Tuesday 2 December 2008

Feelgood radio (1): Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion & Lake Wobegon

Feelgood radio (1)

An homage to Lake Wobegon. Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion is IMHO still one of the best programmes on the air. If you don’t hear it on NPR in the US, then BBC7 has an hour long version at the weekends that will give you a taster.

Then you will want to hear the full 2 hours a week from the PHC website, which has stupendous archive of past shows at:
You can podcast the News From Lake Wobegon portion of the show from there too.

Guy Noir - Private Eye, the live of the Cowboys, Ketchup Advisory Board, Powder milk biscuits? All will become clear…A variety show that exudes quality and has done for three decades and more.

How to describe it to the uninitiated? Homespun philosophy, small town shenanigans delivered by a giant of the written and spoken word, with a liberal take on life. A religious upbringing with guilt of things pleasurable, but wonderfully worldly wise, witty and a great yarn spinner. I cannot say enough to do it justice. If you know the show you will know what I mean and may well know these links I am about to paste in- if you don’t know the show then try these links and enjoy the journey!

Myspace fansite:

Behind the scenes interview with GK: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15292428

Various snippets at You Tube- find your own and enjoy them. A couple for starters:

GK back in 1985 at Mr Esoteric’s You Tube:

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Radio Websites - RadioUser November 2008

First published in Radio User, Practical Wireless Publications (PWP) November 2008: http://www.radiouser.co.uk/

We start with some of the best community radio down under, before travelling onto radio webcams, internet tv viewing, legal music downloads before finishing in the Alps.

Down under communities
We start off this month down-under, in Hobart, Tasmania. Hobart Radio International was previously a shortwave radio station but has now moved into podcasting. They state that they continue to provide educational and entertaining programmes for a global audience. “We are the voice for Tasmania, and will always be developing and different. Crossing the borders, telling the unknown and investigating on what's important.” http://www.hriradio.org/
Of particular interest are Hobart Radio International’s professional DX Extra shows, which come out on an irregular broadcast but are and packed with interesting facts and figures: http://dxextra.podomatic.com/

If you are new to the wonderful world of podcasting then the above page links to Juice (which is also my preferred podcast software), which can be downloaded free at: http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/

A full list of the regular more traditional style of radio stations broadcasting in Tasmania is at: http://www.ausradiostations.com/fmtas.html There are dozens, from the ABC to Sea FM. This is part of a very good site called Aus Radio.com, or: http://theradio.com.au/

Choose an Australian state from the drop down menu and navigate to your stations of choice. I enjoyed Heart 558 with programmes such as Charles Wooley’s Across Australia; the big issues facing a big country and Dr John D’Arcy’s health matters phone in show on Sunday mornings.

Community Radio in Australia is thriving and a good website hub is http://www.cbonline.org.au/ From here I have unsuccessfully been trying to hear Tasmanian station, Coast FM: http://www.coastfm.org/ “Coast FM is the Northwest Coast of Tasmania's only local radio. Covering local sport, news, politics, artists, events and a potential listening audience of 100 000.”

I had more luck with innovative youth station Edge Radio 99.3 at: http://www.edgeradio.org.au/ A real mix of new sounds and tasteful classics, such as one of the few Elvis songs I like, “In the ghetto.” Programmes such as Grass Roots airs environmental concerns, and The Brink is an attempt to get Hobart’s views heard across the world.

Over to an interesting New Zealand radio website now. Try Wellington Access Radio at: http://www.accessradio.org.nz/ This is Wellington’s medium wave station on 783 KHz with documentaries streamed from around the world. It includes Ireland Calling for the Irish community and 24 other languages each week. You can even make your own programmes for inclusion: “Anyone can apply to make a programme on Access Radio. We give priority to local people whose voices are not always heard, especially ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, youth, children, people with disabilities, special interest groups, and people with different ethical points of view.”

Mixed goodie bag
The New Zealand tip came from Shaun Geraghty, who also recommends the studio webcam at Belgium’s Radio Donna: http://www.donna.be/ Click on webcam and a small window pops up with a choice of four cameras to choose from. It’s quite nice to have running in the background whilst you work. As for station content, you can listen live too, with a mixture of standard English and US rock plus some more exciting local sounds.

Shaun is himself an accomplished and award wining broadcaster and photographer, with an excellent website covering both of these passions at: http://www.shaungeraghty.co.uk/ Shaun’s voice is a familiar one to listeners of local radio in the Staffordshire area, as well as to listeners to international shortwave radio around Europe and beyond. His photography is as outstanding as his radio programmes are entertaining.

Do you know about the Freecycle networks? If not you should. Freecycle is set up through Yahoo groups and connects people regionally. “A movement of people interested in keeping stuff out of landfills while building a sense of community.”
Through this I have given radio books, video tapes and radios that I no longer require to a good home. (not to mention various household goods). From DVDs to televisions, kitchen cupboards to golf clubs, all kinds of goods come and go, and you get a nice feeling through giving too.

Jamendo is a website worth knowing about as it offers free and legal downloads of songs by many artists. In fact almost 12000 albums by nearly 7000 artists: http://www.jamendo.com/en/ New artists can upload their albums for exposure. Hundreds of formats of music are in there, the well known such as classical and jazz, and lesser known fusions, improvisations and all manner of world music too. In my experimenting with this site, I enjoyed some quality sounds you wouldn’t hear on mainstream radio, such as The Kazoo funk orchestra (a kind of blues meets indie sound), Ti Face (loud metal, punk and French) and the NTA Project’s A Decade of Sadness (electronic and mellow).

If you fancy watching television from around the world but don’t have the set up for TVDX, this website might be a shortcut: http://wwitv.com/portal.htm
WWI TV allows you to tune into television channels from around the world from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, but with a lot more of interest than those two counties in between. You can also choose by the type of programme. Some links just go to websites rather than streaming, but there is plenty of fun to be had here. Teletop tv, one of 25 Swiss stations available, was what I watched last.

Also in Switzerland, a famous voice is that of that Bob Thomann, ex Swiss Radio International. The Switzerland in Sound website caught up with him and Bob Zanotti recently. I always enjoy the “Letter from Switzerland” programme available in text and audio at: http://www.switzerlandinsound.com/

The Shortwave Report is a Californian based 30 minute review of news stories recorded from a shortwave radio by Dan Roberts. It is available every Friday and is free to rebroadcast, as well as being an enjoyable free listen, at: http://www.outfarpress.com/outfarpress/shortwave.shtml

Craig Martin of The Indie Travel Podcast has asked me to point out that the travel blog and podcasts are not connected with the Independent newspaper. It is a sponsor-free weekly show run by Craig and wife Linda featuring travel ideas and advice for independent travellers, backpackers and anyone with itchy feet. It has been running for 18 months and the pair have been on the road from over 2 and a half years now. They are also open to people submitting ideas for podcasts, which is a chance for any would be broadcasters to become a podcaster and to share their travel stories. Join the one thousand regular loyal listeners at: http://www.indietravelpodcast.com/

Friday 26 September 2008

No restrictions to Restricted Services

What a varied set of RSLs (Restricted Service Licences) we have had in the Manchester region this year. All parts of the community have been covered, and it’s heartening to see such diversity on the airwaves.

