Streaming MP3 Files

Ever wanted to run your own Internet radio station? This week we show you how to get started in next to no time, using the following ingredients:

- SHOUTcast streaming server (free from http://shoutcast.com).

- SHOUTcast broadcasting tools (free from http://shoutcast.com).

- Winamp 2 (not version 3) MP3 player (free from http://winamp.com).

- A Pentium II with 64MB RAM and a sound card.

- An Internet connection (preferably broadband).

Step 1 - Installing SHOUTcast

If you are running Windows, you'll need the file called "SHOUTcast WIN32 Console/GUI server v1.8.9", which you'll find in the "Be a Server" section of the SHOUTcast site. Make sure you install the GUI version (Figure 1), and then fire it up from your start menu. You should now see a window like that in Figure 2. Click on "Edit Config" to open the configuration file.

There are only two parameters you need to change here. The first is "MaxUser", which is set to 32 by default, although you may want to wind that back depending on how fast your Net connection is. If you have broadband, then eight is probably more realistic and modem users might want to try just two instead. The second value you should change is the password, so that no one else can take over your server! If you want to experiment a little, you can provide some station ID audio for your listeners when they first connect by specifying a filename for the IntroFile parameter. Save your changes, click "Kill Server", and then re-open the SHOUTcast GUI to apply the new settings. Your server is now ready and listening for some audio to broadcast.

Step 2 - Configuring Winamp

In addition to the SHOUTcast server, you'll need the broadcasting tools (found in the "Be a DJ" section of the SHOUTcast site). This file is called "SHOUTcast DSP plugin for Winamp". Simply download it, run it, and then open Winamp. Make sure you are using Winamp 2, as version 3 does not yet support the SHOUTcast DSP plugin! Open up the preferences window (Control-P) and select the DSP/Effect section (Figure 3). By selecting the Nullsoft SHOUTcast Source DSP you will automatically open the SHOUTcast source window (Figure 4).

The Main tab will show you the active connections and audio levels, both of which will be inactive at this point. Next along is the Output tab. This is where you should enter your password so you can connect to your SHOUTcast server. You will notice that the address is automatically set to "localhost". This can be set to another PC's name or IP address if you want to run Winamp and SHOUTcast on different machines. You will need to click the Connect button once you have your server and password details configured. You should now see the status updating in the DSP window (Figure 5). Your SHOUTcast window should also indicate an active connection, with information similar to the following:

<08/23/02@16:19:10> [main] Client Stream thread [0] starting<08/23/02@16:19:10> [main] client main thread startingNext along is the Encoder tab. Here, you can specify different encoding qualities for your streams. By using several different encoders, you can provide HiFi and LoFi versions of your broadcast for users on Internet connections of varying speeds.

Last up is the Input tab, which is where you indicate your audio source. The default is Winamp, but you can use the input of your sound card instead. This allows you to plug you stereo into your computer and DJ from your turntables, CD players or any other audio source you like!

Step 3 - Broadcasting

Now that all the groundwork is done, you can open some MP3 files and start playing! You will immediately know if it's all working because your input levels should start dancing and your output streams should update in the Main tab (Figure 6). All you have to do is tell your friends to listen in. You may even get some anonymous users connecting via the SHOUTcast Web site directory listing!

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