Bits & P.C.s: Internet radio

Do you work in an office building where it is next to impossible to listen to the radio? If you have a high-speed Internet connection, you may be able to listen to the outside world.

Many radio stations are now placing all or part of their broadcast day on the Internet. The local stations that I checked up on do not appear to offer this service; at least their Web sites do not have a “listen live” button.

All that you need to have on your computer to listen to the stations is a sound card (most computers sold in the past five years have this built in) and a player program. The player may be Windows Media Player, Real Player, or Apple QuickTime.

These player programs enable you to listen to the audio as it is streamed over the Internet. Windows Media Player is either included with the computer or may be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site. The Real Player application as well as QuickTime can also be downloaded for free from their respective Web sites.

Once the player is installed, all that is necessary is to connect to the Internet. In the case of Windows Media Player, there is a button that says Radio Tuner. When you click on the button, you are presented with a list of some of the stations that are available for you to listen to.

You will find that in addition to standard broadcast stations there are Internet only stations. One of these Internet only stations is named AccuRadio. I should clarify my last statement. AccuRadio actually offers its own media player that lets you choose from stations that offer 50 years of Broadway hits, holiday hits, comedy routines ranging from Bill Dana to Jerry Seinfeld, big bands, boy bands, jazz and many other genres of music.

In addition, Media Player also offers other choices of stations including old-time radio broadcasts, news and talk, rock, classical, country and Top 40, among others.

AccuRadio has very few commercial interruptions and the service is free. Commercial radio stations such as WLS AM are also online, but they do not have their entire broadcast day available due to licensing restrictions.

It is possible to listen to Internet radio over a dial-up connection, but you will experience interruptions in your listening. Also, some of the dial-up providers will disconnect you if you are not moving from Web site to Web site. Of course, this will cause your radio reception to be interrupted.

With a DSL or cable modem connection, it is a different story. There are still occasional interruptions in the audio, but they are usually minor, even if you are surfing the Web or doing other tasks while listening.

If you do use a high-speed connection, it is important to check your service agreement to see if listening is allowed. Because of the bandwidth used, some ISPs, usually the wireless service ones, may disallow or block Internet radio.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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