Sunday, February 06, 2005

Northern Alliance Radio Review

Ever since the Minnesota-based NARN commenced webcasting their weekly radio show last year, I have been trying to tune in whenever possible. The show is a nice way to spend three hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and it is a refreshing change from a lot of blogs (like this one!) since there are voices to match the writings and occasionally the faces. It is difficult to read, say, Shot In the Dark without hearing Mitch Berg reciting his compositions.

In fact, it is Mitch Berg who keeps things running smoothly in the studio. Mitch's broadcasting experience is evident as he provides introductions at the beginning of almost every segment, and picks up the conversation when the others finish their thoughts. One can not help but wonder, though, if Mitch's familiarity with broadcast studios is why his voice was amplified above all others until very recently. It would not have been a surprise to hear "THIS IS THE VOICE OF GOD" whenever Mitch spoke to the microphone. Captain Ed, King and the Power Line guys needed a slight boost in volume to be heard after Mitch, and the Fraters were so quiet that they might as well have been Spitbull. (And Spitbull never does radio.) I needed to turn the volume wayyyyy up in order to hear Saint Paul speak. As soon as he would finish, Mitch would resume talking. Then I would leap to my feet in shock, followed by a three-second struggle to decrease the volume so that my ears would stop ringing.

Thankfully, everything seems to have been equalized so that I don't have to spend three hours playing with the volume control. The callers still need an occasional boost, but no longer at the expense of my hearing or my sanity, thank you very much. But there have been other problems along the way.

For a while, I was having trouble getting the webcast to work on my computer. I tried several browsers, starting with Internet Explorer (which I have since given up on for most uses due to reported security issues); Netscape, which was an improvement as it has better tools for blocking and allowing pop-ups; and most recently Mozilla Firefox. Who won? Good old Internet Explorer, owing to the Mozilla-unfriendly Abacast plugin that is required for use with Mainstream Network webcasts. Score one for the big guys.

Everything is perfect now, right? No, I am sad to say. Everyone's volume is fine, and the browser problem has been resolved. The only remaining problem can be summed up in one word: BUFFERING. Yesterday's webcast kept cutting out at the worst times. This is either a problem with my computer, which I now share with three children and a wife, all of whom like to lay graphics-intensive games that eat memory like Tribbles eat grain; or with the sheer number of machines trying to access the live webcast at the same time. If the latter, this is good news; I would love to see what kind of statistics the NARN has for its internet feed.

This all sounds quite terrible, doesn't it? Not to worry, though. Those problems were all technical. The real reason for the show, the Bloggers, keep me coming back for more in spite of the weekly ordeal. If you haven't heard it yet, please give it a listen. This is the fusion of new and old media, taking shape before our very ears.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great review! Thanks!

(Sorry about the streaming. We're trying...)

Mitch Berg