Every epic journey begins with a good theme song, or it should. Background music can set the mood, letting your thoughts blend with the information bombarding you from every direction until both flow like a steady stream. Dip your foot in, it’s refreshing. At the same time it can get you pumped to take on dragons, music being the armor and inspiring lyrics your lance. So plug in your headphones, set music to chill, and let us begin a journey into free and open-source software, abbreviated FOSS, with a combination of applications geared toward Android but with which all can benefit. Our final destination will be continuously streaming audio content, without commercials if you please, and free.
Open-source software, or OSS, is becoming a trend word and it is attractive due to its transparency, you are able to read and sometimes modify the code as compared to proprietary software where access to the code is forbidden. Free and open-source software, or FOSS, is software that can be classified as both free software and open-source software. Its attractiveness is that it is transparent, you can modify the code, and it is free. The three FOSS apps we will focus on for our audio endeavors with no need to modify their code are F-Droid, VLC, and RadioDroid.
F-Droid is a FOSS app repository with the ability to add additional repositories such as apps from The Guardian Project. Much like Google’s PlayStore, F-Droid makes it just as easy to search for and install apps. Additional information is given, even warnings on known vulnerabilities and recommended removals for security threats. The settings give you control of download behavior and the ability to share apps on the local network. Apps found on the F-Droid website are downloaded via the F-Droid app.
VLC is a popular media app with far reaching capabilities including streaming audio and video from any server. With its wide range of acceptable formats VLC is an optimum choice for audio and video needs as it installs on any platform including Apple. Those without an Android device can continue reading if you too would like streaming audio with more versatility than most paid music apps. VLC is found at the VLC website for all devices. You will find under the PlayStore option a link to download the app from a mirror. Choose your device and download.
RadioDroid is found in the F-Droid app repository and is an app accessing the website www.radio-browser.info. This is where all users of any device can benefit from VLC as you type in a genre or tag into the search box, go to the station of your choice, right-click the diskette icon, and copy the address. Go over to VLC, paste the address in the stream option, and press play. Android makes it a little easier with RadioDroid.
The website www.radio-browser.info boasts 18,127 stations and 221 countries. The RadioDroid app opens to a list of top stations with the search box also visible from this screen. In the search box type in a genre such as blues or hip-hop and watch as the corresponding stations appear. You will notice the bandwidth next to most streams which can be useful when streaming over your cellular network. To the right of the station is a drop down arrow which once tapped gives you the option to share the URL with another app. You will see your VLC app as an option, tap it, and seconds later you have streaming audio. Tap the name of the band or song you see streaming at the bottom and it will open another window giving you the option to save your station as a play list. Tap the far upper right corner and select the disk icon. Over WiFi the music is seamless and there are streams with commercials and there are streams with nothing but music, 24/7. Happy hunting!
The rabbit hole factor
You now have the equivalent of satellite radio or another streaming music account without having to sign in or pay any money. But wait, there’s more! If you are mobile, using your data, this is where you pay attention to the broadband speed mentioned earlier. The lower the rate of broadband you can find for your preferred genre the better you can ensure no buffering waits in the deadest of spots. The author has successfully streamed blues and punk rock at 4G, 3G, and 1x cellular signals, still able to seamless stream after all allotted prepaid data has been used.
These apps in themselves are adequate for streaming audio but you may want to add a fourth, still free and open-source software, to ensure privacy when connected to what could be rogue streams who perhaps want only your IP address and open ports. In our case the person at the other end of our stream has only to see our IP address and use a tool such as nmap, also open-source, and run the command nmap -A -v -p 1-65535 “ip address” and any open port could be revealed. Using a proxy server is one way to keep your actual address hidden but onion routing ensures your home IP address is never revealed. TOR (The Onion Router) client software routes Internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers in order to conceal a user’s location or usage from someone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. If you stream your audio through TOR you have the protection of a would-be snoop not knowing where you actually reside in cyberspace.
Orbot is the free and open-source app used to implement TOR and it is found in F-Droid after activating the Guardian Project repository found in the settings. After installing Orbot tap the VPN button displayed as the app opens. It will show you a grid of all your apps, select your VLC app to run through TOR. Do not choose RadioDroid as you are briefly connected to their server to choose your stream, the stream is actually ran through the VLC app. Once the VPN button has been selected Orbot will start and will show you its progress until you are fully connected. Now go to RadioDroid and choose your stream, tap the down-facing arrow to the right, and tap the share option. You will see VLC among other apps, choose it, and your stream will begin. Your audio will bounce like beats all over the world before reaching your ears where you can now listen with peace of mind.