Monday, January 19, 2009

Internet Radio : update

Internet radio, for me, has turned out to be one of the most useful developments on the interweb, along with stuff like Skype and ... put your favourite web application here.

I have two internet radios; a Noxon iRadio and a Sangean WFR-20. The radios work independently of a computer, basically looking like a sometimes rather bulky transistor radio or table radio.

The Noxon iRadio was one of the first wifi internet radios available in the UK. I bought it about three years ago. There was nothing remotely like it available in the US for another couple of years at least. Stuff like satellite radio stifled demand here, although the US market is now discovering the benefits of internet radio - 15,000 stations freely available on your dial.

Hmmm ... freely available; more about that later ...

However, at the moment, the latest firmware is getting rather long in the tooth, although there is a beta-version available, but I can't get it to upload into the Noxon. One of the advantages of the Noxon is that it's a nPnP device and it can have some of its features controled via its own internal web interface. It uses the vTuner portal for access. vTuner is a pretty basic service with no user forum or similar available. It is also not able to access stations broadcasting in WMA, a problem if you like nice quality on the BBC. On the other hand vTuner has been pretty reliable.

One of the first wifi internet radios available in the USA was the Sangean WFR-20. This is a much more substantial radio than the Noxon and has a pretty good tone too.

Unfortunately the Sangean does not use nPnP, although the latest beta-firmware is working in that direction.

The Sangean uses as a portal. Stuff like favourites, streams and podcasts are controlled via the portal. Reciva also has the benefit of a lively support forum, although the forum software is pretty clunky and slow. Beta-firmware is available via the forums.

I also started for general internet radio chat and support. It's a bit slow taking off ... but who knows?

Internet radio does face some challenges though, in particular, geo-blocking and station flash-players.

Geo-blocking is internet radio broadcasters' response to rather dated copyright laws, sometimes just irritating - ie: BBC Radio 5 Live Premier football match commentaries blocked - but largely just plain restricting. Another problem is that radio stations will only play via a specially developed flash player application and stream, thus unavailable to internet radio devices and frequently associated with geo-blocking too. In other words, radio stations, and particularly US stations are determined to chain us to our computers.

Hopefully there will be a way around this.