Friday, October 17, 2003

Some technical info on using a wifi connection to stream your stations signal: Stick with 802.11G

We had weeks of problems with the B protocol, we finally got a G router and a G card (internal PCI card for a PC) and it's working wonderfully.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

CORRECTION CORRECTION.. I said in a recent post.

That is WRONG

Is it DIYmedia.NET - Best damn site on media freedom around. Check it out. You won't regret it.

Say it over and over Monk DIYmedia.NET .NET .NET .NET

Ok.. I feel better now. Sorry John.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Now here's a new one... the transmitter, running at about 150 watts, IF you put it close enough to the WIFI connection running into the computer, can KILL that WIFI connection. The STL (studio Transmitter Link) setup we have sits crammed into one of those rubbermaid porch storage unit things. The one's that fit in a corner.. so it's SMALL inside... not alot of room (but it's waterproof when you put a tarp over it and they're cheap). More room would be good, but we just don't have it.

Carl Nimbus finally isolated it to this.

What do you do then? Sparky, our engineer, says create loops (3, about the size of 4 fingers wide) running into all your gear with any wires. Particularly the antenna into the transmitter (and at the base of the antenna.. which you should do anyway). This acts as a trap for the electromagnetics flying around and helps keep the area cleaner of 'spray'. We haven't implemented it yet, but once we try it.. we'll see if it works and let you know here.
My buddy John Anderson from sent this email to me (see my comments following his email)- Just so anyone reading this blog knows... if you email me regarding this blog and it's contents, it's fair game for use in this blog. Email from John Anderson:

Ah, my zealous one. there is too a value in so-called "vanity radio."
Please do remember that not all may aspire to the level of
sophistication that you do in station operation, nor are all willing to
take the risks of such unabashed operations. That does not, however,
make such hit-n-run type stations less valuable.

***They demonstrate the technology and the fact that this form of civil
disobedience is pretty damn easy and can be done by just about

That is valuable. So, it might not reflect a depth and breadth of "the
community," and the size of the audience is (generally) smaller, but
that's the drawbacks of limited operation. Given the choice of all or
nothing, I would of course choose all.

Thankfully, that is a fictitious choice - there is a "some" in between,
and that is the so-called "vanity station," and there are a lot more of
those types of pirates out there than there are the likes of you. In my
mind it's all part of a movement, so dissin' comrades doesn't seem cool
to me.

I am all for folks assuming the level of risk they are comfortable
with. Some sets of circumstances (like, say, a sense of fiscal
autonomy) allow for the taking of greater risks. It is the taking of
the risk that is paramount. The duration of the broadcast is secondary.

I would like to see a distributed-node time-sharing frequency model
developed - multiple hit-n-run pirates coordinate their broadcasts to
fill multiple hours on a single frequency. Station A fires up on the
frequency from, say, noon to 4pm, when they sign off Station B signs on
the same freq, going from 4 to 8, and then station C does 8 to
midnight. It would break the risk up into manageable bits for the those
less ballsy than you - and would also provide a heretofore-unseen level
of redundancy in case of official friction (provided there's a material
sense of solidarity between the stations), unless the FCC suddenly got

Anyway, yer blog kicks ass - keep it up, it'll make for a great archive
over time!


I think John is dead on right and if I dissed the vanity radio guys, that was NOT the intent. If anyone took offense, please accept my apologies now. Frankly, that's how I started. And the reasons where VERY simple: I couldn't listen to commercial radio anymore so I set up my own station, and I'd always wanted to be on the radio. No social agenda. No sense of community. No platform for local artists and ideas. That all came later. Where I started it was simple: Man.. this is fuckin COOL. And damn was it ever. Still is. It also happens, for me, to have a deeper cause and a broader intent now. But it started out as Vanity Radio for a guy in his basement for me.

