Tag Archives: TuneIn

Aggregation aggravation update: Frontier Silicon working on Favorites and Personal Streams

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio is one of many popular models affected

One of the hottest topics here on the SWLing Post this month is regarding Frontier Silicon and vTuner “aggregation aggravation.”

Let me explain. Earlier this month, Frontier Silicon abruptly dropped vTuner as its radio stream aggregator after vTuner CEO Peter Johnson shut off the service. Johnson stated here on the SWLing Post that he:

“[T]urned off the frontier service just for a couple hours after they backstabbed me.”

One of vTuner’s business clients (a client of Frontier) informed me that Johnson wanted to change the terms of their financial agreement thus used a service blackout to force Frontier’s hand. That seems to be supported by Johnson’s comment.  In the end, we know Frontier dropped vTuner a few days later and has now partnered with Airable.

Regardless of what might have really happened, end-users of the Frontier Silicon service have had to cope with frustrating changes (I own a Sangean WFR-28 and Como Audio Solo which have both been affected).

Without warning, we lost our curated collection of station favorites/bookmarks. Personally, this was a collection of stations I had refined over the better part of three years. To lose them without warning was a bit of a blow to say the least.

To Frontier’s credit, they did implement the new aggregator quickly, but in the process lost some important functionality that was apparently a part of the vTuner service including the ability to save/organize favorites and personal streams. Fortunately, it appears Frontier will address this in the future.

An update from Frontier Silicon

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dogmatix and Bob Faucett who note the following announcements on Frontier Silicon’s website:

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of support queries. We are prioritising adding missing stations and podcasts, and will be responding to all other queries as quickly as possible. Please accept our apologies for the delay in response.”

“Based on customer feedback we are working to add Favourites and Personal Streams into the new service. Please bear with us for a few weeks while we develop and test this functionality.”

This is good news, although it sounds like it might be some time before functionality is in place.

Feeling vulnerable

I’ve received numerous comments and emails from readers regarding this “aggregation aggravation”–the common thread being a sense of vulnerability.

After the service changes, we realized the degree to which our WiFi radio devices are dependent on Frontier Silicon. When service was cut earlier this month, most of our radios couldn’t even connect to streams that were programmed into front panel memory presets. For a while, our WiFi radios became expensive internet appliances that were unable to function as advertised. Those without a traditional FM/AM receiver were essentially useless.

I imagine this could be the case for Internet radios that rely on other aggregators—in other words, the radio is only as good as its online service.

UNDOK App

A number of readers have been sharing positive comments about the Frontier Silicon UNDOK app as a work-around for storing favorites, etc.

I’ve been on the road the past few weeks and have not had time to explore this app myself, so I would certainly appreciate UNDOK experience/advice from readers.

Please comment!

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Frontier Silicon and vTuner aggregation aggravation continues

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who’ve contacted me regarding the ongoing issues with WiFi radios that rely on the Frontier Silicon/vTuner aggregator partnership. Two days ago, we mentioned this in a post about the service outage that affected Sangean and Como Audio WiFi radio devices.

Turns out, the outage was a sign of deeper troubles that will affect any Internet radio device using the Frontier Silicon aggregator. I know that at least Sangean and Como Audio use the service, but I image there are many more, especially in some automobiles. Indeed, this might also affect devices which use the vTuner service.

At present, I am unable to use my Como Audio Solo or the Sangean WFR-28 WiFi radio. Both require re-saving all of the presets.

Sangean posted a short message on their devices yesterday. Dennis Dura notes:

I have the Sangean WFR-28 and just came home to find a message on every preset saying “due to recent changes to our internet radio service, you will need to save your presents again”.

Not only that, but many of the menus of the radio have changed.

And most bizarre, in the Genre setting, they have eliminated “Jazz” as a category, and have added many I’ve never before or heard off. How does a company eliminate a category that is understood across the world?

Como Audio actually sent an email message regarding the lapse of service yesterday evening.

The Como Audio message described, in some detail, what had actually taken place. Much of Como’s message was based on the following message Frontier Silicon posted on their website:

Why did the service change on 7th May 2019?

On 1st May 2019 we experienced a major outage of the Internet Radio & Podcast service used by our customers’ Internet Radio devices. This was caused by issues with a third-party service provider that were outside our control.  The service provider has also informed us that they are unable to ensure service provision beyond week commencing 6th May.  Any such failure to provide the service would have caused the Internet Radio functionality on all our customers’ devices to stop working unless we had taken this remedial action.

