The Artisan Radio Blog
September 014, 2021 11:01 Pacific - Worst President in History
Trump is countering George Bush's 9/11 speech about domestic terrorism with a tirade about how he kept Bush from being the worst in history.
For once, I agree with Trump. In fact, he kept every other President from being the worst in history. For HE was the worst President in history.
September 12, 2021 12:19 Pacific - Early Jazz
Artisan Radio is now (and has been for the past few days) been playing early public domain (in Canada) Jazz,
September 09, 2021 18:04 Pacific - Potential Extinction Events
1. Climate Change
2. Further COVID variants as a result of anti-vaxers & anti-maskers
3. Donald Trump preparing for a 2024 presidential run.
September 09, 2021 17:41 Pacific - Progress
It's been almost a week since my last blog entry.
I've been busy. As I've mentioned previously, it takes a lot of work to determine whether songs are in the public domain, even in Canada where things are much more straight forward than the U.S.
Some contributors to early 20th century works are very obscure, and often impossible to track down. When that happens, I wander on over to the SOCAN Public Repetoire and look for the song there. Sometimes it is, even when it probably shouldn't be, but I accept their verdict, at least for now. Most aren't.
Then there's the quality of the recordings. Often, the source material is very poor (these records are over 100 years old, after all), and the reordings have to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, the process of cleaning also affects the audio; I do the minimum possible so that (at least in my opinion) the results are at least listenable.
Some of the recordings are almost pristine.
None are high fidelity, by any stretch of the imagination. This was the Acoustic Era, when the performers sang into a large horn, which drove the entirely mechanical process of cutting the master. The process was essentially reversed when playing back a record (output was again to a large horn). The Electric Era didn't start until around 1925 or so (which introduced amplification, microphones, loudspeakers, etc.).
No overdubbing, either. If the performer flubbed something, the master had to be discarded, and redone.
I've also mentioned that I'm impressed by the sheer variety of music that was popular during those times. You had your popular songs (a lot from Broadway shows), but also classical instrumentals, opera, blues, the beginnings of jazz and I'm sure other genres that I can't think of right now.
Singers really sang, as opposed to what is laughingly called singing today. Unfortunately, the horn didn't seem to favor female singers as much as male ones - probably a result of losing a lot of the higher frequencies.
Overall, I'm really enjoying the results of all this work. I started at songs from 1917, and have been working backwards. I've just finished 1912, and that material will be entering the playlist shortly. I'll probably go to 1910 and take a break.
I want to start working on some early blues and jazz (10's & 20's). I'll then rotate the playlists between popular songs, blues and jazz of that era.
September 03, 2021 10:01 Pacific - Voices in the Dark
It all started with something I thought rather simple.
I wanted to install the Microsoft Voices, available free & redistributable on Windows 8 & 10 onto my Windows Server 2008 R2 (basically Windows 7 on steroids). Then the fun started.
Microsoft no longer makes these voices available for download, having purchased Nuance and wanting to push users to their cloud-based Azure service. I finally managed to track down some of the voices from a TTS software company (and it was no mean feat, as they weren't labelled as such). The Microsoft Helen voice was available with the UCMA (a telephone communications package for Server 2008 R2) still available on the Microsoft download page, but it had out of date links to the other voices.
Anyway, everything installed, but no voices were seen in my TTS package, even though they are supposedly SAPI 5 compliant. It turns out that these voices are meant to be used with the Microsoft Speech Runtime, the successor to the previous TTS software, but again, no longer available through Microsoft (built into Microsoft 8 & 10, but not Server 2008 R2). UCMA had it, but after installing that package, still no luck.
Finally, after looking at the Registry, I realized that the voices were showing up under the Microsoft Speech Server key, but not Speech (which my and most other software uses, a legacy & compatibility thing). Moving the info over to the Speech key solved the problem, and the voices are now available.
What was reinforced after all this is that while there are many claimed 'experts' posting over the Internet, you can't rely on them other than to get ideas and possible directions to solve a problem. The only one you can rely on is yourself, and your knowledge. Always go from first principles.
August 31, 2021 10:56 Pacific - Moving Target
What started as a curiosity about geo blocking has turned into a fairly major project.
Initially, it was desired to block all countries but Canada from the music server for copyright reasons. Everything I investigated and read suggested that that would be extremely difficult, unless payware was used. Most websites discussed blocking individual countries using a variety of methods.
