Community Radio Project

2022-11-15 I am just adding a short update. I did get the 15w transmitter mentioned below yesterday. As far as I can tell the package was not opened. How strange it sat in US Customs for two weeks. I'd love to write a lot more but I am not up to it right now. Now I would like to know why they are missing from Amazon but I doubt I will take much interest in it now. Later I will connect a dummy load and test it to see if everything is functioning.

2022-11-09 It is perhaps too soon to be certain and I will update the outcome if it changes but I knew I had noticed something and it appears the FCC is working with US Customs to restrict the importation of radio transmitters that work on the commercial broadcast band. I assume these restrictions will only apply to Chinese companies manufacturing low cost transmitters. I assume the FCC will have a way for "legitimate" manufacturers to sell in the US. I suppose that "legitimate" means transmitters costing a great deal more and perhaps a lot more power. The various companies that I researched that just happen to be in China had units available up to 2.5KW which seemed to be "legitimate" to me. All of the low power units were quite affordable and a decent alternative for small community stations.
Here in the US it seems they will maintain an iron control over the spectrum. I have to admit that I did not used to care about this issue before as I was helping to build the net but my interest in community radio has made me realize this really is a free speech issue. The net has become a tightly controlled web of surveillance, censorship and control, anyone who has an internet "radio station" can and will be cut off whenever authorities decide to do so. There is no "data haven" as Bruce Sterling once wrote about. In this age, Bruce's supposition of such a cool place could not exist because they would just obliterate it from the face of the earth. Perhaps even anonymously without ever any clue which world power did it.
So, I have been ordering some spare equipment for the backpack radio station and it appears one of my radios (15W) is being held at US Customs. I ordered several products from the same vendor and the others arrived safely but the transmitter is still sitting in customs. I am waiting to hear from someone about the status of the shipment. It is amazing how open-source intelligence can work, isn't it? Of course this assumes that any one in the world reads anything I write. I don't really care at this point. It would be nice to know that my observations are confirmed.

So every day I can see less and less. I have been collecting a lot of music and audio books in preparation for the day when I can no longer do much more than listen to things. It is ironic that I should lose my eyesight, I always worried I'd ruin my eyesight, having spent many decades sitting in front of as many computer monitors as I could get using as many computers as I needed. The doctors have assured me though, it was entirely genetic and as they said "pre-ordained" … I have already said Goodbye to a few people who will never receive any email from me again and will revert to a state where you can reach me only by telephone or radio. I have been contemplating getting my ham ticket again before I lose all vision but I keep remembering why I discarded my first general class license. You'd have to know more about lmy life story to know why I did that.

So to summarize you can only transmit on the commercial broadcast bands if you own an expensive license and broadcast facility, and if you only broadcast the things that they want you to. I am sure anyone who is reading these comments knows the FCC has refused to license any more low power FM radio stations. They also made the requirements for operation very onerous for a small community organization or alternative journalist to meet. When things devolve to the point where these edicts are no longer enforced you will probaby be broadcasting using old car batteries and a motley assortment of solar panels and a wire aerial. Oh and you will be starving and will barter for ammo and medicines while perhaps trying to remain alive too.

Good luck to us all in this dystopian future, especially to the freedom fighters both online and in the physical world. - Terminus

2022-11-01 I was using a dedicated mp3/cd player by Marantz to play music but I have decided to replace it with a Raspberry Pi 4B with 8gb ram. I am creating a configuration that can be portable all to be powered from a battery. I am going to use a 15W transmitter, a small mixer and a condenser microphone all with the Raspberry Pi as the core of the system. The RPI 4B has a 400gb SSD which consumers very little power. The small mixer won't really be needed as the 15W transmitter has some built-in mixer. The computer is running the equiv of Ubuntu 20.x If I could see well enough I'd be writing a lot of code to handle mixing announcements into the music stream and actually schedule automated internet streams via cron. Oj well, as Gurney Halleck once said, "If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets into te sea…" Driving the transmitter with the RPI 4B the headphone port is set to 80% gain and I still had to crank up the mixer channel gain. So far, so good. The RPI4B with 8gb ram may be able to run any kind of radio station management system there are a few that work well under Linux. I can still see well enough to create a startup script that starts playing music at boot from the ssd mounted as /broadcast with various directories available. I already have about 400-hours of normalized music to broadcast with station id drops every two songs. That has taken a long time to create but it was the best approach. I had a challenge getting the Raspberry Pi loaded with the latest operating system but since I am using my Ubuntu Gnome desktop's zoom for visually-impaired and using the little system via ssh login I am doing fine. I installed the equalizer into the audio chain and it has made a tremendous impact. I still don't have it adjusted properly but it was great to remove all those muddy mid-range frequencies. I am trying to contact a vendor whom I purchased a new dummy load (300W) but it has been a month and they did not even ship it. From the volume of writing lately one would think I could write a lot but not so. Excruciatingly slow.