As a result, we have made some changes to the way the service is delivered, and you may notice the following changes:

  • We have deployed a replacement service, and configured all devices to use it.  It may take several hours for your device to see the new service.  Older devices may need to be powered off and back on again to force them to see the new service.
  • We are using a new provider for the Internet Radio and Podcast directory.  You may discover some new stations and podcasts that were not previously available, and you may find some stations and podcasts are missing.  If you notice a station or podcast that you think is missing from the database then please raise a support ticket and we will aim to get it added within 2 business days.
  • You may see some slight changes to the menu structure on your devices due to the change of provider.
  • The previous customer portal is no longer available, and so you can no longer use it to add your own stations.  If you would like a station adding to the database then please raise a support ticket and we will aim to get it added within 2 business days.
  • It is no longer possible to recall Favourites.  Depending on your device, we recommend using the Device Presets or Last Listened functionality to recall your favourite stations instead.
  • Any Device Presets that you have previously saved will no longer work and so you will need to resave them.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused as a result of these changes, which we have made in order to provide continuity of service for customers and users.  This is a large and complex migration and whilst we have tested and rehearsed this scenario in advance there may be an initial period of reduced service stability.  We will be monitoring the service closely during this time and will communicate any issues via the status page at https://status.frontiersmart.com/.

If you have any further comments or questions about the service then please browse the Knowledge Base, and submit a support ticket if you cannot find the information you are looking for.

Of course, we all know that the “third party” is the vTuner aggregator. I’m curious who Frontier Silicon will use now as an aggregator, or if they’ll self-host the database.

A number of readers have reported issues saving their front panel presets and other favorites. My guess is that this functionality will return after the new service is fully implemented. I also assume Frontier Silicon could implement any missing music genres (like the Jazz genre Dennis mentioned). At least, I hope so.

One thing we’ve learned is how very little is actually stored locally in these WiFi radios. It seems everything down to the front panel presets rely on the aggregator functioning properly.

If you have one of the affected WiFi radios, please comment about your experience getting it back online and loaded with station presets. Please report any quirks you encounter during the process. I’ve gotten mixed reports about the Como and Sangean mobile phone applications working properly.

I shall now go about re-saving all of the presets in my family’s WiFi radios.

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WiFi Radio: Dave experiences “aggregation aggravation”

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Dave Mackie, who writes:

I have a Sangean WFR-28 that just stopped working recently and through a bit of internet spelunking I happened across your site and explanation about Frontier Silicon as ‘aggregator’ for Sangean. A phone call to Sangean confirmed that Frontier Silicon was having a problem with the aggregation service.

First off, thanks for the three part series on internet radio; it gave me just enough of a hint that the problem with be something other than the radio despite the fact that other wifi things were working properly.

[After contacting Frontier Silicon, I received] this unhelpful reply:

Unfortunately, we are having some difficulties with the internet radio service provided to us by a third party, which causes products not to be able to tune to any internet radio stations.

We are working on addressing the issue, and should have it up and running, hopefully within the next 12 hours.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

On one hand we’re getting a service that’s ‘free’ in that we don’t send a check directly to Frontier or the 3rd Party

We press a button and the radio just works.

On the other hand, the radio can inexplicably just stop working and we have absolutely no way to fix it.

Again as you mentioned, perhaps ‘closed’ vs. ‘open’ aggregator could (should?) be more well-known and more of a factor when choosing a radio.

I’d like more preset buttons on my Sangean WFR-28, but way more than that, I want it to work!

Many thanks to Dave for sharing this experience with us–I imagine other readers may have caught this lapse in service as well. Fortunately, the problem Dave referred to was fixed within a 24 hour window.

I believe the “third party” Frontier Silicon relies on is vTuner. If I understand correctly, Frontier Silicon actually pulls all of the station linking information from vTuner’s database.

So you can see why aggregation aggravation could occur: there are no less than three companies involved when you “tune” your Sangean WiFi radio.

Sangean makes the radio which has software that links to Frontier Silicon’s portal. You log into Frontier Silicon’s portal to create a user account and manage your station favorites. But in the end, Frontier Silicon uses vTuner as a station database.

If any one of these links fail, the result may be a dead WiFi radio.

On the positive side, I listen to a Como Audio Solo radio most mornings. The Solo relies on the same aggregator chain as Sangean radios and I have never experienced an outage. I might be lucky, but I don’t think outages are all that common.

It would be great if there was a community-powered aggregator–something akin to a Wikipedia of Wifi radio–that would serve as a database for our Internet receivers. I could see a model where radio stations manage their own stream data and coordinates and listeners could even be approved to help manage link integrity. Sadly, I know of no such aggregator at present (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong about this).

Aggregators used by OEMs (like Sangean) are backed by a company (Frontier Silicon, vTuner, TuneIn, iHeartMedia, Reciva, etc.) that have a financial interest in serving up-to-date station information to its customers. In the end, it still takes a human to physically add, delete or alter station information.

