Table of Contents:

Update: If you plan on making the feed public for others to listen to, I would recommend setting up an account over at RadioReference.com to be a live feed provider. They make it very simple by providing you an installer that will set the feed up and start streaming it to their servers where visitors can then listen to it. This way, you don't have to worry about router/firewall settings and port forwarding. If you only plan to use it personally, it is still pretty simple but you have to get in to setting up your router/firewall to allow connections from the outside world

Hello! I hope this tutorial will get you on the road to running your own live scanner feed on the Internet, be it railroad, fire/ems or law enforcement related. If you find this tutorial useful, please drop me an email and let me know. I will also start a list of links to other live feeds, so if you have a live feed and would like it listed, let me know!

These tutorials will help get you started, but don't forget to the see the documentation for the software, ShoutCast, which also includes tutorials here: http://www.shoutcast.com/support/docs/

So let's get started!

Part 1: What you need to get started
Part 2: Connecting the scanner to the computer
Part 3: Installing and configuring the software
Part 4: Testing the feed
Part 5: Getting the word out about your feed

  Part 1: What you need to get started:

Obviously, the first two things you will need if you want to run a live scanner feed is a scanner and a computer. One of the great things about live scanner streaming is that all the software you need to get started is FREE! Depending on how often you plan on making this feed available to others will determine things like whether you leave the scanner/computer on all the time. For the sake of this tutorial, I will assume that you plan on leaving the scanner and computer on at all times to allow people to listen 24 hours a day.

The ideal scenario would be if you had an older computer that was no longer being used regularly and a spare scanner to connect to it. This way you would have a dedicated feed system. This is the way most of the serious live scanner stream operators have things set up. It doesn't take a cutting-edge computer at all. In fact, many people are running streams from older Pentium 133-233 MHz machines under Windows 98 just fine! My stream runs on a Pentium II 400 MHz with no strain whatsoever. Many streamers are opting towards Linux since it has such a low hardware requirement and features excellent reliability, but this is beyond the scope of this tutorial, so we will just stick with Windows. As far as I know, pretty much any version of Windows from Windows 95 up to Windows XP up will work.

There are a few assumptions I will make that, if I did not, would make this tutorial way too cumbersome and long-winded. The first is that you have a working computer to connect the scanner to - in other words, the system boots up Windows, runs fine, has a working sound card and connection to the Internet (we will touch on the best type of connection later). The next is that you have a working scanner that can reliably pick up a good signal on the frequencies you are interested in monitoring (subjects such as the best scanner or the best antenna or how the antenna should be mounted are WAY beyond the scope of this tutorial). Lastly I will assume that you are fairly comfortable working on your computer - not that you have to be an expert or guru, but you understand how to get around Windows and Windows Explorer to look for files on your hard drive and can edit simple text files in notepad.

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  Part 2: Connecting the scanner to the computer:

Okay, you have your computer and you have your scanner and you are ready to start streaming! What next? Well, we need to connect the scanner to the computer via the computer's sound card. This is the same card that the speakers plug in to. Most sound cards have at least three 1/8th inch connectors on them: speaker out, mic in and line in. Newer sound cards have these plugs color coded as follows: speakers = green, mic in = pink and line in = blue. Occasionally, you will run across one that does not have the line in. In this case, the mic in may be used, although the quality will not be quite as good.

You will need a cable with 1/8" male connectors on both ends - one end will connect to your scanner's headphone jack, the other end to the sound card. These can usually be purchased at your local Radio Shack store.

Turn your scanner on and make sure you have a good signal of some sort. I usually tune in to our local weather service while testing since this gives me a constant source of audio. Set your volume to a reasonable level, then connect the cable. Connect one end to the scanner's headphone jack and the other end to the Line In jack on your sound card. At least for initial testing, the computer should have a set of working speakers (you may want to remove or turn these off later). With this simple connection, you should now hear the scanner through your computer's speakers.

If this works and you can hear the scanner at a reasonable level without a lot of distortion or poor sound quality, you should be able to safely move on to Part 3, although we will cover a little troubleshooting now, that might come in handy to you later.

