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BBC Radio
Posted on Thursday 4 July 2013 at 9:40 pm

The BBC Radio Downloader Saga: There Is A Decent Replacement!

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This is hopefully going to be my last post on what to do for BBC Radio Addicts at least until the Beeb rolls out the official DRM iPlayer downloading or in some other way seriously changes the situation to screw us all over yet again. I gave a much more detailed explanation of all this in a previous post, but, in general, the three big options for permanent and transferable / portable copies of BBC Radio programs at the moment are:

(1) Buy what is available from AudioGo or other vendors depending on what happens with AudioGo. This is fairly self-explanatory with the slight warning that searching is currently broken on the US site so if you want to find something you have to search for it on the UK site, click the link to the item you want, and then switch "UK" to "US" in the address bar to get it at the US site, which typically has better prices.

(2) Join the torrent community at radioarchive.cc for programs others have recorded from the digital broadcasts or get torrents from other places if you're willing to take those risks. if you are interested in torrenting as a possibility but aren't sure about what exactly it is or how to do it, let me know and I can walk you through it.

(3) Find some way other to record the programs you want for yourself. This is the actual service that Radio Downloader provided so a replacement is the best option. I have, over the past several days, tried multiple ways of doing this and have a new recommendation. Either one anonymous person posted twice or two anonymous people posted on some of my previous "We're all doomed!" posts to let me know about a program called get_iplayer. I've been having internet issues for the past few days and my summer class started this past Monday and meets every day so teaching and class prep have taken up some of my time but I've finally given it a go and can say that it will work. I don't like it as much as Radio Downloader, but with RD gone, it is a good replacement capable of doing basically all the same things. We might be OK, as long as BBC doesn't shut this down, too. This is a very different program than Radio Downloader in terms of its look and feel, but the end result is the same. If you just want to dive in and start playing with it to figure things out on your own, go here for information on installing the basic program, the web manager that I recommend for people new to this, and directions on using the web manager. For Windows users, definitely use the installer link that it says to use in the second paragraph under "Installation." For everyone else (e.g. Linux, Mac, etc.), I think you have to work a bit harder at getting all the components on your own and should probably check out this page in addition to the other one. If you want more of my thoughts on what works and doesn't with this and how it compares to Radio Downloader to get more of a feel for it before you jump in...

Get_iPlayer is just another program that will pull the radio files for you, including on a subscription basis for all episodes of a particular show, as Radio Downloader did. Get_iPlayer also apparently saves BBC TV files, something with which I am a little less comfortable given that that requires circumventing existing DRM. I've only used it for radio and will only use it for radio, but the TV stuff is there if you want it. Get_iPlayer, unlike Radio Downloader, is available for multiple platforms so if you're Linux or Mac rather than Windows, this might work for you. The only thing to which I can actually speak is the Windows version. There are two main options for interacting with Get_iPlayer. The first is the Command Line Interface or CLI. This requires that you really know what you're doing as you have to type all the commands in the correct language. It allows you to do more than the other version, but may not be the best option if you aren't very comfortable with this kind of thing (e.g. you'd never really heard of command line before now). The second is the Web Manager, which basically acts as an interface overlay on top of the CLI so you can have buttons to click that will create the command codes. This is much more user friendly for someone new to all this and works well for basically anything I suspect most the regular readers here would need. I've now played around with the web manager version of get_iplayer for a couple of days. I had some serious problems with it at first and thought it wasn't going to work at all but now I've got it running smoothly and have successfully downloaded several specific episodes on a one-on-one basis and made several series subscriptions and had them pull in the latest episodes so I really think this is a winner.

A few notes based on my problems getting it running and general comparisons to Radio Downloader:

(1) Get_iPlayer will try two ways to pull in each file. First it will try the flash file using a program called rtmpdump. If things work, everything is golden and you should have an hour long program donwloaded in seconds. If that doesn't work, it will try the wma version and that will suck. It will require an hour to download an hour long program and it will probably screw up somewhere in the middle then claim it successfully finished but it won't have so you'll have the first 2, 3, or 20 minutes of your program but not all of it. This was my major problem at first so if you experience this, let me know and I can tell you what I did that has it working most of the time and just hope it helps you. Every once in a while it will still screw up, but not often and in those cases usually if I just close everything down and try again it works.

