Just wondering if anyone has considered the idea of, or is, using Amazon's Alexa for come of their program content?
The reason I ask is that I've been considering options for a wx feed. Finding that using Routines, Alexa can be scheduled to deliver info based on time (loosely based on time, I should say). I've been looking at the possibility of seeing if it may work for the delivery of local weather reports.
I hadn't thought of that, but can see how it could be done cleanly if someone was proactive and recorded it, since if it's loose with timing, then it would be hard to schedule properly, unless you had a routine that could pick it up, record the report, and then insert it as a file in your playback system, delayed.
You'd have to watch that the Alexa device didn't pick up any voice activation and wake up, which might get recorded as a report, or that an ad or something else wasn't included with the report itself.
That opens up possibilities, like getting news reports the same way, shows and other feeds, or the voice could read text feeds, so you wouldn't have the scratchy, phone quality audio from weather services, and it would fit in better with music stations especially, where the voice should be smooth to fit in. The voices could read other things, and after all, if iHeart wants to go to AI, and computer announcing, those of us in low power radio ought to have the same options.
Someone had some scheduling software that was promoted here or on some other site, and I believe it was for Zara Radio. Maybe that author can ring in on this.
ZaraRadio can definitely be used for scheduling content.
As Boomer said, you'd have to record the audio and edit it to insert into Zara. You'd need to do that periodically for current weather.
A few years ago the Cleveland/Akron Ohio area NOAA used to make all of their audio content files available for download. That was great as I was able to automate downloading the files in order to have a current forecast. Since the file name never changed, Zara would always play the current download.
Sadly, they discontinued that service for security reasons.
Someone was using a text to audio program to make their audio file with weather forecast text found on a weather site. I suppose that's how NOAA does it.
Zara can also automate time/temperature announcements but requires you to have a subscription to Weather Watcher Live. That program updates a text file as the weather data changes so it's always current. Zara can parse the text file and pick out the temperature and humidity numbers. Then, using pre-recorded audio clips, the announcements can be inserted into the playlist or scheduled to play. Similarly, time announcements can be automated with pre-recorded audio clips.
You can download ZaraRadio ver. 1.6 from my webpage at: MRAM
When you open the homepage, click on the ZARARADIO button to find the download.
MRAM 1500 Charter Member ALPB Previous Chairman ALPB
Dr. Bob, I like how you have your own domain at mram.us now, that seems new, I remember it being something else, like 10000webs or something like that. You must have one of the longer running sites in Part-15 by now.
Yes, originally I used a 50Webs free hosting service. They cancelled it because they said I was "front loading" the site. I think that meant there were links to content hosted on the 50Webs site accessed directly without viewing the pages. Doing that would bypass there advertising banners. That's a no-no on a free hosted site.
If you try the old address it still brings up what looks like an FTP page but I removed all the files from the old account so there is nothing there.
I picked the "us" domain since I'm in the USA...
When the ALPB domain got hooked from me, I simply changed it to the "us" domain. But, I didn't use GoDaddy because I didn't care for the underhanded method which resulted in a domain name grabber getting it. Instead, I went with 50Webs again to keep everything under one registrar.
MRAM 1500 Charter Member ALPB Previous Chairman ALPB
Did some further testing, using the Alexa device for on-air playback. My initial tests showed the while the Alexa device could, potentially, work, there were timing issues. Specifically, the time from the device encountering a Routine command and the device responding to it varied. Sometimes, it varied wildly.
As an automation system I use StationPlaylist, so, using Creator, I inserted the Break Notes into the rotation, that, at the top of the hour, initiated a, hard, step to the next event, which was a station I.D.. To make this work well, I highly recommend placing instrumental material near the top of the hour. After the station I.D., a Break Note is placed that initiated the Line-in event, to open the port and allow audio from the Alexa to be heard on the air. This is where the timing issues came to be problematic.
