Originally Published: Sunday, 9 April 2000 Author: Olav Phillips
Published to: enhance_articles_multimedia/Audio Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Basics of Streaming

So Johnny, you wanna stream, be a DJ, or have a radio station? I think every kid has wanted to do this at some point in their life. Now you can realize your dream with streaming.

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So Johnny, you wanna stream, be a DJ, or have a radio station? I think every kid has wanted to do this at some point in their life. When I was a kid we used to hatch plans to build pirate radio stations and broadcast all the music we could think of with bad words and everything our parents didn't want us to listen to.

We hatched elaborate plans to build solar arrays to power our little station, we even thought about taking a small generator up to the hill. But all that stuff seems kind of far fetched by today's standard, but remember this was the 1980's.

So what do you need to be a radio station today?

Well that's an interesting question. The first thing you need to decide is do you want to serve it, or have some one else serve it? Now if you want some one else to serve it, you might try Live365.com. They give you 365 streams and 365 megs of space for you MP3's.

You see, streaming MP3's is cheap...but when you decide to start streaming video, then it begins to get costly.

But getting back to the story.
So go to Live365.com and sign up for "Easycast" and you should be good to go.
Easycast is a FREE service at Live365 where you basically upload your MP3 collection onto their server and they give you an IP address/port number that constantly plays your MP3's and when you decide to rotate them you just delete the MP3's using a happy web interface and upload some more. You can also create playlists which will organize your MP3's or you can just randomize them. (If you want to, you can even insert ads and if you have a DNS server, you can also assign it a name).

The other way to go for the cheap way out is to again go to Live365.com and sign up to have it streamed live. But then you need to have an encoder (xmms/freeamp/winamp) running 24/7, you also need a good upstream connection (i.e. DSL or Cab le modem or if you have a job like me at a high tech company...a t3). The upside to this is that you are not limited to the number of MP3's you can play. Just plop them all into a playlist and go to it. You also need what is called a DSP plugin, but you can find more info on that at the Shoutcast website. In fact you can download the plugin there.

But the world is not enough and you need more; however, you still want to play just music and no video. No problem...but you need a little more "stuff" like a good connection and a computer.

Assuming you meet the above criteria you can go to http://www.shoutcast.com or http://www.icecast.org and download your server. Follow the instructions and your set. The installation is pretty easy. Now there are two BIG things you need to remember. First of all, Excite@Home will not let you run a Shoutcast server on their connection, (you can do it but they cut you off if they find out). Secondly, remember BANDWIDTH. This should become your mantra because it rules the numbe r of streams you can run. So if you have a DSL line that is 1.5/128 (1.5mbps download and 128kbps upload) and your streaming a 128kbps MP3 that means you get 1 listener, so make it count.

Now we have the basic's for MP3 serving nailed down...so why not move on to video. Video IS A PAIN. Take it from me, I've been doing this for a while. To stream video you need some video (tapes or a live camera), a webserver, and a REALLY good connection. I once tried to help a guy stream video over a 56k modem. Lets just say it wasn't a happy scene. There was a lot of buffering and loss of signal.

Once again there are two ways to do this. There is live vs. on demand. So lets discuss on demand since its easier. Firstly you'll need to get a Realvideo encoder, and yes its free down at http://www.real.com as long as you get the basic version. You'll need some webspace or a realserver (again free if you get the basic one). If you want to be sly about this (and VERY cheap), upload your .rm video onto the webserver then create a .ram file. In the .ram file put in the url of the video (i.e. http://www.yourisp.com/~whatever/video.rm) then link to the .ram file. This will force what's called http streaming. There are advantages and dis advantages to going down this route. We can discuss those later. Now the other way requires a server with root access. If this is satisfied, you can install what's call the "Real Server Basic" which gives you no frills but 25 concurrent streams and the ability to cast live. Once again, however, think BANDWIDTH. The calculation goes like this. Stream speed/connection speed=Number of connections.

So you setup the server and follow the instructions to drop the .rm files intot he "content" directory but you need to link to them. If you followed the standard installation you can link to the file directly using something like "http://www.whatever.com:8080/ramgen/filename.rm" or you can create a .ram file in which you put "rtsp://www.yourname.com/filename.rm" but all that depends on the setup.

We've now covered how to cast video cheap and expensive, using your equipment or another person's equipment. In the next article I'll discuss specifics on how to do this stuff.

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