Under The Microscope

Say Hello To Pulsar!

Pulsar IconJust before Christmas, we teased our newest product, Pulsar. We got some interesting and amusing guesses as to what it might be, but no one nailed it. Today, we’re happy to finally be releasing Pulsar: Public Preview edition. In a few words, Pulsar is a desktop client for listening to XM Radio Online and SIRIUS Internet Radio, the internet streaming services provided by XM and SIRIUS satellite radio.

Pulsar in actionFirst, let’s get the important information out of the way. Pulsar itself requires Mac OS X 10.5 or higher and you’ll need to have a subscription to XM Radio Online or SIRIUS Internet Radio to tune in1. Like all our Mac OS X software, Pulsar is downloadable as a free trial. In trial mode, the quality of audio played by Pulsar will degrade after 20 minutes.

While in Public Preview, Pulsar can be purchased for an introductory price of just $15. These licenses will of course work on Pulsar 1.0 when it arrives as well. Better yet, if you’ve got a license for any of our current Mac OS X products, you can receive a complimentary license for Pulsar here. You can read more about Pulsar here and download it immediately here.

Why Pulsar?

Airfoil and Pulsar togetherSo, why did we make a satellite streaming radio client? Most XM and SIRIUS subscribers have access to this content online, through the companies’ websites. However, listening via a web browser is less than ideal, and existing third party clients also left something to be desired. We felt this was a niche we could fill well, with our own client.

Further, many users wish to listen to satellite radio around their house – through an AirPort Express, Apple TV, or even other computers. Using our own Airfoil with Pulsar, this is a snap. Others want to record content to listen to on an iPod, and Pulsar works great with Audio Hijack Pro. Pulsar complements these applications very well, and we’re certainly hoping Pulsar will encourage sales of Airfoil and Audio Hijack Pro.

Why a Public Preview?

We originally planned to release Pulsar earlier, knowing it likely had bugs but desiring to get it into users’ hands. This is something of a difficult application to test, and to find testers for, and we felt a Public Preview would serve us well. I say originally, because we kept finding and fixing issues on our own. At this point, it’s quite polished. There are still several things that keep this from being a full 1.0, so we’re keeping the Public Preview tag, but we believe it’s very solid.

Pulsar is also a testing ground for some exciting new technology, AHKit2, that will be powering many of our products in the future. Quentin will likely talk more about AHKit2 in a future blog post, but that’s part of why Pulsar is a preview release – this is our first product shipping with this major new code.

Notes & Known issues

This is a Public Preview, meaning there are some rough edges. This includes the following:

Mini-mode: Pulsar does not currently have a mini-mode. We hope to add this in the future, possibly for Pulsar 1.0.

802.11n AirPort Base Station issues: If you have an 802.11n AirPort base station and receive a “Stream Playback Error – Connection refused” when attempting to play a station, you should reset your modem and AirPort Base Station. This appears to be a bug in the current version of the 802.11n AirPort Base Station, not a Pulsar issue.

Error reporting: Error reporting is not finalized yet in many places, so some errors may be less than helpful. If you’re reporting an error, please include screenshots of the errors, as well as Console logs.

XM Tuning: XM Radio Online has been having various issues over the past few days, and we’re keeping an eye on this. We’ve improved tuning when their service is working poorly, but there may still be issues to be ironed out.

North America-centric: At this time, XM and SIRIUS are available only in the US and Canada. You can trial the online services, but both require a US billing address to sign up. Unfortunately, this means Pulsar is largely useful for American and Canadian users.

Wrap It Up
That’s the short and the long of it. If you subscribe to satellite radio currently, you should definitely try out Pulsar. If you don’t, why not take a free three day trial? XM Radio Online is just $7.99 a month, and SIRIUS Internet Radio is $12.99 a month, with neither requiring any other hardware. We hope you’ll enjoy Pulsar, and share your feedback by contacting us directly!

