Tutorial: How to listen to your “local” radio stations on your computer December 28, 2009Posted by oktyabr in cross platform, listen to this, other cool stuff, screenshots, tutorials.
Tags: computer, desktop, radio, slimserver
Why? I know, I can hear some of you saying right now “just turn on a fricken radio!” Well, this method has a couple of advantages… one, it doesn’t require a radio! Two, it might let you listen to more channels, with better clarity, than you will get on your typical AM/FM, even some of those “HD radio” streams! Ok, ok, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) based on where you live. But, for an example, I live south of Seattle and using this method I can listen to any of 67 “local” radio stations from my desktop, most of which I would be lucky to tune in at all on a convential radio where I live. I would be interested in hearing from you that live in more rural areas too! I’m not sure how or why the software I will detail in this tutorial works the way it does but I’m curious to know how well it works in other parts of the world too. Let me know, mkay?
Let’s get started!
What you will need:
1) A computer with an internet connection (I’m assuming you have that covered since you are reading this!) and equipt to play back sound… you know, sound card and speakers.
3)You will need a free music server program called Squeezebox (formerly known as “Slimserver”). This server software is open source and there are pre-compiled binaries for just about every operating system under the sun including Mac, Linux and of course Windows. Just click that link, download the correct version for your computer and then come back here for the rest of the tutorial.
Squeezebox is, in itself, a remarkable bit of work. I’m sure you took some time to look over it’s features. Basically it’s intended use is to stream your personal music collection from a computer to a little device called a “Squeezebox” that Logitech would love to sell you, I’m sure. But it can do much more than that! It can stream music to any device capable of receiving streams. I personally use a Roku Soundbridge to play music on my home stereo that the Squeezebox software feeds it over my local LAN. Buy a bunch of CDs (or download MP3s from Amazon or wherever), rip them to your hard drive, tell Squeezebox where to find them and listen anywhere. You can even listen from *other* computers, whether on the same local LAN, at the office or even abroad. Too much stuff for this one tutorial so I’ll just say it’s one of my favorite pieces of free software EVER and get back to the subject at hand… how to listen to “local” radio stations on your computer. I should mention here that this same technique will let you listen to *any* internet stream of which there are literally thousands of… but again, what this tutorial concerns is listening to your local stations, or, at least the ones that broadcast online as well as over the air.
Click any image in this tutorial to see a larger version which should open in a new window!
I’m assuming at this point you have met all the requirements listed above… You have a computer connected to the internet and you know it can play music, even if they are just CDs you pop in the drive. You’ve downloaded and installed both the Squeezebox server software and a music player like Winamp. Ok? Good!
First thing first. Go to your “Start” button, “All Programs”, “Squeezebox Server” and select “Squeezebox Control Panel”. You need to make a note of the server IP address. In my case it is 192.168.11.11 and it’s on port 9000. This will also tell if you have it installed and up and running! Click the images below to see a larger size:
Next open up your music player and open “Play Location” or similar, depending on which music player you have chosen to use. Then enter the URL of your Squeezebox server that you noted in the step above and click play. In the screenshots below I show how to do this with Winamp. Other music players might do it differently but you should get the picture (sic):
Don’t worry if you don’t hear any music yet, that’s coming next! All this step does is setup your music player to play music from the server. It MUST be in this order! If you skip this step until later you may not get it to work properly. This step also establishes that your music player can connect to the server. If it produces an error like “Connection broken” or “Server not found” or something then we have more work to do. It’s tough to troubleshoot everyone’s computer but if you post exactly what music player you are trying to use and what error message it gave you I will do my best to help you iron out any problems. Most of these sort of problems are likely to be related to a firewall program on the same computer. Unfortunately diagnosing and finding the exact right cure for such a problem is beyond the scope of this tutorial but post about it anyway and I’ll see what I can do.
Next step (almost there!) We need to now open the server’s web interface. This is actually pretty cool… it will let you browse and select the channels (and your the music collection on your harddrive, if you set it up properly) from your web browser! You should find a little icon on your taskbar next to the clock, at least under windows that looks like the following screen shot. If you don’t have that (you are under Mac or linux perhaps?) then you should be able to open it the same way by simply typing “http://127.0.0.1:9000/” into the browser address bar. This assumes that the port “9000” matches the port in the Server Control Panel in the first step?
At this point you should have the web interface for the server open in your web browser. It might not look exactly like the shots below… I use the Flock browser almost exclusively ;)
As you can see you have many selections available. The one we are most interested in is under the “Internet Radio” selection called “Local”!
You should then be able to see a list of radio stations available to your local area! Go ahead and select one. Don’t panic if you don’t hear anything immediately! The server software takes a few seconds to sync the channel and then stream it to your music player. If you don’t hear anything after 15 or 20 seconds then try a different channel and see what happens.
Cool, huh? I’ve been running Squeezebox server for a few years now, back when it was still called “Slimserver”, but the inclusion of “local stations” is relatively new. You can find older articles I’ve written about Squeezebox by searching this blog for “Slimserver”. Feedback, comments and questions are appreciated, as always!