A Computerized Alarm

Many people still have an FM radio next to their bed which serves as the every day morning alarm. One problem with this is that you can’t necessarily recieve the radio stations you want to recieve.

This is a problem that will become more apparent with the growth of services such as Sky. Its a service that can recieve many national (and international) radio stations and it is likely that some people will use this or the Internet and not bother with the normal FM/AM or DAB radios in the future.

But did you know that it is possible to use your computer as an alarm? Using Windows XP‘s task scheduler (its slightly different on Vista but can be done), you can tell the computer to launch the listen live file for any radio station which broadcasts online.

You can get to the Task Schedule on the start menu (see screenshot below), going via Accessories and you will find Scheduled Tasks in the System Tools folder.

The screen which follows will look a lot like the standard folder view; you will see several tasks in the folder such as virus scans or startup programmes. There is also a file labelled Add Scheduled Task. Double click on this and the wizard will appear, displaying the introduction screen. Click Next to move to the next screen, where you will be able to type in some information.

You should see a list of programmes installed on your computer. The box will ask you to choose a programme. This is the programme used for streaming their service – usually Winamp, Real Player or Windows Media Player. I suggest you do not choose your Internet browser (Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer), because they are not direct links to the stream and the radio station will not play unless you click on any listen live links – this defeats the object of having an alarm which plays automatically!!!

In the screenshot below, you will see that I have selected Windows Media Player. If you are to play one of the BBC‘s radio stations, this is the programme you will need.

Once you have selected the application, click on Next. The next screen will ask for two things:

  • Name of the task
  • How often you want the task to be carried out

You can call the task whatever you want – maybe Alarm Clock would help identify it? The computer will call it Windows Media Player by default – this will also be fine.

You then need to choose when you want the task to operate. Possible choices are:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • One time only
  • When my computer starts
  • When I log on

Select one of these – bear in mind that the last two options will require a human to switch the computer on and log in, which defeats the object of having an alarm clock which starts automatically! Personally, I have an alarm clock every day of the week, so have selected the first option. You will be able to specify specific days of the week and dates later in this process.

When you’re done, click Next.

The next screen (screenshot below), gives more options.

  • Start Time: Type in the time you want the task to launch. If you wake up at 6am, type in 06:00. If you wake up at 7:30am, type in 07:30. If you’re on the night shift and wake up at 7:30pm, type in 19:30!
  • Perform this Task: Here is where you specify when you want the task to run. Options are:
    • Every day
    • Weekdays
    • Every [insert number] days.
  • Start Date: Type in when you want the task to start. The task will start running at the specified ate and time from whenever you have selected.

When you’re done, click Next.

The next screen will ask for your username and password. If you don’t have one, leave the box blank. Otherwise you need to type it in twice, as there are 2 boxes.

The username needs to take the format of ComputerNameUserName. If you don’t know the computer name, it can be found in the system properties area of My Computer. (If you need help with this, e-mail me (admin@fred-hart.co.uk) and I will send some instructions.

When you’re done, click Next.

The basics are then complete. Before you click on Finish, tick the box that says: Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish. If you don’t you won’t be able to tell the computer you want Media Player to play some audio and your alarm will be silent!

You should see a screen which looks similar to this:

You will notice that the file reference is slightly odd, displaying as something like C:PROGRA~1WINDOW~2wmplayer.exe /prefetch:1. This will usually work… however, in order to make audio play, you need to change it. Type in the full reference to the software’s .exe file. Windows Media Player is at C:Program FilesWindows Media Playerwmplayer.exe.

Put thie file reference in quote marks. Then, leave a space and type the URL to the file you want to play. If you want BBC Radio 2 to play as your alarm, type in http://bbc.co.uk/radio/listen/live/r2.asx, or BBC Hereford and Worcester’s link is http://bbc.co.uk/radio/listen/live/bbcherefordandworcester.asx. Stick this link in quote marks as well.

Note: Use the BBC iPlayer help pages to find the .asx file locations. DO NOT LINK TO THE BBC iPLAYER PAGE AS IT WILL NOT WORK!!!

You should have, written in the box labelled Run:, something that looks like: “C:Program FilesWindows Media Playerwmplayer.exe” “http://bbc.co.uk/radio/listen/live/r2.asx”

Finally, in the Start in: box, change the reference to the link to the .exe file location, but delete the file name. (eg. the wmplayer.exe if using Media Player). So the box should have C:Program FilesWindows Media Playerwritten in it. You don’t need quote marks.

That was my last blog update before Christmas. If you need any help, e-mail me on admin@fred-hart.co.uk and I’ll see what I can do to assist.

Merry Christmas (nearly)!

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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