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[Pat Murphy's Maze of Twisty Little Passages]

How We Got Started

The following is a usenet post made by Aengus Lawlor in response to a question about the RTE audio files. Aengus worked for DEC, was contracted to R&H, and harks originally from DIT.

Organization: Rohm and Haas Company
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 10:02:01 EDT
From: Aengus Lawlor.. <RBYAML@rohvm1.rohmhaas.com.nospam:gt;
Message-ID: <94264.100201RBYAML@rohvm1.rohmhaas.com.nospam>
Newsgroups: soc.culture.celtic
Subject: Re: RTE radio news now available from UK site
References: <356pkj$k21@lyra.csx.cam.ac.uk> <Cw6FtF.7Kx@rex.uokhsc.edu>
In article , frank@rex.re.uokhsc.edu.nospam (Frank C.) says:
>In article <356pkj$k21@lyra.csx.cam.ac.uk>
>iarla@atm.ch.cam.ac-nospam.uk (Iarla Kilbane-Dawe) writes:
>> For those of you in Europe/UK who may wish to hear the radio news
>> and find the download from the US too slow, the most recent
>> broadcasts are now mirrored on our site at work.  Point your
>> web browsers to
>>         http://www.atm.ch.cam.ac.uk/~iarla/
>> for the latest editions.  Please feel free to redistribute this
>> posting.
>> Iarla.
>What is the story here who is operating this system.? Does RTE know
>about it? When did it start etc, etc, etc, etc.
>I am a fan and am just interested in the history of this "Project"
>Frank C.

Late last year I was beginning to explore the web, and read some stuff
about the Internet Talk Radio project, and looked at the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporations WWW page, and I realized that it might be
feasible to put some of these ideas to use for the Irish technical
diaspora (that the occasional politician bemoans the loss of when
they're looking for votes!!). This would supplement the Irish Emigrant,
by providing breaking news, without replacing it.

Because I don't actually have the facilities to provide the service, I
contacted some people who could. Just before Christmas, I asked Mark
Riordan in TCD if he could arrange to make some recordings, so that
we could see what sort of transfer rates we could expect. (I bought
a Sound Blaster card for my PC, and found that the standard 8000 Hz
produced acceptable results, at about 500K per minute, and that
ZIPping the file didn't make a great deal of difference, so we were
looking at 3 to 5 MB files). I found that Mark could "push" the
file faster than I could "pull" it, and that as I expected the main
"market" for the service would be in the US, it would make sense to
make the files available from a well-connected US ftp site.

I had already been in touch with Pat Murphy about the nice picture of
the Christmas tree in Grafton St on his WWW server :-), so in February,
I asked him if he could make some space available on his Web server for
these files. The following week, I was in contact with Liam Relihan at
the University of Limerick, and I roped him in, and, by rigging a clock
radio up to his Sun workstation, he was able to set up some scripts to
automate the whole thing. Pat wrote various scripts on his system to
keep the last 7 days worth, compress the files, convert the latest one
to .WAV format, etc. As word got out (it wasn't a secret, we just didn't
go out of our way to advertise it), Shaun Meehan came forward with the
offer of a mirror at sunsite.unc.edu, and Eamonn O'Brien set one up in

The Nuacht service was added shortly afterwards, and Paddy Waldron of
TCD made the point that people wouldn't use the mirrors from Mosaic
if they weren't explicitly listed, so a very descriptive home page,
with links to each file on the known mirrors appeared on www.bess.tcd.ie

At this time, we had not approached RTE about this service. But a young
astronomer at Oxford, whose father works at RTE, came across the web
page to the service while browsing the AIPS information that he provides
on orangutan. She forwarded some this information to her father, who sent
e-mail (from RTE!) to Pat, and he has spoken to other people in RTE about
the project. So the project isn't official, but RTE are interested in it
(in a positive way).

RTE are quite interested in "international broadcasting", and have made
a lot of efforts in recent years to service Irish listeners in Britain.
(Both Sides Now for instance is specifically targetted at this audience).
With the advent of Satellite broadcasting, they have gotten involved in
projects that involve audio broadcasts on "spare" channels, (and SAPs).
If you have the equipment, or can talk your local cable supplier in to
doing it, there's stuff available throughout Europe and the US. I don't
think that RTE figured on using the internet as another distribution
medium, but think they'd be quite open to it.

Incidentally, the first full size sound file made available this way
was a clip from Both Sides Now, with Frank Hall telling about the goings
on in some rural town.

The service is currently only really useful to people with "full" Internet
connections, as downloading a 3MB file over a 9600 baud connection is
a bit prohibitive. Pat is now producing a new version of the news that is
only 1.2MB, but unfortunately, I can't find a DOS/Windows program that
can play the g723 format. It would allow you to fit the file onto a
single floppy, and bring it home, so that people who can't install a
sound card in a PC at work could still benefit.

I've also been thinking of setting things up at home so that I can start
a file transfer when I get up, and listen to the news before I leave the
house in the morning, which should just about work. Better yet, in the
next couple of years, I expect to see multi-media laptops become much more
common, so you could down-load it to a floppy, and listen to it in the car
on the way to work :-). Or, with the advent of cellular modems, and high
bandwidth connections, you could have the laptop download the news as you
travel, and play it as well. Think of it as a $5,000 global walkman!

If anyone knows anything about the CCITT g723 (?) audio format, which gives
the 1.2mb file, or about initiatives such as "Truespeech", (which is aimed
at getting speech audio compression rates that would give 20 minutes of
speech in a 1Mb file), or MPEG Audio, please get in touch.

alawlor@rohmhaas.nospamcom (preferred)        |  Aengus Lawlor
alawlor@ejovax.enet.dec.nospamcom (secondary) | (who used to be alawlor@dit.ie)
An bhfuil cead agam dul amok?                 |
(For the record, neither Rohm & Haas nor Digital necessarily agree with me).

[Powered by Apache!] Patrick P. Murphy
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA