Project: Radio DJ Automation

If I earned a nickel for everything I’ve ever created that no one else cares about I’d probably be about to earn another nickel with this next post.

Anyway, one of my many pet projects has been setting up a private internet radio stream.  I actually toyed with the idea for a bit of building a small FM transmitter and going full on Pirate Radio but I decided that the current state of media doesn’t necessitate the need for radio waves when the internet is right there just waiting with a much broader reach.  The real issue is that it mostly just reaches me.

The nice part is, I don’t really mind.

I plan to put up a little page for Lameazoid Radio, but I’m still fleshing out the details.  A few people know the URL of the stream (hint: stream DOT) but I have no idea if they remember it and I doubt anyone listens.  I suppose the question is, why would anyone want to listen?  Can’t you get the same thing from your iPod?

This question includes myself.  Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to just load up the iPod and let it rip?  I do have some answer to this.  For example, my iPod isn’t large enough to hold my entire music library if I want it to.  It also is incredibly poor at shuffling music in a meaningful manner.  The Radio Automation software I’m using lets me sort things into nice themed play rotations.  i can interject little funny clips in at intervals as well to help break up the flow. 

I also run a lot of Podcasts.  The problem with using the iPod for Podcasts is that when it’s in my iTunes library, waiting to be played, I feel obligated to listen.  If it’s out of my control and playing on it’s own I can forgive and forget the playout if I miss one or come in partway through and leave early.  It’s expected I guess with radio that I may miss something.  It’s basically a subtle psychological point that works behind the scenes.

Anyway, I’ve managed to work the kinks out of the automated updates on Podcasts which leaves a few other projects that I want to implement on the table. 

First, I need to record some promos.  I want to make a few music based tags and a few others promoting the shows on the stream.  This basically requires time and a microphone.

Second I need to finish fleshing out the lineup.  I want to run new shows 7 days a week at 4 and 7.  I’ve got both slots about half filled now.  I also would like to find another short bit repeating news segment to compliment Tech 5 which plays every hour where there isn’t a show right now.

I also need to come up with something for the over night.  It’s likely no one will ever listen in the overnight so just running music all night is the easiest bet but I do like the idea of having some sort of “programming” there.  I’m thinking of pushing some audiobooks or something for lengthy periods but missing part of an audiobook is worse than missing part of a podcast.  I’m also thinking of compiling together my longform Techno mixes and running those.  Also possible some concerts in order.  Basically I’m looking to run longer blocks of related content in the overnight.

Thirdly i want to add Live Reporting.  I’ve set up Skype on this PC with auto answer for known callers.  This means i can call in and it’ll pick up.  Right now doing this kills the stream audio and it doesn’t return.  I have some software (freeware) that I believe I can use to create a gate that will shut off the stream when a call comes in and then resume it afterwards.  This would mean if I wanted to do “live reporting (to no one) I could call in through Skype on my phone.  Or better yet, if say, the GNR crew wanted to broadcast live they would simply call into the Skype and it would play.  On top of this I want to set up Skype to auto record and possibly auto rotate these short news bits.

Finally, at least on the list now, is to set up an automatic “now playing” Tweet.  I’m not sure the best way to accomplish this yet though the software does support a now playing.txt that is used by Icecast to set the title.  What wil be more likely is I’ll set up timed tweets for the time each show starts, like on @lameazoid.

Automatic Updating of New Podcasts with Radio DJ

That has to be one of the lamest topics I’ve ever made for a blog post but it’s at least descriptive.

This is a short guide for users of the Free RadioDJ software who want to automate the process of adding new podcasts to the rotation.  This is mildly complicated but not overly so and it does require the use of outside programs to make it work.  For this example, I’ll be using the NoAgenda podcast.

The first thing you’ll need is a pod catching program.  I use gPodder but if you have a preferred alternative you can use whatever you like.  The key here is that the program needs to download the files into one regular location that you can reference with some batch files.

For those who are less familiar with the old school DOS environment and batch files, basically, a batch file, or .bat is a file which contains command line commands which will be executed in order.  It’s similar to making scripts in Linux only for Windows/DOS.  For simplicity, I recommend making a single .bat file for each show you want to run and naming them something like renameSHOW.bat.  I keep mine in the c: Root directory but you can put them in a folder somewhere if you’d like.  It’s probably better to try to keep all files in folders without spaces since DOS and the command line can get funny when spaces are involved.  This goes for your downloaded Podcasts as well.

To change the default download directory in gPodder, right click a Podcast and change the name description to one without spaces.  For example, if the default picked up is “No Agenda”, change it to “NoAgenda”.  For other programs you’ll have to figure this out on your own.

Next, create a batch file.  If you have file extensions turned on you can right click in the c: directory and do a “Create new –> Text File” then name it, for example “renamenoagenda.bat”  Alternately, simply open up Notepad, then save as “renamenoagenda.bat” in the appropriate directory.

Edit the file with Notepad or any preferred basic ASCII editor.  Add the lines shown below.

if exist d:PodcastsNoAgendanoagenda*.mp3 del d:PodcastsNoAgendanaradio.mp3

rename d:PodcastsNoAgendanoagenda*.mp3 naradio.mp3

You’ll want to replace the paths in this manner. “d:PodcastsNoagenda is the directory where the Podcasts are stored.  This will be dependant on your program and settings.  I have a second drive in my Pc where I store all the music RadioDJ uses.

“noagenda*.mp3” is the generic name of what’s downloaded by gPodder.  Each episode is something like “Noagenda-Episode-Date-Whatever.mp3.  They ALL start with “noagenda” and all end with “.mp3”.  using this will pick any episodes in the directory.

The file “naradio.mp3” is the file used by RadioDJ.  It is a generic file that RadioDj has in it’s list and it is of the type “Variable Length Audio”.  This will make RadioDJ get the length when it goes to play this file.  i use this format “radioXXXX".mp3” for simplicity.  For example, I’m also rotating FLOSS Weekly, which is called “radiofw.mp3”.  The key here is that the file CANNOT have the same starting name as the downloaded podcasts.  If I were to call it “noagendageneric.mp3” for example, then it would be picked up by the “noagenda*.mp3” call which would screw everything up.

Now, the essense of what this file is doing. 

if exist d:PodcastsNoAgendanoagenda*.mp3 del d:PodcastsNoAgendanaradio.mp3


This line says “if there is a file named noagenda*.mp3*, then delete the generic file.  I had trouble originally because I simply had the .bat delete the generic file.  This presents and issue if a Podcast has not been updated and there is not a new file to replace it.

rename d:PodcastsNoAgendanoagenda*.mp3 naradio.mp3

This line says “Rename noagenda*.mp3 to the generic file.”  This will create the new generic file that Radio DJ will use.  Also of note, this will “consume” the new episode.  This whole process requires that there is only one new episode.  if you’re clever this script COULD be adopted to create a series of rotating episodes.  I’m not going to get into that detail here however.  Essentially it would be a series of scripts that run daily.

Which brings up the next step.  You’ve created a batch file, now you need to schedule it to run using Windows task scheduler.  Simply set it up to run as needed.  For example, i run new episodes at 7PM, so i run the file at 6:30 PM on the day it’s needed.  The changes are essentially instantaneous so i could run them as 6:59 if I wanted.  I also have a short new segment which runs hourly.  This one runs at 4AM.

The thing that will sort of break this is if the downloaded new episodes do not use a regular file name.  Also if your Podcast feed isn’t updated in time.  The result hwoever will be that the generic file won’t change and an old episode will run in it’s place, so at least something should run.