Anyway, tiny operations of a few people (or even one person) are great and I agree with John that it's a big part of what pirate radio is about. One of our crew lives up in the mountains and has a little station he calls High Country radio. Great setup, tiny power mostly for him to listen to himself when he's working around the property, but every so often he cranks it up to 150 watts or so and blankets the mountains with High Country Radio. Some times he's there. Sometime's he's not. Like a ghost in some ways....That's part of what it's about.

I also really liked the distributed node time sharing frequency model idea in his last paragraph. If you've got several pirates in one area, that's worth looking into. It's also something we should look into as a pirate station. The only real issue then is finding a PLACE for those 2nd and 3rd transmitters (4th and 5th too... if you want to go on during the day).

Thanks for the comments and for keeping the record straight John.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Leadership & funding. Gotta have it, but, how do you do it in a way that works for a group that is, by nature Anarchistic in nature? And, almost always, volunteer to boot? There's certainly no money to PAY anyone in a pirate operation (at least none that I've ever seen).

We also have the added issue of KGNU, the local public radio station in Boulder. They live off of donations, and are NOT NPR affiliated (which is a most cool thing). IMHO, they're the best public radio station in the country. So, you can't really do fund raising without taking away from them (at least to some degree).

We've tried a few things, but on leadership we've found that the benevolent dictatorship works the best. The key word here is BENEVOLENT. And this really ONLY works with small (a few dozen, at most) people in a group. One person has to be in charge and they MUST listen to and be sensitive to all the other members wants and needs (and responsive to them). If they aren't it simply won't work. Volunteers just do not stick around for someone who's a simple dictator doing whatever he/she wants. The person in charge has to create a sort of platform that allows the members of the group free expression. Some rules, but very very few are needed. Ours are: show up for the monthly meeting, pay your monthly dues, no drugs, no guns and no one under 18 in the studio. That's pretty much it. He/she must also be completely and totally fair in everything. Even one slip in this area undermines the benevolent part and leaves just the dictator at the helm. He/she has to be moderator, mediator, judge, friend, confidant, mentor, and sometimes parent. It's not easy and there are times he/she will want to say screw it, I'll just do this alone or with a couple of close friends. That does work but it disengages you from the community and limits what you do with the platform. It now becomes a sort of plaything for the guy running it and reflects, pretty much, just what he wants it to. That's OK, but it's not pirate radio. It's vanity radio.

Regarding funding, if you set your operation up to be low cost (really low cost) you can usually self fund it from the staff paying minimal dues. We pay $25 a month per DJ/member. This covers our rent, phone, internet access and utilities. If we can do this in Boulder (one of the most expensive places around to live with cost of living prices similar to Northern CA.) it's something anyone should be able to do anywhere else in the country.

We suppliment that with selling T-shirts. Although we have problems with DJ's giving them away a bit too much (pretty much killing any profit) eventually we'll get that formula down. Then we'll add coffee mugs. ;-)

Saturday, October 04, 2003

So what kind of programming shoud a pirate radio station be putting on? I've heard that 'just music' is a waste. Somewhat true, but if you are putting on 'just music' with no commercials you're doing one hell of a lot to change the paradigm of radio. Commerical free music is something that you can only get by playing your own CD's and MP3's, or by paying $10 a month to a sat. based radio service (and you'll have to shellout $100 of more for new equipment).

So, 'just music' is powerful. Very powerful.

That said, once you've got a station up and running, you've now created an incredible platform for any kind of 'message' you want to put out there. Be it music that people don't normally hear, local musicians that don't normally get any kind of airtime, commentary on a broad range of subjects or news that's not mainstream.

A pirate radio stations got to use it's resources as well as it possibly can. Each station's going to be different, but I personally think that each group should designate a small sub group that's dedicated to creating local news that's specific to the community. A group that searches out issues that mean something to the people that live in that town or area. They should also work at creating a place for people with different (and not always popular views) to get those views out into the collective community discussion.