1. If you’re an XM subscriber, you may need to activate online access, free of charge. If you’re a SIRIUS subscriber, you may need to pay extra for high-quality online access.

If you don’t have SIRIUS or XM, you can give either one (or both) a try, with their free 3-day trials. See this link for more details.

44 Responses to “Say Hello To Pulsar!”

  1. Justin Williams says:

    I can’t tell you how happy this makes me as someone who sits at my desk coding all day with my XM online subscription playing.

  2. Nic Lindh says:

    Just downloaded Pulsar. Your Evil Plan worked and I ended up purchasing AirFoil and got the free license for Pulsar.

    Great XM/Sirius streamer! And since you *did* ask for feedback, here are a couple of things that would be nice to have added/changed:

    1) Mini view, as you mentioned you’re working on. Takes up a lot of screen real estate right now.

    2) An equalizer. This seems like a strange kind of thing to leave out. I would imagine you guys would know how to make one?

    3) A way to switch between the low- and high-bandwidth streams. I’m assuming it does something automagic to figure out which one to use now, but it would be nice to be able to force one or the other.

    4) UI quibble: When in favorites view with only a few favorites, the star field background forces a scrollbar even if the window is large enough to see all the favorites.

    5) Would be nice to be able to turn the visualizer off. I don’t like to have things moving on my screen when I’m working. Putting it behind another window is a bit suboptimal.

    I only nag since you asked…

    Great work! Keep it up!

  3. Marco Arment says:

    Looks great! Excellent idea and execution.

    One capability I’d like to see: a combination with Radioshift so I could, say, automatically record Howard Stern from Sirius every day into a (local) podcast feed in iTunes. It would also work great for general music feeds.

    Pulsar + Radioshift could be a killer combination for a lot of Sirius/XM subscribers.

    (My apologies if this is already possible through some combination or setting I’m unaware of.)

  4. Marco Arment says:

    Oh, my mistake: it looks like Audio Hijack Pro can almost do this, but I think it needs Pulsar to be able to launch and start playing a particular station programmatically.

  5. Dewayne Adams says:

    Great Product!!!

    Another great addition to the Rogue Amoeba family. Thank you for giving it to your existing fans!

    BTW, Radioshift Touch + Pulsar (ie Pulsar on iPhone) would rule! (Radioshift Touch is one of the most used apps on my iPhone).

    Thanks again!

  6. Matt says:

    This is great news as the competitors in this market are a bit… sloppy… Glad to see Rogue Amoeba are satellite radio fans and have jumped in.

    Someone else mentioned this, but wanted to second the point… Need a way for Audio Hijack to tune channels in Pulsar so that I can schedule recording various shows.

  7. Keith Whitney says:

    Keep getting “This XM Online Radio account is missing info”, can’t get beyond Account Assistant.

  8. scott says:

    getting the “stream playback error-connection refused” error…is there a way to get around this other than resetting airport? im gonna try a restart and see what that does instead as compared to a full reset

  9. Jon says:

    I cannot get any of my three Canadian Sirius Online Accounts to work…. anyone else?

  10. scott says:

    airport extreme, unplugged it for bout 30 seconds, let it restart, opened Pulsar, and stream is working fine now!

    O&A Party Rock!

  11. Globalrambler says:

    Great new product. Thanks! I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time; ever since I subscribed to XM years ago.

    What about developing an App for the iPhone?

    Again, thanks.

  12. DaftDoki says:

    Just downloaded it and the preview looks great! I wanted to thank you guys for giving licenses out to your existing customers. Much kudos!

    Now, may I seed your brains with the thought of an airfoil speakers app for the iphone/touch? :) I’d give you much awkward hugs if I were able to use my ipod touch as an airfoil receiver around the house.