Since there’s money involved, it’s in the aggregator’s best interest to take care of problems quickly and efficiently. In truth, I worry less about the time it takes to fix problems or add stations–I worry about the aggregator going out of business. This happened in the early days of WiFi radio when some smaller manufacturers chose to run their own aggregators. If their company closed shop, their products were essentially useless.

Post readers: Have you ever owned a Wifi radio that stopped working due to aggregator failure? Have I missed a point here? Please share your thoughts!

Click here to read our WiFi Radio Primer.


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TuneIn adds the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive

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I’m pleased to announce that TuneIn Radio has added our Shortwave Radio Audio Archive (SRAA) podcast as a new Internet streaming broadcaster.

For those of you not familiar, TuneIn’s website and mobile apps offer the user the ability to listen to streaming audio of thousands of radio networks and radio stations worldwide, including AM, FM, HD, LP, digital, Internet stations and podcasts. Check out this post from 2012 where we review TuneIn.

TuneInLogoWhy stream shortwave radio recordings?

While most international broadcasters can be streamed directly via TuneIn or via the broadcaster’s website, listening to the shortwave archive will make your computer, smart phone or Wi-Fi radio sound like a proper shortwave radio–you’ll hear all of the noises, fading, ionosounders and things that go “bump” over the ether.

So if you like the low-fi sonic texture of shortwave radio (ahem, I do!) add the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive to your favorites on TuneIn Radio.

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Rethinking Internet Radio, Part One

At the SWLfest this year, I attended a forum about web/Internet radio that resulted in my reconsideration (and, frankly, increased appreciation) of this now-conventional medium. If you’re already familiar with web radio, you may find this post a bit primary in nature; but if, like me, you hadn’t given the medium much consideration, I ask that you join us for a little rethink.

I decided, just to be fair and broad-minded, I really ought to take an exploratory plunge into the diverse world of web radio. True, we’ve never discussed this on the SWLing Post before; as our name implies, we usually stick closer to our classic shortwave medium. But as we do like to cover international broadcasting in our post, we must acknowledge that internet radio is now a significant part of that far-reaching landscape.

So, in order to cover the subject comprehensively, we’ve addressed it in two parts:  This first post focuses on the platform of internet radio, and attempts to dispell some misconceptions surrounding it in the SW community.  The second post will be a review of an ultra-cheap, rather unconventional web radio that will give you years of radio listening pleasure, should you wish to give it air time. I’ve also included some  insightful comments from our SWLing colleagues, also the forum’s presenters, so do keep reading.

Web Radio: a (very) short primer

The C.Crane Wi-Fi Internet Radio

First, a little terminology: There is no standardized name for the internet radio platform. Some people call the medium “web radio,” others call it “internet radio,” and manufacturers often refer to their purpose-built radios as “wi-fi radios.” All of these terms are correct and mean essentially the same thing, so we use them interchangeably here.

Everyone reading this post electronically already has access to web or internet radio–all you need is access to a computer, a smart phone, or an internet-enabled device with an application or web site that can tap into databases of stations around the world.  You’ve clearly got that.

The Logitech Squeezebox is a popular web radio/wi-fi player

However, when most people think of web radio, they think of a tabletop device that looks like a traditional radio, but links to your home internet connection and plays music from the web. This type of internet radio is, of course, very convenient.  You simply turn on the radio and literally tune across the world by means of a familiar tuning knob. By far, the web radio most of the SWLfest attendees preferred (and recommended) was the Logitech Squeezebox–for many reasons, including its comparatively open-to-development radio station server.

Tabletop web radios are great, but let’s face it–they’re a bit pricey, easily $100+, not really portable, and only deliver internet radio.  They’re the right solution for your kitchen, bedroom or home office, but you wouldn’t find it particularly convenient to travel with one of these or to move it from room to room.

Plus, there is the risk that if you buy a cheap purpose-built internet radio, and the parent company goes out of business, your radio will no longer have a database from which it can pull stations. Eager manufacturers jump into the market, as so many did in the early days of wi-fi radio, only to realize later that it’s not the right avenue for them and discontinue their radio service. Because many of these radios run on proprietary software and servers, when their companies fall out of the market, these radios are unable to connect to stations any longer. In other words, should your radio befall this unfortunate fate, your sleek, high-tech device could abruptly become no more than a paperweight.

