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Open Source w/ Low Power FM Stations

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the two-great-sounds-with-harmony? dept.

GNU is Not Unix 25

deacon brown asks: "My employer has just acquired the license to operate a low power FM station in the area (on a tight budget, of course). Because of our location, I'm the only local tech guy, so they might need my help setting this thing up. I can't do it at the job, but I'd LOVE to make Open Source work for this radio station, so I can keep the costs as low as possible. Does anyone have experience setting up, or operating, Radio stations? How should I go about getting information together, to have a go at this? I know they're some areas where I'll need to buy some hardware to do a job (mixers, etc), but are there software solutions like (e.g. the Linux phone switch) for other parts?" While there have been a few helpful articles on this subject, I think they more dealt with the hardware side, rather than the software side of the equation. What operations and infrastructure can you see Open Source handling in a small radio station?

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25 comments

Use emacs (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8195808)

Ctrl+R+FM launches the radiostation control plugin for emacs. Then your employer can easily play with programming by entering ./radio -s -L 56 -VSR /Loud \"Britney Spears.mp3\" GCC -Wall

and stuff like that

Re:Use emacs (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 10 years ago | (#8198929)

If I didnt have my trusty emacs manual around here, I'd belived you..

Solution looking for Problem? (3, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 10 years ago | (#8195863)

Why do you need software of any kind at your home-brew radio station? A simple hardware mixer, a microphone, and 2 cheap console CD players will suffice. Hell, you could even pre-record your shows to giant low-bitrate MP3s, and with a MP3-capable CD players, have a 4 hour show on 1 CD.
I guess you could use a PC to store the audio... but why??

Re:Solution looking for Problem? (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8195934)

Why? Really, why? Why is this story even here on Slashdot? Why not cover more important things like the fact that the Pentagon has scrapped Internet Voting today?

Re:Solution looking for Problem? (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 10 years ago | (#8196917)

Perhaps a little offtopic but I have to ask if anyone here knows why this is:

My DVD Player (JVC XV-S300) has RCA digital out for audio. No worries. Make great use of it. I threw in an MP3 CD the other day and there's no digital output. WTF?

I threw in a regular audio CD and out came the tunes... MP3 CD ... no digital out. Now I can understand then not spitting out the digital audio for an audio CD, but an MP3 CD? I already ripped the goddamned music!

Unbelievable.

Re:Solution looking for Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8197055)

Most DVD players say that they play mp3s but don't, at least the ones in my experiance.
Sometimes its the discs you burn on, use better quality discs. Or stick playing them through your computer.

Next time you have an off-topic post, post it in the poll section and you won't get modd'd offtopic, and (more importantly), more ppl won't be annoyed reading your problems in the wrong forum.

Hope that helps.

Re:Solution looking for Problem? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 10 years ago | (#8197907)

Digital outs expect the audio to be in a certian format. MP3s have just about an unlimited number of ways to encode them...there are different bit rates, CBR, VRB, joint, seperate, mono, etc. People want their DVD players cheap...so they don't have the processing power to convert them to some type of common audio format (usually AC3 or PCM).

Search for info (-1, Redundant)

mrobinso (456353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8195908)

Google is your friend. :)

mike

Uninterrupted Broadcast Daemon (5, Interesting)

Fascist (80604) | more than 10 years ago | (#8195946)

http://aboleo.net/software/ubs/ [aboleo.net]

The Uninterrupted Broadcast Daemon. Check it out. It may suit your needs.

CALL WAITING STUFF (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8196437)

http://freshmeat.net/projects/callcommander/?topic _id=247
Call commander does some stuff with call screening and management system helpful if ur into talk radio or a request line or waiting for people to call in to be the 10th caller to win a trip to Kenya

Sheesh. (-1, Flamebait)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 10 years ago | (#8196443)

Why do slashdot readers have to make everything difficult by somehow involving Linux?

As far as I know, the broadcasting industry has been fine without Linux for decades, and I don't possibly see how on earth a small-scale radio station would incorporate it.

As another poster mentioned, all you need is a mixing board, a couple of mikes and a transmitter.

