I switched back to Android

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No, I can’t believe I just said that either. But… it’s true.

Let me put things in perspective here. I’ve been an Apple fan since the mid-90’s and got to use my first Macintosh in kindergarten. I forget what model it was but it had a 5¼” floppy drive. Old school, I know. I was a huge fan of the iMac when that came out in 1998 and thought it was super cool (it wasn’t beige… that was huge back then!)

The first computer I bought with my own money was a Power Macintosh 5200 that was being surplussed by Detroit Lakes Middle School in 2002 for $100 and thought it was the coolest thing on earth (I still have it BTW, the monitor has issues but last time I tried to boot it up it still worked!). Once I got into High School and got a job the first major purchase I made was a MacBook. I sold that in 2009 and bought a MacBook Pro that I still have to this day.

My (mostly complete) collection of retired Apple products.

It was in those same Middle School/High School years the iPod became a reality. And it took me until 2005 but I finally bought my first iPod, the 1st gen iPod Nano 2GB in black. I upgraded that next summer to the 5th gen iPod (the video iPod) 30GB Black, and still to this day is my favorite iPod.

Shortly after that Apple came out with the iPhone, and I wanted one so bad. But even if I could have afforded it, the iPhone was originally on AT&T only, and AT&T didn’t come to Fargo until 2011. So I instead settled for an iPod Touch when that came out in September 2007. I was the first student at West Fargo High to have one… I pre-ordered it and ran home for lunch on launch day to open it up. I was THAT excited.

I later graduated to the 2nd gen iPod Touch, the 4th gen iPod Touch, and finally when Verizon got the iPhone in 2011 I got the iPhone 4S on launch day. I later upgraded to an iPhone 5S, then an iPhone 6S. Somewhere in there picked up an iPad 3 and an Apple Watch Sport. We’re talking avid Apple fan here.

In between all of that, in 2009 I think, I played with this thing called Android. I REALLY wanted a smart phone, but the iPhone was not yet an option for me. I thought about a Blackberry Tour, but ultimately settled on a Motorola Droid. It was supposed to be the iPhone killer, and for a while I think it was. But it ran Android, and Android was just a tiny little baby back then, and it was extremely buggy. iOS (which may have still been called iPhone OS back then) was worlds ahead of where Android was, and I wanted to get on the iPhone train as fast as I could.

But… it’s not 2009 anymore. And while in some regards I wish it was still 2009 (hey, I hadn’t totally screwed up my Computer Science career yet!), it’s 2017. Things have changed.

Which kinda brings me to the point of this blog post. Since I bought a iPhone 6S in 2015, I was due for a new phone recently. I wanted to see what Apple did with the iPhone 7S or iPhone 8 or iPhone X or whatever it was going to be called. And I ended up buying an Samsung Galaxy S8.

So why did I, the life-long Apple nut, go to Android?

Apple is not the same company it was 10 years ago. And while you hope people and companies change, you want them to change for the better. You see, when Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, he said the technology in the device was 5 years ahead of what everyone else was doing at the time. And he was absolutely right.

The problem is Apple has (in my opinion) failed to innovate recently, and the iPhone is now 3-4 years behind what everyone else is doing.

“The iPhone 8 has wireless charging!” That’s cool, Qi charging has been around since 2010 and has been stock on the Samsung Galaxy line since 2015.

“But it has facial recognition!” Also been available in Android for some time.

“But… they had the courage to take away the headphone jack!” Courage? More like stupidity. (I hate Bluetooth headphones and require wired headphone for my job).

Now, Apple has always kinda been behind the eight-ball when it comes to new features. I remember being miffed the original iPhone didn’t have 3G. Apple at the time said they didn’t have the battery life perfect with 3G and it wasn’t ready. But when the iPhone 3G did come out, the battery life was stellar and kicked the ass of every other phone on the market.

And I really have no problem with doing it that way… if you’re going to be late to adopt something, your implementation has to be spectacular. And Apple was doing that. For awhile.

