, you can play golf in February, and I look at the temperatures and the climate, and many go to Victoria and area too retire. How did all this heat happen suddenly!"

Good questions.  I can't speak for Carl and KDX, but for Artisan Radio, it's a combination of our current location, and climate change.  Air conditioning doesn't help much when you are high up in a concrete, steel & glass building, facing south and west, and temperatures hit the upper 30's C outside.  In fact, you bake, and it only gets worse as the heat wave continues and the building can't cool down fast enough.  And guess what - heat rises!

Climate change is affecting us all.  When I moved to Vancouver from the Toronto area over 25 years ago, it was almost unheard of to get temperatures much above 25 degrees C in the summer.  That was a heat wave!  Virtually no one had air conditioning - in fact, if you had it, you were laughed at.  In the winter, you maybe had a few days below 0 degrees C, but that's about it.  Virtually no snow.

Things have changed and not for the better.

Anyway, computers can't survive overheating (in the studio today, it got to 30 degrees C with a 10K BTU air conditioner going full blast in the 12 x 10 room).

Artisan Radio is definitely seeking out a different location, but in the meantime, we just have to tough it out.  And shut down when necessary.

July 25, 2022 21:24 Pacific - Baby, It's Hot Out There

The Artisan Radio stream(s) are down until this weekend due to a heat wave that's hit the Pacific Northwest.  We'll try to keep the blog up as long as possible, but it'll most likely be up and down during that time.  Hopefully we can get some maintenance done during this period as well.

July 22, 2022 21:24 Pacific - Going Retro

Just purchased 2 (two!) Alpine car in-dash CD shuttle/AM/FM radios.  I used to own one of these, and it had one of the best FM tuners I've ever used.  Unfortunately, they came with only one shuttle case and wire harness, but that's OK.  I will only use one anyway, and if it breaks, I'll have a spare.


July 22, 2022 21:05 Pacific - Audio Entertainment

It's taken a little while, but I'm finally not missing TV or movies any longer.  I never really watched a lot, but a while ago, I discovered that I'm particularly sensitive to image movement on large screens - vertigo attacks were the end result, and each successive one lasted longer.  I find that, with precautions, I can tolerate a computer or smartphone screen.  The precautions - viewing primarily static images, filtering blue light (built into some smartphones, using apps when that is not available - F.Lux is great on Windows) and using small screens for that non immersive feel (I use a flip smartphone from Asia with a 4 inch screen, the laptop screen is 14 inches).  I experimented briefly with e-ink for a while on smartphones (there are e-ink monitors as well), but the technology just isn't there right now.  Resolution is mediocre, contrast poor and image lag generates visible screen movement which kind of defeats the purpose of using it.

Why am I going into this in some detail?  Well, radio is my go to form of entertainment and will be in the forseeable future.  I can get all the comedy and drama I want from OTR and Book Readings on Artisan Radio.  Shortly, there will be music as well.  I do enjoy hockey and sometimes even baseball, and that's easily available from licensed over-the-air stations..

Radio has always had the advantage in that you can do other things while listening - TV and watching movies require dedicated attention, and spoon-feeds you.  Radio forces you to use your imagination.

The nice thing about having your own radio station, no matter how limited the range, is that it will always be there, even if the licensed stations go by the wayside (as the doomsayers predict).

July 22, 2022 21:00 Pacific - Help!

Mark comments on my recent post about the American political system,

"The worst thing is the highest court in the land that makes decisions affecting the rights of everyone is not independent and has political leanings like in the abortion case for example and the recent ruling on Biden's ability to fight climate change which again was because of Republican influence.
But if Trump runs again and gets the nomination he could win, and to that I say.....not God bless America but God help America."

I used to think that the American system was better than Canada's, but no longer.  Obviously, the American founders assumed that anyone who could become President must have some honor, some integrity, some ethics, and at the very least, some consideration for the country over their own interests.  It took Trump to show the fallacy of that thinking.

July 20, 2022 20:41 Pacific - Something is Dreadfully Wrong

with the American political system.