  13. Jocelyn says:

    WOW ! at last a XM Player for MAC that looks great, Am in Montreal with a XM account and after unplugging my Airport station 30 sec, I was listening to my XM Radio, keep the good work, plus having an Airfoil license I get Pulsar for free, Thanks Guys,

    PS: what about a cover art for the song playing..

  14. Bill in St. Louis says:

    Any chance of the app coming to an iPhone or Touch near you?

    Great work! Very nice.

  15. BM5k says:

    After resetting my Time Capsule, I can finally listen! I have a few “first 30 seconds” type suggestions, so forgive me if these have already been brought up:

    Search. I should be able to search for categories/stations/shows/currently playing tracks with a search box in the tool bar.

    Program Guide. I don’t know if this is possible, but an eyetv-esque program guide would be pretty awesome.

    Looking into timeshift capability with some of your other products.

    I just activated my XM account New Years Eve and this app falls out of the sky a few days later. Great timing!

  16. Mark Wickens says:

    Looks like it does not work with Canadian accounts. I’m trying my Sirius account and it tells me the login is invalid. The same login works great with another player application.

  17. Matt Haughey says:

    I’m getting “Parsing Error: Unable to find ASX url in channel page HTML” on every and any channel after just installing and putting in my XM details.

    Could it be their web service blocking you guys?

  18. Matt Haughey says:

    Oops, my bad — my account wasn’t linked to my radio ID, so that asx not found error came up because the site was throwing a “you haven’t paid” error instead of streams.

  19. Adam Small says:

    Hmm…mine authenticates properly, but just sits at “Connecting…” whenever I pick a channel. There’s nothing being pushed to the Console from Pulsar at all. SLXM works just fine, however. Anyone else experience this?

  20. Chuck says:

    Is it possible for AHP to automatically open Pulsar and select a channel to record? I haven’t been able to figure out if that is possible. Looking forward to an iPhone version. And thanks for the freebie, I appreciate it.

    P.S. Someone mentioned Airfoil for the iPhone. If you could make a program to SEND audio from the iPhone via WiFi, you would be my hero. And I think it would sell like hotcakes.

  21. evan says:

    would be great to have airfoil built in….why open 2 apps to play music over aiport?

  22. Steve Daly says:

    I am having the “Stream Playback Error: Operation Timed Out” error as well. We are not using an AirPort base station.

    Any ideas???

  23. wristshot says:

    For me, I login OK to XM but after selecting a station the program hangs at “Connecting….”

    Is this the same issue that would require rebooting my (non-Airport) wireless router?

    Or something different?

    Unusual to experience a bug with RA products — and I own nearly all of them!

  24. jauto1 says:

    why not for a pc. i love on my mac but know i need for my pc’s. is this ever going to happen?

  25. MadMongoose says:

    I too am looking for an option to choose between high and low bandwidth XM streams.
    I haven’t played more than 20 min yet, but i hear oddities. Could it be low-quality XM stream? No way for me to tell.

    Fantastic work! Great product, will purchase.


  26. wristshot says:

    Follow-up to my post at 1:50 pm yesterday….

    Program works fine at home — where I am in fact on an Airport network — but not in the office, either on a wired ethernet connection or on the Cisco wireless boxes.

    Both Starlight player and browser work fine in the office (this is for XM).

    (Not a shill for Starlight; I’m a dedicated RA fan, owner of Airfoil, Audio Hijack Pro, Fission and Nicecast. I wish I could get this baby to work.)

    I’m pretty baffled — any ideas?


  27. davew says:

    wristshot and I share a similar problem. For Sirius, Pulsar worked fine at home, but hangs at connecting on a Cisco wireless network at work. Starlight works fine, which should, in theory, eliminate firewall problems. (Note: I didn’t try wired.)

  28. Anonymous says:

    Use StarLightXM for Canada

  29. Adam Small says:

    Sounds like they have a problem with streaming through Cisco gear…I’m hardwired into a Cisco ASA at home, and I hang at “Connecting…” as well.

