Yes, I don’t update this blog much… but who can blame me? I have a lot on my plate. Besides, quality over quantity right? As the days and weeks and months in the near future go by, I will try to get my life more in order and update this a lot more with all kinds of stuff. I have ideas of everything from weather updates to more political posts. If things start going better for me, look for a lot more to start appearing not only here, but on my website too. With that, I get to my main post…
As a progressive in America today, I love the Internet. Boy howdy, do I love the Internet. Before the advent of the so-called New Media – blogs, internet TV, internet radio, and podcasts, among others – it was hard to find progressive voices. Now, it’s hard to throw a stone without hitting a progressive on the ‘Net. From blogs like the Huffington Post, to terrestrial progressive talk stations being available to non-covered areas via Internet streaming, to the many progressive podcasters out there, it’s a very frequent occurrence.
My Alternative Media page on my main website is an extensive, but not nearly exhaustive, directory to the many resources out there in Media World for progressives – both the New Media, and the Old Media (radio, TV, newspapers). Another page has my favorite media sources. All of these are updated on occasion.
There are many reasons why someone would want to get the most from the New Media–one of the main reasons being their interests don’t get served adequately by conventional media sources. I’m no exception to that – I like progressive programming and progressive Christian programs, as well as LGBT-oriented dance and talk radio, among a few other things. Ain’t gonna find much of that on the regular FM dial. Thankfully, we have the internet.
First, let’s cover the means of keeping connected and their usefulness:
* The regular old desktop computer: when you’re at home, it’s a great way to do everything related to internet media, and is the main hub of anything. After all, you generally need one of these to be able to configure and sync more portable devices.
* Cell phones: Many, if not most, cell phones nowadays have the ability to connect to the Internet through cell tower connections, meaning loads and loads of coverage. There are caveats, though: there are only certain phones that can do more advanced things like stream internet radio and download podcasts. All web-enabled can display web pages though (duh), so it’s good to check up on weather and news and blogs and such.
* Laptops, netbooks, internet tablets, and other large wifi devices: While impractical in many applications where ultra-portability is needed, these devices can be very useful while in restaurants, seated in waiting rooms or on trains (thank you, TRE, for the free wifi access!) to keep up with the new media.
* Wi-Fi-enabled pocket devices: This is my main way of keeping up – my iPod touch falls in this category. These are easy to carry around, but only work around wifi hotsports, of course. Many of these have access to internet radio streams and/or podcasting features.
The first thing that is useful to do is create a text file in WordPad or a similar program listing your favorite new media sources: list your podcasts with links to homepages and feeds, list your net radio stations with links to homepages and streams, list blogs with links and RSS feeds if applicable, and also links to news sites and such. This makes it real convenient to keep track of everything. With this text file, you want to have that on all the computers you use frequently, perhaps on thumb drives, and also on your mobile devices if they’re capable of that. My file is on my home computer, laptop, and also my iPod touch via the Files application, as well as my flash drive. If you have an iPod touch and/or an iPhone, I highly recommend Files. On the PSP, you can put the text file on your Memory Stick and access it from the web browser using the “file:/” prefix and then the path.
Now, keep in mind, I can only go over procedures for devices i own and/or have had experience with. For help with a device that I don’t mention here, try a Google search for the topic – in this case, a search for “how to view text files on [insert device here]”. Most of what’s in this post will focus on the iPod touch (my current main device) and the PSP (my former main device).
The first aspect I will cover is internet radio. A good idea, as stated earlier, is to get the stream URLs and put them in your text file entries with station names and home pages, perhaps including ‘backup’ streams for stations with multiple streams. Most of the time, station streaming links will be directly to the stream URL, allowing you to copy and paste. Other times, an in-browser streaming box will come up (most of the time it’s WMP). In those cases, right-click and go to Properties to get the URL. There are also certain cases where a trick is needed, like SHOUTcast.
