Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kid Sports starting to ramp up (About that Candy Tax)

I can feel it coming. Practice schedules, transportation arrangments, increasingly good weather, chatty parents you don't know --and some you do, getting pestered for new equipment... there is a general restlessness is in the air. All signs are go. The countdown to summer sports has started. Oh, and the candy companies are salivating over the "fund raiser" potential these leagues present each and every year. I'll bet the sales are roughly equal to a holiday one. More on that later, lets get back to that warm fuzzy sports feeling for a moment or two longer.

For me the big indicator is the end of dance team. My oldest daughter is a member of the Parkrose Elite. This particular high school sport is a lot of fun for parents because we get to be part of the whole thing. It's a bit expensive in terms of both time and money, but highly recommended if your child is into dance. As a father, I didn't think I could relate to this sport, but it's surprisingly interesting and very good for the kids. Girls outnumber boys about 50 to 1, but all are welcome. I think I'll write a bit more about this in the near future.

With the end of the AAA State Dance Final Competition, managed by OSAA (The Elite scored 2nd place!) comes the beginning of soccer and baseball. There are plenty of other sports too, but those are what drive my family at present. The two middle kids really enjoy both of these sports. It looks like we are going to have a mostly hot and dry summer baseball season and that's just great.

This will be the first year that I am not coaching or just helping with a team. It's kind of wierd to just watch after being so involved, but I might actually get to enjoy watching my kids play this year. Given the hectic schedule I have had lately, I'm more than happy to grab my munchies and a cold pop and just kick back for a nice game. I love watching baseball live. I love it more when the kids are older, but not yet high-school. You get a great game of baseball, but still get to see all the funny kid stuff that happens. --Just watch out for the alpha parents. (Having been one of these, I'm sorry. I know better now.)

This just would not be OpenGeek without a short rant or two, so here goes:

This time it's about the candy tax, err... fundraiser! Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with these clubs and teams working to get the money needed for the season. Car washes, yard work, community dinners and such are all great for both the team and the community it plays in.

But, I just don't like paying the Candy Tax.

The candy tax? Oh yeah, you know the drill. Sign up, write your check and get handed this box of candy to sell. The whole thing has gotten pretty bad with some teams just padding the cost of the candy into their signup fee leaving you to just deal with the candy. Of course every year, I skip the candy and just pay the team whatever they would have made off the candy sale, plus a little bit for not having to actually deal with the box. It's often a hassle as the candy and packaged meat people will make the teams sign contracts that go as far as they can to force the candy on every family participating.

This all used to be a volunteer deal. Either you wanted the candy or not. Now it's pay for the candy up front as part of your team signup and sell it to get your money back for the team.

Oh, and if you actually make any profit on your particular box of candy, you can give that back to the team too. Right. Folks, that is a candy tax plain and simple. The candy and packaged meat companies have made handling their products a part of the club signup process. Think about it a little. I'm sure you will agree that just is not ok.

Who is the soulless sales rep that thought that one up? I have to give credit where credit is due. The first time I experienced this, I just knew things on the candy tax front were going to go from poor to bad right quick. Of course it did. That little trick has caught on like wildfire with more and more teams every year. Whoever you are, you mostly suck ok?

Ok, enough of that thearpy, back to the candy tax. Some people like to sell the candy. I don't have a problem with that really. It's an option that should be there for those that need it or want to do it.

Let's be honest,

with the entire community basically trying to sell candy to each other, who exactly is going to buy it?

And that's my rub. Rather than force this on everyone, making it harder for those who want to participate in the program, why not present the candy fundraiser program an option to everyone instead? Failure to do this really turns the entire thing into a tax that simply makes the sports more expensive for everyone.

Other minor issues are the price of the candy. Selling the candy is tough because you really can't discount it much below the retail price. Isn't the point of a fund raiser to help the kids? How is simply providing everyone with a bunch of candy they can sell at basically the retail price helping the kids? Seems to me it's helping the candy companies more than anyone else and that's just not OK. Krispy Kreme is an example of a company that actually does fund raise. Whatever you think of their product, they do sell it to clubs at a highly discounted price for fundraising activities. That's helping the kids.

Giving people chocolate bars, that can be found at nearly every retail outlet in the country, to be sold at retail price is only fundraising for the shareholders, not the sports clubs.

So every year we go through the same hassle. We don't take the candy, normally upsetting somebody stuck with the job unloading the candy onto all of us. We do pay the amount the club would have made, plus some extra to make up for the hassle. This actually puts them ahead!

I also spend a little time each year letting parents know they don't actually have to deal with the candy tax. When presented with the price, market saturation and contract issues, most parents think a little bit about it, but will let peer pressure get the better of them and they continue to take the box of candy.

You know most of them just suck it up and eat it. How does just eating the candy contribute to sports anyway? Maybe if we were talking granola bars or something it would be different, but this is just candy. Lots of it for no good reason.

So what to do? For starters, just don't take the candy! Be polite about it, and do tell them why. If you are not sure what to say, just send 'em here to OpenGeek and they can read it for themselves. Better yet, print this out and give it to them with your contribution equal or greater than the amount they would have made from a candy box sale. Just to make this a little easier, I'm going to make a PDF flyer you can print and distribute as well. Look for it here on OpenGeek in the next couple of weeks.

Another good activity, in your new found quest to beat the candy tax, is to talk to other parents. Ask them what they think of the candy. Let them know what you read here and see if that matters to them.

Finally, start a real fundraiser! Setup a car wash or two, raffle off your school principle for the day. Anything but the candy tax! Perhaps your business has product that can be donated to the team for sales at the snack shack, or used to help the teams. I hate to say it, but give the Krispy Kreme folks a call. They do great fundraisers. Your local Mc Donalds also has a program where you can work the store for a day and collect a percentage of the days sales. I know the food sucks, but it's no worse than the candy and working the store is entertaining for a day. I've done this and had a lot of fun.

Comments? Suggestions? Successes? Failures? Just want to tell me about a great game or two? You can read about one of mine right here. As usual post 'em here, using the little comment button below this post, or shoot me an e-mail or two!

Sony Ordered To Pay $90 Million Dollars And Stop Selling Game Consoles

You can get more detail here from C-Net news. This is bad for Sony, but really not the point I'm trying to get at today. Eventually, Sony will pay whomever whatever is required to begin selling it's games again. Not to worry, the PS2 is not going anywhere for a while just yet.

How this affects the upcoming PS3 is another matter and another post.

So, what's the point right?

Patents are my point today. Our system is currently badly broken. What just happened to Sony is happening with increasing frequency to companies doing all sorts of business. Patents are rapidly becoming a threat to any new product development and that's not good for any of us.

Now is a great time to talk to your friends and other interested people about exactly what is wrong with patents that cover ideas instead of specific implementations of ideas. Ideas you say? Yep. In the late 80's, I believe, computer software patents were allowed, then business practices and from there pretty much anything goes.

The way things are going right now, the ability to actually do things and develop products will end up divided among patent holders who do nothing but collect revenue while giving nothing of value in return, thus causing a drain on the economy that hurts all of us. Our ability to build things will be controlled by these various patent holders all looking to make money through licenses and nothing else.

So, why is this wrong?

Glad you asked! Well, you didn't really, but lets just say you did and go through a little thought exercise. It's not long, I promise. It is however, worth thinking about.

Imagine somebody patenting something simple, like the drip coffee maker. How many different coffee makers would be be able to buy today and what would they cost?


1. There would only be a small number of products, licensed by the owners of the ability to make drip based coffee makers.

2. The cost of those would be as high as we could bear.

While easy, those answers really don't tell us very much do they?. The real story lies in the whys and hows behind those simple answers.

