Under The Microscope

We Just Can’t Shake Him

Recently, a familiar face returned to Rogue Amoeba, and not for the first time. We’re glad to announce that our old friend Lee Falin is back on the team once again.

Lee has followed a rather roundabout career path over the past decade. He first joined us in late 2008 to work as a support technician, and a couple years later transitioned into the role of part-time Windows dev. He eventually took on full-time development of Airfoil for Windows for several years. However, he also spent some doing academic research and teaching as a university professor, but soon discovered that academia was not an ideal place for teaching about software development. During that time, Lee often worked part-time here, but even when he left fully, he still wound up doing contract work for us on iOS and Android.

Now, Lee’s returning to us in a full-time role. He’ll be focusing on Mac development, while likely also assisting on work on other platforms, and we’re delighted to have him back. His varied talents are a great asset, and we can’t wait to unveil the new updates he’ll help us create.

Stream to Chromecast with the Latest Airfoil for Windows!

Today, we’re pleased to be shipping a public preview of Airfoil for Windows version 5.5. This long-awaited update makes it possible to stream any audio from Windows to the Google Chromecast as well as other Google Cast devices, like the Google Home third party Cast-enabled players! After many, many months of work1, we’re very glad to be able to provide Chromecast support in this free update for all Airfoil 5 users.

Apple HomePod Support Too

This update also includes full compatibility with Apple’s new HomePod hardware. With the newest releases of Airfoil for Windows and Airfoil for Mac, it’s easy to stream any audio from your computer to the HomePod, via AirPlay. Just open up the Airfoil for Windows 5.5 Public Preview or Airfoil for Mac 5.7, and start rocking with your new HomePod!

Why A Public Preview?

This update is working well, but we still have some kinks to work out before we’ll be fully satisfied. Folks have been waiting for this for quite some time, so rather than wait until everything is perfect, we want to offer the functionality immediately. This update has been reviewed both internally and by a large number of outside testers, and we’re confident it will work as expected for the vast majority of our users.

If you’re eager to stream audio to Chromecasts or other Google Cast devices, we encourage you to download this preview right from the Airfoil for Windows page.

Known Issues

There are several issues we’re still working on, which will impact a subset of users. The following items need not be reported:

  • Lack of sync between Chromecasts – When streaming to multiple Chromecasts, audio is not kept in sync between the devices.

  • Lack of sync between a Chromecast and other devices – When streaming to a Chromecast and an AirPlay or Bluetooth device, audio is not kept in sync between the devices.

  • Sub-optimal metadata updating – When transmitting audio from supported sources, Airfoil passes along album artwork and track metadata to devices like the Apple TV, as well as our own Airfoil Satellite. At present, this data does not always update as expected.

We’re working on these issues, so there’s no need to report them. Do let us know of other issues you come across though.

More to Come

We plan to follow this Public Preview release with additional updates to improve compatibility and functionality. For now, we encourage you to give the Airfoil for Windows 5.5 Public Preview a try, then let us know how it works for you.


Footnotes:

  1. We originally hoped to ship this in early 2017, an estimate which proved overly optimistic. Previous posts have detailed some of the delays we hit, which included an urgent and time-consuming fix for Apple TV support, as well as staffing changes. We’re definitely not happy with how long it’s taken us to get here, but we are glad to finally be providing this functionality. ↩︎

Broadcasting From the Mac Without Nicecast

As you may have seen, our internet radio tool Nicecast has been retired. While the app will continue to function on existing systems, it will no longer be supported after 2018.

We know that there are still plenty of people who wish to broadcast audio across the internet, and Nicecast’s retirement post touched on a few alternatives. After feedback from users, it’s clear that a deeper look at these alternatives is worthwhile.

Broadcasting Background

Nicecast contained two key components: A broadcaster and a built-in server. The broadcaster made it possible to send audio from a Mac to a streaming server, where listeners could tune in. The built-in server provided one option for making a stream accessible to listeners, with minimal setup required.

