The REAL Costa Rica
 



Internet WHAT?  Internet Radio!

Yup. Internet Radio, also known as Online Radio. What is it? Simply one of the coolest things you can do with your PC and an Internet connection. If you happen to have an Ipod Touch and wireless in your location, live gets even better!

It is great if you are living in Costa Rica, but want to hear stuff from 'home'.

If you have never heard about it, don't feel too bad. A lot of folks haven't. But if you own a PC and have a way to hook it up to the Internet, you can soon be in hog heaven, so read on.

Internet radio is exactly that. Radio broadcast over the Internet. There are literally tens of thousands of commercial and private radio stations broadcasting over the Internet 24 hours per day. What do they broadcast?

Well, if they are commercial radio stations, you heard exactly what a local listener would hear. They broadcast the exact same content, so if you happen to be an expatriate living in Costa Rica, and you are originally from Chicago as I am, you will find about fifty Chicago radio stations that broadcast over the Net. Every so often, I like to listen to WLS and listen to the local pundits argue about Chicago politics. At other times, I might want to listen to a Reggae station in Jamaica, a pirate station of the coast of Ireland, or some fine live blues direct from Memphis!

Sports buff? You may be frustrated by the fact that a lot of US sports (baseball, football, basketball, etc use commentators that speak Spanish. So if I want to watch a Cubs game, I turn down the sound and use the live feed from WGN in Chicago. WBBM for Bears.

How easy is it? Try this!

1. Go to WBBM (click link)

2. Find where it says "Listen Now!"

You are done! You are now listening to WBBM live and there is your Bears game (or whatever else!).

If you have an Ipod Touch or similar and have have a wireless connection, you can listen with you ear buds or headset. There are numerous applications that are free and will allow you to listen to stations world wide. Some cost money but are worth it.

Non Commercial stations

If they are a private broadcaster, then the field is wide open. They can and DO broadcast just about anything you can imagine, but predictably, it is most often their personal favorite topic. There are a handful that broadcast nothing but the old radio shows, complete with the original commercials, from the 40's and 50's. I am a sucker for those as well. Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow, The Great Guildersleeve. The list goes on and on.

Because of the business I am in (internet stuff), I spend long hours at my computer. My absolute favorite is broadcast right here from Costa Rica; Radio Dos http://www.radiodos.com.  Radio Dos actually is part of the Radio Columbia group which can be found here: http://www.columbia.co.cr/  In addition to Radio Dos which plays perhaps the best play list of music anywhere ( especially if you are between 35 - 70) is the sister station to Columbia Estereo (Latin) and 95.5 Jazz which plays an excellent selection (and variety) of new and old Jazz.

How to do it!

So what else is available? Here is a woefully short list:

  • Classical
  • Sports
  • Country and Western (ALL flavors)
  • Humor (All flavors)
  • Talk Radio from all over the USA including NPR and
  • Tropical/Reggae from the Caribbean Islands
  • Rock (by decade), RAP, Hip Hop
  • Old Time radio
  • Jazz and New Age
  • Blues from the Delta Country
  • Electronic and Dance plus a huge variety of Club Music
  • Folk
  • Religious
  • Training (wanna learn to fly?)
  • Well you get the point. I doubt if there is a genre of music or other content that is not represented on the Net many times over.

    So how does this all work? What do you need to listen? What does it cost? Do I need special equipment?

    Let's talk about what equipment is needed. Basically you will need:
  • A computer. Just about anything made in the past 6 years should work fine.
  • A sound card and speakers. Just about every PC sold since 1998 has this included.
  • A program to play the music. This can be Windows Media Player (free download from Microsoft if it is not already on your computer), Winamp, Real Player, or any of about a thousand other free "players)
  • A connection to the Internet. A modem will work OK for many stations, but if you're happen to have cable modem, DSL, or other "always on" broadband connection, then your selection of available stations goes way up. More on this later.
  • or... and Ipod Touch with wireless

If you have an Ipod but not wireless, you can just use Itunes! Use the Radio setting. PS: You can use Itunes even if you do not have an Ipod!

So where do you start? It is amazingly simple. Basically, you have three choices on how to get started.

Internet radio stations are basically available from three sources:

  • From the "player" itself Windows Media Player, Itunes, Real, etc.
  • From the web site of the station (commercial or private)
  • From web sites that specialize in aggregating stations for listening.

No matter where the source, you will still need all four items listed above.