Lets take #1 for starters. Why would a patent on a drip coffee maker limit the number of coffee makers? Afterall, anyone who wants a license can get one right? While this would be technically true, where is the incentive to get a license? If there are people already making these coffee makers, why try to crash their party? It's probably easier to just find something else to make rather than try to take over the coffee maker business.

But, you say, "What if I have an idea for a really great drip coffee maker?". Wouldn't that be worth a license? Sure would, but, a license for what exactly? Permission from your new competetor to make your better coffee makers? And you have to pay them? That makes no sense at all. Why bother.

It's beginning to become clear isn't it? Nobody is going to bother to improve the state of the art when it's locked up by a patent that prevents those who would make things better from actually making money by doing so.

That takes care of number one, lets take a closer look at number two.

Why would the costs be so high. Wouldn't volume make up for a lot? Afterall we all want coffee makers. Selling so many has always made things cheaper before, what's the difference today?

Again, look at the incentives for the real truth. If you own the ability to make drip coffee makers, why bother giving anybody a deal? All you are worried about is license and royalty revenue. That's best for you when the product is high, not when the product cost is low.

This is what is happening to Sony right now. Somebody, somewhere owns the ability to make vibrating video game controllers. Not just a specific kind of vibrating controller, but almost all different kinds of them. Their overly broad patent covers just about any specific design, so rather than actually build anything, they are looking to license just like the fictional drip coffee example above.

What does that mean for us? Well, more expensive and potentially limited Playstations for starters. How about the longer term?

Putting the simple ideas I've written above together is not too tough. Longer term we are going to see fewer new products and less incentive to keep costs down.

That means we are going to pay more for the same technology than we normally would. Can you imagine what your computer would cost, or how powerful it would be if this had been the case early on?

I can, and it's not pretty. We would all be using the most limited computer at the highest cost because that's what is best for the patent holders. Sound wrong to you?

I sure hope it does because it sounds wrong to me too.

There is not time in this brief posting to explain all the differences, so I'm not going to even try today. I just wanted you to begin to think about patent reform today and be watchful. As this problem continues to grow, ideally you will tell your friends and elected members of legislature.

We need to fix patents before we kill our very ability to innovate that got us to where we are today.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Finally out of work hell (I think.)

After a long Easter weekend, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Man, I have never done so many all nighters in such a short time-span. Glad it's all over!

As I wrote before, there is a positive side to this whole mess. Actually a couple:

For once, I got some serious radio listening time in. It was kind of nice to checkout the night time FM scene here in Portland. Late nights and early mornings actually have some interesting content. It's too bad some of these programming choices can't see the light of day. Between the odd show in the morning and interesting music sets, I'm wishing I had the disk space to do more recording.

On a more solid note, the real benefit lies in my new perspective. I have realized that I've gotten a bit spoiled over the last coupla years. Working a little over used to be such a drain. After this mess, that seems almost too easy compared to what I just dragged myself through.

Now I can get things cleaned up this week, sort of reset and start the next month fresh. Whoopee!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Another why I like the Internet post

This is just cool. It's a series of images blended together to give the illusion of extreme depth. The whole thing repeats, but it takes a surprisingly long time to do so.

Anyone care to explain how this kind of art is done? I've always liked it.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Site Updates

Ok, I think I am going to go with this template for now. Expect to see a collection of Links on the sidebar at left, along with a few more color and formatting links. If any of you have problems with this page rendering correctly on your browser, let me know. That's why I changed things in the first place.

A few posts saw changes and updates to their content, I have listed them below for those who might be interested:

Thanks for reading OpenGeek. I hope you enjoy this site as much as I enjoy putting it all together!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Political News and Commentary Site Mortally Wounded by AFP Frivolous Lawsuit

"Do no Evil" -- Found on Google Corporate (well sort of, they really say: "You can make money without doing evil.", but my version is cooler and simpler.)

AFP, a French based newsfeed service, has sued Google for carrying it's content headlines, along with a brief summary on its news content search service news.google.com. This foolish and short sighted action has implications beyond the monthly income AFP feels it's entitled to. For starters the value services like Google News provide is well known in that information consumers will consume more content if said content is easily located and that is just what Google, along with many others, does. That seems obvious enough doesn't it? How many readers would you have if they had to come to your site for the reading? Answer for the Internet impared: Not many, even if your content is really good.

This particular political news and opinion site seems to agree and has the bruises to prove it. The damage to their service offering looks to be mortal. Only time will tell, but I remain doubtful. They have been damaged by simply being an AFP content consumer. They are not even named in the lawsuit, yet suffer right along with everyone else unlucky enough to be involved with AFP.

You see, AFP demands that Google remove all content related to their news feed until they pay up. Of course, if Google actually paid, everybody would then demand their share, thus ruining the Internet for all practical purposes where news is concerned. So, Google removes what AFP asked them to, gets the legal team warmed up and ready to go and waits...

That's where the mortal wound comes in. If AFP bothered to look past their own greedy interests, they would have realized all their paying customers would not see their site headlines on Google anymore either.

Either content is linkable or not, it's really that simple. AFP is telling Google their content is not linkable, so Google is not going to link. Unfortunatly for the Political Gateway news and commentary site, that means no more search related traffic from Google either and according to them that very likely means no more site period.

It's going to be much of the same story for anyone who carries AFP traffic. I'm sure there are many other sites now experiencing what the Political Gateway is. Hopefully they are big enough to carry the day. Too bad for them and worse, too bad for their readers and too bad for AFP also. Anyone affected by this folly is probably looking hard for other news sources to replace the now tainted AFP.

Carrying AFP news is now the kiss of death. I'm sure they didn't think of that before thinking hard about how to satisfy their greed. I'm sure business will be booming now huh? Schumks.

Clearly most of the Internet agrees with Google and not AFP. In the end, I'm sure AFP will come around, though I'm not sure those that used their service will be around when it's all over. AFP may not be around when it's over. Afterall, how can one run a business when becoming a customer hurts more than it benefits?

Why not stop by the Political Gateway and support them? I found their site interesting and informative. Perhaps you will also. While you are there, consider supporting news services, other than AFP.

Do no Evil indeed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Not happy --not happy at all.

all began last week. One of my clients runs a pretty high pressure work environment. When things are going well, everything and everybody is in good spirits and works hard. However, any little bump in the road usually turns into a stress situation fairly quickly. Lets just say that the situation early last week was basically a sink-hole kind of deal with all the stress that comes with that.

At first, it looked like the easy solutions were going to do the trick, but I soon learned this mess was the gift that just keeps on giving. Professional courtesy demands I keep the details out of this, so I will. Lets just say what started out as a decent week ended up being one of the longest periods I have ever been awake in my entire life.

The peak time without sleep was somewhere around 40 hours or so. It's kind of funny actually. The first day was really tough, but then I hit my second wind, then a third, and then I was just UP... Crazy UP, as in I'm not sure I even remember what a morning really is supposed to be like UP. Coffee is a good call anytime kind of UP.

The being UP for a long fucking time bit is the point of my post, I suppose, not the problem that caused it. In that vein, let me expand on that a bit.

In a morbid sort of way, I recommend everybody experience this at one point in their lives, ideally a point where your support structure is solid because you are going to need it. (I did, thank you Seana!)

The days blur and time becomes this thing you note, but really don't want to pay much attention to. This brings me to the first realization; namely, the only reason we really consider time is that we have something to look forward to. If this is not the case, time then really does not matter much at all. Wierd.