After a series of experiments, I finally came up with my original solution, utilizing Windows firewall. It's possible and relatively easy, once you know how, to whitelist a country for specific services. The web server has now moved back to the music server as well, and it remains open to everyone. Next, I will be blocking several individual countries from the server for everything, due to the possibility of potential malicious activity; it remains to be seen how that will interfere with everything else. It shouldn't, but if there's one thing I've learned going this process, it's that there's lots going on under the hood of the system, and 'shouldn't's aren't always accurate.
August 29, 2021 16:01 Pacific - Web Server Moved
The web server has been moved to a temporary computer until we can get a dedicated one. That computer has geo blocked the countries that generate 99% of the bots that float around the Internet. The music server will get similar geo blocking. And once the stream is a about to go online, we will be geo blocking the U.S. and Mexico. I'm not sure if that's entirely necessary for streaming, as all the programming will be in the public domain in Canada, and the server is located in Canada (downloading is different), but we'll do it anyway, just to be on the safe side.
August 28, 2021 16:44 Pacific - Solving an Annoying Problem
And no, I'm not talking about moderation on the Part 15 Forums.
I am in the process of moving the radio automation software off my music server, so that I can use different firewall rules for each (i.e., block certain countries from accessing the music server, while allowing (virtually) everyone access to the home page and blog).
The radio automation process uses TTS to automatically generate voice tracking. It does this by scheduling the running of batch files, which launch the TTS conversion program.
I was finding that the launching of the command window (every minute) was interfering with the launching of the screen saver, preventing it from running. Not earth shattering, but an issue since I want to avoid screen burn-in, and I also want to avoid continuously looking at a lit screen as it's hard on the eyes.
It turns out that there is no easy way within native Windows to solve the problem. Forcing the screen display to off is intertwined with the computer going to sleep and it's difficult, if not impossible, to separate the two. I would turn off the display with a variety of methods, including various utility programs, and the automation would stop as the computer would also be put into sleep mode.
Finally, I found a very useful utility that resolved the issue. 'nircmd', written (and free) from nirsoft, does many things, and the most relevant to my problem is that it can launch a batch file as a process, without a command window. Lo and behold, the screen saver came on. And the other interesting finding was that different batch files that were launched periodically (much more infrequently than the TTS ones) didn't affect the screen saver once it was running - the only way to stop it was to use the mouse or keyboard.
Problem solved. If only it were so easy with moderation.
August 2, 2021 16:22 Pacific - Songs of the Early 20th Century
As I laboriously research these songs to determine which are in the public domain in Canada, I am continuously impressed by their creativity, diversity and humor. From pop to straight comedy, orchestral pieces to jazz, you can find it all in this era. Certainly not like the homogenous stuff that makes the charts today.
Sure, the recordings aren't the greatest because of the medium, and sometimes the condition of the records is marginal at best, but it's all still very enjoyable.
I'm currently using Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories as a guide in collecting the music. So far I've finished 1915, and am about 1/4 of the way through 1916. Eventually I hope to do 1910-1925 inclusive (at the very least), plus do some deep dives in select early jazz & blues repertoires.
August 27, 2021 9:09 Pacific - The Pandemic
I read recently that while other coronavirus diseases such as Ebola are spread by body fluids, COVID is now being spread by assholes.
August 27, 2021 8:48 Pacific - Rights
British Columbia has just reintroduced mandatory masking in indoor spaces, due to spiking COVID numbers. It is also introducing a vaccine passport system. There have already been stores taking to social media, however, stating that they will not be checking.
People who don't get vaccinated (or mask) are either lazy, selfish, stupid or some combination of those traits (excluding those who can't for medical reasons, of course). Yes, anybody has the right to do what they want to their body, but their rights stop where my right to remain healthy starts.
I personally won't shop at any store which lets in those who don't give a sh*t about anyone else but themselves.
August 26, 2021 14:05 Pacific - Geo Blocking Notes
Geo blocking using the Windows Firewall is an effective and relatively efficient way to block incoming traffic from specific countries.
I will have to move the web server to another computer, and set up different firewall rules for each. That will allow (virtually) everyone to see the Artisan Radio homepage, blog, etc., while others will be blocked from the music server due to copyright reasons. Radio automation may be placed on the web server or it may go on a third computer.
All Berne Convention countries, with the exception of the U.S. and Mexico (which don't apply the Rule of the Shorter Term), will be allowed access to the music server.
Several countries (those which produce the most malicious incoming traffic) will be blocked on all computers for security reasons. That includes China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
It is possible, of course, to circumvent the geo blocking by using a VPN to make it appear that you are located in another country. This is apparently legal in most jurisdictions, and in any event, the responsibility there is with the user (rather than the provider).
