Friday, 21 January 2011

Ultimate Expat Devices I: The Internet Radio

I often used to think how wonderful it would be if you could have an internet radio.  I mean a radio that sits in your kitchen but that connects to the internet so that you can listen to Radio 4 and 5 Live at your leisure while you do your housework.  Surely such a thing could not be too difficult to invent?  I used to talk to others about the idea and sometimes, if I was lucky, I would get mild interest.

Of course there is the laptop, and of course the expat listens to the radio on the laptop all the time.  But it's not ideal.  I can never get the volume loud enough on mine, and you end up mucking about trying to enhance it by plugging different things in.  And in the mornings, it's hopeless.  I want to come downstairs and have the radio on within seconds while I feed the cats and make the tea.  I don't want to wait while the laptop boots up, and while I find the web page and the link.  The tea's made by the time I've even begun to hear Victoria Derbyshire's voice.

So I've long thought that an internet radio would be a fantastic thing.  Surely it could not be that difficult for a bright techie to invent one?  It's easy to get hold of DAB digital radios -- they are always going on about them on Radio 4.  How much more difficult would it be to invent a radio that links in the your WiFi at home?

Well, it emerges that there already is such a thing.  Although I had never heard anyone talking about it, I went looking, on a whim, to see if I could find an internet radio.  And it's one of the best things I've ever purchased.  The ultimate expat device!

It turns out that there are several on the market.  The one I went for was the Grace Digital Wireless Internet Radio featuring Pandora and NPR (GDI-IR2000).  I've had it now for several months and I absolutely love it.  It takes a few minutes to configure to link to your Wireless router, then you can add in your BBC presets, in my case Radios 1, 2, 4, 5 Live and 6 Music, and then the radio comes on to your preferred station in a matter of seconds.  The sounds quality is excellent and I get a real buzz from just "having the radio on" for a lot of the day.  It's like rediscovering the joy of the radio again.

I usually listen to live stuff on the radio, but you can also go to On Demand programmes and I sometimes do that -- though there is the disadvantage that if it does cut out in mid-stream, it goes back to the beginning of the programme again -- you can't pause, rewind or fast forward.

I get the feeling that there are great riches to be had on the internet radio, thousands of stations from all over the world, but I barely scrape the surface.  I don't care.  For me, it's the ultimate British expat's device -- a pipeline to BBC national radio.  I'm back to having a BBC soundtrack to my life again, and I love it.  Every British expat should have one -- best $120 or so I have spent.