[conspire] RealAudio for Linux

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Apr 4 14:44:14 PST 2003

Quoting Sean Wolfe-Justice (mailjones at mouseandfrog.org):

> Hmmm. I'd heard similar. Are there any alternatives to RA for streaming 
> audio? It's one of my favorite things on the Internet. But everybody seems 
> to do just realaudio.

When you need RealPlayer, you need RealPlayer.  

This is partly through the good offices of Real Networks's legal
department, which has done its level best to sue into oblivion anyone
who's done the relatively easy task of reverse-engineering their
protocols (which are a slight modification of open-documented ones) for
compatibility with other software.  It's still possible to find samizdat
versions of third-party software that can read or convert RealAudio /
RealVideo, but it's not easy to find, on account of the legal threats.
(Even modifications to system sound drivers to allow capture of sound
output to disk are considered legally risky, and available only very

The topic of audio-video on *ix has been massively muddled not just by
legal follies, but also by people talking about it without any
understanding of what the pieces are and what they do.  People talk
about filename extensions and client applications as if they uniquely
specified a codec, a data-storage format, a streaming protocol, or all
of the above.  More often, they have no clue that such concepts exist,
and just say "It's QuickTime" or "It's a RealVideo stream".  This is
sort of like saying "What do you _mean_, what type of road was it?  It
was a Chevy road!"

Anyhow, your question "Are there any alternatives to RA for streaming
audio?" can't be answered as posed, because it's unclear which question
you're asking about solving.

You could be saying:  "Suppose I wanted to serve up streaming audio. 
What software is available that will do this on Linux, and what does it
do?"  You can use Icecast, http://www.icecast.org/ .  You can use Darwin
Streaming Server to server streaming MP3s over http or RTP/RTSP,
http://developer.apple.com/darwin/projects/streaming/.  You can use Real
Networks's server software for quite a variety of things (but it's
expensive).  You can use MPEG4IP to stream MP3,
http://mpeg4ip.sourceforge.net/ .  You can use FFmpeg,
http://sourceforge.net/projects/ffmpeg or FFQuickTime,
http://sourceforge.net/projects/ffquicktime/.  There are probably lots
of others; I'm not an expert at this.

Or you could be saying:  What do I install on Linux as client software
to be able to listed to common audio streams over common streaming
protocols compressed using common codecs.  You have part of the answer
in the form of RealPlayer.  There are lots of others, starting with
XMMS, the proprietary mpg123 utility (with various graphical front-ends
to it such as Apollo), open-source imitators such as mpg321, etc.

If your question is "What do I need on Linux to listen to public audio
streaming source Foo?", then it obviously depends on what (and how) Foo
is streaming.

Most of the "appeal" of both Real Networks's streaming framework and
Microsoft's imitation is that both companies aggressively sue people
creating interoperable software.  (A Microsoft legal threat shut down
one open-source Linux project that had developed working support for
Microsoft video streaming, but a couple of others persist.)  Why?
Because then they can sell their software solutions to the MPAA and RIAA
as a "safe" way to offer copyright-covered creations without the risk that
the user might capture it to disk and use it in ways not authorised by
the copyright holders.  Have you noticed that "free" movie trailers and 
songs tend to be offered for streaming for a limited time and then no
longer available?  "You want to replay that trailer you looked at last
year?  Too bad.  You had it on your hard drive only for buffering
purposes as it streamed in, and although theoretically you might have
been able to save it from the cache for viewing later, we'll never tell
you how."

That having been said, Linux solutions -- and even some involving part
or all open-source code -- have been created for almost all such works.
But that's against determined opposition from the industry.

Cheers,     "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a 
Rick Moen   little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider
rick at linuxmafia.com  price only are this man's lawful prey." - J. Ruskin (attr.)

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