Saturday, February 20, 2016

Brilliant and unique use of ZaraRadio

ZaraRadio is a very popular choice of automation software for Part 15 radio stations, not just because it's free, but because it's so full featured, capable, stable, and simple to comprehend. So I find it fitting to tell you about an add-on of sorts that had been created to extend ZaraRadio's capabilities..

I was recently reminded by a rare visit by an elusive member by the name of dosman, on the part15.us/forum earlier today. He came to post information of an update a program he wrote called ZaraRadio event file dumper . You can read his post by clicking the link you just passed.

But what I was saying - was I was reminded of a little program which I first came across a few years ago and never really got around to experimenting with.. It was also designed by dosman.. And.. because I'm feeling lazy.. I'm just going to copy and paste what I had originally posted about it at http://www.part15.us/blogs/brilliant-and-unique-use-zararadio when I first came aware of it...

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January 25, 2014 - 04:18
RichPowers's picture
This has got to be the coolest Part 15 related thing I've stumbled across since discovering Carls Low Power Hour!..
This guy has a Part 15 station: "The Ocho! operates on the north end of town and can be heard along parts of Old 37 and Walnut Street."  .. I didn't see any mention of what city or state 'Old 37 and Walnut street' might be in, nor if the station is currently is still in operation or not. But it apparently was from 2006 to 20011.

I just ran a search on Part15.us a few moments ago and see that he is a member and has posted here a few times, but it doesn't look as though anyone ever gave a response.. I think it might be because no one understood what the hell he was talking about.

Anyway, I fell across his website and discovered a really brilliant thing he created to use with ZaraRadio (at least I think it's brilliant, it's new to me). He came up with a way of using Zara Radio to control 3rd party scripts for additional automation. He has Zara running on his windows pc and.. well, here it is in his own words..
http://ibmgeek.shacknet.us/ocho

"..We've been able to run a 100% automated radio station using a second linux box to generate text-to-speech updates for weather, news, and the hourly gas price report for our town. So far we've been using a "pull" methodoligy were the Zara playout host downloads updated dynamic content (text-to-speech) from the linux box using batch files and wget for Windows. This works very well for content that only needs to be updated hourly like the gas and weather. The linux box updates the text-to-speech report a few minutes ahead of the playout time, then the Zara host downloads it just before the scheduled playout beings.."

He has some example mp3s there of the text to speech outputs, like: ap news, current events, gas reports, slashdot_headlines, and weather.
The computer voice sounds like a NOAA report, which would be fine (to me) for the weather and gas reports, but not the news and events. But there are better virtual voices availble I know. I can see something like this being very useful.
He goes on to say:

"..I've wanted to have the system annunciate the names of the songs played for a while but only recently figured out a way to do this. ZaraRadio needs a method to call scripts or otherwise initiate the regeneration of a text-to-speech reports except it does not directly support this. However there's no reason the playout log can't also be used to trigger events, if a script can watch the log it can pick up commands from it too. How do you inject commands though? Simple: add fake song names to your playlist. The song names contain metadata which your script knows how to read..."

He go on describing detailed but simple scripts, and also provides a download of the "Automated DJ" program he wrote. And he tried to tell us about it here, but no one seemed to listen!
I think this is so cool! Doesn't anybody else?
Check it out: http://ibmgeek.shacknet.us/ocho/ [updated link]

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I missed this.. Evidently he has an updated version which can run on the same windows pc as zara is running on instead of on a separate pc with linux on it.
Here's the programs features:
Features
* Generates spoken audio from text input sources and websites
* Mixes in randomly chosen background music if desired
* Outputs to either mp3 or wav formats (mp3 is prefered)
* Chooses random sentences from a phrase book file for dynamic reports
Ex: "And now the 1680AM gas prices from around town" and "What a fine $SEASON day for gas, prices that is"
* Garble protection - the script tries to detect errors in html processing and aborts gracefully
Ex: When a website changes their HTML the DJ will announce "Danger! Will Robinson" rather than treat your listeners to the sound of raw HTML being fed into a text2speech engine.
* Script, modules, and support files are self-documented for easy customization
* Modular design allows easy addition of new content
* Has easily updated dictionaries to assist the text-to-speech software pronounce words correctly
Ex: "St." becomes "street", "911" becomes "nine eleven" rather than "nine hundred eleven"
* Experimental support for CGI streaming output
* Cygwin environment includes 12 voices plus 1 male voice for speaking Spanish

Included modules (supported input sources):
* Gas prices from gasbuddy.com
* Current weather from weather.com
* AP News from public RSS feeds
* News from Slashdot headlines
* News from Russia Today's English RSS feed
* USGS earthquake report
* Movie listings via Google by zip-code (based on theaters near a given zip-code)
* Current events for your locality, requires writing your own sub-modules for website calendars in your area


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...we cant be at the console 24/7. and I see nothing wrong or uncommon about using a computer generated voice to automatically provide updated content on certain things like the time, weather, movie schedules, current gas prices, tides, and whatever else can be automatically obtained from outside feeds...
...By no means was I suggesting a computer voice being the primary personality, but only as an assistant. After all, how many part 15 stations would be running 24 hours a day without a computer.. and how many would not be running at all?

Original posting:
http://www.part15.us/blogs/brilliant-and-unique-use-zararadio

Dosman the Programmer:
1680AM The Ocho!
  • Automated DJ
  • Hear demo DJ reports
  • Improving Festival Voices
  • Using the Zara Radio playout log to control other scripts
  • How to Dump ZaraRadio Event Files

  • Check it out.

    That was lazy... I'll really have to post about this again after some experimentation..


     

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