Streaming media can be a powerful tool for your users, but as a NetWare administrator, your options for streaming from a NetWare server are limited. The NetWare MultiMedia Server comes only with NetWare 5.1. So what do you do if you’re not running NetWare 5.1 and want to stream audio files—switch to another OS?
Fortunately, you don’t have to do either. You can deploy NoizCast, a freeware utility that streams audio files from NetWare. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to obtain and use NoizCast.
How NoizCast works
NoizCast is a NetWare port of WinAmp’s SHOUTcast server. Like SHOUTcast, NoizCast allows you to configure your server to stream MP3 audio files to end users. SHOUTcast only supports Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X, and Solaris, but NoizCast runs as an NLM directly on your NetWare server.
NoizCast has its own limitations. First, you can only stream MP3 files. The NetWare MultiMedia Server can stream WAV, MP3, or RM files, which means that the NetWare MultiMedia Server can stream video and audio. NoizCast can’t stream video files.
Also, users have no control over what they can receive from NoizCast. You set up NoizCast on your server to broadcast audio and, like a radio station, your users hear whatever you broadcast. They have no control over starting, stopping, speeding up, or repeating the broadcast. They also cannot start at the beginning. As with a regular radio broadcast, they pick up the broadcast at the exact point it's in transmission.
By itself, NoizCast can’t do anything. It merely acts as a relay point for SHOUTcast streams that come from a WinAMP player that’s running the SHOUTCast Source For WinAMP Plug-in. You’ll run WinAMP and the plug-in on a broadcasting workstation that contains a play list with MP3 files. Alternatively, you can connect a microphone to the broadcast workstation and broadcast live voice transmissions.
NoizCast provides a good platform for streaming audio files across your network, such as broadcasting general information or bulletins.
Where to download NoizCast and WinAMP
The Utah Laboratory For Advanced Network Research created NoizCast. You can download NoizCast from the NoizCast Web site. On the site, click the Downloads link on the page and then click the NoizCast Server NLM link. You’ll then download the NOIZCAST200.ZIP file to a temporary directory on your administration workstation. The file is very small, only 21 KB, so it will download fairly quickly.
There’s only one file inside the .zip file, NOIZCAST.NLM. Extract this file to your server’s SYS:\System folder. Although larger than the .zip file, this NLM is also extremely small, just over 47 KB in size, so you don’t have to worry about it taking too much space on your NetWare server.
To successfully stream MP3 files, you’ll also need a copy of WinAMP and the SHOUTCast Source For WinAMP Plug-in. You can download a copy of WinAMP from the WinAMP Download Web site. Don’t worry about downloading the full version. Because only you are going to use WinAMP to stream audio to the NoizCast server, you can safely download the "Lite" version. At 532 KB, it will download quickly and won’t take up much space on your server.
You must also download the SHOUTCast Source Plug-In For WinAMP from the SHOUTCast Download Web site. It’s only 225 KB, so it will also download quickly. Put the file in a temporary directory on your administration workstation.
After you extract the NoizCast NLM, you can start using NoizCast, but first make sure your NetWare server is configured to run it properly. For it to work properly, you must have TCP/IP installed and configured on your NetWare server. Also, if you’re using any type of firewall on your network and want to stream media outside of your internal network, you need to open ports 8000 and 8001 on the firewall. NoizCast will work with both NetWare 5.x and NetWare 6.
When you’ve ensured your network can handle streams coming from NoizCast, you can start it on your NetWare server. Doing so is very easy. Just go to the server’s console prompt, type load noizcast, and press [Enter]. The NoizCast status screen will appear on your NetWare server. To unload NoizCast, type unload noizcast at the server console prompt and press [Enter].
The NoizCast NLM has some additional parameters you can load including:
- -c—This allows you to specify the TCP/IP port for client connections to NoizCast. The default value is 8000.
- -s—This allows you to specify the TCP/IP port for source connections to NoizCast. The default value is 8001.
- -n—This sets the maximum number of users that can access NoizCast. The default value is 32.
- -p—This sets the password required to relay information from the NoizCast server. The default value is netware.
- -l—This sets the default file name for the NoizCast log file. The default file is NOIZCAST.LOG in the SYS:\System\NoizCast\8000 directory on your server.
You can keep the default values if you want, but it may be a good idea to change the default password for NoizCast. The default NoizCast password, netware, is different than the default password for SHOUTcast servers. But even so, if someone figures out you’re running NoizCast and you haven’t changed the default password, they can use the default NoizCast password to run their own pirate radio station on your otherwise legal server.
After you load NoizCast, your NetWare server will wait to receive streams from your broadcast workstation that have been configured with WinAMP and the SHOUTcast plug-in. When users want to listen to the broadcast, they’ll use WinAMP on their own workstations to connect to the NoizCast server.
NoizCast acts as the server your users will connect to and receive streams from, but you must also configure WinAMP on a broadcast workstation to broadcast the initial streams. This workstation doesn’t have to be very fancy. Any workstation running Windows 95 or later with a network card and sound card will do. Just make sure you’ve configured TCP/IP on the workstation.
You can install WinAMP on the workstation by running the file you downloaded from WinAMP’s Web site. WinAMP’s installation is very easy. Just follow the on-screen prompts.
After you install WinAMP, you must install the SHOUTCast Source For WinAMP Plug-In by running the file you downloaded from SHOUTcast’s Web site. The installation program for the plug-in looks identical to WinAMP’s installation. Click Next through all of the screens, and accept the defaults unless you have a need to change the value.
