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USB Dongle Records Web, FM Radio 148

rah1420 writes "Gizmag just wrote about "Instant FM Music," a USB dongle that plugs into your computer's USB Port and records FM and Web Radio stations. You can record the playlist, tag the songs for easy playback, all without that nasty DRM." Nice and cheap, although who knows if the software is any good. That would be a neat device to see hacked for things like MythTV.
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USB Dongle Records Web, FM Radio

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  • Why would I want a vacuum tube hanging out of my USB port?
  • Which is great. Except the local stations haven't modernized enough to use it. Whats worse is they have no intention of adding the data streams to their broadcast, since the local market is a) to stupid to make use of it, and b) too poor to buy new equipment that could make use of it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kankraka ( 936176 )
      I don't live in that big of a city (metro pop, around 1 million) in Canada, and every major station has RDS enabled. Hell, RDS isn't that expensive to implement so a lot of community stations could do it as well for relatively cheap. Most new cars are coming equipped with a means of decoding RDS as well, you'll see it primarily in GM vehicles.
      • by fotbr ( 855184 )
        While all that is true, the simple fact is I'm in the middle of nowhere, with populations that largely live in trailers and are missing teeth (I know I'm stereotyping, but there is a large amount of truth to it around here). They can't afford new radios, much less new cars.

        All the local radio stations are owned by one company (not even clearchannel) and they're so badly run that they don't even notice when their equipment is malfunctioning, and nothing short of an FCC visit will get them to fix it. There'
        • I hit submit before I finished the above comment, guess thats what I get for doing too much at once....so here's the last bit.

          Things are different when you're in a city with a metro area population of 1 million, and when you're in a town of under 10,000, and the two closest "cities" are 30 miles away and have 25,000 people, and the two closest real cities are 100+ miles away (I'm defining a "real city" as having more than 100k people).
      • Really? Only new cars?

        Are there just too many radio stations in the USA/Canada who haven't implemented it to make it worthwhile? Everything in the UK has had it for years.
  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:29PM (#16649865) Homepage Journal
    I understand why they're there, but much of what I listen to is on AM, and carrying around a Radio Shark just isn't always convenient.

    Still, I'd be able to listen to/record Car Talk and Fresh Air from NPR, and maybe the occasional show from Pacifica, so it's not entirely bad.
    • For me, it's not the AM/FM limitations so much... It's just the suckiness of the music. If you set this thing up to record each unique song played in a 24 hour period on one particular station, you'd have just 20 different songs. Radio plays the same songs over and over again. Once you've recorded one days' worth of broadcasting, you'd be set for the next month... or whenever the radio station refreshes their playlist.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )
        Which is why between my iPod, XM Satellite Radio, what I miss most is... AM radio!

        The iPod covers my music, while XM gives me radio like experience without too much repetition (though I can always choose *another* channel), without the ads and stuff, so they more or less have everything that's on FM already. All that's left is the local news only available on AM radio. Unfortunately, I've not come acorss any AM receivers for iPod...

        (Yes, I know of Sirius. But only XM has a channel full of movie soundtracks
      • yourexhalekiss wrote:

        For me, it's not the AM/FM limitations so much... It's just the suckiness of the music. If you set this thing up to record each unique song played in a 24 hour period on one particular station, you'd have just 20 different songs. Radio plays the same songs over and over again. Once you've recorded one days' worth of broadcasting, you'd be set for the next month... or whenever the radio station refreshes their playlist.

        Your only exaggerating a little bit, but you're essentially desc

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by DrLZRDMN ( 728996 )
      Around here, Pacifica is on FM.
    • I agree completely. AM radio has way more entertaining and useful content than FM. Of course, I'm one of those weirdos who likes talk radio instead of brain-dead Top 20 stations, so... Anyways, for recording AM radio, you can get a RadioShark, but I recommend that you think carefully and read my experiences [kermodebear.org] with it before making the purchase. Yes, it records AM radio, but the quality of the product in relation to the price left a bad taste in my muzzle.
      • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @06:12PM (#16650481)
        I'm glad I looked at your review, I was thinking of getting one, but probably won't.

