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Did you know that your Mac is the ultimate world radio and TV receiver? Simply install one of RealNetworks' RealPlayer programs, and you can tune in to any of the more than 1,500 radio and TV stations that stream live broadcasts into cyberspace. You can also listen to air-traffic control towers, police scanners, and weather forecasts. But how do you find these riches? You could use a Web search engine or RealNetworks' RealGuide site ( http://www.realguide.real.com ), but there's a much easier way. Trexar Technologies' MacTuner 2.0.5 is a searchable database of live streaming stations; you find a station using MacTuner's search features, and RealPlayer handles the playback. It has some rough edges, but MacTuner is a wonderful way to tune in the world.
MacTuner gives you two ways to locate stations. The Map Browser, which displays clickable maps of the continents, is a fun way to browse. Its maps are far too small, however; you need a surgeon's touch to home in on Rhode Island and Delaware, not to mention most European countries. And Canada's nearly 100 stations are lumped into one group rather than organized by province.
When you want to search for a station with more precision, use MacTuner's Search Engine window to search by state or country, format (jazz, blues, talk, and so on), media type (audio or video), or station call letters. But MacTuner won't find call letters typed in lowercase characters, and it ignores the return key, making you grope for the mouse to click the Search button. And it would be nice to be able to search by city namesomething that a competing Windows product, Nothing Else Matters' Vtuner ( http://www.vtuner.com ), permits.
With stations frequently upgrading or changing their servers, you may find that MacTuner's station links don't always work. Trexar updates MacTuner's station database every few weeks or so, and the program can automatically download the latest updates. MacTuner also has a Favorites screen where you can store up to 15 of your favorite streams for quick recall.
A session with MacTuner 2.0.5 is further evidence of just how small the Internet has made the globe. I've watched news from Iranian television, beheld steamy Brazilian soap operas, heard weather forecasts from New Zealand, and marveled at the United States' cultural influence while listening to Elvis from South Africa and Charlie Parker from Kazakhstan. MacTuner needs a bit of polish here and there, but it's still a great gateway to that glorious global cacophony known as broadcasting.
RATING: PROS: Fun; inexpensive; large station database. CONS: Maps are too small; limited search engine. COMPANY: Trexar Technologies (770/442-8045, http://www.mactuner.com ). LIST PRICE: $22.95.
September 1999 page: 58