Initially, I provided a 30 second space of time for the Alexa event to be completed (play weather and then play the time). After this event the automation resumes with the rotation. Most of time time, the delay between the end of the station I.D. to the start of the Alexa audio starting was between 5 and 10 seconds. This wasn't horrible, not was it wholly acceptable. The delay between the end of the Alexa audio and the continuation of the rotation routinely ran about 10 seconds, as well. The Break Note timing was edited to reduce the overall time.
For the most part, this idea worked well. However, there were occasions where the delay of the start of the Alexa audio ran over 30 seconds, resulting in no Alexa audio being play to air at all.
I'm going to think this through some more to see if there might be a way to tighten things up, but I feel I may be disappointed.
(The testing covered an "on-air" timeline of 8 hours, to attempt the determination of the delay timings.)
I wanted to document this process and resultant information not only for myself, but, also for others who might be considering using the Alexa device for some type of automated on-air audio programming.
After that long winded detailing of my initial testing, using Routines to initiate Alexa audio, I've been thinking and looking at another path of initiating Alexa content. This one, I'm a bit less confident in, because it would require the Alexa device to have the ability to hear what is being played to air. More specifically, the Alexa device would need to be introduced, or in some way coaxed to begin delivering the required content, be it weather, news, or other. The timing issue is not an issue when the Alexa device reacts to an audio stimulus, at least for things like weather and time requests.
Looks like I'm going to need to dig a little into how the Alexa device's input/output works.
(Update one hour later - Short of taking the Alexa device apart, which I won't do, it looks futile, as there doesn't appear to be any way of connecting an external input to it.) It might be an idea for some enterprising young broadcast, to approach Amazon and explain to them the idea and usefulness of an Alexa device with an external audio input.
While it is not my intent to overpopulate, or take over any post, or subject, I'm onto another track with utilizing Alexa content on-air.
If you've read the previous posts, you know that using routines is faulty, because of the time it take the Alexa device to actuate any response to a scheduled item.
I've decided, in my next attempt, to try a voice activated recorder, which can be scheduled. Basically, turning the tables. By setting the same type of routines on the Alexa device, and using a voice activated recorder, starting the recording process based on a schedule, the start delay should, in theory, not be an issue. The "stop" time of the recording process should be the only issue, depending on the content.
Thus far, in my testing, the process is proving itself, with a new minor issues not having to do with the actual process.
The ability to have a VOX application automatically record the content is working quite well. The problems I've come across are minor, however, of a nature where I wouldn't feel comfortable putting the content on-air.
Nothing has changed with the configuration of the Alexa Routines, which cause the Alexa device to voice the weather forecast at certain times of the day (0000, 0300, 0600, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, and 2100 hours). This appears to have been working quite well.
I've been, over the last week or so, working to discover a piece of software that will record based on a schedule, but allow the recording to be VOX activated. The most difficult part about this search is finding an application that would either allow for the resultant recordings to re-use a common name (i.e., weather.mp3, or similar), and/or allow the recording to automatically overwrite itself. If the scheduled recordings could automatically overwrite the recorded files previously recorded, that would work, if one were unable to have all recordings done using a common filename.
After searching for an extended period of time for an application capable of meeting these requirements, I found one that looked like it might. An application from NCH Software called RecordPad looked like it might. Testing with the application looked promising, with one exception: Sometimes, scheduled recordings are not activated, or they are activated at the wrong time. I've not figured out a pattern to, or a cause of, these issues yet. I have pending support request to the software author and am awaiting any response.
I'm going to continue working on this issue, looking for and testing new applications and continuing my attempt at resolving the issues with RecordPad as well.
I believe, I've found the issue with the schedule problem. Testing the corrections over the next 24 hours.
The problem, I believe, is that the RecordPad application wasn't creating tasks, in the Windows Task Scheduler, correctly. Over the next 24 hours, I'll look to ensure that it follows the corrected tasks and then post the results.
After extensive testing, with more testing to go, I believe that the schedule issue has been solved. Admittedly, a little assistance from the horribly slow support team from NCH Software was required.
Over the last 24 hours, the weather forecast was able to be delivered and, successfully, recorded for on-air playback, from an Alexa device. The process of getting things set up and operational was, for me at least, an involved on, that took much longer than I thought it would. A little background is required to explain all the steps...