All of the RSL stations I have heard put the bigger and massively sponsored local FM stations to shame. Commercial local FM could do with ditching their repetitious, mediocre and banal attempts at broadcasting, and instead should listen and learn from the passion and innovation behind the RSLs.

We had Fresh FM at Easter, a Christian station with some nice Easter programming.

Tatton FM celebrated the glorious RHS Garden Show at Tatton Park Cheshire in August; it’s the 10th anniversary year of the garden show.

Gaydio continued its twice a year broadcast from Manchester’s city centre, the August broadcasts centred on the 15th Pride celebrations. Some good music too. Theyhave an application pending for a full time radio licence and expect to hear from Ofcom in the Autumn.

And of late we have had two Ramadan radio stations, in Manchester and Oldham, the latter hosting some intelligent debates which I was surprised to find most interesting.

With the massive 60,000 student population returning to the city this week, the student station Fuse FM must be due on air too, but appears to have missed the RSL boat this autumn. They are however holding planning meetings for their 18th broadcasts.

Sale High School are scheduled to run a Jazzzz station in October which should be interesting to hear, and hopefully there will be another Christmas RSL around the annual Lymm Dickensian festival in December.

R= Rational
S = Stimulating
L = Listening

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Stockholm smorgasbord and midsummer Minsk

Part of this was first published in RadioUser: Broadcast Matters -July 2008

Last paragraph added online Sept 2008

Radio Sweden maintains its consistency of high quality programmes, these days in just four languages: Belarusian, English, Swedish and Russian. It is approaching its 70th anniversary this summer, as its first broadcast was in Swedish on the first day of July 1938, aimed at Swedish-Americans. Two shortwave transmitters in Motala in southern Sweden were used. English, French, German and Italian programmes began during World War II. In 1952 the well known transmitters at Hörby came into operation and broadcasts commenced in Spanish and Portuguese. Russian started in 1967, and after 1989 Estonian and Latvian languages were added to the mix.

Gaby Katz is the current head of English and she is also a regular presenter on the station, where she has been based for the past 13 years. I recently heard her discussing gender inequalities in Sweden, surprising from what we usually think of as one of the leading liberal nations. Listen out for her dulcet tones at the following times and frequencies to Europe: 1430 to 1530 UTC/GMT daily on 13820 and 15240 KHz; 1530 to1600 daily on 11590; 1630-1700 daily on 1179 KHz medium wave; 1730 to1800 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on 1179 and 6065; 1900 to 1930 daily on 1179 KHZ medium wave; and 2130-2200 daily on 1179 and 6065 KHz.

The station dramatically but accurately describes itself as “a window on the diverse perspectives and issues in Sweden today. Our daily editions offer a smorgasbord of news and current affairs, science and technology, lifestyle, and culture. We explore, debate, analyse and give insight into the way Swedish society and its people are changing to meet today's challenges and opportunities. On Saturdays we review the week gone by and on Sundays we present Network Europe.”

Meanwhile, 525 miles to the south-east in the city of Minsk, there is in fact a restaurant serving Scandinavian cuisine which is called ‘Stockholm’. More to the point, Minsk is also home to Radio Belarus (Belarus translates as ‘White Russia’). The station puts out a powerful signal in English and it is unusual in that it broadcasts for several hours at a time. It makes for a very entertaining listen in the evenings. 7105, 7390 and 7390 KHz from 17.05 to 23.00 UTC/GMT.

Musical programmes offer some haunting and beautiful Belarusian sounds, ‘Land under white stork wings’ covers cultural heritage on Tuesdays. ‘Card from Belarus’ is a travel programme aired each Thursday. The station’s bright young hopes include presenters Catherine Art, Victoria Bondarenko and Kate Cross.

Radio Belarus is one of the lesser known shortwave stations. It started in 1962 but has only broadcast in English for the past ten years. They are keen for feedback, and their address is 4 Krasnaya St., Minsk, Belarus. I love the station slogan of “Broadcasting 19 hours a day with programmes for intellectuals and serious people.” I guess they must mean us, folks! Tune in again next month


From the "State and Society" programme listeners can learn about how ordinary Belarusian people live. The author of the programme is Anna Mokhovikova, the presenter of the programme is Tanya Crimsson.

"Our Compatriots" This programme is about Belarusians who live far away from their motherland. The guests of the proramme are the heads of the Belarusian NGO’s abroad and those who remember their motherland and promote its culture in other countries of the world. The author of the programme is Anna Mokhovikova, the presenter of the programme is Kate Cross.

"Letters to Editor" This is a weekly programme which reviews the letters from our listeners in different countries of the world. The author and the presenter of the programme is Larisa Suares (below) who also presents "Science and Technology"

"Cultural Front" A weekly programme dedicated to the main events, phenomena and figures of the Belarusian culture. The author and the presenter of the programme is Olga Blazhevich (below). Victoria Bondarenko is below that.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Broadcast Matters: Long, Medium and Short. Published in RadioUser September 2008, PWP

Readers’ reports

In the August RadioUser Howard Barnett of Northampton asked about a Russian sounding station on 9800 KHz from 1915 to 2045 UTC. I have consulted the current season’s HFCC operational schedules and 9800 KHz is licensed to Radio Bulgaria from 1800 to 2000 UTC. The station is scheduled to air broadcasts in its mother tongue of Bulgarian then, from their 250KW transmitter at Plovdiv.

We welcome back Geraint Gill in north Wales who has been listening to a wide selection of stations on shortwave recently including the Voice of Vietnam from the Moosbrunn (German for ‘mossy well’) transmitter. This site has been located on the outskirts of the Vienna Woods since 1959, and comprises six shortwave transmitters, owned by state broadcaster ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk). As well as Vietnam’s external services and ORF, Moosbrunn is currently used to relay programmes of Adventist World Radio, Trans World Radio, BBC, Radio Canada International and FEBA. The latter is the Far Eastern Broadcasting Association, which is a US backed Christian station that uses Moosbrun to broadcast in Arabic.

Geraint’s logs were made on his trusty Grundig Yacht Boy 400. The Yacht Boy first rolled off the production line in 1994 and has proven to be a popular model. It is a great portable model with the a warmer sound than some portables of similar size. It has digital read out and coverage of longwave, mediumwave, FM and shortwave from 1711-30000 kHz. You can still pick one up second hand, but prices vary on eBay. I have seen them fetch between £40 and £80 in recent months.

