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NPR's Car Talk Switches Back To RealAudio 377

Posted by simoniker
from the back-and-forth dept.
taped2thedesk writes "Today, NPR's Car Talk, a 'call in talk [radio] show about car mechanics', announced they were switching back to RealAudio, after dumping it for Windows Media a few months ago. When the show switched to Windows Media, Real took notice and convinced the show to switch back, by addressing various listener complaints about their player (many of which were fixed in RealPlayer 10). The hosts say: 'We believe [Real have] made a serious and successful attempt to address those things that our listeners complained about most... They even offered to serve the audio for free online, which defrays an expense we'd otherwise have to cover.'"
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NPR's Car Talk Switches Back To RealAudio

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  • by andyrut (300890) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:01PM (#8771224) Homepage Journal
    From Real: We think our new RealPlayer 10 is, beyond a doubt, our friendliest and best player yet.

    Nice to know that I can listen to Click and Clack on my computer without being constantly bombarded with pop-ups from a piece of annoyware.

    Oh wait, I've been doing that for weeks thanks to Real Alternative [hccnet.nl]. All the joy of streaming audio without Real's player.
    • by t0ny2 (768696) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:05PM (#8771264)
      Someone mentioned Real Alternative a few weeks ago. It was a godsend, because I now refuse to install realplayer.

      Another interesting tidbit I came across was that they also have an alternative for the number one buggy movie player, Quicktime (which I likewise refuse to install). Now I can view both formats with none of the buggyness, and also have only one media player to worry about. Less is more.

    • by rokzy (687636)
      is real 10 available to the public? nothing about the real web page or download file indicate version number...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      hey slashdotters, this is a story about CAR TALK, not REAL PLAYER. :P
    • by spellraiser (764337) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8771454) Journal

      This is probably a little offtopic, but what the heck.

      Interestingly enough, Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks [wikipedia.org], has 'crossed streams' with Microsoft. In fact, he was a top executive there before moving on to found RealNetworks.

      So it's little wonder that the battle between Microsoft and RealNetworks is so fierce at times - there are no enemies like old friends.

    • by snarkh (118018) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:24PM (#8771483)
      Nice to know that I can listen to Click and Clack on my computer without being constantly bombarded with pop-ups from a piece of annoyware.

      I thought those guys were a piece of annoyware. Go figure.

    • by pokeyburro (472024) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:47PM (#8771718) Homepage
      Nice to know that I can listen to Click and Clack on my computer without being constantly bombarded with pop-ups from a piece of annoyware.

      You think that was bad? I used to listen to them on the radio in the car. You know how hard it is to close a popup on your windshield while keeping your hands at 2 and 10? It's damned hard, I tell you.
    • by mypenwry (465737) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:52PM (#8771778)
      RealPlayer is a commercial virus. No matter how much they have changed it, no matter if they crawl across broken glass to kiss my feet and beg me, I won't ever install it again!

      If my only option for a site serving streaming media is RealPlayer, I will just skip on by and not watch / listen. There are too many alternatives on the web; I can always find somethign as good or better that won't force me to install RealPlayer.

      RealPlayer lost my trust a long time ago and there are too many options that are far more consumer-friendly for me to bother to give them a second chance.

      Fuhgettaboutit.
      • God, you people act more like sheeple than geeks. I've had RealOne installed since Oct 02 and I haven't seen a single peep from it since the initial install, other than the videos it's supposed to show me. Do the advanced install, or go through the preferences menu after a normal install and turn all the crap off. It's not like actual malware where stuff is inaccessible without regedit, just click the freaking boxes!
    • by Cognitive Dissident (206740) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:00PM (#8771868)
      If the hcclnet.nl servers are being slashdotted at the moment, you might try some of the other sources for Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative such as:

      Free-Codecs.com [free-codecs.com]
      and
      CodecsDownload.com [codecsdownload.com]

      These two domains are mirros of each other, and also good source of many video codecs and even some free/OSS media players.

    • by BRock97 (17460) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:13PM (#8772024) Homepage
      Egon: It would be bad.

      Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. Whattya mean "bad?"

      Egon: Try to imagine all media players as you set them up stopping instantaneously and every file association on your computer exploding at the speed of light.

      Ray: Total protonic reversal....

      Venkman: Right, that's bad...OK.. important safety tip. Thanks, Slashdot.
    • by fm6 (162816)
      That's a hacker's toy, hardly suitable for most Internet users. And given the way Real keeps tweaking its codecs, I wouldn't expect Real Alternative to be functional for too long.

      I personally have no problem using Real software. Well, not the current version, which isn't quite so buggy as older versions. But I know how to disable all the obnoxious features still left.

      But that's not true for most people. Which is why no ethical content provider should require its listeners to deal with Real.