        However, I thought I'd comment on this:
        "on the Mac systems you can record in AAC and AIFF. Why was this feature REMOVED from the PC version of the software?"

        I think they probably offer these features utilizing Quicktime API's, so I doubt it was "removed" on the PC version, I think it was just a piece of cake to implement on the Mac, letting Quicktime do the actual transcoding, where they'd have actually had to program something to keep this feature on the PC version.
        • Since it records to WAV, that's what I've done with mine. Combine that with a simple batch file that runs each of the .wav files in the output directory into lame, and you 99% of the way there. Sure, I'd like something that encoded directly to MP3, but this works fine.

          The PC software is definitely sub-par. You have to be an Administrator to run the software at all, although it will run through Run As.

          As the only device on the market, it's a take it or leave it thing. If you want to record NPR, there are
    • If you have a Linux machine that stays on anyway, buy a $10 AM/FM radio, hook it to the line-in, and tie sox and lame together in a cron job.... the downside being that you have to pre-tune the radio.

      For about $50 (if I recall), I bought a Hauppauage card with both an FM tuner *and* a TV tuner with hardware MPG compression. A quick bash script takes the arguments of frequency, duration, and destination directory, and does all of the tuning and encoding for me.

      steve
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      Bah, grab the mp3 feed from the colorado NPR station website. I record all my favorite NPR shows as mp3 from the stream with a simple wget.

      Let me know if you want more details, I can send you the bash script I use
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:30PM (#16649875) Homepage Journal
    came in to work and gave us one of these [silabs.com] a couple months ago.
  • by Em Ellel ( 523581 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:30PM (#16649877)
    As in This RadioShark [griffintechnology.com]

    • by JesseL ( 107722 )
      That thing is huge.
      • As I recall from owning it a while back, it was mostly hollow - no reason it could not have been put in a smaller case (other than there was no reason to ever do it)... most likely if you want "tivo" like functionality, you want it in an always on-stationary computer and if you have a laptop you were always able to stream the radio content from that stationary system (radioshark has built in net streaming). Of course after a while I found RadioTime [radiotime.com] and NPR web pages (from which I could download other radio
    • The RadioShark has some serious limitations that make it a poor purchase.

      The recording program has a limit of only 2 hours, and does not natively encode into MP3. The program's interface is terrible, and it doesn't tag the files it creates. Even though it was sold as compatible with Windows 2000, the updated program isn't supported in 2000, even though it works with it. There is no place for an antenna, they suggest using headphones for better reception.

      Audacity and an analog cable work much better.

      A

      • I bought a RadioShark just last month, and I made sure to update the latest version of the software from the company's website (the installer lies when it says a new version isn't available!). I had no problem recording Coast to Coast AM which is a 4 hour long program, although I do have a list of other complaints [kermodebear.org] about the product. Overall, I was very kind and gave it a C-. In retrospect it should get a D+, but...
      • by jdcope ( 932508 )
        I dunno, I love my RadioShark. The building where I work doesnt get AM reception, and I like to listen to local AM talk radio while sitting on my ass in front of a computer all day. I set up the RadioShark at home for recording, and I listen to the shows the next day. Yes, it only records WMA, but so what? I have to use Media Player at work anyway, they wont let us install anything else. As for the two-hour limit, its fine. I just set mine up to record two 2-hour sessions. And so far the reception at home i
  • What's wrong with streamripper? [sourceforge.net]
    • by JesseL ( 107722 )
      This works without an internet connection.
      This works with radio stations that don't webcast.
      • Hm, I didn't think of that. I've always got internet, and I can't even imagine limiting myself to local FM radio.
        • Hm, I didn't think of that. I've always got internet, and I can't even imagine limiting myself to local FM radio.
          theres lots of times when people have to travel that they cannot get an internet connection. it's ok in your cossy room, but for lots of people that travel using hotels etc, it's not possible to get that vital connection.
    • by user24 ( 854467 )
      i have no idea what's wrong with streamripper.. The funny thing is that I use it from my USB stick, in conjunction with a few batch files set up to record from a few of my favorite stations..
      If i'm on the move, I'll burn my previously recorded mp3s to my mp3 player, and if I have to listen to 5 more minutes of FM radio I think my ears may just strangle me.. why on earth would I need this device?
  • ... would be a neat device to see hacked for things like MythTV.