Grundig has a pedigree history, having been founded in Nuremburg, Germany in 1945 by Max Grundig, although prior to that there was a family radio shop in the 1930s called Fuerth, Grundig and Wurzer, which sold radios. Televisions were also produced and in 1960 Grundig’s first factory outside Germany was set up, in Belfast, manufacturing tape recorders. The ever popular Yacht Boy and Satellit range of radios commenced in the mid 1960s, with the Satellit 205 and the Stereo Concert Boy.

Another of our regulars has also recently bought a shortwave portable. Scott Caldwell has been using an Eton E1, as recommended by many listeners. He is investigating a suitable antenna to use with it (along with its telescopic). So far in order to maximise its potential he has “decided a back to basics approach, consisting of a random wire with a close coupling connection. The best results obtained so far were provided by the DX 10 Active Professional Antenna.” Another of Scott’s antenna dilemmas concerns a tuned medium wave loop antenna. At present his Wellbrook loop is static and attached to a garden fence, unable to null out stations. “To counteract this problem I would like to build or purchase a small tuned medium wave loop antenna. However I cannot find suitable instructions or component lists on the Internet. This may keep the cost down. An alternative option is the AOR LA380 loop at £190, better not tell the girlfriend!” If you have any solutions do let me know, and I will print them next month, along with results of my own research into this one.

Catches from Scott this month include the American religious University Network on 6090 KHz. He downloaded the World Radio and TV Handbook summer updates from: http://www.wrth.com/ but found hat extreme interference limited a lot of his time online. Hopefully this is not interference from the plug-in device which is being sent by British Telecom to some of its Home Hub customers. This is proving to be the source of very severe interference across the shortwave bands. The BT Vision Power Line Adaptor is usually labelled Comtrend DH-10PF.

Thjere are campaigns by DXers to counteract this, and I suggest you join forces. Mike Todd Mike has set up an internet group under the banner of UKQRM to offer support and organise some sort of fight back: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/UKQRM

The web link for filing an interference complaint with Ofcom is at: http://tinyurl.com/5wsf9h If you don't have internet access you can write to Ofcom, Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA or ring them on 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333 and say that you wish them to investigate a radio interference problem.

Geraint Gill logged Radio Exterior de Espana’s evening English programme, at 2130 UTC on 9690 KHz. This was interference-free but with some noise, resulting in a 35333 SINPO. The station gives interesting news from an Iberian perspective, as well as music, art and travel features that are amongst the best on the bands. Their current English schedule to Europe is from 2000 to 2100 UTC on weekdays on 9665 and 11625 KHz and on Sundays an hour later on 9840 KHz.

Medium wave, QSL cards
You can also hear Radio Exterior de Espana from further afield transmitters. The Costa Rica relay was recently logged on 2250 KHz at 0315 UTC, in Spanish. 9535 KHz at midnight UTC will get you an English to the Americas broadcast. If you get withdrawal symptoms due to a lack of Saturday programmes, it is easy enough to pick up Spanish national services on medium wave instead, any night of the week. RNE, SER and COPE channels include 1026, 1044, 1080, 1179, 1269 and 1287 KHz.

Commemorative QSL cards are often for specific station anniversaries, exceptions being when global events such as the Olympics occur. China Radio International (CRI) started issuing a range of QSL cards a year ago, and will doubtless have enough to stock to carry them to the London 2012 games. There may well be other international stations acknowledging the 2008 Games with a special QSL card, so it will be interesting to find out. I am unaware of ERT the Voice of Greece issuing any for the Athens 2004 Games, although there were certainly a good range of Olympic postcards on sales in Greece that year. Radio Prague’s Czech athletes QSL series for this year ties in nicely, especially with Emil Zatopek, a hero of the London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 Games.

Ever since it was awarded the Beijing Olympics, state broadcaster China Radio International has been using the Olympics as another tool in it propaganda arsenal. I have little doubt that this will continue well beyond the games as well. At the time of writing the world’s athletes, and the world’s media, are descending upon China. You can send brickbats, plaudits or requests fro QSL cards by email to CRI at: crieng@cri.com.cn

Tuning into their evening medium wave broadcast via the Lithuania transmitter at Sitkunai, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was cited as praising the 2008 Games for having the “most marvellous Olympic stadia” and he went to talk of “the great courage of the Chinese people in light of the earthquake”, earlier in the year. I quickly tuned away from the 1386 KHz frequency, booming in at 2000 UTC with 44444 SINPO. Instead I moved to a fascinating feature from a much loved station, Radio Stockholm in Sweden. The 1179 KHz is an easy catch on medium wave from the Sölvesborg site at 2030 UTC.

The feature I heard was a delightful wander amongst a suburban wooded cemetery. This cemetery on the outskirts of Stockholm was opened amongst the forests in the 1920s, and is now a resting place for people of all denominations and religions. Greta Garbo is the most famous resident, and the cemetery is now UNESCO protected.

Finally I am very sorry to have to report the passing of Stephen Larsson, aged 47. Stephen, of Bovey Tracey in Devon, was a regular contributor to these pages. In April he logged NHK Radio Japan and Radio DMR in the Dniester Moldavian Republic (7370 KHz at 1700 UTC), catches which were mentioned in the eulogy given by his cousin Tim Franke. When a radio ham passes on the terminology used is that they become a “silent key”. Our condolences to Stephen’s family and friends and may he rest in peace in the great radio shack in the sky.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Radio Websites August 2008, Radio User PWP

Radio Websites - RadioUser August 2008 PWP

For August we see what’s cooking in the audio kitchen, check some handy reference lists, feast on some internet radio and finish by loading some travel podcasts onto the mp3 player.

From the latest Sheldon Harvey High Frequency Internet newsletter, which you can sign up for via: www.radiohf.ca/ , comes information on the Radio Kitchen blog website. This gives North American perspectives on all matters radio, with a wonderful masthead to boot. It also links to a sister site called the Audio Kitchen, with equally good graphics. This one covers “Found sound, amateur recordings and home-style noise”: http://theaudiokitchen.net/

“Long Live Shortwave” was an LP released in the UK in 1979 by British pop music producer and shortwave fan Mitch Murray. First side is information on the hobby by Mitch and Henry Hatch, well known from the BBC's World Radio Club. The second side has 30 interval signals with Mitch talking about the stations. The entire LP is now online for download, together with scans of the booklet and cover. This is at another site with a flavour of the kitchen in its title: http://theradiokitchen.net/live-shortwave/

The Shortwave Central blog (from Teak Publishing) is always packed with useful information. It covers “broadcast, pirate, and clandestine information including loggings, QSL cards, tips, and last-minute news.” A recent post included last lists of Brazilian stations. From 2380 KHz Radio Educadora, Limeira SP to 15325 KHz and Radio Gazeta, São Paulo: http://mt-shortwave.blogspot.com/2008/06/brazilian-shortwave-station-list.html

