Under The Microscope

Welcome To Nicecast 1.8

Nicecast 1.8 is out, and there are some major changes. You can look forward to a better server, router auto-configuration, and other goodies. That may sound a bit overwhelming, but have no fear. My name is Mike, and I’ll be your tour guide into all the great new stuff. Everyone follow me, and watch your step there – it’s on to the tour of all of the new stuff that we’ve added.

Icecast 2
Nicecast leverages the fantastic icecast to handle the grunt work of streaming MP3 data to listeners. Nicecast 1.8 introduces a switch to icecast 2, which is a total rewrite of icecast and offers many significant improvements which allow us to bring new features to Nicecast.

Password Protection
Nicecast now allows you to create password-protected streams by using standard HTTP authentication.

This way you can create a private stream for yourself or your friends without worrying about somebody stumbling across your stream’s address. Once you start the server, the URLs in your Share drawer will show up with the login information embedded in them, for the maximum convenience of your listeners. For obvious reasons, a password-protected stream can’t be listed on MacStreams.com, so this checkbox gets turned off and disabled. Password-protected streams work just fine with most popular players, including iTunes.

Kick Listener
In the Listeners tab of your Server window is a Kick Listener… button, which does exactly what it says. If you have some listener that you simply don’t want listening to your stream, you can gracefully get rid of him. Unfortunately, there’s currently no support for banning, and certain clients will auto-rejoin, so you may have to be persistent.

Shoo, Robot
Certain internet search engines have the bad habit of finding links to your stream and then trying to index them for their databases. This doesn’t do anyone any good at all, as they get unusable data and you get wasted bandwidth. Nicecast will now serve a robots.txt with a blanket deny statement inside it, which will make all properly-designed search spiders ignore your stream, as they should. Unfortunately, bizarre technical limitations of OS X limit this feature’s availablity to Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger).

System Audio
Nicecast now offers the System Audio input source as seen in Audio Hijack Pro. Using this source, you can capture and broadcast all sound generated by every program running on your computer without doing any extra setup. You’ll find this in the Source drawer along with the standard application and audio input sources.

Advanced Settings
Speaking of the Source drawer, there’s a new button for both hijacking and audio input called Advanced. This brings up options which were previously available only by option-clicking the Start Broadcast button.

NAT Traversal
Home routers are a big problem for anybody running a server such as Nicecast. By default, any NAT device will prevent remote computers from connecting to anything on your local network, meaning that listeners can’t get to your broadcast without reconfiguring your router.

One of the most important new features in Nicecast 1.8 is NAT Traversal, which takes care of this annoying issue. Nicecast now includes two technologies to help with this problem by automatically communicating with your router and asking it to send listeners to the right place.

1) UPnP
UPnP, which stands for Universal Plug and Play, is a massively complex standard that does about a million different things. Among all these different capabilities lies the Internet Gateway Device protocol, which allows Nicecast to ask the router to forward your listeners’ requests to it.

UPnP is supported by most home routers made in the last couple of years, with the notable exception of Apple’s Airport Base Stations. Most routers have it turned on by default, but some may require you to enable it manually. Every router will be different, so you’ll have to consult your router’s manual if that’s the case. You’ll have to restart Nicecast to get it to recognize the change on your router.

UPnP support in Nicecast is pretty much invisible. If your router supports UPnP then things will just work, and if not, you’re no worse off than before. The easiest way to make sure everything is running properly is to simply use Nicecast’s Server Checker in the Share drawer: if it succeeds, then you’re good to go.

2) NAT-PMP
NAT-PMP happened when Apple looked at the giant mess that is UPnP and decided they’d rather make their own protocol. They were a little slow in getting it out, but as of July 2005 with Airport 4.2, Apple’s Airport Extreme and Airport Express base stations now support it. It’s completely unrelated to UPnP, but the end result is the same, and you, the user, should not see any difference.

Unfortunately, NAT-PMP is off by default. To enable it, first make sure you have Airport 4.2 or later (available in Software Update), then run the AirPort Admin Utility. If it asks you to update your base station’s firmware, make sure that you do so, as NAT-PMP requires the latest firmware. Go to the “AirPort” tab and click the “Base Station Options…” button. In the sheet that drops down, turn on the “Enable NAT Port Mapping Protocol” checkbox in the “Ethernet Port Security” tab. Ignore the erroneous note Apple has placed regarding 10.4 – Nicecast will work with NAT-PMP on OS X 10.3 as well. Click OK, then click Update and the router will restart. As with UPnP, you’ll have to restart Nicecast for it to be able to see the change, and the Server Checker will tell you if it worked.

Please Remember To Tip Your Tour Guide
That’s it for the major changes in Nicecast 1.8. I hope you enjoyed our little tour, and more importantly that you enjoy Nicecast 1.8. This is my first major release with Rogue Amoeba and I’m praying everything will go smoothly. They tell me if it doesn’t, I might get demoted from programmer to Official Rogue Amoeba Tour Guide. But with any luck, you’ll have as much fun using Nicecast 1.8 as we had making it. Download it and enjoy!

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