McAlister’s Soup Schedule

Monday… Country Potato and Chicken Tortilla
Tuesday… Broccoli Cheddar and Gumbo
Wednesday… Cheddar Potato and Clam Chowder
Thursday… Asiago Cheese and Country Potato
Friday… Broccoli Cheddar and Chicken Tortilla
Saturday… Cheddar Potato and Gumbo
Sunday… Asiago Cheese and Clam Chowder

Blog, Radio

Three, two, one.

Today, we made the switch.

Flipped over the news talker during the noon hour and the satellite-driven country station following a NASCAR race at 5 p.m.

Having never done this before, I was extremely impressed with how painless this process seemed to be.

During today’s experience, there were two things I observed were quite useful today — and could be very helpful for others in our situation:

1. Networked studios — an invaluable resource. We were able to move the a live event (minus the satellite relays) to a different room, giving the crew time to finalize the settings with minimal, if any, downtime. For the country station, this also allowed for testing of the satellite cues well before the system ever went live.

2. Keeping the old system active. Whether its double checking new cart numbers or referencing old button bars, there’s always something in the now-retired system that could be useful.

We’d never really anticipated how much of a change moving to a system that does not utilize cuts (i.e. cart 1234, cut 1, 2, 3, et al) would be. Despite repeated conversations with our install techs referencing a “fundamental change” in the way Wide Orbit handles carts versus the way Maestro handles carts, it took seeing this happen in the flesh for it to really take effect.

If I could do this all over again, I would have moved to the new cart numbering concept months ago. We’re bridging this gap in the short term by utilizing cart rotators to mimic how Maestro handled multi-cut carts, but the sales people now understand perfectly clear how this process works.

No one likes change (myself included) but this change sets us up well beyond the immediate future, and it’s well worth any minor, temporary growing pains.

Also today, our techs led the entire staff through a bare-bones crash course on the new system. While the nitty gritty hands on training will take place in the weeks to come, today’s session allowed everyone to ask questions that apply to both the technically-inclined and non-technical staff.

Friday is day one of using the new system…and armed with a confident board op and patient air staff, I think we’re in a really great situation.

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A little busy

Sorry, not going to get much done tonight in terms of this blog.


I’m an hour away from Rock Hill re-imaging a client’s workstation.

But tomorrow’s a big day. More on that and Clocks 101 Thursday.

Blog, Radio

Expect the Unexpected

Growing up, I spent several years as a Boy Scout. The Scout motto is, “be prepared.”

I usually live that out in one form or another, given the unpredictibiliy of what I do for a living. Day one of our automation upgrade process was no different.

Today, our chief engineer (CE) wrapped up a two-day stretch rewiring a great deal of the innards of our audio switching system.

(For those unfamiliar with satellite-delivered programming, any time a syndicated host takes a commercial break, a portion of that break is usally given to the local station to play their own commercials, and in turn, make money. That cue doesn’t come out of thin air and certainly doesn’t happen all by itself. There’s a rat’s nest of wires that carry this information and it is, ideally, set up in a logical form that anyone who knows what they’re doing can quickly come in and fix.)

This leads us back to techie speak and back to 142 North Confederate Avenue.

Our satellite relays were last overhauled in 2006 (leading up to our Maestro install) — before the gods of satllite services decided to shoot the Starguide satellites out of space and launch the iPhone of satellite receivers — the XDS.

In short, much of what we were operating in the building was still organized based on the old Starguide format, and the system we currently have in place (Maestro 3.3.8) still has to operate with a brand new set of relays that it may or may not realize are there.

Which leads us to the random “top of the hour” relay that fired every time Sean Hannity took a local break this afternoon. Somewhere in the millions of lines of code, of which I don’t fully grasp, was a rogue function (set of instructions) that would fire off a local break each time God’s Gift to Conservatie Talk Radio took a local break. This proved problematic several times and we didn’t even notice this until an hour into his show. Oops.

So, my partner in crime, Mario and I weighed our options: Spend more time with our install techs learning how to setup, program and maintain our new system or invest a great deal of time and energy into trying to solve one final hiccup in a system we won’t be using within 36 (I hope!) hours.

After consulting with our installers, who offered to consult with their colleagues to resolve the issue, Mario and I came up with a great solution: Cut our losses on the minor hiccup with the old system and have a part-time employee run the Hannity show Wednesday (and maybe Thursday) while we focus on moving forward.

