How to record CBC radio shows on your PC

Here in Canada, I regularly drive through dead zones of radio coverage. Before podcasts were everywhere, I got the notion to record some favorite radio shows from my PC to listen to while we went through these dead zones.

Fast forward a couple years: now there’s a decent library of Vinyl Cafe, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap, Gregory Charles (cancelled – sigh!) to pick and choose from to fill dead air during those drives. CBC doesn’t officially podcast any of these shows (or not in their entirety because they play – gasp – music).

Recently I had to tweak my settings to get it working again – and to start recording the Strombo show –¬† so I thought I’d share how I do it.

There’s two parts to recording something online:

  1. Getting your computer to actually record the sound. I tried a few options here, and eventually went the low cost commercial software route on this one and bought a standard license to Total Recorder @ $17.95, after first checking out the trial version to ensure I could get it working. This program basically sits as a virtual recorder on top of your PCs speaker. If you can play it on your PC – this app will record the sound, and can save it as an MP3. The basic license comes with a scheduler – so I just set it up to record at the times of the shows I want.
  2. Getting your computer to actually play the radio station that you want. You need this, or else Total Recorder is just recording silence. On a WinXP PC, I use a “Scheduled Task“, under Windows Control Panel¬† to fire up the link to the streaming radio once a week, and time it to start when your Total Recorder schedule kicks in.

Setting up your scheduled task – like so many other things in life, the trick here is to get it working once.

  • First, make sure the radio stream will play through your browser. Go into your Firefox browser, click through to play a given radio stream, and copy that URL – you’ll need it later.
  • Then setup your “New Scheduled Task” to run Once, in about 10 minutes to test it out, and pick your Mozilla browser as the program to run.
  • Now modify the URL after your browser to include the URL of the audio stream that you want to open.
  • Once you check it’s working – modify the Scheduler in the advanced tabs to run weekly, and to run and wake your PC even when it’s asleep, and to stop after your show ends.
  • Finally, turn down your speakers so you don’t scare the cat when your PC wakes up at midnight to record the West Coast feed of the Strombo show.

Here’s what worked for me – inside the little Scheduled Tasks window:

C:\PROGRA~1\MOZILL~1\firefox.exe -new-tab

Some final hints:

  • Don’t start your recordings at the top of the hour exactly or you’ll catch the news. Boring – and freaks you out when you hear 2 year old news later on.
  • If your radio offers multiple timezone streams – take advantage of it so your PC is recording off peak hours.
  • Total Recorder is also handy if you want to convert some of the great concerts on CBC Radio 3 into more portable formats for your personal use.
  • If you get bogged down with TR’s default file naming scheme – search out a nifty tool called Oscar’s Renamer that’ll let you bulk rename your files so you know what stuff you recorded later on. Otherwise, just bundle your recordings into playlists by show.

Let me know what you think!

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