Download Information -- What To Do If Your Download Or Software Doesn't Work.
Because the Internet Audio area is so volatile, streams continue to change rather quickly. The various software providers are competing with each other, and sometimes the result is confusing. These notes will attempt to help you to understand Internet audio, and tell you how to get a software player installed if our download links did not work. In this regard, some background information is useful.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Internet, there are now thousands of radio signals being streamed. Although there are several other independent formats available, Christian Media is presently using 2 formats -- Winamp and Windows Media Player.
All streaming formats take the audio and compress it so that the data can fit over telephone lines in a digital format. This is because each person's Internet connection quality varies depending on what type of connection to the net you have (telephone line, Cable Modem, Satellite, etc). The term bandwidth describes how much data your connection can handle.
Bandwidth considerations also affect the producer of the stream as well as the listener. It might surprise some people, but in order for us to place the audio on the Internet, we encounter the same problems that listeners do. At Christian Media's "undisclosed mountain location," our telephone connections are slow, so we have technical problems getting the audio on the net.
The Winamp program creates files in the popular MP3 format which is widely available (many are now using portable MP3 players like the Sony `Walkman'); however MP3 does not compress as well at slower speeds as the proprietary compression techniques offered by Microsoft (which owns the Windows Media Player format). We've learned that anything under a 16kbps (kilo-baud per second--a measurement of connection speed) connection on Winamp produces sound that is frequently not worth listening to. Unfortunately, we can't stream at 16k from our location, so we have to hire an Internet company do it for us. When the computer we use at their location crashes after hours and on weekends, there is no one there to re-boot it, so that audio is somewhat unstable.
An 8 kbps (kilo bit per second) stream encoded in the Windows Media Player (WMP) formats is comparable to the 16kbs stream in the Winamp format. Thus, we are able to originate RA or WMP from our present location -- but they cost us more. Because Microsoft keep improving their products, they seek to make money on them by selling individuals the player software. Like other firms, they offer free players because they need the public to use the players in order to sell the production software to stream originators (like Christian Media). The Free Players work just fine and you really don't need to purchase the commercial versions. Conversely, the Winamp people give everything away because thier lives are completely dedicated to media on the Internet.
The Winamp format recently moved their current version of the encoder (the software that produces the stream) to a minimum speed of 24kbps. This is because they think in terms of high quality streaming for music. This was a serious mistake as this left out large numbers of people (like most of us) who can't receive audio that fast. Furthermore, talk formats don't need that kind of bandwidth to generate a good sound. Thus, to use Winamp, we're forced to encode in an older version of the software. This creates compatibility problems as the Winamp people keep moving forward with new versions that aren't compatible with the older, slower connection encoder (complicated, isn't it?).
Meanwhile, the new players like Real Audio won't play the older Winamp streams! In fact, as each company offers a new player (always trying to sell the listener their newest version of their commercial player at the same time), they change their links at their websites at the same time. The Winamp website is winamp.com, and the Windows Media website may be found at windowsmedia.com or even microsoft.com. If our links on our broadcast download page are not up to date, just go to the websites of the providers and look for media, players, or downloads. Remember, the free players are quite sufficient to listen on the net.
At this point, we plan to continue a Winamp stream but we are focusing on the other format for our longer term thinking. As previously noted, we've been forced to originate our Winamp stream at another location because our net connections are not fast enough. Thus, when the 3rd party computer goes down and needs rebooting (which seems to happen every weekend and sometimes overnight), we're not at that location to get back up and running. Conversely, our WMP feeds originate here, so when they go down, we can respond quickly. For the time being, we're maintaining our 16 bit winamp feed, but we recommend our listeners move as quickly as possible to receive the new formats.
Last but not least, Christian Media has volunteers that are technically proficient that can help set up Internet audio. If you've tried and just can't make it work, send an email with your name, phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try to get someone to help you.
It is our prayer that the Lord will bless you as you seek to open up this important channel of information.