Tag Archives: WiFi Radio

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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Cyber Monday Sale on the Google Home Mini $25

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Freitas, who adds the following note to our post about the Echo Dot Cyber Monday sale:

It is also worth noting that the Google Home Mini (a similar product) is also having the same sale. You can snag one for about $25 on most retailers. If you’re invested in the Google ecosystem, then it is definitely worth checking out.

Click here to checkout the Google Home Mini.

Wow–this is a great deal as well.  Keep in mind, though, that the Alexa Shortwave Signals skill will not work with Google Home products at present–it only works with Amazon products with the Alexa system.

I’m very tempted to grab a Google Home Mini and see how effectively it works as a WiFi radio. Like the Amazon Echo system, it uses TuneIn as an aggregator.

Thanks for the tip, Chris!

Update: I did purchase the Google Home Mini, but found the price a bit cheaper through BestBuy since they include free shipping.

Click here to check out the Google Home Mini at Best Buy.

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Internet Radio and Global Time Travel

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares this brilliant article from The Paris Review:

On The Radio, It’s Always Midnight

By Seb Emina

“Ultimately, we don’t belong in the world governed by time,” says Michael Cremo, a guest on KNWZ, a radio station in Palm Springs, California. “As beings of pure consciousness, we are essentially timeless.” It is around two thirty A.M. in Palm Springs and around eleven thirty A.M. in Paris, where I am tidying my apartment. Cremo is talking about the end-time, which he thinks could well be imminent, but his point is relevant to the experience of listening to local radio from somewhere I am not. I love listening to radio, but sometimes I don’t want to listen to a particular station, genre, or category. Sometimes I want to listen to a time of day. Which is, of course, entirely possible thanks to the rise of online streaming at the expense of older analogue broadcast methods. If I am feeling afternoony in the morning, I can leave the world that is “governed by time” and join whichever community of radio listeners—in Mumbai, Perth, or Hong Kong—is currently experiencing three P.M. The optimism of a morning show somewhere to my west offers a fresh beginning to a day that’s become lousy by midafternoon, whereas the broadcasts of early evening, burbling across the towns and cities to my east, can turn my morning shower into a kind of short-haul time machine past those hours in which I’m expected to be productive. But for the loosest and strangest of broadcast atmospheres, I am drawn most often to the dead of night, to the so-called graveyard shift. That low-budget menagerie of voices and music is concocted to serve an unlikely fellowship of insomniacs, police officers, teenagers, and bakers—and cheats like me, tuning in from afar to behold radio’s closest equivalent to the Arctic Circle.

“When you listen to radio, you are a witness of the everlasting war between idea and appearance, between time and eternity, between the human and the divine,” Herman Hesse writes.[…]

Continue reading the full article at The Paris Review.

It’s rare that I read something in the press that so directly speaks to my own personal relationship with radio.

While, of course, I still prefer listening to shortwave radio, international broadcasts are designed with a global audience in mind; in a sense, they’re timeless and gloss over our global time zones.

Internet radio streaming brings in the local and actually provides more community context. And, of course, while a country might only have one international broadcaster, it could literally have hundreds of local stations–some catering to very small communities.

I’m certainly guilty of time zone surfing with WiFi/Internet radio, I just didn’t realize others did it too! Even in the mornings (since the demise of my shortwave staple Radio Australia), I typically listen to CBC St. John’s, Newfoundland. They’ve got an excellent morning show and they’re 1.5 hours ahead of my time. When I wake at 5:00 AM, I listen to the world report and the CBC local staff are pulling out some of their best morning programs.

Then anytime between 3:00 or 6:00 PM, I’ll tune through one of a number of New Zealand or Australian stations. Because it’s morning there, the presenters seem to have a spring in their step.

If you read the full article in The Paris Review, you’ll also note that the author Seb Emina and the artist Daniel John Jones created “a perpetual morning-radio aggregator” called Global Breakfast Radio.

You can stream Global Breakfast Radio at globalbreakfastradio.com. I highly recommend it!

Post readers: Any other time zone surfers out there?  Please comment!

Not familiar with Internet Radio? Check out the first part of our Internet Radio primer by clicking here.

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“Broadcast Isolation in Japan”–no workarounds?

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader @medmouad who recently shared a link to the following article by Kenji Rikitake at Medium.com:

I’m sure Japan is one of those countries which implement the worst online broadcasting policies.

You cannot listen to Japanese internet radio stations from outside the nation, thanks to the geotagging technology for the IPv4 address; most of the major broadcasting stations do not allow access to their streaming feed outside Japan. This is a huge disservice to the expats, but the broadcasters seem not to care about it at all.

Japan’s geotagging policy against streaming broadcast is even worse within the nation; the telecom ministry enforces prefectural border limits for licensing the broadcast stations, though in some rare cases wider limits are allowed. Japan is regionally divided into 47 prefectures. So you cannot listen to Tokyo radio stations for free when you are in Osaka over internet. And vice versa. Recently a consortium of private broadcast stations, radiko.jp, announced a paid service for cross-prefectural listening of JPY300 (about USD3) per month. Isn’t this a ripoff? And it’s still not accessible from outside Japan.

Japan has a weird article in the copyright law too; the copyright owner can claim the right of making the contents being able and ready to be publicly transmitted. This right is applicable to all transmission media including internet and airwaves. So when you buy a CD, you cannot transmit without the permission of the copyright holder, usually the publisher.

[…]I hope someday I can listen to Japanese radio outside Japan over internet. The day, however, will not come soon.

Continue reading the full article at Medium.com.

If you’re an SWLing Post reader, I’m willing to bet you’re thinking: “Yeah…this is one of the downfalls of radio over the Internet.” We never have this issue with shortwave radio broadcasts since they’re built upon a medium that has, at its very core, no regard for national borders.

Of course, this article focuses on local/regional FM outlets in Japan and the firewalls that keep their online streams neatly contained.

I can’t help but think that there must be workarounds to defeat IPv4 address geotagging within Japan. Perhaps I’m wrong.

I do know that I can easily listen to local AM/mediumwave broadcasters throughout Japan using one of many web SDRs on the KiwiSDR network. Surely the same could be done for FM using a network of web accessible RTL-SDR dongles–?

Has anyone found a workaround? Mark Fahey, you know I’m looking a you!

Please comment!

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