Sources close to Trump are saying that one of the main reasons he's contemplating running for President again is so that he can fend off potential upcoming criminal and civil indictments.

Somehow, I don't think that the forefathers of the U.S. and the writers of the constitution intended for the President to enjoy almost complete immunity from criminal prosecution.  They probably never in their wildest nightmares thought someone like Trump could become President.  And unfortunately, the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court, intended to be independent, have shown themselves to be completely political in nature.

Mind you, there are indications that Republicans are tiring of Trump and his antics.  We can only hope.

July 20, 2022 20:35 Pacific - Upcoming Heat Wave

This has been an unusually cool and rainy summer so far.  So far is the operative word, as the forecast calls for a heat wave starting this weekend, and extending into next week.  If that indeed happens, Artisan Radio will be off the air for a little while until temperatures moderate.

I've been spending time putting together the programming for a new stream/over-the-air station, as yet unnamed.  It will consist of Old Time Radio comedy and variety shows.

It hasn't been decided yet whether Books Over The Air will come back.  It likely will, but unless a herd of listeners breaks down my door and demands it, there's no rus

Finally, a part of me is contemplating collapsing all 3 streams into one, carrying the best of noir/horror, comedy & variety and book readings.  The jury is still out.

July 20, 2022 20:28 Pacific - Serendipity

It's been a while.  Now that family visits are over, we're back at 'er.

A few years ago, just before the pandemic struck, I was fortunate enough to be entertained by a local Pitt Meadows singer/impersonator, Sean O'Shea, at a free summer concert.  Today, now that things are opening up (even though we're in the middle of another COVID wave), I just happened to decide to attend a similar concert this evening.  Lo and behold, he was a guest singer, and was incredibly entertaining.  Who'd have known?

July 3, 2022 16:03 Pacific - Artificial Stupidity

That's what I call all the hype surrounding the field of Artificial Intelligence.

If you read the headlines of news articles, and even scientific journals, you would think that a sentient computer system has already been developed.  But if you know what you're doing, and dig deeper, nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire field reminds me of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.  The 'Wizard' looks impressive, bellowing smoke and flashing its lights, until the driving force behind him is revealed.

Quite simply, AI is a fraud.

We don't even know how we think, or how we developed sentience (at least some of us, Supreme Court Justices exempted).  So any declaration that an AI is sentient has to be seriously questioned.

The so-called AI's that actually exist and perform practical work are those that have been tuned to a very specific, narrow domain of knowledge - language recognition, certain games such as Chess or Go, medical imaging, etc.  Behind the scenes, they're just algorithms that improve themselves by refining data through repetition and feedback.  They don't 'understand' what they're doing, nor can they explain how they reached their conclusions (other than with terms in that domain).  Put these AI's outside of their domains, and they just don't work.

The outlandish claims that are in scientific journals are just that, mostly claims with nothing actually built to prove what they're saying.

Even the so-called AI hardware engines of the future, Quantum Computers, don't really exist except in prototype form and limited quantities.  They're so small and experimental that it's far more practical to use current computers.  And even if it's managed to get them working and manufactured in quantity, it's difficult to see how they are going to advance the field of AI much.  At their core, all these computers do is to store binary data using quantum particle attributes - there's nothing magical about them.

But say the words Quantum Computer and everyone thinks magical fairy dust.

I remember working at Microsoft in the 1990s when the Internet was coming into prominence.  Companies would phone me up, wanting to get on 'that Internet thing'.  I'd ask them what they wanted to do, and they had no idea.  They had just heard about it, and wanted to get on the bandwagon with everyone else.

The same with AI now.  Everyone wants an 'AI thing', or to use an 'AI thing', without really knowing what that thing could be, and how it would even help them.

Maybe learning how to think and make better decisions by themselves, rather than relying on something else, would be preferable.

