The FezGuys
Up To Our Ascii In Email, Version 2
[ No. 28 - February 1999 ]

It's time we responded to the wise and wonderful queries of you, our readers. The mail piles up and this month, we dig in. It's encouraging to find that we're an active community. The radically different workarounds and fixits that everyone reports on are continually inspiring. But what makes our people so exciting is their willingness, indeed, their eagerness, to share what they've learned. Through the Threaded Discussion Area and the Audio Resource Gallery (both available over at <>), we've just touched the tip of the iceberg. Never a dull moment! Let's get to the questions:

Q: Hello FezGuys! I'm Daniel from Barcelona, Spain. I'm thinking about developing a pay-per-download system where people will be able to download my songs as MPEG files after paying for it. I guess it should work with passwords. I need to find a way that every time the client clicks on a song, it gets added to the shopping basket. How can I achieve this? What type of CGI's should I use? Do you know of any URL's that already do this? - My gratitude. Daniel

A: Daniel - Your questions are not uncommon, yet they are also ones which require very in-depth information to answer completely. We've got limited space here, but we'll do our best. CGI programming for your web site requires a fair understanding of programming, and when you add in the complexity of shopping carts and securely processing payment (probably via credit card), it gets more complex! If you're at the level of wondering where to start, your best bet is to find one of the many sites that specialize in providing customers with shopping cart and payment transaction services. To start, try typing "shopping cart and credit card transactions" into <>. You also might find our Column #8 from June 1997 (<>) useful as well.

Q: For Mac. What software do I need to put MPEG files on my web site for people to download and play (not stream)? How does Iomega's RecordIt fit into the picture ? - Paris

A: Paris - Ah, a Mac man after our own hearts! We have been keeping our eyes and ears open for yet more MPEG-based audio compression applications for the Macintosh, now gaining marketshare after being mostly ignored for consumer-level products (like RealAudio and MP3). *Today*, your best bet is going to be using Macromedia's SoundEdit16 and its SWA (ShockWave Audio) exporter plugin. You can buy SoundEdit16 for $419 from <>. For a cheaper (free!) solution, look at <>. Iomega's "RecordIt" is intended for recording directly to Zip/Jaz/etc. drives but does fine recording straight to your hard drive. It compresses using QDesign's MPEG II stereo compression technology, but does not provide very flexible parameters. RecordIt can be downloaded at <>. Finally, as we mentioned elsewhere in this column, keep an eye out for Xing's Mac version of AudioCatalyst <>. This is a good product by a good company and reasonably priced.

Q: Hi, I'm looking for the Mac MP3 encoder that produces the truest files compared to the original. I've been using SE 16 to convert to SWA files which are supposed to be MP3 compatible. Will I run into any problems with some players not recognizing the SWA files? Is there a coversion neccessary?? Thanks, Heywood J.

A: Heywood - See the above question's answer for some pointers to other encoders for the Macintosh. As for SWA files' compatability, you shouldn't run into any problems with the majority of MP3 players out there. The only difference between a raw MP3 and an SWA file is an extra bit of header data in the SWA file which the player should ignore just fine (just as some MP3 files have extra ID information at the end).

Q: Hello! I have a Web site which includes Real Audio (5 min. clips, 16bit, 44.1kHz stereo). When I try to play it from my site it interrupts every 20-30 sec. for "congestion". I hired my web host to set the site and they said it's normal for such a large file, but for me it seems to be unacceptable. Is it really normal and, if so, is there is any way to play these 5min. clips in (at least) 16bit 44.1kHz without delays and interruptions? I would be very grateful if someone could answer it here. Thank you in advance. - Emilian

A: Emilian - The first, and most important, issue is what *bitrate* you have compressed your RealAudio files into. The second issue is what speed you are connected to the Internet. For example, if you compressed to 128kbps, most people will not be able to stream that over a modem without *extreme* rebuffering. If you are working with a 16kbps RealAudio file over 28.8k modems, it should stream just fine. One way problems can be introduced is if the listener's ISP has to travel through other overloaded connections on the Internet to get to your server, or your server is overloaded with other work. The quality of a 16kbps file considerably less than 128kbps ("near-CD quality"), but that's the price you pay to stream over 28.8k modems. One last issue may be related to how you are streaming the RealAudio file - sometimes you can get a little better quality when streaming through an actual RealAudio server versus using HTTP streaming through a web server.

A FezGuys Correction!
Greetings: In your most recent EQ column, you described the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as an amendment to the Constitution. Tsk, tsk guys. You should remember that an amendment must be passed by both houses of Congress and must then be ratified by two-thirds of the states. There hasn't been an amendment in a couple of generations. DMCA is just a law. It may seem to be fussy and minor, but if you're talking about matters of law, you might as well be accurate. Happy holidays! Michael Carnes

Dear Michael: You're right-- we blew it! Thanks for keeping us on our (legal) toes!

In Other Technology News

In the course of day to day life browsing the web and receiving loads of email, one is barraged with a neverending stream of information to process. We FezGuys thought we'd save you the trouble and point out a few interesting and useful ones we've come across.

In an about-face, WebTV announced that that it will likely support Java and RealAudio in future versions of their low-cost set-top Internet boxes. Good idea gang... <more info>

Xing Technologies announces Macintosh version of AudioCatalyst MP3 maker. This is a good product. The FezGuys say check it out. has a good article about it here.

<> - From Nullsoft, the folks who bring you Winamp (the most popular MP3 player for Windows), ShoutCast lets anyone broadcast MP3 streaming audio. Free for non-commercial use. We're waiting on some answers to our technical questions and will keep you informed. Windows only encoder, Windows/Unix servers. Another commentary and explanation located here.

<> - Index of free music (MP3, Midi, Mod, etc)

<> - "The Ultimate MP3 Resource" (according to them)... music download links, players, etc.

<> - List your project (or huge) recording studio in a free contact database being put together.

And, in closing... <> impressed us when they sent out free t-shirts to all the bands who submitted music to their DAM program (which doesn't cost to join). Whether or not you feel comfortable wearing a shirt which reads "My music is on and all I got was this DAM shirt" or not, the gesture was a fine example of keeping their community happy, and involved. Never underestimate the power of marketing via free t-shirts!

The FezGuys welcome all participation! (Our mothers taught us that)



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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