Streaming audio is for playing games, listening to Internet radio, and other online audio content. Streaming audio is designed to produce an uninterrupted sound output, but it requires the system to perform a content juggling act. Essentially, the system's audio buffer is continually filled with audio information, which is fed to the buffer through the system's Internet connection. Because of server and connection capabilities, the rate of input might vary. Because audio is used at a constant rate, the trick to managing streaming audio is to always keep the buffer full, although you might not be able to fill it at a constant rate.
Streaming audio is handled in Ubuntu in the .m3u format. The MPEG formats are also used for streaming audio. Although Xmms supports streaming audio, another popular application is the Real Player, available from http://www.real.com/linux/. An excellent resource for music and sound in Linux is http://linux-sound.org/. The Network Audio section of that website contains an extensive list of streaming audio applications.
The Icecast application, not provided with Ubuntu, is a popular streaming audio server. You can use Icecast to serve your MP3 music collection over your home LAN. You can learn more about Icecast at http://www.icecast.org/. A nice tutorial on Icecast is available at http://www.linuxnetmag.com/en/issue4/m4icecast1.html.
You can also read Chapter 22, "File and Print," to see how to use the Network File System
(NFS) to mount a remote directory of music files over your network.
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