Under The Microscope

Say Hello To Pulsar!

Pulsar IconJust before Christmas, we teased our newest product, Pulsar. We got some interesting and amusing guesses as to what it might be, but no one nailed it. Today, we’re happy to finally be releasing Pulsar: Public Preview edition. In a few words, Pulsar is a desktop client for listening to XM Radio Online and SIRIUS Internet Radio, the internet streaming services provided by XM and SIRIUS satellite radio.

Pulsar in actionFirst, let’s get the important information out of the way. Pulsar itself requires Mac OS X 10.5 or higher and you’ll need to have a subscription to XM Radio Online or SIRIUS Internet Radio to tune in1. Like all our Mac OS X software, Pulsar is downloadable as a free trial. In trial mode, the quality of audio played by Pulsar will degrade after 20 minutes.

While in Public Preview, Pulsar can be purchased for an introductory price of just $15. These licenses will of course work on Pulsar 1.0 when it arrives as well. Better yet, if you’ve got a license for any of our current Mac OS X products, you can receive a complimentary license for Pulsar here. You can read more about Pulsar here and download it immediately here.

Why Pulsar?

Airfoil and Pulsar togetherSo, why did we make a satellite streaming radio client? Most XM and SIRIUS subscribers have access to this content online, through the companies’ websites. However, listening via a web browser is less than ideal, and existing third party clients also left something to be desired. We felt this was a niche we could fill well, with our own client.

Further, many users wish to listen to satellite radio around their house – through an AirPort Express, Apple TV, or even other computers. Using our own Airfoil with Pulsar, this is a snap. Others want to record content to listen to on an iPod, and Pulsar works great with Audio Hijack Pro. Pulsar complements these applications very well, and we’re certainly hoping Pulsar will encourage sales of Airfoil and Audio Hijack Pro.

Why a Public Preview?

We originally planned to release Pulsar earlier, knowing it likely had bugs but desiring to get it into users’ hands. This is something of a difficult application to test, and to find testers for, and we felt a Public Preview would serve us well. I say originally, because we kept finding and fixing issues on our own. At this point, it’s quite polished. There are still several things that keep this from being a full 1.0, so we’re keeping the Public Preview tag, but we believe it’s very solid.

Pulsar is also a testing ground for some exciting new technology, AHKit2, that will be powering many of our products in the future. Quentin will likely talk more about AHKit2 in a future blog post, but that’s part of why Pulsar is a preview release – this is our first product shipping with this major new code.

Notes & Known issues

This is a Public Preview, meaning there are some rough edges. This includes the following:

Mini-mode: Pulsar does not currently have a mini-mode. We hope to add this in the future, possibly for Pulsar 1.0.

802.11n AirPort Base Station issues: If you have an 802.11n AirPort base station and receive a “Stream Playback Error – Connection refused” when attempting to play a station, you should reset your modem and AirPort Base Station. This appears to be a bug in the current version of the 802.11n AirPort Base Station, not a Pulsar issue.

Error reporting: Error reporting is not finalized yet in many places, so some errors may be less than helpful. If you’re reporting an error, please include screenshots of the errors, as well as Console logs.

XM Tuning: XM Radio Online has been having various issues over the past few days, and we’re keeping an eye on this. We’ve improved tuning when their service is working poorly, but there may still be issues to be ironed out.

North America-centric: At this time, XM and SIRIUS are available only in the US and Canada. You can trial the online services, but both require a US billing address to sign up. Unfortunately, this means Pulsar is largely useful for American and Canadian users.

Wrap It Up
That’s the short and the long of it. If you subscribe to satellite radio currently, you should definitely try out Pulsar. If you don’t, why not take a free three day trial? XM Radio Online is just $7.99 a month, and SIRIUS Internet Radio is $12.99 a month, with neither requiring any other hardware. We hope you’ll enjoy Pulsar, and share your feedback by contacting us directly!

1. If you’re an XM subscriber, you may need to activate online access, free of charge. If you’re a SIRIUS subscriber, you may need to pay extra for high-quality online access.

If you don’t have SIRIUS or XM, you can give either one (or both) a try, with their free 3-day trials. See this link for more details.

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