Microsoft

Stream audio files from your Windows server using SHOUTcast

If you'd like to deploy streaming audio but are hesitant to get involved with Windows Media Services, SHOUTcast has the answer. John Sheesley shows you how to stream audio with SHOUTcast.


Windows 2000 includes Windows Media Services (WMS) to allow you to stream multimedia files from your server. If you’re still running Windows NT, Microsoft provides a version of Windows Media Services especially for NT that you can also use. But what do you do if you only want to stream audio files in your organization and don’t need WMS’s full power?

If you just want to stream audio files for such things as meetings, information, or entertainment purposes, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of deploying WMS, you can use Nullsoft’s SHOUTcast server. You can run SHOUTcast on your Windows 2000 or Windows NT servers to quickly provide audio-only broadcasts to your users. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how to obtain and set up SHOUTcast.

What's SHOUTcast?
SHOUTcast allows you to configure your server to stream audio files to end users. SHOUTcast supports Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X, and Solaris. It will run on either Windows NT or Windows 2000.

By itself, SHOUTcast 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 broadcast workstation that contains a playlist with your audio files. If your server includes a sound card, you can run WinAMP on the server and eliminate the broadcast workstation entirely.

SHOUTcast takes up fewer resources on your Windows server than does Windows Media Services. When running, WMS consumes about 16 MB of your server’s RAM. By itself, SHOUTcast only consumes a little over 2 MB. If you’re in a situation where your server is maxed out on memory, you’ll find SHOUTcast runs better than WMS.

Although SHOUTcast allows you to stream audio files from your Windows server, it’s not without limitations. First, you can only stream files that WinAMP supports. Windows Media Server can stream video as well as audio. SHOUTcast can’t stream video files. Some of the file types you can stream using WinAMP and SHOUTcast include:
  • WAV files
  • MP3 files
  • MID files
  • WMA files

You’re not limited to broadcasting data files over SHOUTcast. If the workstation from which you’re running the WinAMP portion of the broadcast contains a sound card with a microphone jack, you can attach a microphone to the workstation and broadcast live voice.

Users have no control over what they can receive from SHOUTcast. You set up SHOUTcast 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 can’t start at the beginning. As with a regular radio broadcast, they pick up the broadcast at the exact point it is in transmission.

Even though SHOUTcast can’t do everything, it still makes a very good platform for streaming audio files across your network. Constant network streams like those generated by SHOUTcast can be good for broadcasting general information or bulletins.

Author's note
To use SHOUTcast, you must have a broadcast workstation or a server with a sound card supported by and running WinAMP. WinAMP must be configured to include the SHOUTcast Source For WinAMP plug-in, which is beyond the scope of this Daily Feature. For more information about how to set up and configure the SHOUTcast Source For WinAMP plug-in, see the Daily Drill Down “Add streaming media capability to your NetWare 5.1 server.”

Obtaining SHOUTcast
SHOUTcast is distributed by Nullsoft, the creators of WinAMP. You can obtain SHOUTcast by going to  Nullsoft’s SHOUTcast Web site.  Click the Download link, read and agree to the license agreement, and then download the file. As of the time of this Daily Feature, the current version of SHOUTcast is 1.8.9, which you download as shoutcast-1-8-9-windows.exe.

Shoutcast-1-8-9-windows.exe is only 255 KB, so it will download very quickly. Save it to a temporary directory on your server. You’ll run this file to install SHOUTcast on your server.

There’s really no preparation you need to make on your server. If your server is powerful enough to run Windows NT or Windows 2000, it will easily run the SHOUTcast server. The SHOUTcast server takes a little bit over 2 MB of RAM to run, but Nullsoft recommends you have an additional 14 KB of RAM on your server for every user who is going to listen to a stream. So, if you have 100 users who will be listening, you’ll need an additional 1.4 MB of RAM.

If you don't already have it, you must have TCP/IP configured on your server. The speed of your connection will vary depending on the number of users who will be accessing the streams and the quality of the files you’ll be distributing. Nullsoft recommends the following bandwidth for these encoded rates:
  • 28.8 modem dial-up—16 Kbps
  • 33.6 modem dial-up—24 Kbps
  • 56K modem dial-up—32 Kbps
  • 64K ISDN—56 Kbps
  • 128K ISDN—96 Kbps
  • Cable modem or DSL—128 Kbps
  • T1, T3, or LAN connections—256 Kbps

You can determine the amount of bandwidth that SHOUTcast will consume by multiplying the number of users by the encoded rate. So, if you have 100 users who are trying to simultaneously access a stream at 64 Kbps, you’ll need 6.4 Mbps of bandwidth.

