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Local television station streams broadcasts

By James Hanback Jr.

JULY 20, 1998:  For months I've been wondering which local broadcasting company would be first to start streaming audio and video on the World Wide Web. If television and radio stations want to get a piece of the future of entertainment, shopping, and daily life, it seems like such a natural transition for them to put their content--or at least some portion of it--on the Internet.

"Streaming" audio and video on the Internet allows Web site visitors to view or hear content as it's happening, as it's being broadcast, instead of downloading a recorded movie file such as QuickTime or AVI movies. Because the feed is streamed, users aren't forced to wait for long downloads in order to get to the action.

Imagine sitting down to watch the evening news, not in your favorite recliner, but in front of your computer screen, watching and listening while you perform other mundane daily tasks, like balancing your checkbook and managing your to-do lists. Some might even choose to play a video game while the news broadcast plays in the background.

On July 6, local television station WTVF-Channel 5 turned that vision into reality for Middle Tennessee via its site on the World Wide Web, http://www.newschannel5.com.

"No matter where you are in the world, you can watch the NewsChannel 5 Network on the World Wide Web," WTVF officials said in a statement about the new online feature. "Using streaming video technology, viewers can now watch current local programming live--or anytime you want."

Station officials also said that archived programs such as Talk of the Town, local newscasts, and all of the call-in programming on cable station NewsChannel 5+ will be available on archive for a week after they've been broadcast live.

"Our viewers tell us they want news on their schedule, not ours," said Channel 5 online manager Melissa West Thompson. "Now, no matter where you are, you can watch NewsChannel 5 and NewsChannel 5+ 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Streaming technology is not new to the Web, but it is new to broadcasting in this area. Currently, the quality of video on the Internet roughly compares to the quality of broadcasts in the early days of television. Images are fuzzy, and, because of Internet traffic, they sometimes stall.

While viewing Ron Howes' weather forecast on Tuesday night, I clearly heard every word he said, but the weather map and visual effects were hard to see.

Still, it's nice to have the service there when you need it. And as much as users think they might not use it, they will. The Internet is becoming the most convenient and fastest way to disseminate information.

NewsChannel 5 uses RealNetworks streaming technology and requires the user to install RealPlayer 5.0 for Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer in order to view the broadcasts. The player can be downloaded at http://www.real.com.

RealPlayer developer RealNetworks says that those fuzzy images will soon be a thing of the past. The pioneer in Web streaming reported on its own Web site recently that it is working on technology that will dramatically sharpen video and audio formats online. RealNetworks also said it is looking at ways to deliver those formats with less interruption from heavy Internet traffic.

If Channel 5 is successful in its online venture, it probably won't be long until WSMV-Channel 4 and WKRN-Channel 2 follow suit. Each of the three stations already has its weather radar online and updated every few minutes.

It wouldn't bother me if Internet technology replaced television completely, especially if it stays localized. NewsChannel 5 only broadcasts its local programming. Good thing. The last thing I want to see on the Internet is the same prime-time garbage I can see on network television.


Time to upgrade already?

Apple Computer Inc. expects the next version of Mac OS (Version 8.5) to be in stores in September. This release follows the release of 8.0 a year ago and 8.1 earlier this year.

According to Apple, the new release promises faster file-saving over networks and better file-finding functions.

On the heels of that announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently told MacWorld visitors that software developers are rapidly returning to the Macintosh platform. The Version 8 generation of MacOS, plus the development of the iMac, is largely responsible for the return, he said.

Wanted: CyberSheriff

Unfortunately for the millions of people who reap knowledge and entertainment from the Internet, the issue of security has raised its head in a way that's uglier than ever before.

Recent revelations about security holes in major operating systems and Internet applications have prompted a flood of reports about potential hacking threats to corporate network servers. No system is safe.

According to a recent report at cnn.com, the majority of corporate systems managers are largely unaware of hacks on their networks, unless something obvious like a virus appears.

What to do? Software is available that can detect behavioral anomalies in your network, or intruders from other networks, but nothing is perfected.

In addition to hackers, the Internet's spam problem seems to be escalating. Officials with local Internet companies report that many of these violations result from companies scanning Web sites for e-mail addresses or gathering them from newsgroups.

If you're an America Online customer, your e-mail address has probably already been sold to some Web porn peddlers. Keep your eyes and ears peeled. More from the spam front will follow soon. In the meantime, sites such as http://maps.vix.com. or http://www.cauce.org. can keep you up-to-date on the latest spam schemes.

James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Nashville Scene. E-mail him at james@nashscene.com.

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