  30. davew says:

    @adam: Glad you mentioned the ASA. I’ll have to look at logs tomorrow and see if any messages pop up re:blocking the Pulsar traffic.

  31. dgarozzo says:

    So glad you have put this app together!

    When connected to the XM website, you can choose either high or low bandwidth. Not that I would ever want to choose low, but I’d like to know which one I’m listening to, and make sure I’m listening to the high one if it happens to connect to the low one.

    Also, I’d like to be able to use Indigo to use my INSTEON or X10 remotes to send a message to my computer to kick off Pulsar, send the sound to my AirportExpress, change channels, etc. I’d also like to be able to schedule recordings of some XM shows. In order to do that, I need to be able to control Pulsar with AppleScript.

    Looking forward to the updates!

  32. rigelian says:

    For some reason I can’t play the music through my bluetooth headphones. It just seems to ignore them. Is there a way to be able to do this? Other than that it’s great.

  33. Adam Small says:

    @davew Try disabling RTSP inspection…that fixed it for me. I’ve sent RA the details. Pulsar rocks!

  34. f00fighter says:

    So far I love Pulsar! I was using StarPlayr previously, and then switched to StarLightXM….but I think Pulsar is a much better fit for me. This is a nice “gift” for current RA customers (like me)!

    I love that Pulsar gives me the ability to define “favorite” channels – this saves me from scrolling through the other 80% of channels I never listen to! I also like the ability to see what song is playing on another channel without switching to it – StarLightXM doesn’t give you this info, so you have to actually switch channels to see what is playing on another station.

    Here are some things I’d like to see in a future release of Pulsar:

    I’d like to have the ability to turn off the description of the channels. Once I see that “Octane” is the “Hard Alternative” channel, I don’t really need to see this info anymore. Perhaps an “info” button or hover over pop up would be better for this?

    It would also be nice to configure the size of the text for the currently playing artist/song – I’d like to see it in a larger font size.

    The highlight for the currently playing channel should be more dramatic, a lighter shade of grey is hard to find quickly.

    Does every channel need a “play/stop” button? IMHO the currently “highlighted” track should just play automatically. This might help cut back on the complaints of visual clutter in the UI.

    Buffering of the current channel so that you can “rewind” would also be nice.

    Finally, Pulsar should remember the View setting that was last chosen by the user…in other words, if the Favorites view was in use when Pulsar was closed, it should open to that view automatically (or allow me config a default view).

    Lyrics, album art and a direct link to purchase the currently playing song from iTunes are nice things to have…but so far the lack of these features is outweighed by the “currently playing” channel previews and favorite channel settings.

    Nice work RA – I can’t wait to see what you have in store for future Pulsar releases!

  35. Dustin says:

    Pulsar is great. One minor suggestion. I’d like to have a Compact Favorites view. Once I have my favorites setup, I only use that view. I’d rather not see the icon for the channel in that view.

  36. suckeffect says:

    I love this app, and I thank you guys for making it free to past customers of Rogue Amoeba.

    One oddity: Pulsar doesn’t want to connect from my work network. It loads the channel list but once I click a channel I get the error: StreamPlaybackError: WindowsMedia: Received bad network reply” Oddly StarlightXM (the other Mac XM app) works just fine under the same network.

  37. tcbritt says:

    great app! I was using that other sat radio player, but was having some issues using it with airfoil, but no problems at all with pulsar. some ideas, maybe display album art in play and as dock icon. Thanks and looking forward to some cool apps for iphone such as Airfoil Speaker for iphone, stream music from mac to iphone like portable airtunes, also stream from iphone (stored audio media or Pulsar satelitte content), and Pulsar for iPhone)

  38. paul says:

    Nice software, makes listening to Sirius over the internet a pleasurable experience. Long live satellite radio.

  39. davew says:

    @Adam Thanks for the ASA tip. I didn’t get any play time to look at this today. :(
    That was where my thoughts were going. We’ve had a ton of trouble with the inspection blocking legitimate traffic lately.

