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College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville

Friday, June 11, 2004

By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor of Bonesville Magazine &

Electronic traffic jam clogs Road to Omaha


Didn't buffering used to be a tablet you took for a headache? Back in the days before my Underwood typewriter passed into technological oblivion, a couple of buffering pills would knock out all sorts of pains.

Nowadays, I'm dealing with a whole new kind of buffering — the kind that creates headaches instead of curing them.'s partnership with WGHB-AM 1250 to stream the station's live audio feed has reached a peak and run into a buffering bottleneck at the same time, figuratively speaking.

After attracting a steadily growing clientele of listeners in the 10 months since our companies' Internet radio pact was first implemented, an unprecedented spike in demand for the online play-by-play call of East Carolina's skirmishes in the NCAA baseball playoffs is taxing servers and bandwidth from the Down East flatlands to the Rocky Mountains.

As the Pirates sailed through last week's sold-out NCAA Kinston Regional, fans who couldn't snag a ticket and who were outside Pirate Radio 1250's broadcast radius logged on by the thousands to stay abreast of the action.

The result, notes Troy Dreyfus, the Greenville radio station's general manager, is a happy but frustrating dilemma.

"Our objective and the objective of in putting Pirate Radio 1250's live programming on the Internet was to offer a free service to the ECU community," Dreyfus said on Thursday. "With the baseball team's success, the service has become so popular that we are getting more complaints than in the past from people who are having a hard time hearing the games."

Complaints registered with have mirrored those alluded to by Dreyfus. In most cases, the audio temporarily drops out when the content of the audio buffer of the listener's computer is expended more quickly than the stream of digital bits are able to arrive over the Internet.

A third party involved in the streaming process is Colorado-based Warp Radio, one of the nation's larger independent service bureaus for helping radio stations and websites distribute their programming over the world wide web.

Warp Radio's array of servers is tapped directly into a multimedia server in the Pirate Radio 1250 studios. The compressed audio signal, encoded for Microsoft's Windows Media Player, travels 24x7 from Greenville to Colorado, where it is routed through high-capacity circuitry to the Internet.

In many cases, according to experts — and even some learned Internet listeners themselves — the audio reception difficulties are on the user's end. Problems can arise from insufficient computer capabilities, outdated or improperly configured software, or a low-bandwidth connection with the Internet through a dial-up modem.

"Q" Hutchinson, an engineer with Warp Radio, says it is unusual for the company's servers and network circuitry to be pushed to the limit, though he acknowledges it is possible in unexpected situations.

East Carolina's march toward Omaha may have created a few of those rare instances, but the jury is still out on that verdict.

Warp Radio provides streaming services for radio stations around the country, notes Hutchinson, and is geared up accordingly. He stresses that the audio stream can be interrupted by dozens of factors, some inherent in the still-adolescent Internet itself.

Another streaming technologies specialist, Warp Radio's Bubba Chester, indicated that web surfers can often overcome network congestion and other barriers — including dial-up connections — by reconfiguring Windows Media Player's default buffer size from five seconds to 30 seconds. That measure, he explained, enables the computer to store more audio in reserve to fill the gap when the signal coming in through the user's Internet connection experiences the inevitable pauses.

Warp Radio's website offers a support page to help users tackle limitations in their computer system or Internet connection.

Dreyfus indicated he has received bushels of feedback about the Internet feed — the vast majority of it positive — from online listeners far and not so far, who happen to be outside the 5,000-watt station's range. He has heard from Pirate fans around the world, he added, including military personnel stationed overseas, who have come to regard the Pirate Radio 1250/ online audio features as their vital source for programming from the home front. also hosts, without the infrastructure services of Warp Radio, the entire year's archives of WGHB-AM's locally-produced ECU-related sports programming, an arrangement that was partially responsible for beginning the recent implementation of significant upgrades of its own servers and network pipelines.

Ultimately, Pirate Radio 1250, and Warp Radio have all agreed to continually pursue improvements in the delivery of audio content as the Pirate Nation's demand for the service grows.

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02/23/2007 01:37:40 AM

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