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Linux-based PenguinRadio to revolutionize radio?

Jan 28, 2000 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

“One day, every radio will work this way” boasts PenguinRadio cofounder Andrew Leyden. PenguinRadio LLC, a small Washington DC based startup, has giant plans to revolutionize how we listen to music and radio when we're not sitting at our computers. Powered by an embedded Linux operating system and “x86” CPU, and connected to the Internet via a modem or Ethernet, PenguinRadios will tap into the thousands… of radio stations that put their streaming audio feeds on the Internet, delivering your favorite news, music, or talk shows — right to your stereo system. No computers needed.

“Today, people are increasingly listening to radio stations from around the world through their PCs' cheap speakers, because they don't have any other way to receive the radio signals they truly desire. They end up using a $1,000 computer to get the sound quality of a $15 radio,” says Leyden. “PenguinRadio's goal is to hit the 'one-spouse' retail price point of around $200 (i.e. one spouse can buy it without permission from the other), for an easy-to-use device that fits in with the family room sound system.”

“Put simply, we are building the next generation of Internet audio devices,” says Leyden. “The PenguinRadio is a small Linux-based box that is designed to expand the abilities of any home stereo, extending its reach to the far corners of the globe” continues Leyden. The Internet audio appliance connects to a user's phone line (or to an Ethernet connection, if available) and receives a streaming media feed from the Internet which it outputs directly into the home stereo system. A remote control is used to select stations and provide other user inputs.

“Today, this gives you access, through your stereo, to nearly 3,000 US radio stations that put their feeds on the Internet. Add to this the foreign stations, television stations, and thousands of other 'pirate' radio stations producing Internet-only broadcasts, and it's obvious that the supply of signals far exceeds the demand of any user” Leyden points out. “Think of it! Soccer games from Brazil, news from London, and music from “back home” — wherever that may be — all possible with a PenguinRadio connected to your stereo system” adds Leyden.

PenguinRadio has already established an Internet music and radio portal site capable of delivering streaming audio to web users' computers and next generation Internet audio devices (including cell phones). An easily navigated database on the PenguinRadio web site makes it easy for users to quickly locate desired stations or songs. To simplify the task of tracking favorite sound sources, PenguinRadio has created a unique (patent pending) six-digit ID system that substitutes for today's complex — and rapidly changing — URLs.

Using the same framework for delivering radio content, PenguinRadio also plans to revolutionize the delivery of music. By functioning as an Internet “juke box,” each PenguinRadio will be capable of selecting from a database of many thousands of recordings. “PenguinRadio users will have access to all the music they want, whenever they want it, without ever needing to physically possess a CD or a tape,” says Leyden.

Powered by Linux

Instead of using dedicated chips that only decode today's streaming audio protocols, the PenguinRadio is based on an embedded PC compatible core, supported by programmable Linux based software. This will allow the device to adapt to constantly evolving Internet audio formats and protocols. The company says it is currently in discussions with developers of the next generation of streaming audio formats to ensure the ability to support them as they become available.

According to Leyden, the prototype PenguinRadios are based on Intel Celeron processors, but the company is considering using a more integrated and embeddable device, such as the Cirrus Maverick or Intel StrongArm, for the final design. Other hardware specs include 16 megabytes RAM, 8 megabytes Flash disk, an optional hard drive (for MP3 usage/storage), and a choice of two communication interfaces — 56K modem or Ethernet. The remote control unit with a small LCD display, similar to an ordinary stereo's remote control, will be used to select the desired audio channel and perform other useful operations. The Linux operating system used in the prototypes is from a standard Red Hat distribution, but the final design will be based on a reduced-footprint, “embedded Linux” solution.

The WEI Cataloging System

WEI — which stands for What (the station plays), Everything (about the station, like city/state/zip/genre), Internet (URL address and stream format) — is a unique numbering system designed by PenguinRadio that replaces complicated URL addresses for the delivery of Internet audio streams. Although URLs change daily, WEI numbers will remain constant (maintained by PenguinRadio). As part of the open source community, PenguinRadio will offer other Internet audio devices open access to their database of signals; talks currently are in process with other device builders to incorporate the WEI system into their machines. In addition, the WEI numbering system is already being used by, which is a streaming media portal for cell phones and other wireless PDAs that access the Internet.

About PenguinRadio LLC

PenguinRadio was founded by Andrew Leyden and Dr. Duncan Wood. Andrew Leyden most recently worked on Capitol Hill as counsel to the House Committee on Commerce, the committee which is responsible for oversight of the Internet and telecommunications. Mr. Leyden has a long background in the Internet and computers, and has considerable experience in web design and Internet maintenance. Dr. Duncan Wood also served as counsel to the House Commerce Committee, and has considerable experience in the financial and telecommunications sector. Dr. Wood played an important role in the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has helped facilitate much of the Internet's growth over the past few years. For further information visit the PenguinRadio web site at or send an email to [email protected].

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