I don’t want to pin this whole thing on Steve Jobs, but ever since he passed away I’ve felt like Apple has lost the sparkle it used to have. The way they built a product made you want it as soon as it was available, even if you had absolutely no reason to upgrade.

That very Apple vibe that existed in the late 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s is gone. The Apple I grew up loving is gone.

When the iPhone 7 came out last year, I was hoping it was just a one-year setback while they prepped for the 10th anniversary iPhone this year. I hoped that because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to admit that Apple had moved on from the company it once was.

In the meantime, that other mobile OS that I thought was garbage had evolved. Android has really matured since I went away from it in 2011. And based on all the bugs that iOS 11 has had on release, I think Android is the winner right now. And ever since the Samsung Galaxy S8 came out, I thought it was an amazing phone. The phone that the iPhone X should have been and fell short. I’m also not an avid Mac user like I used to be. Everything at work is PC based and I’ve kinda switched over. And my iPad never gets used anymore. My iPhone 6s was my only iDevice that I used. I decided that now was the time to take a chance and make the switch.

I’ve had my Galaxy S8 for six days. How do I like it? So far so good. There are some Android quirks I’m still trying to get used to, but overall I am loving the phone. The only real downside is not being able to use my Apple Watch, which unlike the iPhone is on top of its game in the wearables world. I’ve gone back to my analog Fossil watch for now, but I may try a Samsung Gear S3 at some point soon.

I should point out that what I did is not for everyone. If you’re very much ingrained in the Apple eco-system, or really don’t want to learn a new smartphone OS, then I wouldn’t recommend switching like I did. It’s not that iOS and Apple is bad, I’ve just decided that it’s not for me right now.

And that’s a very important point I want to close with. I haven’t gone to hating Apple or becoming anti-Apple; I still very much love the company and love what they do. I just don’t think they have the better product right now. If you know me you know I like having the latest and greatest, and right now Apple is way behind the eight-ball. Maybe they’ll get it together and my next phone will be an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 or something. But if Apple stays their current path, I may be on Android for the foreseeable future.


NAB Show 2017

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After several years of saying I wanted to go to Las Vegas for NAB, this year I finally did it. And what a fantastic time it was!

I arrived in Las Vegas Saturday evening… just enough time to check into the hotel (MGM Grand, in case you care) and lose $40 in the slot machines. Wasn’t out too late as I had to be at it early on Sunday.

Sunday morning it was go-time bright and early for the Nautel User Group (NUG) session at Paris Las Vegas. If you have several Nautel transmitters like I do, then NUG is totally worth your time. A lot of great stories on other stations that used their Nautel transmitter to save money, do something cool, etc., and a lot of tips and tricks I definitely plan to implement at my sites. They also made three product announcements (which would of course be unveiled at the main show), the biggest of which is a new HD Radio Importer/Exporter in one box. Looks like a very cool design! And they also previewed the AUI Companion, so you can see your Nautel’s AUI from your phone.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all spent walking the floor of the show. As someone who doesn’t always (read: never!) get out to the trade shows, and is in a smaller market that doesn’t see all the toys, it was really great to see what every vendor has to offer and try out all the gear that you keep seeing in the trades. I won’t go into everything I saw, but here are the highlights:

Me at the Inovonics booth with InoMini Man.

Inovonics: They have really gone crazy (in a good way!) with their InoMini line. There are now over a dozen InoMini devices that do a multitude of tasks: AM and FM/HD tuners, FM processors, audio monitors, etc. They also showed off their new AM Modulation Monitor with network connectivity, and the FM Mod Monitor with network connectivity that they showed off last year. I consider their products to be budget friendly; they aren’t top of the line, but for the price they are pretty darn good. I have lots of their boxes and am pleased with them. Plus I got to meet InoMini Man (or a cardboard facsimile).

Orban: They are fresh off their merger with DaySequerra, and have some new products to show for that. One that caught my eye is their new TimeLock, that monitors the output of your FM and HD1 and lines them up for you. While HD drift is becoming less and less of a problem, it is still a problem nonetheless, and great to see they have a box to cure that. They also showed off the Optimod 8700i. Okay box… it sounds like an Optimod. I’ll let you judge if that’s good or bad.