Several of the reference lists compiled by Tony Rogers of the British DX Club have been updated at the BDXC website: Africa on Shortwave; Indian Sub-Continent on the Tropical Bands; Middle East & Near East on Shortwave; UK on Shortwave. The DX & Media Programme Guide has also been revised. All of these can be found via the Articles Index page at: http://www.bdxc.org.uk/

It’s not too late to tell you that Sean Gilbert of WRTH Publications released the summer (A08) schedules for International and Clandestine Broadcasters at the World Radio and TV Handbook website: http://www.wrth.com/ Included are broadcast schedules for 236 stations and frequency listings and broadcasts in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. In similar vein, the A08 HFCC public data file is available at: http://www.hfcc.org/data/index.html

Radio Row is a very good website radio station portal, and that’s a row as in a column rather than as in an argument provoked by a shock-jock! Whether or not you want to argue with some of the featured radio stations is another matter. There is also a quick three question survey that you are asked to complete, which evidently will help internet radio. I’m not sure how and imagine it will help in the sense that advertisers get a profile of who visit the website. But that’s fine with me; the internet is all but free and it’s good to help out.

Based at the melancholy sounding Chagrin Falls in Indiana, it states that there are “Thousands of radio stations on the Internet....but the best Internet radio stations are here.” It’s all arranged by format covering stations that offers 25 categories including blues, classic rock, Latino, Oldies, talk and the interestingly named “specialties”: http://www.radiorow.com/

The specialities category covers a wide range of radio encompassing much of what we on this side of the pond perceive as typically USA lifestyles. There are selections from around the world too. I dipped into the station called A Healthy Life, which gives you positive talk and music from Manhattan Beach in California. “Where Positive People and Radio Unite 24/7.” : www.healthylife.net/

Tune into Salisbury in South Carolina for Harley Radio and the sounds of biker oriented content at: http://www.harleyradio.com/ and a MySpace page too: www.myspace.com/harleyradio and affiliated to http://www.loudcity.net/

Luxuria Radio in San Francisco defines itself as playing “Outré lounge and Latin jazz, breezy swinging instrumentals and vocals, groovy 60's go-go and 70’s Bollywood soundtracks, quirky oddities, retro pop, surf music and novelties of yesteryear.” Hear for yourself at: www.luxuriamusic.com/

Travelling light

Whether you are debating where to go on your travels this summer, or if you are already in a holiday mood, read on. I have been investigating the wonderful world of travel podcasts. Click on some of the following websites and download tall tales and idyllic adventures onto your mp3 player. It will beat the usual flight entertainment that is served up, and will also serve you well as you languish on a sun lounger. Nice to dip a toe into travel talk along with whatever the summer hits are on the local radio at your holiday destination.

First up is the American based Amateur Traveller website: http://amateurtraveler.com/ (that’s spelt with one ‘l’ in traveller as it’s American!). “Travel for the love of it.” There’s plenty here to keep you going, with new podcasts added every few days. A recent favourite of mine featured sailing around the Greek Islands. Private beaches and picturesque fishing villages abounded. Other places covered have included Como in Italy, Valencia in Spain and Western Australia.

photo copyright cb

If you are pushed for time try the “Travel in 10 minutes” podcast at: http://travelin10.libsyn.com/ A blog accompanies the travel podcast and Maui in Hawaii was featured when I last downloaded. African safaris and Portugal, Japan and Laos have also been covered. “ Soundspaces and audiotours of hip hotels, cool restaurants, concerts, festivals and events from around the globe.”

The more established authorities on travel have not been slow to miss out on the podcast boom. Amongst many offerings, Lonely Planet publications have a four part podcast on the ancient Mayan culture plus “Stay another day in Cambodia.” www.lonelyplanet.com/podcasts

The Indie Travel Podcast is not an offshoot of the Independent newspaper, but a weekly show with travel ideas and advice for independent travellers, backpackers and anyone with itchy feet: http://www.indietravelpodcast.com/

Completing our circular journey, The Independent’s esteemed travel editor is Simon Calder. He hosts a weekly radio show called “Travel Clinic” on LBC 97.3 FM, DAB and at: http://www.lbc.co.uk/ Sundays at 1400 BST and repeated Saturdays at 0600 BST. It’s two hours of luxury listening in my book, with a phone-in too, and is available as a podcast at: http://lbc.audioagain.com/

Join me again next month.

Friday 11 July 2008

Radio Websites July 2008, first published in Radio User, PW Publishing

Educational and Quirky Websites

For July we relax with some summer sounds, dip into the mysteries of spy stations, and track down that missing receiver manual for you.

Summer sounds online

Jango and Ivory Towerz have been accompanying summer evenings on my city centre balcony. No, not a little known jazz duo but some more online radio I have been enjoying.

Missing the intuitive online radio service that Pandora no longer provides due to copyright reasons, I have found a similar service that goes by the name of Jango: http://www.jango.com/ Just type in a name of a band or musician you like and you will be given options of other bands of that genre that you can add to your playlist. These are often bands you’ll not have heard of (along with more familiar names), so it broadens your musical education as well as being entertainment on-tap, or rather on-line. You can do much more at Jango such as tuning into other members’ stations. A whole social network awaits you.

The Ivory Towerz blog (“Shining a light on the cultural crossroads”) has plenty to say and also hosts an interesting podcast made last summer, at: http://ivorytowerz.blogspot.com/2007/05/ivorytowerz-radio-summer-sounds.html

Easier still, go to: http://ivorytowerz.blogspot.com/ and scroll down for the 30 May 2007 broadcast.: “pull up a chair on the porch, light the grill, and let the podcast play the sounds of summer for 2007. There's an extra dollop of new music in the playlist this week, as we search for an underground summer hit. But you can count on the usual: a trip through more than 65 years of modern music, centering on rock but including dashes of country, folk, and funk along the way.”

Beach House Radio is another online station that may suffice until you can make it to an actual beach. Lots of acoustic and laid back sounds at: http://www.northgateos.com/musicshop/ or even easier via: http://www.beachhouseradio.com/

When you do reach the beach how will you cope without a beach FM radio head rest combo? Available at the Geek Alerts website for $40 US dollars: http://www.geekalerts.com/beach-radio-headrest/

Spies and spooks
The infamous numbers stations are still operating out on the shortwave bands. Here is a round up of some of the best websites covering the strange sounds of espionage and agents.
A good starting point is http://www.spynumbers.com/ for an overview of Spy Numbers Stations.