There are two kinds of IP/Country databases available (for free). One contains a list of all possible IP addresses for a country, the other contains those IP addresses that have been active. In some cases, the former is 2-3 times larger than the latter. It is unclear right now which one to use to generate the firewall blocking rules. I'll probably go with the larger (and more accurate) one, and fall back to the smaller one if performance suffers too much.
August 26, 2021 10:33 Pacific - The Real Story
I played nice in my response to the Activity? question over at Part15. There's no point in going to the effort to post merely to get that post deleted. In retrospect, I kind of wonder why I bothered, but I guess I'm still somewhat idealistic and hope some things can change.
The real story is that the long time Moderator of that Forum and myself, newly appointed, were continuously at odds over moderation issues. That Moderator had a very narrow view of what was acceptable content in the Forum, primarily technical in nature. I, on the other hand, felt that if members involved in Part 15 broadcasting felt compelled to post, that content should be left and made available to anyone who wanted to read it (other than illegal or thoroughly objectionable material, of course). You can always choose your right to ignore it.
There were similar issues with posters. I was concerned with a poster's intent. Some were always talking technical, but their intent was to disrupt and often belittle others. I wanted to curtail those posters, but to the other Moderator, they were OK. He wanted to limit and even potentially get rid of some who continuously posted about "trivial" matters (in his opinion).
That is why, outwardly, moderation appeared to be inconsistent. I won some battles, he won others. At one point I just decided that the grief and effort to fight wasn't worth it. That Moderator wasn't going anywhere, and the Owner was (and still is) pretty much hands off. So I left, and eventually started this blog, which has gone through several iterations.
I'm a lot happier now.
August 25, 2021 21:11 Pacific - Interesting Copyright Note
All radio broadcasts in Great Britain prior to January 1, 1957 are in the public domain, as no law existed to handle them. Contrast that to what the U.S. did with sound recordings - no law existed, so they put everything under copyright protection.
August 25, 2021 17:23 Pacific - Implementing Geo Blocking
Well, I temporarily implemented geo blocking for the U.S. and Mexico as a proof of concept. This was done by running a Powershell script that added block rules for the appropriate IP addresses in Windows firewall. It appears to work, at least it did for me using various U.S. VPN sites.
The U.S. required approximately 180 rules inbound and outbound (360 combined), with each consisting of 100 IP address ranges to block, I can cut down the number of rules in half by increasing to 200 IP ranges or perhaps even more.
There was no appreciable speed decrease in connecting from within Canada. If you are in the blocked zone, you just won't connect and will get no error (the rules would have to be implemented within IIS to get a 'Forbidden' page or similar).
Visitors to the blog from the U.S. will obviously not see this post until I remove the rules, probably tomorrow. After that, I'll have to decide which countries to block permanently, if any.
August 25, 2021 12:08 Pacific - Forum Activity
Someone was questioning the lack of activity on one of the remaining Part 15 Forums.
I 'bent' slightly (I generally don't post on them anymore) and replied that there is plenty of activity in the Part 15 broadcasting world. Just not there. Most posters on those Forums have been driven away because it's not clear what content is acceptable. Antiquated moderation principles and rules have limited posts to *some* technical issues only, and you can only say so much on those topics.
I went on to say that if the Forums want to survive, they will have to adapt to new ideas and concepts.
I wonder if my post will survive.
August 25, 2021 11:456 Pacific - Geo Blocking
Copyright issues get more and more confused.
A few years ago, I had sought opinions on one of the Part 15 Forums on whether it was legal to stream public domain material (in Canada) to someone in the U.S. The answer from a supposed copyright expert was yes.
Now I'm not so sure. Website after website pertaining to the public domain in Canada warn about this material potentially being copyrighted in other countries. What that means is never stated. One site did specifically mention prohibiting downloads - not streaming though.
So I decided to do some investigation on geo blocking applications (i.e., to block access to web services by location). The idea would be to limit streaming access to Canada.
All use roughly the same approach. There are databases available that list every IP used by each individual country. Some are free, some are commercial. At some point, something has to compare the IP address of the source of a request against these databases, and either allow or block it.
The basic problem is that IP assignment per country is not consistent. As an example, there are over 7,000 IP ranges (IP addresses & subnets) assigned to Canada, many more to larger countries. That's a lot of data to search.
That search can be conducted by your web server (IIS, Apache, etc.). However, that's probably the worst place, as each HTTP request needs to be validated, generating a lot of overhead.
The next best place is on the server firewall. Generally, the initial request is slower due to the required IP lookup, with no delays once the connection is established. If you use Windows, the built-in firewall is a good choice. There are also suitable replacements available, both free and again, not free.
