Date:         Thu, 18 Mar 1999 22:05:06 -0500
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 18 Mar 1999 - Internet Audio
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Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
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             TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Internet Audio
Howdy, y'all! (or should I say "Good evening, and thanks for tuning
As your fearless Tourbus driver Patrick Crispen mentioned last week,
my name is Lee Overstreet, host of the Lee & Wolfe radio show, and I'm
your substitute driver while Patrick frolics through France.  So
today's Tourbus is special--like having a substitute teacher in school.
We're going to stretch the bus analogy, and act up a bit, by cranking
up the in-dash stereo that Patrick is always complaining is too loud.
I'll drive best I can.  No spitballs in the back of my head, please.
Before we get to that, though, I want to thank the folks at eRock
and MeMail for sponsoring today's issue.  Please take a moment to visit
and thank them for keeping TOURBUS on the road!
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On with the show ...
Making the Net Sing
For several years now, folks have discussed the inevitable electronic
distribution of media.  Audio- and video-on-demand systems were
envisioned where you order the music or movies you're interested in
electronically, and they are delivered without the need for CD's,
tapes, or any other retail media with moving parts.  After a few audio
software developments and gradually increasing Net access speed, that
concept has arrived, much to the chagrin of record companies.
For today's Tourbus, I thought I'd turn up the volume knob and share
with you some of what I've learned as a radio DJ with an obsession for
all things computer, by discussing Net audio, and how to enjoy it.
Let's first assume you have a working, 16-bit audio card like a Sound
Blaster, and either headphones, speakers, or if you're doing radio
production on you computer like me and my co-host, 4 big speakers and
320 watts of amplifiers. ;-) So your computer is ready for sound, and
you have reasonably good net access.  Now what?
Audio on the Net comes in two very general flavors: the kind you
download, and the kind you "stream."  You are probably already
familiar with downloading text, programs, and images.  Downloading
audio works the same way.  Usually a link to an audio file is placed
on a web page, and in Windows you right-click and choose "save link
as," and pick a place to put it on your hard drive (Mac users click
and hold to get a similar menu).  When downloading is complete, find
the file on your hard drive and play it.  "Streaming" audio means that
the audio begins to play just after you click a link for it, as it
downloads.  In most cases streaming audio does not save to your hard
drive.  Streaming allows the instant gratification we all crave, and
allows live broadcasting of audio such as radio stations.  The same
concept allows web phones.
Blah, Blah, Blah Streaming.  How Do I Hear It?
First out of the gate with any success in the streaming concept, was
Real Audio from Real Networks.  They lead the pack, and in my opinion,
justifiably so.  You can download their streaming audio and video
player "RealPlayer G2" for free at
"RealPlayer Plus G2" offers fancier channel switching like a TV, and
the ability to record streams to your hard drive if the broadcaster
allows it, but the free player is really all you need.  Don't let 'em
sell you stuff just yet.  When you click the link for the free player
at the top of the page, scroll down the next page to fill out a form
about your system, and UN-click the check mark at the bottom if you
want to stay off their mailing list.  Check minimum requirements,
then follow their instructions, and away you go to audio bliss.
O.k., now what?  Now you find content.  Real Networks would have you
go to their media guide called, what else, RealGuide at
Everything is nicely categorized, and you can search for particular
subject or shows near the top of the page, much like any other Net
search engine.  [Warning: beginning shameless self promotion...] For
instance, if you search for "college radio," the first link it returns
is Lee & Wolfe, which will take you to my radio show's site where you
can hear tons of pre-recorded audio (and video) in the form of
archived shows, band performances, and comedy bits at
But be forewarned, our comedy can often be a bit, well, off color. :-)
Another guide to streaming audio content on the web is at
It's also searchable, and they are ahead of the game in making radio
available via the web.  However, they have very much an
"establishment" feel and are very U.S. oriented.  My recommendation is
to get out there to your favorite search engines and search for Real
Audio plus whatever subject interest you.
There is competition for Real Networks, and his name is Bill Gates.
Big shock, huh?  Microsoft saw the early success of Real Audio, and
swiped the idea to make NetShow.  It does the same thing, but
incompatibly.  There is some content out there unfortunately only
available in the NetShow format.  To Microsoft's credit, they have
incorporated NetShow into a slick new version of Windows media player,
and it (as well as a Mac version) is available free at
After you begin listening to streaming audio, you might say "Gee, this
is cool, but quite frankly, it sounds pretty bad."  Compared to CDs,
yes.  But remember the few audio software developments I mentioned
earlier?  I was speaking of compression techniques, whereby the number
of bits of storage necessary to represent audio is reduced to
facilitate efficient storage and transfer.  Uncompressed CD quality
audio takes around 11,000,000 bytes per minute!  Newer compression
techniques use "perceptual coding" to take out the least necessary
parts of the sound for the desired quality and byte size.  To flow
through a limited analog modem as most of you have, Real Audio streams
are reduced to about 130,000 bytes per minute.  One hundred times
smaller--be impressed.  Although you can download Real Audio files to
your hard drive as well as stream them, the big downloading excitement
in audio is the mp3!