Memory changes too. After this experience, I firmly believe one of the reasons we need to sleep has to do with cerbreal house cleaning. Short term memory and long term memory are related through sleep somehow. Our brains take that time to sort the good stuff from the crap. When we awaken, our brains are nice and tidy, for the most part, ready to do battle again.

Well, here is an interesting thought! If there is literally nothing good happening, which clearly was the case for me, then there is a lot less reason to sleep. Why bother cleaning house if everything in it simply needs to go? For me, staying awake throughout the debacle meant the ability to compartmentalize it when it finally ends.

That's exactly what happened! After one nights sleep, it all seemed to just fade with only the bare minimum information preserved for hating later.

Damn Cool

This particular gift just does keep on giving, by the way. My entire schedule for the next week or so afterword is almost as hosed as that week was. That's exactly why I'm not too happy right now. Between OpenGeek blowing up after a benign post, resulting in the new look you see here, all the little crap that would have gotten done needs to be done right frickin' now for another few days on end. (Which is what I am supposed to be doing instead of posting here on OpenGeek. --A guy can only take so much, I swear!)

There is an upside though. I used to dread the all nighter. Well, I still do, but you know what?

It's not nearly as bad. A simple one day all nighter really is nothing compared to 40 or so hours. I think I gained something good in that. Of course it's not good to work straight through, but being able to do so with few worries is a nice thing to be able to take advantage of from time to time.

(Back to work... I'm out of the dog house and back to normal sometime later this week, I hope.)

Oh, there was a point to this post besides my whining and over analysis of my current plight; namely, the Tard Blog is back! Damn fine timing too.

Warning, if you are short on time, don't visit this site like I just did. It will suck up hours while you laugh until you cry! Man, I never knew just how funny the lives of these special ed kids really is. Don't get me wrong, I'm not laughing at them, but with them! That's a big difference I want to to think about before sending me, or the Tard Blog any hate mail --thanks.

You will have reached a new level of compassion and respect for those wonderful beings willing and able to work with the special ed kids. Hats off, I couldn't do it!

(The Riti Sped archives are the very best, IMHO)

The first part of this post demonstrates the Dingus patented speed reading bold trick. In a hurry? Just read the bold words and you are outta here in half the time! I think I'll call this use of formatting capability spolding. (Another wacko definition post coming soon, I can feel it!)

OpenGeek looks Different!

I have been having problems with the sidebar displaying at the bottom of the page. Since my blog tends to have long pages, this basically was a show stopper.

Before putting all the links and stuff back into the sidebar, I think I am going to just try this out for a while. Expect a few more changes soon before OpenGeek settles in for a while. All your bookmarks 'n such should be just fine.

If you can't find something, let me know, and I'll drop a link or two right here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

An idea on how to get more sound out of IBOC HD Digital radio.

I need to develop this, but just had a great idea for making the best of the fewest bits.

Everyone knows the best quality audio encodes take a long time. Given enough information, a good acoustic compliler could be written (Yes I will define that) that would significantly outperform more real-time codecs.

One problem IBOC radio has is the limited bitrate. 96Kbps max is just not enough to convey CD quality audio without significant effort. And that's the other problem, being time. We have an 8 second latency as it is. Adding more is not going to fly. So the choice is either more compute (expensive, particularly on the receiver side), or more time.

Why not pre-compile program segments? Bumpers, imaging, commercials, and preset music sets could be encoded to a much higher standard than is currently possible in an 8 second window. This is where the 'acoustic compilier' comes into play.

This special piece of software would do the following:

1. Pre-process source material. The output of this stage is a collection of information about the source material that can greatly help the codec make it's best moves. (Determining noise sensitive segments, silence, commonalities, etc..)

2. Enhanced encoding stage where both the source material and hinting information from stage one are combined for a greater encode.

3. Analysis. The resulting stream from stage 2 is compared with the original source material. Flaws are noted and further catagorized according to some information from stage 1 and some other information to be determined by the broadcaster. (Acceptable tradeoffs, priorities, etc..)

4. Tweak. The bitstream is then tweaked to make the most of the receiver codec according to the analysis stage. This stage and the previous one form a loop that interatively approaches the source quality until no further returns can be made.

If this isn't clear, consider early computers and sound. Playing sounds through limited hardware does get better once the limits of the medium are well understood. As people learned to "play" the system, the resulting sound got better. They did this by spending time and making tradeoffs. The IBOC / HD Radio system is a limited system in that it cannot just reproduce full-on audio as an analog one would. This idea is simply expanding on that process in order to get better sound out of the system than that intended.

I got this idea from hearing different mp3 codecs and players. Some combinations sound really good, others bad even though the basic process is the same. Also, some mp3 encoding software, such as LAME, already do this to a degree, resulting in a better sounding program by bending the rules a bit to the listeners benefit.

(I'll put up a picture of what I am thinking later.)

Once created, these pre-encoded streams would then exist on some sort of storage system, at the ready, to be inserted into the main broadcast bitstream when it makes sense to do so.

These 'compiled' streams could also be re-distributed to interested listeners to be played on other equipment. Their professional quality nature, compared with real-time and or consumer level codecs could make them attractive enough to be worth paying for, or at the very least provide another means of getting additional ad revenue through an archive service of sorts.

The core idea behind this is the common elements to radio. There is a lot of material broadcast today that really can be built ahead of time, with the idea being to limit the real-time material as much as possible.

Here are a couple examples I could think of that might clarify this idea further:

Archives: Many talk stations will recycle their shows during off hours. Those stations replaying syndicated content could simply receive compiled bitstreams ready to play at the highest quality possible. Lets say a talk station has one additional audio stream running in addition to their main hybrid digital / analog one. Compiling a broadcast in this way would likely bring the secondary stream audio quality on par with the primary one. Lets further say the secondary stream time-shifts the live broadcast for off-hours listening. These listeners would experience a much higher quality program.

Station imaging, bumpers, jingles and other "already cooked" bits. I think almost everyone agrees on the quality being a necessary element of a strong station identity. The extra clarity would make these elements stand out in a subtle way that is powerful but not annoying or tiring to the listener.

Highly automated evening sets, music bundles and special program segments. Stations here do "three of an artist" or "focus on whatever" or simply play daily sets with very similar rotation. All of this material can be compiled ahead of time for the best quality reproduction possible. This combined with already build imaging elements would make for compelling radio when combined properly. Long sets, such as those used by oldies stations would also fit into this catagory. With storage being cheap, several variations on these would be possible. --Just rotate sets instead of specific tunes.

I suppose that's enough for now. I just thought I would put this out there for discussion. --You read it here first!

(This post will see some serious edits when I have the time.)

Friday, March 11, 2005

HD Radio, Analog FM, mp3 and ogg Audio Samples

New Sirius Satellite Radio samples added: 10/05
New Eureka DAB Samples added: 10/05
Rough Dates added: 10/05
KEX AM 1190 added: 10/05

This page started out as a quick 'n dirty way for folks to sample real world HD Radio. It seems to be evolving as a more general comparison of the various content delivery technologies and that's a good thing. There is a lot to compare frankly and the number of choices continues to grow.

Scroll Down For the Samples

Interested in getting your samples on this page? Contact me at samples@opengeek.org and I'll be happy to get that done. Please include any relevant technical information, station ID, credits, etc... with your samples so that everything can be sorted accordingly.

Call for additional samples: I am particularly interested in updated HD Radio samples. As things continue to improve in the audio processing chain, it would be great to have a record of those changes for comparison. A quality vinyl 12" and LP sample would be great to add here too.

I received a lot of material. For bandwidth reasons, I have posted a few snippets in raw wave audio format. (wav) Please be kind and download once then listen as many times as you want. Depending on how traffic goes, I'll either rotate the snippets, add new ones, or do something else.

