KILKENNY -- Since Christmas 2004, I've pumped music from my iPod through my FM radio in the car, at home and in the canteen in college. You don't have to buy an iTrip to push the signal. You do need to know that in Ireland, you're probably doing something illegal when you listen to your iPod through an FM radio. Do you care? If you entertain friends who wear earbuds and you want to share their music with others at your party, there is more tech stuff you should consider from Doc Searls and my social bookmarks to extend your playlist onto other radio devices.
- Your signal should be weak. That's polite for others and it complies with Part 15 of the FCC rules and regulations, which restricts the ability of devices to cause interference with legal signals, especially those of licensed radio stations. The limit is .25mv /m (millivolts/meter) of signal strength into a quarter wave antenna (roughly what you've got with a typical whip antenna on your car) at 3 meters from the transmitting antenna. That's a near-fringe signal.
- A good FM radio will get a listenable signals in mono down to .003mv (3 microvolts) and even less. That's what you'd get, under ideal conditions, at about 200 feet from the transmitting antenna of a signal that's legal under Part 15.
- You need to find space on the spectrum where the signals are weak. But portable FM transmitters, such as the Belkin Tunecast II put out weak signals. Doc Searls also uses the Ramsey FM-100, which puts out .25 watts.
- You can make an antenna--one that pulls reception from a headphone extension cord: female at one end and male at the other. Put it between your audio player (your iPod, Archos jukebox or Sony MiniDisc player) and your transmitter. Stretch it out. The signal increase is remarkable. Doc Searls says his "Belkin TuneCast II is useless without it, and a workhorse with it".
- Keep plenty of AAA batteries because transmitters eat power. When traveling, use the power adapter and save your batter power.
We will have both the Ramsey and Belkin kit in the Tipperary Institute Skunkworks for lunchtime mashups this academic term. Nearly one-third of our students carry iPods or recorded music with them all the time. They're part of the auidience of 6m people in the iPod generation. As Eamonn Fitzgerald points out, "Once they all upgrade to version 4.9, they'll have a podcasting client". We will be able to listen to their podcast material in classrooms, thanks to easy FM transmitting. These tactics make personal mashups and portable playlists a mass phenomenon. It's more than a fad. I expect Ireland to have more digital music players than cars before the end of the decade. We're training multimedia degree students how to create, consume and share their digital audio content. It's an exciting time to be mashing up stuff.
Radio Shack -- 20' headphone extension cord ($10)
Belkin -- Tunecast FM Transmitter ($39 but out of stock whenever I check its availability)
Doc Searls -- "Little FM Transmitters"
Ramsey -- FM-100 FM transmitter ($269)