Posted Saturday, May 03, 2003

Tips for Listening to Shared Music Over the Internet

Follow-up on the post below: I've been experimenting with listening to iTunes-shared music over the Internet, and I've found a few techniques that can help improve playback reliability. (For background on the following streaming jargon, see pages 40 and 41 of "The Macintosh iLife.")

Increase the buffer size. A larger streaming buffer yields more-reliable playback, particularly with music encoded at high bitrates and with slower connections. Choose Preferences from the iTunes menu, click Advanced, and choose Large from the Streaming Buffer Size pop-up menu.

Listen within your means. Don't expect uninterrupted playback when listening to a song encoded at a higher bit rate than your Internet connection provides. For example, if you have a 200kbps DSL connection, songs encoded at 256kbps probably won't play back smoothly. (The large streaming buffer trick can help, though.)

Display the Bit Rate column. iTunes can display the bit rate for a song: just point to a column heading in the iTunes window, press the Control key, and choose Bit Rate from the shortcut menu that appears. To sort the music library by bit rate, click the Bit Rate column heading. Now you can quickly spot the tunes that are most likely to play, given the speed of your Internet connection.

Remember, Your Mileage May Vary. Other factors can result in interrupted playback: the connection speed of the user who's doing the sharing, Internet congestion, and more. But following the tips above will help improve reliability.