Outside the Telos booth at NAB 2017.

Telos/Omnia/Axia: Telos had probably the busiest booth of all the radio vendors, and its pretty clear to see why. On display was the Omnia SST, their software based PC audio processor that has all the bells and whistles of the Omnia 9 and 11, plus MicroMPX. Also was their new Omnia Volt. Cornelius Gould, the main developer of the Volt, gave me a full demo and it looks (and sounds) amazing. They took a lot of what they learned with their venerable Omnia 11, and put in the Volt. Its a lot of great sound for the price point! On the Axia side, they showed off their new Axia IP tablet software that will remote control their Fusion and Element consoles… it allows you to control every aspect of the console (and even multiple consoles at once!) with their Windows tablet based program. Very sweet. They also showed off their 25-Seven TVC-15 which will analyze watermarking in real time. I don’t do watermarking on my stations, so I really didn’t spend any time with that product. Overall, a great showing by Telos.

Wheatstone: The Wheaty folks were also on their game this year. They just a few months ago acquired the PR&E line from Harris GatesAir and already have a new PR&E console out that speaks Wheatnet. They also showed off their new VoxPro 7, which isn’t out for release yet but has a lot of great features. Clearly they are really backing that product after acquiring that two years ago. Their show stopper this year was their new audio processor, the AirAura X4. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Wheatstone/Vorsis processors, but the X4 sounds fantastic. Not sure if it beats out the Omnia 9’s and Omnia 11’s that I use, but its a very close second (or third as the case may be). They did a great job with it, and are really going after Omnia in the processing world. Which is great, because more competition means better and newer processors from both vendors (and both companies will tell you they like going after each other).

Comrex: I felt like Comrex got excluded from the show because they were in the Central Hall instead of the North Hall with all the radio vendors. But they do a lot of video stuff too, so who knows. Two items that caught my eye were their new Access NX, which is a new/updated version of the venerable Access which has really become ubiquitous in radio for remote broadcasts. In the update is a new user interface and a little better hardware and mixer. They also showed off the Opal, which is a web-based IP audio gateway for guests. Essentially, instead of a talk show guest calling in via the phone, they log into a station’s Opal through the web, and with a decent USB microphone can have full studio quality. Looks like an amazing concept that I think will take off.

A few folks from the “I Take Pictures of Transmitter Sites” Facebook group. From L to R: Me, Scottie Rice, Chris Hall, and Paul Walker. Photo credit: Paul Walker.

Those are just the highlights. There are SO many vendors at the show that its really hard to spend a lot of time with everyone.

The other big thing that really stuck out to me as a first-timer at NAB was getting to meet everyone. Not just the sales reps, or engineers from other stations you talk to on the Listserves or on Facebook. But in many cases I met the people that actually designed the product. Like Cornelius Gould who designed the Omnia 11 and the Omnia Volt. I got to briefly meet Frank Foti who is not only in charge at Telos but was the engineer for Z100 (yes, that Z100) when they launched the CHR format in 1983 and went from worst to first in one ratings book. And then there were people who had nothing to do with the products but are radio celebrities in their own right. Like Shotgun Tom Kelly and Jhani Kaye (of K-Earth 101 fame) who were roaming the radio hall.

And then there’s just the vibe of the show. There was a palpable sense of pride at the show; everyone there was proud and passionate about what they do in the industry. Even the video production folks came off that way. Broadcasting is one of those industries where you really have to be into what you do to have some success in it, and I could tell everyone there was very much into what they do. And as someone who has only been in the industry a few years (well, almost 8 years now. So more than a few. Lol), I just fed off that vibe.

It was truly an amazing 4 days in Vegas at the show. If you’ve ever contemplated going to NAB it’s totally worth it, even if its on your own dime like I did. If not to represent the company you work for, its a great way to better yourself as an engineer. I very much want to go again next year!

I got fired from a church once…

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“How did you manage that?” is usually the question I get in response.

