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RTÉ To Everywhere Home Page

Most recently updated on $Date: 2008/12/27 02:32:09 $ (GMT)

What's New?

Well, how do I put this... the experiment is over (a long time ago!). I believe it served its purpose more than adequately, demonstrating to both Engineers and Managers within RTÉ and to the world-wide on-line Irish Diaspora community that distributing audio over the network was both feasible and possible with the few resources we had available in the early to mid 1990's (yes, there was an internet back then!). See the status page for my letter to the crew when we ended things.

RTÉ now has a plethora of resources including live audio feeds and video. These links may or may not work, I haven't checked them in a while: Radio 1 and 2FM live feeds. See also their news page; it often has video links.

The remainder of the information in this document describes the history of the experiment, and lists additional detail about what used to be the mirror sites.

An Abbreviated History

The aim of the RTE (RTÉ [Radio Telefís Éireann] To Everywhere) EXPERIMENTAL demonstration project was initially to assess the viability of making small segments of news broadcasts from the Irish national radio service available on the Internet via anonymous ftp and the World Wide Web in the early 1990's. The project brought several minutes of news headlines from RTÉ Radio 1 in Dublin twice daily in the form of digital sound files, for a period of about two years prior to RTÉ having their own presence on the internet.

The programs initially selected were the "Morning Ireland" broadcast at 8 A.M. (Irish time) in English (7 minutes weekdays, 5 minutes weekends), and Craoltar Cinnlínte Nuachta as Gaeilge (news in the Irish language, 3 minutes) ar a 8 I.N. (am na hÉireann). The latter was made available from July 28, 1994, whereas the 8am news files were made available from sometime early in 1994 (March?).

Rather than just have a single days' news/nuacht, about a week's news headlines were kept on-line. From the feedback we received (all of which was very positive) this experiment proved to be a great way for ex-pats to keep up with news from home.

The format adopted for the recording was (of necessity!) Sun u-law (that's .au files to those of you who know this stuff). To make the archive work, the date was encoded in the name, e.g. 19940322.au for the March 22, 1994 news file, and nuacht_19940728.au for the July 28, 1994 nuacht (as gaeilge) file. As the experiment progressed, the dual problems of differing audio formats and file size were both tackled.

Via use of the freely available au2wav package (long since supplanted on Linux by sox), it became possible to also offer a .wav format file that was playable on most windows systems.

The GSM compression scheme ("toast") was used to shrink the u-law audio files; this was so successful that it was possible to copy the file over a 28.8 Kbaud modem and pipe it through untoast to the /dev/audio device on a Linux system and get reasonable streaming performance (I know, because I did this frequently!). This was adopted after some experimentation with an alternative ("shorten", g723) compression scheme which was not nearly as effective and/or portable.

Later, when RealAudio became available, the experiment used the windoze NT version of their encoder (why they didn't offer a Linux version, I don't know...) and an extra series of downloads and uploads, to provide a downloadable (not streaming!) .ra format file as well.

Finally, when it was empirically found that the generic zip compression scheme worked modestly well on the WAV file, a lateswav.zip file was also made available. This file was usually quite a bit smaller, but the .gsm and .ra files proved to be the ultimate in compression, usually achieving a 4 or 5 to 1 compression factor.

Some past issues of Morning Ireland used to be available as a media-on-demand service from a server in St. Andrews, Scotland courtesy of a colleague there. This service has been discontinued (people move on...).

For many years, the good people at World Radio Network also mirrored several files from RTE. As of June 1, 1999, they have stopped. Now they have this to say about RTE, including a link to some podcasts, but as of December 2007 I don't see RTE listed as a podcast.

IMPORTANT Points of Netiquette

One thing the project discovered very quickly was that we were dealing with very large files (480KB per minute of air time for the .au and .wav files). We strongly urged people to think about the bandwidth implications and about those trying to do real work on the host machines before they selected a file. This was necessary given that the ftp/web space was essentially "surplus", on machines dedicated to other purposes.

Look at the 8 A.M. blip in the University of Limerick's IP traffic profile for April 1994 (yes, as of July 1999 it was still there, but it's gone in 2007) to see what effect the simple upload of the original file from Limerick to Virginia had. This is graphical confirmation of (a) just how big these files were, and (b) the need for mirror sites. Even with the smaller GSM and RA files, the latter (mirror sites) were still very much a necessity especially given that the demographics of the audience were mismatched with the existing internet bandwidth and connectivity at the time.

Because of this, the experiment from the beginning urged users in the RTÉ listening area to use their radios, as were those in a position to receive RTÉ Radio 1 and 2FM by satellite or on shortwave (see the RTE web site for satellite and shortwave info). The primary aim of the experiment was to make a little bit of RTÉ broadcasting available to others, out of range of RTÉ and without access to a satellite receiver or shortwave equipment. I believe we achieved those goals far more successfully than any of us could ever have imagined!

Where did we have the mirror sites?

Related Information


This experiment was made possible thanks to the efforts of Liam Relihan (formerly of the University of Limerick), Aengus Lawlor (Rohm & Haas, formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), Mark Riordan (formerly of Trinity College Dublin, now at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology), and Pat Murphy (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, formerly University College Dublin). Thanks also to Eamonn O'Brien and Áine McManus for the mirror site down under, to Shawn Mehan (formerly UNC, now at Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Scotland) for the Sunsite mirror, to Neil Costigan (Media Communications) for the Scandinavian mirror and to Iarla Kilbane-Dawe for the Cambridge mirror. Also thanks Owen J. Murphy at CSUSB for the California site.

The experiment was humbly dedicated to the thousands of ex-pat net residents who hungered for the sounds of "home".

Mentions in the Press

This web page was originally conceived, marked up, and published by Paddy Waldron, who made the rest of us realise mirror sites were useless unless you had a web page that used them! It has been somewhat modified and updated by Pat Murphy, mainly to keep up with the changes in the project and the locations and status of the mirror files (and to reflect the graceful winding down of the project and provide some documentation on what it was all about).