Currently there is no real rhyme or reason to the order of samples presented. At some point in the future, I plan to reorganize the page to better reflect some of the audio tradeoffs each of the content delivery platforms represented below bring to the table. For now, each platform is colored along with the relevant samples to help tame the clutter.

All of the audio samples, save those indicated below, are presented in the form I received them in. In a couple of instances, I encoded the audio in order to allow for reduced bandwidth downloads, where I was sure the encoding process would not have a signifcant impact on the sample quality.

The various audio samples on this page are intended to help people understand where the different media delivery technologies fall on the quality scale. I was tempted to normalize the audio, but decided to just leave it as I received it. The first HD sample track from KGON was normalized, faded, etc... (EDIT: Actually the first two got this treatment...) That's all I am going to do. Anyone really needing to tweak the sound can grab their favorite audio editor/processor and tinker until happy.

And now onto the audio!

HD Radio (AM 1190 KEX Portland) 07/05
Sample 1 (raw wave audio)
Sample 2 (raw wave audio)

These represent quality improvements made over the first few months of IBOC broadcast at KEX. The originals can be found in the AM HD Radio section for reference.

HD Radio (FM) 04/05
KGON-hd-sample-01.wav (01 = Long)
KGON-hd-sample-02.wav (02 = Short)

The HD Radio samples were recorded directly from the RCA line outs on a Kenwood KTC-HR100 into a portable Marantz CD recorder. I have more material, but thought it best to start with this and go from there. ---Thanks Chris!

HD Radio (FM Secondary Streams) 07/05

The source samples were very long 320Kbps mp3 files. For length and content reasons, the samples presented here are shorter raw wav audio files, extracted untouched from the main mp3 file. Thanks go to the folks at Intercom Chicago ( Dave & A.J) for sending these my way. http://www.wusn.com/

Eureka DAB 10/05 [New]
[speech, 128kbit/s Joint Stereo : BBC National DAB]


[Pop Music, 128 Kbit/s Joint Stereo -- Digital 1 Network]

[Classical Music 192Kbit/s Stereo -- BBC National DAB]

Digital Radio Monidale [mp3 file]

Audio samples taken from RCA "phono" sockets of a Sony D777ES DAB tuner directly into a computer. No processing was done, other than to trim the overall sample length and save as 48Khz, 16 bit WAV audio files. The Digital Radio Monidale (DRM) sample presented with this group, came along for the ride from the same contributor. I don't have a lot of detail on this one, other than it was transmitted via Shortwave. Please consider a visit to: http://www.wohnort.demon.co.uk/DAB/

Sirius Satellite Radio 10/05 [new]
Sirius 1 [channel 08]
Sirius 2 [channel 37]
Sirius 2a [channel 24]
Sirius 3 [channel 24]
Sirius 4 [channel 72]
Sirius 5 [channel 80]
Sirius 6 [channel 100]
Sirius 7 [channel 112]
Sirius 8 [channel 133]

Credit for these samples goes to some guy (you know who you are!) who preferred to remain anonymous. Several different channels, including a talk channel or two, are represented here. For more detailed information about the different channels, consult the Sirius channel guides. The samples were recorded directly from the radio as raw wave files. I have included short segments, cut from the original wav files, here for comparison purposes. No additional processing was done, other than to reduce the overall audio length.

HD Radio 03/05 (AM)
1190 KEX HD 1 (wav)
1190 KEX HD 2
1190 KEX HD 3
1190 KEX HD 1 (mp3)
1190 KEX HD 2
1190 KEX HD 3

Credit for the AM HD Samples goes to Dylan. He recorded these for me, using Larry's HD radio @ KBPS, and fiddled with the antenna to simulate rough signal conditions and allow comparisons between the analog AM and HD AM audio reproduction on an HD radio.

I went ahead and made quality mp3 encodes that don't appear to change the overall quality of the audio much. If you are on a slow connection or just want to save bandwidth, feel free to download those. The content is the same.

UPDATE: The folks at KEX 1190 have been doing some serious work on their HD AM audio processing chain. Look for samples here soon that represent their latest work as of Aug, 05.

Analog FM 03/05
Another FM Analog Sample.wav

Analog FM Samples were recorded from an older MCS Series tuner, directly into the computer sound card. Honestly, my gear is not the best though it probably represents the median of FM radios out there. My location also suffers from multi-path, which can be heard in these samples. If you have a better FM sample or two, you are willing to get to me, let me know.

CD Audio 03/05
CD Sample 1
CD Sample 2

These samples represent some very good dynamic CD audio. Given the huge variation in CD quality, these samples are really more about representing what CD audio is capable of, not what we mostly see today...

Compressed Audio 03/05
Analog FM Compressed to Mp3 (.mp3)
Analog FM Compressed to Ogg Vorbis (.ogg)
CD Audio 1 Compressed to Mp3 128Kbps
CD Audio 1 Compressed to Mp3 192Kbps
CD Audio 2 Compressed to Mp3 128Kpbs
CD Audio 2 Compressed to Mp3 192Kbps

LAME was used for the mp3 endode, and the standard Ogg Vorbis tools were used for the ogg encode. You might need a plug in to play the Ogg encoded audio. Mp3 is capable of a notch better than you hear on this page, but the encode time is probably 3-5X that required for the file I posted here. Better to just use ogg.

Update: I decided to post some CD audio and mp3 compressions for another data point for those looking for simple metrics. ie: How much better does CD sound than FM? If there is demand, I'll add ogg files later on.

Other HD AM/FM Samples 05/05
WOR HD AM samples
WOSU HD AM and FM Samples

Sadly, these appear to have been re-encoded as mp3 files with what sounds like the Fraunhoffer codec, thus limiting their accuracy. You may find the quality of the real signal better than what you hear on this page.

Ibiquity HD Radio Sampler 06/05
A quick disclaimer is in order. I'm posting these with permission. (Thanks David!) Before sending me a happy fun C&D letter, please contact me and I will provide my contact information just to clarify things. Thanks and now onto a sample of the sampler:
01 - Intro
02 - FM Cont. Rock
04 - FM Jazz Inst.
07 - FM Urban
09 - FM Contemp
10 - FM Country
11 - AM Jazz
12 - AM Talk
14 - AM Oldies

Each of the tracks is roughly a minute of audio comparisons between analog broadcasts and digital ones, produced by Ibiquity. I've not had the time to check these to see if they are the same ones on the Ibiquity page or not but I suspect they are. The ones there are re-encoded as mp3 and have quality issues. These appear much better in that regard.

That's it for the samples page! Check back from time to time as new samples will be added as technologies appear, change and grow. Thanks for reading OpenGeek.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

HD Radio thoughts, speculation and technical info

This started out as a short essay on IBOC radio and it sort of grew a little. Honestly, I was going to trash it, but it's big enough that I am going to publish it anyway. I just hate to waste that much text!

03/25/04 Update: I've gotten some interesting e-mail on this work. As a result, I've made some changes and additions to the HTML version of this paper. I'll probably get the PDF done at some point.

I've been doing some hard thinking about FM IBOC and realize it has some potential. This is a *long* post, but if you are interested in IBOC, HD radio, there is probably something here for you of interest. I've been pretty vocal on the technical issues, particularly on the AM side of things. AM IBOC may not ever fly and I am convinced it is stillborn today. --We just don't know it yet and there is work to be done, despite industry claims it is ready to go.

FM IBOC brings a lot of choice to the table and one facet of it in particular really interests me. Multi-stream capability. The current specifications clearly provide for more than one audio stream per IBOC station. This essay really was the result of some hard thinking about that. --Take it for what it is worth and please do let me know what that ended up being for you! --Thanks.

