Changing automation

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Changing automation

Post by sgtsmo » Sat Oct 25, 2014 12:21 pm

Hello all,
I am currently working for a 4 station group that, with some exceptions, run SMARTS. We are an odd-ball in the group since we run the Linux based RSHD models, while everyone else runs the old DOS version of SMARTS. The main reason behind this is because the owner has been using SMARTS products since the early 1800's or so, so he is an expert (his version of the story), and he can buy all the SMARTCASTERS he wants on e-Bay. I am not a fan, but I can make them work. We began a couple of years ago bringing our station into the 20th century, and are now ready to join the 21st.
Recently he has decided to start an empire based around our stations model, so he has stepped out of the picture to become an owner and hired a new general manager. The new man is no fan of the antiques we have studio museum, and he has gotten the approval and some budget has been freed up so that we can work at being a radio station instead of playing at it.
Now, that being said, we have started our research into a better system. I am partial to the more open source systems so I tend toward stuff like Rivendell. (Tried out RadioDJ, but there are some issues I am not crazy about there.) Our new GM is a BSI man, and I myself learned Otto on Wavestation and WaveCart. He is really looking at using Simian and Gateway in our station. (There is a another reason behind this decision: the owners daughter is our traffic manager and she can only do 'Natural' products, which we can use in this scenario.)
I have been looking at the specs for Simian and I don't know of anyone who uses it. Just wondering what opinions I can get on it. Anyone here familiar with it. I am thinking that going back into the Windows world might be a splash of cold water for me. I am wondering if I can expect lots of maintenance? What about freeze-ups? Is it stable or will talent immediately do an instant unplug reboot, and then call me and say it doesn't work?
Just looking to get info that is not company based.


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Re: Changing automation

Post by TPT » Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:58 pm

Been using Simian for close to a dozen years now. We have three stations, two satellite format, one live 6A to 7P. Of course, every automation system made has a steep learning curve. But you only have a minimum of "DOS" type commands you need to use to set up certain features. Most routine operations are point and click, or drag and drop. Most of the problems we have with Simian are of the somewhat exotic nature.

For example: One station is satellite AC with news at the top of the hour. Not so simple as that might seem. We take the ABC news one minute pre-feed, replay TOH, followed immediately after their :15 spot with another 1 minute news feed from a state-wide news net, stored on an XDS satellite receiver. The problem? Getting the timing right so we don't chop the end of the ABC feed, or have dead air waiting for the 2nd state news cast. Proved to be minor set-up issue in keeping the system synced to a time-server.

1. Since you are using Natural Log you will have no problem in getting the two to play nicely together. Two of our stations are in one building, the third, (the live station) 20 miles away. We just e-mail the logs down, afternoon guy drops them into the system.

2. We also have Natural Music, which we presently use for scheduling music inside a syndicated morning show. The live station is on Selector at present, it's being converted to Natural Music.

3. On the two satellite stations, we use the Measurement Computing USB devices ( and a Broadcast Tools 32 GPI for control. One station runs classic rock off satellite most of the time, with Pittsburgh Steelers this time of year, with a USB-DIO24/37 used for the net cues & a second unit to drive a relay card that turns the console channels on and off. The AC station has a similar set-up, at one time we had to take a variety of triggers from three different satellite receivers during the week, hence the 32 line trigger device. We dropped the one show, but still need (and have) the capacity to handle triggers from a variety of satellite sources.

The consoles are Auditronics 2500's, which allow the channels to be remotely switched on and off. We have an R55E at the other station with the same capability, but have had no reason to use it yet.

4. The live station uses the voice tracking feature from time to time. We have a second computer in the control room running a production version of Simian they use to voice track.

5. Routine maintenance consists of defragging the hard drives periodically. The SoundHound database program tends to leave a lot of fragmented sectors which will eventually catch up with you. Your biggest headache will be satellite fed programs...9 times out of ten the problem is at the provider's end, but they will swear otherwise. Have found that if the net cue is too short the Broadcast Tools GPI may not see it, even though the satellite receiver log will show that it was sent.

6. You can run Simian on a variety of sound cards, but you will be happiest if you stick with the recommended ASI series cards. Simian uses the virtual mixer shipped with the card to do segues and fades. Most new computers only have the PCI express slots, so you will need the PCIe series of ASI cards.

7. Simian will run on most modern computers without much trouble--they should have a Windows 8 version soon. Since it is "dongle" controlled, if you have a portable hard drive backup of your music library & keep current commercial copy somewhere safe, a computer failure won't keep you off long.
Just load Simian on another computer, activate the dongle, load in the music library & commercial library, load the current logs and hit play.

8. What it won't do: It won't work in a server/work station system, so each computer must have whatever music or copy it needs for that station. You can, of course, network each station to a production computer & drop in new copy as it is done. You can even drop material in by remote access--our news director does this for his morning casts on the satellite -fed station, since he's 20 miles away at the live station. Simian will play MP3 files if need be--we get weather forecasts this way from a service.

I don't think there is anyway to have it e-mail you if it is unhappy--and if there is a power outage, it likes to come up at midnight on the log & start over. At least it will play something. We have silence sensors on all three stations that use the Sine remote control to call us if something goes awry. Simple matter to use remote access to get things lined up again.

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Re: Changing automation

Post by grich » Sun Oct 26, 2014 10:21 pm

Have you talked to Smarts about getting into their current Skylla product? GUI-based control, all Linux, can reuse existing RIDZ switcher and closure wiring if you wish. Might be worth checking out.

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Re: Changing automation

Post by sgtsmo » Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:19 am

Thanks TPT,
Great information. I will pass this along so we can plan accordingly.

Thank you, as well, grich. I have tried to get us upgraded to Skylla. George brings it up every time I have to call him. Dave Potratz has tried numerous times (he and our owner are old buddies). Still no go. I will keep trying, though. My pitch on that side is just that - our set up has minimal change.

Thanks for the info, guys. Now I need to go and see what the sports guys broke Friday night...


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Dale H. Cook
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Re: Changing automation

Post by Dale H. Cook » Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:46 am

I have several had clients with Simian and its predecessor Wavestation, and would echo what TPT said. Of all of the relatively inexpensive automation systems that I have worked with it is the most reliable and most full-featured.

By all means do some Simian PM monthly - defrag the HD, then delete the database and let Simian rebuild it. That will go a long way towards preventing problems.
Dale H. Cook, Contract Engineer, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA

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