2022-10-23 I can see well enough to make an update using the best tools on the Gnome desktop (X-Windows and Linux) so here I am again. I keep an eye on unusual signs on the net when it concerns import items from China, initially 3-D printer pats from vendors on Alibaba and certain manufacturers. I anticipated much of the chaos that stemmed from CoVid-19 and all my import chains from Shenzhen China. Anyway I have always watched certain types of equipment available for sale. Those low power (5-15w AM and FM transmitters being one of those I had dozens bookmarked in my browser and would revisit their pages and mostly just wish we could legally transmit with all these very low cost units. Well of course, nowadays they are not very low cost.

That beings me to the point of this update. I have noticed that al the 5-15 watt transmitters are missing from Amazon. Instead, all those models now seem to be 0.5W and almost all of the listings for those prominently mention"FCC Approved" so there must be a behind the scenes crackdown on these transmitters in the US as none of them are legal to make use of inside the US and perhaps there is even more intensive pressure from the FCC within Amazon. I noticed that these transmitters are still available on eBay for the moment. The larger transmitters (50-500 Watts) still seem to be missing from Amazon as well with the pages deleted which is highly unusual.I was watching two different models from two different vendors. So something has happened and I believe it will become very had to purchase any low power commercial transmitter off the shelf soon… During my search on Amazon I saw that transmitter antennas are still available as of this writing.

Free Radio Berkeley still seems to be selling transmitters although they are hugely more expensive nowadays. If I could still see it would be interesting to see how to find some sort of opportunity in this secret transmitter embargo. It will be worth watching eBay to see if these units also start disappearing. I remember trying to purchase a high powered laser device once and US Customs seized it. I suspect something along these lines may happen soon to broadcast transmitter equipment from China. I recommend that you start accumulating parts and equipment before it is unavailable (here in the US.) I no longer speak out directly on many topic areas so the bare and carefully bland words must suffice.

The world has changed in so many ways, I can tell you that in my immediate sphere simply everything is different now in every way since 2018. I am sure many people would shrug and say that their lives are still normal. I guess those are the lucky few. I am already assuming that my view point is in the majority. I get to do that here but I believe it's something real.

Anyway something has changed with the availability of these transmitters suddenly at least on Amazon. I will be watching eBay to see if they follow suit. I have seen eBay in action before when they banned the sale of Li-Ion batteries (all my listings were removed.) .
I now believe that the FCC will never open Low Power FM Registrations ever again. We need all the low power community stations we can get. I shake my head in wonder sometimes about all these people who have "internet radio stations" thinking they have a free speech platform. You can be shut down in microseconds.

It takes more resources to jam or track and confiscate an RF signal albeit radio is localized by the principles of physics. Freedom fighters can always change the location of their transmission but the net can be controlled fully. As soon as your brand of truth is deemed forbidden your internet platform will be erased and everything you ever said or will say can be easily filtered. Oh my. I could tell you a lot but I cannot.

Those smaller transmitters in the 5-15W class are perfect for operating with a couple 12V deep cycle batteries and a portable mast that you can raise and lower quickly and an MP3 player playing your content. When the broadcast is done, you pack up and relocate. That is the only way any one will ever be free to broadcast it seems. As for me, those days are ended. If you broadcast illegally from a fixed location they will locate you.

So here we are it's 20+ years since the Millennium and life was probably much better back then for most of the world. How amazing to live in the "Dystopian Future" I am not particularly enjoying my own. I hope you are otherwise. That is it for now.

2022-10-09
Hey I am still alive and able to see well enough to make an update, albeit slowly due to spelling correction more than a normal person would have I suppose. I am very interested in an old book I had finally able to read. I must explain that the reason I could read it was I found a PDF copy of the book which allowed me to zoom in a huge way and read it slowly. I am very grateful to the person who did all the scanning as it also used OCR so I am also able to cut and paste text into Libre Office and increase the font size and then print some snippet in a much larger font. As an aside, you can bet I am desperately trying to develop ways to keep functioning. Another example is using the camera in your smartphone and take a picture of a label or some writing on a page and then zooming the captured image. The problem is not being able to see the controls on the phone that well. I should be making links to all the documents mentioned but it has become very hard to do things like that, even with the very user friendly CMS here at WikiDot.

The irony was I've owned this book a long time (I have three paperback copies!) and always mused about some fictitious freedom fighters in the hills broadcasting the message of freedom under some (again) fictitious repressive regime and then packing up their radio and moving to some new location to repeat as long as they could. Perhaps to let people hear the truth or to rally people in the face of tyranny. Just pretend that it is science fiction here, OK? So anyway the title of the book is "Seizing the Airwaves" and was published in 1998. The ISBN 1-873176-99-6 and you should be able to find a used copy easily as of this writing, anyway. So I looked at Free Radio Berkeley offerings for many years but never really had the time during my long career on the net. I always intended to get into this ever since I moved to New Mexico but never did.

