Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sub Reddit for Pirate Radio

If you use Reddit, you know this little fellow well.

Did you know there is a Pirate Radio sub reddit?  Yep.

http://www.reddit.com/r/pirateradio/

I'm one of the mods.  It's been sorta dead, so, let's spice it up shall we?  Check it out, add some piratey stuff to it, make it your own.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How to set up pirate radio station in 15 minutes

Here's a post I put up on Reddit recently;  it's in answer to the question of 'what do you do that makes you stand out in a crowd of 200 random people.. prize is $1 MILLION dollars.  Theoretical, of course,  Anyway.. here's the Reddit post they wanted:



All-righty then.  It's really simple, but it took a few years to figure out.

First, I'll go over the list of gear I use for easy setup and tear down.  Obviously, get a transmitter.  I use the Broadcast Warehouse TX 150.  150 watts.  Plenty of power for a small town.  Here's the full list of ones they make:

http://www.broadcastwarehouse.com/fm-transmitters/60/cat

I use the 6th one down from the top- 150W power.  They go up to 1000 watts and down to 1watt.  UK based company, excellent products.

Next you need an antenna.  I prefer one of two antenna's.  The first one is an old pirate radio standby called a Comet.  Cheap, easy to set up, easy to tune.  Model number  CFM95SL 5/8 wave.

http://www.progressive-concepts.com/info/item.php?id=47

I mount it using one of these tripods (the base of antenna fits directly into the tripod):

http://compare.ebay.com/like/261030527237?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

Next, get a cheap laptop.. this is your streaming box.  You'll be streaming from a remote location (i.e. your computer at home or work where you're playing DJ), or even a netbook.  I like one with a reasonably big hard drive so I can store music on it that the system defaults to if I lose the internet connect (more on that in a bit).

You'll also need a small 2 channel mixer.  I like USB mixers because I get the best sound signal out of a cheap laptop from USB vs. the crappy audio outs they put on sub $400 laptops.  I use either the Alesis Multimix 4:

http://www.amazon.com/Alesis-MultiMix-USB-Four-Channel-Mixer/dp/B001T9O5VG/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1348455765&sr=1-1&keywords=small+usb+mixer

Or a Behringer (whatever you can get your hands one). 

USB mixers are easier to set up and tear down as well.

You'll need two M/F XLR cables (3 ft.. you're going from the mixer to the transmitter sitting next to it).

And, you'll need some 50ohm coax cable.  I would order it from these guys:

http://www.progressive-concepts.com/info/item.php?id=68

Depending how far you're putting your antenna away from your box of goodies.. you'll likely need 50 ft. and more likely 100 ft.

I use one of these yard storage boxes (often used for garden supplies, hoses, etc) to store the transmitter, laptop and mixer:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Rubbermaid-Large-Deck-Box-with-Seat/20681996 

3 bricks.  (seriously).

Last, you'll need a power strip and a 50 or so foot power cord.

So...put the laptop, the transmitter and the mixer into a outdoor storage box (this is the kind you use for garden gear/hoses, etc.). The laptop is hooked to the internet via wi-fi (provided by the 'hosts' home or business) and controlled via logmein or VNC.  The laptop also has a local library of music on it in case you lose internet.  The antenna goes on an light weight tripod that sites on the roof of a house or business. 

15 minute setup:  The laptop, mixer and transmitter are already mounted in the box  I just put them all in there on the floor of the box.  The box has a large piece of tape across the front of it that says "Ham Radio Repeater"  (this is for plausible deniability for the 'host' of the setup).  You take the box out of your car, you find a good place in the backyard to put it.  Usually against the back of the house.  You run the power cable to a power outlet (outside or in the garage).  You get the laptop hooked up to the local hosts internet via Wi Fi.

