Bob recommends Radio Tray

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Bob Chandler (VE3SRE), who leaves the following reply to our WiFi Radio Primer:

radiotrayI have been streaming online radio using a PC for a number of years using a really simple programme for the GNU/Linux operating system called “Radio Tray“.   Radio Tray is a tiny programme written in Python that uses the Gstreamer “back end”.

This programme is so small, that you can turn that old 1990’s vintage Pentium II laptop that’ gathering dust in a broom closet into an internet radio.   Just choose a very “lightweight” distribution of GNU/Linux.

For instance, on an old “original” Asus EeePC netbook, with a 900 MHz. Celeron processor, 512 MB RAM and a little 4 GB solid state hard drive, I installed the “Debian” distribution but used the lightweight “JWM” window manager for the GUI.   JWM isn’t pretty, but it works great!

You can get “Radio Tray” using the package management system of just about any GNU/Linux distribution.   I know for sure it’s in the “repos” for Ubuntu, Debian, Arch and Fedora along with all of the derivatives.    Unfortunately, it’s not available for Windows and MacOS.   But, the GNU/Linux OS is “free as in freedom and free as in free beer” as they say!

All of your radio station “bookmarks” are stored in a simple “bookmarks.xml” file that makes it a breeze to copy your bookmarks from computer to computer.    Over the years I’ve accumulated a thousand or more (I’ve lost count) internetradio stations in Radio Tray.

Radio Tray is capable of handling just about any streaming format.

My online “dx challenge” is finding the “real” stream URL of the station that’s often buried inside of browser based “Flash” players.    But, since these days most radio stations outsource their audio streaming to one of about half a dozen streaming audio providers, once you’ve figured out the provider’s URL pattern for one station, you’ve figured them all out.

I’m able to figure out the “real” stream URL about 90% of the time.   Some are easy, while some require a bit of detective work.

That also means that I don’t depend on streaming aggregators, since stream URL’s are changing all the time and sometimes it takes the aggregator a while to do an update.   I can just update a station that I’m interested in myself.

Here’s the website for “Radio Tray

I also wrote a blurb about radio tray on my own (very much neglected) website a couple of years ago.

Thanks, Bob! I was not familiar with this app–seems like a simple addition to any PC.

Spread the radio love

5 thoughts on “Bob recommends Radio Tray

  1. Lawrence Harris

    Dear Bob Thomas,

    This is not a comment on your article, but a request to Thomas, which I hope will get to his ears!!!

    Dear Thomas,
    I am writing to you indirectly as you suggested above.

    My SWL mails from you have stopped arriving, actually for a few weeks now, so I am wondering what has happened? I sent you an email yesterday which returned a message saying “delivery delayed”. I have not cancelled my subscription to SWL, but my email account(s) are being hacked and spam mails are being sent out in my name, causing me endless problems.

    Could you look into things at your end, please.

    Best regards

    1. Thomas Post author

      Hi, Lawrence,

      Thank you for reporting this. I’ve recently received a number of comments about the Feedburner email distribution system. It is displaying flaky behaviour for sure.

      I’ve been absolutely inundated with work as of late, so haven’t had a chance to migrate everything away from Feedburner, but I will soon.


  2. Dan Srebnick

    This looks interesting. I tried to install in my Fedora (FC 24) system and the app failed to run, throwing out a python error. I’ve reported it to Fedora Bugzilla and we’ll see what is wrong with their install. Will try next on a Debian system.

    1. Bob Chandler VE3SRE

      Dan, I knew it was in the Fedora software repository, but personally I haven’t played with Fedora for a very long time. I know for sure that it works trouble-free on anything I’ve used that’s based on Debian, Ubuntu or Arch.

      Just for convenience, with whatever distro you’re using, you’ll want to set RadioTray up so that it automatically starts up at login. Normally I don’t want applications to “autostart”, but Radio Tray is so small and lightweight that it consumes very few resources.

      For other folks on here, Just about everyone these days has a derelict PC sitting around doing nothing other than taking up space. Make it do something! Turn it into an internet radio with GNU/Linux and RadioTray!

      Here’s a quickie tip for finding the “real” audio stream URL (for use with Radio Tray or whatever else you’re using). I call it “online dxing” This works in Firefox.

      1.) Play the audio stream in the browser based player.

      2.) In Firefox go to “Tools”, then “Web Developer”, then “Network”

      3.) A dialogue box will open along the bottom of your screen and then “Reload” the audio stream

      4.) You’ll usually find the “real” audio stream URL in the list. I’d say this works about 60-70% of the time.

      5.) Copy and paste the URL you find into VLC Media Player just to make sure that it works and do a test.

      6.) If it works, then you can add the URL to your Radio Tray bookmarks!

      On some of the tougher ones, this doesn’t work. If you’re at least a little bit familiar with HTML coding you can right click on the streaming audio page and do a “view source”. You’ll often find the stream URL in the HTML source code of the streaming page. If you find it, bookmark it in Radio Tray!

      No matter what stations put on their website, you’ll find that most public and or campus/community radio stations will stream in the MP3 format. Commercial stations tend to use the AAC format.

      Use of Windows Media player format is rare these days. Strange as it might seem, Cuban radio stations are amongst the few that still use it. But, for those stations that still do use Windows Media format, Radio Tray will handle Microsoft stream url’s that start with “mms://” instead of “http://”.

      Some campus and community based radio stations use the Ogg Vorbis format. Nobody uses Real Player or Quicktime format any more.

      Radio Tray doesn’t yet handle streams that use “rtmp://” URL’s. But, the overwhelming majority of radio stations use “http://” stream URL’s.

      Again, since all of your Radio Tray bookmarks are stored in a plain text editable “bookmarks.xml” file, I have seen a few sites where people share their Radio Tray bookmarks files!

      So have fun with it! And, like me you might begin to transfer your old dx skills into “online dx” skills!



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