Okay, your scanner sounds fine with the cable unplugged, but connected to the computer, you do not hear the audio through your speakers? Let's look at a couple of the most likely causes. First item would be to double check that your cable is plugged in to the correct jack on the sound card. The naming/pictures on some soundcards can be a little tricky sometimes, so check this first. If your cable is connected correctly, let's look now at the Windows Volume Control to see if maybe the Line In connection is muted or turned all the way down. To access the Windows Volume Control (this should apply to most versions of Windows), click on Start, then Programs, then Accessories, then Entertainment and lastly the link for Volume Control. Something similar to this is what you should see:

If you do not see the Line In volume listed, click on Options, then Properties and make sure the check-box next to Line In is checked, then click OK. Now you can see the Line In volume, check to see if the volume slider is turned down all the way or if the Mute check-box is checked. Disable the Mute check-box and adjust the volume slider until you can hear the scanner at a reasonable level.

The above should take care of most problems encountered if you cannot hear your scanner through the computer speakers. If you have done all of the above and it is still not working, you might need to check the device drivers for your sound card. This subject is a bit too in depth to tackle in this tutorial, but you should be able to find plenty of information on the 'net with regards to device drivers and troubleshooting them.

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  Part 3: Installing and configuring the software:

Now that you have your scanner and your computer running, you are ready to install the software that will make your feed available to the Internet. We will be using software packages from Nullsoft, the makers of the well-known MP3 player, WinAmp. Here is a link to the ShoutCast online documentation which is very good and worth a look: http://www.shoutcast.com/support/docs/

There are actually two pieces to the sofware package:

1. The Player/Encoder: this takes the audio from your sound card and encodes it in to streaming MP3 format that can be delivered to a server for broadcast.

2. The Server: this is the application that allows users to connect to and listen to your live feed. The encoder must connect to the server to provide the server with audio to share.

The first piece of software to download would be the player. A free version of WinAmp 5+ is available from http://www.winamp.com. However, most stream operators have found that the newer versions of WinAmp are not as reliable and take up more memory/hard disk space. With this in mind, most of them (including myself) use an older version such as WinAmp 2.95. Thank goodness we have access to a great site called OldVersion.com: http://www.oldversion.com/program.php?n=winamp. Slip over here and pick yourself up a copy of WinAmp 2.95 and install it.

Once WinAmp is up and running, head over to the ShoutCast downloads page (http://www.shoutcast.com/download/broadcast.phtml#download) and grab the encoder plugin for WinAmp 2.x. Or download it directly here: http://www.shoutcast.com/downloads/shoutcast-dsp-1-8-2b-windows.exe The encoder plugin installs just like WinAmp. Go ahead and install the plugin, then we will move on to other tasks.

Let's take a break on setting up WinAmp for now to get the server portion of the software installed. Again, if there is anything you don't understand the first time reading this tutorial, try checking out the ShoutCast Online Documentation at http://www.shoutcast.com/support/docs/. The first thing to do is to download the server application. Please read over this page from Nullsoft (makers of WinAmp and ShoutCast) on installing the ShoutCast server: Setting up a server. After you have looked over the page and have an idea of what is needed to install the server, go ahead and download and install it and we will look at configuring it for a live scanner feed.

Once the ShoutCast server is installed, we need to configure it for our live scanner feed. This involves editing text files that control the configuration of the server. There are two ways to go about doing this: the first is to use the shortcut provided by ShoutCast when it was installed. This can usually be found by going to Start, then Programs, then SHOUTcast DNAS and lastly Edit SHOUTcast DNAS configuration. The other method would be to use Windows Explorer to navigate to C:\Program Files\SHOUTcast and edit the file sc_serv.ini in Notepad.

There is really only three things you should look at in the sc_serv.ini file under the section:
; ***************************
; Required stuff
; ***************************

The items that need attention are:
MaxUser=32: This is the maximum number of users that the server will allow to connect to your feed. This needs to be a reasonable number based on the type of Internet connection you have. Typically, the lowest bitrate you can stream at will be 24 kbits/sec. So, if you left the user count at 32, you would need an outgoing Internet connection that can run up to 768 kbits/sec! This is faster than most of us have, even with broadband and usually there will not be that many people connecting to your server. I would make this value about 10 - keep in mind that you and your family will still want to use the Internet connection to surf the web, so you don't want the server to take up all the bandwidth and make your surfing painfully slow.

Password=changeme: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You will want to change this to some password that you can remember as you will need this password when you setup the WinAmp player and the ShoutCast plugin.

PortBase=8000: Chances are, you will not need to change this value. This is the port that the listener will use to connect to your server. I usually leave this alone.

With the server configured, let's jump back over to WinAmp and set it up to connect to the server. First, fire up WinAmp - then click in the upper left hand corner of the main WinAmp form, and from the menu that pops up, select Options then Preferences. Optionally, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-P to open the Preferences dialog.

Next, look under Plug-ins and click on DSP/Effect. You should now see the Nullsoft SHOUTCast Source DSP listed.