  40. Tony says:

    I’m able to connect to my XM account, but sound is only in my headphones, not speakers (sound sticks?)

  41. John says:

    My Pulsar worked for two days and has now just stopped being able to connect. It’s not the account, that’s current an paid for. It just won’t connect. Any ideas? There is no port information in Preferences, I’ve made sure my Firewall is open to it. Still, nothing.

  42. Kevin says:

    I’m also having issues getting XM to connect right now…

    Stream Playback Error: Connection Refused.

    Just fyi, love the software!

  43. SK says:

    Neither Pulsar or StarPlayr work with 10.4 Tiger… yes, lots of people still run Tiger (and so do AppleTV’s that have nitoTV)

  44. Paul Kafasis says:

    Nic Lindh: I wouldn’t say an EQ is “strange” to leave out – iTunes 1 lacked it. It’s desirable, but hardly required.

    We’re always using the highest-bandwidth stream available, and I don’t envision changing this. For 99.999% of users, that’s just going to be clutter and confusion.

    Turning off the levels will likely be possible in the future. We also need to optimize them a bit.

    Marco Arment: Pulsar and Audio Hijack Pro will certainly be made to work together a bit more, so stay tuned.

    Dewayne Adams, Globalrambler, Bill in St. Louis: Sadly, Pulsar on the iPhone would need a near-complete re-write (instead of just a port). It’s unlikely this will happen any time soon.

    Keith Whitney, scott, Adam Small, Steve Daly, wristshot, John: If you haven’t yet, you should contact support for help. As for the Connection Refused issue, restarting the base station is the only known fix that we know of currently.

    Jon, Mark Wickens: Canada will be supported in a future update.

    DaftDoki: You need to follow our weblog more! See this post for good news.

    Jocelyn: Alas, XM doesn’t provide us this artwork. We’d need to get it from somewhere else, such as Amazon. I doubt this will happen, but we’ll see.

    BM5k: Your search is actually “Filter”, and it’s on the list to consider. A program guide, however, is unlikely to come to Pulsar. We’ll see what happens in the future!

    Chuck: AHP and Pulsar currently don’t do much together, but they will. As for Airfoil for the iPhone, see this post.

    evan: These are two distinct apps because they’re very different things. Building in Airfoil’s functionality, well, it’d raise the price tag. We’ll see what happens though.

    jauto1: Pulsar is for the Mac because we’re a Mac software company. We have no plans for a PC version. Sorry!

    MadMongoose: As noted, we’re always using the highest-quality you have available.

    davew: We’re actually using a completely different port (554) than other players, so this may well be a firewall issue. Contact us for further support.

    Adam Small, davew: We’ll need to get more info on this, definitely, but check your settings for port 554.

    dgarozzo: As above, we’re always getting the highest available. As for AppleScripting, we’ll see what happens.

    rigelian, TOny: The Public Preview doesn’t seem to track audio device changes properly. Watch for an update on this.

    f00fighter: It sounds like the Compact view would be useful for you. As far as other UI tweaks, we’ll see what happens. We’re trying to keep things simple.

    We hope to make each row clickable, and drop the play buttons altogether.

    Buffering is unlikely, but we’ll see.

    Remembering the view is a bug we’ll need to fix.

    Dustin: We’ve heard requests for a compact favorites. I’m not sure how best to allow for that, if at all. We’ll see.

    suckeffect: As noted above, we’re using different ports than other players, so in different situations, different players will work. We’ll need more details to see if we can figure out what’s up – contact us directly.

    Kevin: As noted, this indicates a router issue. Restart your Airport Base Station, and you should be fine, for now.

    SK: Yes, lots of people use 10.4, but at this point, we need technologies from Mac OS X 10.5. Sorry – if you find you need software that’s 10.5 only, you’ll likely need to upgrade your OS.

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