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Pies for Passwords

Maintaining order in your station's computer systems can be as difficult as keeping the PD happy with the audio processing.

Maintaining order in your station’s computer systems can be as difficult as keeping the PD happy with the audio processing.

Certain tools can make your life easier, however. The first is to obtain or formulate a corporate computer policy. Simply put, this policy, signed by every staff member with a desktop or laptop owned and maintained by the station, prohibits unlicensed software from being installed on station computers.

Some of the larger radio groups have really hammered this policy home, with dismissal for those violating the policy. One need only read stories in the Wall Street Journal about lawsuits over pirated software used in the workplace to understand what is at stake here. The software manufacturers are protecting their property. Just as a sales manager “bumping” an EAS test to run a spot can earn your station an FCC fine, so the station can be sued when employees use unlicensed software on station computers.

Keeping tabs on who has installed what could be an impossible task. In cluster operations with large sales staffs, all you’d be doing is auditing computers! Jeff Loughridge, market chief for the Infinity stations in Washington, found a solution to the problem in a software package called Systemhound Easy Audit. A screen is shown in Fig. 1.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: Systemhound’s Easy Audit keeps watch over your station computers.
Easy Audit permits the scanning of every computer connected to the station network. It maps hard-drive usage, so Jeff can spot the need for an upgrade, and displays the programs on each computer’s hard drive.

Should someone connect a computer to the network with unauthorized software, the Easy Audit program will flag the computer. Remember, the computers belong to the station, so you shouldn’t have privacy issues. However, check with your legal counsel when implementing this policy and ask about the issues it might raise.

O.K., so it sounds like Big Brother. But before implementing the package, Jeff and his staff were experiencing all kinds of gremlins caused by staff installing and running memory-hog programs. Now only station authorized programs are allowed. The network runs better, and Jeff admits the diagnostics offered by this package simplify his life.

So the engineer/administrator doesn’t look like the Grinch, any auditing program has to have the support of the general manager. The GM needs to understand the severity of the penalties associated with bootlegged software, and the potential financial impact on his business.

In talking to a number of engineers, they all recommended that you develop a policy and enforce it. Warnings just don’t work.

. . .

Enforcement of a computer plan can have its upside for the engineer. At an SBE meeting in the Northeast, I was told about a station group that enforced a “pie” policy.

Here’s how it works. The rules dictate that all staff will change their log-in password every 60 days. Every employee is given simple instructions on how to do this. If they forget and they are locked out, the followup memo states, “I will now have to take up my valuable time to enter a new password for you. As the original memo mentioned, this is now going to cost you a pie. Pies have to be either homemade or from a bakery. They cannot be mass-produced pies from a grocery store. Passwords will be changed after the pie is in my hands.”

Tastykakes don’t qualify in this situation, either. “Pies must be at least 15 inches in diameter.” The memo continues with an acceptable pie flavor list, as well as flavors that are not acceptable. The engineer who crafted this memo is serious – and a serious pie lover, I might add. His GM approved the memo; after all, the engineer’s time is worth something, right?

Usually after a second pie, the lesson has been learned. The password-for-a-pie policy also gives us a new appreciation of staff turnover.

. . .

Have you started your holiday shopping? How about making your list?

(click thumbnail)Fig. 2: Throw a signal and sense it with these two workbench necessities.
Fig. 2 shows two slick tools for your workbench that are within reach of most shoppers. The Hound 2 is an improvement over the original Fox and Hound, a signal generator and sensor. The Hound 2 will inductively sense tones and amplify them through a built — in speaker — no need for a butt set – to identify cables or punch block wiring continuity.

In the ABS Signal Thrower, the signal generator and sensor clip together so you won’t misplace them. Clip leads couple the signal into the wiring under test, and the companion sensor permits the tones to be inductively coupled, or directly coupled using the modular jack and plug assembly.

Like a butt set, the device can be used to check phone-line polarity, off-hook and monitoring conditions. Other features include a volume control for the built — in speaker as well as metal clips on each side for butt — set connection.

Thanks to Engineer Roger DuFault of WHFS(FM) in Washington for sharing these finds with Workbench readers.

. . .

Here’s a Web site of interest that a helpful reader passed along to us. SNC Manufacturing makes telecom problem solvers, including noise-protection filters. You’ll find interesting products for your phones at including RID – “radio interference dampers.”

. . .

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Fig. 3 comes from the “thankful this isn’t my site” file. It gives new meaning to the phrase “open-air toilet.”

(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: Systemhound’s Easy Audit keeps watch over your station computers.
One might think that this is a picture of the aftermath of an East Coast hurricane, especially with all the shingles on the ground. But no, you won’t find Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel hidden somewhere in the picture.

It turns out that, back in the days of manned sites, this transmitter facility was built with running water and a septic system. Fast-forward 35 years, and the septic system no longer met code. The water was turned off and the county inspectors required the toilet to be removed. The toilet had been set outside, to be removed by the refuse folks, when I happened by.

Just so happens a new roof had been installed recently and the old shingles were left by the roofing contractor. I wish I could tell you that a hurricane had struck and only the toilet survived – although that wouldn’t say much for the transmitter manufacturers.

Submissions for this column are encouraged, and qualify for SBE recertification credit.