Under The Microscope

What’s New in Pulsar 2

Hi, I’m David Dunham, Rogue Amoeba’s newest developer. My first project here was to create Pulsar 2. With today’s release, I’m pleased to be able to share what I’ve been up to.

What the Heck is Pulsar?

If you’re not familiar with it, Pulsar lets you listen to satellite radio (XM or SIRIUS) on your Mac. Using Safari to visit the XM or SIRIUS web sites is awkward, and times out after a certain period of listening. Pulsar has always been a far more convenient way to access those hundreds of channels.

Hold It Right There

Delay SliderWith Pulsar 2, we’re moving past anything you can do with web access. Most notably, you can pause the live stream. Later, you can pick up listening without losing a beat. Or if you got interrupted and couldn’t pause, just go back and catch what you missed. But we also hold on to the last 3 hours, so you can go forward, and skip 10 seconds, a minute, or even to the next song.

For the Next/Previous Song commands, we rely on metadata from the server to tell us when songs start. This data isn’t always perfectly in sync with song changes, but coupled with the jump arrows (← & →), the commands are quite useful.

For those interested in the technical aspects of pause, we’re buffering to disk. A full 3 hour buffer takes up only about a gigabyte of space, and quitting Pulsar frees up the space.

Name That Tune

Growl notificationBack to song titles: we now provide two great ways to use them. First, if you’ve installed the Growl add-on (a free download from http://growl.info), Pulsar can briefly display a window like the one to the right each time a new track comes on. You’ll be able to see what’s playing, no matter what application you’re using.

Pulsar can also share your listening information by posting to your free Last.fm account (they call this “scrobbling”). Some channels announce the DJ breaks as songs, but Pulsar can usually avoid scrobbling them.

Designed For Use

Mini Window
Even though Pulsar is mostly about listening, we wanted to make sure that you get a great experience when you’re interacting with it. There’s a classy new look, thanks to our designer Christa. But the redesign also provides a simple way to reorganize your favorite channels, using drag & drop. And you can now access your favorites from the handy mini-player.

Check It Out

Pulsar was already the best way to listen to satellite radio on your Mac. Version 2 is better than ever. If you already use it, be sure to choose Check For Update from the Pulsar menu. Otherwise, download the free trial here.

14 Responses to “What’s New in Pulsar 2”

  1. Brian says:

    Just wanted to say great work – been waiting for a solid alternative to the web player for DAR purposes. This fits the bill exactly. Awesome stuff!

  2. OddyOh says:

    Looks great, nice work! I use Pulsar almost every day while I’m stuck doing dishes… :)

  3. Billy says:

    Hi Folks! Nice work but unfortunately it broke all my Applescripts for controlling Pulsar from my home automation, iPod and Blackberry. :( How it worked was I had several favorite stations and since the previous version didn’t have an Applescript library, I used cliclick terminal script to control all the functions of selecting stations from the Favorites list. Now there’s no list but rather large buttons. I see you added a script library but it doesn’t allow me to select a particular station only the previous or next station. I guess I can enlarge the window so that all the Favorite stations are viewable on one screen but that covers my whole 15″ MacBook Pro screen. Pulsar and Airfoil are my two most used applications and makes having music anywhere (pool, bathroom, living room, bedroom, etc) so easy when I’m not working. Any chance of adding direct station selection to the library??? Other than that, once again, a fantastic job. I also have AHP & Fission and even wrote to Slacker Radio to asked them to contact you about creating an app like Pulsar for Slacker (my #2 music source). Remember me, I also sent you that same email. :)

  4. Jason says:

    Pulsar is awesome. Any thought about building in a stream functionality / RSS feed that we can use to send the Pulsar-y Goodness to something like a 360 or PS3? SiriusXMStreamer is the business for this kind of thing, but Windows only.

  5. Paul Kafasis says:

    Billy: Your best bet is to email us directly about this, so we can take a look at what you need to do, and see if we can improve our AppleScript support. Email pulsar@

    Jason: This is what Airfoil is for – to send audio (from any source, such as Pulsar) around the house. We don’t have Airfoil Speakers clients for 360 or PS3 currently, but we’ll see what happens in the future.

  6. Quentin Carnicelli says:

    Billy –

    Undocumented Pulsar feature that Jeff promises will break in the future, but you can use for now: pulsar:// URLs.


    You can get these URLs by selecting “Record in Audio Hijack Pro”, and then copying them out of the URL field that is displayed in AHP.

    Then from AppleScript, something like: open location “pulsar://com.xmradio.xmro?title=SIRIUS%20XM%20Hits%201&id=2”

    Will start playing that channel.

  7. Jason says:

    Paul – Thanks for the reply. Airfoil sending stuff around is awesome if you have an Airport Express or a computer to set up with Airfoil Speakers, but if Airfoil could stream audio to DLNA devices…hooooooo doggie.

  8. Geof F. Morris says:

    I’d be interested to see the RA Knowledge Base updated with the new AppleScripting hooks that P2 has.

  9. Dave says:

    I’ve been thinking the past few weeks how great it would be if I could pause live streams to take phone calls, etc. and resume where I left off….and you guys delivered. Thanks for this update.

  10. Billy says:

    @Quentin, thanks for the tip. I never though to look there even though I use AHP to record a number of stations for me. Surely makes my Applescripts easier to create.

    @Paul, I use my iPod, iPad and Blackberry to control my MacBook which pretty much runs all my music needs. I either remote in or send emails which are filtered to use certain Applescripts. If I leave my iPod somewhere I always have by BB with me so a simple email works great. What I need is a simple way to select stations from an Applescript which what Quentin showed be above works great. If you need more info I can send it to you.

    Thanks RA, great stuff!

  11. Billy says:

    @Jason, you could use Nicecast for re-broadcasting a Sirius radio station out over the internet or locally. Probably frowned upon due to legal reasons but it does work. This way you don’t need an Airport Express. Will your DLNA devices pick up .m3u streams? I have most all the other RA apps so I might as well get this one too!! :)

  12. David Dunham says:

    Turns out my quick calculation was a little off — a full 3 hours of sound is more like 1.8 GB on disk. (http://www.rogueamoeba.com/pulsar/releasenotes.php documents the pauseBufferSize hidden preference you can use if you want a smaller pause buffer.)

  13. Quentin Carnicelli says:

    Geof – I wasn’t planning on a Knowledge Base article for Pulsar AppleScript, as the Scripting Dictionary pretty much explains it all. Only three commands, next, playpause and previous. And then a few properties for asking Pulsar info about the currently playing channel.

  14. DarylW says:

    Just wanted to tip my hat to David & Christa (and the rest of the team) for your work on Pulsar 2. Excellent work, y’all! Pulsar was already a great app and you’ve taken it to a higher level.

    I also like the ability to rearrange my favorites to put my favorite favorites at the top!

    (Now what am I going to do with my XMPCR with Toslink mod and TimeTrax?) :-)

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