      The sad fac

  • by Monsieur Canard (766354) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:03PM (#8771239)
    It sounds like Car Talk's Complaint Line Operator [cartalk.com], Xavier Breath, earned his paycheck this week.

    Wow. First Microsoft adds a project to Sourceforge and now Real has admitted that not everyone likes being bombarded by pushy bookmarks and shortcuts of unusual size. What next? SCO admiting that maybe they didn't invent sliced bread?

    Seriously though, I'm glad to see that Tom and Ray gave Real a second chance. If it's true that they is dedicated to responding to customer's complaints then this is a good thing for everyone.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:08PM (#8771296) Homepage Journal
      Wow. First Microsoft adds a project to Sourceforge and now Real has admitted that not everyone likes being bombarded by pushy bookmarks and shortcuts of unusual size. What next? SCO admiting that maybe they didn't invent sliced bread?

      Maybe RealPlayer 10 is crammed with Spyware(tm). I mean, if they give away the player and it doesn't blast you with ads and Real is footing the bandwidth for NPR, what's the business model?

      • I agree that something about this is setting off my spydar, but I'm still willing to give them a chance.

        Granted, I don't plan on installing this anytime soon (I get my Car Talk fix on the radio - part of my Saturday morning ritual), but I'll gladly sit back and let others install it ("Tragedy is a paper cut on my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open sewer and die" - Mel Brooks).
      • by someguy (23968) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:03PM (#8771903)

        Maybe RealPlayer 10 is crammed with Spyware(tm). I mean, if they give away the player and it doesn't blast you with ads and Real is footing the bandwidth for NPR, what's the business model?


        Well, the concerns and responses as addressed on the cartalk website do mention not installing any software that you don't want installed.

        The business model that RealNetworks is fulfilling by footing the bill for the cartalk stream is one where they generate large amounts of good karma with consumers. By getting cartalk to switch back they're going to get the invariably occuring coverage to spread the word about how good those guys over at Real are. In addition, with the cartalk site expounding the changes found in RealPlayer 10 it's showing what's changed to groups of people that were complaining in the first place and re-earning a spot on those users' hard drives for the company's software. Once they've gotten their foot in the door with cartalk listeners it snowballs into more support for a) other sites which use Real feeds and b) more support for the idea of going with Real for streaming audio when a site is confronted with having to decide what format they're going to go with.
      • Isn't it obvious? Subtler, quieter ads that try to convince you to buy RealPlayer Plus, Superpass, or Rhapsody (the latter of which is the only one I found even worthwhile, as it's pretty damn good at music. Think iTunes store, all of it, streamed for a flat rate. It does have the inherent downsides of streamed music, but eh). The only way they can get you to try these is if you use the program that carries it through.

        There's also the sale of their Helix server, but that costs a shitload of money, and
    • Whats next (Score:5, Funny)

      by t0ny2 (768696) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:12PM (#8771337)
      Between Real cleaning up their program and M$ putting out opensource, Im going to stock up on blankets- hell should be freezing over shortly.
  • so wait, we're cheering the fact they switched from one bloated media player to another bloated spyware infested media player?

    I realize there are alternatives, but most people are unaware.

    Mike
    • i think i am cheering because real listened to them and fixed it. not to say that real is a good/bad/indifferent company, just the fact that they actually listened to cartalk and fixed some stuff is cool. i didnt know there were alternatives until this thread, but i dont do a lot of realaudio or quicktime stuff.
    • by BrookHarty (9119) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:11PM (#8771325) Homepage Journal
      But the real reason is they got free hosting from Real.

      And they even offered to serve the audio for free online, which defrays an expense we'd otherwise have to cover.

      We're in no position to ever turn down generosity, no matter how misguided. So, we took them up on their offer, before they could reconsider.


      Also they mentioned the "Hidden" free player problem. I mentioned it awhile back on slashdot but the trolls came out and said "Its right there!!!" Well, looks even Real admited the free version was hard to find. ;)

      On the issue of the "hidden" free player, they've agreed to provide a direct link from Car Talk to a clear, uncluttered, free player download page. On the issue of pop ups, they tell us they're gone.
  • by Anonymous Coward


    This is very nice, but I still wish Real would die slow and horrible death, with their marketing department who created StartCenter getting leprosy and plague and being sold into slavery and having to toil 20-hour workdays, and with children of their children being exterminated from the face of the Earth, so that any genetic knowledge that existed of StartCenter and default message preferences being selected for you right beneath the scrollable window would be erased from the face of this planet, and all t
  • Choose wisely... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baudilus (665036) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:04PM (#8771254)
    What a choice. DRM Whore or Spyware/Adware hijackery. That's like having to choose whether to be shot in the face or stabbed in the back.
    • well obviously stabbed in the back.

      unless the attack MUST kill you, in which case being shot would be quicker.
    • by Aphrika (756248) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:52PM (#8771775)
      Thing is, Windows Mediaplayer isn't a DRM whore. Sure, it's capable of DRM functions - much like Quicktime, Real and any media format worth it's salt nowadays. And that DRM isn't there for the consumers, it's there to make large corporation use their media player over others because of it's 'secure' features.

