Radio free…well…anything.

Flack pointed me to this nifty little PC card today that turns your computer into an FM transmitter. Slap the amp module on there (funny how that’s not available in the U.S.!) and you’ve got yourself a little radio station. (And the FCC will love you for it, at least one you’ve been arrested and they’ve fined you eleven grand.) OK, pirate radio amp aside, I’ve got to say that I’m seriously considering this gadget for home. Working around the house or around the yard/pasture, this would be great. I’ve had a gadget somewhat similar to this in my car for quite a while, which in theory is supposed to broadcast a little FM bubble around my source so whatever portable audio device I have (in my case, a Net Minidisc player) can make the jump to my car stereo. Neat idea, except that little doohickey is very analog and very unreliable (I almost think the FCC clamps down on these things to where the manufacturers are all but forced to make them unreliable). It also puts me in mind of a thought exercise I’ve thrown out before on Digital Press and NotNews.org, about setting up a seven-day TV programming schedule with shows you have on tape or DVD. What would you put on the radio if you had a little FM bubble of radio free you? (I have to admit, some mischievous part of me would love to set up a disposable PC somewhere with the FM card and the 5-mile broadcasting amp, load up the drive with the most annoying music ever heard – I have several remixes of “Hamsterdance” in my collection – and throw in some bogus station IDs saying stuff like “You’re listening to K-Y…….jelly!”, and then leave the thing plugged in and running somewhere and take off for the hills.)

Speaking of broadcasting yourself into the world, I saw a report on World News Tonight about how “social networking” sites such as Facebook and MySpace are coming back to haunt folks – i.e. underage college students getting expelled for mentioning drinking, etc. – and I’m a little torn on that. I agree with the assessment that one of their on-screen experts gave – don’t put anything you wouldn’t want your family to see on one of these sites – but at the same time I found myself conflicted with the idea that – according to the report – at least one government agency is checking out prospective employees’ MySpace sites before hiring. I know that putting anything on these sites, or blogging, or anything of that nature, is something that you’re putting out there for the world to see, so technically the liability is that of the end user. So it’s not like finding someone’s Myspace site or their blog or what have you is really prying. But there’s still something a little disturbing about the idea. I think my concerns lean toward the younger crowd. Kids say and do stupid things. God knows I did when I was a teenager. The thought that, in some respects, people can more or less by tried and convicted by a judge and jury of one based on their blog bugs me. Maybe this means I’m just not really a member of Generation Blog (and y’know, I’ve never claimed to be), but it almost seems like we’re slowly supplanting things like, oh, talking to people and getting to know them, as opposed to having read every thought they’ve ever confessed to having online and making some kind of judgement there. Even in this age of Perhaps Too Much Transparency (where individuals are concerned, at least), the internet is still a barrier that allows some people to put up a front. The thought that we’re now going to judge people’s livelihoods, college admission worthiness, and other major, life-changing things by someone’s blog bugs me.

Be careful what ye blog, brothers and sisters, ’cause Big Blog Brutha is watchin’.

2 thoughts on “Radio free…well…anything.

  1. So what advantage does this FM transmitter card have over, say a pair of wireless headphones (like the pair in this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00023MEL8/sr=1-1/qid=1137718854/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-7971595-4554403?%5Fencoding=UTF8)?

    The only advantage I can see is that you can have a bunch of people listen to the broadcast instead just one (of course, at $50 a pop, you could buy several wireless headphone for the same cost of the card). I have a pair of wireless speakers and I periodically plug the transmitter into the speaker jack of my computers sound card. It has never really occurred to me that I might be broadcasting to others who may have wireless headphones (the range is 300 feet and so I might have as many as 20 or 30 of my neighbors homes in range). Maybe I could set up a microphone on my PC and read my blog entries while playing some relaxing tracks from the BSG soundtrack. 🙂

    If I play music over my wireless speakers, do I have to pay a fee to the RIAA?

  2. Well, whether you’re talking about an FM card or these headphones, you’re broadcasting; I’m sure the headphones are a little more along the lines of what regulatory outfits like the FCC and the performing rights groups (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) would like to see – even if you’re broadcasting the hell outta the stuff, you still have to have the right equipment, set on the right frequency, to pick it up. Whereas an FM transmitter…well, just about everyone’s got something that’ll pick that up, and everyone wants their piece of that – the FCC, the performing rights organizations, etc. etc. …hence the “big amp” being illegal.

    Your mention of reading blog entries, though, has reminded me that one of these days I have to try this podcasting thing…it’s just that time is a real killer there. And what could I do of a podcastly nature that would (A) be my content and no one else’s (there goes the idea for playing highlights from obscure/rare/out-of-print soundtracks every week!), and (B) be……..well…not boring? I actually kinda miss the radio days a bit, but I don’t know what I can drone on and on about that people would line up to listen to. And given that I haven’t got an idea in mind, I’d rather not join the pod[cast] people just yet and go wasting their time and my bandwidth without having an idea of what would make worthwhile listening.

    Maybe Burchuss will do the first podcast. 😛

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