Recently (about fifteen minutes, actually), I wrote a review of a Mac OS X Dashboard widget called WRadio. While I found WRadio to be a nice piece of software, I wasn’t (and am not now) convinced that the price tag attached made it worth my while to switch from streaming radio via iTunes.
However, the object of this current review, another Dashboard widget called BBC Radio, is a big winner, and not simply because it offers its services free of charge.
As should be readily evident from its name, BBC Radio is a widget which makes available all (or at least most) of the BBC’s audio streams, including Radio 1-5 (including the International versions), sports, drama and more. BBC Radio widget is completely unofficial, so it’s possible it will at some point “break” as the BBC changes how it streams its audio, but for now, this is the best options I’ve found for users outside Great Britain to be able to listen to most BBC content.
BBC Radio widget is incredibly easy to use. Simply hit F12 on your Mac’s keyboard (BBC Radio widget is Mac-only, sorry to say for Windows or Linux users), which brings up the Dashboard layer. If BBC Radio widget is already selected, you simply need to hit the big Play button/arrow, and the widget will begin streaming your selected station.
If you want to switch stations, simply click on the small italic letter “i” in the lower right corner, which will flip the widget over and reveal a single dropdown menu. From this menu you can switch from your currently selected station to one of more than a dozen national stations, six regional stations and more than two dozen local options. Once you’ve made your selection, click back to the front and you’re ready to go.
I did find that with most streams, there is noticeable stuttering to the music/program, at least for the first few seconds, but it was only temporary. After a bit, when the caching had time to catch up with the content, playback was smooth and uninterrupted.
I’d not used the BBC Radio widget until recently, but if you’re a longtime user already, but haven’t upgraded your widget, now is the time to do so. From reading the information about the widget, I found that one of my favorite features is quite recent. If you click the small double arrows (just above the small italic letter “i”), you’ll see a slide-out drawer appear to the right side of the widget.
From this drawer you can find out exactly what’s playing right now (which program, not which song), as well as what’s recently finished, and what programming is yet to come. This is quite useful, if for no other reason than the time zone difference could be a bit confusing, and this takes all the guesswork out of figuring out when your favorite drama or music program is on next.
As you can likely tell, I like the BBC Radio Widget quite a bit. It’s small, easy to use, and can be started an then hid, along with the rest of the Dashboard layer. It offers BBC fans in the United States the ability to listen to the BBC without uprooting and moving their family to England! The stream quality is quite excellent, and I’m currently listening to a Prince song via the widget while waiting for Shaun Keaveny’s Best of Breakfast to start in a few minutes.
So head over to the BBC Radio widget’s home page and download a copy for yourself. You won’t regret it.