Now I have a lot more free time it seems although I am going blind and may not be able to do a lot soon because I won't be able to see even with all the possible augmentations to vision that currently exist. I really could use that cybernetic implant that replaces my eyes… I would even accept Tleilaxu eyes! Too bad even the most basic of optical augmentations may be a long time into the future and it's all just science fantasy in the early 21st century. So whatever.

I am adding a 15-band equalizer into the audio chain I can't seem to play hip-hop without producing bad noises from my FM stereo receiver so I want to experiment. I keep looking for examples of equalizer profiles used by broadcast stations but no one is telling. I would like to see if the bad noise can be eliminated on hip-hop by (duh!) selectively diminishing certain ranges of audio frequencies .
I have kept the modulation levels under control seldom going higher than -1.0 db and everything was normalized as well so I am doing well with continuous and stable volume.

Used rack-mounted equalizers are not expensive and there are some really great bargains out there on professional equalizers. I am very excited to start testing an equalizer in the audio chain.

I need to get a larger dummy load, I have been looking to find one that is affordable at today's insane prices because I can't really solder anything any more. No possibility of creating anything myself any more it seems though I am still using a very powerful magnifying glass with a powerful set of led lights. It was provided to me bu the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Wow! I am officially blind. LoL (not so funny really.)

Anyway the FCC will probably never open the application window for any more LPFM community radio stations either part 1 or part 2 it is beginning to look like. The so-called LPFM legislation has basically been cancelled by the FCC simply not allowing any more registrations. I wonder how the various religious groups (Churches, Synagogues and Temples) were able to use small transmitters to broadcast their services legally. Did the FCC just look the other way during CoVid-19 pandemic?

I don't do any social media and I rarely read any online discussions, especially nowadays. I suppose some of this has been discussed somewhere. I might even look to see what has already been determined by folks.

So, as I have been saying this is sort of my internet "last stand" (Whatever happened to Len Rose?) Right. So rock on! I am alive and I am still standing as of today. Believe me, it's quite an achievement. My reward is continued life so I am winning.

The world has changed quite a lot in the last 5-years. I wish that everyone who ever reads this, the best of luck surviving the next five years.

2022-08-28

I have lately been exploring solutions for producing a consistent audio stream at the proper level at all times without causing distortion and varying levels on all the music. It has been a struggle and I have produced a lot of music that has been normalized using ffmpeg on Linux. However this has not been working all that well as we still seem to be over modulating the transmitter at times despite the "software processing" using the ffmpeg filter "loudnorm" I suppose I need to look into that further to see if there is an effective way to handle this using ffmpeg alone.
However I also obtained a hardware compressor / limiter instead. If this can eliminates the need to normalize a lot of mp3 files that will be a major advantage. I now have a DBX 266XL Stereo Compressor/Limiter coming soon, it is used and only cost US $100 including shipping so I am hoping to resolve this problem with an "easy and painless"fix.

Mu eyesight is failing rapidly.

2022-07-30 I added a new rack-mounted mixer (ART MX822) to the community radio station project replacing a small 4-channel passive mixer with an 8-channel powered unit. I also replaced the studio microphone with an inexpensive broadcast microphone on a boom with a wind shield and a pop shield. It was under $100 and is wired. The product also included an XLR M-F cable. The studio microphone is a condenser version and is powered bu the new mixer using the mixer's "phantom power" capability.

So far I have been able to connect (1) desktop computer, (1) Integrated Amplifier with USB and SD Card recorder/player (memory stick or an SD card), (1) microphone for live broadcast. I do not need anything else to be attached to the mixer at the moment but there are now a lot of free channels available if needed. Using Linux with the broadcast allows an incredible range of possibilities for content, guest interviews with skype or zoom capability, re-streaming archived news broadcast (or live broadcasts) and so on and so forth as the possibilities are almost infinite for any audio content.

I may be adding a second sound card to the linux machine with another 4 audio outputs. To be honest though I am more interested in a minimalist configuration and there are currently enough capabilities without depending on a computer for the live broadcast and with the usb and sd card player it is easy to prepare unattended broadcasts with content and recorded audio clips in the broadcast queue.

Someday soon I will make a few pictures of the rack of equipment plus the antenna for the community radio station. It is running at 50W now but after some planned upgrades will be using a new transmitter soon at 150W when a new antenna is raised that can handle that much power. used to be a ham (general class in my teens) but I let my ticket lapse because … well am not going into that now… so my involvement in this project has been fun.

See also FM Transmitter Antenna (100W)