      In fact, you strip away the Windows/Apple/Real logos and put the players and capabilities side by side, and they're pretty much like for like. Oh, except for Real's sucky spy/adware...
  • Personally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:05PM (#8771257) Homepage Journal
    I liked Real Audio streams back when the Real Audio plugin was an embedded object in the webpage. Same holds true for windows media. I consider this to be a step in the WRONG direction... I dont want a whole app suite firing up, spamming me, just to listen to some audio. My Rant is done.
    • I actually prefer the separate application to start up. I'm using a Mac running OS X and non-IE-non-Windows browsers don't always put the controls in the right place. For audio, this isn't too much a problem, but video is especially bad. Let's not forget the unavailable double-size or full-screen controls that the stand-alone application has.
  • *nix support at Real (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bobsled (70901) *
    From the system requirements for RealPlayer 10.0:

    "- Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0
    with Service Pack 6 or later(playback only), Windows 2000 with Service Pack 2 or later, or Windows XP
    - IE 5.0 or later"

    I truly wish they would do more to support *nix users - they DO have *nix versions but they are well behind the development of the Window$ versions... I'd like to see a *nix version of their Rhapsody player made available as well.
  • What's so hard... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NemosomeN (670035) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:06PM (#8771270) Journal
    About offering multiple streams? It's not like it will cause bandwidth problems (You're only going to be listening to one stream at a time no matter what anyway...). I dunno about liscencing fees, but I do know there are free [beer] alternatives.
  • Media Player Classic (Score:5, Informative)

    by bstadil (7110) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:06PM (#8771277) Homepage
    Install the Media Player Classic [divx-digest.com] and all the RealPlayer Spyware is a thing of the past.

    If you need a test station may I suggest O'Franken Factor [airamericaradio.com]

    • O'Franken Factor (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rueger (210566)
      Listening to Air America helped me understand one thing. All these years I though that it was the right wing assholes on talk radio that annoyed me.

      Now I know that talk radio is intensly irritating, even if I agree with the politics!
  • Something is wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why not just put a link to a .mp3 or .ogg file.
  • by bstil (652204) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:09PM (#8771301)
    The current week's show is available here [cartalk.com].

    I know the site used to have archived "favorites" of many, many shows when it was hosted by cars.com. However, I don't see the favorite clips listed anymore...
  • by slakr (604101) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:09PM (#8771306)
    I subscribe to Liverpool Football Club's liverpoolfc.tv service that provides live streaming audio of all of Liverpool's football (soccer) matches. Based on "user complaints", they switched to Windows Media streaming audio feeds from Real Audio for the first time this weekend. If user comments are any indication, this was a complete failure. Admittedly this was the first major test, but the performance was extremely poor, the audio cut out frequently and the quality of the feed was much poorer than I'm used to.
    I hate the Real bundle-of-everything-I-don't-want-with-the-one-thi ng-I-do software packaging as much as the next person, but I think its well worth it for the superior experience you now get with it. And the improvements since Real 6.0 with its leak-buckets-of-memory-and-crash-Windows issues is significant.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:11PM (#8771322) Homepage Journal
    I would think that Real's main income comes from selling RealServer software to content providers. The other two major players competing with them are ofcourse Microsoft (Windows Media) and Apple (QT) - both of which treat streaming media as a sideshow (Apple even has an opensource streaming server - Darwin).

    On the other hand, Real's reason to exist is streaming media....and admittedly, they had a headstart over the others. But is it really feasible for them to survive based solely on RealServer software sales? I don't think any reasonably sane/not abnoxiously rich person would subscibe to their "Real Gold Superpass" etc.

    I think that's why they were pushing on advertising, popups and spyware with such fervor - that's about the only means of income and existence they have left - without a reliable business plan.

    • Server sales used to be the biggest chunk, but they have been eclipsed by the subscription income. Ad sales is a very small piece of the pie, but big enough that they don't want to give it up. The really stupid thing is that the ads and crap are hurting them in the long run... a LOT, but they need that cash right now I guess, to make it look like they're profitable.

      Real's subscription offerings are great if you want certain news/sport video, and don't get it from TV.

  • by DeepDarkSky (111382) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:11PM (#8771324)
    er...sponsorship wouldn't fix.
    Hosting the show's audio for free is as good as paying the show to stay with them.
  • by dswensen (252552) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:11PM (#8771328) Homepage
    I hate to say this, but after staying far, far away from Realplayer for years (I don't think I've used it since 1999), I finally found something I really, really wanted to listen to online that was RealPlayer only. All the alternatives to RealPlayer seemed like too much of a pain to set up (I'm extraordinarily lazy), so I decided, against my better judgment, to give the new player a download and see how it worked.

