All posts by Gary Stigall

Online Chapter 36 Presentation: STACO Updates the UPS

I picked up a new UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) the other day that had been shipped to me and to my surprise, it was quite lightweight. Turns out the premium manufacturers are now installing LiIon batteries and it might just save your back! What about Lithium Ion batteries? Are they safe to install in your facility? Do they hold a charge as well? How long do they last versus the traditional gel lead-acid cells? Can you simply swap the new batteries in place of your old gel cells?

Join Chapters 9 Phoenix, 47 Los Angeles, and 36 San Diego on August 26 at 12 noon PT for a presentation from Chuck Berry of STACO Engineering on the modern UPS. If you’d like to join us, send a note to RSVP@SBE36.ORG.¬†Brought to you by STACO rep Doug Tharp of SCMS.

Dave MacKinnon is Leaving KNSD

NBCUniversal San Diego’s VP of Technology and Operations since 2008, Dave MacKinnon announced recently he’s leaving the station on September 1, 2020. I asked Dave about his years at the station and his goals.

Dave MacKinnon
David MacKinnon

Q: You were hired to lead the Engineering Department at KNSD though you had come from a non-broadcast background, right? That speaks highly of your impressing the hiring staff. What had you done before taking that job?

A: I worked for the Dept of Defense. This was my first job in TV. I had to learn a lot very quickly, but I was helped by an amazing team at KNSD, an industry changing to look more like IT, and similarities between broadcast and DoD standards.

Continue reading Dave MacKinnon is Leaving KNSD

Sprint Has Left the Room

Sprint Nextel Corporation, the communications company with the iconic yellow and black marketing appearance, is no more. As of this week, the name was discontinued by T-Mobile after the two merged in April 2020.

Most people don’t know that the name SPRINT began decades ago as the Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telephony, having evolved from the Southern Pacific Communications Company, which had its origins in the telegraph era of the 1800s. Railroads and gas pipelines make good utility rights-of-way, so they were the beginnings of several telecom companies.

Brown Telephone Co., which started in 1899 and became United Telephone, later merged with Sprint, so they get partial credit for the early history of the combined company, as well.

You likely remember that Sprint Nextel bought the spectrum at the bottom end of the 2 GHz broadcast auxiliary band for its CDMA network in the early 2000s. This forced itinerant ENG users to go digital and smoosh together with much smaller channels.

T-Mobile similarly bought large chunks of the 600 MHz band of spectrum from UHF-TV channels 38 – 51 and have begun using it for their consumer LTE communications network nationwide.

Is Your Mom’s Flip Phone Still Working?

Chris Aamodt, former senior engineer at KFMB Stations, recently sent a message saying that his elderly mother’s phone suddenly stopped working. After some time with Verizon customer service, he learned that they were no longer supporting their CDMA network in his rural Romona neighborhood.

Samsung Verizon Flip Phone – Good as a Brick?

It turns out that Verizon and AT&T are working to update their systems toward 5G and retiring the old 3G CDMA tower systems. These networks have issued warnings of impending obsolescence, but in the meantime, if a legacy 3G system fails, they seem to be replacing them with a new 4G LTE transceiver.

Sprint recently merged with T-Mobile and that’s a whole other mess, with Sprint’s legacy CDMA and T-Mobile’s legacy GSM networks working to update to LTE and 5G.

While broadcast engineers may be working with a backup data hotspot served by one of the major mobile telecoms, it’s most likely LTE and not ready to fail. That said, we recommend checking just to make sure. And check on your parents’ old phone while you’re at it.

H.266 Standard Finalized

It seems that audio and video compression is undergoing its own version of Moore’s Law progression, halving the required storage space or transmission bandwidth every few years. The Versatile Video Coding (VVC), or H.266, standard finalized July 6, 2020, by the Joint Video Experts Team (JVET). The standard is said to have a 30 – 50% better compression rate than the HEVC H.265 standard adopted in 2013, which was about 30 – 50% better than H.264, adopted in 2003. Naturally, the math is complex and compression encoding and decoding times are pretty hefty right now, but you know how that goes–someone’s going to design a chip, and next thing you know it’ll be part of your earphones.

We’ll see if ATSC 3 NextGen will include the standard in upcoming set-top boxes and televisions. H.265 has had some trouble with patent quibbles, which could lead to accelerated adoption of the newer H.266 standard.