Out of this, I learned the following:

  • First, having extra help around these situations is vital. We weren’t aware of that phantom relay trigger until our CE rewired the relays. It had likely been an issue for years, but didn’t present itself until we made major changes. Having an extra part-timer available frees Mario and I from babysitting the syndicated program, again giving us more time to work on perfecting the new system.
  • Also, proper documentation of relays, wires, et al, is a must. Since I’ve been with the company full time, we’ve added new racks, new encoders, servers, a FM transmitter, new receivers, et al. Had we carefully planned out future expansions with our CE, it would have given him a better opportunity to keep a comprehensive, up-to-date list of what is wired where, possibly preventing the phantom relays we had today.

In closing, Day One was a major success. 24 hours later, I’m much less concerned with the process and the install team we have on site has made a great deal of progress.

Oh…and one more thing…I learned today our building is wired with Cat 5e cable. #winning.


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Background — Where we are right now

Before we delve into the full verboseness of the automation upgrade, I thought it might be helpful if I outline where things currently stand so you’ll have a better idea of what we have in store.

My shop has two licensed stations in its cluster: a news talker (WRHI-AM/FM) and a country station (WRHM-FM). WRHI-AM simulcasts on an FM translator (W232AX) at 94.3. WRHM is licensed to Lancaster, S.C. and simulcasts towards Myrtle Beach on WVSZ-FM, licensed to Chesterfield, S.C. From now on, the news talker is referred to as WRHI and the country station as Interstate 107.

WRHI is our flagship station with the largest control room in the building. It runs live around 5 hours a day — during the mornings, in the noon hour, and between 6-7 p.m. Outside of those hours, it runs on automation.

Interstate 107 is our country station, and runs Cumulus Media’s country format known as “Today’s Best Country.” We carry a syndicated sports show weeknights 6-8 p.m., but it runs in automation most of the time.

We are live for local news, sports, et al with a majority of the recorded audio coming off our Maestro 3.3.8 system.

In addition to our two control rooms, we have a newsroom and a production room that also act as backup control rooms. The boards are redundant and switching audio sources is possible via a patch bay in our tech center.

During the fall, the newsroom and production room act as studios that allow us to carry up to six live football games on air, on the web and via delayed playback. The newsroom and production room also act as Maestro workstations and can play back any audio in the building.

We’re running ACP (Audio Central Plus) Server with Windows Server 2003 on a rackmount in the tech center. ACPS (as we call it) is connected to a Galaxy HDX RAID array and has 1 TB of mirrored storage, expandable up to 4 TB.

The Maestro network is autonomous of our Windows SBS network, but it’s not isolated. So…when the SBS goes down (don’t get me started!) the Maestro units are offline. Not exactly the best situation but it works.

My program director and I use a combination of LogMeIn and UltraVNC to access the studios remotely and offsite.


WideOrbit upgrade: An Introduction

Greetings, folks. I realize these particular blog postings won’t appeal to many, but through the power of the Internets, I hope they might assist other broadcasters who are currently in my shoes.

Specifically, the dreaded automation software upgrade.

Over time, I hope to provide you with some of the insight that led us to where I am right now: working on my laptop at 10 p.m. the night before the install team sets foot in our doors and literally takes over the stations for a week.

In these posts, I hope to lead you down some of the thought processes that we went through and explain some of the things that were news to me during the process.

For the record: let’s state the following. I am an employee of Our Three Sons Broadcasting in Rock Hill, S.C. My position within the company is one of a jack-of-all trades: I’ve hosted the morning show, anchored, reported, produced news, covered a wide range of stories, been a board-op, worked out at our transmitter sites…. you know the drill. I’m currently the afternoon news anchor/reporter/producer and our web guy.

Rock Hill, S.C. is on the fringe of the Charlotte DMA. We’re about 20 miles south of center-city Charlotte, just south of the state line on I-77. The city has grown exponentially in recent years and the current population is about 60,000. Unemployment is high, around 20 percent, and we serve York County which has a population of around 270,000 (July 2010 Census). Our stations are locally-based with a community feel. I’ll get into more detail later on our facilities, which I think are top notch. We do not subscribe to the ratings book, instead our revenue is based on an event-driven sales model with high school sports being our bread and butter.

I am not paid by WideOrbit, Inc. nor have I consulted them with this particular venture. My goal with these posts is to be vendor-agnostic, but, for obvious reasons, you’ll hear how things go the WideOrbit way. I will not bash their company (or any vendor for that matter), and any concerns I raise have already been addressed with the tech support crew, the install team or the Implementation Manager.

My hope is to encourage folks to “take the plunge” when it comes to upgrades like the one we’re about to do, and offer any solid advice I can give on the process.