Simon Mason in the UK has maintained a well crafted and hugely enjoyable website for over a decade. He has written a book on the subject too and nicely summarises the phenomena as: “Perhaps the strangest of all transmissions are the Spy Number Stations. These do not officially exist and no one has ever explained what the purpose of these stations is. They consist of the most boring content imaginable. A strange non-human voice reading out series of numbers, sometimes accompanied by weird tones or odd melodies”. www.simonmason.karoo.net/ I

f you stumble across a numbers station then you can log your catch onto a shared database at: www.spynumbers.com/numbersDB This also has audio samples. Listen out for the Lincolnshire Poacher, Cherry Ripe, Arabic Man, Five Dashes and the Tyrolean Music Station, amongst other insanities. It also has a list of loggings which probably is the nearest you are going to get to a schedule.

To subscribe to an e-mail group which gives you all the latest numbers stations logs and news visit: http://mailman.qth.net/mailman/listinfo/spooks or the Enigma 2000 long-standing UK group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/enigma2000/

There are many other introductory texts on the subject. One good example is at the Southgate Amateur radio site, written by Paul Beaumont: http://www.southgatearc.org/enigma2000/introduction.htm

In the Netherlands one of the experts is Ary Boender. He runs the Numbers and Oddities bulletin and an updated logs database: http://www.ary.luna.nl/
Finally on this subject, a light hearted game of numbers station bingo is yours for the taking at: http://kevan.org/bingo.php This was invented in April 2008 and uses real number station codes read out from the Conet Project set of CDs, with a random bingo card. Almost as bizarre as the numbers stations themselves, but perhaps more fun and easier to understand!

Manual labour
Have you lost the manual to a piece of radio kit that you are trying to restore or repair? Did you buy a receiver off of eBay or at a radio sale but need a manual and service guide to give you all the details? You are not alone in this dilemma and there are many good websites which can soon find your missing manual. Here are a few of them:

The Instruction Manuals website is very useful and does what it says on the label. A reassuring union flag flutters in the cyber breeze at the top of a simple and effective website at: http://www.instruction-manuals.co.uk/

User guides for everything they say and there is a link to some witty guides too (click on the laughing face marked ‘funny manuals’. Check out the 1970s Elizabethan 12 inch portable black and white television. This was advertised as being ideal for use at a family picnic or on your speedboat!

More useful information includes a wide range of Sony manuals at http://www.instruction-manuals.co.uk/category/radicass/SONY.htm which also covers radio cassette players and the Sony walkman. The latter are probably now quite a collectors’ item. Who would have foreseen mp3 players when the Sony Walkman was all the rage in the early 1980s?

There is a very readable article on the origins of the Sony Walkman at: http://lowendmac.com/orchard/06/sony-walkman-origin.html

Mauritron Technical state that they provide service and instruction manuals for any radio related equipment: http://www.mauritron.com/ “The world’s largest library of Technical Information available for supply as collections on CD or via Download. From the earliest Vintage Valve Wireless to the latest Video, CD, PC or Test Equipment Over 450,000 manuals listed online with full search facilities”. They are also involved with engraved badges and model railways, Details at the above site.

Radio Manuals Info are a group of vintage radio enthusiasts with “thousands of service sheets, diagrams and manuals. including the full set of traders, ERT, Broadcasters and R&TVS Plus manufacturers manuals.” A bonus is that you can download these for free, unlike some of the manual archive websites: http://www.radiomanuals.info/ Items are listed in alphabetical order of manufacturer, from an 1950s Ace Mayfair radio to a 1934 Zetavox radio. Comments are welcomed so send an e-mail to the quaint address of boffins@radiomanuals.info

Finally, Geoff Brown G4ICD/GJ4ICD puts his 40 years of experience as an engineer and a radio ham into a website on Yaesu equipment: http://www.amateurmanuals.co.uk/ Amateur and commercial operating manuals are available on CDs at £10 each.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Radio Websites June 2008 (published in RadioUser, PWP)

Another month and another selection of websites with a radio theme. Some of them are useful, some are intriguing and some are off the wall. This column aims to help guide you through the internet jungle and make the most of your on-line leisure time.

Statistically speaking
Starting with a very useful website of political and physical maps, key facts and statistics about the countries of the world. It’s useful in its own right and also gives good background information if you are listening to radio from a particular country, or planning a DXpedition or holiday. You simply click on a choice from an alphabetised list, world maps or class resources (for all you educators out there). Before you know it you are basking in the knowledge that the population of Bolivia (9.2 million people) own 4,250,000 radio receivers. 200,000 unique visitors to the website each month can’t be wrong: http://www.atlapedia.com/

Country profiles (and media news) are also available at the BBC Monitoring website. This department has been based in a large Victorian stately home in Caversham since 1942. It was requisitioned to become a World War II BBC listening post and decades later it still has a vital role. The website illustrates the many services it offers to subscribers. BBC Monitoring operates “around the clock to monitor more than 3,000 radio, TV, press, internet and news agency sources, translating from up to 100 languages. This extensive and growing range of sources enables us to provide distinctive, authoritative and reliable coverage of political and economic news.” The website is full of interesting links and information for the casual observer as well as the subscribers who include, government departments, academic and business people. I particularly like the site’s ‘The week ahead’ feature which lists all kinds of events taking place in the regions monitored. This enabled me to follow recent events such as the elections in Benin and Paraguay: http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk/

Martyn Hicks has a good website which includes weather station monitoring and
selection of photos of iconic London buildings. Also mp3 files of sounds such as Big Ben’s at noon and the Westminster chimes: Home page is: http://www.martynhicks.co.uk/
with links to his Bristol weather station at: http://www.martynhicks.co.uk/weather/data.php and London sights at http://www.martynhicks.co.uk/personal/html/london/group2.html
This gem of information about Big Ben is included: “There is a long swinging pendulum which has a stack of old coins on it to make the clock keep perfect time. The clock has run continuously since 31 May 1859 except for a stoppage of 13 days in 1977. In 1845 a host of starlings rested on one of the minute hands and slowed the clock by five minutes. "

Mark Hattam has a website dedicated to DX at: http://www.dxradio.co.uk/. I have always admired the non-nonsense, straightforward design of this site, which has Mark’s latest DXing news summarised by date at the top. If you want access to a huge array of archives or other links you can scroll down the left and right side margins at the site. (Harmonica, weather, reception conditions etc.) An example of content for you: “MW DX - Toronto dominated the DX logs tonight, presenting the best audio. Many other stations heard too, but didn't stay on 700 WLW, 760 WJR for long enough. Solitary station heard in the x-band (1620-1700 KHz) was KVNS from SE Texas.”