The best place is on your router, offloading the entire process to external hardware. Unfortunately, you need a commercial router for that; my router wouldn't support it, and it's a pretty high end consumer device.
All approaches require a great deal of ongoing database maintenance, as the assigned IP addresses change all the time.
The exercise in itself was illuminating, but I'm not sure I will implement geo blocking, at least for streaming. To me, it defies common sense that one would have to know the copyright laws of each and every country that might access the streaming server. Then again, whoever said that legalities encompassed common sense?
August 21, 2021 21:32 Pacific - Public Domain
I want everything played on Artisan Radio to be in the public domain in Canada. That way, there's no fuss, no muss, in terms of licensing payments, what you can do with the content, etc.
The results of my recent dive into copyrights in both Canada and the U.S. are disappointing. This was going to be a long post, but I've decided to keep it short and sweet.
Determining the copyright status of OTR in Canada is very difficult, if not impossible, given the life plus 50 rule - in most cases, all the creators are unknown. Ironically, it's simpler in the U.S.
It's much simpler to determine the copyright status of music in Canada. Life (of the last surviving creator) plus 50 years (still valid even today) for the work itself, and 50 years for the performance (up to 2015 when the laws were changed to 70 years). It just takes a lot of work to do the research for each song to determine the creators, and when they died.
I'll stick with music of the early 20th century (roraring 20s and earlier) and old opera/classical recordings (released prior to 1964).
Of course, I'm going to have to do that research and switch the programming, which will take a little time.
August 19, 2021 8:44 Pacific - First There Was ...
the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. Now here's the Vegetable Orchestra. At the end of their performances, they cut up their instrument leftovers, make them into a soup and feed the audience. Talk about music being the food of life.
August 18, 2021 21:52 Pacific - Multi Tasking
I continue to ponder the implications of my copyright explorations, particularly with OTR in Canada. In the meantime, today I spent some time investigating the current state of TTS (Text to Speech).
It appears that some significant strides have been made in producing natural sounding voices for TTS. Even those found in Windows 8 (Hazel & Zira) are almost as good as a lot of the so called 'professional' voices available for purchase. And Eva (an early version of Cortana) found in Windows 10 sounds even better. The nice thing about the Microsoft voices is that they can be used commercially (as long as it's not in an AI, or speech recognition, application) - Microsoft provides redistributable software packages to host the voices (SAPI5 & the Microsoft Speech Platform).
I spent some time listening to the payware voices as well, but for the most part I wasn't impressed for the money involved. Personal use, maybe, but many want thousands of dollars for commercial use. IVONA voices appear to provide the best bang for the buck (personal use only).
And some of the available voices are really bad. If you're going to poke your toes into this water, make sure you listen to each one before putting any money out. Even if you don't put any money out.
August 16, 2021 18:12 Pacific - The Berne Convention
The U.S, doesn't honor the 'rule of shorter term' specified in the Berne convention. Typical. It would mean Disney and other media conglomerates might not receive as much money for their already overflowing coffers.
Canada does honor this rule. However, there are copyright provisions in the old and new NAFTA agreements between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, so things aren't as straight forward for these countries (remember, the rule only applies in the absence of legislation otherwise).
In fact, they're still very foggy. I've seen legal articles which state that the rule of shorter term doesn't apply to NAFTA countries. However, the UBC copyright page (one of the basic Canadian references) doesn't make mention of NAFTA at all.
There is a clause in the new NAFTA joint ownership section which seems to indicate that Canada will apply the rule of shorter term in that instance. This clause does not exist for single creator works, which doesn't make sense; why should joint creation cause copyright term potentially to be less?
It could be that this clause is meant to cover both types of creation. One lawyer stated that there is case law where such clauses, in one part of an agreement, can and have been applied consistently throughout the agreement.
What this all means to over-the-air and streaming in Canada (both music and OTR) will be discussed in a later post.
August 16, 2021 18:08 Pacific - Windows 10 Success
Apparently the free update to Windows 10 still works, sort of. After downloading the media creator tool from Microsoft, I was able to create update media on a USB stick.
The only way the update would work was to create a fresh install, losing apps & data. That was OK, though, as everything was backed up.
August 15, 2021 15:56 Pacific - Failure
The Windows 10 installation failed with no indication as to why. I may just leave it at that, at least for now.
August 15, 2021 15:33 Pacific - Copyright
I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that nobody, not even the lawyers, really understands what copyright means.