    It's actually really not bad at all. The install is fairly short and lets you pick your media types, what shortcuts to install, etc. and unlike old versions of RealPlayer doesn't just DO IT ANYWAY. ("Would you like your homepage changed to real.com?" "No." "Homepage changed!") It doesn't ask for some obnoxious registration, load itself into my start bar, or do any of that other "helpful" BS that made the old RealPlayer such a dog.

    So far it seems to be a small little player that does what it does, and nothing you don't want. Since I still don't really trust Real, I'm waiting for some popup to come up, or wake up one day and find "RealConsole RAM-Fucker Pro" installed on my desktop or something, but so far, nothing.

    But for now, it just plays Realaudio files. What a novel concept for an application. It's actually been pleasant to use. (RealVideo still sucks, though.)
    • by dswensen (252552) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:16PM (#8771397) Homepage
      And, FWIW, I ran AdAware on my machine right after installing the latest Realplayer. No spyware installed either as far as I can tell.
      • I installed it just now, I was pretty clean before -- I use Mozilla not IE, and I run Spybot, and cleaned myself up about Friday, so I should be pretty darn clean.

        Ran SpyBot right now. After a full scan in Advance Mode, nothing except a few cookies.

        Now, I do notice that RealPlayer uses an embedded Internet Explorer window. So if it got a tracker cookie, that would be a red-flag on AdAware. But, so would going to just about any major website on the planet, so... Are you sure that Ad Aware didn't just r
      • by orthogonal (588627) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:59PM (#8772541) Journal
        And, FWIW, I ran AdAware on my machine right after installing the latest Realplayer. No spyware installed either as far as I can tell.

        You do realize that the AdAware engine is not psychic, right? Nor does it use a heuristic to identify mal-ware.

        AdAware -- much like a virus checker --, identifies Trojans and ad-ware by "signature", some array of bytes unique to the annoyance in question. Until somebody examines a program, decides it is mal-ware, extracts that program';s signature and adds it to AdAware's signature database, Ad-ware doesn't "know" about it.

        For all we know, Realplayer installs -- or is itself -- mal-ware, but no one from Ad-ware has gotten around to labelling it as such. After all, RealPlayer Ten is rather new.

        And people can legitimately disagree about what is ad-ware: surely RealPlayer has claimed that all its versions of Realplayer did nothing illegitimate, as RealPlayer maintained that it wasn't popping up ads, but "informative messages", and that phoning home uniquely identifying information about its users was a positive benefit for those users.

        Don't misunderstand me: AdAWare is a useful product, but it's no panacea and it -- like a virus scanner -- will unavoidably always be a bit out of date. In the case of RealPlayer, I'd trust RealPlayer's track-record of untrustworthiness.
  • Still Crappy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Robert Hayden (58313) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:12PM (#8771336) Homepage
    As of last Friday at least, clicking on the "Download Free Player" would only take you to their store, which had no links to the actual free player (wanted it for http://www.airamericaradio.com).

  • by geoswan (316494) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:12PM (#8771338) Journal
    Maybe I haven't been keeping up to date. But wasn't there a problem where earlier versions of realplayer were reporting back to headquarters what its users were listening to?

    Does the current version still do this? It is not listed in the user complaints they responded to. Maybe this is the core way they make money. If so I can understand why this might be a complaint they don't want to make changes to please their users.

    But some open-ness about it would be a good thing.

    Or maybe they made this change a long time ago? Well, a lot of us don't hang on their every announcement...

  • by bjarvis354 (319402) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:12PM (#8771341) Homepage
    Thats funny...I recently wrote a letter to WNYC [wnyc.org] regarding their choice of the MP3 format for their streaming audio [wnyc.org]. I would like to know how others feel about this....

    As an avid WNYC listener and member, I applaud the choice to move away from Windows Media format. However, MP3 is a patented format [mp3-tech.org] that is not Free (as in Freedom). I am sure that I am in the minority here, but I can't help but feel that in some way I am being slighted. In my opinion, the principles involved in my choice to use Free Software on my computer are much akin to the reasons I choose to listen to Public Radio.

    mp3licensing.com [mp3licensing.com]states:

    "A license is needed for commercial (i.e., revenue-generating) use of mp3/mp3PRO in broadcast systems (terrestrial, satellite, cable and/or other distribution channels), streaming applications (via Internet, intranets and/or other networks), other content distribution systems (pay-audio or audio-on-demand applications and the like) or for use of mp3/mp3PRO on physical media (compact discs, digital versatile discs, semiconductor chips, hard drives, memory cards and the like)."

