Hear it 'live' on the World Wide Web

Jan. 14, 1996


One of my favorite software toys on the World-Wide Web has been something called RealAudio.

The RealAudio software, introduced last April by Progressive Networks, allows real-time broadcasts or downloads of sound files over the Internet.

What's this mean in English? It means less time waiting for sound files, and less fiddling with clunky audio file player software packages. In short, it's cool.

Sound files have been on the Internet available on the Net for a long time, but real-time audio is a relatively new development.

Audio files typically had to be downloaded, then played using another piece of software. Sound files tend to be large, and due to their sheer size, downloading them takes a lot of time Ï and time is money on the Internet.

But RealAudio software greatly reduces or eliminates that wait. Simply click on the sound file's icon and it plays.

According to a Progressive Networks' press release, more than 600,000 free copies of the software have been downloaded since its introduction, and more than 150 Web sites offer RealAudio content.

My favorite RealAudio site on the Web is the ABC RadioNet.

ABC's Web site includes RealAudio files of their complete ABC Evening News broadcast; ABC Radio News' hourly news updates; the audio from ``This Week with David Brinkley,'' as well as various commentaries, President Clinton's weekly radio address (the first time I've ever heard one in its entirety) and the Republican response (provided on Dec. 26 by Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Stephensburg).

Another favorite is National Public Radio's Web site, chock full of RealAudio sound files of their popular ``All Things Considered'' and other NPR fare.

The sound isn't of FM-stereo quality; it more closely resembles that of AM radio. The quality can suffer if there's a heavy load on the file server. But the fact that you can have audio on demand Ï eliminating lengthy delays to download the files Ï more than makes up for the quality.

Progressive Networks is aware of these shortcomings, and is releasing a new version -- RealAudio 2.0 -- to fix some of RealAudio's initial limitations.

The new software is aimed at users with 28.8 or faster modems and computers with fast processors.

It upgrades RealAudio's sound to that comparable to FM mono quality. It also offers bandwidth negotiation, so the software can identify the type of connection established and deliver the best available quality of sound.

The new RealAudio software allows Web users to listen to events happening live and in real-time, such as the UK Sports Connection site mentioned several weeks ago in this column.

RealAudio 1.0 -- the first release Ï runs on most PCs and Macintoshes running 14.4k modems. The new-and-improved version is available now for Windows 95/NT/3.1/3.11 systems and for Macintosh Power PCs and Unix operating systems. For more information, point your Web browser to http://www.realaudio.com/

ON-LINE ON THE CHEAP. My recent overview of the three major on-line services Ï America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy Ï failed to mention the fact that two of them can be accessed courtesy of your local Internet provider.

Many "newbies'' -- Net-speak for newcomers Ï get their first taste of on-line computing with one of these services. Why?

For starters, the software is self-installing and easy to use. All three services allow you to easily search for -- and find -- information, a big plus when you want specific information. It's no fun to spend your money in cyberspace if you can't find what you're looking for.

On-line services' big drawback can be the cost. The services charge $9.95 for 10 hours of access each month, though each offers introductory free time when you sign up. But expect beyond that, to pay $2.95 for each additional hour you spend over the normal monthly time.

But the biggest cost is the long-distance toll charge. None of the three have a local telephone number for Hardin County. But there is a way to access both AOL and CompuServe without paying for a long-distance call.

Both services' software packages can be configured to use your Internet connection. Check the configuration screens once you have the software running, and look for a setting that will instruct the software to use a TCP/IP connection, rather than dialing your modem.

Once the software is set up, save the settings and go to your dialer software that your Internet provider has supplied. For PCs, this is probably Winsock; for the Mac, it can be MacTCP. Establish a connection with your Internet provider, and then start the AOL or CompuServe software.

If all the settings are correct, you'll be quickly connected to your favorite on-line service. If you run into trouble, call the toll-free help lines provided by each service, and they'll walk you through the procedure.

HARDIN COUNTY ON THE NET. While local Internet access is relatively new to Hardin County, a number of businesses already have home pages on the rapidly expanding World-Wide Web, and that number continues to grow.

Do you have a home page on the Web? Send in the URL of your personal or business home page to the e-mail address below or mail it to Jim Brooks, c/o The News-Enterprise, 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701. A future column will be devoted to Hardin County World-Wide Web sites on the Internet.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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