Plumbing the house for Internet radio

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Over at our sibling site, MacUser, upstart editor Dan Pourhadi had the nerve to ask “Does anyone actually listen to Internet radio? Anyone?” in his piece, Stream ‘net radio on Apple TV.

Damned kids.

Yes, as a matter of fact, as I prepare the morning mug of Metamucil I listen to Internet radio—and more.

And, may I add, consarn it!

But I didn’t always and here’s what’s changed.

I have a habit of listening to music during dinner with the family and more often than not I tune the terrestrial radio to the local non-offensive-meaning-no-Schoenberg-or-Stravinsky-but-rather-more-Pachabel’s Canon-than-you-can-stand-if-you-actually-pay-attention-to-what’s-playing classical station. On February 1st, said channel started spewing country-pop music and thus took that musical avenue off the menu. A scan around the radio dial found no suitable replacement.

It was at that point that I considered the several boxes full of technology sitting in my office. Surely something in there would allow me to cobble together a suitable replacement.

I began by attaching a spare AirPort Express Base Station to the living room stereo and, with the aid of AirPort Utility, configured it to stream music from iTunes via Apple’s AirTunes technology.

I then cleared a space on the kitchen counter for my old PowerBook G4, launched iTunes on same, opened iTunes’ preferences, clicked the Advanced preference, and made sure that the Look for Remote Speakers connected With AirTunes option was enabled in the General tab. I then chose the newly configured AirPort Extreme Base Station from the Speakers pop-up menu at the bottom of the iTunes window.

Selecting the Radio entry in iTunes’ Source list I refreshed the Internet radio streams by holding down the Command key on my Mac’s keyboard and clicking on the triangle next to the first (Alternative) entry. Once the list was refreshed I again Command-clicked on the Alternative triangle to close all the categories. Next, I clicked the triangle next to the Classical entry and double-clicked on All Baroque Musick to start the stream. In short order the stream began playing from the living room speakers. Excellent!

Excellent, that is, until the first “Hey, you can become an Internet millionaire!” commercial kicked in. In the interest of supporting my community’s businesses I was more than happy to ignore the old classical station’s pitches for the local roofing company, but I draw the line at questionable nostrums and get-rich-quick schemes. This wouldn’t do.

It was then that it finally dawned on me that as a subscriber to the Rhapsody music service I had a hefty hunk of the world’s music available to me—and, better yet, commercial-free music that sounded better than what iTunes delivers with its radio selections. It was simply a matter of finding the technology necessary to channel that music from my Mac to the living room stereo.

That came in the form of Rogue Amoeba’s $25 Airfoil 3 (this is a big day for the product here at Macworld as my colleague Dan Frakes just slapped a well-deserved 4.5 mouse rating on it). Dan’s offered all the details you need to appreciate the product so I’ll simply say that it was the work of a moment to launch Airfoil and instruct it to send Safari’s output to my AirPort Express. (For the fun of it I additionally chose the family room’s Apple TV so I could play the music in both rooms).

All I had left to do was choose Rhapsody’s Baroque channel to start an endless supply of 18th-century music streaming to my stereo.

For the most part it worked out. I waffle because I encountered the occasional stutter and delay as the stream rebuffered. However, once I jacked an Ethernet cable into my PowerBook, the music played without interruption.

So yes, Master Pourhadi, someone actually listens to Internet radio—or, at least, something darned similar. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some butter to churn before I dash off to the telegraph office in the family flivver.

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