DIY broadcast deregulation
Monday, July 28 2003
I spent the afternoon doing real cowboy electrician work at that $400,000 house between High Falls and Accord. Nobody is living there, and the basement apartment is left completely unlocked, vulnerable to homesteading by a posse of spraypaint can shaking & Mad Dog-swilling gutterpunks.
I brought both Sally and Eleanor with me, but they didn't have a very good time. After a little initial exploration in the semi-wooded backyard (Sally even found something fairly benign to roll in), they hung out in and around the basement wondering when, if ever, we'd do something truely exciting. Sally periodically made forrays into the yard to look for chipmunks in the bluestone walls, and Eleanor would sometimes tag along. On such occasions I worried about them venturing too far; a fairly busy road went right past the house and the cars tended to drive a little too fast. Worrying about the dogs was a constant distraction and I vowed never to take them on another gig ever again.
About half of what I did involved installing lightbulbs into the cheap recessed lighting fixtures in the ceiling. A good fraction of these needed basic repair, since the ceramic bulb sockets had worked their way free of their moorings and were hanging loose, held only by their wires. Then I moved on to cleaning up the wires in the electrical closet, which was a complete disaster. There was a 200 amp circuit breaker box in there that had once supplied power for the entire house. Now it only handled power for the basement apartment, but there were still all these old wires dangling from the ceiling from the upstairs circuits it had once supplied. There were also a bunch of gaps left in the circuit breaker panel, and I couldn't figure out any way to close them up. But I did make everything tidy, balling up the loose wires and hiding them in the wall and running other wires along a one by four running board where it crossed floor joists. I also replaced a standard electrical outlet with a GFI outlet because house inspectors love to see those.
On the way home I stopped for basic provisions at Emmanual's, a grocery store in Stone Ridge. They had Red Stripe, the Jamaican beer. It's not my favorite beer, but its sunny Caribbean qualities appealed to me after three hours sweating in a musty basement, so I bought a six pack and drank one on the way home.
Later I assembled an FM stereo transmitter kit I'd bought online for about $30. I intend to use it to create a house-wide radio station so I can listen to my MP3s from an FM radio anywhere in and around the house. I love the idea of using low-tech devices to interface my high-tech digital equipment to other low-tech devices, in this case turning every radio in the house into an MP3 client for my central MP3 server.
Of course, my broadcasting experiments can't possibly stop with the attainment of this modest goal. Having a hacker mindset compels me to modify the circuit so that it broadcasts as far as possible and serves as a commercial-free neighborhood alternative to Clear Channel. That's the kind of DIY broadcast deregulation I believe in.
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