    I'm sorry, but I thought that several TV turner cards already had FM tuners, thus nullifying the need for this on a MythTV box.
    Or am I wrong?

    • I'm sorry, but I thought that several TV turner cards already had FM tuners, thus nullifying the need for this on a MythTV box. Or am I wrong?

      Turn in your geek card. With Linux, you can not only do the practical but the insanely impractical. You might be able to get the FM tuner on your TV tuner worker, but it takes a real geek to get a signal with nothing but a can of Pringles and toothpick. Think of the challenge! Come on, who's with me? I'm off to the store to get some Pringles.

      • by kfg ( 145172 )
        . . .but it takes a real geek to get a signal with nothing but a can of Pringles and toothpick.

        Yeah, that's a decent problem, but really only because the potato isn't fresh.

        KFG
  • Why? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Mullen ( 14656 )
    I understand it is a cool little device but what is the point? FM Radio sucks!

    If you want good content there only a few ways this gets delivered; iPod (or like device), Satellite Radio (Sirius for me) or streaming music off the Internet.

    FM Radio just sucks. In fact, I am dreading the next couple of weeks as my Satellite Radio is out for service and I have to listen to regular radio. It's going to be a long two or three weeks...
    • This thingy isn't HD, but... HD FM is CD quality. HD AM is FM quality.
    • Agreed completely. Who wants to hear Pink Floyd sing "Dont give me that do goody goody bull ____"? It ruins the artistic merit.
    • How about not listening to the radio at all? Surely having nothing at all is better than sonic death of the ears by listening to normal radio?
    • Two words: College Radio.

      FM Radio doesn't suck in totality. Just visit those stations to the left of the dial.

    • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
      FM radio sucks, but MW radio sucks worse. Once you get bored of the fact that the digits of the frequencies always add up to 9 (except on TV and in films, for some reason; I can understand using fake phone numbers -- there is no such STD code as 01632 or 01602 -- but fake radio frequencies ? Give me a break ..... on a PLL set, you'll only ever be at most 4.5kHz away from the right frequency, and on a continuously-tunable set you can always go straight to it) it really doesn't have a lot going for it.
      • by Detritus ( 11846 )
        Believe or not, AM radio can provide excellent audio quality. I've heard commercial and amateur AM stations that broadcast very clean signals, with very little noise or distortion. If you read the FCC rules, they do not limit the bandwidth of AM signals as severely as many people believe. The poor state of AM broadcasting audio quality is mostly due to cheap receivers and station managers that equate loud with good.
  • Wake me up when they invent a USB dongle that records FM broadcasts and then uses a Shazam [shazam.com]-like service to identify and tag songs automagically.
    • by JesseL ( 107722 )
      That doesn't require anything special from the dongle. If the radio station in question is using RDS [wikipedia.org], it may not even require a query to a remote service. Either way it's a software issue for the host PC, not the dongle.
  • USB Dongle's FM recording functionality revoked from "security" firmware update. RIAA spokesperson not available for comment.
  • Radio? Has anyone tried out one of these USB-stick TV receivers [google.com]?
    • Radio? Has anyone tried out one of these USB-stick TV receivers [google.com]?
      why couldnt you link to one of the products directly?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
        Because I didn't want to exclude the users of others by picking one. Googling for the name of a class of object is the closes we have to URIs on the Web.

