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See it, hear it online with new RealNetworks streaming technology


The hottest thing to hit the Internet a couple of years ago was something called RealAudio, a way to quickly transmit audio files across the Internet.

The company that developed RealAudio, RealNetworks Inc., quickly became the leader in their field.

Now RealNetworks has released their state-of-the-art fifth-generation audio and video media player, and it's one of the hottest items available for download on the World wide Web.

RealPlayer Plus G2 is light years ahead of early versions of the RealAudio, as it plays both video and audio files -- even if you're using a "slow" 28.8k modem connection.

The secret is the software's ability to process "streams" of information and convert it into video and audio -- with very good quality as well.

RealPlayer Plus G2 offers more than the ability to play files that you may find at various sites around the Web. It also features "channels" for video and audio content that you can play.

For example, my RealPlayer setup includes Headline News, ESPN Sportszone, National Public Radio's Morning Program, Fox News Channel and many, many more.

Audiophiles will find better sound quality than before, plus the ability to view an audio analyzer and use a graphic equalizer when listening to audio files.

The RealPlayer interface looks more like a standalone Web browser than an helper application. You can even run it alone without using your Web browser -- and bookmark your favorite audio and video sites on the Web.

Radio has found a new format with RealPlayer technology; dozens of radio stations from around the world also simulcast on the Internet using RealNetworks' media format.

The RealPlayer Plus G2 offers an 80 percent increase in audio frequency response, providing better fidelity with 28.8k modem connections. Being a standards-based application, it supports RTSP, a new standard recently approved by the W3C and other formats.

Rob Glaser, chairman of RealNetworks, recently announced that more than 35,000 sites carry RealNetworks media content today, which is up from 8,000 just last year. According to RealNetworks, the company has more than 28 million registered users.

The software is still a "preview release," but don't let that stop you from trying it. Since its mid-July release, several million people have downloaded RealPlayer Plus G2.

For the latest information, visit the RealNetworks home page at www.real.com.

E-MAIL SECURITY. Another e-mail security flaw was discovered last week -- this time in one of the Internet's most popular e-mail programs, Eudora.

Eudora is the most widely used of all e-mail programs, according to a story in Friday's New York Times.

The flaw makes it possible to booby-trap an e-mail message by inserting what looks to be a harmless link to an Internet location that in fact executes a program. It could mean destroyed or stolen data, according to the New York Times story.

There are no known cases of anyone taking advantage of this flaw.

Qualcomm Corp., which makes the Eudora e-mail program, announced a "repaired" version would be posted on its Web site on Friday afternoon.

For more information, visit Qualcomm's Web site at www.eudora.qualcom.com.

WAL-MART CUSTOM PCS. Made-to-order PCs have become all the rage with a variety of computer makers, including Compaq, Apple Computers and others.

And now you'll soon see the nation's largest retailer getting into the act.

Wal-Mart is launching its own brand of custom-configured computers available for order via the company's Web site.

Wal-Mart's line of Avail computers -- including desktop, tower and notebook version -- and will be manufactured by ACI Microsystems, a subsidiary of American General Ventures.

Wal-Mart isn't the first retailer to try selling its own "house" brand of computer.

CompUSA recently launched its own line of custom-configured PCs available over the Internet.

The push for "house" brands comes as PC prices continue to fall into the sub-$1,000 category, becoming more of a mass-market item.

But admittedly, buying online isn't for everyone

The Wal-Mart site doesn't offer the advice and information that a first-time buyer would find at a local computer store. And if you want a Macintosh, you're out of luck.

But if you know what you want and are comfortable with ordering over the Web, you can get exactly what you want (though you'll have to allow five days for assembly before your made-to-order computer is shipped).

For information, visit their Web site at www.wal-mart.com.

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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