Listen to the world on your PC!
Radio is still a powerful (and a cheap) medium for `infotainment'. But you no longer require a special receiver, because internet radio is here.
GONE ARE the days when much of India stopped whatever it was doing at 9 p.m. every night to listen to the All India Radio news, delivered by one of two familiar voices, Melville De Mello or Roshan Menon. These days, more often than not, nine o' clock find many of us engrossed, half-way through some TV serial. You catch the news during the commercial breaks. Radio still has its die-hard fans.
And thanks to the new breed of local FM stations, many youngsters are discovering the delights of radio as a source of non-stop music with the occasional news updates.
But go away from the metros and your radio becomes less useful, as most of the low power local transmitters go out of range. You have to twiddle the knob searching for a station on the medium wave or short wave, in a hit-or-miss game that has changed little since Marconi invented Wireless.
Well, all that has changed and the reason is the Internet. Today, the World Wide Web is the fastest, easiest, way to access thousands of radio stations around the globe, with crystal clear reception quality. Want to give it a try?
There are websites which function as station directories providing links to hundreds of Net radio broadcasters. Sites such as
www.radio-locator.com, live-radio.net, internetradioindex.com and radiotower.com, provide search engines so that you can locate stations of your choice by country, language, and genre.AIR was one of the first national radio broadcasting systems to establish a web presence and if you enter "India'' as a search keyword in any of these station directories, you are sure to locate its website, www.allindiaradio.com. A convenient navigator allows you to select live news feeds, informative documentaries or a library of audio entertainment: Indipop, Hindustani, and Carnatic music as well as short plays in Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, and Hindi.
If AIR's selection of South Indian popular music is not wide enough for you, you can go to radiotower.com and look for Singapore radio stations.
This will lead you to an excellent 24-hour South Indian music channel called Oli 96.8 FM. Another useful web address for music lovers is live365.com, which indexes thousands of radio stations exclusively devoted to popular music. A simple search for Malayalam language music will lead you to sites like keralite.com. For Western music fans, there are dedicated sites such as beethoven.com and bluegrasscountry.org or jazzFM.com.
The parents of an American community in Idyllwild, California, decided to pool their resources and create a station directory called Kids Internet Radio'linking radio broadcasts containing safe and wholesome material meant for children. The site, kir.org, deserves a visit.All these Internet radio stations, use a technology called Streaming Audio'whereby sound files are sent to your PC in a continuous stream.
A special software stores up this information in a temporary file called a `buffer'.
This allows you to start listening even while the download is going on but the downside is that you cannot copy anything that you hear because nothing is stored on your computer.
To hear streaming audio files from Internet radio stations, you need to have a computer with a sound card and speaker (or headphones). All Net radio stations today broadcast using one of two modes, Real Networks Real Player or Microsoft's Media Player.
If you are going to make a habit of listening to Internet radio, it is better to download both these players on to your PC. Windows Media Player comes bundled, with the newer Windows operating systems, but Real Player must be downloaded from the Web.
Some radio stations are fussy and will not begin the streaming unless your desktop has the latest version 7 of Real Player. They will offer a link to the Real Player site (real.com), but the download typically takes about 45-50 minutes with a 56 K dial-up modem.
But these are just some initial set-up hassles. Once you have installed the two players, a whole new world of online `infotainment' awaits you. Welcome to "tomorrow's radio'', live from the internet.
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