Okay let me backup a second… I wasn’t really fired. I was technically laid off. But it felt like I got fired. Let me set the story.

(I’ve left out the name of the church and the names of people involved for the obvious reason.)

I started attending the church in question when I was 4 years old. Yes, four. The reason we had started attending this particular church is because their at-the-time new pastor had moved in a few houses down from where we were living in South Fargo. And his two kids were very similar in age to me and my two sisters (as well as the rest of the kids on the cul de sac). Needless to say we became very active members of the church and knew the pastor very well. I went to Sunday School there, had First Communion there, and was confirmed there. I grew up in that church. 


Merry New Year 2017

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Satellite dish installed!

Merry New Year Everyone! Yes, I know it’s Happy New Year… if you don’t get the reference, go watch Trading Places.

While I can’t seem to keep this blog updated, New Years posts seems to be one thing I keep up with (but hey, I did get three other additional posts in this year!). And it seems like every year I start this post off by saying I’ve been super busy.

Well this year was beyond crazy… probably one of my busiest years yet. Here’s the skinny:

  • Moved a three station radio cluster into a new facility that I built the infrastructure for.
  • Moved one our Fargo stations to our Wahpeton cluster and built out a new transmitter facility for it.
  • Remodeled three studios on my main cluster and rebuilt the infrastructure.
  • Made a trip out to my employer’s Washington state cluster.
  • Got to go to Moondance Jam with my rock stations once again this year, and spent a day at WeFest as well with my country station.
  • Got a new car, a 2017 Ford Escape (identical to my 2014 Escape)
  • And probably the biggest highlight for me this year… my stations winning the sports broadcast rights of my alma mater, North Dakota State, and taking over as engineer of the Bison Radio Network.

As much work as taking on Bison Sports has been, I can’t even begin to describe how much I have enjoyed it. I grew up in Fargo as an NDSU Bison fan, and graduated from there in 2012 (was that really 5 years ago? Geez…). I’m also an advisor to the school’s Amateur Radio club. I bleed Green and Gold. So becoming an engineer for my school’s sports broadcast network has been a real joy. And I really hadn’t done much in the way of sports radio, so taking on Bison sports was a great learning experience.

I have no pending projects (that I know of) for 2017, so I really want to spend 2017 catching up on things. I finally got going on some projects on my condo that I have been putting off since I bought the place, so I want to get those finished. I also have not one, but TWO trips planned to Las Vegas this year… one of which is for NAB. Yes, I am finally going to NAB. I have everything booked already, so I am really looking forward to that.

I really feel good about 2017. I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying that, but I’m really excited for things to come this year. And I hope I can keep better track of my regular hijinx on this blog.

Happy New Year everyone, make it a great 2017!

2017 Ford Escape Ham Radio Install

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Ham Radio, Tech

2016-09-06 15.46

Even three years later, I still get a ton of hits on the write-up I did for the ham radio install in my 2014 Ford Escape. Well, the lease on that car has come and gone and I now have a 2017 Ford Escape. You know what that means: time to do it again.

Since I essentially got the same car again, and there is really nothing wrong with the ID-880H or the 2m/70cm antenna I have, I decided to reuse everything from the old car. The only thing I had to purchase was some hardware for the Lido mount, and a new mic holder. So for the complete list of parts see the last install article… I have links to everything I bought and why I chose what I did.

ID-880H is up and running!

As for the install itself… it went very much like the last install I did. We’ll start with the antenna. The Diamond K412CNMO mount and Comet SBB2NMO mounted onto the tailgate of the Escape, and I ran the coax through the small grommet and the back molding of the cargo area. Like last time the coax went into the spare tire area, into the back seat, under the rear passenger door molding and under the front passenger seat.

The radio itself once again went under the passenger seat. This is for two reasons. First, there is a bit more room under the passenger seat versus the driver’s seat. And since the control head is mounted on the passenger side of the console, it makes running cables a little easier. In the last article I said I used Velcro to hold the radio down to the floor, with the intent of doing something more permanent later. Surprisingly, the Velcro never had one issue that caused the radio to slide loose. So I have reused the Velcro on the bottom of the radio again.