Let's begin with the player method. Because most people have this already installed or can easily download it from Microsoft

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/windowsmediaplayer

Once installed, open Windows Media Player. A menu will appear on the left side and one of the choices will be "Radio Tuner". Click on it. The right pane will then show you few stations selected by the knowledgeable folks at Microsoft (yes, that was sarcasm).

You may now expand each of the stations listed and choose to visit their website or just start playing the music. Experiment! Listen to something just to get the hang of it. When you're comfortable, you can use the menu to choose a specific genre or use the search feature to find a specific keyword like New Age, Pittsburgh, Talk Radio, whatever.

If you happen to have a Real Player http://www.real.com/player or wish to download their free player, you will find that they offer the same sort of options. Select a genre and then pick a station that interests you. Most of the players work pretty much the same way.

Most players are free or as with Real Networks, they offer one for $20 - $30. These pay versions often have additional bells and whistles offering better quality sound (CD) if you have a broadband connection or the ability to watch Internet TV. Yes Virginia, there IS Internet TV but I donít have space to write about it here.

Now let's discuss the Web Site broadcasters. As an example, I will use my personal favorite Radio DOS , which I listen to even when I visit the US. It works great and makes me feel like I am "back home" here in CR. In fact, if you're a Costa Rica lover, your favorite music is only a click away no matter where you live in this world.

Start by going to the Radio Dos web site. One the top left of the screen, click on "En Vivo" (live). If you have Windows Media Player, it will launch and a moment or two later, you will hear perfect the perfect sound of Radio Dos!

Warning, If you have only a dial up connection to the Internet, (a modem) Radio DOS may not come in clearly. Internet Radio stations broadcast a signal that requires a specific bandwidth (speed of connection) to work properly. Though you may or may not be able to listen to Radio DOS, there are thousands of web sites that broadcast low bandwidth transmissions for modem users, even those using a 28.8 connection. More later on how to solve that problem!

In any case, the website method works well if you know the ID of the station. For example, a search on Yahoo for WLS radio will provide you a link to WLS. Once there, you simply click on the link to "Listen Live". Once you click it, it will offer you the choice of Windows Media Player or Real Networks. There is also an MP3 feed for iTunes and other compatible players.

Now let's discuss the aggregators. There are many, but one I use regularly is Live 365 (). I like this site because it has a tremendous number of radio stations to choose from including many hundreds of private stations broadcasting their personal favorites. They also have the old Gunsmoke and Paladin episodes!

You have the option of using Windows Media Player or Live 365ís own player (a free download). They also offer a player for Mac users. I cannot even begin to tell you about the breadth of choices you will have available, but take my word on this, you could surf radios stations for a year and not make a dent.

Another great thing about Live 365 is that the bandwidth (speed) requirements for each station are clearly displayed. Simply listen to those stations that match your Internet connection. If you have a 56k modem connection, stay with stations broadcasting in that range. I will tell you now though that if you have cable modem though, the reception you get will generally be equal or better than any high quality FM radio!

If you really get into this Online Radio stuff, Live 365 will set you up so you can broadcast your own favorite music, and you don't even need a high-speed connection.

Well, now that you're an Internet Radio expert, wouldn't it be neat to be able to record all the great stuff youíll be hearing?

Well the folks at Skyhawk Technologies http://skyhawktech.com/ have read your mind and came up with a clever little program, CyberRecorder 2000 ($24.95. After thirty plus years of computers and the Internet, I am not all that easily impressed, but this product is pretty slick.

Basically, it allows you to record whatever is playing through your sound card. That could be CD's, game output, whatever. But, if that happens to be an Internet Radio station you enjoy, you will get excellent recording directly to your hard drive. The features list for CyberRecorder 2000 is huge and beyond the scope of this article, but basically you can schedule recordings ahead of time daily, weekly, and so on. You can hook up your PC through your stereo system for even better playback. You can record .WAV files or create your own MP3 files directly. You can launch an Internet address (URL) at a specific time, then record the contents. The recorded fidelity is absolutely excellent, even at the lowest settings. This of course presumes you have a decent connection to the net. Remember, it records exactly what you hear. Check out their website for all the other cool things you can do with this program. About the only thing they donít offer is an editor so you can record an hour or music, then pull off only the tunes you want to keep, but this is not a major drawback as there are several fine editors on the Net. Some for free!

For many of you reading this, you have decided, or are considering, the expatriate lifestyle. Those of us who live it every day have come to love it. But no matter how far you are from the home you left, Internet Radio can take you back there in an instant. Try it! Then, let me know where you traveled on the Internet.

© 2005 - 2010 Tim Lytle  All Rights Reserved

 

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