Next you take the Coax cable, and you connect it to the transmitter (through the precut hole in the outdoor storage box).  You then hook it to the Antenna.  You've PRE TUNED (message me if you need the brain dead simple formula for tuning) the antenna for your desired frequency so all you have to do is take the antenna, tripod and cable up to the roof of the house.  Find a high point on the roof, and set it upright.  Use 3 bricks on each leg lip of the tripods legs to hold it down in high winds.

Go back down, turn it all on.  Make sure you're internet connection is working and that Logmein or VNC loaded so you can remotely connect to it.  Make sure your transmitter is one and broadcasting.

Leave. 

The way you get content into it is by setting up a shoutcast stream and then just log into that shoutcast stream from the laptop via logmein/VNC.  Have local music in the playlist incase you drop the internet connect (it then just moves to the next song in the playlist.. I prefer old Winamp v2.91 for this).

Thats how I set it up in 15 minutes. 

Tear down is:  Go on roof, disconnect the antenna, take antenna/tripod down throw in the car.  Pick up the box, throw it in the car.  Actually, it's more like 3 minutes (we actually did this once WHILE the FCC was in front of the house, but that's another long story).

Anyway, I know it seems complex, and it sort of is, but it's sort of not as well.

Here's my blog on running a pirate radio station:

http://freemedia.blogspot.com/

Here's a wikipedia article on the station i started and ran for years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KBFR_(pirate_radio)

TL;DR:  Put a transmitter, a mixer and a laptop into a box, hook it to a tripod based antenna on a roof, hook it to the internet, turn it on, run away.

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EDIT:  Per popular request, how to find a frequency and how to tune an antenna (brain dead simple):

Frequency search tools

(BTW.. yes.. A Pirate Monk is also me).


Nice tools for frequency searches:
So you want to be an LPFM station operator?
Michi Eyre at REC Networks has a few (free) tools that could be of big help.
In the wake of recent FCC decisions, REC has been updating and upgrading its radio broadcast facility information tools.
Most important, perhaps, is the LPFM Channel/Point Viewer. It makes quick work of pinpointing what frequencies may be available and where they are available, sans interference considerations, in a particular market. The Google maps integration makes it fun to simply “look around.” It carries info on the top 150 markets.
Also available is the REC LPFM Search tool for drilling down with greater technical specifications and the more commercial (and more detailed) REC Broadcast Query tool.
 
BRAIN DEAD SIMPLE ANTENNA TUNING:
 
Every wonder how to TUNE that antenna for your pirate radio station to 89.5 or 103.9 (or whatever frequency you can find that's open)?  Here's a simple and highly effective formula I've used many times.  Works great.

Using a properly tuned antenna is essential for micropower broadcasting on the FM band. An antenna that is not properly tuned will not pass along your transmitter's power as efficiently as it could - and this leads to a general degradation of signal coverage.
Fortunately, calculating the precise length of your antenna is pretty easy to do if you follow these three steps. Get a calculator to help with the math:
1. To determine the wavelength of your signal in inches, divide 11811 by your transmitter's frequency in megahertz (MHz). 
2. Multiply the answer from #1 by the fraction of wavelength of your antenna's design (most antennas are 1/2 (.5) or 1/4 (.25)  wave; the popular Comet is a 5/8 (.625) wave antenna). 
3. The answer from #2 is the length of your antenna in inches. 
Try to fine-tune your antenna using a properly-calibrated SWR meter for maximum antenna efficiency.  A perfect SWR match is 1:1; in the real world, you should be satisfied with any SWR of 1.5:1 or less.  Radio shack has SWR meters, with instructions.

You can do it without the SWR meter though.  I have, many times, and the formula above works beautifully.
 


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EDIT #1:  Here's a link to several of the live shows we did on air: 

http://archive.org/search.php?query=venue:%22KBFR%27s%20Van%22

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EDIT #2:  Below are pictures of my current setup.  It's not set up to be mobile or setup in 15 minutes, but it works for me:


This is the broadcaster/streamer setup.  It has, from left to right.. A DJ monitor/keyboard, a Behringer USB mixer, an HP desktop with 5TB of HD space (about 400,000 songs), a studio monitor (there's another to far right out of the picture), then on the rack: a microwave (gotta eat) on top.. the below that... a fan, the transmitter, a netbook that streams 24/7 to my website, a small USB mixer hooked to the netbook and the TX and, if you look on the far bottom right, that's another 150watt transmitter (backup).

