Unofficial BBC Radio Widget v4.5

There’s a brand new version out — and it only took 4 years! v4.5 features high quality AAC and MP3 streaming, schedules for all stations, and updated station listings, along with various bug and compatibility fixes. Get it here!

Unofficial BBC Radio Widget – new beta

It’s been an unimaginably long time coming, but there’s a new beta of the Unofficial BBC Radio Widget. It focuses on getting things working with the current BBC radio streams, and fixing some compatibility issues for Tiger and Leopard. Only the latest, fully-updated releases of Tiger (10.4.11) and Leopard (10.5.8) are supported, along with 10.6 and greater, including Mavericks.

Lion Compatibility

In a word, none. Yet.

Update: Things are not as bleak as they first appeared! The official release of the widget, v4.21, is compatible with lion if you install the latest Adobe Flash Player. The WMA support in the beta versions is well and truly broken by Safari 5.1 on both lion and Snow Leopard, though; the QuickTime plugin has completely changed its behaviour.

My excuse is that as a mere widget developer, I had no magic access to prerelease versions of Lion. In fact, I’ve only just managed to upgrade to Lion myself after a hard drive failure. (Hurray for DiskWarrior, which was able to recover all of the data from my not-as-frequently-backed-up-as-it-should-have-been MacBook, apparently using magic.)

I’m gratified by all the interest that’s being shown in a Lion update, and will get one out as soon as I can. In the meantime, please use the BBC radio website for all of your cricket- and non-cricket-related needs.

Beta time again

I’ve begun adding WMA support to the BBC Radio Widget. It requires the Flip4Mac WMV components for QuickTime, but amusingly provides a much better experience than the Flash player (volume controls!). If you’d like to help me test it, please check it out

Time for some Safari 5 extensions

The last few days I’ve been playing around with Safari 5’s extensions features, which are incredibly cool and surprisingly flexible. The following are the results:

Google Reader Tools 1.0

GR Tools is a toolkit with lots of neat tricks for integrating Google Reader into your browser. There’s a toolbar icon which checks for new items at regular (configurable) intervals; it’s also possible to automatically view any feed you load in Google Reader instead of Safari. You can even change the appearance of Reader — because, frankly, it’s really ugly — using some built in styles (including the beautiful Helvetireader by Jon Hicks) or your own custom stylesheet.

Qwantz Secrets 1.0

Qwantz Secrets reveals the secret texts on Dinosaur Comics when you mouseover the image — or optionally click it, or press “s”. There’s also a bookmarklet for iOS devices which can’t run extensions (and can’t see the hidden text in any of the usual ways).

Both of these automatically update, and can be downloaded from my new extensions page. Bug reports and suggestions are extremely welcome.

Getting Flash errors with BBC Radio Widget?

The largest single problem I’ve heard of with BBC Radio Widget is a Flash security dialog, which beachballs the computer. Only a very few people get it — and I’m not sure why — but the solution is here.

Major BBC streaming changes affecting BBC Radio Widget

Update: Despite how things looked, and what the iPlayer help pages said, RealPlayer has had a stay of execution from Auntie – for national stations, at least. Local and regional stations are not available any more as RealPlayer streams. Most have been replaced by a “Sorry, no longer available” audio message, but one or two are missing completely, and it’s these which can cause the undismissable dialogs and beachballs with RealPlayer plugin. I strongly recommend that everyone upgrades to the latest version, as Flash is now used by default. (RealPlayer is still available for some stations, but you have to choose to use it by option-clicking the widget’s “i” button.)

The original post remains below, unaltered.

The BBC  have removed RealPlayer streaming as an option for listening to their radio stations online. This has major ramifications for the widget.

In a nutshell: using RealPlayer streaming – the default mode – with BBC Radio Widget 4.03 may cause your computer to become unresponsive.

There’s an easy fix. Switch to Flash streaming, right now. Option-click the “i” button, and choose Flash. This will only work for national stations, though, and therefore you should avoid using regional and local stations on v4.03.

There’s good news too, though… Flash streaming now works internationally, so you can ignore the UK-only warning on the widget. Also, v4.1 of the Unofficial BBC Radio Widget is due for release within days, restoring streaming for all stations – as well as bringing improvements in Flash streaming reliability, schedule fetching, and many, many bug fixes. You can help test it, too, if you get in touch.

British trains suck

This is a moan — if you don’t like to hear people venting their petty frustrations, look away now!

So today, I’ve waited five minutes for a train which started at the station I was at. (How did it manage to be late? I don’t know.) Narrowly avoid missing an appointment.

On the way home, I miss my connection because my first train is five minutes late, and I have to sit on the platform watching the seconds tick by. I catch it, and arrive at the halfway point only to find that half the trains are running an hour late — except mine, of course, which has just left — and now I’ll be waiting an hour for the next one. Finally, I end up stuck near some smelly people (like, seriously stinking-of-something-unmentionable, smell-them-from-several-seats-away smelly).

Not as bad as when I was heading to York a couple of months ago, though. £40 for a 90-mile journey, paid on the morning. Got on the (late) train, and was greeted by an announcement that we’d be further delayed. Waited ten minutes, then a further announcement that we’re moving to the end of the platform to get out of the way. As we stop, a scant thirty seconds later, we’re told the service is cancelled. And we have to walk all the way back along the platform.

Over the course of the next half hour, they cancel one train after another — each time insisting that the train will run, right up until the point of cancellation. (It later turns out that the line was completely blocked, so they’d have known no trains could run. They almost certainly knew at the time they were happily selling me tickets, too.)

Awesome. No wonder people like cars.

BBC Radio Widget beta testers wanted, once again

Update: version 4.1 has been released. You should use that!

I’ve been working hard on a new version of BBC Radio Widget. It’s got some pretty wide-reaching under-the-hood changes – which are pretty much invisible, but need testing – and some nice tweaks such as the option to open BBC schedule pages if fetching the information fails. If you’re interested in helping me test it, get in touch.

A complicated solution to a simple problem

So, I wanted to listen to TMS while I work in the charity shop. There’s nothing like a bit of slightly-mad banter to liven up a slow afternoon. Unfortunately, as any real Englishman will know, it’s only available on Radio 4 LW, or Five Live Sports Extra (which is digital/internet only); and I don’t have any portable kit capable of picking it up. I also don’t have an internet connection in the shop.

I do have an iPhone, but it’s an iPhone 2G and it’s running on Vodafone UK, who don’t have an EDGE network. (I’m with them despite this as they’re considerably less sucky than O2 in every other conceivable way.) That means GPRS, which tops out at a realistic 3-5kB/s. Not exactly speedy, and supporting a radio stream of only around 24kbps – considerably lower than the 48+ needed for apps like InternetRadioBox to get me delicious internet radio straight from Auntie.

The solution? NiceCast. It’s hooked up to grab audio from my widget on my Mac back home (running in Flash mode so I at least start off with good audio), which it encodes to 24kbps mono MP3 for streaming to my phone (password-protected; don’t sue me, personal use only!), and then plays in InternetRadioBox. Turns out it’s quite reliable, and the audio sounds surprisingly good (it’s only voice, after all). I’m sat here right now listening to the Ashes with my phone lying on the desk, feeling very smug. It’d be better if it didn’t look like England were going to be all out for under a hundred, of course…

Granted, it’s blocking the phone’s connection so I won’t get any calls or SMS messages while I listen. And the real problem will come if my connection drops at all back home and the widget screws up autoresume, because I’ve got no way of resetting it. But that’s not going to happen. (Can you hear me, MacBook? I said THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.)