It’s not exactly a state secret that I prefer to use applications and utilities that are free. The Mac360 Value Vixen™ has a reputation to protect.
One function of our Macs that we may take for granted is the free streaming radio stations in iTunes. Fire up iTunes, listen to dozens of radio stations all day, no charge.
Expand that freebie with FStream for your Mac and iPhone. It’s not that there’s a shortage of utilities which stream music to a Mac or PC. AOL Radio is pretty nifty, somewhat limited in channels, but oh so free.
Even the iPhone gets in the act with a few utilities that stream radio right to your iPhone. Of course, when your phone rings, music disappears, and you can’t use any other utility while the music is playing on your phone.
Mac users have it even better with FStream, an elegant, simple, attractive, and highly free utility which streams radio stations to your Mac (iPhone version available, too).
Remarkably, there are thousands of radio stations in the US and abroad which stream music, news, talk shows, entertainment across the internet; sometimes with commercials, sometimes not, but it’s still radio.
Internet radio streams audio in a number of different formats, including AAC, MP3, WMA, and a few others. FStream decodes them and plays them on your Mac.
Starting up you’ll get a simple splash screen which asks you for a donation, so FStream is free in the sense that it doesn’t cost you anything, but donations are acceptable to the developer.
Once open, FStream doesn’t do much and doesn’t look like much. It’s what it does behind the scenes that’s important. Click Stream Manager to start.
You’re presented with three tabs, Favorites (which you don’t have yet), Preset (a list of stations from ShoutCast and SourceMac), and iTunes. Click on Preset to start.
Click on SourceMac and select a category. In this case I chose Rock because I’m a rocker at heart. Long live Joan Jett and Heart. The SourceMac selection is heavily flavored with European stations, but a good place to start.
FStream will list Category, Station, the encoded Bit Rate, and the File Format. MP3 seems to be the most popular and music can be played on Mac or PC.
Double click on a station and you get a rather small, floating box with station and status information, including song and artists, a pause button, and an audio volume slider.
If you think iTunes has plenty of internet radio stations, click on the ShoutCast section. It ain’t pretty, but there are hundreds and hundreds of stations available from many countries.
What do you get? Varying levels of quality, but a huge variety—from music, talk, news, information, entertainment, from Vietnamese to underground, from Bambi and Estrada Radio to Disney Tunes Radio.
If you’re lonely and need a little background music beyond the normal iTunes pop styles, FStream opens a whole world of internet radio to your Mac.
Select a station you like and click the Add button to add the station to your Favorites tab.
What’s missing? A few things. A set of preset buttons similar to the buttons on a radio would be a handy feature. Some kind of graphic that made FStream look like a radio would be a good touch.
However, despite the lack of visual refinement, FStream just works. Hundreds of stations are available from all over the world, quality is decent, especially with MP3 and AAC streams.
Somewhat hidden among the menu items is the ability to record the streaming audio and save it to your Mac. Select Start Recording from the Commands menu, and the floating window palette control turns red.
Recorded music can be saved on your Mac, and depending on the format, easily dropped into iTunes for play on your Mac, Windows PC, or iPod or iPhone.
FStream is a remarkably simple utility which streams varying quality of music, news, entertainment, and information from many internet radio stations. It’s hard to beat the price.