I've also got some real HD radio samples on the way. When those arrive, I'll edit and repost the old samples page and put 'em there. (EDIT: They have arrived and can be found here.) Links will be provided from here. I expect to have what I need to do this in the next week or so.

You can also download this essay as a PDF file, if that works better for you. Be aware, the resources portion of the PDF and this introductory information will slowly grow out of date. The best info, related to this work, will be here on OpenGeek. The PDF file represents the original version of this work and no longer contains the information the Internet HTML version does. I will address this at a later date, once the document reaches a stable point.

And here, finally, is the monster:

Digital Radio: What is it
and how will it affect Radio as we know it today?

This essay is a brief look at Digital Radio technology, it's technical issues, potential benefits and potential pitfalls as I see them today. Some statements presented in this essay are speculative and should be treated as such.

What is IBOC, HD Radio, Digital, etc... ?

IBOC stands for In Band On Channel with HD Radio being the marketing catchphrase for the IBOC Technology powering digital radio in the US today. To put this in very simple terms, IBOC/HD Radio is the new digital radio signal, broadcast along with or on top of, depending on your point of view, an existing radio stations traditional analog signal, with the idea being to allow both types of broadcast to co-exist going forward.

We are at the early stage of HD Radio technology implementation. I believe it's important to express how this technology affects us now while many decisions are being made. This paper represents my view, I encourage you to express yours as well. The more voices we have, both positive and negative, the better the end product will be for all of us.

While HD Radio is broadcast in addition to existing analog signals, the long term plan, put forward by Ibiquity the creator of the IBOC system, is to transition to an all digital system at some time in the future, making existing radios obsolete. Frankly, I don't see this happening for a very long time given the number of existing radios in use today. Let's just say the potential exists for all digital stations and leave things right there for the foreseeable future.

Ideally, existing radios will not be significantly impacted by the additional digital information. On FM this is turning out to be largely true. On AM the reality is a bit different as I will explain below.

My aim for this essay is to communicate in fairly simple terms how digital radio, using IBOC technology will change radio as we know it today. FM IBOC and AM IBOC differ enough that many aspects of this paper will not apply equally to both technologies. Some general technology speculation is offered, along with technical links and other resources, for those interested in learning more.

How FM IBOC and AM IBOC differ

While the core technology is the same on both AM and FM, the implementation is different. These differences are largely a factor of existing radio tolerance to the new signals and compatibility with existing broadcast regulations, not the IBOC technology itself. These differences are significant enough to warrant a comparison with some level of technical detail.

While both systems share the same modulation technology the traditional bandwidth allocation differences between AM and FM have significant implications on the AM band.

In a nutshell, the implementation of IBOC on the FM band is superior in every way to AM IBOC making FM IBOC viable and AM IBOC questionable at best at this time.


AM IBOC features a total RF bandwidth of 30Khz per IBOC station. The innermost (closest to the center carrier frequency) 10Khz of this contains 5Khz traditional analog audio with the outer 20Khz of bandwidth being the new digital information. (Remember, the total RF broadcast bandwidth is twice the audio bandwidth.) This outer 20Khz can be broken roughly into two 10Khz layers that differ only in their radiated power, with the greater radiated power going to the outermost 10Khz of digital transmission.

The total radiated power, for IBOC transmission, is typically 1/100th of the total analog power. A 25Kw AM station would be transmitting 250watts of IBOC information, for example.

Testing indicates the IBOC signal, despite being a fraction of that required for analog, is able to provide solid service inside the 60dbu contour. This contour is the area of coverage, unique to each broadcast site, where an acceptable signal is present at all times. Receivers located outside of this contour may well see an acceptable level of service, service is not a guarantee.

All of this yields 32Kbps of digital information per AM IBOC station, in addition to its 5Khz of analog audio. This bit-rate is the upper-limit for a hybrid (analog and digital) AM IBOC station. AM Stations are free to make analog digital tradeoffs to better address the needs of their listeners. It is possible for AM stations to adjust their analog signal component at the expense of digital bandwidth. The IBOC system will allow up to 8Khz of analog audio bandwidth.

Reference implementations allow for 15Khz stereo audio digital broadcasts. Depending on how the public receives highly compressed audio, two monophonic limited bandwidth (6Khz?) sub-channels may be a viable option. AM IBOC digital bit rates are about half that available on the better satellite radio service channels.

Night time AM IBOC remains problematic, at this time, because the wide signals required combined with night-time AM propagation introduce more noise than can be reasonably tolerated on existing analog gear.

All digital AM IBOC stations are likely to see higher bit rates though I know of no plans for this at this time.

The HD Radio codec, responsible for transforming the analog audio to and from the digital domain, is a hybrid codec similar to the mp3pro low bitrate codec. All audio below about *5Khz is encoded in the usual way to be reproduced on the receiver end. Higher frequency audio is artifically reproduced by the receiver with the help of some additional information encoded into the audio bitstream. Together these two techniques provide the listener with the perception of a fairly wide audio bandwidth at the expense of accuracy on the higher frequencies.

(I don't have precise figures for this and the cutoff point can be adjusted. The idea here being to simply make people aware of the tradeoffs made in the HD radio technology where higher frequency audio is concerned.)

AM IBOC Technical Implications

Traditional AM band allocations are 10Khz, meaning most quality AM stations, broadcasting 10Khz of audio, overlap today. For daytime operation, this has been a minor problem at best in that many radios are limited to less total audio bandwidth and daytime propagation properties keep this interference to a minimum. Most of the problems we see today, with AM analog broadcasting, occur at night where signal propagation is far greater than daytime.

An analog AM radio, will continue to suffer from overlapping stations, beat tones, noise and other common AM issues. However, an AM IBOC radio will operate largely outside these issues within it's coverage area, at the expense of analog listeners however.

Without going too deep, AM radio has been plagued by it's simple nature, making it particularly suceptable to noise. This combined with poor regulation over the years has left the band largely unusable for most programming, other than talk, sports and ethnic/niche music programming.

Analog improvements, such as AM Stereo and noise limiting, have strong potential even today, however our regulatory decisions over the years have marginalized this to a point where most of the AM listening public remains largely unaware of the benefits and sharply limited in their ability to take best advantage of them.

AM IBOC further complicates the mix in that it degrades the existing analog signal, particularly with quality wideband radios, while bringing modest to average potential for improvement in return. The big question being how people will respond to the changes and if the improvements are worth the trade offs for those using existing radios.

Existing analog AM radio listeners, depending on the gear they are using, will experience increased noise, due to IBOC signals overlapping with existing analog ones, as a minimum.

Users of quality AM gear will experience a reduction in service quality in that IBOC stations are limited to 5Khz of analog audio and analog AM Stereo broadcasts are not able to exist with IBOC digital broadcasts. Additionally, the harsh filtering required to keep the analog audio in check at 5Khz, causes significant audio distortion audible on even marginal AM radios in use today. These filters are necessary "brick wall" types because any analog spillover into the IBOC portion of the broadcast can easily overwhelm the low-powered IBOC signal, rendering it unusable far sooner than it otherwise would be.

AM IBOC brings near FM quality improvement to the table, along with a more binary listening experience. Either an AM station will be listenable or not. The digital audio will be highly compressed, using a hybrid wavelet compression scheme that replicates frequencies artificially above 10Khz or so to bring the total audio bandwidth up to 15Khz. In terms of pure audio frequency response, this is an improvement over other AM broadcast technologies, on par with the quality FM audio service we have enjoyed for years.

For many, this is an improvement over the somewhat messy analog situation we have today. The combination of low bit-rate and aggressive compression techniques do bring audible artifacts to the table however. How much of an improvement this really is will depend on listener expectations and the program material being broadcast.

