ABOUT AXINO-TECH

Axino-tech Consulting and Services is based in Wellington; New Zealand. My name is Bruce Whiteside and I provide technician services and consultancy in the fields of broadcast RF engineering, broadcast transmitter design services, installation and commissioning, analogue electronics, electrical appliance measurement, consumer AV product test and review, technical writing and design document peer reviewing.

I am still available for itinerant technical work and consultancy on a short term contract basis. Enquire via the CONTACT page. Below are short descriptions of the kind of work I have been involved with during my tenure as a broadcasting technician and consultant.

Engineering Experience

MATV systems and advice about switching to Digital TV

Advice to motels, hotels, apartment managers, residential owners and owners of small commercial premises about how best to convert their systems from analogue to digital , for distribution throughout a complex.

Digital TV (DVB-T and T2)

Installation of digital transmitters and re-transmitters. Testing and commissioning.

Conversion of analogue transmitters to DVB-T(T2)

Relatively new de-commissioned analogue transmitters may be suitable for conversion to digital (DVB-T or T2) by the addition of a suitable modulator, plus some retuning and re-biassing of power amplifier stages. Contact Axino-Tech for advice on the feasibility of doing this.

Site Interoperability

Much of my background has involved curing site interference issues and making services perform well in the presence of other services. These issues require much use of spectrum analysers. In most cases, solutions involve the specification, design and construction of RF filters.

RF systems combiners/receive splitting

Design of RF receive distribution systems and low power channel combiner systems. Particularly for broadcast TV and FM, but also VHF and UHF comms RF systems. Designing and tuning of RF filters using network analysers.

Measurements and product reviews

Considerable experience of making technical performance measurements both on professional equipment and consumer-grade products. Product testing includes set-top boxes; both satellite and terrestrial, personal video recorders (PVR's), stereo and multi-channel audio products and TV's all including electrical power consumption, power quality and electrical safety plus ease-of-use assessments.

Technical writing

Engineering design documents, proposals and technical reports as well as product manuals and as-built documentation. Provision of independent reviews. Spell-checking and proofing of engineering documents.

TV reception advice

I can offer advice about receiving Freeview, improving TV and FM reception, as well as tuning in and adjusting TV sets for the best performance. I have DVD and Blu-ray test discs which are used to do performance adjustments. If you need two TV's from one antenna, just ask. In addition, I have colleagues who can offer advice on satellite dish installation.

Appliance and Gadget repair

Many appliances are not repairable these days. I can offer advice on whether it is practical to repair something, but don't ask about repairing things like ipods and mobile phones. Unless it is a simple matter like battery terminal corrosion, these items are not economic to repair. Older appliances may be possible. I don't do a lot of appliance repair because most new products are so cheap. Generally if I assess something as repairable, I will send it to a repair shop anyway, unless it is a fairly simple problem.

Computers

While not a computer specialist, I have been around computing for several decades. I have built a Windows pc, set up several Windows computers, installed operating systems and software, added peripherals, installed broadband plus office wireless network, including a NAS and wireless bridge. I can do simple tutorials for people new to computing. With apologies to Apple people, my entire experience is with Windows.

Old cassette tapes to CD

Using a good tape deck and my pc, I have converted many old tapes to CD and been able to reduce noise and hiss as part of the process, although you cannot expect pristine CD quality.

Loudspeaker and audio performance testing

I have a Liberty Praxis measurement system and can perform some tests on loudspeakers and also make measurements on some electronic systems. Praxis has been very useful in measuring system responses, equalisers and for checking gain. It is also useful for spotting hum and other unwanted signals in amplifiers.

A few workplaces in pictures

20kW PAL transmitter
NEC transmitter factory Fuchu Japan
DVBT RF spectrum
Testing speakers in Anechoic chamber
TV's under test
modern DVBT transmitter GUI
Remote ergonomics test
PAL video with VM700
A DVBT transmitter
exploded RF low pass filter
DVB-T2 constellation with interference
alpine TV station in New Zealand
PC monitor testing room

Engineering Background

My experience in broadcasting started in the early 1970's when I commenced as a technical traineee with the NZBC. The first years were about operating and maintaining the AM transmitters at Henderson in Auckland. These transmitters ranged in power from 2kW to 20kW and all used thermionic valves (tubes). Not a single semiconductor in sight. Soon I also began shifts at the TV transmitter station located on the Waitakere ranges, west of Auckland. At that time the only service was TV1 using a pair of 10kW Marconi transmitters operating in parallel to produce 20kW.

In 1974, I was transferred to the district maintenance team at Paengaroa, near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty. This team operated and maintained two 10kW AM stations and numerous TV repeater stations in the district. Many of the repeater stations were accessible only by 4WD up rather precipitous tracks. During this period, a major TV repeater station was established in the area at Mt Edgecumbe using early generation all-solid-state models from Marconi. During this period I became adept at tuning RF circuits, solving tricky RF problems and making things work with less than ideal test equipment and in less than ideal venues such as in farm sheds or on top of rugged hilltops under threat from local villagers to "have it all going for the afternoon soaps - or else.."

