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TIME-SHIFT RADIO WITH SHARK

How would you like to have some of the same abilities of a television DVR for your radio? A new computer device gives you the power to do so.

Anyone who uses a digital video recorder or DVR like the ones offered by ReplayTV or TiVO knows the value of time-shift recording. These set top boxes are always recording whatever live television programming you may be watching at any given moment. The recorded information is transferred and stored to the DVR's internal hard drive. So at any time you want, you can freeze the action to take a break or answer the phone and then resume from that point on when you are ready to continue watching. How long you can pause a show is directly proportional to the size of the DVR's hard drive or however long your DVR's operating system is programmed to do so. You can also rewind what you may have missed so you can watch it over and over. How far back you can rewind is also based upon the same criteria. And now you can do much of all this with radio programming.

The radioSHARK ($69.99 from Griffin Technology) is a new device that attaches to your Windows-based PC or Macintosh via any available USB port. Looking much like a shark fin (thus the name), the peripheral allows your computer to receive local AM and FM stations and play the audio directly through your computer's speakers. But the radioSHARK is a lot more than just a simple radio receiver. As with the aforementioned DVRs, the radioSHARK can be programmed to record any radio broadcast it receives directly to your computer's hard drive. And as with the DVR, if you want to pause the broadcast or rewind it back to listen to something you may have missed, you can do so via the included software.

The included application lets you control all of the radio-SHARK's radio and recording functions including favorite station presets that can be set with a mouse click. Adding new stations can either be directly tuned or use the scanning feature to discover new stations in your area. But the real power of the radioSHARK lies in its ability to time-shift any radio audio you hear. And as with the DVR, the application lets you pre-program the radioSHARK to record unattended upcoming radio shows.

The fin-shaped device is actually the unit's radio antenna. Simply place it in a location where radio signals are best heard and rotate it to achieve an optimal receiving position. As it is connected via the USB port, the radioSHARK gets its power directly from the computer and needs no other power source.

Once you have recorded a radio broadcast, the data is stored as an AIFF-compatible audio file, which can be transferred to an iPod or any other compatible portable player. If your device only plays mp3 files, most any player application worth its bits can easily do the conversion for you.

Unlike the DVRs I mentioned, a downside to the radioSHARK is that it doesn't offer a programming guide grid so you will need to find out what's playing on your local station from the TV Topics or some other source. The upside is that you won't ever have to pay for a subscription service to use the radioSHARK. The amount of radio audio you can record is limited to the available amount of storage on your hard drive. And given that audio takes up a fraction of the space needed to store video data, today's multi-gigabyte drives promise that you'll be able to record and store more radio shows than you'll probably ever care to hear.

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