Free silence alarm for radio transmitters and streaming internet stations

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Actual commercial radio networks and radio stations have expensive hardware that literally sets off an audible alarm and a flashing red light in the studio if the audio stops. Because if audio stops, it usually means something’s broken.

The radio network my show Freedom Feens is on, GCN, has their alarm set at six seconds. This is a safe amount because no talk show host ever shuts up for that long. (I like to joke that as a young man I totally would have believed it if you’d told me, “One day your words will be so important that if I stop talking, alarms would go off!“)

But there’s actually no-cost software that does the same thing as this expensive hardware, and you can set it up and use it with this tutorial.

Download the program Pira CZ Silence Detector here. Install it on the computer you’re playing your audio from (or on a computer streaming your audio, if your source is remote), then set it up like this:

Alarm Activation settings. I set the alarm to happen with more than 15 seconds of silence, because I play a lot of podcasts, which normally don’t know about the rule radio has, so 6 seconds is too short. But still, no podcaster is going to shut up for more than 15 seconds:

Then on the Alarm Tasks page, set up the things you want to have happen when there is silence:

The first thing I set up was playing a comedy MP3 (I don’t usually play comedy, so if I turn on the radio and hear comedy, I know something’s wrong). I actually made a 2-hour MP3 of some Christian comedy. I used the Open/Play 1 tab for this.

You can play whatever you want. But I’d recommend it’s not too far in style from what you normally play to freak out your listeners. But it should be something different enough that you’ll instantly recognize as “something’s wrong!” if you hear it. GCN talk network uses jazz music.

So you set up the thing you want to have happen, then hit “Add” in the above screen.

Then in the same screen, you can add other things. You can also move the order of them up and down, with the Up and Down buttons.

Then I added a second event, sending an email to myself:

You have to know your mail server info to do this. Ask your web provider if you don’t know. I’m not sure if it would work to send from a gmail address, I didn’t try it. I sent from an email I made specifically for this, on a domain I host. I sent to a gmail address, and set up a gmail filter so it wouldn’t go into my trash.

Once you have it set up right, use the test button. If it’s set up wrong, you’ll get various error messages. When it’s set up correctly, hitting the Test button will say that it’s sent an email, and you should get an email soon. (Check spam if you don’t get it, and add a filter for it to not go into spam if you need to.)

This took me a long time to configure, if I’d known one hack at the start it would have been easy. My email server doesn’t use a standard port, and this program does not have a space to put in a port, so I did it like this: instead of putting

smtp.domain.com

for Outgoing SMTP server, I used

smtp.domain.com:587

I only changed settings on those two tabs on the Alarm Tasks page, and some things on the Alarm Activation page. I changed nothing on the Return Tasks page, the Settings page and there is nothing to change on the About page.

There is no “save settings” button. You have to exit the program and start it again to save the settings.

Run it for a while, then go ahead and test it by stopping whatever programming is playing your audio. Here’s what should happen if you did it all correctly: Your backup audio MP3 starts playing, and you’ll get an email like this:

 

Put a shortcut to this program in your startup folder, so if your computer has a reboot on its own, it opens back up and has the silence alarm running. And in the same folder, put a shortcut to your audio player’s playlist  (or your streaming player’s playlist) in your startup folder so if your computer has a reboot on its own, it opens back up and starts playing stuff.

The one thing this silence alarm will NOT warn you of is if you have two audio sources playing at the same time. That requires human ears, lol. And it’s more common than you’d think. I’ve heard that on several stations before. It’s usually because some sort of automation fails and plays an hour of silence, the silence alarm comes on, and then after the hour the second the automation goes back to playing a show, and the silence alarm backup is still playing. You can configure the Return Tasks tab in this silence alarm program to prevent that. But I’m usually around, so it’s not an issue.

Enjoy your non-stop audio!

–Michael W. Dean

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