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RealAudio provides an audio decoder that can be downloaded free for Windows and Mac and allows you to hear audio in Real Time - right off the Web, rather than downloading to your hard drive and then listening.
Xing Technology's StreamWorks is another decoder that can be downloaded free and will allow you to access audio (and video) in Real Time on our sites and throughout the Web from a Mac, Windows, or X/UNIX machine.
You'll need a 14.4 or faster connection for any of these, a sound card in your computer, and (duh) speaker(s) or headphones.
If you'd like more info on all this, visit the Real Audio FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to learn more than anyone really needs to know about audio on the Web.
Xing Technology's StreamWorks can be downloaded free and will allow you to view Streamworks video in Real-Time -- right off the Web without downloading to your hard drive -- on a Mac, in Windows, or an X/UNIX machine.
Real-Time video viewing requires at least a 28.8kbps or faster modem. If you're connecting at 14.4kbps, you will enjoy your viewing experience more with a decoder that first downloads the video to your hard drive before viewing (unless you're ok with seeing about one frame per minute). Video will not work with a connection slower than 14.4kbps.
Apple's QuickTime can be downloaded free from QuickTime siteand will work with a Mac or in Windows. Working better with 14.4kbps modems, it allows you to experience QuickTime movies by first downloading them off the Web onto your hard drive and then viewing.
If you are using Netscape for your browser, you can download a plug-in called Shockwave that brings full sound and interactivity to your desktop--IF you've got plenty of RAM.
You don't need special software at all however, to view most animation on the Web. Constructed by fusing together lots of GIF files, the animation works much like a cartoon flip book and will start in as soon as you click on it. Though much smoother with a 28.8kbps or faster modem, animation can be viewed with a 14.4kbps connection by allowing it to slowly run through (and CACHE to memory or hard drive) the first time then replaying it at full speed by clicking the RELOAD button on your browser.
There are lots of pages out there that are great sources of the software outlined above: check out Regional News Network's download page. You may also need special software for downloading the audio and video software itself such as Stuffit Expander for the Mac. For other "helper apps." that go beyond normal viewing to enable you to download and manipulate images from the web, create your own html documents, etc., Check out http://www.it.rit.edu/~gig/source.html, or type in "helper apps" into any search engine.
Still lost? More background information about experiencing Multimedia on the Web is available on our Mountain Zone Webcast page. And let us not forget Netscape's own Handbook on learning netscape, or their excellent Software page.