        What's the problem?
        • The first 4 links in your google link were UK links, so I stopped looking. This seems to happen a lot - I'll check somebody's google link and wade through a bunch of crap, sometimes giving up. I tend to not click on google links much anymore. Either form a good query or find a useful link.

          Not that I have a problem with the UK, but tv devices for the UK are useless to me.
          • OTOH, had he linked directly to a US product, UK slashdotters wouldn't get any benefit from it; I'd say his approach was more generally useful, if less useful for you personally.
            • Slashdot is a US site, but that isn't the point.

              Many times a google link will have complete trash for the top several slots. A info-free "buy now" link, an expired blog link, and so forth. In any case, the top several links weren't useful to the majority of slashdot, and didn't seem very useful to UK readers either.

              I'd have put a few links to manufacturer specs or something. Google links are best used to slap down someone who apparently doesn't know about google.
            • I might have linked to a Froogle search, but I was just trying to clarify the "USB-TV" term I used in my post requesting people's experiences with such devices. The search results showed the kinds of devices I meant, so it worked.

              I'm amused by people complaining that my link didn't help them find a device they'd want, when I was interested in excluding people with that lack of experience from my request.
          • I asked whether anyone had tried a USB-TV device, and linked to clarify the kind of device I meant in case I was using an unfamiliar term (which I made up, perhaps serendipitously).

            I thought the risk was that someone without experience would just follow the Google link and copy back from one of those sites.

            The uselessness of my link in your finding a device you like is not my concern. Finding people's actual experiences with these devices is my concern.
            • I have a USB TV capture device that I'm somewhat happy with, but I don't know from your link what you're looking for. Maybe it's like mine, maybe not, there's no way to tell.
              • Is it a USB stick, like I said, and like all the results on that Google page, that sends TV data into the USB socket?

                My specs for this class of device are pretty loose, because I don't care about the other specs. Any device which fits in the USB stick form factor and sends TV into the USB socket is interesting. I don't care whether it receives VHF, DVB-T, RF/coax, or other signal sources, though I'm interested in which one it does. Just so long as its a USB stick that receives TV data and sends it into a US
          • And most of these devices also work in Europe and australia (and many others) too

            They'll all be free to air DTT (digital TV) - it's quite popular here, you know.

            Now that might make it 'a bunch of crap' to you - but should all links on /. work a) everywhere in the world or b) just the US

            clue - b) happens most of the time here.
            • That's why I'd prefer links to manufacturer pages. Anyone in the world can look at that and see what is being discussed. I didn't know if the OP was talking about UK devices specifically or if a poorly-formed google search just happened to return those at the top. One sponsored link (at the very top) was for a US device that does analog & digital, so there was some confusion.
  • Interesting picture...

    Something is broadcast from some huge antenna, then something happens on mac (and yes, this is PowerBook or Mac Book Pro), then there is some 3.5" usb key like thing and finally, things become iPods and CDs.

    So, how about this:

    * Is there support for Mac? The picture sure suggests so...

    System Requirements

    Microsoft Windows XP or Windows XP Media Center Edition Service Pack 2 or later ...
    Windows Media Player 10.0 or higher ...

    Oh, no...
  • D-Link had a USB Radio with software to do this a long time ago. It may not have been quite as nice, but it could have been and the software just recorded what came into line-in so any external cabling could fix that.
  • On the pretty picture they show radio going to a Powerbook, then to an iPod. Guess what?

