Archive for the ‘radio’ Category

Freeview Boxes

Freeview boxes continue to be the most unreliable piece of kit in the house.    

So far:     1 Nokia, 1 Phillips and 3 Daewoo set top boxes have all died within 2 years.   And last night my Matsui DTR3 also died.    Under two years old.    It blew its fuse, and looking inside, it also melted a component on the circuit board, which could have caused a fire.     You can’t turn these things off.

I suppose at around £25, it is clearly designed to be replaced after its life.    But 2 years is a disappointingly short life expectancy for something with no moving parts.   

 Transistor radios go on for ever, so why not set-top boxes?   I blame the manufacturers for not testing the plastic boxes these things are housed in.    I will be adding ventilation holes when the replacement arrives today.

Interestingly, my DAB radio has a tiny cooling fan inside.

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Up All Night

Up All Night is a live radio show which runs from 1am through the night on Radio 5, or Five Live as I think we now call it.   It is good listening, because you never know what will be on it.    There are regular slots for films (good), as well as phone ins about soccer in North and South America (boring), but lots in between – we get the Gabby Cabby from New York at weekends, and the lively presenters keep things moving.     Sometimes it covers breaking news, like when Princess Diana died.

In Scotland it broadcasts on the BBC Scotland FM band.    Or it did until this week.    I tuned in last night instead of getting something interesting and informative got……. Robbie Shepherd and his Scottish Dance music.   

I have nothing against Robbie, or Scottish Country dance music.   But not on my radio in the middle of the night for goodness sake.    Just shocking.   

What’s going on?

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An interesting piece on Radio Scotland Cafe programme this evening about who to trust when reading a review of a performance?     The professional critic, or the bloggers?

It is a good question.    I do read what critics say, and some I trust more than others.   It is a long-term relationship that one builds:   if you find one critic tending to agree with you over time, what they say can be very useful.    But not always, and I do find myself at odds with the general opinion at times – usually when all the professionals have given something 5 stars.

I do tend to find that the music critics can be especially hard on performances.   It is more complicated than theatre, and the critics do get down to technicalities fairly readily.     If I am giving my thoughts on music, I just tend to concentrate whether it was enjoyable, and if the rest of the audience had a good time.

So:  critics or bloggers?    I suppose both together give a good guide.   It is a bit like using Trip Advisor to find out about what a place is really like.    Although critics will win hands down on experience, perhaps bloggers have it on authenticity.    It’s a close call.

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DAB Radio

We have had a DAB radio in our kitchen for a while now, and have been very pleased with it.   I do have to say that our radio listening habits have not changed so very much though, although we do have a couple of favourite stations when there is not a lot on BBC radio stations.    We find early Saturday afternoons a particular radio desert – Radio 4 repeating Any Questions, Radio 3 Early Music Show (which is OK sometimes), Radio 2 with some not very funny comedy.

But I was astonished to find so many stations have completely vanished of the DAB system.    Some we never bothered with, but some we liked, like “The Arrow” from Newcastle – great for Sunday morning when Steve Wright begins to grate a bit, and you really can’t face ‘The Archers’ on R4, or a big political discussion on Radio Scotland.    So what’s going on?    Is Digital Radio not profitable any more then?

I do wonder if digital radio will be taken over by Internet Radio?    You can buy the boxes already seemingly and these work with your WiFi connection.

I am certainly not convinced by the sound quality of most Internet Radio, which can sound as if the programme is coming from under water.    And I am not yet convinced about DAB sound quality either.   

This is getting a bit too technical for me, but I wonder what the professional sound people think is the best way to receive radio?    There is a big choice now:   Satellite, Freeview, FM, DAB or Internet.    And they all broadcast at different times:   whose set of pips are correct these days?

Better stop, or this will end up on Feedback.

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American Elections

I am getting really fed up of the wall to wall coverage of the American Elections in the media.    Last night there was rolling news coverage on BBC News 24, Sky News and Radio 5 live.     So much so, that there was no other news at all.    And this was ahead of the polls closing in New York, and hours ahead of them closing in California.

Yes, it is an important election, and yes, it is interesting to see how the electorate treat a woman, a black and a very old candidate in particular.   

But why are we spending so much time on this?    We don’t have blanket coverage of elections in Canada, Australia, France, or even Ireland in this country.    So just why is so much air time and newsprint being devoted to USA?

And the American election is such a long drawn out process, quite unfathomable to most of us in the UK where we are used to about 6 weeks of campaigning and a very busy 24 hours on election night itself.

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Alan Johnston

Awoke as usual to the Today Program on Radio 4.   

Just occasionally you hear something that makes you want to punch the air in delight.

What a great start to the day.   Listen to the interview.

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You would think, wouldn’t you, that the day BBC Radio 3 broadcasts one of the most successful plays to come out of the new National Theatre of Scotland, a major Scottish Sunday newspaper would celebrate the fact?

Scotland on Sunday not only failed to mention in its radio highlights section that Black Watch was being broadcast, but listed it as “8.45 Drama on 3” in a font size that was barely readable.

How completely and utterly useless is that?    

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Internet Radio

I was ‘listening again’ to some Saturday morning BBC Radio 3 – Stravinsky Pulcinella on the internet.   I have a fairly decent broadband connection, but the sound was not really very great, which was a pity.

Which got me to looking at internet radio streaming bandwidth.     I don’t understand why stations like “The Jazz” can stream at 128kps, but the BBC is stuck in the dark ages with 48kps.

48kps is really no use for decent sound:   it sounds a bit too underwaterish.

 I don’t really understand these things, but feel that the ‘flagship’ BBC should be doing better.

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Old Peter’s Russian Tales

What a treat.   Old Peter’s Russian Tales on Radio 4.     These are great stories – fantastic and magical, happy and sad,  some are hauntingly beautiful, and some dark and frightening.      They are great to read to children.    Difficult to get a copy now, but perhaps the Radio 4 drama will kindle interest in a new edition.

So meanwhile, for fans of Baba Yaga, the Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and lots more, you can listen again for a while on the BBC website.

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One of the most popular household purchases made recently was a DAB radio which we use every day in our kitchen.    Not only do you get lots of extra channels, but there is a remote which changes radio stations TV style.   We listen to a lot of radio.

But I do have some reservations:    the sound quality is not always as good as FM – even on the main BBC stations received at full signal.    Strange, because I thought that digital was supposed to be pretty perfect soundwise.     Turns out it is to do with bandwidth, and there has been a whole debate on the  BBC Radio 3 website about this.   

Also, nobody has thought of a standard to synchronise the broadcasting of DAB radio.    At the moment, if you have FM radios turned on all over the house, they all play at the same time:   the pips all sound together.    If you have two DAB radios in the house, they both play at different rates – even receiving the same signal.    And of course Freeview broadcasts at a different rate again.    I don’t know about Sky.

Time was when you could put on Radio 3 for last night of the proms and it was in synch with the TV.   Not a chance now.   Terrestrial TV and freeview TV are also at very different rates.

Which begs the question …….. which set of time pips are the correct ones?    The National Maritime Museum has an interesting article on this.    Apparently the delay can be as much as 7 seconds between receivers.

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