I had the idea to blog about this tonight (Monday, February 20, 2012) on the way home from work, so I apologize if this is a bit unorganized. Over time, I’ll lay out some of the thought processes that we went through to bring ourselves to the current decision.

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Helpful hints for National Media coming to cover South Carolina

With the national media now caravanning to SC for the next week and a half, I’ve put together a quick list of do’s and don’ts that might be useful to my colleagues covering the candidates. They are as follows:

Items in italics didn’t make the Tweet, but explain things a bit better.

  • Nat’l media: We had a mom get her kids drunk this weekend & a politician who’s heading to prison get another DUI. It’s a great day in SC! (Mother was drunk too, kid went to the hospital he was so drunk. Politician served two terms on county council and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for mortgage application fraud. It’s also his second DUI charge. This particular time, he allegedly hit a mailbox Tuesday at 1:45 a.m.)
  • Nat’l media: Let’s not forget Rodell Vereen (the horse lover) in Conway and State Sen Jake Knotts and his pontoon boat! Welcome to SC!  (Vereen was arrested for having relations with a horse. Twice. With the same horse. Her name is Sugar)
  • Nat’l media: Don’t you dare try to go to lunch Sunday btwn 1045am & 1230pm. You’ll get a paper cut from our church bulletins. Welcome to SC!
  • Nat’l media: Watch out for deer on the back roads. And if you cover an event at The Beacon in Spartanburg, you’re expected to eat there too. (Cash only)
  • Nat’l media: Cayce is “casey,” Huger is “hue-gee” and “Lancaster” is “Lang-kuh-stur.” Get it right. Welcome to SC!
  • Nat’l media: When you order tea in SC, it’s already gonna come with sugar in it. You only get to choose whether or not it comes with a lemon.
  • Nat’l media: We stop for funeral processions here in SC. If that means you miss a deadline, well, consider the alternative rolling by you.
  • Nat’l media: Those spiky trees about yay high are called Palmetto Trees. Used in the Rev. War to stop cannon balls. Welcome to SC.
  • Nat’l media: Please disregard the green sign that tells you the official name of the interchange at I-77 and I-26. Not important. Thanks. (Intersection is named after former State Rep. and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who at one time, compared unemployed citizens to ‘stray animals.’ Bauer also reeeeallly reallllly wanted to be Governor.)
  • Nat’l media: Some of our jails, as of today, are just now allowing books other than the Bible for use by their inmates. (Serious here, Berkley County just started allowing this.)
  • Nat’l media: Most South Carolinians do not consider Myrtle Beach as their #1 tourist destination. We call it “southern Ohio” ’round here. (You can see why some may be opposed now to Interstate 73)

And, finally…

  • Nat’l media: Liquor stores in SC close at 7, closed Sunday. The Blue Laws are still in effect in some counties. Plan ahead.

Jeep Woes, part two

Well, after further inspection (and $1,000 later), it’s now evident the issues with the speedometer and air conditioning not working in tandem were due to a failed body control model.

As it was explained to me, the left wheel speed switch was shorting out (around $400 to fix through the Jeep dealer) which was leading the body control module (another $600 to fix, again, through the Jeep dealer) shorting out.

I later learned from the dealer that Jeep has since eliminated a single BCM device — opting for a distributed system that controls individual parts of the system. One would assume this distributed system is cheaper to fix. Maybe.


9/11 10th Anniversary Production Music

I’m working on putting together a special edition of Palmetto Mornings for this coming September 9th — the Friday leading up to the 10th anniversary of the attacks if 9/11.

As always, you’ve gotta have some good music to add to the presentation. We’ll be taking our three-hour live show and interviewing local officials and citizens who have a connection to the rescue and recovery effects.

Here are some production music ideas:

  • Michael W. Smith — “Freedom” (instrumental version, has a really good ending)
  • Trevor Rabin — “The Guardian Suite – Score” from the movie The Guardian. There are two parts to this song, with the second, more moving and flowing segment starting at 3:14.
  • Trevor Rabin — “Titans Spirit” from the movie Remember The Titans. Can’t ever turn this one down.
  • Trevor Rabin — “Launch” from the movie Armageddon.
    See also “Leaving” and “Armageddon Piano” (good piano instrumental for :30 promos) from the same soundtrack.
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A Conversation with Rep. Mick Mulvaney

This morning on WRHI’s Palmetto Mornings, Sheila and I spoke with Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R)-SC with his reaction on the President’s speech Monday night.


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