If you like the sound of those stations and can’t pick them up on medium wave, you can find them online instead. Listen live to WLW 700, ‘the big one’ from Cincinnati at: http://www.700wlw.com/; News Talk WJR 760 in Detroit at: http://www.wjr.net/;
KVNS in Brownsville Texas is one of many Texan stations listed at the huge ‘On the Radio’ website: http://www.ontheradio.net/ and http://www.ontheradio.net/cities/brownsville_tx.aspx

In Canada, Toronto radio is amply covered by the website at: http://www.toronto.hm/radiowaves.html amongst many others. The national brpoadcatser CBC is a station I listen to online quite a lot, especially their Radio 2 which offers jazz and classical music: Some great podcasts as well: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ and http://www.cbc.ca/toronto/

Code breakers and history makers
The stories of some of the women involved in the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during World War II have been recorded for posterity. Recently the British Computing Society (BCS) President Rachel Burnett welcomed the Women of Station X and their friends and families to a special event where Sue Black, BCS Women chair, formally handed over the recordings of the interviews to Simon Greenish, director of Bletchley Park, for safekeeping in its archive. The oral histories and DVD telling the story of the Women of Station X are also available on the BCS website:
http://www.bcs.org/ and: http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.9988

There are several mp3 files on the site relating to Bletchley Park and Enigma, with the promise of more to come. These include some words on the Stanmore, Middlesex, outstation, the billeting of WRNs (Women's Royal Naval Service) at Woburn Abbey, recruitment and training, working on the bombe, cracking Enigma, and looking back.

World War II is included at the North American Military Vehicle Preservation Association website. This international organisation has been running for 30 years and is based in Missouri, USA. There is a members' only section but plenty to read and see for non-members, including communications information: http://www.mvpa.org/

Tangent Audio are a Danish company who make some supremely magnificent looking products, including radios, CD players and loudspeakers. You can download and salivate over a pdf of their catalogue at: http://www.tangent-audio.com/

The Tangent Uno was the first radio that they made. “Tuning the FM/AM radio is like taking a trip back in time: turn the solid knob and keep an eye on the 50’s inspired tuning dial showing the setting. You can practically hear the be-bop on the airwaves. Have a lot of music on a portable MP3-player? Just connect it via the auxiliary connection and get the most out of your music from this century. The driver unit provides a full range of musical experiences, filling your listening space with sound. Rich low-frequency effects complement the sharp treble found at the opposite end of the sonic spectrum.”

Alas, I see that time and space has beaten me once again. I shall take my leave to search out some more online audio delights to share with you next month.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Radio Websites (published in RadioUser, PWP May 2008)

This time we have a selection of great You Tube DX and radio videos, a look at some internet radio portals (via a strange story) and some radio-related collecting sites.

Starting with the latter, the annual National Vintage Communications Fair is on Sunday May 11th at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, Fosse Way, Leamington Spa, CV31 1XN. Entrance fee is £5, and it is open from 1030 to 1600 BST. This used to be held at Birmingham’s national exhibition centre twice a year but is now an annual event. Organised by the British Vintage Wireless Society (BVWS) with more details at: http://www.bvws.org.uk/ See you there!

Alongside hundreds of radios, valves, early televisions, telephones, gramophones and other classic equipment, this year there is a mechanical music items section as well. Music boxes, polyphones, disc boxes, musical toys, roller organs and perhaps a fairground organ or two outside the hall. BVWS are working closely with the Music Box Society of Great Britain (MBSGB): http://www.mbsgb.org.uk/ and kindred organisations such as MOOS, BOGA, FOPS, PPG (Mechanical Organ Owners Society, British Organ Grinders Association, Fairground Organ Preservation Society, Player Piano Group). The latter is for players and aficionados of the pianalo and related instruments: http://www.pianolasociety.com/

The Fairground Organ Preservation Society is celebrating their Golden Jubilee this year. A fascinating website and it is also part of a ‘Crank Organ’ web ring. A taster for you: “When the early enthusiasts gathered round Tom Albert’s' 98-key Marenghi in Bolton for Sunday recitals back in 1957, they must have had little idea of the impact their decision to form themselves into a Society would have on the preservation movement or of the expansion of the Society to include members from most parts of the world…” http://www.fops.org/

Finally on the vintage front, Paul Stenning’s http://www.vintage-radio.com/ is always worth a browse and he is a member of the BVWS mentioned above. The novelty transistor radios section amused me, with photos and information on dozens of radios in the shape of cartoon characters, fruit juice cartons, a space rocket and even a toilet. I’ll leave it for you to decide which radio stations deserve to be tuned in on that one!

Radio Portals and tall tales

Radio User reader Len recommends the following website, which is also an old favourite of mine: http://www.live-radio.net/worldwide.shtml Its reassuring deep blue background, small print and logo has been ‘leading the way since 1997’. It has a list by country from which you can choose particular stations. Thousands of great internet radio and real radio station to choose from.

The headline at the top of the home page changes and is usually of interest. Last time I looked it was about two listeners who are suing a US radio station. This from a news story by Ann McGlynn of the Quad City Times newspaper in Davenport, Iowa: http://www.qctimes.com/.

Two listeners of KORB 93.5 FM say they were promised $30,000 for five years if they had the station logo tattooed on their forehead. DJ Ben Stone, also known as Benjamin Stomberg, made the statement on air in November 2000 as a practical joke…

KORB 93.5 FM is based in Bettendorf, Iowa. It has since re-branded to become KCQS but is better known as Star Radio playing ‘today’s best variety’: http://www.star935fm.com/

Whatever its name, it’s one of a staggering 255 radio stations in that state alone that can be accessed via the SHG Resources portal at: http://www.shgresources.com/ia/radio/

You might also want to save the Cosmos radio portal as a favourite, which lists all manner of radio stations across the world. Its Iowa links are at: http://www.cosmosradio.com/states/IA.html but http://www.cosmosradio.com/ is the home page.

Some other useful internet radio portals and general sites can be found on page 31 of the April edition of RadioUser.

Another portal I have been using of late is that of 1 Club FM, which is a social networking site with links to 90 radio stations and different musical genres. These include blues, house, trance and nature sounds: http://my.1club.fm/ It proclaims “Sign in to 1Club FM to build a free profile, upload unlimited music, videos, photos, chat, and view the playlists of your favourite channel. We have taken Internet Radio to the next level.”