    Requirements:
    - Microsoft Windows XP or Windows XP Media Center Edition Service Pack 2
    - Windows Media Player 10.0 or higher
    • There is another product called the Radio Shark [griffintechnology.com] that has been out for years that does the same thing. It runs great on MacOS X.
      • But be careful: RadioShark is not a very good receiver -- you are limited by the length of the USB cord, and with my RadioShark (which I'll sell you if you want! :-) I have great trouble finding a spot where I can get e.g. Car Talk reliably. Forget about weaker stations. YMMV, my house does not have great reception anyhow, and many are very happy with their RadioSharks, I'm just tellin' ya... speaking of which, I wonder if there is something like it for XMRadio/Cyrius or whatever... so-called satellite
        • There are USB extension cords available, assuming that you can find somewhere in your house that gets better reception.
  • Ummm...this is OK, but I think a WORKING mp3 Tagger would be far, far more helpful to most. Perhaps they could redirect some of their efforts into this truly needed utility?
  • On a related note, can anyone recommend a good device for receiving radio streams without needing a PC? I'd love to be able to wake up to British radio in the morning, but I can't leave my PC on at night because my wife objects to the noise of the fans (no I can't move it - we live in Japan - there is nowhere to move it - if you'd seen the size of Japanese apartments you'd understand). I think 3com used to make some kind of 'internet radio' device with a bizarre name way back around the time of the bubble
  • RIAA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bughouse26 ( 975570 )
    How long until the anti-innovation crowd at the RIAA comes knocking with a lawsuit? Or better, they'll use it as proof of why the broadcast flag is needed.
    • I don't think they will care to much about that. People have been recording off of radio for as long as they could record off of radio. Using a Tape/Radio Player to record some of their songs off the radio. Heck some made copies of the tapes and shared them to there friends. Radio Quality isn't that great and even with a good receiver it will take a lot of work to make the Recorded music sound professional. The reason for the Digital Music from the RIAA is the fact that Digital Music can be copied with
  • You should see what my dongle does!
    • by Peyna ( 14792 )
      After network card dongles went out of style I always wondered if there would ever be a time when the jokes came back.
  • rate above 2: A 5, a 3 and a two...

    funny, tho, slash image word: inundate
  • Joined up with crontab... Works rather well for the CBC for me...

    ---

    #!/usr/bin/perl

    $_ = `date "+%Y-%m-%d"`;
    s/\n//;
    $date = $_;

    $filename = $ARGV[0].".".$date;

    $sleep = $ARGV[1];

    $wavfilename = $filename.".wav";
    $mp3filename = $filename.".mp3";

    $command = "/usr/local/bin/mplayer -vo null -ao pcm:file=$wavfilename -slave -quiet ****INSERT YOUR MMS:// URL HERE**** > /dev/null 2> /dev/null &";

    system("$command");

    sleep $sleep ;

    `pkill mplayer`;

    `nice /usr/local/bin/lame -S $wavfilename $mp3filename`;

    `rm $wavfil
    • by tzanger ( 1575 )

      I *don't* like the pkill mplayer solution, but I'm still not sure to easily get a PID out of a process.

      How about

      kill -TERM `ps ax | grep [m]player`
      ? It does the same thing as pkill I guess. :-) I don't think mplayer spits out a pidfile anywhere, like most daemons do.
      • by TrevorB ( 57780 )
        What if you have more than one mplayer running?

      • by TrevorB ( 57780 )
        I've been thinking about this a bit. I'm worried that when I get mythTV running on the same box, bad things will happen if mplayers get killed willy nilly....

        Try this instead...

        ----

        #!/usr/bin/perl

        $_ = `date "+%Y-%m-%d"`;
        s/\n//;
        $date = $_;

        $filename = $ARGV[0].".".$date;

        $sleep = $ARGV[1];

        $wavfilename = $filename.".wav";
        $mp3filename = $filename.".mp3";

        $ps1 = `pgrep mplayer`;

        @psA = split(/\n/, $ps1);

        $command = "/usr/local/bin/mplayer -vo null -ao pcm:file=$wavfilename -slave -quiet ***INSERT MMS HERE*** > /
  • better? worse? similar?

Somebody's terminal is dropping bits. I found a pile of them over in the corner.

Working...