Introducing TuneIn 

At the forum, the conversation quickly moved from wi-fi radios (like the above-mentioned Squeezebox) to internet radio applications for mobile devices. This applications (or programs) effectively turn your mobile device into a web radio. The one app name that received the most favorable mentions in our forum discussion is  “TuneIn.”  To learn a little more about TuneIn, I asked one of the presenters, Richard Cuff, why he likes it so much? Richard’s reply:

There are several different Android and iPhone apps that can help you navigate Web Radio, with TuneIn getting consistently high marks for its comprehensiveness and quality of listings — i.e., listings are up-to-date, and have few broken links.

The free version of TuneIn may be good enough for most people; the only notable restriction in functionality is that you can only maintain a personal list of favorites via the TuneIn website, not the mobile app; the paid version of TuneIn (99 cents for iPhone / iPad / Android / Blackberry), allows you to create and maintain a favorites list on your device itself.

Free versions of TuneIn are available as a web app, along with
versions for iOS devices, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and Palm devices.

In essence, TuneIn turns your smart phone, iPod Touch or tablet device (like the iPad or Kindle Fire) into a sleek internet radio that not only tunes in stations from around the world, but gives you access to scanner activity as well (fire, police and public utility transmissions, for example). How custom you’d like it to become, depends upon 99¢.

By the time the forum presenters had finished introducing this app, many of us in the room had already installed TuneIn on our phones and were checking it out for ourselves.

Other like applications were mentioned; I asked Richard about those he felt were stand-outs:

Another mobile app worth considering is the free FStream, but you have to build a list of stations yourself–it does not come with a comprehensive directory.

Many individual stations and station groups offer their own free apps, such as NPR, PRI, Radio France International, Germany’s DW, and Japan’s NHK; if you tend to listen to these specific stations, you may want the added functionality these individual apps may offer.

But is internet radio “cheating?” Is it really radio?

During the forum, I realized that many SWLers attending were more than reluctant to endorse web radio as an alternative to the familiar, trusted medium of shortwave radio. Prejudice, not to mention a certain amount of guilt, was detectable in the room. But as many on the panel were quick to point out, holding internet radio up to shortwave is really comparing apples to oranges–they not only don’t grow on the same tree, but shouldn’t be expected to.

The Worldwide listening Guide

I asked forum co-presenter John Figliozzi, author of The Worldwide Listening Guide, for his thoughts on the subject. After all, his radio guide is unique in that it includes not only frequency listings from across the traditional radio spectrum, but is also an authoritative internet radio guide.  Here’s what John replied:

The argument that only (pick one) AM/FM, [or] shortwave can rightfully be called “radio” is actually counterproductive to the interests of those who truly love radio.  Indeed, the success of radio as both a communications medium and art form is amply demonstrated by the manner in which it has blossomed into a number of manifestations–platforms, if you will–from its origins exclusively in medium wave wireless transmission.

Many have lost credibility as they’ve loudly heralded the death of radio at the hand of (pick the latest new technology over the last 80 or more years).  Every time, radio has remade and transformed itself into a more ubiquitous, flexible, relevant and contemporaneously useful medium.

For a traditional SWL[er], two of his or her key motivations for becoming an SWL[er] in the first place are even more fully addressed by today’s newest platforms embracing wifi internet radio:  (1) exploration of non-American cultures, ideas and societies; (2) that insatiable desire for more–more stations, more ideas, more voices, more styles.  (Certainly, the DXer will rightfully view wifi radio as “cheating,” but the DXer has arguably limited his or her sights to the point where content is meaningless.  In so doing, as broadcasters seemingly migrate away from shortwave, amateur radio transmissions should more than adequately serve as a substitute target for DXers and their interest.)

John makes excellent points here, and I must say that I agree.  In fact, I now see web radio as a platform for discovering small, even semi-isolated, community radio stations that, until the Internet, had never broadcast signals beyond their local communities. With web radio, we can enjoy these stations as if we, too, are locals. Local becomes international.  As ever, radio travels–radio opens doors and minds.

My (happy) conclusion? Web radio and shortwave radio listening are symbiotic–vitally linked, interdependent, nourishing one another, and growing in tandem.

As the SWLing Post is focused more on shortwave radio and international broadcasting, I asked Richard Cuff where listeners could go to be actively involved in discussions regarding internet radio? His suggestion:

There are several discussion and review-based websites on the subject of Internet Radio–there is a discussion group hosted at the Hard-Core-DX website that focuses on Internet Radio through the perspective of shortwave listening; check out http://www.hard-core-dx.com/mailman/listinfo/internetradio for specifics.

If we’ve convinced you to take the plunge into internet radio, and abandon any prejudice or guilt you may have about doing so, you must read our second part of this internet radio post.

Continue to Part Two of this post, which details using the Cricket Muve ZTE Score No Contract Android Mobile Phone as a highly affordable web radio.

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