I won't go into the installation. Let's just say I plug it into my PC, dropped in the CD, and 5 minutes later, I was listening to the local NPR station through my computer speakers in all its poppy glory. I was impressed how easy it was because Griffin Technology is primarily a Mac company and I was testing on a Windows XP box.
I said I wanted to love the radioSHARK, and at first I did. I was enthralled by the scheduler, setting up shows to record. I giggled like a schoolgirl when I discovered the ability to time-shift live audio almost like my Tivo. I laughed as All Things Considered talked about the presidential election. I felt happy.
Then I started to notice the radioSHARKs flaws. Audio seemed to be poppy, interrupted with just barely perceptible stutters in audio that would come and go. I noticed the three crashes that the app had in the first four hours. I noticed that my entire system reset when I tried to look at the size of audio buffer. The radioSHARK worked, just not that well.
Of course, the first thing I had to do was TimeShift. For those not familiar with the concept, ReplayTV and Tivo pioneered the idea of allowing their users pause, rewind, and when applicable, fast-forward by displaying saved video instead of the live feed. It's a brilliant concept that I picture being integrated into the majority of consumer electronics in the future.
On the radioSHARK GUI, there was a button labeled TS, which I correctly assumed meant TimeShift and pressed. That brought up a sub-window to the GUI that had a pause button, fast forward and rewind arrows, and two additional buttons that I later decided were 'skip to beginning' and 'skip to end' (which weren't documented). I pressed the pause button and waited for the audio to stop. It didn't. I pressed the button again and still nothing. It turns out that the PC (and maybe Mac) version has TimeShifting disabled by default. A quick trip to the preferences (after figuring out how to get to it), I enabled TimeShifting and hit pause again. Success. I paused, I rewound, and I fast forward. It was fun. It was also annoying because when TimeShifting was on, the audio stutter became more pronounced. I assume it has to do with the buffering and playback, but on a P4-2.8 HT box with SATA drives, this sound glitch is just absurd.
It wasn't perfect though. First, on the Tivo, if you switch channels, the buffer resets itself. With the radioSHARK, the buffer keeps going, even through station switches. It's a bit disconcerting to rewind through All Things Considered and suddenly hear Nickel Back. It's probably just my personal preference, but I like the Tivo model of Time Shifting better. It's interesting to note that when you exit the preferences screen, the audio buffer resets. Second, on the GUI front, the time shifting slider doesn't tell you how far back you've gone when moving the slider. So if you want to go back 10 minutes, you have to guess at how far that is on the slider bar. Looking at the Mac GUI in the manual, it looks like they have tic marks and time indicators. Why doesn't the PC? Next up, I decided to set a bunch of presets. For the 8 stations I listen to, this took about 5 minutes, mostly because I made mistakes, but also because the interface is not the easiest to use. First, I had to select "New Preset", enter the station name and frequency in the new dialog box, then click ok and repeated the process for each station.It's a poor way to enter information, but usable. Each of the presets are put into a drop down list box in the order they are entered and no way to reorganize them.
Recording offered mixed results. RadioSHARK only records in Windows Media (WMA) and, theoretically, raw WAV (AIFF and AAC on the Mac), but not MP3. Maybe they were worried about codec installation or maybe the legal ramifications. Either way, you are stuck with WMA or WAV. Actually you are stuck with WMA because if I tried to record to WAV, it always resulted in an unplayable WAV file. I tried WinAmp, Windows Media Player, Xbox Media Center, and even the radioSHARKs built in player. Nothing worked. The file would grow during recording, but I could not get anything to play the resulting WAV file. How exactly the radioSHARK app got out the door with this bug is beyond me.
Finally I set up the radioSHARK to record a couple of my favorite talk shows the next day. I set up three shows to record at different times throughout the day, a simple task. When I got home from work the next day, I pulled up recorded item list. It showed the three shows. I clicked on one and pressed play, but the app popped up a dialog saying it couldn't find the file. I tried the second and third with the same problem. This was just getting bad. I think it might have something to do with my system going into standby as I remember reading a Mac review where the author complained about the radioSHARK not bring his Mac out of standby mode. Even if that's the problem, why would the radioSHARK put the entries into the 'Recorded' list?
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