Friday, May 01, 2015

SciFi Radio on NPR

SciFi Radio a series broadcast on NPR in 1989 and 1990.  Below is their interpretation of the Arthur C. Clarke Story The Wall Of Darkness.  The story was first published in 1949... back in the prime SciFi era. I've never found a canonical list of their shows, but thsi is my favorite. In the spirit of Flatland, it's a story about math.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

IFTT Radio

 IFTTT is a web-based service that allows users to create simple conditional statements, they call "recipes."  the format is "If This Then That" hence the name. Some users pronounce it as an acronym I-F-T-T, others like an initialism, which rhymes with "gift." The service connects one action on a web service to another.  An example might be backing up photos on your iPad to your Dropbox Account, setting a RSS feed to automatically sent you an SMS text message, etc. More recently devices like the WeMo have been connecting it to meatspace. It allows users to control devices in their home. So now morning exercise detected by your FitBit can turn on your coffee pot.

I got curious if this new bridge inspired any users to connect to our 100-year old technological focus... radio. My answer was a resounding Yes. There were almost a hundred! I frankly don't even understand all of the services they're connecting.  Several were even in Spanish. This is clearly something that is in it's ascension. Here are a few examples.

Every Friday 23:00, notify for ASOT and open TuneIn Radio. Here

Turn on radio 15min before scheduled workout. Here
There were six different IFTTs that connected to the last FM service. Here
If WeMo detects motion in your home, turn on a radio. Here
When you check-in at home turn on your radio. Here
Share Mix Radio. Here

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Return Of LORAN!

 I've written a bit about LORAN before. LORAN stands for LOng RAnge Navigation. it's not a great acronym, (technically an initialism.) LORAN came in many flavors: AT-LORAN, SS-LORAN, LORAN-A, LORAN-B, LORAN-C, LORAN-D, and LORAN-F. There was a reason they skipped the letter "E."  LORAN-F was an experimental standard Motorola was playing with while eLORAN was being deployed. Note the emphasis there on the past-tense. eLORAN or Enhanced LORAN, uses the same specifications as LORAN-C but adds a data channel on the transmitted signal. The roll out of eLORAN... the successor to LORAN-C just never happened. More here.

In 2008 George Bush Jr. threatened to shut down our existing LORAN-C system. Instead after much hand-wringing the administration of the LORAN system was transferred from the US Coast Guard (USCG) to the Dept. of Homeland Security. A year later, in November of 2009, the USCG announced that LORAN-C is no longer needed for maritime navigation.The Department of Homeland Security concurred and they terminated the transmission of all U.S. LORAN-C signals on February 8th, 2010. Many fishermen disagreed with the verdict but LORAN was gone.

Fast forward five years. The Federal Register (the official journal of the US federal government) began publishing articles about possible new eLoran implementations. [here] and [here] Back in 2009 numerous federal agencies, committees and business groups were advocating that we keep LORAN. GPS is great, but it has outages and is vulnerable to large scale long-duration failures. It's not a hardened system and there is no back up system. In 2009, the US National Space-Based PNT Executive Committee Advisory Board plainly suggested that "eLoran is the only credible and cost-effective option that can be declared operational in a timely fashion."  They argued that eLORAN had to be deployed because there was was no other possible answer. In another technical paper they went as far as to suggest we merge GPS and eLoran to create a more redundant, robust system. Obviously that never happened.

Several countries in Europe already moved to eLORAN. In the western world, it's the US alone which uses GPS only for maritime navigation. But the topic just keeps coming back. Then in March of 2015, The Federal register asked for public comment on eLORAN:

"The purpose of this notice is to seek comment from the public and industry regarding potential plans by the United States Government to implement an enhanced Long Range Navigation (eLoran) system as a complementary positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capability to the Global Positioning System (GPS). The positioning, navigation, and timing performance of eLoran will vary widely depending on the number of transmitters and monitor sites for corrections that are implemented."

