Friday, July 27, 2007

Updating Weedy Herbst's Great Parcel Radio Changer

Written 26 July, 2007

Updating Weedy Herbst’s Great Parcel Radio Changer

Shortly after I bought Pele I chanced upon a tiny little parcel filled with antique radios and stage equipment. There, for $200L, I bought a cute little Wurlitzer jukebox—the bubble machine those over 40 years old remember with some fondness. I loved it on sight.

I had some newbie problems with it—for instance, I set it to group, not realizing it wouldn’t respond to my commands when my Volcanoes Unlimited tag wasn’t active, and was as a result convinced for several weeks that streaming audio was broken in Second Life. But I got that sorted out, and proceeded to buy more jukeboxes. Wurlitzers are sprinkled all over Pele these days, and I’ve sold several to friends. (I’ve been a good customer, Weedy, in case you’re reading this!)

The Wurlitzer responds to voice commands; it will access streaming radio stations by genre (“/radio reggae”) or number (“radio 43”). It comes with an embedded notecard that contains the URLs for about 100 stations. This card can be modified to add, remove, or change the steam and station names.

There a nice variety of stations on the stations card, and most of them stream properly, but over time stations go out of business or change their URLs— and some were streaming at low bit rates, making their sound anything but robust.

And so, over the weekend I stood at the jukebox in the Pele Gardens and parsed through the channels, removing from the notecard stations that were dead or weak or that I just didn’t like (I mean, who needs a 24-hour sports station? [No comments here, please!]).

Then I went to and searched through the several thousand radio stations there and extracted the URLs for the various streams.

I sort of almost kind of nearly just about sort of figured this out last fall, but this time I was ready, having watched an instructional video I grabbed on the Internet (I believe I found it through Second Life’s website).

It was a simple process. I searched Shoutcast’s music stations on the website, then right clicked on the button that would have started the station playing on my computer if I had left clicked, and chose the Save Target As option. I opened the resulting file with Windows’ Notepad (if you click on it the stream will start to play), found the URL, clipped it, pasted it on the Wurlitzer’s notecard, and Bob, as they say, was my uncle.

I chose a variety of stations I thought I would like, and some I thought others would like, and some (think Macdonian Folk Music) just for the hell of it, cutting and pasting stations into the notecard and making sure they streamed. (I made sure I captured Air America, since that’s Sweetie’s favorite, and I found an all-Beatles station I was sure would please my friends Bill and Pam Havercamp).

When I had enough (are there ever enough?) stations, I copied the contents of the Wurlitzer’s stations notecard and pasted it into Notepad on my desktop, and dragged the resulting file to my flash drive so I could sort through the stations when things got slow (as they sometimes do on my job, but of course I would NEVER do my own business on company time).

I moved stations around, sorting by genre, and then moved blocks of stations so the progression would seem logical (classical to jazz to blues to country to bluegrass (I love bluegrass) to folk to rock classics to top 40 to alternative to world (being sure I got every Hawaiian station I could find, since I have a new-found affinity to island music) to dance to rave to trance.

Then, so we would remember the /radio number of that station we liked so much, I walked through the list, numbering the lines.

Back on Pele, I stood in the gardens and parsed through the stations, which I had pasted back into the Wurlitzer’s notecard, and fixed typos until everything streamed properly.

The I flew around Pele, putting the new stations card in the let’s see, one dozen Wurlitzers on the various parcels.

I also sorted through the genre card—and in the process I figured out why the rock genre has never worked: the command is /rock, and of course /rock causes my av to do the /rock /paper /scissors thing, which is on by default; the gesture apparently grabs the chat and the radio never hears it.

I’m betting the /rock genre command will work if I deactivate the /rock gesture.

Unfortunately, the names on the genre card can’t be changed (how cool it would be if Weedy had made that possible; I could type /NPR or /bluegrass or /beatles or /macedonian)—but the station numbers will make it easier for everyone in the Volcanoes Unlimited group to find the stations they like.

A while back I bought a HUD-worn parcel radio changer. The stations notecard gets updated regularly, but I’ve never used it. Perhaps I’ll try to come to grips with it. Or perhaps I’ll just pull out the notecard and add the stations to the 125 the Wurlitzer now plays.

You can find my Wurlitzers in both the most fashionable and the strangest places.

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