Oh, there are plenty of so-called experts, particularly in the Part 15 world, but what they say doesn't jibe with what I read.
My latest ruminations on copyright started with reading an article about the various works that are moving in the public domain in the U.S. in 2022 (and those that did move in 2021).
Basically, anything written prior to January 1, 1926 is now in the public domain (in the U.S.). That is the work itself, but not the sound recording. Virtually no sound recordings are in the public domain in the U.S.
Canada has different copyright rules. Works are copyrighted for 50 years after the death of the last creator, although that will be changing once the new NAFTA has been put into law. Recordings moved into the public domain 50 years after they had been released up to 2015, and then 70 years after that date.
There is another complication. Both Canada and the U.S. are Berne Convention signatories. The Berne Convention was an attempt to unify copyright laws internationally. One clause is particular is very interesting, and is known as the 'rule of the shorter term'. It states that unless legislated otherwise, the length of copyright of a foreign work in any particular country cannot be longer than that of the originating country. This rule is voluntary, however.
That has some implications for Canadian copyright, which will be dealt with in a subsequent blog entry.
August 15, 2021 15:25 Pacific - Back
After our 2nd heat wave, combined with an air quality alert, the Artisan Radio Blog is back up and running. Our Internet stream will be back up at a later date, to be announced - I'm currently evaluating the content (more on that to come).
I'm in the process of upgrading my laptop to Windows 10, so we'll have to see how that goes. It now runs Windows 8 - no mans land. Right in between my preferred O/S of Windows 7, and Windows 10. Since Windows 11 is around the corner, I figured I'd take the plunge and bring it up to date.
August 9, 2021 15:53 Pacific - Breaking a Rule
One of my unbreakable rules has always been to power off any electronic device before doing something to it. I guess now I have to add (almost) before always in that statement.
I've been attempting to add wireless to the production server, and thought that I could plug in the dongle for the USB adapter without problems. Well, in the process, I brushed against the power switch on the spike protection power bar, and rebooted the machine.
That in itself was OK, but it takes the RAID drives 8 hours+ to verify their contents, and during that process slows down the server noticeably, affecting service.
Trying to save the reboot time cost me a whole lot more time in the end. This business can be very humbling at times.
August 10, 2021 15:23 Pacific - Uniqueness
All over the Part 15 world I read about suggestions to make your station sound more professional (i.e., like the licensed stations). Along with that, it's assumed that everybody plays music as a general format.
On the other hand, the same people continuously disparage the state of licensed radio today. Presumably the same stations that they're attempting to emulate.
I also read comments about truly dreadful Part 15 stations, but have no idea, given these polar opposites, what is meant by that. Are they playing the wrong music?
Something doesn't make sense. I believe that Part 15 stations should be unique, different, and yet few are. Oh, there's Carl Blare's KDX Radio (primarily intelligent talk shows from various sources), Ken Norris's Friday Harbor Tiny Radio (community focused) and to some extent Artisan Radio (now talk-based old time radio shows, in the past community focused). I can think of one or two more that have gone by the wayside, but that's it.
What's the point of attempting to imitate the big boys with limited budgets, talent and programming? Why bother? Is it an ego thing? Attempting to relive bygone glory days?
I'll take interesting content over professional sound with no content any time.
August 9, 2021 15:43 Pacific - Internet Stream Offline
Due to maintenance, our internet stream is offline for a while. Then the heat wave will hit, so while it may come up before then, it's more likely that it will be down until this weekend.
The blog will remain online for now.
August 7, 2021 9:44 Pacific - Egos
The webmaster over at the Snobby Broadcaster Part 15 forum recently posted "With my time spent in academia...".
Now, I was curious. Academia refers to academic life in colleges and universities. I knew that this webmaster worked in a school in some capacity from his postings, so I went to trusty google to find out exactly what part of academia he was involved with.
It turns out that he's listed as an IT Specialist in a public school system, and more specifically, is on the support staff list for a Middle School (ages 11-14), something we would call a Junior High School in Canada. While I'm not putting that job down, it's hardly academia.
Enhancing your credentials to give more authority to your opinions is, unfortunately, not unique in the Part 15 broadcasting world. There are far too many 'experts' who will gladly tell you what they think, and they're often wrong for your particular situation.
I've found that those who are truly wise (and that I listen to the most) are those who understand that no matter how much they know, there's far more that they don't know (and are open to finding out).
In other words, the true experts are the ones who don't call themselves experts, no matter what their background.
August 6, 2021 18:30 Pacific - Downtime
The website and internet stream will be up and down for the next few days as we do some badly needed maintenance.