(2) This does not run in the background, completely hidden, nearly as well as Radio Downloader did for me. When you launch Get_iPlayer as the Web Manager, it opens a Command Line Interface and a tab or window in your web browser. You have to leave the CLI open. You can search for programs in the web browser window and either select an individual program to record immediately or add programs to your saved list of ones to pull in anytime there is a new episode. When you are actually getting a program, either one you just picked or because you told it to run through and check all your saved programs, it opens another tab or window of your web browser and you have to leave that open until it is done getting everything, which could take a while if you've got a lot of saved programs.

(3) It can sometimes takes a very long time to pull up the lists of programs. This is a caching issue and finding the balance between saving things so it doesn't take as long to load versus relying too much on the saved and not getting the latest shows that have aired. If it is taking a while on a particular run, you just have to ride it out, I guess. If you think it isn't showing the newest stuff, there is a button to refresh the cache.

(4) I can't get it to pull up programs that haven't aired yet. With Radio Downloader, I could look at the BBC's schedule on Sunday and tell RD to get something new that was airing on Tuesday. With this, I have to wait until after the first episode has aired then I can tell it to grab that one and all future episodes. There is a search option that says "Search Future Schedule" and I've selected yes there, but it still doesn't pull up things that haven't aired.

With Radio Downloader, I'd go through the BBC's schedule on Sunday morning of all programs tagged Drama and Comedy airing the upcoming week and add subscriptions to Radio Downloader for anything new starting and would just leave Radio Downloader running constantly. It would minimize to a tiny icon down by my date/time and was completely out of my head so that worked well. With this, since it doesn't hide as well and I can't get subscriptions to things that haven't aired yet, I'll have to rethink that a bit. My current plan is to still go through the BBC schedule with my Sunday morning tea because that is very much a calm ritual in my life that I enjoy. Instead of just adding programs to RD, I'll probably work off of my LJ posts with everything I'm looking forward to in the upcoming programs. I should be able to just open Get_iPlayer a couple or three times during the week, add subscriptions for anything on my LJ post list that has aired since the last time I opened Get_iPlayer, and have it run the saved subscriptions to pull in the new stuff and anything that has aired from my existing subscriptions. Adding subscriptions and getting everything in two or three batches a week will work for me with the way I listen to the BBC Radio since I'm often listening to things months after they've aired. For others who stay more up to date, you definitely can run this daily, multiple times a day, or leave the windows open and it says it will self-check existing subscriptions every four hours so this can definitely work with a variety of habits and preferences. I'd just rather not have the windows opened and cluttering my desktop and don't need things that immediately and feel like it makes mistakes a bit more often than Radio Downloader so I feel like I need to babysit it a bit more while it is running to make sure it works. This might just be because something is causing my internet connection to be super slow today in particular but a little the past few days and isn't anything with the program at all but I don't know for sure yet.

So that's my basic thoughts on what appears to me to be the best Radio Donwloader replacement I've come across. here's the link again for information on installing both the basic program and the web manager interface that I recommend and directions on using the web manager if you want to give it a go now.

Now that I've got a recorder setup, I should be able to get back on track with my weekly posts. Trying to get this fixed just took all the time I'd usually use for typing that up and about 20 hours more on top of it. Plus, my internet really has been crappy the past few days. I'm going to have to complain to the company if it doesn't get better. Anyway, tomorrow is a holiday for me so I should be able to post what should have gone up this past Sunday and then post on schedule this upcoming Sunday. Or maybe I'll just wait and post two weeks worth on this Sunday.