    "However, no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with an annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00."

    How does this apply to WNYC? I for one prefer not to have my contributions to be used to pay support this kind of thing, when it is against my social and political ideals. Especially when there are free (as in beer and speech) alternatives such as the Xiph project [xiph.org].

    It is my hope to not second guess the current decision to standardize on MP3, but to perhaps begin a dialogue for openness in media formats in the future of public radio. For now I can live with MP3. I will have to compromise and add non-free software to my computer, for now.

    • by discogravy (455376) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:32PM (#8771577) Homepage
      However, MP3 is a patented format [mp3-tech.org] that is not Free (as in Freedom). I am sure that I am in the minority here, but I can't help but feel that in some way I am being slighted.

      Yeah, they're only using the de facto standard in digitized audio: they must really be out to fuck you over.

      Mp3 has been a standard -- not an agreed-upon standard, but a "well, everyone can listen to it and it works well enough" standard for years; the "decision to standardize on MP3" as you put it, was made ages ago, and just about the only thing that has even come close to putting a dent in mp3 is wma's ubiquitousness and windows not including an mp3 encoder by default (ie, you have to BUY one, because windows media player won't just use LAME -- and 99% of users wouldn't know LAME's use if you explained it to them in 78-point font.)

  • My phone (Nokia 3650) uses RealPlayer... have to test if I can stream yesterday's broadcast. That would be nice. Finally some decent free content!

    p.s. T-Mobile unlimited data plans make this all possible, btw!

    --D
  • Ogg Icecast? (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:14PM (#8771365) Homepage
    This made me wonder if they even considered going to Ogg Vorbis streaming with Icecast. Whether they considered it or not, it made me wonder how many Icecast streams are available.

    I found a list here:

    http://www.icecast.org/streamlist.php [icecast.org]

    Not as many as I had hoped to find.

    steveha
    • Re:Ogg Icecast? (Score:3, Informative)

      by numark (577503)
      The problem, of course, is that most people won't have a Vorbis-ready player already installed on their computer. Most computers do have Realplayer installed on them, often when it's shipped from the factory. As much as people like to see Ogg as the perfect codec and worthy of having everything converted over to it, the general public just wants to be able to click on a link and listen to their file. You can say "Vorbis is better" all you want, but when it comes down to the average person listening to Car T
  • by mattkime (8466) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:15PM (#8771382)
    let people choose their favorite player
  • by dspyder (563303) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:15PM (#8771383)
    Not only is it right there on the left side of their front page, they also left me with a pop-up (pop-under) offering their free player for download when I closed their site window! hahaha...

    Hey, didn't Complaint #5 deal with popups?????

    --D
  • BBC adware-free (Score:3, Informative)

    by morcheeba (260908) * on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:15PM (#8771385) Journal
    Don't forget that the BBC made a special deal with real [boingboing.net] for a "expiry-free, spyware-free and nuicance-free" version. download here [bbc.co.uk] - thanks, BBC!
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:16PM (#8771388) Journal
    If a mainline vendor like RealNetworks can produce a flagship product that is so close to spyware, consumers can expect rough times ahead.

    It's incredible that a company should have to back down from a series of agressive marketing techniques in this way: it suggests they have either seriously misunderstood their market, or that they are under serious pressure to exploit it harder, even at a high cost in credibility.

    I suspect that it will eventually become standard procedure for software to become fairly agressive in taking over the desktop, uninstalling or crippling other products, redirecting browsers, etc. The techniques currently used by the most evil spyware trojans (like CoolWebSearch) will probably become mainstream as companies look for a way, any way to keep their software visible on the users' desktops.

    Or maybe I'm just being pessimistic.
    • by lemox (126382)
      Dude, realplayer has been like that for a loooong time. They practically paved the way for all the invasive crap we see today. There's no "eventually", what you're talking about has already happened, and the backlash is finally catching up to the companies. The fact that RealNetworks finally took the hint and backed off is a good thing.
  • What I really don't understand is why people insist on using closed media servers when there are viable free solutions [icecast.org]. So Real threw them a bone by waiving the license fee for a while for some goodwill advertising - why are people impressed with getting something for free that they don't have to be paying for in the first place?

    I understand (and sometimes make) the argument that "gratis" doesn't always mean "cheap", since someone has to run the system and in this setting you'd probably have to pay them to do it. Still, the whole reason I love listening to these guys so much is that they are the alpha geeks of the automotive mechanic world. It's not like Tom and Ray are a couple of guys who tinker with cars in their back yard and have no technology background.

