Sunday, July 27, 2008

Digital listening

- Digital listening

As DABDig, the application, has needed less of my attention over the last couple of years (partly because it already handles most of the recording possibilities with stacks of TV and radio kit - but mainly, I think, because there are much more sophisticated applications being shipped with modern computers that, for most people, obviate the desire to go and and find extra tooling such as DABDig plus the basic TV listings available in Microsoft Media Center and other similar applications mean that they are unlikely to find DigiGuide) I have spent some time getting involved with the technicalities behind internet radio - and indeed I even help run one.

I decided to post a few words about it here to see if it sparks any interest - and if it does, then I may well add more detail in the future.

How it started for me:
I have listened to radio via the internet for a long time - I don't remember when it started, but I suspect that extended hours of listening coincided with my first broadband connection at home back in 2002 (I was on the free trial being run by my cable TV company to provide broadband wirelessly, that ran for about 18 months I think - which sounds somewhat odd, but their old cable infrastructure in my area was not able to provide internet and I didn't want to have to add an extra line from a different telcoms company to get ADSL).
In January 2003 I released an update to DABDig to drive Total Recorder - so that it would be possible to schedule recording of internet radio streams from DigiGuide - because back then there was very little "Listen Again" or "On Demand" functionality on radio stations around the world.

Over the years I have had, and still have, various internet radio devices. In general, these look like regular radios or a hi-fi component (so get put in places that normal home PCs don't go - such as kitchen, dining room and bathroom) and are very easy to use for all of the family. I have taken an active technical interest in the technology and the communities built around them.
The first that I went for was the TurtleBeach Audiotron.
Sadly no longer available to buy new - but even now, some years after all support ended, it still stands up well against today's offerings.
This device can play audio files from your home computers or NAS but, via a facility called TurtleRadio, it could also play thousands of internet radio stations. This was playing most nights after we had the family dinner (music during dinner tended to be Jazz FM (when it was still just about a jazz station) or PlanetRock dependng on whose turn it was to control the DAB radio in the dining area).
After a few months of twiddling the dial to pick up different genres and countries from around the world - we ended up with a staple diet in the presets - FIP and FranceInter were always popular and remain so now, the world music station on RadioIO (RadioIO is still going but that station and compiler has long gone).

We were very happy with internet radio - and wanted (well I did anyway) to buy another one to put downstairs to augment or even replace the DAB receiver. TurtleBeach were rumoured to be making something new ... so I held off for many months to see what would arrive. In the end they announced the some updated models plus the MediaTron (same idea as the AudioTron) but could be controlled via a TV interface, including showing cover art. I was one of the few that managed to get my hands on one and have a play - on their booth at CES in Las Vegas in January 2004.

However, the device never made its way to the stores. Eventually TurtleBeach pulled the plug on the whole thing, not just the new models. So something else had to be done! I had already been researching a few other devices and had used the CES show in 2004 and 2005 to have a look at them in more detail (it was a happy co-incidence that I had to be in Las Vegas at the same time as CES for 2 years in a row).

So - what did I go for? More about that in the next blog posting.

1 comment:

Andy Cippico said...

Re. Jazz FM. Yes, I remember those days when they played real jazz, not the kind of 'smooth' morass of easy listening tosh it turned into.
btw, I've just started using DABDig and it is fab! Thank you!