Re:Sheesh. (2, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8196947)

not only that but starting a radio station is technically quite fucking easy, and the word 'fucking' has it's merit in there.

the biggest problems include the law, like having the rights to broadcast at all and then paying for the royalties.

on the technical side, while I was doing the army service(finnish army, mandatory - not for fun but the quickest way to get rid of it honestly is to do it) I had the privilidge of hosting/some minor techincal stuff on a a war practice radio(playing music that got interrupted every now and then by fake airplane announcements we would made up. sometimes I felt bad for the guys who were camping and listening to that stuff and supposedly ducking whenever we announced an airplane, not!).

anyways, the setup was real easy, basically we would go to a transmit tower to set up the command trailer we had our stuff in and then have some guy with clearance to attach the antenna attach it high(like 20-30m from ground or something, the antenna itself was like a 1m*1m thingy). then just attach the fm-modulator,amp, mixer, audio sources and mics - and voila, everythings ready to go. I'd imagine the most expensive pieces to have been the amp and the mixer, mixers can be had for pretty cheap though and there's some radio amplifier kits around if you can't afford a real one(again though, I'd think it to be pretty cheap compared to running costs involved). We had around 100w of transmit power and that was supposedly good for at least ~30-40km radius(fm signal).

If you'd use&trust the computer you wouldn't even need the mixer since you could mix your speech in with that, we started with using 2 cd decks, but pretty soon switched to encoding them to the laptop in mp3 and playing from there, that way we didn't need to be swapping cd's every 3 minutes(we used a cassette deck for playing out interviews though). We didn't need to pay royalties(special arrangement, we just needed to take up names of songs for 10minutes per every hour) so that made the thing quite smooth since we didn't need to care about the evil, boring, costly things involved in running a radio.

If you wouldn't need to worry about the legalese side of things running a station would be dead easy and cheap as well(the transmit powers are quite low, opposite of what some people mistakenly think, as said that 100w was plenty for a 'local' station).

Heck I sometimes dream about starting to run a pirate radio and plan on how I would have the transmitter on something mobile to avoid getting caught too quick, like mounting it on a van or something.
running a real radio doesn't differ _that_ much from running an internet radio(shoutcast), you could pretty easily use the easy tools made for that as well.

Re:Sheesh. (1)

phaze3000 (204500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8202261)

Heck I sometimes dream about starting to run a pirate radio and plan on how I would have the transmitter on something mobile to avoid getting caught too quick, like mounting it on a van or something. running a real radio doesn't differ _that_ much from running an internet radio(shoutcast), you could pretty easily use the easy tools made for that as well.

Obviously I've never had anything to do with pirate radio, and don't know anything about it. Someone once told me, however, that a common tactic is/was to find two tower-blocks next to each other, have the transmitter hidden at the top of one and have the deejay/mc in the adjacent tower block with a much lower powered link to the main transmitter or an IR link. But, as I say, I've never had anything to do with pirate radio, so I couldn't say if this was true or not.

Re:Sheesh. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8210956)

well we kind of planned a system with a friend once where we would have had multiple transmitters hidden at rooftops and we would cycle the powers seamlessly so it would be very hard to pinpoint one spesific transmitter.

ah well one can dream..

Open Source for WHAT? (3, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 10 years ago | (#8196498)

It would help to know what about it is presently automated via computers so that open source alternatives for the specific apps you have in mind can be explored. I put in 4 years at a medium sized college station (WUVT; Virginia Tech), and until the transmitter monitor broke down and got replaced with a custom IC board and software (because it was cheaper than buying a replacement) nothing at all about the broadcasting was automated. Without knowing what to replace with open source software, the question appears based more in loyalty than logic.

Places to start (4, Informative)

rueger (210566) | more than 10 years ago | (#8197233)

Open source has made some inroads into broadcasting, but not many. For the most part anything in a radio station will run on Windows or a more proprietary system.

The starting point is usually sound recording and editing. Unfortunately the available Open Source products are still a fair distance from matching the functionality of say Adobe Audition [adobe.com] or Pro Tools [digidesign.com] . Still though do check out Audacity [sourceforge.net] for a simple editor which can handle many tasks.

Beyond editing there have been a few people in Canada who have developed Linux based audio logging systems, and stations in many places who catalog music using Open Source software.

Automation is still the land of proprietary software, although Scott Studios [scott-studios.com] has been working on packages that run over Linux.

A good source for information (assuming you're a community radio station) is the member e-mail list for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters [nfcb.org] or either of the radio-tech [broadcast.net] or pub-tech [pubtech.org] mailing lists for broadcast engineers.

