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Sound Hound music discovery application

Sound hound, making us look smarter than we should

Sound hound, making us look smarter than we should

For all of us that work at radio stations but are not programmers, Sound Hound great app for those “WTF is the name of that song?” moments.  As I get older, this seems to happen more and more.  These are either senior moments or I am just not keeping up with the new music today.  Probably a little of both.

To use the application, one can play, sing or hum the song in question and if Sound Hound can match the audio to a known song, it will return the song title, version if more than one and artist to your mobile device.  It will also provide links to lyrics, chart information, artist concert dates and Youtube videos, which is pretty cool.

It comes as a free version with banner ads.  For those of us that hate banner ads, a paid version is available as well.

I fooled around with this for a while playing songs from youtube club videos.  If the audio is not too distorted (some of those club videos are pretty bad), it will work.  It will also pick out live performances (and include venue and date if available), club mixes, etc.

Best of all, it makes me look like a genius to my kids.  Any help I can get in that department is most welcome.

More radio apps, then I'll leave this alone

Since I posted about Andoid phone apps for engineers last February, I noticed several others have picked up the thread and published articles as well. Good for you! I am glad that we can be of assistance here at Engineering Radio.

Radio World had a good article back in July on this subject.  I’m not going to link to it, just because.  I figured I’d add a few others that didn’t make the grade last go around, either because they didn’t exist, or I didn’t know about them.  I am limiting my choices to free apps for Android phones.

  1. Router passwords.  Often, very often in fact, the default password on any given router does not get changed when it is installed.  I found this app to be accurate and useful for speeding up various router tasks required in day to day radio engineering.  Things like opening ports for VNC, routing outside IP addresses to internal ones, etc.
  2. Navaile Electrical Calculator.  Great for National Electrical Code questions, wire sizes, breaker sizes, box fill, conduit fill, voltage drop, etc.
  3. RF & Microwave tool box.  Has handy calculators for filters, mismatch, return loss, etc, just in case those things need to be done by hand.
  4. GPS test.  Shows available GPS signals, gives time, location and accuracy in WGS84 datum.
  5. Shortwave Schedules.  Data base of shortwave schedules searchable by station, time, and frequency.
  6. Note pad.  Just what it says.
There are several other good ones, but these are the ones that I tend to use most often.

Comparison: Over the air listening on FM vs. streaming audio on Android phone

I have had my HTC Android phone for just about a year now, which is enough time to learn the device’s strengths and weaknesses.  I have done a fair amount of listening to audio, watching youtube videos and playing .mp3’s to give me some idea of the technical quality and operational issues.  Like anything else, these are general observations.  Some radio station’s streams sound better than other due to the effort those stations put into audio quality.

The listening test was done with a set of Sony earbuds, which sound far better than the small speaker built into the phone.  For ease in streaming audio, I used the TuneIn Radio application for Android by TuneIn Inc.  For this test, I only listened to FM broadcast stations, both streaming and over the air.

The over the air tuner is the stock factory radio in my 1997 Jeep Cherokee.  I would rate the radio average in every way.  The actual tests were done driving around on interstate highways and other major roadways.  There were a few instances where I had to give up on the Android phone due to traffic and driving considerations.

My Android phone has an FM tuner installed in it, however, it is really useless.  I get only local stations, and then their audio is all hissy and for the most part unlistenable.  The HTC FM tuner uses the headphone wire for an antenna, which may be a part of the problem.

Here is a chart of my observations:

Category evaluated Analog FM radio Streaming via Android
Overall Station Selection Only those stations that can be received Any station that is listed in TuneIn Radio App*
Varity of interesting programming Only those receivable signals which limits it to a few well programmed stations, the rest being garbage Almost unlimited, world wide*
Available formats Only those stations that can be received Any station that is listed in TuneIn Radio App*
Ease of use Can press the preset or scan buttons on radio without taking eyes off the road* Requires squinting at a small screen and pressing several little boxes to get to the desired station
Annoying commercial avoidance See above on preset and scan buttons* Very difficult to change stations quickly
Quality of sound Good to excellent, depending on the station’s signal strength* Fair to good, depending on the bit rate and network congestion, some stations sound very good and some can sound very bad
Drop outs Occasional picket fencing with distant stations, otherwise, non-existent* Varies depending on location, can be quite annoying, especially in mobile environment.  App also occasionally locks up and needs to be restarted
Expense Free, radio came with the vehicle, no paid data service needed* Requires data plan with smart phone, some plans cap data amounts, can be fairly expensive
Overall enjoyment Good Good

*Wins category.