The next change came in 1979 when I gained a position at the company engineering centre located in Wellington. Here was the hub of engineering for the whole of the broadcasting industry, although by that stage studio design and construction had been separated. The centre was split into expertise groups like coverage design, radio transmitters, TV antennas, TV transmitters, control and supervisory plus support teams such as draughting, mechanical workshops and electronic workshops. Most hardware other than major products like transmitters were designed and built in-house. I joined the TV transmitter group and over the next few years was involved in testing, commissioning and installing a large number of TV transmitters and transposers and FM throughout New Zealand. Also around this time I was instrumental in designing a range of low power repeaters and transposers used as gap-fillers for coverage of small population areas. RF filters design became another specialist skill since the re-use of spectrum meant there were many adjacent channel interference issues to solve. When New Zealand decided to introduce the NICAM 728 standard for TV stereo sound, I was heavily involved in designing, building and making work all the RF interfacing needed to add NICAM to the existing broadcast transmitters. In fact we were the only group internationally to design a workable method to add NICAM to the Marconi B7000 series transmitters, which led to a contract to convert transmitters in Singapore plus a paper published by the IBC. NICAM conversions were also applied to older generations of NEC transmitters.

By the early 1990's, our company, like many others began "evolving". It was no longer deemed economic to construct products in-house. Cost accounting and marketing dictates changed the landscape and engineering began to have a less central focus. We started to become more solution-based. I and many colleagues moved into more desk related work such as systems design, costing and training although testing and acceptance of products and test equipment management was still one of my primary roles right up to my leaving the company, now known as Kordia, at the end of 2008. The RF side of the DVB-T network in New Zealand in 2007 was my last major systems involvement as an employee, however Axino-Tech continues to provide services to Kordia under contract for broadcast work.

Why AXINO-TECH?

I do get asked about why I chose Axino-tech. Well, there isn't any mind-blowingly insightful reason. We had a atomic-particle theme going for some years, using them to name servers and email aliases, so simply continued with that theme. Besides that, Axino had not already been used as a New Zealand company name. My understanding of the axino particle comprises only a few words found on Wikipedia. There were many more words about the subject, but I didnt understand any of them...

The Axino is a hypothetical elementary atomic particle predicted by some theories of particle physics. Although a lightweight, neutrally charged particle in a universe of heavies, the axino is liable to have a profound influence on the theories of field unification. It will influence several branches of theoretical physics.
"The axino is a promising candidate for dark matter in the Universe. It is electrically and colour neutral, very weakly interacting, and could be, as assumed in this study, the lightest supersymmetric particle, which is stable for unbroken R-parity" Axino Dark Matter and the CMSSM (2004) Covi, Laura, Roszkowski, Leszek, De Austri, Roberto Ruiz, Small, Michael.

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PROJECTS

I have been involved in a wealth of broadcasting related projects over the years. Just a few of them are described on this page.

TV transmitter installations

New Zealands' geography meant that terrestrial analogue TV coverage could not have been achieved with just a few large stations. In fact over 400 stations were in use to provide VHF and UHF analogue TV coverage to the population of just over 4 million. Many of these were tiny, being less than 1 watt in power and which cover small pockets of sometimes less than 50 people. Several of these low power transposer stations were powered by batteries charged by solar panels. A number of medium power stations served larger areas and finally, there were the high power stations for main population areas. The large area stations operated transmitters ranging in power from 2kW to 20kW. Post analogue switch-off, completed at the end of 2013, most small transposer stations have been decommissioned, leaving a national network of less than fifty sites to broadcast terrestrial digital television.

Obelisk site near Alexandra

pic obelisk site

Many of these stations were located in areas of spectacular scenery, especially in the central Otago area. One such site is over 5000ft up, near the town of Alexandra and in the mid-80's I spent some weeks there installing equipment. Installations cannot be done during winter because it snows and maintenance access is often only possible by helicopter.

Another site not far away is Coronet Peak. This is also a high altitude station located near the skifield. I was on the team installing the original TV equipment there in 1984. Although there is road access part of the way up, the equipment and test gear was taken up by ourselves riding the chairlifts to the top. At that time, the building comprised a small concrete block structure, just large enough for three racks and two techs if they held their breath with the antennas mounted on a much smaller pole than what is in the picture.

Coronet Peak in Central Otago

pic coronetpk site

Our team installed several linked stations in the area at that time. One was located at Arrowtown, a picturesque village which, in the 1860's was a gold mining town. We installed a micro-power repeater on a small hill. I found myself tuning it up while a colleague was relaying picture observations from the village via radio-telephone.

Mt Egmont (Taranaki)

pic egmont site

Another spectacular high site is on Mt Egmont (Taranaki). Parts of the track to the site are very steep and because of the alpine conditions, one section is in raised concrete and another has heavy duty chicken wire laid down. The steep bits are referred to as 'the puffer' because vehicles do have some difficulty. At the time we were installing the TV2 transmitter in the 1980's, the truck carrying the equipment went up at walking pace, taking most of the day, both due to the steepness and because the sharp turns carried the danger of falling off 'the puffer'.