And...another heat wave is approaching, so it's likely that we will be shutting down for a while in or around Wednesday August 11 for a while. This one may be the worst yet.
August 5, 2021 21:45 Pacific - Range Factors Cont'd
Carl Blare of the Blare Blog comments that he too notices a great many factors affect Part 15 FM range, including moisture. He finds Part 15 AM range more consistent.
I agree with that latter statement for a particular locale; however, I've found that the greatest influencer of AM range is ground conductivity, which can vary widely between locations. When I was on Bowen Island, the maximum range I was able to achieve using RSS210 (Part 15) was about 1/4 mile, regardless of the length of ground lead. Here in the Fraser Valley I easily got 1+ miles with the same transmitter, ground mounted. The only difference is that Bowen is basically a big rock sticking out of the ocean, while the Fraser Valley used to be a river bed (and is still a flood plain, protected by dykes). Ground conductivity on Bowen was virtually nil, while it is much, much higher in the Valley.
August 2, 2021 17:37 Pacific - Range Factors
I repeated my range testing in the recent hot and muggy weather (the previous test was done on a relatively cool, dry day). Range was about half of what I observed in the previous tests. 200-300 feet for a strong signal, getting patchy after that to maybe 500-600 feet. I observed even less range when the forest fire smoke invaded.
Weather is not something that is often mentioned when discussing Part 15 range, but it obviously plays a huge role, particularly in the fringe signal areas where it doesn't take much to dip the field strength to below receiver detection levels. Field stength and thus range is inversely and linearly proportional to the receiving antenna distance from the transmitting antenna, but that only holds in a vacuum. Obstructions, including stuff in the atmosphere, plays a big role in range.
August 1, 2021 21:37 Pacific - Climate Change
Anyone who doubts climate change should just look at what's happening in British Columbia for the past few weeks.
We've experienced unprecedented temperatures (well over 100 degrees some days - usually, anything over 80 degrees is considered a heat wave). Forest fires are rampant. A whole town burned down. Air quality from the smoke is so bad today they've issued warnings to stay inside, even in the Vancouver area. No rain for over 40 days on the so called 'wet coast'.
We haven't gone away; the blog will continue once things get back to somewhat normal.
July 27, 2021 21:40 Pacific - Range Checking
Today I was motivated to range test my new Decade MS-100 (obtained from the U.S.) with my new Symetrix 421M processing the audio. Here is a subjective description of the range as measured with my moving car radio, with distances 'as the crow flies' from Google maps. It should be noted that the transmitter is located high (about 80 feet).
0-500 feet: Strong signal, no noise or fenceboarding
500-1000 feet: OK signal, some noise and fenceboarding, still mostly listenable. Would be perfectly listenable if the car was parked in the less noisy spots away from the obstructions
1000-1500 feet: Weak signal, lots of noise and fenceboarding, really not listenable moving. Might be listenable, but weak, if the car was parked in the right place
1500-2500 feet: Could hear bits of signal sometimes breaking through the noise. Not listenable, although you could tell it was there.
For some, I'm sure, they'd shout that the signal could be heard out to 2500 feet. Not really. I would describe the usable range as 500 feet, potentially up to 1000 feet in the right location (line of sight, no obstructions).
It demonstrates why you have to be careful when reading other's range descriptions. Signal quality is very subjective, and you usually have no idea of the many other factors that can affect range.
A couple more notes from this
experiment. The car radio I'm using is not the greatest on FM (pitiful on
AM), and the antenna is one of those stubby things on the roof. A better
radio and whip antenna would improve range a bit. I also noted an
improvement in signal quality (less noise) and thus, usable range, from the
Symetrix. Overall range, not so much.
July 26, 2021 17:45 Pacific - Voice Tracking
Voice tracking is a mechanism for automated radio stations that allows announcement tracks to be played, identifying, say, a song. Voice tracking makes for a much more ejoyable listening experience, particularly over the air.
Those announcement tracks have to be recorded, however; this makes voice tracking, particularly for Part 15 stations, unworkable (if you're doing it manually) unless you have a very limited playlist.
Those who have followed my posts in the Part 15 Forums (when I was active on them) know that I developed a method to automatically generate voice tracking using TTS (Text to Speech) software. This involved writing some additional software, and using it along with a scheduler, TTS and a decent voice. The results are wholly dependent on the quality of the voice utilized. Free ones are pretty bad and sound robotic; however, for a small fee, you can purchase some pretty good ones from vendors such as Cepstral for personal use.
Currently, Artisan Radio doesn't use voice tracking, as we broadcast Old Time Radio shows exclusively, and these shows introduce themselves within their content.