stellar7 at 3:01 pm on 05 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Just wanted to thank you for the post. I stumbled across your blog as I was basically googling what to do about replacing radio downloader. I tried Audacity, but wasn't loving it. (The sound quality was horrible, and I know that it probably just needed some tweaking in the settings, but...)
Just checked out Get_iplayer, and practiced getting a few episodes of BBC radio shows. I was stumped for a minute about how to even bring up the web manager,(clicking the pvr_manager internet link in the file folder kept giving me a "page not found" display, but the pvr_manager.cmd file just above it opened it automatically) After that I downloaded 4 shows fairly quickly. There -was- the extra tab left open,and the connection sometimes slowed down or seemed as if it wasn't loading as I searched for specific shows. But it worked out ok, and it looks like I can still listen to my favorite stuff on my commute to work.
bratty_jedi at 7:51 pm on 05 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you stumbled upon this and it was able to help you. Hopefully BBC won't screw with this the way they did Radio Downloader and we'll be ok at least until they roll out the coming DRM version of the official Radio iPlayer.
failte_aoife at 9:01 am on 06 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I also was searching for replacement but found nothing that really worked (without also doing strange things to my computer...). That looks like a decent replacement for now :D
bratty_jedi at 9:39 pm on 06 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
I'm getting really pessimistic about BBC at the moment so I can't help be half-expect this one to be ordered taken down like Radio Downloader was, but for now, it works so I'll take what I can get I suppose.
bowl_of_glow at 1:53 pm on 06 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I was so annoyed I missed Great Expectations because RD was down :-/ I'll try this programme as soon as I have time :) *crosses fingers*
bratty_jedi at 9:41 pm on 06 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
The last Great Expectations should still be up to grab, I think. If you missed any previous ones between when RD went down and now or if you can't get this new downloading program up and running before the last episode is gone, just let me know what you need. I've got all of it.
bowl_of_glow at 2:49 pm on 11 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)
RD went down at the worst possible time for me, I've just finished my exams and I really didn't have time to record the episodes :-/ And I still haven't had time to see how get_iplayer works! (I'm a bit tech-challanged at times). If you can share them, I'd be glad to have an episode or two - I'll consider buying it maybe, but I wanted to listen to it first.
Anyway, thanks for the updates on RD, this has been all very helpful!
(Anonymous) at 7:06 pm on 09 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)

Search Future Schedule

If you select "Search Future Schedule" you must also select "Refresh Future Schedule" in the Recording tab, then refresh the cache to download the listings for the next 7 days. Not as smooth as it could be, but it does work.
bratty_jedi at 10:21 am on 10 July 2013 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Search Future Schedule

this_other_life at 7:07 pm on 07 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Have only now found time to catch up with your postings but hope to be a more regular reader from now on. I missing RD dreadfully, it was just so simple to use and worked so seamlessly. I am using Get_iplayer but don't like it half as much and it seemingly can't find every programme I search for. But I can get the main ones I want so I suppose I will get by.
bratty_jedi at 9:18 pm on 11 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)
Get_iplayer is definitely not as smooth as Radio Downloader, but with enough tinkering I've thus far always been able to get everything I've wanted. Of course, I say that when I've currently been trying off-and-on for three hours to get a program, but sometimes RD would have errors downloading a program for several hours after broadcast so I suspect it is actually on the BBC's end on this.
(Anonymous) at 9:21 am on 15 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)

Thanks so much for this!

I havent installed it yet but it seems pretty positive. Anything that remotely works to download the stream is heaven sent. Right now I am recording it off the computer's audio so it sucks, as I have to convert it afterwards and I have to run it the full duration of the programme, and worst of all, any sound my computer makes gets recorded as well. Been a real pain. This is a potential time and energy saver!
bratty_jedi at 10:26 am on 15 August 2013 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks so much for this!

It works fantastically with only the occasional glitch. I noticed you mentioned having to convert with your current method so you might need to know this: The default recording mode for radio on get_iplayer doesn't move to my iPhone. That's really easy to fix, though. You can run get_iplayer either through the command Line Interface (that link is just get_iplayer on my Windows Start menu) or as the Web PVR Manager. I typically use the Web PVR Manager but you can change settings if you run the the regular CLI. To get it to automatically convert to MP3s to make Apple products happy, paste the following into the CLI:

get_iplayer --prefs-add --aactomp3

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