Next, start WinAMP. When the WinAMP player loads, you must bring up the plug-in window by pressing [Ctrl][P] to display the WinAMP Preferences window. In the left pane of this window, select Plug-Ins | DSP/Effect. When DSP/Effect Plug-In appears in the right pane, select NullSoft SHOUTcast Source DSP as shown in Figure A.
|To use NoizCast, you must configure the SHOUTcast plug-in in WinAMP.|
After you select the plug-in, click Configure. You’ll then see the SHOUTcast Source window appear. This window will always appear when you’re streaming MP3s to the NoizCast server. The Main tab shows statistics about the streams as they’re being broadcast to the NoizCast server. The Status/Info box lists the status of all outputs as Not Connected, but this will change as the player sends information to the NoizCast server. Likewise, the Input Meter will display sound levels when the player sends streams, but it starts off blank.
Make sure the plug-in is set to properly to accept input from WinAMP by clicking the Input tab. Verify that WinAMP appears in the Input Device drop-down list. If you want to stream live audio from the broadcasting workstation using a microphone, select Soundcard Input from the Input Device drop-down list.
You can control the quality of output and the amount of bandwidth the SHOUTcast plug-in will consume by clicking the Encoder tab. Make sure MP3 Encoder appears in the Encoder Type drop-down list. The Encoder Settings drop-down list allows you to set the maximum playback the SHOUTcast plug-in will play back in the audio streams. The Encoder Settings will also allow you to adjust the amount of bandwidth WinAMP will consume while playing back the streams.
You’ll adjust the streams based on the speed of your user’s connection. Although Stereo/Mono settings will have some effect on bandwidth, the biggest factor in bandwidth consumption is the compression rate of the encoder. NullSoft, the maker of WinAMP, recommends the following Encoder Settings at these speeds:
- 16 Kbps—28.8 modem dial-up
- 24 Kbps—33.6 modem dial-up
- 32 Kbps—56K modem dial-up
- 56 Kbps—64K ISDN
- 96 Kbps—128K ISDN
- 128 Kbps—Cable modem or DSL
- 256 Kbps—T1, T3, or LAN connection
The streams will sound better at higher speeds. At 16 Kbps, the sound quality will approximate that of AM radio. 56 Kbps will sound more like an FM radio and 128 Kbps or better will approach CD quality sound levels. However, be aware that no matter what you set the Encoder Settings to on this page, the sound will be of no better quality than the sound quality of the original MP3.
To make the connection to the NoizCast server, click the Output tab. You’ll see the screen shown in Figure B. On this screen, you’ll specify the NoizCast server you want to connect to and other information about your server.
|You must specify the NoizCast server you'll be using.|
Connect to your NoizCast server by clicking the Connect button. Select the Connect At Startup check box to allow WinAMP to automatically connect to the NoizCast server every time you start WinAMP.
Click the Connection button to enter information about your NoizCast server. Enter the TCP/IP address or DNS name of your NoizCast server in the Address field. In the Port field, enter the NoizCast port you set on your NetWare server. The default value is 8000, and you’ll only have to change it here if you specified a different port on the NetWare server using the –c switch.
You should enter the password for your NoizCast server in the Password field. This is the password you specified when you loaded the NoizCast NLM using the –p switch. If you didn’t specify a password, enter the default password of netware in the Password field. Don’t change the Encoder value in the Encoder drop-down list.
If for some reason your broadcast workstation can’t connect to your NoizCast server or if it loses its connection, you can configure the workstation to reconnect automatically by selecting the Automatic Reconnection check box. By default, WinAMP will attempt to reconnect every 30 seconds, but you can change it by changing the value of the Reconnection Timeout field.
If you click the Yellowpages button (as shown in Figure C), you can change how your server displays information.
|You can enter description information for your NoizCast server.|
The most important setting on this page is the Make This Server Public check box. Even though this box is labeled Recommended, you should disable it. If you leave this check box selected, your NoizCast server will connect to SHOUTcast’s Showcase Web Site and sign your server up on its Yellowpages list. That means that anyone on the Internet will be able to find the address of your NoizCast server and listen in on your streams. If you deselect this check box, your server shouldn’t be enrolled in the list.
During testing, I noticed that NoizCast attempted to contact both yp.noizcast.com and yp.shoutcast.com no matter what I set the SHOUTcast plug-in to. However, I never found my test server in SHOUTcast’s Yellowpages list and the address for Noizcast.com only displays an informational page, not a directory. To be on the safe side, you may want to configure your network’s router to block packets to and from both yp.noizcast.com and yp.shoutcast.com. This will ensure your server doesn’t appear on these lists.
You can enter a description of your stream in the Description field. When your users connect to your NoizCast server using WinAMP, the description you enter here will appear on their WinAMP player. None of the other settings on the Yellowpages button are transmitted by NoizCast, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Come on, feel the Noiz
After you configure the WinAMP SHOUTcast plug-in and load NoizCast on your NetWare server, you’re ready to go. Load an MP3 or playlist on the broadcast workstation and click Play. Then, start WinAMP on a remote workstation. Bring up the Playlist Editor by pressing [Alt][E]. Click the Add button and select Add URL. When the Open Location window appears, enter http://serveraddress:8000 (where serveraddress is the DNS name or TCP/IP address of your NoizCast server) and click Open. Your NoizCast stream will then start playing on the remote workstation.