August 2013
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I think I’m in love

After strenuously resisting, I have began to see the beauty of on line radio.  I have been a short wave radio listener since I was a wee young lad.  After many years of declining listening options, I have finally broken down and started listening to radio on line.  I am not disappointed.  Because I need my main computer to do things on, I decided that I should have an internet media computer.

I took an old dell PC and repurposed it as an online tuner.  This particular unit is rather old and once belonged to my mother.  It is a P4 2.8 GHz with one gigabyte of memory and had a bad hard drive.  It was completely submerged for almost 24 hours during the flooding following Hurricane Irene in 2011.  After examination, the BIOS battery was corroded and dead, there was some dirt and junk in the bottom of the case, but otherwise it appeared functional.  Even the DVD/CD drive worked.

Dell Dimension E310 computer

Dell Dimension E310 computer

The 19 inch Dell monitor was found at the dump.  It had the classic flashing power button with no picture problem.  I took it apart and found a bulging 1000 µf 25VDC electrolytic capacitor on the power supply board.  Replaced that and a few other suspicious looking electrolytics and it works as good as new.  There are several youtube videos on how to get a LCD monitor apart which were very helpful as it is not at all intuitive.

Dell 19 monitor, found at dump

Dell 19 monitor, found at dump

Thus, cleaning and repair work completed, I purchased a new 80 GB SATA drive and a new CR2032 BIOS battery then got started.  Somewhere around here, I have some Windoze XP CD’s which I was going to use to reload the operating system.  Then I thought, what fun is that?  Instead, I downloaded the latest Ubuntu ISO and made a live USB device.  I have messed around with Linux before; it is fun and full of geeky wonderfulness, that is true.  Ubuntu is a whole different ball game.  The software packages included in the 12.04 distro are pretty impressive.  It is very easy to install and get the feel for with out worrying too much about command line issues.  All in all, highly cool and highly recommended.

The one thing I will say about Ubuntu, it is processor intensive.  With 2.8 GHz of single core blazing speed, some of the radio station stream players were running 95-100% processor utilization.  Many of these are the pop up web browser units with the fancy spectral display.  The work around is to go someplace like and grab the .pls (playlist file) stream from there.

Screen shot, Ubuntu desktop, Audacious media player

Screen shot, Ubuntu desktop, Audacious media player

This is the Audacious media player streaming the WXPK HE-AAC stream found here:

I also listened to the BBC for a while, which was a pleasant change of pace.

Once the .pls file is in Audacious as a play list, just click on it to start streaming.  You can save as many .pls files as you want, thus Audacious can keep a list of your favorite radio stations.

This is a project in development.  The family is away on vacation and left me home by myself for a week.   Next up, I think I will get a 54 inch LCD screen and a VGA to HDMI converter.  Then, this will become part of the media center for the house, replacing the old CRT TV set and DVD player in the living room.  At that point; goodbye cable TV.  Boy are they gong to be surprised.

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8 comments to I think I’m in love

  • Scott Cason

    Logitech has a pretty good internet radio in their Squeezebox. I have two. One that serves as an alarm clock (pretty cool waking up to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 again), and the other is back here in my shop. The only time I listen to OTA radio is when I’m in the car or one of my clients has a problem.

  • Alan

    For on-air, you may want to check out Rivendell Radio Automation — a fully tricked-out audio storage/playback/management system running under CentOS Linux and totally free.

    It has a pretty good pedigree: Rivendell runs nearly everything you hear on Salem-owned radio stations, it’s the engine that drives programs originating from the Radio America network (Dr Joy Browne, Roger Hedgecock, Peter Schiff etc), and delivers Chinese programming in 11 languages via Radio Free Asia.

    There is a 64-bit “appliance DVD” which installs everything on a fresh or repurposed computer — the OS and the automation suite together. Look for it at

  • I too listen to streams online. Mostly I listen to music from – Content-wise, on-line streaming whips most OTA radio pretty much any time. But on-line requires so many layers of abstraction, complexity, and dependency even to function. Layers of complexity that are expensive and failure prone.

    I still listen to radio because it is Free, Anonymous, Beautiful!

    Free – I don’t have to pay a monthly bill to listen to radio, and the only dependency is that someone, somewhere is operating a transmitter.

    Anonymous – With the NSA analyzing all of our phone calls, and no doubt snooping all our email too, is it a big stretch of imagination to think that the government is not also logging and analyzing what we are listening to and watching online? Participating as a listener in OTA radio leaves no trace whatsoever.

    Beautiful – A current in a wire inducing a current in another wire separated by some distance. Encoding information in the way the currents move. Radio is in it’s essence so simple and elegant.

    I will enjoy online streaming (despite the government spying), but will also always listen to real radio even if I have to operate the transmitter myself 😉

  • In the early days of Internet music streaming, there were a number of really-from-Brazil Brazilian jazz sources/stations that were positively addicting; the best of them did seamless segues and were everything “beautiful music” tried to be and wasn’t. 🙂 …Er, IMO, YMMV, FWIW, that is.

    I really like your dumpster-computer project. I run mostly cast-off hardware from work, well behind the cutting edge. LCD monitors, though, are hard to come by that way: we keep them running. Opening them up is simple after the first one and just as you found, nearly all failures are from funky ‘lytics. Eventually the backlight lamps begin to fail and depending on model, that can be The End.

    Matt: It’s not just *The* Gummint, you know, it’s plenty of other ones and a whole slew of businesses. Which probably explains the “discount samba lessons” junk mail I get.

  • Oh, man I love Ubuntu.
    Currently on 12.04 LTS – it’s my primary machine now, the Win7 machine delegated to the wife.

    If you ever should have a boot issue – Press the button, drive flashes a couple of times and hangs – there’s a swell corrective tool (also based on a limited version of Linux) called ‘Boot Repair Disk’. Boot from the CD, and it’ll the program starts up on boot with an analysis asking if you’d like to repair:

    I must say, Ubuntu runs much, much nicer on 64-bit, dual-core CPUs, but I’ve setup a few old Dell and HP laptops with it as well. It’s a fine, good working OS.

    Mike Y
    Dallas, Texas

  • Paul Thurst

    I tried streaming video and it is a little balky. This is because of the slow processor. The original processor was an LGA775 P4 2.8 GHz Prescott running 533 FSB. I just bought a LGA774 Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 Conroe running 1333 FSB for $33.00. That and 4GB DDR2 RAM should make things much better.

  • Andy Soule

    I enjoy in my office.

  • In re “goodby, cable,” even though it’s a dedicated, non-salvage device, I’m very happy with Roku in place of my old satellite DSS service. Amazon Prime eturns out to get more than free shipping, there are a *lot* of films that are free, too, and the little gadget streams them nice as can be. The device and a year of Amazon Prime cost less than a month and a half of DSS. Downside, you don’t get all the science/history channels, but it seemed like they’d gotten to be mostly flying saucers and sasquatch with a side dish of weird takes on WW II.

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