Storm the Record Company Gates
Record company executive are waking up in cold sweats around the
world, screaming in terror as the horrific and powerful mp3 monster is
about to eat them alive.  Why all the fuss about mp3?  They sound
fantastic, nearly like a CD, but are compressed enough in file size to
make downloading practical.  They require less than 1,000,000 bytes
per minute of audio to sound so good.  Typical songs are 2.5 to 4
megabytes, taking no more than 15 to 30 minutes to download on most
modems.  In addition, mp3's are relatively easy to make from CD
tracks, then distribute via websites and ftp sites.  People (ok,
college and high school students) are doing just that with frightening
efficiency.  Besides "ripping" copyrighted songs, many artists are
making their music available in this high-quality format for free or
for a small fee, in an effort to promote themselves, and skip the
profit-taking middlemen of the record companies.  Mp3's are lots of
Getting to the point... you'll first need an mp3 player.  The best by
a long shot is WinAmp.  The program, which has gotten lots of
attention lately including CNN and Newsweek coverage, is available at
Download the latest WinAmp via the yellow download button on the
right-hand side of their main page, and install it by running the file
you download.  The creators of WinAmp deserve the attention they've
gotten, and all the money they are likely making.  WinAmp is a great
product, works VERY well, and it's customizable (read about "skins" on
their site).  It's a free, fully functional download, and registration
of this shareware is on the honor system for only $10 dollars, or $20
if you can afford it.  This is the way software should be.  They also
offer free support, but I have not tried this.  Gen-X-ers  Justin
Frankel, Tom Pepper, and friends are a an example of the new breed of
cyber-entrepreneurs.  They, like Patrick Crispen, likely work in their
underwear, and have my utmost respect.
So where to get mp3's... the WinAmp site offers links to free music,
as does at
This similarly slacker-generation-run site offers links to many
independent artist, who allow you to sample their songs in streaming
Real Audio first, then download the hi-fi mp3's for the songs you
like.  And I highly recommend browsing through.  The music is often a
refreshing change from commercial cookie-cutter radio and record
Another fabulous source for mp3 information and files is the search
engine Lycos.  They have a section of their site dedicated to mp3,
and, according to a Newsweek article, searches for music downloads are
second only to a certain subject matter you don't yet discuss with the
little ones.  Visit
They have well-written sections on getting started, making your own
mp3s, and more, as well as a search feature.  But know that much of
what you might find is illegally distributed.  I searched for Cher,
hoping to find her latest look-I-can-use-a-digital-pitch-bend hit
"Believe."  I typed in Cher, and on link three, a Russian site had it.
Then I had it.  Of course I deleted it from my system immediately,
since that is technically stealing.  It is illegal to offer copies of
copyrighted material from your Internet site.  It is also illegal to
drive faster than posted speed limit.  As evidenced by the enormous
number of sites and downloads, many people seem to be making the moral
decision that stealing from multi-billion dollar record companies is
not much worse.  You decide for yourself.  Do note that you'll get
many dead links as you search mp3 sites.  Such sites duck and cover
and move a good bit.  Even the Lee & Wolfe site has mp3's.
Time for me to duck and cover, since I'm not really authorized to
drive a bus.  Hope you've enjoyed it, and I hope you crank up the Net
TENDO TAPES (Noun).  Any of a collection of cartridges and CD-ROM's
You can rent from Blockbuster, or buy from Wal-Mart for your Nintendo
game machine.
Usage: "That bwah's goan make me go broke rentin' all them Tendo
[Special thanks to myself for today's wurd]
You can find all of the old Southern Words of the day at 
  To the nice person in Paris who wanted Patrick to call
  you when he finally arrived in France, please email Bob
  at so he can give you the phone number
  of Patrick's hotel.  [Patrick accidentally left your phone
  number in Tuscaloosa].
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
=====================[ Tourbus Rider Information ]===================

   The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2238
      Copyright 1995-99, Rankin & Crispen - All rights reserved
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TOURBUS - 18 Mar 1999 - Internet Audio, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
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