By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Gene Wolf and I got a call from a computer user in Texas on our radio show last Sunday.
The caller was listening to our Random Access radio show on WSYR from a small town in Texas. It was a little early for the caller's time zone—we're on from 10 a.m. to noon, our time—but otherwise he turned out to be just another regular listener.
Ordinarily, a call from a listener that far away would have made the station's engineers run out to see if someone had put a zillion-watt booster on their transmitter. During the day, WSYR, at 570 on the AM dial, can reach throughout Central New York, but that daytime signal hasn't any more chance of reaching Texas than a floppy disks does if you toss it from the top of City Hall.
But the caller was hearing us just fine. He was "tuned in" over the Internet. Gene and I have no idea how many Internet listeners our show has—there's just no way of knowing, given the limitations of today's technology—but I'd guess we have as many on the Internet as we have over the regular airwaves.
Radio broadcasts can be picked up over the Internet many different ways. The most common method uses Real Audio. A Real Audio player (or just "Real Player," as it is called more recently) either comes standard with your PC or Mac, or it can be downloaded from the Internet. If you're like me and abhor the way the Real Player seems to take over your PC (it doesn't even ask you for permission to run each and every time you start the computer), you can use an excellent alternative. I'll tell you where to get the Real Player and its better-behaved cousin shortly.
First, let me tell you where to find WSYR's Internet broadcasts. (Technically, they're not really broadcasts because they they're sent individually to listeners, not sent to a broad, general audience, but let's keep the technobabble out of this.) Run your browser and go tohttp://www.radio.audionet.com/radio/shows/randomaccess/. If you don't want to type such a long address into your browser's address line, go to my Web site (http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/) and click the link in this week's article.
You'll notice that the site has our radio show's schedule wrong—the day is totally wrong and the time reflects another time zone. It's on Sunday mornings from 10 until noon, Eastern time.
To see what else is being broadcast by stations around the country, go to the broadcast.com (EDITOR: SMALL B) home page athttp://www.radio.audionet.com/. If you're new to Internet radio or if you want to get the latest Real Player or its cooler cousin, click the "First Time User?" link on that page.
Clicking the "First Time User?" link takes you to a wordy page that explains what broadcast.com is all about. Scroll down and you'll see links for sites where you can get free software to play Internet radio broadcasts—the Real Player from Progressive Networks or the player I recommend, the Media Player from Microsoft.
Go to the RealNetworks site by clicking the link. But please read the next sentence carefully. There actually is a free Real Player, despite what you may think from looking at the RealNetworks site or from talking to friends who have insisted that they couldn't find the free version. The free version is listed in an icon at the upper right of the page. Click that icon to get the free version. (The pay-up-the-nose version doesn't work any better. It just has more frills.)
Note this well: The Real Player automatically runs each time you boot up. Send RealNetworks some hate mail, then right click on the icon for the Real Player in the Taskbar's Tray and find the option that lets you turn off the Tray function. I can't spell out the exact menu wording because I refuse to run such a poorly behaved program myself.
Instead, I use Microsoft's free Media Player, which handles all kinds of audio (including Real Audio and even MPEG Layer 3 files) and all kinds of video. (Yes, even Real Video.) The "First Time User?" page has a link to Microsoft's site for the Media Player.
Linux users and Mac users have their own version of the Real Player, and it's also available for other computers. Go tohttp://www.real.com/products/player/50player/ and follow the links.