Monday, 13 August 2007

Making BBC Listen Again Do What You Want

The continuing problems with the BBC Listen Again Radio Player inspired me to find my own method of listening again.

I am a big fan of BBC Radio listen again and I tap into it regularly to catch all the best programs that I miss while at work or otherwise. Usually this consists of the Art & Drama listings where I can check out what plays have been on and if there are any decent books being read. I also love BBC 7 for The 7th Dimension - devoted to SciFi and stuff like that.

One of the best things about BBC Radio listen again is their groovy web based radio player. Built in HTML it appears to use Javascript to communicate with an embedded Real Player. It's a really good piece of work (though it fails to work for my Ubuntu Studio - no embedded player you see, it is great on my Windows XP machine) for most users, designed to be easy on the eye and the brain, with all available programs no more than 2 clicks away listed by genre or station.

Only problem is, for the last 3 weeks (ish) the BBC Listen Again player has experienced problems that at first seemed to be short term but have now become part of using the system. Not only has their apology message become an almost permanent fixture in the interface (along with the sinking feeling every time I see it is still there) but it has caused considerable disruption to my listening pattern.

The BBC report that the problem is related to a corrupted database, and that "A team of BBC engineers are working full time to fix the database problems and restore normal service." Bless them, they are trying.

In the meantime I found myself being directed to the BBC 7 homepage to find direct links that would let me listen in a standalone Real Player (rather than the BBC player). OK, so here was a workaround. The only drawback was that unlike the BBC player, the listen again page only showed programs from the previous day, and not from earlier the same day.

I thought I would take a look at the construction of the links to the audio files. To my delight they were completely human readable. For instance, the following link plays the program that aired on Friday at 13:15:

How simple could it be? There is named the radio station, the day and the time in 24 hour clock.

It only took a little curiosity to see if by pasting the link into the browser address bar, and altering day and time, whether I could listen to program from today (the link for which would not actually be published by the BBC until tomorrow). The experiment was a success:

Evidently the BBC publish the audio files in advance, but publish the links to the audio later when they want the public to access them.

So if you want to listen to BBC7 and you know the day and time your program aired just copy the following line, paste it into your browser address bar, and fill in the [day e.g. monday] and [24 hour time e.g. 1800]:[day]/rams/[24%20hour%20time].ram

Happy listening.

1 comment:

  1. Great Article! Thank you very much for posted this...