Simple transmitter in music solution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 12:00am

Last week, Tech Talk looked at listening to internet radio at home when the computer is in one room and the listener is in another. A sharp reader, Guy Chambers, has sent in his own solution, and it is quite ingenious.

He wrote:

I bought a small, battery-operated FM transmitter, the type that comes with a microphone and is normally used for transmitting a speaker's voice inside a conference hall. The unit cost about $150. It is also tunable. I found it in a small electronics shop off Queen's Road in Central.

I took a cable and connected the 'headphone out' port on my Mac (you can use any PC) to the 'microphone in' port on the small transmitter. I logged on to the BBC Radio website (my preference is Radio 4). I then turned on my portable radio in the bathroom and tuned into Radio 4.

Even though my transmitter is only battery operated, the signal is pretty strong, and seems to work all around my 2,000-square-foot apartment. It is stronger than any of the Mac iPod FM transmitters. I am not sure if this is legal or not. But it is cheap - and it works.

That certainly sounds as if it would work. I have looked into this a little bit and discovered that there are some things to be a bit careful about. A friend has done a similar thing with his iPod, and he says that if you do not turn up the volume to about 75 per cent, the sound may not be very good. Also, because it is wireless, you could get interference from other devices or radios if you live in a confined space. The legality question should not be a problem because the signals on these devices usually carry only a few metres, not hundreds of metres, which could be construed as 're-broadcasting'.

Two readers have written in on an old Tech Talk item about the problem of getting cassette tape music into iTunes and therefore, the iPod. Thank you to Thakkar of Hong Kong and Matthew Cheng of Australia. The original article was published in August last year, but I believe the May 10 column that covered Mini Discs is more up to date. The problem is exactly the same with cassette tapes and Mini Discs.

If you simply plug the device into your computer, you should be able to make the copies. It depends on your system. That May 10 issue of the weekly Technology section offers a detailed explanation.

I have done some more work on this, and I must say it is terribly tedious. The great thing about the digital world is that you can move things in 'record' time. When I pop a CD into my computer, iTunes will grab the entire disc in a couple of minutes. When I copy a cassette tape, it is done in 'real time'. It takes 90 minutes to move a 90-minute cassette tape on to the computer. My suggestion here is to copy only those cassettes that do not exist in any other format. If you can buy the CD, why bother to copy the cassette tape? On the other hand, if it is the only existing record of something, then you have little choice.