Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Why Does My Streaming Audio Break Up?

So you've found this really great internet radio station that you'd like to listen to but when you click the "listen" link and the audio starts it skips and pauses. What is causing this? Does your media player say something about buffering? What does that mean?

A buffer is basically an area of memory that a hardware device or software program uses when it needs a constant, uninterrupted flow of information.

For example, when we listen to streaming audio, the program we use "buffers" the signal a little before the music starts to play.

Here's how it works. Your audio program "collects" a few seconds of audio, then starts playing them. If there is a split second interruption, you don't notice it since the audio you're listening to is already a couple seconds old. Since you're not listening to the audio at the same instant it comes in, it gives the program a few seconds to compensate for any slight interruptions (and there are lots of those). It doesn't always work if the connection isn't good, but it does help.

Information from the internet comes down to your computer in packets. Sometimes, especially with sstreaming audio, these packets can get out of place, like streaming packets 1 3 2 instead of 1 2 3. This will cause audio to skip around. Packets may also be skipped entirely, instead of packet 1 2 3 4 we get 1 2 4. This will cause sections of audio to be skipped, similar to a CD skipping.

The only solution to this is to try a slower stream if available, or reconnecting to the internet and trying the stream again.

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