You Tube: Radio studios and Sporadic E Catches

You Tube is always full of video clips with a radio bent that are guaranteed to distract you. Here are some recent ones that I have enjoyed. Starting with a number of station studio tours, we have a two minute demonstration of how a modern studio works, courtesy of breakfast presenter David Way at Delta FM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibg10q6idjub

Next is a one minute tour of Sky High radio in Cork: http://www.skyhighradio.co.uk/ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYYwoJgt6KQ

Freakshow FM is a Dutch station with an entertaining five minute home made tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyHxMckQRAw&feature=related and http://www.freakshow.fm/

Dutch Pirate station Cupid has a five minute tour of its facilities at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkSXbcK-GLc

With the sporadic E season about to commence in May it’s timely to recall the famous transatlantic DX catch of June 2003, when WHCF in Bangor Maine was heard in Northern Ireland. The catch, of some 2710 miles, which made the pages of many a radio publication, including this one, now has a minute of video dedicated to it. You can hear the catch for yourself illustrated with images. Brilliant! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga56hsHvTCg

Equally as good is the nine minute catch that summer of CKLE. This is a French speaking station in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. It was heard on 92.9 MHZ, 2506 miles away. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy4Nnhet6SY&NR=1

Both of these are amongst 30 video clips of one ‘Yogi 540’, also known as Paul Logan, who also has a website at: http://www.geocities.com/yogi540/

A more modest, but still impressive, example of e-skip from last summer, is audio of Radio Istanbul heard in Cologne, Germany: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42NN1pREsYg&feature=related

For us mere mortals that cannot hope to catch an FM signal over 3000 miles this sporadic E season, take the short cut by going to the WHCF and CKLE station websites. WHCF is ‘Maine’s best praise and worship music’ at: http://www.whcffm.com/ CKLE is at: http://www.ckle.fm/

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Broadcast Matters: Long, Medium and Short, February 2008

Published in Radio User, PWP, Feb 2008

Welcome to another round up of news, views and logs from the bands.

Readers’ Reports
Scott Caldwell noted a slight improvement in reception during December, regularly receiving Radio Australia on 15415 KHz and 11880 KHz. Some of the other programming he enjoyed include Radio Exterior de Espana’s Radio Waves programme, (0031 UTC/GMT on 6055 KHz) which included a feature on a Polish DAB and online radio station in London. This would be Polskie Radio Londyn (Polish Radio London), which is aimed at some of the estimated 700,000 Poles living in the Greater London area.

Health matters were covered by Radio Netherlands and Radio Australia. The former carried a programme on HIV and AIDs and the stigma of it in developing countries, on 6165 KHz at 0155 UTC/GMT. Radio Australia produced a rather weak signal of an all 2 SINPO, but a feature it carried on alcohol related problems could still be heard on 15415 KHz at 1034 UTC/GMT.

We welcome readers David Weronka in North Carolina and Gerry Gorman from Bangor in Northern Ireland to the column with some of their recent logs. Gerry writes that the Broadcast Matters column “is a very enjoyable read and one that I look forward to each month.” He also wishes all readers a peaceful 2008.

Slovenian sounds
Slovenia has taken over the presidency of the European Union for the first half of this year. It seems timely and topical then to delve into the radio scene in this small Balkan country. Its foreign language station, Radio Slovenia International, broadcasts in just three languages: Slovene, German and English. Unfortunately there are no direct shortwave broadcasts from the station as yet and the station is aimed inside the country on numerous FM frequencies for tourists and migrant workers.

It describes itself as broadcasting: “A well balanced mixture of musical and informative programmes 24 hours a day. 85% of the programme time is devoted to the best international and Slovene hits, and the remaining 15% is intended for up-to-date political, business and economic, cultural, and sports information. Which is just enough to keep our listeners constantly well informed. The essential elements of the programme are weather, traffic, cultural and sports information and also events taking place in Slovenia.”

Although not on shortwave itself, Radio Slovenia International is part of the Insight Central Europe weekend programme (along with ORF, Hungarian Radio, Radio Polonia, Radio Prague and Radio Slovakia), so you can sometimes hear Slovene views and reports there. Check it out each Saturday at 0700 UTC/GMT on 11600 and 9880 kHz; 1130 and 1330 UTC/GMT on 6155, 13730; 1830 UTC/GMT on 6155, 5945; and Sundays at 0530 on 6155, 13730. It can also be heard on other frequencies targeted to other parts of the world.

Radio in the country goes back 80 years to 1928, when Radio Ljubljana commenced from the capital city. Radiotelevizija Slovenija is the national radio and televsion body, operating three radio stations nationally. These are A1 (the first network) with music, news and reports; Val 202, which focuses on pop music, news, talk and sports; and ARS (the third network) which, like BBC Radio 3, caters for the more edcuated highbrow cultural audience.

Transatlantic X Band
If you are attempting some medium wave DXing for signals from Canada and the U.S.A the following might help. The dial in these countries is spaced at 10 kHz intervals (rather than the 9 kHz in Europe) from 520 to 1710 kHz. Prior to 1997 the mw frequencies only ran up to 1610. The expanded band, more commonly known as the X band covers 1610-1710 KHz. The lower density of stations in this area of the spectrum, as well as a lack of stations with more than 10 kW of power in the USA has given the opportunity to concentrate on a new part of the dial for DXers.

I thought it would be good to explore some catches from the Autumn Sheigra DXpedition by three stalwarts of the British DX Club. Sheigra is in the far north-west of Scotland and offers good listening opportunities across all bands, as well as rugged scenery. Dave Kenny, Alan Pennington and Tony Rogers of the BDXC have been visitors there for many years. Their X Band catches included: CJWI Montreal on 1610 KHz; CJRS Montreal (Radio Shalom Montreal) on 1650 kHz; CHTO Toronto on 1690 kHz; WPTX Lexington Park in Maryland on 1690 kHz; WVON ‘The talk of Chicago’ from Berwyn, Illinois on 1690 kHz; WEUP ‘The people’s station’ in Huntsville Alabama on 1700 kHz; and Spanish speaking WJCC in Miami Springs Florida, also on 1700 KHz.

However you don’t have to have a fantastic location, rig and miles of long wire to achieve some X Band catches. Others heard this season by BDXC members overnight (0000 to 0900 UTC/GMT) in the more metropolitan areas of England include: WTNI Biloxi Missouri on 1640 KHz; WHKT in Portsmouth, Virginia on 1650 KHz, KXNZ Cedar Falls, Iowa also on 1650 KHz and KVNS in Brownsville Texas on 1700 KHz. Just the thing to while away a long February night! Let us know how you get on.

When was the golden age of radio?
You often hear mention of the golden age of radio. This appears to be a phrase common in English speaking nations from North America via the U.K to Australasia. It may well be used in many other countries as well. It is generally agreed to refer to the era from post World War II until the late 1950s. This period saw domestic and international radio expanding across the western world.

The quality of programming, especially drama, comedy and variety shows were behind this perceived peak, coupled with the fact that television was still in its infancy and a long way from becoming the mass medium that it became by the 1960s. You only have to do a quick online search to find hundreds of websites celebrating the 1940s and 1950s radio scene, and it is easy to hear archived shows from the time. Radio Luxembourg was a European leader whilst the BBC Home and Light programmes were also laying down the roots for what became the high quality radio production standards that we take for granted today. In Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada, families would gather around the radio for live variety shows, historical adventure and detective dramas.