Below are outside shots of my mast and on top the Comet antenna.. second one is a close up of the antenna and the last shot is my personal workstation that I also use to do shows from (and the occasional podcast, under another name).








Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FCC opens up the air for LPFM

Now this is a big deal for the radio world. Maybe, just maybe, we'll get some decent radio stations on the air again.

Start your own low power FM station!

March 19, 2012

We did it! Today the FCC announced the biggest victory for community radio since we led the fight to pass the Local Community Radio Act more than a year ago. The FCC will dismiss thousands of applications for translators (repeater stations) to clear the airwaves for community radio. Across the country, hundreds of channels that would have gone to giant networks will now be preserved for our communities to use. This victory would not have happened without years of effective advocacy from Prometheus and grassroots activists. And we couldn't have done it without you. Thank you! (Scroll down to read our full press release.)

Today's announcement will help hundreds of local groups to build their own community radio stations for the first time. But our work isn't over. We still have another fight ahead at the FCC, and we are leading a grassroots campaign to help community groups apply for radio licenses and build their stations. Today's win creates a historic opportunity, but to take advantage of it, we need your help.

Will you donate today to help us continue our work?


Electromagnetically yours,


Stephanie Thaw (and the rest of the Prometheus staff collective)


P.O. Box 42158
Philadelphia, PA 19101
United States
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Opt out of all future mailings Prometheus mailings forever.
For Immediate Release


FCC Decision Opens Radio Airwaves for Communities Nationwide
New rules create opportunities for hundreds of new community radio stations

March 19, 2012

Washington, DC-- In a victory for communities nationwide, today the Federal Communications Commission announced that the agency will open the airwaves for community radio. To make room for a new wave of local stations, the FCC will clear a backlog of over six thousand pending applications for FM translators, which are repeater stations that rebroadcast distant radio stations. The decision will allow for the first new urban community radio stations in decades.

"Today the FCC has opened the door for communities to use their own local airwaves, and that will be transformative," said Brandy Doyle, Policy Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. "We commend the Commission staff for the care and diligence they have shown. We also wish to thank Chairman Genachowski, Commissioner McDowell, and particularly Commissioner Clyburn and her hardworking staff for their efforts on behalf of communities."

The announcement concludes the first hurdle in implementing the Local Community Radio Act, passed by Congress in 2010 after a decade-long grassroots campaign. The FCC is on track to accept applications for new Low Power FM (LPFM) stations nationwide as early as Fall 2012. Community groups are gearing up to apply for the licenses, which will be available only to locally-based non-profit organizations.

“For our migrant communities here in Arizona, community radio would give a voice to people who rarely get to speak for ourselves in the media,” said Carlos Garcia, Lead Organizer with Puente Arizona. "Anti-immigrant voices dominate the airwaves. Community radio can help us tell our own stories, share news and information, and get organized."

Broadcast radio remains one of the most accessible means of communication in the US, with 90% of Americans listening at least once a week.

"Radio is a great tool for reaching working people - it's free to listen, easy to produce, and people can often tune in on the job or while doing housework," said Milena Velis, Media Organizer and Educator with Philadelphia-based Media Mobilizing Project. “In Pennsylvania, we're facing big challenges, from education cuts to rural poverty to environmentally destructive shale drilling. We see community radio as a way to bring people together and create solutions from the ground up."

Low power community stations are non-commercial and cost as little as $10,000 to launch, putting these stations within reach of many communities who have limited access to other media outlets.

Hundreds of pending translator applications will be dismissed in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and dozens of other cities, in compliance with the rules released today. The FCC plan will preserve channels by dismissing translator applications that would preclude future community radio stations in certain markets where the FCC has determined that space for community radio will be scarce.

