SATV Update Part 3: The Future

Our new Drobo SAN

As I write this, it’s been a year and a quarter since SATV hatched our idea for internet broadcasting.  We still had a few things to pick up.

Over the spring, I bought a GPS module for myself, for experimentation.  With some open-source software, I found that it would make an excellent, cheap time reference.  For less than $200, we could keep our facility timekeeping—our on-air timekeeping—to within 1/1000’s of one second.  Sal agreed, and we got a GPS module of our own.  I’m planning a  guide on cheap GPS timing in a future series of posts.

We’ve long been worried about our server storage.  We now have several terabytes of video at SATV.  We need a backup and data recovery plan for off-site.  While we figure out that, we got our first SAN, a Drobo B800i.  It’s loaded up with 14 TB worth of storage.  We plan on using it to backup both our video servers, plus our SBS machine and the backup DC it is paired with.

I’m well aware that we need something more for offsite.  I plan on talking with our city’s IT director (who, in an irony, was once my boss—I interned for her the summer after I graduated from Salem State College (now University)) to see what resources she may be able to bear on our problem.  She was the one who first asked about airing government meetings over the internet!

As a member of the Salem Commission on Disabilities, I’ve known for a long time how important TV coverage is to us as we conduct our business. Government transparency has been cited so often that the expression is clichéd now. But I have seen first hand how important it is and when Sal wanted to implement video-on-demand I jumped in with both hands and feet. 

We got a nice hat tip from the Salem Gazette for our efforts. 

This whole project has been a labor of love for me, and while I want to give Sal Russo the credit for our overall leadership, I’ve worked in the background to give us the IT experiences and resources that we all accept without a second’s thought.  Now, a thought about the future.

SATV receives its funding through a contract with our cable provider, Comcast, and a franchise agreement that our city has negotiated every 10 years for nearly 30 years.  In Massachusetts, at any given time, one of our neighboring communities will either be going through the franchise negotiations, completing the franchise negotiations or just starting discussion.

When I started this project a year and a quarter ago, Sal and I had been discussing the last of our payments from Comcast in our current contract period, and we decided on the strategy and spending that I’ve just described in the past three posts.

We are about to think about our future as an organization.   It’ll be a challenging and intensive process;  I was involved in our planning for the current agreement and it was a stressful time.  With our economic and political situation, I have not enjoyed thinking much about the future.

But it is here nonetheless.

I’m already planning replacements for several big-budget items, including our impossible-to-fix Inscriber.  I am well aware of Microsoft’s roadmap, and the fact that Windows XP will be completely out of support in 2014.  Not long ago, we needed two huge road cases to broadcast in the field.  They’re obsolete now.  We’ are thinking of a suitcase and a laptop.  If that.  Years ago I could not hope to have my own personal camcorder, but today I have a camera I can hold in my hand that shoots excellent HD video.  It cost me just $100.

Those are the realities that SATV and I have to adjust to.  I normally love working with technology—it really has been a labor of love for me—but it could be difficult and dispiriting for a while.

But we can’t argue with the results so far.  I hope we can be just as relevant tomorrow as we are today.


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