If you want to run WinAMP on your server rather than from a broadcast workstation, make sure your server has a sound card with the appropriate NT or Windows 2000 drivers already installed. You don’t need to have speakers attached to the server because WinAMP’s output will be going to SHOUTcast, but you can temporarily attach speakers if you want to ensure that WinAMP is working on your server.

Installing SHOUTcast
SHOUTcast installs like any modern Windows application. Open an Explorer window on your server and navigate to the temporary directory where you downloaded shoutcast-1-8-9-windows.exe. Double-click the file to start SHOUTcast’s Setup routine.

The first thing you’ll see is SHOUTcast’s license agreement. Read through the agreement to make sure you can agree to its terms. Click Agree to continue. You’ll then see the Installation Options screen. On this screen, you can choose whether to install the GUI or Console version of SHOUTcast. The default choice is the GUI version, which doesn’t consume much additional space and is somewhat easier to use. To choose the Console version, select Console from the Select The Type Of Install drop-down box. Click Next to continue.

You’ll then see the Installation Directory screen. Here you’ll choose the destination directory for SHOUTcast. By default SHOUTcast installs into the C:\Program Files\SHOUTcast directory. The full installation takes less than 300 KB, so unless you’re very short of hard drive space on your C: drive, you can accept the default. If you have to select an alternate location, you can do so by either specifying the directory in the Select The Directory field or by clicking Browse and navigating to it. Click Install to start the installation.

This will quickly install the files to your server. Blink and you’ll miss it. The SHOUTcast monitor will then appear on your screen. This is where you’ll configure SHOUTcast and also see how many users are currently using SHOUTcast. If you close the monitor, you’ll see the SHOUTcast server icon in your server’s System Tray.

Listening to a broadcast
After you configure the WinAMP SHOUTcast plug-in and load SHOUTcast on your Windows server, you’re ready to go. Load an MP3 or playlist on the broadcast workstation and click Play. If you’re running WinAMP with the SHOUTcast plug-in on the same server, you’re running the SHOUTcast server, you can enter localhost in the URL field of the plug-in.

Next, 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 SHOUTcast server and click Open. Your SHOUTcast stream will then start playing on the remote workstation.

Administering SHOUTcast
You administer SHOUTcast using the Nullsoft SHOUTcast Server Monitor. To start the monitor, click Start | Programs | SHOUTcast DNAS (GUI). You’ll then see the Monitor appear on your screen as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
The SHOUTcast Server Monitor allows you to view and tweak SHOUTcast.


This monitor will give you a quick way to see the number of users that are using SHOUTcast. If you scroll through the window, you can view such things as the IP addresses of users, the maximum number of users, the ports SHOUTcast uses, and so forth. The menu bars on the Monitor are as follows:
  • Kill Server—To shutdown SHOUTcast, click Kill Server. You’ll then need to quit and restart the Monitor to restart SHOUTcast.
  • Hide Monitor—This closes the monitor window. You can reopen it by clicking the SHOUTcast icon in the System Tray.
  • Edit Log—Here you can view and edit SHOUTcast’s log files.
  • Edit Config—Using this choice, you can edit SHOUTcast’s configuration file.

SHOUTcast’s configuration file isn’t very user friendly. Think of it as an old-fashioned DOS CONFIG.SYS file. If you click Edit Config, Notepad will launch with SHOUTcast’s SC_SERV file. This file is well commented to help you figure out how to tweak SHOUTcast’s settings. You can control such things as the maximum number of users who can access SHOUTcast, port settings, log settings, passwords, and remote administration settings. Whenever you make a change to SHOUTcast’s configuration, you must shut down and restart the server to make the change take effect.

SHOUT it out
Streaming audio can be a useful tool for broadcasting news, information, policies, procedures, and meetings. To deploy it, you don’t necessarily have to go to the trouble of learning and configuring Windows Media Services. If you’ve used WinAMP to play files for personal use before, you can quickly use that knowledge in conjunction with SHOUTcast to set up streaming media on your Windows server.

 

 

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