Sustainable low-budget infrastructure

This month I finish my university career and along with this move I sadly will stop working at Insanity Radio, the student (now community) radio station I’ve been running tech at for about 3 years now. Needless to say, I’m going to miss the place and the people, and the challenges that came with that environment.

Specifically: No budget (a total of £3,000 income annually, compared to the average income of £75,000 for most Community Radio stations according to Ofcom). No paid full-time staff. And a desire for 100% availability regardless.

Over the years the systems at Insanity have evolved and grown – they started out as a single computer for playout, a single encoder and streaming server running Windows Media Encoder with about 50% availability best-case, and we’re now deploying high availability clusters for streaming and encoding, have very few single points of failure, with a total of 21 computers. Back in 2009 we had significant amounts of dead air – outside of a processor failure we’ve had very few incidents since 2011.

Building systems for reliability on no money is a tricky thing to do, and it’s even harder when the people maintaining the infrastructure change on a potentially annual basis. This post is basically a quick encapsulation of some of the most important things to focus on to make such a situation work – not just from a technological perspective but from a human perspective too. Continue reading Sustainable low-budget infrastructure

Engineering FM – Part 5

A little break (strangely coincidentally, just as my penultimate term ended and my final year project got finished and handed in) later, and here we are again – another post in my series on engineering FM transmission at a community radio station.

This time I’m going to be talking about how to properly power a transmission system, and how best to deal with uninterruptable power supplies (UPSes) in terms of cabling, monitoring and long-term care. Continue reading Engineering FM – Part 5

Insanity’s Launch Night

This Wednesday I was honoured to be involved with the launch of Insanity Radio’s FM broadcasts as a Community Radio station. The main switch-on was planned for midnight on Wednesday, and a special space-themed party hosted at the Student’s Union was planned to celebrate, with a countdown to the switch-on and at midnight, pyrotechnics, balloons dropped from the roof, and Insanity DJs from 9PM through to 3AM.

Of course, we wanted to celebrate with a special broadcast, and we had to manage the technical side of actually switching on FM. This is a quick writeup of how we pulled it off. Continue reading Insanity’s Launch Night