This may seem obvious, but it's not as easy as it sounds. It takes time and effort, and dedicated folks that do it day in and day out. You've got to find people that are dedicated to the IDEA of creating this alternative platform for news and commentary. Again, each station will be different- some will have a specific political view and leaning and will only create a platform for that point of view. I like the idea of creating a media outlet that's open to anyone who really wants to use it. This creates a promise of controversy, and can be hard to manage, but it's something that doesn't exist in today media world and it's something that's sorely needed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Van!

Ahhh the van.... We love this thing. An entire radio station in a van. We have a computer, big hard disk (about 1/2 the complete KBFR library), dual CD players, mics and mixer with a transmitter and 1/4 wave magnetic mount (for the roof) antenna running it.

We also have a wireless router that allows us to hook into the internet at several hot spots around Boulder. These are wifi based and we find them by driving around and finding open routers (wardriving) and by using wifi connections that listeners offer us in their homes or businesses (we just park out front and hook in wirelessly to the internet).

When we're hooked into the internet, we can stream, live, to the STL from pretty much anywhere in Boulder.

When we don't have a wifi connection (or feel like REALLY putting out a signal) we simply drive up flagstaff or one of the other roads that lead up into the mountains and fire up the transmitter (150watts). Man.. being 1000 feet above town is like being on one very big tower and our reach is incredible. That's one nice thing about Boulder. It's nestled up against some very serious mountains that go straight up.

The computer in the van is also capable of recording, so we will sometimes go to the show. We're trying to find bands that will let us broadcast them from their practice places (garages, warehouses, basements, bars and venues in town, wherever there's some good local music action). We've done a few but would like to get it to the point where we can do it at the drop of a hat. Carl and Sargent Socket are getting it down pretty well and, soon, I'm hoping we'll see weekly live broadcasts (either from the van directly, or via wifi/stream to the STL site).
If you're running a pirate station, in my opinion, one thing you've just GOT to do is create a platform for local musicans. Getting that PO box set up for bands to mail their CD's to is damned important.

We've also set up a room in the studio (which, in case you're wondering, is a completely legal 'internet' radio station). Several mics, a nice big mixer and a dedicated recording computer. This allows a band to set up and do a live show in the studio (which we record... something we call "Studio Free").

That signal is streamed out over the internet for anyone to listen to.

The broadcast part happens with the STL (a computer, mixer, wireless connection to a nearby 802.11b router in the area) and a transmitter with a 1/4 wave antenna up in a tree (the whole set up sits in an outdoor waterproof box). We log into the STL with WinVNC and simply 'stream' the signal from the 'internet radio station' studio.

Viola! Live band on the air... but the two are completely seperate.
Ha! listed this thing as something worth reading. I don't know if that's true or not, but now that I suspect someone might actually be reading this thing, I guess I'm going to have to write things with the thought in mind you might actually read it.


I'll get you for this John. ;-)

On another note- met with Carl Nimbus (who's acting sort of as the operations/station manager right now) and he's getting the studio part of the operation very nicely automated.

We're now running 5 PC with XP Pro with one machine acting as the primary server. We've got just under a terabyte of disk space (about 980GB) linked up with dedicated drives for the KBFR library (about 300GB) and drives for each DJ and for newly ripped CD's.

We use WinVNC to control the studio remotely (as well as the STL-Stuido Transmitter Link). It's working well, but we're still having some problems with the internet link. We have DSL in the studio and Comcast cable at the STL site and there seems to be a less than perfect sync between the two. Doesn't make sense, it's all IP based internet streaming- maybe the DSL company (Qwest) and Comcast just don't like each other.

So.. if the stream get's 'skippy' (regular dropouts) we now have access to a 100GB drive in the STL machine that lets us run a playlist from the machine that normally takes the stream from the studio or the van (more on the van and how it works in a latter blog). Using WinVNC, we can completely control the remote computer (and winamp's playlist). The only thing we can't do is go live on the mic, but it's ALOT like sitting in the studio, only the machine, and the transmitter, is several miles away. Works pretty well.