    Real Player doesn't come with Windows XP, so you can't use the argument that you don't want to make your users install additional software, since they'll have to anyway. The official answer from NPR [npr.org] is that

    While other media types may offer technical advantages or less restrictive licenses, the conversion and storage of audio files requires considerable time and resources.
    although I'm not quite ready to believe that compressing to Real or WMA format is less costly that compressing to Vorbis.
  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#8771436)
    Translation: Preserving our monopoly by any means necessary.

    But I suppose dirty tactics are fair game when you're competeting with Microsoft. . .

    Still, I wouldn't let any Real software touch my computer with a ten-foot pole. It's disgusting how it takes over once you give it a foot in the door. I use the Real Alternative [free-codecs.com].
  • Streaming Audio (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Outosync (214525) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8771465)
    I'm still suprised mp3 streaming audio hasn't become more popular then Real or WindowsMedia. I have no trouble finding quality open source server software to broadcast live mp3 streams and the bandwidth usage(for me at least) is very acceptable.

    It annoys me that sites like NPR and Air America Radio use Real, not to mention other news sites.
    Thank goodness for RealAlternative :)

  • by tmoertel (38456) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:22PM (#8771473) Homepage Journal
    I built a simple "VCR" for the radio [moertel.com] and set it up to record Car Talk, among my other NPR favorites. Now I can listen to Click and Clack whenever is convenient for me, without having to jump through hoops, download proprietary codes, or bother with streaming. Plus, I get a nice archive of shows that I can take with me on road trips:
    car-talk--2004-02-21--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-02-28--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-03-06--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-03-13--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-03-20--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-03-27--Sat--1000.spx
    car-talk--2004-04-03--Sat--1000.spx

    An old radio, a sound card, and a few shell scripts -- that's all it takes.

  • Bangs head on wall (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:24PM (#8771486) Homepage
    ARG! MP3! OGG! Quicktime!

    Why do they have to force us to use shitty proprietary players? I could give a crap about Car Talk, but there's some good shows on NPR that I WOULD love to listen to if I could, but I refuse to pollute my Windows box with RealPlayer.

    Won't someone please think of the end-users?
    • I refuse to pollute my Windows box with RealPlayer.


      There is something redundant about this sentiment, but I can't quite figure out what it is.

      Sorry....low blow :)
  • Obvious (Score:3, Funny)

    by CaseyB (1105) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:30PM (#8771558)
    blah blah blah blah offered to serve the audio for free online, which defrays an expense we'd otherwise have to cover.

    That's the only line that means anything in the whole article.

    Why is this news? I can walk down to the streetcorner if I want to see whores.

  • by LqqkOut (767022) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:32PM (#8771580) Journal
    Why not just listen to NPR on the radio?!

    Pros

    The worst ad's are sponsorship recognition

    You learn something new every day

    You become more liberal every day

    No spyware

    Supported by most AM/FM radios

    Better news coverage than Fox News

    Less Hollywood gossip induced brain atrophy

    None of that [BUFFERING....] [97%][BUFFERING...] crap!

    Cons

    You still have to listen to the registration notice [Fund Drive] twice a year, even after you've paid the annual support fee! :)

    Friends look at you funny when every other sentance starts with "I heard on NPR that..."

    Screw you ClearChannel, we don't need that poppy Britney, Timberlake, OMG WTF Celeb shit, or the 57 Minute Non-stop Commercial MegaMixes!! Get your spam off of my radio

    Sorry for the rant, Car Talk rulez, keep it real Click & Clack!

    • Why not just listen to NPR on the radio?!

      Because my local NPR station plays light string music instead of talk radio 90% of the time that I'm near a radio! ...You insensitive clod!
    • You still have to listen to the registration notice [Fund Drive] twice a year, even after you've paid the annual support fee! :)

      Unless you're fortunate enough to live in an area that can pick up more than one NPR station. At least here, they haven't become smart enough to run their fund drives simultaneously :).

    • by FallLine (12211) <fallline.operamail@com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:29PM (#8772188)
      While I agree with much of what you're saying about NPR, namely that it's a far better newsource than anything else on radio or TV right now, its liberal bent is my biggest complaint about it. That, and those Fund Drives. I'm a generous supporter (despite the fact that I disagree with their political biases), but I find that the repetitive talking during the Fund Drives drives me to turn my radio off. It really drives me up the wall. I grant it's probably necessary the way they do business right now, but I'd think they could find some way at least to allow paying users such as myself to avoid it. Perhaps they could offer a two-tier service using satellite radio or something: one free with fund drives and another where you pay some fee to listen...

      Hell, I think even regular old ads would be better. I find them far less disturbing for some reason.
      • by gmaestro (316742) <jason...guidry@@@gmail...com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @05:18PM (#8773274)
        its liberal bent is my biggest complaint about it

        I know that's the conventional wisdom about NPR, but I just don't hear it. Perhaps it's the case on PHC or some of the other weekend fare, but as for ATC and morning edition (I commute 2 hours every day) it all sounds fairly balanced to me. I don't agree with every opinion expressed, and that's how it should be. And besides, whenever a story is not presented in a completely equal way, some listener is ready to write in explaining the inequity, and then they read the letter on the air.