July 2, 2022 8:14 Pacific - Three Time's the Charm

There are precisely three frequencies on the FM band where I live that are even moderately useable for Part 15 operation.  We're currently (or will be) using two of them for Monster Thriller Horror Theater and Books Over The Air.  Over the past few days I've been thinking about laying claim (as much as we can claim) to the third for a new broadcast stream, currently untitled.  It would consist of light OTR shows, i.e., comedy and variety.  Shows that are well known such as Jack Benny, Red Skelton, George Burns & Gracie Allen to the more obscure, such as  A Date with Judy, Smiths of Hollywood and My Favorite Husband (the precursor to I Love Lucy).

To that end, I've purchased a Decade MS-100 to go along with a Whole House 3 and another MS-100.  They're all IC certified and get about the same limited range.  But since I'm the only known over-the-air listener, the range doesn't matter all that much.

We've just put the finishing touches on expanded programming for Monster Thriller Horror Theater, to a total of over 200 24/7 days - I hope to hit 365 or one full year.  I can easily fill up that much time with the new stream.  And not to ignore Books Over The Air, we're adding yet more book readings, both longer stories (60-70 minutes) and short stories (up to 15-20 minutes).  We're also in the process of adding non fiction essays.

Hey, I have to do something with my spare time.

June 29, 2022 8:14 Pacific - A Link From the Pages of the Blare Blog

This Land Is My Land.

June 28, 2022 20:47 Pacific - Maintenance

The maintenance activities are taking longer than expected, although the heat wave is over, at least for now.

It's hard to believe that Artisan Radio, Monster Thriller Horror Theater, has been on the air for almost 3 months.  During that tiime, we've gathered a few listeners on the Internet stream, and we continue to broadcast over-the-air.

Unfortunately, we only programmed in 3 months worth of shows.  It's going to take a few more days to add more shows to the mix.  At some point, we'll just let the rotations roll over and start again, but we're nowhere near that point right now.

Some of the 'new' shows being added include Whitehall 1212, Europe Confidential, The Crime Club, Challenge of the Yukon and many more.  Some are well know, others are rather obscure.  A few of our shows had extended runs (i.e., Suspense, The Whistler, Sherlock Holmes) so we're just adding more of the same to those.

It may not seem like much work, but we have to check each show for run time, compress it to OGG format to save space, potentially rename, and then transfer over to the production computer.  Given that that we run 24/7, well, you get the picture.

Artisan Radio Monster etc. is running most of the time through this, with occasional outages.  Books Over The Air will return shortly.

June 25, 2022 8:56 Pacific - Saddened

I'm feeling sorry this morning for anyone living in the U.S., which is rapidly moving away from being a democracy.  It seems that freedoms and rights only apply to certain people.  That's been the case for minorities, but now it's being applied to all women as well (by a bunch of old men).

I find it fascinating that those (i.e., Republicans) who scream the loudest about rights for themselves - the right to not wear a mask, the right to refuse a vaccine, the right to carry guns in public, the right to say what they want, even if it incites violence - have no compunction in tearing away the rights of others, particularly those they disagree with politically and/or religiously.

June 25, 2022 8:50 Pacific - Heat Wave

There's a mini heat wave in the Pacific Northwest forecast for this weekend and into early next week.  Artisan Radio is taking this opportunity to cool it's engines, so to speak, and shutting down until, most likely, Tuesday, June 28.  There's some maintenance that's piled up and it's a good time to do it.

Apologies to the user or two that listens (other than myself).  We'll be back...

June 20, 2022 17:22 Pacific - Artisan Radio on Demand

Carl Blare of the Blare Blog reports that you can now access both Artisan Radio streams (Monter Thriller Horror Theater & Books Over the Air) from his Demand Radio page.

June 20, 2022 16:51 Pacific - What I Learned

A local radio show that I listen to sometimes (Halford & Brough) has a segment called this, and I thought I'd do one here.

My latest adventure with purchasing a cell phone has taught me a few lessons.  You're never too old to learn (or re-learn).

You get no warranty or guarantee if you purchase directly from China through AliExpress, no matter what they say.  Buyer beware.

The AliExpress 'dispute mechanism' is a joke and totally useless.  They will not force sellers to do anything; instead, they make 'proposals', which the sellers have the right to refuse, or attempt to negotiate further.  If the seller does the latter, the dispute stays open.  In other words, all a seller has to do is to keep making proposals, stupid though they might be, and they can drag the dispute on forever (or until you grow tired of it, as I did).