Finally, you might want to hook up with the Prometheus Radio Project [prometheusradio.org] , the leaders in community LPFM. Ask for Pete Tridish.

prometheus radio (3, Informative)

akb (39826) | more than 10 years ago | (#8197520)

Talk to Prometheus Radio [prometheusradio.org] . They help LPFM's get setup, they've done several "barnraisings" now that help the new community stations in everything from software, to RF engineering, to how to do community news.

A few volunteers associated with that project have developed some software called Flow STL [sourceforge.net] , which manages the link between the studio and the transmitter.

Perl! Perl! Perl! (4, Informative)

InfiniterX (12749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8197958)

I'm engineer for a college radio station, and just happened to have given a speech to my local unix users group on running smalltime radio with open source software a few months ago...

We're a 10 W station operating as a unit of a university. All of our servers run Linux, handling various things such as webcast encoding, playlist tracking (for FCC/royalty requirements), and our automated rotation.

Our autorotation runs 24/7 on a Linux box and simply feeds a channel on our air console, so when no DJ's in the studio, they simply switch that on and walk away. The S/PDIF output on the autorotation box feeds into our spiffy new digital mixing console.

The music rotation is run pretty much by a Perl script that simply runs in a loop, pulling songs off and enqueuing them into XMMS according to a genre-based schedule we've laid out. MP3::Info and XMMS::Remote on CPAN are your friends here. Plays are logged into MySQL.

We wrote our own in-house PHP scripts to run a web-based playlist tracker, backed my MySQL. I integrated this with some Perl/PHP-based stuff to talk to our Icecast server to print out on the playlist tracker screen just how many listeners there are.

We've got a Postnuke-based website, and so we've written a module to talk to the playlist tracker database to let people browse playlists online through the website. Pretty damned easy to implement.

I use RRDTool to also generate running graphs, so the DJ in the studio can see how many people were listening over the past two hours.

Icecast works great for audio, of course, and for running 128, 56, and 24 Kbps streams, Jamie Zawinski's got some scripts on DNALounge.com that handle encoding all three of these and makes it really easy.

We do have a few Windows workstations, and those are all managed through VNC.

I'm hoping that once I've got some of our software more ready for prime-time, I'd like to release it to the community for other people trying to do what I'm doing.

Hope this helps!

Re:Perl! Perl! Perl! (2, Funny)

unitron (5733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8199205)

Well, you're obviously the engineer and not airstaff or programming because you didn't insert the calls or the frequency in every paragraph.

Re:Perl! Perl! Perl! (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8200723)

You should create software packages (tarball, please) for your great-sounding glue apps, and share them with the rest of us. Or, maybe make a website with the scripts or a how-to guide. I'd be interested to play with it for sure!

There's a Video4Linux radio API... (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 10 years ago | (#8200123)

...wrapper in Ruby [ruby-lang.org] right here [rubyforge.org] . Could be handy down the road...

Typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8200155)


"...(on a tight budget, of course)."

Well, it wouldn't be an "Ask Slashdot" if you were not.

Existing software (1)

grunthos (574421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8202860)

I recently came across a page on software for running a radio station [salemradiolabs.com] being developed for Linux.

Looks like it has a fairly broad scope covering on-the-air broadcast management. It appears that it is already being used by several radio stations.

KWUR (1)

booch (4157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8206135)

We actually had someone come talk to our UNIX Users Group [sluug.org] about that very subject this past December. The speaker was Ben Oberkfell of KWUR [wustl.edu] . He's also president of the Washington University ACM chapter [wustl.edu] . He spoke about how they've set up automated DJing, play-lists, streaming, and just about everything else using Linux and some Open Source tools he built. It doesn't appear that we've posted the presentation on-line, but if you email him, I'm sure he'd be happy to send you the presentation and help you get your station going using his software. Finding his email from the above links is left as an exercise for the reader.

Rivendell Radio Automation System (1)

booch (4157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8218733)

I was just reviewing the December 24 issue [lwn.net] of Linux Weekly News [lwn.net] and came across this write-up [lwn.net] . It looks to be pretty much what you're looking for. The blurb:

Rivendell aims to be a complete radio broadcast automation solution, with facilities for the acquisition, management, scheduling and playout of audio content.
See the Rivendell home page [salemradiolabs.com] for more details.
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