The head unit placement in this install did change slightly. The old Escape had a manual passenger chair, whereas the new one has a powered passenger chair. Thus, there is less room under the front of the seat to attach the mount. Luckily I was able to find a hole in the power seat track for me to put a screw and attach the Lido Mount’s base.

Finally is power. While the body of the 2017 Ford Escape is different from the 2014, the overall frame is the same, thus the grommet for the firewall is in the exact same place. The only other change here is one I made. Instead of going for the large O-ring type connectors to go over the battery terminals, I opted for spade terminals to go over the battery tightening screw and negative frame terminal. I went this route because I was having issues with the O-ring connections coming loose in the old install. While I may swap out for some larger spades later, this should work better I’m thinking. They are standard run-of-the-mill 12 gauge spade terminal connectors that are available from Digikey, or really any electronics parts vendor.

And there you have it. the complete install of my Icom ID-880H in my 2017 Ford Escape. I realize I didn’t go into as much detail as last time, but again, nothing has really changed. I would encourage you to read previous install article for a more-detailed write up of the install.

Got any questions on what I did, or what I should have done differently? Throw ’em in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to make things better!


APRS Madness Part 2: Height helps… sometimes….

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So in Part 1 of my foray into APRS, I setup an APRS iGate and came to the conclusion that I needed to gain some height to make this thing work. And seeing as I work as a radio engineer and thus have access to towers, I decided to try it out.

Outside of my office, we have a 120 ft tower that houses STL gear and a few auxiliary FM antennas. One of the FM bays on the tower is no longer in use and is used an FM receive antenna. This is routed to my office where I have a modulation monitor and FM tuner hooked up. This antenna is 85 ft up the tower and receives excellently. So, I tapped into this and attached another RadioShack scanner to a computer in my office.

In theory, this should blow the smoke out of my N9TAX Slim-Jim, right? Well, not so much…

If you compare the stations heard in the last six weeks between the iGate at my office and the iGate at my house, my home iGate, which is only 25 feet off the ground on an indoor antenna hears way more. Why would that be?

A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.
A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.

There are two explanations I can come up with. As mentioned, there is some Microwave STL gear on this tower… in the order of 5 STL dishes in the 950 MHz band. While that wouldn’t effect APRS on 144.390 MHz, it could certainly produce noise that would impede reception. Not helping is a few blocks away is the studios of a competing radio group, and they have STL dishes that point towards my office to get audio to their transmitters northwest of town.

The other possible issue is the fact I’m using an FM antenna bay to receive. This antenna is broad-banded, but is designed to operate between 88-108MHz. While I have put a 2m rig on this antenna before, there is a possibility that being slightly out of tune could hinder reception.

My guess is that it is a combination of the two here. I do have a 2m/440cm J-pole on the tower for my 2m rig (yes, I have one of those at work too) and  I could try that out and see if that helps. But personally I think there is just a lot of RF noise in the vicinity of the office.

So for the time being, my home APRS setup is my primary iGate. That being said there are a group of hams from the area club (me included) that are looking into finding a site for an APRS Digipeter. And perhaps that is the solution. But until then…

APRS Madness Part 1

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Ham Radio, Tech

2016-05-15 13.56.21 - Copy

So this week I took the plunge and picked up a Yaesu FT1XD Handheld. This is one of the new Yaesu HTs that supports C4FM Digital (ie: Yaesu SystemFusion). Since we now have two SystemFusion repeaters here in Fargo (WØHSC at NDSU and WØJPJ in Moorhead) I thought it was worth picking up and trying out. I may do a full review later, but right now I’m still trying to get familiar with the radio.

One additional feature it has that I haven’t had in previous radios is APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System).  APRS is a single frequency (144.390 MHz here in North America) that gives the mobile ham a place to monitor Announcements, Bulletins, Messages, Alerts, Weather, etc. It also takes location coordinates (if equipped with a GPS) and can map out stations across the web, such as aprs.fi. My Icom ID-880H supports DPRS (which is kinda the same thing but with D-STAR) but I’ve never had any luck with it. There’s a lot more to APRS than what I just described. If you’re interested check out APRS.org for more info.