        I guess my point is, at least they try to be fair, and are ready to air criticism if they are less than fair. I imagine if they really were so liberal, Mr. Franken et al would not feel the need to start their own left-wing radio.

  • by spidergoat2 (715962) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:39PM (#8771646) Journal
    I suspect it may have been their Chief Legal Counsel, Hugh Louis Dewey of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.
  • mp3 streams (Score:4, Informative)

    by _aa_ (63092) <[j] [at] [uaau.ws]> on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:45PM (#8771700) Homepage Journal
    I know NPR is less of a public service than it is a not-for-profit business. And I know it's probably too much to ask for an Ogg Vorbis stream, but I would happily settle for a mp3 stream.

    Luckily the GENIUSES at Science Friday [sciencefriday.com] help make it possible by maintaining a rather concise list [sciencefriday.com] of NPR streams of various formats, including mp3.

    But these are all localized streams, and likely not localized to your location. Would be nice if there was a national stream available for free in an open format.

    One would think donations from large organizations like Real Media would make it possible to offer MORE choices, not less.
  • by _KiTA_ (241027) on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:49PM (#8771745) Homepage
    Let me get this straight.

    1. They start working heavily with the open source community through Helix [helixcommunity.org], including making a free Linux player that handles real (which, btw, is probably where the people who made the Real Alternative got the material to make the codecs).
    2. They remove the bloat and ads from their software as a direct result of people's complaints. Not only that, they let you turn off all their popups. Name 3 other free closed source softwares that allow you to do that.
    3. They're working with the Doom9 community [doom9.org], which is probably the biggest internet community about audio/video matters.

    And none of this is good enough? Christ, that's as pig-headed as idiots [microsoft.com] who keep chanting that Linux is just a hobbiest server OS [microsoft.com] and will never be useful on the desktop.

    For the record, I hated Real too, but since they seem to be genuinely giving it a real effort, I figured I'd give them another try. So I downloaded and installed Real 10 just now. Fiding the free download off their website was trivial -- it was in big bold blue letters on the side of their downloads page. Who would have trouble finding *that*? Yah, it's not as big as the big graphic showing their pay version, but hey, they have employees to pay. Get over it.

    Install was easy -- It did ask to take over all my media files, but I just turned them off, then went into advanced, and turned on DVD playback for Real -- Real does a much better job on DVDs than WMP, for sure. Only other annoyance during install was they asked me to register. This is not unlike other media players [winamp.com] that I use regularly, so I did. A quick click to turn off the popups from their quick-launch app, and I'm done. Not exactly the nightmare of previous Real installations.

    So yeah. I can see people complaining about Real because of what they did in the past, but jesus, they're giving it an honest effort here, and remember, any time Real wins, Microsoft LOSES. =)
  • by Danathar (267989) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:22PM (#8772115) Journal
    So I was like EVERYBODY else. I hated Realone...I hated the ads...I hated the fact that it felt like they were trying to "sneak spyware" onto my computer.

    So I tried Real 10. So far...no crashes, and if you disable the browser feature it's JUST AS FAST AS REAL 8...and for any of you that ACTUALLY have an open mind and want to try it, here is information from the Helix community forums on how to optimize Real 10.