In addition, the artificial spectral reproduction of higher frequencies reduce the overall accuracy of the audio made available to the listener.

To sum this up, existing analog AM radios, of all types, will be impacted by the addition of IBOC broadcasts, with marginal to good digital improvements in return. What is not known, at this time, is how the average listener will respond. Will the reduced level of service be easily tolerated, or not? Will AM listeners move on to FM with it's increased quality and choice potential or choose other technologies, such as satellite radio or podcasts or simply tune out entirely? Given the audio artifacts, AM IBOC will be less competitive than FM IBOC will be in this regard, making the risk / reward ratio less favorable where AM IBOC is concerned.

Given the aggressive audio compression, quality analog broadcast tecnhiques combined with noise limiting technology available today, remain competetive with AM IBOC transmissions.

There is no clear path forward that keeps impact to a minimum. I believe additional work will need to be done in order to properly move the AM band forward without losing the utility of the many AM radios in service today.

AM radio, being a technology close to my own heart, has been largely marginalized in recent years from the onslaught of many new technologies. Despite this, many people today still consider AM a viable technology in times of need, or for niche programming.

AM radio has a long history of public service and, despite the considerable challenges of the medium, has provided much value to our society, particularly in times of need. I harbor serious concerns about it's continued viability, given the reduced level of service to existing radio gear IBOC implementation will bring, particularly given the aggressive audio compression necessary to maintain an acceptable audio bandwidth.

At this early stage, the overall fate of AM radio, as we know it today, is unclear. Ideally, the radio industry will take conservative steps until we know more and can make solid choices from there. There is a strong case for AM broadcast remaining mostly analog.

At this time, I remain unconvinced AM IBOC makes good sense to implement, given the strong potential and sharply reduced level of service tradeoffs present in analog technologies, such as AM Stereo and impulse noise blanking.


FM IBOC features a total RF bandwidth of a little under 400Khz. The innermost 200Khz is naturally the FM analog signal, essentially unchanged from the FM service we know today.

FM signals are more complex than AM ones, often including audio, data sub-carriers and the stereo portion of the broadcast as well. This additional complexity is made possible through the greater degree of discrimination possible on the FM receiver side.

The IBOC portion of the signal, extends another 100Khz in either direction from the primary center carrier frequency, meaning an FM IBOC station will occupy a total of 400Khz of RF bandwidth. There are two modes of transmission in the hybrid analog / digital mode as well; namely standard and extended. Early standard systems in use today do not make full use of their portion of the FM channel in that IBOC signals are not right up against the analog portion of the channel, keeping impact to existing receivers to a minimum. Current standard mode systems only make use of about the outer 70 percent of the 100Khz IBOC allotment. (Per sideband) The innermost 30 percent remains unused, leaving a gap between the analog signal and the IBOC one.

However, the multi-channel capability and additional data bitrates made possible by filling this gap are likely to result in the extended hybrid mode seeing wider use. This mode provides allows for a higher total bitrate on the order of about 150Kbps. IBOC transmission in this mode will likely have a greater impact on analog receivers, particularly wide band IF ones.

As with AM IBOC, total radiated power is a fraction of the analog signal with this ratio being 1/100. A 50Kw analog FM station would then transmit 500Watts of IBOC signal. This amount of power is sufficient to provide service within the 60dbu coverage contour typical of analog broadcasts.

The greater bandwidth allowances on the FM band, bring the peak total IBOC digital bit-rate up to a little above 96Kbps per IBOC station. This is considerably higher than the more limited AM IBOC is capable of. The IBOC signal does not mandate a reduction in audio bandwidth for analog FM Stereo signals. I do not know the effect on FM sub-carrier services at the time of this writing. Peak FM IBOC bit rates are 150 percent greater than that available on the better satellite radio service channels.

The much higher peak bit-rate bring more choice and quality options to the table. Broadcasters will, for the first time, be able to bring multiple programming streams to their listeners in a practical way.

The number of streams determines the overall bit rate available to each particular stream. If a station were to choose 3 streams, they could have one 48Kbps stream and two 24Kbps streams in addition to their analog signal for a total of up to 4 program channels, for example. Or a more conservative choice could be made where three streams are made available to the listener with the higher quality 48Kbps stream duplicating the analog program for robustness.

Another alternative would be to simply broadcast the same program on both the digital and analog systems at the same time, taking best advantage of the ~96Kbps bit rate and the more robust error correction. (robustness) Early systems, on the air at this time, make use of this approach.

It is possible also to trade signal robustness for a bit more bandwidth in the sub-channels. FM stations, operating in a fairly benign topology, could reduce their robustness and offer more aggressive sub-channel bit rates (24Kbps) and still retain their 96Kbps quality primary channel, for example.

Use of the extended hybrid digital mode will allow for higher bitrates overall, with no channel seeing more than 96Kbps total for audio. The original bandplan for this extended mode was 40-50Kbps of data bandwidth, National Public Radio has proposed this additional bandwidth be configured to allow more audio broadcasts as well. They call this Tomorrow Radio. In addition to the choices mentioned above, higher bitrate audio channels will be possible when stations are operating in extended hybrid mode. It may be possible for a station to run three audio streams at 48Kpbs for example. Work in this area is ongoing and the information I present here is early.

Finally, the potential exists for data services to be carried along with audio ones. While both AM and FM IBOC have this potential, the higher bit rates of FM IBOC present more potential in this area.

FM IBOC is not restricted at night because existing radios and the wavelength of FM both combine to properly discriminate between analog FM broadcasts and the new IBOC digital ones well enough to allow full time service.

FM IBOC audio frequency response can reach 22Khz. This is an improvement, in sheer audio frequency response, on par with digital CD audio. The hybrid nature of the digital encoding process does introduce the potential for artifacts, however these will be limited to the upper frequency range and are likely to be easily tolerated by the average listener.

As with AM IBOC, only a portion of the audio is directly encoded with the higher frequencies being artifically replicated at the receiver end. I don't have hard numbers for the cutoff point at this time. Spectral analysis of early HD radio samples lead me to believe audio above 10 to 12Khz is artifically reproduced in the receiver.

How this will be received will depend on the processing techniques used, program material, and total audio bitrate. Subchannels are likely to see a maximum of 48Kbps per channel available.

FM IBOC Technical Implications

Although it is possible for FM IBOC signals to overlap with other analog FM stations, current frequency allocations in many markets, keep this to a minimum. Additionally, the modulation technique used by IBOC combined with it's fractional power levels will keep this from being an issue in all but a small number of cases because the IBOC signal is largely invisible to analog FM detectors. This is perhaps, the biggest differentiator between the FM implementation and the AM one, besides overall peak bit rate and the potential for multiple audio streams.

The additional choice potential FM IBOC brings to the table is it's strongest attribute, making the HD Radio moniker a bit misleading. Overall audio will not be "high definition" in the sense that HDTV is higher definition, because the peak bit rates available at this time limit the overall quality of the audio received. Instead, the HD Radio system only conveys the perception of higher bandwidth audio, due to the hybrid encoding system and it's artificial spectral reproduction of the higher frequencies.

However, the audio experience, potential quality issues aside, will be a more consistent one overall. FM multi-path 'fuzz' will not be an issue when listening to an IBOC broadcast. For many, sensitive to noise and multi-path, the quieter and more consistant broadcast may well make up for any audio accuracy issues.

When compared to satellite services, the additional bit rates are likely to make the 'HD Radio' tag more appropriate, when the higher 96Kpbs bitrates are used.