Although acknowledging the 1940s and 1950s are labelled the golden age by most, I would also argue that most ‘golden ages’ are in fact the eras in which we first develop a taste for a hobby. For many radio hobbyists, today in their 50s, who grew up with the offshore stations of the 1960s, then that is the period they look back on with fondness. Many consider the sounds of Caroline and Radio London, Radio North Sea international to be unrivalled to this day, both in terms of their historical impact and format. The legacy of pirate radio can still be heard. Just tune around 48 metres on any Sunday and you will hear today’s equivalents with DJs of all ages.
For my own generation who discovered the joys of radio in the 1970s, the golden age I refer back to is the one of the emergence of commercial radio in the U.K and of the dominance of the cold war broadcasters on shortwave.

Even though many feel that shortwave is now in decline, the current age will be one that many just getting established in the hobby will look back on with the same degree of fondness in years to come. The predominance of China Radio International, the countless US fundamental Christian stations, the Sunday pirates and the booming voices in Spanish and Arabic are all part of today’s shortwave scene that we take for granted. In years to come they will be part of someone’s golden age…

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Radio Websites, January 2008, published in Radio User, PWP

This month we have another fine selection box of various radio websites.

Online Radio Time
We start with some programmes for you to listen to at your leisure with the Radio Time website: http://www.radiotime.com/ (not to be confused with the famous BBC publication of a similar name which has full listings and far more, and free of charge, at: http://www.radiotimes.com/ ) Radio Time -Your guide to radio- is a North American venture which links you to a huge range of audio from all manner of radio stations. Starting at the home page there is an ever changing panel of six featured stations. You can click on any of these and almost instantaneously you are listening to sounds such as 917 Radio in Milwaukee; The Mountain from Tucson, Arizona; sport from ESPN in Bristol Connecticut or KQED Talk radio in San Francisco. All of these were stations I spent a happy half hour with. Other sections at the website provide you with links to radio stations described as talk, music, or world. It’s guaranteed to keep you amused for many an hour.

Affiliated to this website is a link to PRI Radio Shows at: http://radiotime.com/affiliate/a_33775/program/PRI_Radio_Shows.aspx
You can even record some of these programmes by downloading software called Red Button. It consists of a 14 day free trial before you have to buy it for $29, something I have done myself.

PRI stands for Public Radio International which is a host and distributor of hundreds of leading radio programmes of great interest. My recommendations would include David Dyes’ Conversations from the World Café magazine show, Let the Good Times Roll with Chicago soul singer Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, and Music from Chautaqua, which is an annual, century old, lakeside gathering of classical musicians in upstate New York. Listen for yourself at: http://www.pri.org/

Another American radio station I have become a big fan of is KIFM Smooth Jazz 98.1 in San Diego, California. Jazz and new age music are the staple diet here, and there is lots to hear online, as well as read: http://www.smoothjazznow.com/radio_san_diego_kifm_98.htm
Along with the live online listening option there is a fascinating feature whereby you can click on new CD releases and musicians, and hear long extracts from them. You are then one click away from purchasing online. A very useful feature. I enjoyed the latest offering from guitarist Daryl Stuermer, as well as reading up on his long career and other musical involvement, which has included being a touring guitarist with Genesis since the 1980s: http://www.blogger.com/www.darylstuermer.com

Festive Fifty and famous folk
You are never far from famous people on the web, even when they are sadly no longer with us. An example of this is the much missed DJ John Peel. “Generally acknowledged as the single most important figure in contemporary music over the last half a century.” Amongst the many websites about him, including some on MySpace are: John Peel A Tribute at: http://www.myspace.com/johnpeel ; and John Peel Day Inverness: http://www.myspace.com/johnpeelinverness
There is a John Peel blog at: http://johnpeeleveryday.blogspot.com/2006/03/last-broadcast.html which includes him working in his home studio.

John was famous, amongst many other things, for his annual Festive Fifty on BBC Radio One. This was a countdown of listeners’ favourites of the year, and usually had an exciting and alternative feel with many independent record labels represented. Dandelion Radio has taken up the gauntlet for this and is compiling a Festive Fifty. Read and hear it at http://www.dandelionradio.com/ or http://www.myspace.com/dandelionradio

Nigel Rees is well known for his role on Radio 4’s Quote Unquote programme and there is an official website set up by him at: http://www1c.btwebworld.com/quote-unquote/ Despite its early 1990s design (and many would say there is nothing wrong with that), the website is updated regularly with news of the show and its participants.

As we appear to have wandered down memory lane, something which is forgivable at this time of year when we tend to be reflecting on the past, pop over to http://www.swalwelluk.co.uk/ Swalwell is a Tyneside town but the website has many far-reaching nostalgic themes, from railways to local people, sport and local industry. Equally enthralling on this rather nicely designed yellow and blue website is the A to Z of radio and tv personalities, with photos: http://www.swalwelluk.co.uk/picpages/pic-radioa.html Try too the section on radio and television in the post war years at: http://www.swalwelluk.co.uk/memstwo.html

A mixed bag
So many sites, so little time! Here’s a round up of some of many websites I have ended 2007 becoming familiar with:

How about some Shortwave Audio from all over the world. Hear what other listeners are hearing on the Shortwave Radio, Amateur Radio HF, VHF and UHF bands in MP3 or Streaming format. A far from run of the mill website, which even Links to a You Tube clip listening to radio in Mongolia (or so it says). There are also audio and video tutorials on what to hear, Radio Netherlands audio (whilst actually watching a radio) and more fun!: http://www.shortwaveaudio.com/

A rather unusual and intriguing blog entitled ‘Love in the key of longbrake’ is yours to peruse at: http://www.thelongbrake.com/blog/ and especially the section at: http://www.thelongbrake.com/blog/2007/02/08/watch-out-malaysia-youre-next/
Lots of random thoughts on writing, South America, Fort Wayne library in minus 21º C, BBC World Service, American tv and radio, and travel. An example of a very varied illustrated blog.

If you are in the capital over the festive season you may be foolhardy enough to meet with friends to try the Monopoly pub crawl. This is indeed a route and list of public house based on the London streets featured on the Monopoly board. Photos and lists of those who have successfully completed this, and others who have sensibly failed en route are at: http://www.monopolypubcrawl.org.uk/ Radio features along the route include the BBC World Service in the Strand. If you do partake in any of these, remember to drink responsibly.
Personally I would rather stay in the warm and spend an hour looking at the wonderful website known as the Radio Salon, in Hollywood, California: http://www.radiosalon.com/ This has radios, phonograms, a museum, a guide to plastics and dozens of mouth watering photos.

The extraordinary radios section is just what it says, with some amazing designs of global radios from a bygone age of style and elegance; Emersons, Ekcos, Pyes and Puritans: http://www.radiosalon.com/html/extraordinary-radios1.htm

Once upon a time: to smartphones and podcast apps

Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was a child, I used to dream of owning a magic book that would contain every comic strip, poe...