I am having a difficult time assigning the overall enjoyment as well as an over all winner.  One the one hand, it was very cool, driving down I-84 in Danbury, CT listening to Howlin’ Wolf on New Orleans’ non-commercial Jazz station, WWOZ.  On the other hand, it was a right pain in the ass to get to that point, in rush hour traffic.  By the way WWOZ’s web stream is excellent, audio wise.

From a safety and ease of use, the FM radio in the Jeep wins hands down, I just don’t know how many more times I can listen to the same Led Zeppelin song on i95 (that used to be I-95, frankly I thought Steve Jobs copyrighted the lower case i).

The drop outs were also a concern, mostly taking place in on the section of I-84 going through Putnam County, NY.  I don’t know if my cell carrier needs to beef up it’s data coverage in that area, or if there were just a great many users on the network checking their e-mail, etc.

If they could sort out the ease of operation problem and get rid of the drop outs, streaming audio over HTC Android would win hands down.

 

Opting out of Smartphone Spyware

A while ago, I was extolling the virtues of my Android smartphone. I have to say, I am still pleased with the unit, having a mini-computer/camera/phone/calculator etc is handy. It makes life easy to find a needed part on Mouser.com, order it and get it the next day.  I can snap a picture of something and send to somebody in less than a minute.  When trouble shooting a transmitter, sending a picture to the factory rep cuts down on the back and forth and brings the effort directly to the point.

I have also blogged about my mediocre Pandora experience.  Now, it seems there is another reason to be weary of the mighty Pandora machine.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about what these companies are doing with your data.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks.

Read the whole thing, it is enlightening.

Is my Smartphone spying on me?  Apparently so.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of this.  There is nothing compelling or even terribly unique about Pandora.  I’ve found the Pandora listening experience to be adequate, but certainly not worth all the hoopla it gets.  Being constantly bombarded by advertisers selling all sorts of garbage is becoming annoying.  I’ve gone through and deleted all apps that access personal data of any kind, including Pandora.   There are a few which are hard rooted in the phone such as Skype mobile and Facebook which can’t be deleted.  Skype mobile can’t even be deactivated, as soon as the program is ended, it restarts on it’s own.

So, is Skype mobile recording everything I do and sending to some black hole somewhere?  I don’t know.  If it is,  it is likely boring somebody half to death as most of my life is pretty mundane.

Update: I rooted my phone, which was far easier than I thought it would be, and deleted all the programs I didn’t like.

TuneIn Radio

I posted previously about how to listen to radio station streams on an Android phone. In the time between then and now, somebody has come up with a much better way to do it.  TuneIn Radio is both a website for streaming and a mobile application for Android and iPhone users alike.

I have found that every local radio station that has a web stream is listed.  The major overseas broadcasters like the BBC, CBC, Radio Netherlands, and so on as well as all of the non-government US owned shortwave stations are listed.  As their website states:

With over 30,000 FM and AM radio stations from across the globe, TuneIn Radio makes radio local, no matter how far from home you might be.

Far easier than what I posted before. Further, this is exactly the type of service that terrestrial broadcasters needed the most; a concise consolidated listing broken down by genre and locality, to compete with Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm,  et. al.

In order to download TuneIn Radio, point your mobile web browser to http://tunein.com and it will automatically direct you to the proper download source.  Or one could search through the Apple store or Android Market to find the app.

Top ten free andriod apps that every broadcast engineer needs

I have been using my Android phone for about 7 months now.  During that period of time, I have found many useful applications and some not so useful ones.  This is a great time saver for technical people.  This list is by no means complete, I did not include any manufacturing or supplier applications like Digikey.  These are tools for the most part.  They are the applications that I have found that have made my life easier.  I focused on the free applications rather than endorse any paid applications.