When you click on the Nullsoft SHOUTCast Source DSP plugin, the following dialog will pop up:

There are four tabs in the SHOUTCast Source dialog. There are no settings under the Main tab as shown in the image above. However, there are settings you will need to change/check under the other three tabs. The images below show the two parts of the Output tab. With the Connection button pushed, you will see the settings shown in the image on the left. Leave everything set as is except change the Password to the same password you used when configuring the ShoutCast Server.

Now click on the Yellowpages button and you will see the settings shown in the image on the right. Fill these fields in to suit whatever you would like to say about your server. Certainly change "Unnamed Server" to a description of your feed - something like "Live Railroad Scanner Feed from City, State" would be good. How you describe your station here will come in to play later if you are looking for your server among the other servers advertised at ShoutCast.com.

  

I didn't show the Encoder tab dialog contents because there is not much to set here. It should likely be already set, but if not, set the Encoder Type to MP3 Encoder and the Encoder Settings to 24kbps, 22.050kHz, Mono

The last setting will be under the Input tab. Just match the settings in the image below and you will be fine. If you turn your scanner on now and there is talking going on, you should see some activity in the Input Levels area. What I usually do, is tune in to our local weather service since I know this will be a steady stream of voice audio and set the volume on the scanner until it stays below 0 dB regularly. For clarity, you don't want the volume set so high that it stays at 0 dB all time.

With WinAmp configured and running (the SHOUTCast Source DSP dialog will stay up as long as you have WinAmp maximized), start the server portion of the streamer by going to Start, then Programs, then SHOUTcast DNAS and lastly clicking the SHOUTcast DNAS (GUI) shortcut. You will be greeted with the following dialog:

Now, flip back over to WinAmp and the SHOUTCast Source DSP dialog and under the Output tab click the Connect button. If everything is working right, the Source area right above the Connect button will now show a time and "Sent xxxxx bytes". Also in the lower right-hand corner of the ShoutCast Server dialog, where it showed No Source before should now show the number of connected users such a (3/10) meaning three people out of a total of 10 possible are connected

At this point, your server is up and running! The WinAmp player and ShoutCast server application both have to be running at all times to make the server available to users, although you can minimize them to clear the desktop. Next, we will discuss how to use another computer on your home network or get a friend on the Internet to help you test the feed!

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  Part 4: Testing the feed:

How you go about testing your live scanner feed out, depends mostly on how you are connected to the Internet and if you have a home network with other computers connected it. This would be the ideal way to test the feed out. Let's look at both methods briefly.

If your feed computer is on a home network with other computers:

Once you have the feed up and running, you need to find out the IP address your feed computer is at. There are a number of freeware utilities you can find on the web to make this easier, but I will show you how I do it. First, open a command prompt (also called DOS Prompt) by going to Start, Programs, Accessories then clicking the shortcut for Command Prompt. With the command prompt open type in the command ipconfig and press enter. You should see something to this effect:

Write down the number listed next to IP Address. You can safely close the command prompt now on your feed computer. Go to one of your other computers on the network, open WinAmp (any version will do here - this is more a matter of personal preference than reliability). Then choose to Open Location and type in the IP Address you wrote down of your feed server and add :8000 after the IP address as shown below. The :8000 at the end is important as it tells WinAmp what port to listen for the feed on. This is the same port that we left at 8000 in the configuration of the server.

If all goes well, you should now hear the live scanner feed on the other computer! Keep in mind, that the audio will be delayed due to the overhead of converting and serving the feed, so expect about a 30 second delay between when something is said on the scanner and when you hear on the listening computer.

Brief info on running a live scanner feed from behind a router/gateway:

If you are on a local network and have multiple computers connected to the Internet, chances are you have some sort of router/gateway that connects between your computers and your cable or DSL modem. In order to make the live scanner feed available to the general public on the Internet, you will need to change a few settings on your router/gateway. You will need to enable a feature called Port Forwarding and under that feature, you will need to forward the port 8000 to the local IP address of your server computer. How to actually make these settings is beyond the scope of the this tutorial so you will need to check the owner's manual of your router/gateway for the specifics on how to enable this. This feature is also used when people want to play online games when behind a router/gateway, so a search on the Internet for port forwarding and the brand and model of your router/gateway should also lead you to information on how to open a port to your server.