    >
    >
    > I work for RealNetworks, and I am the first to admit RealPlayer is not my favorite media player. For video, Media Player Classic (MPC) is, and yes, I use MPC to play my RV9-EHQ aka RV10 content.
    >
    > Previous RealPlayers have been pretty impolite to put it mildly, and along with so many other computer users, I have been ticked off by its behaviour in many ways. It has been possible to make it well mannered, but it has included being forced to delete certain files to prevent that annoying Message Center. However, it has not been spyware in a long time, even though one old player did send back some usage information. That's long gone, but it's hard to be forgiven for that mistake.
    >
    > Considering how past players have created such a bad reputation, this post is probably futile, but anyway... Thanks to those few positive posts though, especially for the Linux and OS X players. It is nice to see someone taking the time to give it a another chance.
    >
    > This RealPlayer 10 is better than before, it is fast, small, and does not run +10MB services in the background, like one well known example, name withheld. However, this post is not really about performance, even though a lot could be said about improvements in this area. More importantly in this discussion, it is also better in terms of its behaviour, albeit less better than me, many of my co-workers, and all of you, had hoped for.
    >
    > Here's what you need to do when installing:
    >
    > * Choose Custom Install
    > * Uncheck all the boxes you don't like for stuff on the desktop and quicklaunch bar. There is nothing hidden by a scroll bar, at least not with my computer screen size.
    > * Check only the media types you want it to play. This is the only time you will be asked this, it will never try to take back any media types. Now, is this really so bad compared to other software, in regards to media types? It's not as polite as MPC, but I have other media players which take over media types, and there is not even an option to customize this..
    > * Start RealPlayer, you may have to create an account. Everybody hates this, and wish it would go way. Agreed, but RealNetworks has to make money somehow, and the number of users is a needed measure to document. So use fake information if you like.
    > * Then go to Tools->Preferences->Automatic Services, Click Configure Message Center, then uncheck "Check for new messages". Click OK on the "warning" that comes up. Now you will never be bothered by the Message Center. In previous versions, you could not disable the Message Center completely, without deleting certain files. Minor improvement, it's still opt-out, but at least it's possible. Check or uncheck Auto-update in its sub-menu as well.
    > * Go to Tools->Preferences->General and set On startup display to "Player only". That way, no browser, and it starts much quicker.
    >
    > So to summarize, a few clicks are needed to opt-out, you have to "sign in" the first time. Yes, somewhat annoying, but that's about it. It could have been better, but compared to many other examples, it's not that terrible. Since it has been so very bad in the past though, it clearly should have changed more to make a shining example, but since it is RealNetworks' main vehicle for generating revenue, there is a lot of nervousness about changing things too quickly.
    >
    > Download the free RealPlayer 10 Beta here, with no re-direction or sales tricks:
    >
    > http://www.real.com/freeplayer/?rppr=slashdot [real.com]
    >
    > A
  • industry whoring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mabu (178417) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:27PM (#8772169)
    This reminds me of something that happened a few years back. We were contacted by a certain very large fast food chain (who shall remain nameless) and they wanted to use some of our technology on their web site. They felt what we were doing with surveys and other systems were superior to everything else out there. The problem? They were in bed with Microsoft and Microsoft offered to provide free programming for their web site. Even so they were willing to pay us to integrate our technology into their web site because they felt it was better than anything Microsoft could offer. The problem was, because MS was willing to whore itself out to a large corporate client, we were forced to low-ball the value of our services in order to get the job to the point of losing money (and whoring ourselves out as well). In the end, we felt it just wasn't worth it.

    This kind of practice is rampant in the industry. A company with large resources gives away inferior products and services in order to maintain business. A classic example of how the larger companies intentionally lose money to maintain the status quo, stifle innovation, and keep smaller operations from getting good contracts.

    Obviously in the case of Real verses WMP, it's two big companies, but you'd think MS might also jump into the whorehouse against Real, but since WMP is the crux of a lot of suspected anti-trust activity, maybe they won't? In any case, all this stuff is really bad for consumers and the industry.

    I don't know what version of Realplayer I have, but if I dare click on a link, when the program launches, it still installs that insideous tkbell.exe "worm" in my startup. I'm sick of Real.
  • Good News Garage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vortigern00 (443602) on Monday April 05, 2004 @04:00PM (#8772550) Journal
    The Car Talk guys own a garage in Cambridge, MA, and that is where I had my car serviced when I was a grad student at (I shall not speak the name of the evil institution).

    The guys in the shop were not what you usually expect a mechanic to be. What I saw in those guys was the same thing I see in my propeller-headed software engineer colleagues. They were car hackers.

    The most interesting visual in my memory was the heavy bearded guy welding a muffler with safety glasses on his face (i.e. no face mask) and a cigar hanging out of his mouth, talking about the physics of engine compression and how it is related to the exhaust system.
  • by g_adams27 (581237) on Monday April 05, 2004 @04:28PM (#8772817)

    Here's a step-by-step guide [doom9.org] on how to install RealPlayer 10 with all the nagging features turned off. And the guy who wrote it should know - he's a senior engineer for RealNetworks.
  • by KlomDark (6370) on Monday April 05, 2004 @05:16PM (#8773258) Homepage Journal
    My friend got a voice-activated car radio.

    You say "Rock", you get the rock station.

    You say "Country", you get the redneck station.

    You say "Classical", you get Beethoven and friends.

    The other day, he was driving around and two kids ran right out in front of his car.

    He screamed "Fucking Kids!"

    The radio started playing Michael Jackson...
  • by pixel_bc (265009) on Monday April 05, 2004 @05:41PM (#8773497)
    I don't know about problems with RealPl

    [Buffering... 3%]
  • by slasher999 (513533) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:08PM (#8775847)
    I complained to Click and Clack via their web-thingie when the original story posted and explained that running Windows Media Player just wasn't an option for us Linux users. I even got a nice reply from - I believe - their producer explaining that they "were working on it". Now if Real would just update their Linux player. C'mon guys - we're stuck at RP8 for how many years now?

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