We’re not aware of any tools to make running a local streaming server on the Mac as easy as Nicecast did. However, there are several Mac broadcasting tools to send audio out to a remote streaming server. Much like purchasing web hosting, companies such as Fast Serv can provide a remote streaming server for a small monthly fee. You can also look at dedicated streaming services like Live365 and Shoutcast.com.

Once you have a remote streaming server, you’ll need a broadcasting tool to send audio to it from your Mac. This post uses a free tool called Ladiocast for illustrative purposes, but the Icecast website maintains a useful list of third-party broadcast tools to consider. The techniques shown below will work with any standard broadcasting tool.

Broadcasting to an External Server

Setting up a broadcasting tool like Ladiocast is fairly straightforward. To start, enter the details for your external server. Here’s the connection window in Ladiocast, connecting to a Live365 server:

Once you’re able to connect to the remote server, you need to select your audio source. Ladiocast features a Mixer window, which enables you to choose one or more audio devices to broadcast:

Here, we’ve selected a microphone (“USB Ear-Microphone”), and are now on the air. Ladiocast is taking audio from the mic and sending it to the remote Live365 streaming server. Listeners can then tune in to hear the stream.

Feeding Application Audio Into Your Broadcast With Loopback

On their own, Ladiocast and other tools are unable to broadcast audio played in apps like iTunes or djay. Instead, these broadcast tools are limited to pulling audio from microphones and other devices. This is where our audio routing app Loopback comes in. Using its virtual audio devices, you can get application-based audio into your broadcasting tool, and on to your listeners.

Here’s a very basic virtual audio device made with Loopback. It will take audio from djay Pro 2, and make it available through a virtual audio device called “LB: djay Audio”.

Once created, this virtual audio device can be selected as an audio source in a broadcasting tool like Ladiocast:

As you can see, audio from djay Pro 2 is now flowing directly into Ladiocast, which is then broadcasting it to a remote server. Virtual audio devices made by Loopback enable you to get any audio sources into your broadcasting tool, instead of being limited to physical audio devices.

More Powerful Broadcasting With Audio Hijack and Loopback

Loopback can assist in broadcasting application audio, but it doesn’t offer advanced controls such as audio effects, level adjustments, and more. For that, we’ll turn to Audio Hijack. Audio Hijack is generally aimed at recording audio, but it also offers tremendous flexibility to create the exact audio stream you want for a broadcast.

Below, we’ve created a complex audio chain in Audio Hijack. Audio from a mic, the DJ app MegaSeg, and our own soundboard app Farrago is all being pulled in, then audio effects are applied, before sending it on to multiple outputs.

As you can see, Audio Hijack lets you customize an audio stream in nearly limitless ways. At the end of the chain, you can see audio flowing on to “LB: Pass-Thru Device”. When we select that same device as the source in Ladiocast, the audio passing through our Audio Hijack session will be picked up by Ladiocast and broadcast to the selected remote server.

Closing

The setups shown above require a bit more setup than Nicecast, but they will enable you to continue broadcasting audio from your Mac. We encourage new and old users alike to utilize these techniques to transition away from the now-retired Nicecast.

The End of the Nicecast Era

Summary

Today, our internet radio tool Nicecast is being retired from active development. Nicecast is no longer available for purchase, and we do not plan any further updates. Nicecast will be supported on MacOS 10.10 through 10.13 until the end of 2018, after which it will be fully deprecated.

Please read on for more details.

Nicecast’s Origins

Nicecast was one of Rogue Amoeba’s earliest apps, first released way back in 2003, and receiving more than sixty updates since then. Soon after Audio Hijack provided the ability to record any audio on the Mac, users asked us to make it possible to broadcast any audio to the world. At the time, it was very difficult to create an online radio station.

So it was that we decided to join our powerful audio capture with a simple user interface on top of the open-source command-line icecast MP3 streaming server. With Nicecast, even novices could get started streaming audio from their Macs to listeners around the globe.

Since 2003

In short order, Nicecast users were providing hundreds of different streams for the world. Hobbyists were able to live out their DJ fantasies, while terrestrial radio stations could easily provide online access to their content as well. It was very exciting, and we improved the app significantly in the first few years.