Avoid Paypal.  Their 'buyer protection' is in fact no protection at all.  If you want a refund directly through Paypal, you have to return the goods to the seller AT YOUR EXPENSE.  That means that the seller not only gets their product back, but you are out the cost of shipping.  To China, with tracking (Paypal insists) and insurance (highly recommended), that cost can be a high percentage of the transaction.  So you as the buyer are out a lot of money for the sin of purchasing a defective item.

You can do a credit card chargeback, but from what I've read, the seller can do things to affect your credit rating through the credit bureaus, even if it's fraudulent.  And also from what I've read, this process can take weeks or months.  Perhaps worth it for huge amounts of money, not so much for smaller items (and believe me, the sellers know that).

So buy locally if you can.  Don't buy it if you can't get it locally (at least within your own country).  If you can't get something from a brick and mortar store, buy from somewhere that has a strong buyer protection policy, such as e-bay.  Better yet, Amazon.  We may rail against these giants at times, but for a buyer, they're the best.  You may pay a bit more, but that's the price for true buyer protection (sellers are forced to take defective or fraudulent goods back at their expense).

If you're an honest seller on e-bay, and truly believe that the customer is always right (even when they might be wrong), then e-bay is great for you as well.  I had virtually no problems selling on e-bay when I was doing a lot of it.  Because of this, sellers on e-bay tend to be more reputable than anywhere else (other than, perhaps, the aforementioned Amazon).

At the end of the day, it's not so much the money involved, but the principles.  Don't let them screw you.

June 20, 2022 11:23 Pacific - Am I an Anachronism?

Sometimes I feel I don't belong in this time period.

I am intimately familiar with computers, the Internet, Social Media (which, after all, is just a series of software applications connected to the Internet), cell phones, TV and streaming TV.  I was a Computer Professional for many years.  These things are all just tools, neither good or bad inherently by themselves - it all depends on how you use them.  And I have to really question how they're being used today.

Entertainment?  There's more than you can possibly experience in a lifetime or even several lifetimes.  What do you get out of it?  Isn't it better to get out into the real world and experience it?

Information?  With all the misinformation and disinformation around, spread by the intellectually stunted, the uncaring, the greedy or the power hungry, can you really trust anything you see or read using these tools?  A lot of the stuff you see is just an attempt to brainwash.

Connecting?  Some of these tools are great for keeping in touch with familes and friends.  Others?  You're actually not.

I use computers and the Internet to create a radio station, which forms my primary source of entertainment, along with books.  Audio has the advantage that you can do other things while listening - you're not totally immersed.  You don't turn off your mind.  I use a cell phone for emergencies, and to play the radio station (along with a standard radio).  Although I do have to admit that the cell phone makes a handy storage repository for music, Old Time Radio, audio books, etc. (i.e., the programming for the radio station).

I do use e-mail occasionally, essentially a modern day letter.  I meet and talk in person rather than electronically, phone calls when absolutely necessary.

Everything else is just noise, as far as I'm concerned.

So am I an anachronism?  Or merely enlightened?

June 18, 2022 20:54 Pacific - Beware of AliExpress

They look good.  They have cheap prices for most things.  Even more importantly (at least for me), you can get stuff there that you can't find anywhere else.  And if everything goes right in the transaction, you're golden.

But if things go wrong, you're screwed.  Literally.  I won't be shopping there anymore.

Unlike e-bay, which has a solid guarantee policy, AliExpress's is virtually non existent.

I've ordered several things in the past from the site, and things went well.  This last time, not so much.  I ordered an upgrade to my cell phone, the next generation of smart flip phone.  The seller offered a 'warranty' of 6 months.  AliExpress also offered a 75 day money back guarantee.

When I received the phone, it didn't work.  It booted up OK and seemed to work until I put a SIM card in - it then went wonky and into a boot loop.  I managed to get it out of that loop, only to have it enter again when the SIM card was once again put in.  The seller's warranty turned out to be useless, as they refused to do anything, and I had to enter into an AliExpress 'dispute'.