It is worth noting, FM IBOC implementation will have a negative effect on "Dxers", those listeners who either depend on fringe area coverage, or choose to seek it for entertainment purposes. It is also worth nothing, existing translators already have begun to enroach on these listeners today. Over time, the expected growth of radio and the additional choice provided by IBOC broadcasts has the potential to balance the loss of distant signals for many listeners.

Unlike AM, the implementation of FM IBOC will have little overall effect on existing listeners in that the technology will go largely unnoticed on existing radio gear. The extended hybrid mode may change this, but is not likely to exceed the negative impact found in all AM IBOC systems. Additionally, FM stations wil be free to choose their operating mode, trading analog signal quality for number of digital channels where AM IBOC is an all or nothing affair.

General IBOC Technical Implications

The digital processing required will introduce a delay into the audio chain, making "on air" monitoring difficult. Additionally, the digital audio is buffered, making real-time broadcasts questionable. Perhaps some of these, such as sporting events, will need to remain analog for the most crisp experience. This buffer can cause a disjointed experience when a receiver falls back to analog mode, then jumps forward into digital mode again. This can be largely mitigated in the receiver and is moot for digital only programming.

All audio is encoded and compressed. Those building digital music library systems, may find their programming quality reduced below expectations due to re-encoding necessary for IBOC digital transmission.

Audio broadcasts, received via the HD Radio IBOC system, do not have the accuracy of either analog methods or quality compressed audio. The primary limiting factor remains the peak bitrate available. In the future, the higher bitrate (~300Kpbs) possible on all digital FM stations may provide a remedy for this. However, plans for this are largely still on the drawing board. The IBOC transmission technology has been developed, but receiver implementation and codec technology is a work in progress.

Despite years of planning, IBOC is not yet "cooked" in that we are still seeing new ideas come forward for how to best use the bit stream to deliver programming to the listener. This means current IBOC implementations will offer the basic level of service, with enhancements planned over time as our understanding of the technology and demand grow.

Unlike analog broadcast improvements, changes to the digital bit stream can require changes to both the transmitter and receiver side in order to be fully realized to the listener. These changes, given solid initial planning and some over engineering in the receiver, can largely be software related, keeping potential issues to a minimum. However, the potential for early receiver obsolescence is much higher than the general public is used to, given the long service life of their existing analog gear.

Early adopters may well find their HD Radio capable of only a sub-set of the total programming in the future, or may find selecting that programming to be difficult due to user interface issues. Given the rapidly advancing state of the art in digital encoding, it is very likely this will continue for some time yet. It is not yet possible to know if the weight of existing HD Radio gear will hold the technology back, or if listeners will be willing to upgrade / purchase new radio gear to take advantage of improvements still to come.

Additionally, digital technologies have proven less robust in the face of adverse conditions and over extended periods of time than analog methods. The more binary nature of the listening experience (either you get the signal or you don't) could be a problem on occasion. Having to "reset" the receiver, or perform other computer related workaround tasks will bring a level of complexity to the ordinary radio, some listeners may not be accustomed to. This additional complexity will also create new user interface challenges as well. HD radios won't be as simple as traditional analog ones currently are capable of being.

While these issues are not show stoppers by any means, they are going to need to continue to be addressed until everyone has the right expectations. Put simply, HD radio is going to have some teething pains for a few years yet.

IBOC is not an open technology like AM or FM radio is. Every transmitter and receiver will include a royalty to cover the use of the patented IBOC technology. While this helps bring a standard to all digital radios, it also puts a private entity at the center of the radio industry that all parties must depend on and pay to make use of the RF spectrum. This does raise public interest concerns in that we won't see competition for digital radio and will see cost built into both broadcast and receive parts of the process.

Ideally we will see Ibiquity, the owner of the IBOC technology, provide RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms for those interested in providing IBOC / HD Radio related products and services. Without these terms, there is little incentive for both innovation and cost reduction of IBOC related services and radio gear. Additionally, software radio technologies are still developing at this time. Most of this work is Open Source. Will HD Radio broadcasts remain invisible to software radios due to licensing issues? Should they be, given the public interest in the radio spectrum? These and other questions surrounding the licensing of the IBOC technology remain a growing concern in the longer term that should be addressed before the use of the technology becomes to pervasive.

I have not seen plans for providing part 15 hobby level radio capability at this time. If we are to continue to encourage digital radio broadcasts, we should also encourage a more open use of the technology as well.

Ok, so how does this change radio for me?

This is the fun part, where I just throw out a bunch of things I believe IBOC to be capable of. Some of these are a reality today, others may or may not happen depending on how things evolve. --Take with two large grains of salt and enjoy!

Right now, FM stations all across the country are implementing basic IBOC signals. These signals duplicate existing programming in the digital form, allowing listeners to take best advantage of both broadcast forms on their new radios. This first stage will bring the basic technology improvements and changes to existing radio broadcasts. Ideally, these will be enough to drive HD Radio forward into the next stage, where increased choice, through multi-streams comes into play.

Once the basic services are up and running, broadcasters are going to begin programming their different streams. This will be an interesting time in that we will see new programming without having to invest in new stations for each additional programming choice. Additionally, the ability to offer more than one programming choice should make the risk of that choice easier to bear because existing streams would be largely unaffected. I expect to see more risks taken resulting in a more diverse set of programming choices for the average radio listener.

Success in the streams will also depend on receiver manufacturer support and planning / implementation issues. If the interface is rushed, or the streams are poor quality, etc.. listeners could largely ignore them. This is also true where expectations are concerned. The general HD Radio marketing catchphrase may not be appropriate in this regard. The NPR "Tomorrow Radio" might be better able to manage and set listener expectations where overall quality and program content are concerned.

AM IBOC stations, being more limited, will largely concentrate on bringing a better experience to their existing listeners while trying to limit the reduction in service at the same time.

There is the real possibility of AM IBOC not seeing much adoption at all given the issues. Despite the considerable engineering acumen of the IBOC team, the case for continued analog AM innovation and transmission remains strong, particularly given the audio accuracy and night time broadcast tradeoffs in IBOC. The digital return is minor, given the heavy AM tradeoffs. There is clear demand for better quality AM service, but I honestly don't expect IBOC to fit the bill at this stage. More work needs to be done and analog methods deserve greater consideration than they are currently being given.

I see no public demand for digital radio, only better radio. Where FM IBOC is concerned, the technology has strong potential to provide both. As I wrote above, AM IBOC is doubtful in this regard.

Back on the subject of choice, we might see a blend of program types become an option on both AM and FM bands. Talk programming, for example on FM becomes interesting where multiple streams are concerned. It's possible to carry multiple viewpoints, or provide program rotation/repeat cycles that bring a particular show to a wider audience not otherwise able to normally listen, though multiple schedules on different streams. This makes live broadcast of talk programming possible in all markets without having to force listeners into schedules they find uncomfortable, for example.

On AM, given the basic technical issues are resolved, music programming may be viable again as well. The upper limit on peak bit rate may well prove too low for this. Early tests on classical and jazz music are favorable. It must be noted these programs represent best case material for the codec due to their harmonic content. IBOC must be evaluated on a program by program basis to better understand what works well and what doesn't.

The additional choice and low cost of daily listening, compared to the recurring fees found on satellite radio systems, combined with a local presence should give radio an incentive to provide programs better adapted to a particular audience along with national program formats with less risk than is possible today with analog only systems. Multi-stream capability will power this, IMHO.

These are near-term expectations. In the longer term, FM IBOC presents some interesting possibilities. This is the pie in the sky part. Take your second grain of salt here -both if you didn't get started with one!