“We are pleased that the FCC has taken such a careful approach to preserving channels for community radio,” said Doyle. “And we’re particularly glad that the FCC has taken our recommendation to ensure that the frequencies set aside are in populated areas, where they are needed. This will make a big difference in San Antonio, Sacramento, and 12 other mid-sized markets, where stations too far from the city would have reached only tumbleweeds or farmland."

The FCC had stopped processing the pending applications in response to a 2005 petition filed by Prometheus and Media Access Project. The new processing plan includes several changes proposed by Prometheus to improve the outlook for community radio.

Also today, the FCC released a set of proposed rules for new community radio stations, asking for public comment on the proposals. That release begins the final rulemaking procedure which must be completed before the agency can accept applications for new stations.


The Prometheus Radio Project has been the leading advocate for low power community radio since 1998. Prometheus led a decade-long grassroots campaign to pass the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act, succeeding in 2010. Over its history, Prometheus has supported hundreds of communities in licensing, building, and operating their own radio stations.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to create a Pirate Radio Station

I recently was asked how to do this, with more detail, on Reddit. Here's what I put there (with some additional infos):

Transmitter, dipole antenna and cable $3000 Package here: http://progressive-concepts.com/info/item.php?id=812

Mast assembly $150 (base and poles):
Insulated pivot base assembly
http://www.ebay.com/itm/160748331985?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649#ht_500wt_1125
Military antenna mast support poles (4ft each X 12):
http://www.ebay.com/itm/120825971714?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649#ht_849wt_882

Guy-wire and stakes (home depot): $50

Laptop with USB Mixer and 2 mics
Laptop (any will do): $400

Behringer 1204BUSB Mixer $200
http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/X1204USB.aspx

2 Shure SM57 Mics with Stands (but any mics will do): $275
http://amzn.to/xSh1bs

This is all you need to get going.
Total: $4,075

If you want a really small antenna for stealth, go with this 1/4 wave $60:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/140695102306?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649#ht_2134wt_1114

The brain dead way to tune your 1/4 wave antenna is here:
http://apiratemonk.blogspot.com/2012/02/proper-fm-antenna-tuning-simple-brain.html

I have more gear (which is why I said $7800 on the Reddit post) but this is all you need to get on the air.

Remember that it's PIRATE radio.... against FCC regulations. In NJ and Florida it's against the law, but in the rest of the country, it's just breaking an FCC regulations.

The FCC has an enforcement branch, but they don't have alot of manpower. What they usually do is give you a warning and if you turn if off, they go away. If you keep getting busted by them though, you'll eventually get a fine (up to $11,000), but, they have no court to try you in other than the existing court system so they have to get one of their overworked lawyers to convince a court to force you to pay which they hate, so, they try everything possible to get you to just turn it off.

We ran Boulder Free Radio (KBFR) for 5 years before we stopped.

Here's a blog I did on my exploits:
http://freemedia.blogspot.com/

The story of KBFR:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KBFR_(pirate_radio)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

Kiss FM

Some places, starting out as a pirate radio operator doesn't get you BANNED FOR LIFE from getting license.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

REALLY low power radio: LPAM

Several years ago, when Sparky and I first started up KBFR/Boulder Free Radio in Boulder, we had several wacky ideas about STL (Studio Transmitter Link) approaches uses standard 2.4Mhz (wifi, essential) beams, FM microcells that hang off the side of walls scattered around a city and the internet as a backbone to feed tons of small 'stations' using part 15 rules.

Sparky just sent me this:

Can You Do a Lot With 0.1 Watt?

Looks like some folks in CA are trying some of these approaches for real.

Take a very low powered AM transmitter, hook it to a laptop with internet access, broadcast the stream from your radio studio to the laptop.

Now, do that again, over and over, across a high density neighborhood. Voila! A radio network!