Now, with e-bay, the outcome would have been certain.  The seller would have been ordered to either refund the money I paid immediately if they didn't respond, or if they did, once the goods were returned (at the seller's expense).  AliExpress offered two solutions - a partial refund of about 1/3 and keep the useless phone, or to return the goods and get a refund - but the catch was I had to return the goods at MY expense (and to China, with tracking, that would have been very expensive indeed).  So AliExpress's guarantee is useless as well.

I decided to go with the partial refund.  The other way, I would have been out a lot of money with nothing to show for it.  This way, I'm still out a lot, but at least I have the phone, useless as it may be.  Also, given the results of this 'dispute', I wouldn't trust either AliExpress or the seller to send me the refund even if I did return the phone.

There is a reason why prices on e-bay are a little higher - the sellers can't get away with scamming their customers.  What little shopping I do will be there from now on.

Addendum: Apparently, unlike e-bay, whose decision in a dispute is final, with AliExpress, the seller also has to approve the solution.  If they reject it, I may have to go through more hassle to resolve the situation.  Luckily I used Paypal, and their guarantee is a fallback position no matter what happens.

Addendum 2: The seller did not accept.  I filed a claim through Paypal.  In reality, there is no AliExpress dispute process - it's more like a 'negotiate until you wear them down' process.  I think, in matters such as this, I'd rather be on the offensive.

June 16, 2022 20:54 Pacific - OTR

Those that have viewed the Artisan Radio schedule and/or listened in the wee hours of the morning, know that we've replaced the 8 hour slot for a book reading (Midnight to 8AM) with Dramatic shows of all genres.  Some of the most celebrated radio programs are represented, including Orson Welles in Mercury/Campbell Theater (remember War of the Worlds?), and Lux Radio Theater.

The popular music (pre 1922) interludes have been replaced with classical music, again recorded pre 1922 to put it into the public domain.  Interestingly, there are far more vocal classical recordings (mostly opera arias) available than pure orchestral pieces; right now, I'm undecided if I will include the vocal music as well.

June 16, 2022 20:48 Pacific - Books

The Books Over The air broadcast and stream has been running for days now with few hiccups.

More short stories still need to be added to the play list to fill out the 8 hour slot for longer books (in the event that that book completes early).

I also want to add some non fiction essays in a dedicated programming slot, and folk/fairy tales in another.

Once all that is completed, I will add the schedule to the Artisan Radio website.

June 16, 2022 20:35 Pacific - PRIDE

Concerts are often held in Spirit Square, the park close to where I live.  I just spent the evening being entertained by a group called Queer as Funk (June is PRIDE month here). The group had a very enthusiastic audience, mostly young, many wearing rainbow colors.

I find it ironic and hypocritical that the very people who scream the loudest when they feel their rights have been violated (i.e., being forced to vaccinate, wear a mask, give up their guns, etc.) have no compunctions about telling others how to live their lives, who to associate with, who to love.  Of course I'm referring to those of the right wing persuasion, mostly old (and older) farts.

It will probably take another generation or two, but hopefully sometime in the future people will not be judged by their sexuality, but for who they are inside.

June 9, 2022 19:37 Pacific - Books Over The Air ...

is on the air!  In test mode, at least, for the next few days.

June 9, 2022 16:26 Pacific - Building a Windows 7 Computer

I'd forgotten how much of a pain it is to build a computer system from scratch while reverting back to an older O/S.  Particularly if 1) you have a computer whose manufacturer (Acer) doesn't have older drivers on their support website and 2) you have to apply a significant number of updates.

It took some doing to find the necessary drivers for the Acer laptop I've designated as the production computer for Books Over The Air.

Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7.  That makes things harder.  Add to that, you have to find the correct update to Windows 7 SP1 Windows Update to allow it to download and complete the rest of the necessary updates (Microsoft hasn't cut those off yet).  Anyway, the system is now downloading the zillions of required updates.

