Took a little bike ride after the show. Riding the bike is about all that I can do since the big rolling tire across the highway media incident. But thankfully I've got the bike, because it's a perfect day on a perfect trail and I ate the perfect sandwich at Grindworks in Griffith..
You'd think that since I was riding my bike I'd go full tilt and not eat while riding so I can lose weight. But that's not really in my purview. I prefer to live life on a reasonably full stomach... at least not an empty one. My daughter eats every three hours and she's thin as a rail. I'll try the same strategy. What the hell.
I rode to US 30 and tried to weasel my way through Pine Island subdivision to the Trek store to buy a satchel for over the back tire. You just gotta have a place to hold your phone, and maybe a turkey and apple bacon sandwich. Or maybe a batch of popcorn from Lady's Popcorn in downtown Griffith. I ate a sandwich at Grindworks, bought some popcorn at Lady's, and stopped to see longtime customer Dave Davila at Quik Scripts. He liked the carmel corn and the cheese corn and since he writes me checks he gets the popcorn. I bought a selfie stick off of him and we tried to use it to take a selfie by his new Porsche. But I can't figure it out yet so all you get is one second of video (below).
Last night Angel the radio station maintenance wiz helped me fix a couple of problems. Most importantly, we couldn't get the radio station to stream on the internet. This is a problem in that my brother in Columbus, Ohio, listens in the morning and so does my sister in Northport, Long Island sometimes. Every one else who streams matters, just not as much as my brother and sister.
Angel and I took the streaming system apart piece by piece. For those of you interested in the art of radio station maintenance.. first you find an out from your main mixing board. We're using a two-channel stereo RCA connector. You might think that this isn't right in that we're an AM mono station, and why the hell would you hook up two channels when you only broadcast through one... but remember, when you stream on the internet you can do so in stereo. In fact, listen to our stream either at my website jed.tv and our streaming at tunein.com. Both are in stereo and often sound better than the actual signal off of the tower.
The main difference quality-wise is that the audio on the stream is not nearly as cleaned and processed as the audio off the 400-foot tower of power. What does that mean?
What happens in radio... and all audio including music and birdcall recordings... is that you bring in all of your sound sources into a main mixing board... and then you send the whole mess to wherever you want it to go. Usually that's a recording device or, if it's live, a big speaker that will blow your ears out.
In AM radio, right before the transmitter shoots the sound up the 400 feet of steel, the sound goes through a bunch of machines that I only know about some. There's a modulator and a processor and an Arbitron monitor and a few other things related to emergency communication. It's really an impressive rack of expensive machines. When it's all said and done, by the time to audio reaches the transmitter, you get relatively clean, if not altogether deep, sound. If you're doing an interview and your voice is a lot stronger in volume than the other person's, the processor will bring your voices up to near the same level.
But on the streaming, you have to be a lot sharper on riding the mixing dials. If you allow your voice to go through the mixing board at a higher volume than that of the person you're interviewing, then that's what it will sound like to the person that's listening online. It will be unequal volume and they'll have to strain to hear the person you're interviewing. That's only part of the reason why I ride the dials like a Harley-Davidson motorcyle, constantly adjusting the speed and direction so that I don't fall flat on my ass.
(By the way, you could take the out and run it through a dedicated processor before you send it to stream. Processors are not that expensive, maybe a couple hunnerd bucks, but I'd rather just ride the dials old-school. Keeps you on your toes)
So the audio leaves the board... and then you gotta encode it. This basically means to change it from analog to digital and put it in a form that could be read on the other end by an instance of Shoutcast that's on a server. For a long time, we took the analog signal into a computer, which had icecast on it, and that would change it to digital and then send it to our streaming servers at Streamguys in California.
But really the best way I found to encode the audio for streaming for the small radio station is to use a Barix instreamer (about 375 bucks). You take the little metal Barix box that's about the size of an apple and you plug it into a router switch. And then you plug your laptop in to the same router switch. You put a pre-designated url in your browser and that will allow you to log into the Barix box. Once in the Barix box, you can set things like bit rate and compression and volume even, but really you can get away with using default settings. At least at first.
The main thing you're trying to do by being in the Barix software is to point the stream to where you need it to go. We have been one of Streamguys' longest-running radio clients. You call them, set up an account - usually for somewhere around $100 a month, depending on how many listeners you want to handle - and they'll send you a url to hook up to. It's that simple.
When we first started streaming, there was a lot to address in what kind of players to put on your site and on your blog and stuff. But in the past couple of years that's been simplified and pretty much all you have to do is copy a link and put it on your website and people can listen to your amazing radio.
We also direct a stream from Streamguys to Tunein.com. This is important. Four years ago, we signed up with a company called Boost Media to have our own, station-dedicated app. This worked well. You opened the app on your phone, hit "Listen," and you'd be listening to my amazing radio.
Then one day I called the Boost media number... and they closed down. Poof. I'll tell you that story one day but for now suffice it to say that you're better off putting your audio stream on your website and your buddy's website and aggregating sites like Tunein or Itunes. Screw that developing your own app stuff.
That should be enough about streaming for today. Last night, Angel and I broke down our streaming system and couldn't find the problem. Finally, we called Streamguys - they're in California so their tech desk was still open at 9pm central time - and the woman there said that sometimes Streamguys just has to start our instance of Shoutcast that sits on their servers.
Thanks for telling me.
It took her ten minutes to restart Shoutcast - since we're such longstanding customers it could have been years since it last reset - and then we could hear our radio station through the speakers on my computer and through the Tunein.com app on Angel's phone. In the art of radio station maintenance, sometimes it's simple shit like that - call the streaming service and have them restart Shoutcast. Who in the Sam HIll would have ever thought of that?