Digital radios, in Europe, are being fitted with download capability. The primary goal is being able to time shift broadcasts. This option, combined with multiple streams, here in the US, may well present listeners with choices not possible until now.

Here is one example: A station decides to run a special show at a specific time. Listeners could cache the program for listening later, or perhaps choose not to listen and play another cached show, or switch to another stream. Programming possibilities in this environment allow for new formats not possible with analog broadcasts today. To me, this is perhaps the most compelling possibility IBOC brings to the table.

Subscription services may become available, though I think those are better suited to satellite, Internet stream, and pod cast type delivery systems. I don't want to see these on radio, so I'm not going to write much about them.

Although there are no current plans for this, that I know of, it seems natural to include a media slot on future HD radios for downloaded content. As listeners consume their favorite program on a regular basis, they would be receiving portable content at the same time for their ongoing loyalty. Such content could be pictures, special release music files, hyper links, or simply text data or documents relevant to their local area, such as concert schedules, promotional discounts, and other localized information.

It is early, but there is another good use for removable media storage: namely pod cast like replay of programs, or distribution of pod cast like programs using the IBOC system instead of the Internet. The added value here would be ease of use combined with the station being able to air promotional programming related to the pod cast in question.

Market saturation with digital IBOC capable radios is going to take a while. Being able to "record" a broadcast onto some removable media, such as a USB memory key type device, would enable owners of IBOC capable radios to get the most use out of them. A car radio could be caching late evening programming for use during work, for example. Such a cache could also be used to playback favorite program segments, or provide entertainment outside of a coverage area.

Sadly, the legal landscape we see today makes these things nothing more than a dim reality, but it could yet happen. Perhaps the growing market pressure of satellite and Internet delivery systems will help this along a bit.

The digital nature of IBOC also allows for blanket coverage with advantages over analog means, such as RDS. Some small portion of the data could be used to tell a radio when it can switch to an identical program as a listener moves between service areas. This information could also be used to schedule time shift requests for listening later in a manner similar to satellite PVR video systems do today.

IBOC does allow for data transmission as well as audio broadcasts. I didn't discuss this much earlier because the focus of this paper was on the radio listener, for the most part. Stations can choose to devote a portion of their bitstream to data applications, not directly targeted at the average radio user. These applications include commercial controlling, tracking and automation applications not well served by existing and more expensive technologies. These applications hold the potential for additional station revenue. This may be a good thing for radio listeners in that healthy radio stations may be better able to provide live and local programming. However, it may be that overall audio quality and choice may suffer as well with data profits simply going to the station bottom line with no improvements in return for the listener.

I did get one interesting comment on the multi-stream that is worth noting here. The potential for multiple FM streams may result in reduced AM service in that the AM programming can simply be moved to a stream, thus making the expense of an AM station unnecessary. In this case, we may lose AM stations, or others may choose to operate them in new and creative ways. Either way, it is worth noting the broadcast giants have little incentive to operate multiple stations when they can use one, more powerful and capable one to hold their different programming offerings. Will they choose to further consolidate or will they simply provide more options given the new capability offered to them? If AM stations are freed, will we lose them, or will others fill the gap and try new programming to compete?


We are entering an interesting radio time, particularly for FM radio. IBOC holds strong potential for greater choice than we have today. There are technical challenges to overcome yet, particularly on AM. Increased choice and reduced risk are the biggest benefits I see IBOC bringing to the table. Quality has the potential for being greater than satellite and most Internet delivery systems with the added advantage of being inexpensive for the listener over the longer term.

This paper represents a best case view for FM IBOC as much as it does an overall reference to the technology put into basic terms. Many factors may well contribute to the IBOC picture that sharply reduce the overall value delivered to the listener. I have tried to present many of these here for your consideration.

Going forward, I believe the increased choice potential outweighs the technical problems on FM and am eager to see radio grow in that direction. Content is king, and I would rather see more of it, that I have a chance at enjoying, than continue on the path we are on now. IBOC on FM will provide a vehicle that will make that happen with less risk than currently required today to "break the mold" so to speak. Lets hope that part of things begins to happen sooner rather than later.

I have mixed opinions about AM IBOC and welcome your comments and insight. I hope the right decisions will be made regarding AM IBOC and feel it is important for everyone to continue to express whatever view they have on that topic. My personal view is not favorable in that the value added to AM does not outweigh the value lost in existing services. (Loss of AM Stereo, increased noise, limited analog bandwidth, etc...)

Why this paper? I evaluate technology as part of my day to day activities. A long interest in radio, prompted me to look at IBOC and write what I have learned so far. The story is not over yet by any means. We shall see just how much I have wrong over the next few years.

From time to time, this paper will see updates and changes as the IBOC HD Radio landscape continues to evolve.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it! Please direct any comments / suggestions and (gasp!) errors to:



(At the moment, this section is incomplete. Look for additional links and some brief commentary on the significance of each one here in the near future.)

http://www.ibiquity.com/ -- Creator/owner of the IBOC technology.

http://www.ibiquity.com/technology/papers.htm -- Various white papers detailing technical implementation details and core technology elements.

http://www.ipodder.org/ -- Source for podcasts. While not directly relevant to this paper, I used the term several times. This should clear things up if you have questions. Enjoy a few while you are there!

http://www.crutchfieldadvisor.com/ISEO-rgbtcspd/learningcenter/car/hdradio.html - Rather sales like treatment of HD radio, but does have links to actual HD radio gear for reference / comparison.

http://www.euonline.org/pub/iboc/ -- Interesting information about bitrates and multi-stream technology progress.

http://members.tripod.com/rad4rest-of-us/IBOC-UNECESSARY.htm -- Negative view of IBOC. I don't agree fully with this work, but include it here because many of the points given apply to the delicate AM IBOC discussion. Worth a read on that basis alone.

http://n2.net/k6sti/iboc.htm -- This is an informative page that details FM noise expectations where multi-stream is concerned.

Have an additional IBOC resource to share? Drop it into a comment below, or shoot me an e-mail. I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

So, what's with the goofy New Terms?

I've always been facinated with how new words form. People mix words together, such as 'blignorant', meaning: both unable to accept new ideas and lacking sufficient ones to begin with. Sometimes, a word just gets used in a different way enough times that it eventually sticks. My kids are stuck on using the word 'bleach' to describe the change in tint new colored clothes can have on white shoes. Clearly they understand the color change part of the word, but not in the right way at all. Of course I helped them to say 'tint' & 'stain' instead, but I just know, by the funny looks I got, they still say 'bleach' when around their other 'bleach' using friends. --Alas..

The two I just posted are actually typos that I found interesting enough to stake my claim. Like 'em? By all means spread them far and wide, use them where you can and have a great time doing it! Have any of your own? Post 'em here, or shoot me an e-mail and I'll look 'em over. Anything good gets my full attention.

New Term: leasership

leasership (n. and adj.) "lee-zerr-ship":

recently coined slang term that referes to a bought and paid for tempoary state of arguably false leadership, unpopular with a significant percentage of those so governed.

Related Etymology:


chief (n. and adj.)
1297, from O.Fr. chief "leader, ruler, head" (of something), from L.L. capum, from L. caput "head" (see head).


ship (v.)
c.1300, "to send or transport by ship," from ship (n.). Transf. to other means of conveyance (railroad, etc.) from 1857, originally Amer.Eng. Shipment "that which is shipped" is from 1861.


lease (n.)
1483, from Anglo-Fr. les (1292), from lesser "to let, let go," from O.Fr. laissier "to let, leave," from L. laxare "loosen, open, make wide," from laxus "loose" (see lax). The verb is attested from 1570. Lessor, lessee in contract language preserves the Anglo-Fr. form.