You can extract SHOUTcast stream URLs by opening the station in Winamp, and right clicking on the current song or program. Copy the URL from the little URL box, paste it in a web browser, and then right click on ‘Listen’ to copy the link location (your browser may say ‘target’ instead or something to that extent). Bingo – you got your listening link.
For podcasts, it’s simpler. Any show that has a podcast, or is a podcast itself, will make the feed available to you for subscriptions. List titles, homepages, and feeds in the file.
The same thing goes for blogs, almost. Like podcasts, list titles, homepages, and RSS feeds. Text RSS feeds are best used in – surprise, surprise – a text RSS feed reader. Google Reader is great for that purpose, and has a mobile version too.
As for other stuff, it’s pretty straightforward. List titles and relevant info and homepages for internet TV stations and terrestrial radio stations and the like, perhaps seeing if maybe one or more of your favorite ‘Net TV stations has a streaming app or something.
With that, let’s move on to the methods of tuning in…
For streaming on your home computer and/or laptop, there are several programs you’ll need that will cover pretty much all streams:
* Windows Media Player (.asx, .m3u)
* Winamp (.pls, .m3u, IP streams lacking extensions)
* RealPlayer (.rm, .ram)
* Flash, for in-browser streams that use it
On a regular computer or laptop, it’s fairly straightforward. When you want to listen in, either go to the homepage and click the link or copy/paste the stream URL into a web browser (it should ask if you want to open it in its relevant program) or into the streaming program directly via “Open”.
There exists many apps for many different devices that can tune into net radio stations. For the iPhone/iPod touch, Blackberry, and any device running Windows Mobile 6 or higher, WunderRadio is the way to go. This app has many streams from the RadioTime directory (save for the ones from Clear Channel) and more. In addition–and this is perhaps the neatest part–you can add your own streams by entering the stream URL in the address bar of the Web section. After you type it in, it starts the stream and you can favorite it. Bingo! For other non-supported devices, be sure to seek not just an internet radio app, but try to find one that allows you to input custom streams also.
For Clear Channel stations, there is iheartradio for the iPhone/iPod touch and BlackBerry.
SHOUTcast stations are accessible by their iPhone/iPt app, but if you do not have one of those devices, you can use the method of extracting streams I described above. Put that in your text file and get that into any device.
Another thing to look out for are station-specific streaming applications – poke around station sites to find apps like that.
The PSP supports internet radio, but the default player stinks for miles. Use the no-custom-firmware-needed program FreeRadio to add custom streams (M3U and PLS only, nothing else supported) and even podcasts.
Speaking of podcasts, for your computer/laptop, use a program that can catch and download podcasts. iTunes is probably the best example, though there are many others like the Zune Software and MediaMonkey. MM is the best out of all these, in my opinion, for the simple fact that it consumes fewer system resources than iTunes and supports many devices for synchronization.
Most Wi-Fi devices also have some way to download podcasts wirelessly and store them temporarily for listening.
On the iPod touch/iPhone, you can use the iTunes app to find podcasts and download them. If you notice, though, you can’t add your own feeds, so you’re out of luck if what you want is not in the Store. Fear not, though! RSSPlayer comes to the rescue! Download RSSPlayer from the App Store – only 99 cents – and you can add any podfeed you want. Also neat is how you can manage your podcasts all in that program – download, listen, delete, and such – without any crossings to and from your music application.
For the BlackBerry, check out PodTrapper.
To access your RSS feeds from a mobile device, try entering the feeds in an online reader that has a mobile site, like Google Reader. That way, all you have to do is point your device browser to the site and bookmark that.
I think the links to sites are fairly straightfoward. Tip: look for mobile versions and/or apps, for versions of your favorite sites that are compatible with your devices. Some devices can handle full sites, though, like the iPhone/iPod touch. Even then, there might be apps or mobile sites. Check around for your options.
So there you have it: tips on how to make the most of the New Media. To some of you, I may have just been stating the obvious. To others, I may have filled you in on some great tips – and it’s the people in this category I was aiming for with this post. In the future, I will have tips for other things, like tracking the weather. For now, I’m gwoodboy. Look for another post fairly soon.