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Time and the Broadcast Engineer

Time. In this business, it can control us. If time gets out of hand, it can destroy us.

(click thumbnail)Keep the condensate drain clear to avoid floods.Time. In this business, it can control us. If time gets out of hand, it can destroy us.

Case in point: When was the last time you cleared your air conditioner condensate drains? It’s normal for algae to build up in these drains and eventually plug them. The result might be a wet floor, wet studio or wet transmitter, in the case of air handlers mounted in the ceiling.

Remove the screw-on “clean out cap” as seen in Fig. 1 and force compressed air — from your mouth or an air compressor — to eliminate the algae plugs and clear the line.

Once the line is clear, you can prevent future clogs by adding an anti-algae tablet or a small amount of bleach to the drain pan.

Anti-algae tablets are available from most air conditioning contractors or online at Open the online catalog, click on Humidifier Water Panels and Accessories and scroll down to item number AAT, a 12-pack of anti-algae tablets for $18.

If you’ve ever had a studio or transmitter flood, you’ll recognize these tablets as cheap insurance. Air Excellence Inc. is located in Midlothian, Va.

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(click thumbnail)Use a Digital Day Counter to keep tabs on when to change filters.Our time theme continues. Aaron Read, the technical director for Lichtenstein Creative Media’s “The Infinite Mind,” has a twist on the use of the DaysAgo Digital Day Counter. He saw this device on the uber-fabulous blog “Lifehacker.”

The counter is a nifty little device that will display how many days have passed since it was reset. It comes in suction-cup and magnetic mount models, two for $10 plus $3 shipping. The only limitation is the device will only display up to 99 days, but that’s still pretty useful.

It was designed to show how old your leftovers are in the refrigerator, but these compact timers can be handy for reminding you how long it’s been since you’ve done, well, anything that’s regularly done on a scheduled basis.

Monitor when you last took a day off, backed up data, maintained the transmitter, cleaned master control or logged EAS.

Stick one on the back of each transmitter or air intake duct as seen in Fig. 2. You’ll get a visual reminder of when to change the air filters.

Buy the Digital Day Counters online at

Aaron also recommends that Workbench readers add to your daily blog list. Checking out the site is a good assignment for your assistant, too. It’s loaded with useful tips for improving your productivity to technical ideas, software and everyday life suggestions.

I visited and saw an off-the-wall, “why didn’t I think of that” idea. Use the empty plastic spindle and cover that a stack of Optical CDs or DVD-Rs comes in to transport a bagel sandwich. The spindle pokes through the bagel hole and keeps the bagel stuffing intact, and the plastic top snaps into the spindled bottom! This site is a real find for readers who enjoy this column.

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R. C. Woolfenden is operations director for WFAX(AM) in Falls Church, Va., a suburb of Washington and right down the road from Radio World’s offices.

(click thumbnail)Enter our Caption Contest before the end of May.R. C. ran into a little computer program that might be of interest to you. One of the station’s computers controls both the transmitter and the switching software for their Unity 4000 satellite receiver; it started experiencing clock drift recently.

The computer operates with Windows XP Pro. R.C. had the Internet time check feature enabled, which automatically resets the clock. However, this feature only resets once a week; R. C. couldn’t find a way to increase the reset frequency. With the drift that they were experiencing, a reset once a week was not enough.

It was important to keep the clock accurate in order have the Unity 4000 switch audio channels on time, and to have power levels on the transmitter switch on time.

R. C. went to, a very handy site where you can locate various types of software quickly for download, free and paid.

At the site, R. C. found a time synch software package, YATS32. With this, he is able to reset the clock over the Internet as often as every 30 minutes! The software is a bit user-difficult, but not impossible. It even keeps a log of its actions so that you can see that actions the software takes.

The software even reports on the time drift, so you know exactly how bad it is without intervention. And the cost, $20, plus two years support for another $6, is certainly cheap enough. The best feature is you can test it free for 30 days.

This Web site is a great place to find spyware, anti-virus, firewall and many other software solutions. With free and paid options, and immediate downloads, it is a great toolbox for both engineers and IT people — especially when you have a “fire” to put out.

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We’re taking entries in our caption contest. Look closely at Fig. 3 and e-mail your best caption before the end of the month to [email protected]. We’ll print the most creative captions soon.