Retrofitting NICAM

Between 1986 and 1998, several of the broadcast TV stations were converted to NICAM stereo. This process could not happen fast enough for some viewers and there was pressure on the broadcasters to make it happen. However, this was quite an expensive proposition. Apart from the cost of linking the stereo signals to each transmitter site, the cost of converting transmitters was high. The transmitter part was where I was involved. We had to install the NICAM modulators, modify the transmitter vision modulators to extract reference frequencies, add the FM and NICAM together at I.F, install sound linearity correctors and finally modify the vision/sound combiners. Then, adjust levels and tune the correctors.

One of the more demanding challenges occurred at a site near Timaru in the South Island. One of the TV transmitters operated at a Band 1 frequency. When we attempted to modify the vision/sound combiner resonators, the tuning range was insufficient. This was due to the change needed being a high percentage of the overall frequency. Being ingenious Kiwi's, we stripped down the cavity resonators; there were two; each about the same height as a 44 gal(200 litre) drum, but a little less in diameter. After hacksawing off the resonators we found that the tuning could be adjusted correctly but not the bandwidth. To increase the sound bandwidth, we re-deployed two other resonators within the combiner and tuned them to make a double-tuned system. The other resonators were there to reject unwanted intermodulation frequencies. However, these resonators needed some major mechanical modification. So, we packed them into the vehicle and took them off-site to an engineering shop in Timaru. Needless to say the shop engineers had not seen this kind of thing before, but rose to the challenge and were able to make the new pieces within a day. Now we had a system passband that was sufficient. Finally, we had to find a way to reject the intermodulation products. We made a cable notch filter made from LDF4/50 coaxial cable. This was coiled up inside the combiner frame. All this took several days but finally we had a working NICAM transmitter.

Singapore NICAM

The SBC team at Bukit Batok in 1990

pic SBC team

In 1990, the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation had found out we had successfully modified Marconi B7000 transmitters for NICAM. They had two of these and contracted us to do the job. I led that project with my esteemed colleague; Campbell Maclean.

Campbell and I spent 3 weeks in Singapore at the TV site in Bukit Batok. We enjoyed our time in Singapore. People were friendly and helpful and there is a well run public rail system around the island. The only uncomfortable part was the heat and humidity. To us, hot was anything over 25 degrees C. Singapore was a nearly constant 32 degrees and 90% humidity. At the transmitter site, things were even worse. The transmitter hall where we needed to work was not air-conditioned. The adjacent control room was and so we took a 15 minute break every hour to avoid dehydration. The local staff were very helpful and took pity on our discomfort. They brought in a HUGE stand fan and turned it on. It created a massive blast of air which was most welcome but we were picking our paperwork out of every corner of the room for the next hour.

Consumer audio video testing

I started testing consumer level products before 1985. It commenced with TV sets, then VCR's and later we added stereos, home-theatre systems, CD players, DVD players and recorders and most recently flat panel TV's. The process comprises extensive technical measurements, then we assemble teams of people to assess ease of use as well as to give their ratings on picture and sound quality.

Working in the Anechoic chamber

pic Anechoic chamber

One of the more interesting aspects of the tests is when we take all the sound systems to an audio anechoic chamber to test the speakers. The chamber is a huge concrete bunker, lined completely on all 6 internal faces with large foam wedges. Even the ceiling and floor. One gets to stand on a wire grid suspended above the floor wedges. When the chamber door is shut, not only is it completely quiet but when you speak the only sound you hear is that which is conducted through the bones of your head. Ones own voice takes on a barely recognisable, eerie quality. There is very little sound reflected from the walls of room. When two people try to talk to each other, you have to be facing, since you can barely hear any of the other person's voice if they turn away. In practice, the equipment is set up in the chamber and the tests are made from an adjacent room.

Terrestrial Digital TV

During 2007, we designed and built a network rollout of digital TV for the New Zealand Freeview consortium using the DVB-T COFDM standard. The parameters settled on were FFT 8k, GI 1/16, FEC 3/4. This gave us a robust transmission system which would be largely immune to the reflections off hills and buildings which are responsible for ghosting on analogue transmissions.

DVB-T transmitters for Freeview

pic DVBT transmitters
My role included the determining of site RF protection needs both from and to existing services on each site. Each transposer site has a receiving antenna pointed at a parent site. It also has a transmitting antenna pointed at the population areas to be covered. It can be quite problematic protecting the weak received signals from the strong transmit signals especially because the two antennas may only be a few metres apart. The situation is made even worse in the cases where transmit and receive frequencies are close together. Most of the solutions involve specifying RF filters. In the extreme cases, we used 8-pole bandpass or 6-pole cross-coupled bandpass filters made by RFS Australia. Transmitters for all the sites were made by Rohde & Schwarz of Germany. High power sites use 1kW transmitters and smaller in-fill sites are running with 20 watt or 50 watt transmitters.

Since that time, further digital TV networks have been installed. SKY's 'Igloo' network utilising the DVB-T2 standard was launched in 2012 and a second DVB-T MUX for Kordia was established in 2014. The Igloo network is due to be closed down in March 2017 after SKY could not entice enough subscribers for the service to remain viable.

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