My Turn

Using Low End Macs for Internet Radio

- 2008.08.18

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

The local public-radio outlet (Colorado Public Radio) recently moved its classical-music channel to a different FM frequency so that it could move its all-talk, all-the-time frequency from the AM band. Now the classical-music channel, with much reduced power, barely gets out of the city limits, much less 30 miles away to my radio.

Public radio told everyone who couldn't hear the station to buy an HD radio for the home and the car.

Those who did buy HD radios immediately complained that they still couldn't hear the station. So far, public radio hasn't shown any interest in installing a translator frequency, even though it already has several in other parts of the state. I started investigating Internet radio receivers - but immediately stopped after seeing prices of $200 and up.

indigo iMac G3

At this point, I woke up in a bright new world and remembered that a) I had an indigo iMac G3 collecting dust and cobwebs in my basement and b) iTunes accesses radio stations through the Internet.

The iMac had OS 9 installed. I updated the firmware and installed Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther". After more than two hours with the Software Update panel, the iMac was smoothly running version 10.3.9 with 320 MB of memory. (The maximum memory is 1 GB.)

The iMac was ready for a visit to iTunes.

Opening iTunes and clicking on the radio icon displays a plethora of music genres from radio stations. Clicking on the classical icon revealed 52 streams, ranging from the expected war horses to all-baroque and all-opera choices.

I started my playlist with WQXR.com (New York City) and WGBH (Boston). The variety of music was so much greater. I heard music I wasn't aware of. (The local outlet does have an Internet stream, but the music selection is focused on the classical top 40.)

Later, I added Minnesota Public Radio and WCPE (North Carolina) from the iTunes list. Importing other stations from their web pages (WFMT in Chicago and WCLV in Cleveland, for example) was a simple process. In my spare time, I'll be checking the other streams listed in iTunes.

While audiophiles might loudly complain about the sound quality from a G3 iMac, I'm again enjoying having music in my bungalow. Maybe I can find some low-end speakers for the G3. I have a few dollars that won't be going to the local public radio outlet during its next beg-a-thon.

Gordon R. Brown has used Macs for more than 20 years. He is a property technician for a Denver-area police department.

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