Perhaps hope still remains...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jonesy's Jukebox

In October of 2010 Shepard Fairey was hired to make a logo for the relaunch of Steve Jones radio program on KROQ. The program, Jonsey’s Jukebox,  aired on Sundays from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The reason you should care is that this Steve Jones is the same Steve Jones that played guitar in the Sex Pistols. Yes, that guy. More here. KROQ was quick to claim that Jones was programming his own show. It was probably even true.
"Jonesy’s Jukebox will feature unreleased tracks from indie bands, b-sides, songs from bands that are bubbling under, KROQ classics and cuts from his personal music collection; anything he wants to play. "
As punk rock royalty, Steve Jones gets a lot of deference. When the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, Jones formed a new band, The Professionals, with Paul Simonon from The Clash. It didn't go anywhere. When The Professionals split in 1982, Jones relocated to the USA and became a session guitarist. His first gig as DJ was on KDLD in Los Angles based when it was still "Indie 103.1FM."

Actually when dance-formatted KDL flipped format to Indierock KDLD, at Noon, February 10, 2004 the first live DJ was Steve Jones. He held onto his weekday noon-2:00 PM slot until the end. On  January 17th 2009, the staff was purged and the station went online only.. i.e. ceased to exist for all practical purposes. Jonsey’s Jukebox was suddenly without a place on the dial to call home.

Numerous rock stars of varying levels of fame had programs on KDLD: Henry Rollins (Rollinsband, Black Flag), Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Rob Zombie (White Zombie), Joe Escalante (The Vandals), Joe Sib (Wax)...and an odd selection of ex-MTV VJs. But they were dabbling, Steve Jones was a DJ, and he intended to stick with radio. In November of that year he guested on BBC Radio's 6Music with five weeks of Sunday shows, a series titled "A Month of Sundays with Steve Jones. In December he revived the program as a webcast via The webcast ended in March of 2010. Seven months later he was relaunched on KROQ awkward pauses, belches and all. But nothing lasts forever. Jones's last show on KROQ was March 2013. Jonesy's Jukebox is no more.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Save the Shukhov Tower!

I'll start off by saying that the Shukhov Tower has already been saved. Russian news was slow to cross the pond, and slower to translate so by the time I heard, the story was in the past tense. In February of 2014 the Russian State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting agreed to the dismantling of the tower. On July 10th 2014 the Russian Ministry of Culture announced that demolition would violate the tower's protected status as a cultural monument. It was a stay of execution. But in-between these events was an outcry from historians, radio geeks and architects. More here.

Westerners may never have heard of it, but try to imagine that the Russian Federation had it's own Eiffel tower and you'll be on the right track. When the drama began the Committee explained their dilemma;  the aging tower had fallen into such irrevocable disrepair that it needed dismantled immediately so there could be any hope that it could be reassembled at a future date. People didn't like that answer. The Committee claimed the structure is on the literal verge of collapse. Petitions circulated.  One, drafted by historian Jean-Louis Cohen and photographer Richard Pare was sent directly to President Vladimir Putin.

The eye-catching tower was competed on March 19th, 1922. It was designed by Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov. It was not his only work. Shukhov built two similar towers stood on the Oka River The towers were a part of a 110kV three-phase AC transmission line. they were commissioned in 1927 and 1929. But the power lines were decommissioned in 1989.One of the towers was demolished and sold for scrap metal in 2005, possibly illegally. Now there is only one, and it is the world’s only diagrid hyperboloid transmission tower. A missing twin to the worlds only diagrid hyperboloid radio tower.

Shukhov originally planned for the radio tower in Moscow to be 360 meters tall. Material shortages led to a more conservative height of 128 meters. The towers were commissioned by Vladimir Lenin, the tower design consists of a series of stacked 25-meter hyperboloids of diminishing diameter. Shukhov built at least 200 towers using the design to hold up antennas or even water tanks. he was so expert with hyperboloid geometry that the U.S. Navy acquired Shukhov’s patents a to build lattice masts on ships.

So, about the radio connection. When the German critic Walter Benjamin visited Moscow in 1928, he noted the towers in his diary about "the enormous Moscow radio transmitter, whose shape is different from any other I have seen.” Another Russian radio blog noted the towers as a "legendary landmarks of radio broadcast[ing]."  It was true.It's hard to identify what stations broadcast on the structure. One Shukhov website listed off two early stations: an unnamed Moscow radiotelegraph station, and "Big Komintern." The latter was a 12 kW station that signed on in 1924. It was built by the Nizhegorodskaya Radio Laboratory (NRL.) It was celebrated at the time as a "trumpet of the radio revolution."