After that, I will have to install the production radio software, and run it for multiple days to ensure that everything is OK.  I'll probably throw the stream up on the Icecast directory while I'm testing.

Just a note - some folks have uploaded all (or at least, most) Windows 7 updates to Archive.org just in case Microsoft decides to pull the plug on Windows 7 updates permanently.  XP updates are there as well.  However, I'd prefer to get them directly from Microsoft while that's possible.

And on yet another note, one of the general purpose laptops I have running Windows 10 crashed this morning, after running continuously for multiple hours doing audio conversions.  I lost Bluetooth, wireless networking and the entire system was acting crazy (that's a technical term) until I rebooted.  Another reminder that Windows 10 just isn't stable enough for long term, continuous use.

June 8, 2022 13:01 Pacific - Thumbs Down on Windows 10

Determined conclusively (to my satisfaction, anyway), that Windows 10 is incapable of running complex software systems continuously for anything over 12 hours or so.

My setup includes, on each production computer, Virtual Audio Cable connecting the pieces, Zara Radio for automation, VSTHost with some plug-ins for audio processing, BUTT for stream encoding, and then either an audio redirector or JMPX (adds RDS data) to send the audio output over-the-air. After 12-24 hours running, random things crash (including Windows 10).  Similar results on 2 different computers with the exact same configurations.  Nothing else on the computers but the production software.

That same software configuration on a Windows 7 computer ran over a month and was still going strong before I rebooted it out of an abundance of precaution.

It's possible that Windows 10 would be suitable for a single production application running in a simplistic environment, no streaming and outputting directly to the sound card.

I'm moving the one production computer running Books Over the Air back to Windows 7.

Edit: I should mention that Windows 10 works fine (almost) for non critical, non production environments (browsing/surfing, audio preparation, e-mail, gaming, etc.).  If you boot often, you won't have many problems.  But add to that the fact that it's difficult to control updates (they'll get you eventually) and you can't even turn Windows Defender off without it turning itself back on at some point, and I think I'll pass on it for critical systems.

Windows 11?  Not even thinking about it right now, given that a great deal of hardware won't even run it.  Microsoft is not as bad as Apple (nobody is), but they're getting there.

June 7, 2022 10:01 Pacific - Updates

Finally got through to Decade via the President's direct e-mail.  Turns out that the level pot in the new Decade MS-100 needs to be turned counter-clockwise to its maximum (although there is no stop, so you have to guess when you're at the end), and then backed off a few turns.  I will be purchasing a radio with signal strength meter to allow me to tune (relatively, not absolutely) the transmitter.

On another front, the Books Over The Air computer was acting flaky after running for 24-36 hours.  Random program crashes, things stopping working when connecting via RDP, etc.  I moved over to another computer but it is acting the same.  Both are running Windows 10.  The Windows 7 computer that is running Monster Thriller Horror Theater (OTR) has been running fine for weeks.

Adding to the woes is that I needed to disable Windows Defender because of a false positive I was getting on an app.  Windows 10 automatically turned it back on overnight!

Needless to say, I'm not all that impressed with Windows 10 at the moment.  I'm considering dropping the Books computer back to Windows 7, but will need to get a Pro license somewhere.  All I have are Home ones right now, and RDP hosting is not supported in Home.

June 3, 2022 15:54 Pacific - Where is Decade?

Recently, I've attempted (twice) to contact Decade Transmitters, the last time directly to the President (Michel Carrier) and have received no response.  I am attempting to tune my MS-100 to BETS specifications (I purchased it from a U.S. reseller, so it was set to Part 15), and have run into difficulties with the RF Level adjustment pot - it's either broken (there's no end stop, it just clicks every so often) or the method has changed since I last performed it (turn clockwise until you hit the stop, then back off a bit).  In any event, the transmitter's output has gone from Part 15 levels to almost zero.

I have a sinking feeling about the situation.  Usually, Decade is very good at getting back to customers, and I've been one since 2006, when I purchased my first MS-100 for Artisan Radio on Bowen Island.  I just hope that Decade isn't going to go the way of SSTran and close the doors.  What makes me suspect they're in trouble is that every few months I get e-mails from Michel, asking if I am interested in purchasing another MS-100, which is new in itself.

