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.