This is a list of apps that I found most useful for radio engineering:

  1. VNC Android. Great remote computer control application that will work with almost any version of VNC server.   For logging into servers and workstations to fix things remotely, great time/sleep/gas saver.
  2. ElectroDroid. App has many electrical engineering calculators; Reactance, voltage divider, resistor ratio, resistor series-parallel, capacitor charge, ohm’s law, resistor of LED, LM317, voltage drop, and battery life.  Also includes resistor color codes, SMD resistor color codes, inductor color codes, various pin outs, wire ampacity tables.
  3. Metrics Converter.  A general units converter for metric to standard measurements.
  4. WiFi Analyzer.  Cool application that has a WiFi spectrum analyzer, shows all WiFi channels, signal strengths and router name.  Can show an * for open networks.
  5. Kreac Calculator. A full featured scentific calculator, includes all trig functions, roots, pi, log, e, ln, 1/x, etc.  Very handy for some quick figuring on the fly.
  6. RecForge audio recorder.  Can record .wav, .mp3 or .ogg in 8,11,22 or 44 KHz mono or stereo.  The audio can be stored in different folders and emailed.  Great for quick recordings that can be emailed back to the news room or studio.  Sound quality is as good as the microphone on the device.  My HTC mic sounds pretty good.
  7. Google maps.  Great for finding things, satellite views, etc. Use Itouchmap via web browser to find coordinates of a location by taping a map.
  8. Flashlight.  Self explanatory, three levels, good for emergency use, but I’d not use it regularly as a work light, it runs the battery down too quickly.
  9. Audalyzer.  Small audio analyzer that works pretty well.  If something more is needed, professional versions are available for around $5.00.
  10. Radar now.  Uses GPS location to generate moving weather radar picture.  This has come in handy when doing tower work during thunderstorm season.  Good for pulling tower crews or reassuring tower crews as needed.

Those are the free apps, there are many, many more available from the app store.  As far as iPhone apps go, I just don’t know because I have never owned one.

I like my smart phone the way it is, thank you.

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), in trying to reach a settlement with the music industry, has decided that cellphones are part of the problem. No kidding, the fact that smart phones like the iPhone and Android do not have FM tuners seems to be a part of the negotiations, even though the cellphone industry has nothing to do with music royalties.  The argument is, more people will listen to, and more importantly, buy music if they have an FM tuner in their smartphone.

I don’t know about that.

My HTC Android phone does have an FM tuner, it also has a metal detector.  I have found both the be novel applications.   Even though I work in radio, I have used the FM tuner twice.  Technically speaking, I find it to be adequate.  In order to receive anything, a pair of headphones or earbuds has to be used, because the headphone wire acts as the antenna.

That being said, I cannot count the number of times I have used Pandora or other online audio applications.  Several times a day at least.  Why?  Because the content it better.

If consumers want FM tuners in their cellphones, they will ask for them.  Cellphone manufacture’s will gladly comply, and make them.  The real problem is, most people don’t care about radio because most radio programming is boring and uninspired these days.  Let me paraphrase that:

HELLO, BROADCASTERS!  ARE YOU LISTENING?  YOUR PROGRAMMING SUCKS!

Offer a better product and listeners will return.  If there were a compelling reason to build FM tuners into cellphones, it would already be done.  Forcing the cellphone manufactures to do something they don’t want to do will simply drive up prices.

The NAB has led the radio industry astray for years now, we really should stop listening to them.

Remotes using a Smart Phone

I was fooling around with my HTC  Android phone yesterday and discovered something that has a definite use for radio remotes.  An Application called Hertz will record .wav files, which can then be transfered via e-mail or ftp to the studio and played back on the air.  The program is pretty slick, it allows sample rates from 8 to 44.1 khz.

I made a sample recording, the microphone in the HTC phone is okay, a better microphone would sound better.  After it was done, I emailed it to myself and listened on the laptop.  The email took about 4 minutes for a 20 seconds of a 32 kHz .wav file.  One could cut that down by choosing a lower sample rate.  I have found that 32 kHz it the minimal acceptable sample rate for analog FM.  Anything lower than that sounds choppy.

In another potential use, a news reporter could use this to record audio to save and transfer to a computer using a USB cable.  The recording time limit depends on the size of the SIM card and the sample rate.  Additionally, my HTC Android phone will detect and use WiFi networks, where available, for data services.  Using a WiFi network will avoid those 3G data charges and also increase download/upload speeds.

