Friday, 27 March 2015

That Project I Mentioned...

I had mentioned on Wednesday that I was working on a project, and I think I finally got it to work in such a way that I'm happy with it. You may recognize the device to the left as a Blackberry. Specifically, it is a Blackberry Bold 9650. It will play a prominent role in today's entry here on HBIC. I will inform you here and now that this article has nothing to do with hockey, but if you have an interest in technology, reusing old equipment and devices, or simply are hoarding some of this stuff, you'll want to read on. Honestly, this might be one of the cooler things I've come up with, and it will benefit UMFM, the radio station that features The Hockey Show, greatly if all things come to pass.

Any Blackberry older than the Z10 is basically worthless to the carriers that supplied them at this point. The total rebate offered for them is zilch, so they are nothing more than plastic and scrap metal in the eyes of the carriers who supplied them years ago. I happen to enjoy turning old technology into something useful again, so I can happily step in and save the carriers from themselves in turning these Blackberries into scrap.

Here's the background on what's going on with these, and this is important to the cause. Read on for an idea that I've been toying with for a while.

CJUM-FM is based at the University of Manitoba. As a result, its broadcasting range covers its immediate service area which is the city of Winnipeg. It's one thing not to be noticed on the radio dial for reasons like not playing commercial music or having too much talk-radio or simply being "different", but it's entirely harder for UMFM to exist when there are staff and students that don't know you exist despite them paying fees to keep us afloat.

In order for us to have a greater presence around the University, we need to be heard. The problem is that the infrastructure to have UMFM's sounds playing in the hallways and corridors of the University does not exist. The University isn't interested in helping us grow our market within our own borders either as they have other pressing needs that require some monetary attention, and we accept that. We understand the economics, but we also run on a modest - read: shoestring - budget ourselves.

That's where my Blackberry idea comes in.

Because the infrastructure to have an integrated feed through the buildings doesn't exist, we have to improvise. Every building has electrical run through the ceilings covered by a drop-ceiling, so we have that working for us. And every building has wifi coverage. And that got my gray matter fired up as I put two and two together.
After ensuring SIM cards were pulled and personal information was wiped from the phones, it was all about ensuring they could connect to wifi. That was confirmed after the 9650s were fired up. Next, I'd need to be able to connect to the internet stream via UMFM. The problem is that Windows Media Player and WinAmp aren't widely available via the Blackberry App Store, so I was off to find another app that would let me connect.

It took some searching, but if you have Blackberry, here's the best way to listen to UMFM on your Blackberry: Nobex Radio. Nobex connects you to, literally, thousands of stations across the world, and I'm happy to report that CJUM-FM - 101.5 UMFM - is on that list! I've been listening to UMFM on and off via random Blackberry Bold 9650s over the last two days without so much as an interruption. I have to say it's a pretty great app!

So we have a device, wifi access, an app that connects via wifi to gain access to the radio station. All we're missing is a set of speakers. That's where the computer speakers come in as they have the male audio connector necessary to plug into the Blackberry's headphone connection. A little testing done here with HBIC's own speakers, and we have a working digital stereo, kids!

There are still some things to work through before this project becomes more than a science experiment. We need approval from the Board of Directors to purchase the necessary number of computer speakers, but I'm certain we can source them fairly inexpensively. Secondly, we need the University of Manitoba to sign off on our using an outlet to plug the Blackberry charger and speakers in. We don't want the batteries in the Blackberry dying, so we need to keep them plugged in. Lastly, we need to source out appropriate spots for these radios to be installed in the drop-ceilings of the various buildings.

We're still weeks away from this digital radio idea hitting the hallways, but this is what I spend my evenings doing when I'm not writing here. I think outside the box when it comes to technology and finding uses for those devices people say are obsolete. No, I didn't pioneer this idea, but this is the first time I've had access to a dozen old Blackberries that have been deemed obsolete.

Now we just need the powers-that-be to sign off on the idea.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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