My wish was to be able to have an up-to-date weather forecast played to air, every 3 hours. The playback times I had in mind were (military time): 0000, 0300, 0600, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, and 2100. To begin with, I set up Routines on the Alexa device, which would allow the device to complete a task without having to have any outside instigator (voice command). This task, for testing purposed, has been a pretty simple on - simply say the weather forecast.
If you've followed this thread, you know what a pain in the ass the Alexa device is when following Routines. There can be as much as a 30 second lag time between the scheduled time of the routine to when the device actually takes action. This issue complicated what I, initially, had hoped would be a fairly simple job of just creating a schedule of Routined for the Alexa device to follow and then playing the device live-to-air, via Break Notes within the StationPlaylist automation software that I use.
After finding out the Routines alone were unreliable in their execution, I had hoped to record them and then air them. Simply recording the audio, because of the undefinable delays of the Routine processing, I needed to determine either what, in reality, the delays were to a time limit that would work for broadcasting, or figure out another method of recording the audio. Because of some of the discussions on this site, and others, I thought that using a voice initiated recording application might do the trick. However, that led to some additional complications and requirements. One would need to find an application that would not only record on the detection of audio, but that could be scheduled to record only at certain times (so as not to be affected by recording other audio outside the Routines set) and, hopefully, keep the use of storage resources to a minimum, having the ability to record to the same filename over and over, overwriting a previous recording when needed.
Numerous applications were tested. Most didn't fit the bill of requirements. One, however was found that looked promising. RecordPad, from NCH Software. The application looked like it could do what needed to be done. The application was put through the test process and failed miserably a number of time, in different ways. On the initial set up, the application was to record and store files in an MP3 format, which failed due to an operator installation error. Subsequent tests failed because of the applications inability to follow the simple schedule that had been created.
After correcting the initial issue (MP3 format), I began my deep dive into the schedule issue. The problem was that of the 8 recording times I had schedule, the application was only working properly for half to 3/4 of the time. The scheduled recording would either not take place at all, or at the wrong time. An example might be that the 0300 hour scheduled recording would happen at 0900, or 0000 hour. The schedule, within the application, was removed and re-created numerous times, to no avail. The problem kept returning. However, there was some commonality, in that the issue always seemed to return to the same items within the schedule. After a lot of looking around, and beginning to look for other applications to replace RecordPad, and back and forth with the, extremely slow to respond tech support, I found out that the schedule created in RecordPad was dependent upon a subsequent schedule it created in the Window Task Scheduler.
Looking at this, and comparing the two schedules, it was noted that they were different. The differences were on the same problematic recording mentioned. The RecordPad schedule was correct, but the Window schedule was incorrect. Initially, the Windows schedule was manually corrected. After the manual corrections, the problem still existed.
So, taking the advice, of the ever so slow, NCH technical support, I removed the application and all of its supporting files (including the hidden, or not easily found items) from the system, rebooted and reinstalled again. After re-installing and, carefully, recreating the schedule, I hoped to test again. I did, however, prior to starting the tests, check the Windows Task Scheduler against the RecordPad schedule. I corrected any discrepancies, again and began testing.
Having done all this, and after over numerous hours of testing, the first 24 hour test period has worked successfully.
I will try to gather some screen shots of the application and how it is configured, for others to refer to, if they are interested.
I will keep an eye on everything for, at least, another 24 hours, before on-air-use, in hopes that the success was not a fluke.
I think it played at :14 past, a short weather report for the Paris area, female voice.
Interesting format, it reminds me of a smooth jazz FM station here in town, or it was, until the format was dropped here for talk. Your station was expanded though, a song about the Greek alphabet resembling a They Might Be Giants style song, and another bluesy tune I thought could be Joe Bonamassa.
The sound reminded me of when I tried either Zara or Winamp with Sound Solution plug-in. I don't remember what player was used, it was long ago, but the default process sounded like that.
Good, and the weather drop and ID is working. I know it's a test stream, but I hope you get some listeners in your area if you're on the air!