My proof of concept station (eliminating the automation computer) broadcasts music from optical disc sources (CD-R/DVD-R) and also includes voice tracking. I will discuss the methodology for this in some detail at a later date in the blog.
July 26, 2021 17:29 Pacific - More Noise
I continue to be plagued with noise issues in the audio chain. This time, it was a high pitched whistling sound that unexpectedly showed up after testing the new Symetrix. I eventually traced it to cheap audio cables (I didn't have the right ones at first, so used several adapters, which let the noise in through the exposed parts). I solved the problem temporarily by moving the cable around, and that will have to do until I get the proper XLR ones.
July 26, 2021 17:22 Pacific - 'Old School' Audio Processing
I took delivery yesterday of a Symetrix 421M, a combination compressor, expander & limiter. Part 15 transmitters really need audio processing to ensure maximum loudness, and thus range. I purchased it, in part, to do a proof of concept for broadcasting without a computer.
On Bowen Island I used one of these, but then moved on to software audio processing. The latter, while convenient (requiring less boxes) is adequate, but I prefer the sound of the Symetrix. And there's nothing more satisfying than seeing the various lights flashing as it does its work.
The station's internet stream audio (which can be found in the IceCast directory, as well as this website's home page) is unprocessed. I figure I'll let the listener on the other end do what processing they want at their convenience.
July 23, 2021 16:59 Pacific - Wait a Minute
TThe inhabitants of the remaining Part 15 Forums are mostly middle aged or older males, and we know that they wear MAGA hats.
That explains a lot.
July 23, 2021 13:45 Pacific - Survival of the Fittest
Have you noticed that those who choose not to wear a mask, even in risky indoor settings where you can't physically distance, are more likely to be middle aged or older males? I suspect they also drive trucks and wear MAGA hats (at least in the U.S.).
COVID has certainly demonstrated that evolution is always in action; intelligence is clearly the primary survival trait.
July 23, 2021 13:16 Pacific - Experimenting
I decided to do some experimenting with the new Decade MS-100 I recently picked up. I had originally located it in the corner of my studio/office on top of a credenza; there, it was close to the automation computer and router. I decided to move it to the top of my desk in the center of the office, a total distance of about 5 feet. In theory, the range should have been a bit better, as in that new location, the built in antenna had line of sight to a window (removing a wall the signal had to go through). Imagine my surprise when the range to my car radio decreased by about 50% (several hundred meters).
Now, the puny signal these transmitters put out is pretty weak in the last half its range, almost certainly in the low single digits. So it wouldn't take much to drop the field strength enough to see that kind of result. Still, it was unexpected. I put the transmitter back where it was in the first place, and range was restored.
The only reason I can come up with for this behavior is obstructions. There are some low-rise concrete buildings with metal roofs along the road (City Hall). Somehow, in the transmitter's original location, the signal was finding a path through them.. Moving the transmitter, even 5 feet, changed the line of sight enough to reduce the signal field strength, and thus the range.
In the Part 15 broadcasting world, you just have to try things out and see what happens. No one 'expert' or rule of thumb is going to predict what happens in your particular situation.
July 21, 2021 21:44 Pacific - Rules of Thumb
The Part15.239 rules for legal, unlicensed broadcasting in the U.S. state that a transmitter's field strength can be no more than 250uv/m at a distance of 3 meters from the antenna.
The BETS rules for Canada are similar, but allow a field strength of 100uv/m at a distance of 30 meters.
Unfortunately, it takes expensive equipment and some know how to accurately measure field strength. So both the FCC and Industry Canada have devised 'rules of thumb' that broadcasters can use to determine if they're legal or not. At least, that's the theory. The FCC has stated that a legal signal should not travel more than 200 feet. Ironically, even though the field strength rules for BETS in Canada are higher, Industry Canada states that such a signal should not travel more than 30 meters (or roughly 100 feet).
The problem with rules of thumb is that they're not rules. They're not about thumbs. Nor are they necessarily accurate, as can be seen by comparing these range expectations from government regulatory agencies.
Neither the FCC or Industry Canada says anything at all about the radio receiver or antenna that is detecting the transmitted signal. The sensitivity of receivers (aided by the antenna) varies greatly, from cheap portables (the worst) to car radios (the best). Naturally, a car radio will receive a Part 15 signal much further than a cheap portable (for the very best car radios, up to 200x more).
There are also many other factors that affect FM range, including, but not limited to, topography, obstructions (natural and man made), even the weather. There's no way to determine even approximate range without considering all these factors.
