Grateful Dead and Joseph Conrad. I’m fairly predictable when it comes to music to soothe by and literature that can carry you across continents to a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore.
“Ah, so you’re a romantic,” a computer guy named Seth Tillman told me once. He caught me reading, for the zillionth time, Lord Jim.
“What do you mean?”
“Conrad. You must be a romantic.”
I never thought of it that way, although now that I write this blog to the three or four of you, I realize that I am a romantic in one sense. I am no doubt a radio romantic. I do idolize and enjoy The Grateful Dead, and I do find comfort and intrigue in reading Conrad, Sherwood Anderson, Dickens, Thackeray and the lot of them. Dead white guys help me sleep.
But for true dedication and romance, I only have eyes for radio. I don’t know why that is. Last night – Good Friday – after dinner with wife Alexis and daughter Jackie, I couldn’t wait to get back to my “home studio” to try to broadcast live on the air.
I did it. Finally, after 13 years, I could speak from my den to the 400-foot tower in real time (if you consider a 15-second delay “real time”). This broadcasting from home is an accomplishment… but I’m disappointed in that the quality of the sound is bad.
Here, for the one out of the three or four of you who is a radio geek (that is a huge difference, by the way, from “radio romantic”) is why the quality of the audio that comes from my den is so poor.
Remember last time we spoke that I told you that I was trying to connect my home studio to the transmitter site using a Barix instreamer and a Barix exstreamer. What that means is that you produce an analog sound – think of it as “old” sound – and you run the sound via an RCA cord into a Barix Instreamer. Then the Barix changes the sound from analog (old) to a digital form (new).
Once the sound is in digital form, the sound of my voice or the music that I’m playing can be sent over the internet. That’s where it gets tricky. On the other end at the transmitter site is a Barix box that is supposed to pick up the sound digitally and then transform it back to analog (old) sound so it can go up the tower.
There is a weakness, however, in the Barix system. I’ve run into it many times. It is often difficult, mostly because of complicated computer networks and firewalls, for the receiving Barix – the exstreamer – to find the stream out on the internet. You can wind up with a huge headache after hours of trying to get the Barix at your house and the Barix at the transmitter attempt to find each other.
That’s what Christina and I did yesterday, spent several hours trying to get the two Barix boxes to speak to each other over the internet.
“Let’s try something else,” I said after wasting half of Good Friday. “Let’s send the stream from my house somewhere else and then have your Barix at the transmitter site try to find it.”
“That won’t work,” Christina said. “Sounds hodge podge.”
Ultimately, Christina’s partly correct and I’m partly correct. Here’s what we did – I sent the stream from my house to a place called Streamguys in Sunnyvale, California. I’ve dealt with them on a lot of stuff before. Then Streamguys, since this is their job, created a stream which anyone can listen to from anywhere in the world.
Now, if I haven’t lost the three or four of you by now, you can listen to that stream which starts from my den. I would just have to give you the link.
I gave the link to Christina and she plugged it into the Barix box at the transmitter site and we could stream from my den to be on the radio, not by getting the two Barix boxes to talk to each other directly, but by going through a third party streaming company.
Problem solved, right?
Not exactly. Yes, I can speak to northwest Indiana and a good part of Chicago from my den… but the quality is poor. And I can’t figure out why. I’m sending audio at 41kbps to Streamguys, and they’re sending it back out at 56kbps. Maybe that’s the problem – which I just thought of as I write to the three or four of you. I’m sending lower quality audio that is being restreamed at a higher quality.
But I don’t think that’s the problem. And the whole thing’s bugging the crap out of me. I tried last night to play some Grateful Dead from my den, and then I went to my car to listen to it, and it sounded faint and out of phase. Got any suggestions?
I doubt it. Most of the three or four of you like listening to radio but I doubt that many of you care that much about bit rates and IP addresses to comment on what I’m talking about. To put it into perspective, though, radio is changing in a hurry. And I love the change that is happening. Look at wjob1230.com. We embrace Facebook Live video and podcasting all the way through.
But sometimes you come up against technical stumbling blocks that you run through your mind over and over on a sunny April morning.
These are the kinds of things that a radio romantic thinks about on a Saturday morning with the wife watching TV a story below. There’s nonstop talk of nuclear bombs and North Korea. Who the hell would want to spend their weekend worrying about that when you can boil Barix boxes in your brain? Another Thousand Words. I’ll let you know when I fix this.