My Verizon plan has unlimited data transfer, so it really doesn’t matter what sample rate I use, your mileage may vary.

Couple the Hertz app with the VNC app mentioned previously, and a person could do all sorts of things remotely with a radio station.  The Hertz app is available for free download from the Android app store.

VNC for Android phone

With the advent of computer file storage and automation came the unmanned operation.  Unfortunately, what often happens with unmanned operations is somehow the engineer becomes responsible for station operation and ends up getting all the phone calls when anything goes wrong:

  • Traffic forgot to transfer the Sunday log and the station is off the air at 12 am Sunday morning.  Call the engineer.
  • Part time DJ didn’t read the directions on merging logs, call the engineer.
  • Widows has encountered a problem and needs to reboot, call the engineer.
  • The server has locked up, call the engineer.
  • Silence sensor, engineer’s phone number

I got sick of driving to the radio station when things got out of whack with the AudioVault, so I installed VNC on all the machines.  From that point, I could log on from home and see what the problem was.  It was great, when traffic goobered up the log transfer, I called the traffic director at home and had her go in a fix it.  Untrained operators, called the program director.  Unfortunately, I don’t have Bill Gate’s phone number, so the windows issues are still on me.

All of this was great as long as my laptop was around.  Being married, however, I had to occasionally listen to my wife, who insisted that we not take the laptop to diner or the movies with us.  There were those occasional times when it would have been nice.

With the purchase of the Android phone, however, I no longer have to worry about that.  Android VNC is a free app that allows an Android phone to connect to any VNC server application.  The user can save all the VNC connection information in the phone.  It has several mouse options including touch pad, touch pad mouse, mouse track ball, etc.  It connects to most VNC servers: incl TightVNC, RealVNC on Win and Linux, x11vnc, and Apple Remote Desktop on OS/X. 0.4.3.  Special commands such as ctl-alt-del are available through the menu.  It is also fully zoomable.  All in all, I can do almost anything with the Android phone that I can do on the laptop.  My wife is thrilled.

It is a time saver.

How do you listen to streaming audio on an Android smart phone?

Update:There is a better way: www.engineeringradio.us/blog/2011/03/tunein-radio/

Ahh, since I posted about my android, a few readers have emailed me and would like to know. If you have tried to stream audio using a smartphone web browser, you have found out that it simply doesn’t work.  The web browser is unable to decode the radio station stream because most of them are in AAC, AAC+, HeAACv1 or some other codec.  At this point, most people give up on the idea and move on. I, on the other hand, determined that it should be doable.

First, I attempted to down load a few apps, but they either crashed or didn’t do what I wanted or weren’t in the right language, or something.

Clear Channel has something called iHeartRadio, which is a clearing house for mobile users that want to listen to Clear Channel radio streams on their iPhones.  I don’t know, once you have heard one Kiss-FM station, you’ve heard them all as far as I am concerned.  Most other Clear Channel programming is boring and uninspired.

What I finally ended up doing was going to Moodio and reading up on a few things.  Here is a good step by step way to use Moodio to listen to radio station web streams on any mobile device.

  1. Be aware that not all data plans are the same.  ATT, Sprint, and others now cap data transfer and charge extra if a subscriber goes over.  Know your plan.
  2. On a regular computer, go to Moodio (http://www.yourmuze.fm/)
  3. Set up a user account
  4. Select from there list, the stations you want to listen to.  They have many US stations as well as many from Europe.  If the station you are looking for is not there, you can request that it be added.
  5. Select the default data rate.  Since I have unlimited data, I chose the highest rate for the best sounding audio.  Others may want lower data rates so as not to exceed data caps.
  6. Point your mobile device web browser to www.m.yourmuze.fm
  7. Log into your account
  8. The stations on your listen list will be displayed.

That is a lot of steps to take.  Somebody has to be very into radio or a radio station to do something like that.  A forward thinking radio station or group will be writing or paying somebody to write mobile streaming apps for their stream(s).  A forward thinking radio station or group would then feature links to these apps prominently on their web pages.  Very prominently if they are in a PPM market.  Ahem, very prominently if they are in a PPM market.

That is what a forward thinking radio station would be doing…

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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