Frankly, the the whole idea of the FM rules of thumb is just plain silly. The best you can say is that range for a legal FM signal can be anywhere between 5 feet to 1000 feet (maybe a bit more). I am certainly getting much more than 200 feet range line of sight to my car radio using a new, Part 15 certified MS-100.
That hasn't stopped those in the Part 15 broadcasting world biased against FM (and yes, there are many to be found, particularly on a certain AM-oriented Forum). They will gladly lecture anyone who will listen that if you are getting more than 200 feet range, you are operating illegally and are likely a pirate.
IMO, blindly accepting these FM rules of thumb is for the hard of thinking.
July 21, 2021 15:03 Pacific - Why Don't You Hum a Few Bars...?
The station recently purchased a new Part 15/RSS210/BETS certified Decade MS-100 that we're currently using for over the air broadcasting. Ironically, although manufactured in Canada, it was obtained from the U.S. through e-bay, so it would be tuned to Part 15 & RSS210 specs.
Upon powering it up, I immediately noticed a fairly loud hum in the signal, which was noticeable during quiet audio. This is unusual, and the first time I've encountered such a problem with a Decade device. Hum is a common problem with Part 15 transmitters, particularly on AM, and can be generated from a number of sources. Usually, however, it's the result of a cheap power supply, usually the wall wart powering the transmitter.
I had a spare Decade wall wart lying around, and swapping it in made no difference. Nor did wrapping the power line around a torroid choke. After a bit of debugging, I tracked the problem down to the noisy power supply of my cable modem (a really cheap little thing). It will have to be replaced, but in the meantime, I moved the MS-100 power supply to an outlet on a separate electrical circuit, and the problem vanished.
The next step would have been to put ground isolators & chokes on the audio lines, but that was not necessary.
Hum can be beaten. It just can take a bit of work.
July 21, 2021 15:03 Pacific - Radio Personality?
I found this video while doing some research for the blog on the Internet. It was created by BowenTV, an online Youtube video channel, way back in 2006. It clearly shows why I never became a famous TV personality, or Radio DJ. I'm at my best behind the scenes.
July 20, 2021 21:45 Pacific - The Third Time's the Charm (Hopefully)
This is the third incarnation of the Artisan Radio blog. I just wasn't satisfied with the content in the first two attempts. Too bland, too much like other Part 15 websites (more below).
So, I've decided to kick off this new attempt with a short description of who I am, and what I hope to accomplish.
The blog is first and foremost about legal, unlicensed radio broadcasting, or Part 15 broadcasting as it's known in the U.S. (here in Canada, BETS or RSS210). I've always had an interest in radio, and have been active in the field. I was a SWL'er and hold an amateur radio (HAM) operators license. I started and ran a community radio station (under Canadian BETS rules) on one of the Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia for a number of years. I've been a Moderator on several of the Part 15 Radio Forums, and was Chairman of the ALPB (Association of Low Power Broadcasters), a small group of enthusiasts.
My professional background, however, is in computers. I received one the first Computer Sciences degrees handed out by the University of Toronto in the early 1970s. Over many years I've worked in Operations, Sofware Development, Project Management, Management, Consulting and Teaching for and with many large and prestigious firms, including Microsoft. This computer background has held me in good stead in radio, as so much is dependent on this technology.
That's me in a nutshell. I would never call myself a broadcasting professional (unlike some broadcast professionals in the Part 15 world who seem to think that google searches make you a computer professional).
So, why do a blog? Well, first and foremost, I enjoy writing, and have multiple other projects on the go. But the main reason is the current state of the existing Part 15 Forums and websites. What few remain are largely unpopulated, and when active, are moderated with strict content rules and and contain outright misinformation, driven by the egos and biases of the Moderators and Administrators. I believe that there is plenty of room for alternative viewpoints that cannot be expressed and are actively discouraged elsewhere.
There are exceptions, of course. One website in particular, the Blare Blog, is filled with interesting insights and creativity, and I hope that this blog and that one will complement each other over the coming months.
My goal for the Artisan Radio Blog is to simultaneously entertain, inform, critique, praise and help others. I intend to share my experiences with Part 15 broadcasting, both past and present. I will also have some special ongoing features, including the unexpurgated and true version of the rise, fall and eventual demise of the ALBP, personal moderation stories from other Forums and many others.
But be forewarned. The content here will range widely and freely. As my colleague Carl Blare once said, "Radio is everything". I will discuss much more than the technical aspects of Part 15 radio. If you are put off by that, you should probably go and read something else.
On with the show...