BOOT CAMP 340 (24/08/04)
RECORDING INTERNET RADIO
The Internet is a truly
marvellous innovation that has enriched our lives but in my opinion one of the
most important benefits is being able to listen to any recent episode of The
Archers, including the weekly omnibus edition, at any time, just about anywhere
in the world.
Thousands of radio
stations around the world, including many from the BBC, broadcast or ‘stream’
live and recorded audio over the web, which you can hear through your PC.
Broadly speaking it works quite well and the quality can be very good,
especially over a broadband connection, but like a lot of Internet technologies
it is bedevilled by competing formats and standards.
The BBC succeeded in irritating a lot of people by using
Real Player. It requires the listener to download a particularly insidious piece
of software (see Tip of the Week), and great care needs to be taken to ensure
that it doesn’t take over the audio facilities on your PC. In its favour it is
free and once installed, fairly easy to use. However, whatever type of software
is used to receiver Internet radio, and whether it comes to you through the
ether or down a telephone line, the programmes you want to listen to are rarely
broadcast at a time that’s convenient for you.
It’s not necessarily a
problem for Archers fans; episodes from the previous seven days can be heard at
any time but Real Player, like most Internet radio software doesn’t have a
recording facility. Clearly this would be very useful for those that cannot get
to a PC in time to hear past episodes before they are removed from the archive.
Legally recording radio
programs on the web is a bit of a grey area, as far as the copyright issues are
concerned, but this is nothing new and the technology to record or ‘time-shift’
broadcast radio and TV programmes -- using radio-cassette recorders and VCRs --
has been around for at least the past 25 years. It is extremely unlikely to
cause problems provided recordings are purely for personal use and not sold,
re-broadcast or played in public.
From a technical
standpoint recording Internet radio is surprisingly difficult. Of course you can
easily make a direct recording on a cassette or MiniDisc recorder using a cable
connection or a microphone placed next to the PC speakers but the point of this
exercise is to record the programme on a PC. This has the added advantages of
simple archiving, rapid file access and downloading or copying to other media,
such as audio CDs, tape, MiniDisc or MP3 and personal audio players.
The Sound Recorder
utility included in Windows (Start > Programs > Accessories >
Entertainment) is a non-starter. Apart from the fact that it can only make
recordings lasting one minute (though there are ways around that), it cannot
record the output of a PC’s sound card or adaptor. Most third-party sound
recorder programs suffer from a similar limitation and can only record audio
from an external source, such as the PC’s microphone or ‘line input’
Fortunately there are a
good number of specialist programs for recording Internet radio. Most of them
are commercial applications, costing from around £6.00 upwards, though there are
a few freeware titles and we’ll look at those first, however I would steer clear
as in the main they are either rather basic, difficult to use or spiked with
adware, so beware!
If you don’t mind the
odd pop up advert and a 30-minute recording limit then Freecorder (www.freecorder.com/) might be worth trying.
It’s suitable for all versions of Windows (from W98 onwards). Recordings made on
the freeware version are made at the medium recording quality rate of 64kbs
(upgrade to a fully functional, ad-free licensed version costs $10). Playback of
recorded files is via Windows Media Player or third party players like WinAmp
(free from www.winamp.com). Plus points include
direct recording to MP3 format and it is very simple to use. The other freeware
recorder worth considering is Silent Bob
(www.silent-bob.de/en/index.htm), this is also record
only and very simple to use, it works with Windows 95 onwards and records in MP3
You are spoilt for
choice if you don’t mind spending a few pounds. You will find plenty of programs
with a Google search (keywords record internet radio) and in most cases you can
download a trial version and upgrade to a fully functional paid-for copy if you
like what you see.
Replay Radio (www.replay-radio.com/) is one of the market
leaders and it’s very well specified with a timer facility, to make unattended
recordings, editing facilities, compatibility with most streaming and recording
formats (including Apple iPod/iTunes) and automatic CD burning. My personal
favourite is Total Recorder (www.highcriteria.com/), which costs only
$11.95. This program lacks some of the bells and whistles of its more expensive
rivals though it does have a timer so you can schedule recordings, and there are
simple editing features. It is easy to use and very flexible moreover
configuration is reasonably straightforward. In most cases it will work straight
away using the defaults. Files can be saved to 15 different audio formats
including MP3, wav, WMA PCM and the exotic-sounding Ogg Vorbis
Next week – Internet Explorer, time for a change?
Picture Experts Group audio layer 3 -- digital audio compression system commonly
used to send files containing audio and music over the
unpatented ‘Open Source’ audio compression system, comparable in quality with
rival systems like MP3
used to send sound and pictures over the Internet. Data is 'buffered' or stored
in a temporary memory by player software on the PC to minimise the interruptions
that would otherwise occur as data on the net is sent in chunks or
TIP OF THE WEEK
If you are an Archers fan then Internet radio is a must for
keeping up with the goings on in Ambridge while you are away from home. Go the
BBC web site at: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/archers/index.shtml,
click the Catch Up button and you will be told whether or not Real Player is
installed on your PC. If not you will be directed to the download site, just
follow the instructions but be aware it is a large file, typically 9Mb, which
could take a while on a dial-up connection… During the installation you will be
asked if you want to make Real Player the default for all music and video files.
I would deselect the lot, and you can skip on-line registration by pressing the
Cancel button. It will still work though if you haven’t signed up you may need
to click the tiny blue ‘Listen with native RealPlayer’ button next to ‘Get Help
Listening’ in the BBC Radio Player window.