However, Nicecast never gained widespread popularity, and thus has always been a junior player in our product lineup. As well, after a brief ascendancy, internet radio has not continued to grow. While it is certainly still in use today, it is small niche compared to the promise it originally showed. The vast majority of listeners rock out with streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and many others.

Our customers are best served when we optimize our limited resources, and so the time has come to put Nicecast out to pasture. The waning popularity of internet radio, coupled with pending changes to MacOS which will break 32-bit apps, are leading us to retire the product.

Next Steps

If you’re an existing user of Nicecast, you can of course continue to use it on supported systems (that’s MacOS 10.10 – 10.13). Nothing will change for you in the short-term. If you need to download the software again, the last planned version, 1.11.13, is available from our Legacy page. Technical support will be continued for licensed users through the end of 2018, after which the application will be fully deprecated.

Due to Nicecast’s 32-bit nature, we expect that changes Apple plans for future MacOS updates will render the two wholly incompatible. As such, you should be extremely cautious with any production environments running Nicecast, and avoid updating them past MacOS 10.13.

The Future

We encourage our existing users, as well as any new users looking for Nicecast, to find alternate solutions for broadcasting content online. Other solutions for creating an internet radio station do exist. To run a local streaming server on your Mac, installation of the command-line icecast is possible using Homebrew or MacPorts.

Feeding audio into any streaming server, local or remote, is possible with several different tools. The icecast website maintains a useful list of third party apps, with Mac tools like Ladiocast and broadcast using this tool (aka “butt”) being of special note. It’s also worth mentioning that our audio routing tool Loopback will enable you to feed any audio from your Mac into these tools for broadcasting.


Update (March 2nd, 2018): We got a lot of questions from users, so we’ve taken the time to expand on the above in a separate blog post. Please see “Broadcasting From the Mac Without Nicecast” for more complete instructions to help you transition away from Nicecast.


While Nicecast is now retired, we are considering future solutions to help users broadcast to more modern streaming options. In particular, we know many podcasters provide a live stream using Nicecast, and hope to eventually provide a more comprehensive solution for that use case. Following this blog is the best way to stay up to date with our latest news.

Closing

It’s sad to retire an application, particularly one that’s been developed for almost fifteen years. Nicecast solved a real problem in a fun, useful way. Unfortunately, that problem space just wasn’t big enough, and the world passed the app by. We’re sad to see Nicecast go, but excited to dedicate our energies to more modern projects which will help even more users.

Questions?

If you’re an existing Nicecast owner with further questions, please get in touch directly.

New: Airfoil Satellite for Android

Our home audio streamer Airfoil enables you to send any audio from your computer to AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Chromecast devices. We also expand that ecosystem with our companion app, Airfoil Satellite. Using Airfoil Satellite, you can send audio to Macs, PCs, iOS devices, and more.

Today, we’re thrilled to add an Android version to the Airfoil Satellite family!1 With Airfoil Satellite for Android, you can stream audio from a Mac or PC to any modern Android device (running Android 6 and up). In addition to receiving audio wirelessly, Airfoil Satellite for Android can also remotely control both Airfoil itself, as well as playback from supported source applications.2

Get It Free, Right Now

Airfoil Satellite for Android is an entirely free companion to our paid Airfoil applications. The new Airfoil Satellite for Android 2.0 is available for immediate download from our site. Get full details and download the app from the Airfoil Satellite for Android page.


Footnotes:

  1. We formerly offered an application called Airfoil Speakers for Android which could receive audio from Airfoil, but did not offer remote control of Airfoil or supported audio sources. The new Airfoil Satellite for Android brings the Android platform to full parity with iOS when it comes to Airfoil, and it inherits the old app’s release history.

    Speaking of the old app, if you have an older Android device running Android 2.3 through 5.1.1, get Airfoil Speakers for Android from our Legacy page. With it, you can turn those older devices into dedicated Airfoil outputs. ↩︎

  2. See a list of sources supported for remote control on Mac and Windows. ↩︎

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