Oh well.  I don't think anything else is wrong with the transmitter, as I only touched the pot.  I may have to purchase some way of measuring RF field strength and adjust it that way.  Perhaps purchase a Tecsun DSP radio with field strength indicators - you can't rely on them for absolute values, but they can certainly tell you as the field strength increases and/or decreases.  I'd just peak the transmitter and then back it off slightly, which mirrors what I've done in the past.

June 2, 2022 17:30 Pacific - Wouldn't You Know It!?

Just after I posted (yesterday) that the new version of the BUTT encoder is far more stable, it crashed.  Must have jinxed it.

Oh well, it's still far more stable than the previous version.  I think I'll reboot once a week (the automation computer has been going strong for weeks), just to be safe.

June 2, 2022 17:27 Pacific - Good News

Glad to see that KDX and the Blare Blog will be around for a while.  Go, Carl!

June 2, 2022 17:23 Pacific - Books Over The Air ...

... is on the air!  In test mode, anyway.

The stream can be found in the IceCast directory - just search for 'Books Over The Air'.  I will also be providing a link on the website shortly.

For the testing, we're only doing mystery short stories (generally 60 minutes or less, sometimes a bit more).  If all goes well, we'll be adding science fiction, horror and fantasy/fairy tales/folk tales, plus a longer book once per day overnight.

All the books are from Librivox, so are in the public domain.

June 1, 2022 13:05 Pacific - Please Don't Go!

One of the bright voices in the Part 15 arena is thinking of packing it in to move onto other things, namely Railroad Simulations.  That's Carl Blare, of the Blare Blog.

It may be selfish of me, but I really would hate to see him go.  Carl's ideas and thoughts are refreshing, and innovative in what is becoming a dying past time.  What is even more unique is that he's willing to share them, as well as his mistakes (unlike others, whom I won't bother to name, that think they're God's greatest gift to mankind).  You can't learn or help others if you don't try things and make mistakes.

Hopefully he'll opt to stay involved.  It'll be lonely without him.

June 1, 2022 13:01 Pacific - A Pain in the BUTT?

We use BUTT to encode our radio stream.  Not only is it current software (i.e., being updated) but it supports OPUS, our preferred encoding method.  The only issue with V1.33 is that it crashes every few days, requiring a restart.

Well, I'm happy to report that the newest version, 1.34, is uch more stable.  It's been in use the past month or so, and has only crashed once.

The rest of the audio chain, consisting of Windows 7, Zara, VSTHost & assorted plug-ins, along with Virtual Audio Cable, is solid as a rock.  No reboots for well over a month, although I suspect I'm starting to push my luck.

May 29, 2022 18:08 Pacific - Future Plans

Artisan Radio currently runs a stream (supplemented by over-the-air BETS broadcasting on 91.9 FM) we affectionately call Monster Thriller Horror Theater.  It consists of Old Time Radio (OTR) dramas in the genres of Adventure, Crime/Mystery, Science Fiction and Horror.  Overnight, we feature an audio book reading from those genres (maximum 8 hours).  If an OTR show completes early, the remaining time is filled in with Acoustic musical recordings in the public domain.

We are planning on adding a second stream consisting entirely of audio book readings, tentatively titled Books Over The Air (I wanted to use Books On Air but it's taken).  The genres will similar to Monster Thriller Horror Theater - Crime/Mystery, Science Fiction, Horror and we're adding the 3F's of Fantasy/Folklore/Fairytales.  To accomodate the relatively short attention spans of myself and potential listeners, the readings will be in the form of short stories of an hour or less.  One complete book will be read overnight, to a maximum of 10 hours; varied short stories will fill in the remaining time of that programming slot.

Look for it in the next few weeks or so - it takes a lot of effort to put the source material into place so the stream can run attended for a lengthy period of time.

May 29, 2022 16:00 Pacific - Doomsday DJ

With the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, I thought this video appropriate.  From the new Kids in the Hall TV show, Doomsday DJ.