20051113

Idea 842: Internet radio for real

We kept Googling for a way to pull radio station streams off the Internet and hand them to a conventional stereo system; we were rewarded for our patience.

The term I meant to look for is digital audio receiver, which covers a multitude of devices that have either an Ethernet or a WiFi input, and component audio output. Most of what I found were devices that depend on a computer you already have on your home network, so you can pull your MP3s or iTunes stored there over the home network to a stereo system with the power and fidelity to rattle your windows.

These devices need an application installed on the computer to direct the audio output over your home network to the device. As cheap as $49 if you are willing to stick with Bill Gates's abominations, from the various flavors of crippling DRM to the distasteful and permeable Windows itself.

Pay a lot more if you want Sony to give you a DAR with more features and flexibility, but Brother, beware that rootkit.

In this respect, to me, digital audio receiver is a misnomer. The computer is the receiver, the player is just a stream interface between it and your stereo.

I need no access to the MP3s on my computers---got that already on a satisfactory standalone device. I don't subscribe to iTunes or Rhapsody or suchlike either. What I'm hurting for is realtime streaming of the AM stations or hosts that this here brick shanty and its surrounding rolling prairie and electric windmills block out, or the FM stations that I read passably in the car but come in fringy at home.

Call me anachronistic, but a fixed, cabled digital communications medium should provide better service than a mobile analog one.

What I had more in mind was a stripped 'puter, with stripped browser, that connects to various radio stations with an interface borrowed from WinAmp, independently accessing the Internet through the home network. The user can browse for the programming by category or content, or artist name. All the other puters in the house can be shut down, or busy doing something else.

Hell, load the player's control panel as a webserver on the player, and use a Palm Pilot or Windows handheld, to IR or Bluetooth or WiFi into the player. Once at the control panel, seek a station, program, or tagged content ("what's the talk radio world saying about 'Sam Alito?'"), or history ("who the hell was I listening to at 0300 from Des Moines last Friday?").

If you're so into Glenn Beck that you subscribe, you might be able to load your login credentials into the player so it can listen live directly from Glenn's site, or let you browse his archived material.

If Nullsoft marketed a player like this, even if it served only the same content WinAmp could access (including the video), for around $75, I'd buy one and even hardwire it to my router. This player could probably run on the Palm OS itself, needing no disk, just some flash memory and lotsa buffer.

Suffice it to say the market hasn't yet gotten where I want it, but they're getting close.

Update, 20Nov: CabinetMan asks, "Why don't you just recycle an older notebook computer?" Cuz there's no money in it.

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