Another issue about running a feed from behind a router/gateway is that the IP Address of your computer is not a valid Internet address and users cannot connect to your feed using the address found by using the ipconfig command above. What you will need to do in this case, is get the Inernet IP Address that your router/gateway is using. Again, you can look through the documentation for your router to see how to go about checking the Internet IP Address. I also think there are some freeware utilities on the web that will read this info from your router and give it back to you. Again, a search on the web for your brand of router/gateway will likely lead you to some other tutorials on finding this information out.

If your feed computer is connected directly to your cable or DSL modem:

The process for testing here will be very similar except you will probably need a friend to help you out. Just like we did in the above tutorial, open a command prompt and run the ipconfig command and write down your IP Address (see above for how this should look). With a friend standing by (this is where instant messaging would come in very handy!), have them run WinAmp on their machine and do the exact same Open Location as above and have them put in the IP Address you read when you ran the ipconfig command. Don't forget to have them put the :8000 port number on the end. If all goes well, they should now be able to hear your feed on their computer.

If they get an error message that they cannot connect, first have them double check the IP Address and port number (no space between the IP and :8000), then make sure you have disabled any software firewalls (such as Norton Internet Security, ZoneAlarm, McAfee or the built in firewall in Windows XP). Have another friend try it also to be sure where the problem is (on your end or your friend's end). If things still do not work, it may be a case that your ISP is blocking the port from coming in for security reasons. In this case you will need to contact your Internet Service Provider to see what provisions must be made to get these ports opened.

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  Part 5: Getting the word out about your feed:

In this last tutorial, we are going to talk about a few ways you can get the information out to the general public about your live feed. This is provided that you intended to let the general public connect to your feed - I will assume you are or you wouldn't be reading this part of the tutorial. ; )

If you already have a website, especially one related to railfanning, etc, this would be the ideal location to advertise your live scanner feed. Give people a chance to hear the action around your town! There are two ways that you can give visitors a link to listen to your feed: by using the YellowPages database of servers at http://www.shoutcast.com or by giving them a direct link to your server via your IP Address and port. Let's briefly discuss each.

Using the YellowPages at ShoutCast.com to advertise your feed:

One of the neat things about setting up a server using the ShoutCast software is that when your server is running, it will connect to http://www.shoutcast.com and will request the website to add your server to the database. You will notice when you go to ShoutCast.com, that one of the first things you can do there is a search for a station (a ShoutCast server) by keyword. The easiest thing to do would be to direct either visitors to your website or friends you invite via email to go to ShoutCast.com and type in a keyword that would find your station. As you may remember from step 3, your station will be listed in the database at ShoutCast.com by the description you put in during this step. Give your friends a keyword to search on that will find your server, like the name of the city or the word scanner and the name of the city. From there they can just click on the Listen Now button at ShoutCast.com and tune right in to your station without having to worry about IP Addresses, ports, etc. The big advantage of this is that, even you have a dynamic IP address (which most all of us do, regardless of what type of internet connection you have), the visitor can always get right to your feed without having to know this. Of course, the downside, is that you have to direct visitors to ShoutCast.com and have them search for your feed.

Using a direct link to your server feed:

You can also direct people to your feed by giving them the IP Address and port of your feed and let them plug that right in to the WinAmp player. If you only planning on running your server occasionally, this would be an easy way to do it. Simply follow the instructions in step 3 for testing the feed and getting an Internet IP Address that you can give your friends (see the part about getting an address from a router/gateway). Then you can send an email to some friends or to an email list with information like this:
To listen to my live scanner feed, open the following location in WinAmp: 123.456.789.101:8000

Using a direct link to your server feed with dynamic IP addresses:

Most internet connections, whether they are DSL, cable or dial-up, do not give you a static IP Address, meaning that the address you get from your router/gateway or by performing the ipconfig command could change over time. This would mean sending out a new link to your feed each time the address changes. There is a neat way around this. A number of companies offer free dynamic IP DNS routing. What this means, is that you can go to one of these companies and sign up for an account and what they will do is make a DNS entry for your dynamic IP address with a name you can give your friends or link on your website. This way, instead of this:
To listen to my live scanner feed, open the following location in WinAmp: 123.456.789.101:8000
you can have this:
To listen to my live scanner feed, open the following location in WinAmp: mylivefeed.dyndns.com:8000.
There are freeware tools on the Internet that you can use to have the IP address automatically updated if it changes so that mylivefeed.dyndns.com:8000 will ALWAYS point to the right address! This is indeed a classy way to handle the dynamic IP issue.

I hope this little tutorial has given you some insight as to how to set up your own live scanner feed. If you find this tutorial helpful, please drop me an email. If you do set up your own feed, please let me know so that I may post a link to your feed for others to listen to!

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