So wanting to get my hands on APRS, I got it setup on my HT yesterday. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, because for some reason there isn’t a single APRS reporting station (either iGate or Digipeater) in the Fargo area. APRS is only useful if there are stations receiving or transmitting info. The main thing I was trying to do was to get my coordinates onto aprsi.fi, and for You can guess where that got me thinking next.


Merry New Year 2016!

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Merry New Year!
Merry New Year! (a Trading Place reference if you don’t mind)

I’m good at many things. Updating this blog is apparently not one of them. I’ll be honest… I’m just flat out astonished 2015 is already over, and that I didn’t get a single blog post in. But since I’m at it, I guess I could use the excuse New Years post to do a 2015 recap.

  • Work. Lots of it. I had so many projects this year to go into detail, but I was kept very busy with various projects. Two new transmitters, two new FM translators, a brand new station, and new automation our Wahpeton station.
  • My parents sold their house and built a new one, so many weekends in 2015 were spent helping them move.
  • Once again this year I made it Moodance Jam with my rock stations. Always a great time!
  • I picked up another SBE Certification… I became a Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist in June by taking the exam in Minneapolis. And took a detour to Rochester, MN and Iowa in the process.
  • I didn’t make it to NAB, but I did make it down to Las Vegas in October with my family.
  • And I did get to play Ham Radio this year. I started delving into HSMM this year, something I hope to blog some more about later.

As far as 2016 goes… well… I’m want to do everything I didn’t do in 2015… ha! Not exactly, but 2015 got wickedly crazy. NAB is on the bucket list for 2016, as well as a real vacation., and some new projects that I can’t talk about just yet.

So in the words of Eddie Murphy, Merry New Year everyone. Enjoy 2016.

2015: Let the shenanigans continue!

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downloadHappy New Year, all! As per tradition (well this will be the third time, so I guess it’s a tradition now!), I feel the need to do a “in-reflection” bit on 2014 and what I’m working on for 2015.

2014 for me didn’t really have any huge milestones. I checked off a whole bunch of them in 2012 and 2013 so I guess that didn’t leave me much room in 2014. Not to say I didn’t do anything exciting, but just nothing that proved to be a huge life milestone.


My latest obsession: AM Stereo

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Musings, Radio, Tech
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!

Anyone who reads my blog (or my Twitter feed, for that matter), knows that I sometimes like to obsess over certain things for a period of time. My latest obsession: AM Stereo.

Now any radio engineer or radio geek whose been around the block for awhile knows what I’m talking about. Those of you who belong to the younger generation… say, my age, are probably looking for an explanation about now.

First, let me give you the back story here. I’m a 90’s kid. I was born in 1990 (never mind that I was conceived in the 80’s but we won’t go there). Ask any 90’s kid about their thoughts on AM and they’ll tell you it’s a bad sounding mono radio signal that old people talk on (you’ve gotta remember, the FM revolution had already taken place by this time). In fact, I remember driving around with my grandpa in Minot, ND around 1997-ish (who at the time was a radio engineer himself) and he had an AM station on (presumably his) that was playing music. And I was blown away you could do that. Every other AM station in Fargo had already become either a news/talk or a sports/talk, so I assumed that’s all that was ever on there. I was 7 or 8 at the time so that was a fairly reasonable assumption. There may have been one music AM in Fargo at the point, but I really don’t remember. And radio has always fascinated me, even at that age… even before I even considered working in radio myself, I was always interested in how the technology worked.

Now, fast forward to about two years ago. I was working for the radio group I work for now, but I wasn’t technically part of the engineering staff at that point. One day I was BS’ing with one of part-time engineers (whose job, coincidentally, I ended up taking when he left a few months later) about our AM station in Fargo, KQWB 1660. And he was telling me it could do AM Stereo but we had it turned off for some reason.

Hang on a second… you can do Stereo on AM?