DR. WEBSITE: Shopping for Forum Software; Using .AU Files in Java Applets Dear Dr. Website®: I am actively searching for forum software. Are you familiar with any sites that review forum software? Is there any site that offers information about what to look for in these types of packages?
There are several sites that aim to provide capsule summaries and up-to-date listings of all messaging and discussion-forum software packages for holding Web-based conferences. The range of features in these systems can make it difficult to do an across-the-board comparison of all available products, but the sites described here categorize their offerings by pricing and spell out the major control and maintenance features that you'll want to consider before committing to a new software package.
For example, these sites can help you investigate either commercial packages like Allaire Forums or Lundeen & Associates' WebCrossing or freeware discussion products like HyperNews.
Since they're intended to facilitate group discussion, forum software packages tend to display messages in a hierarchical structure to create the sense of an ongoing conversation; some also offer capabilities for filtering what content is permissible. You'll also need to consider what platforms are supported and whether you'll require various features such as extensive search capabilities or file attachment handling.
Forum One's Software Products and Reviews is a site maintained by Dave Witzel that offers a comprehensive list of commercial and freeware forum software. It includes capsule descriptions of each product and also includes links to related online articles and other reviews about this software.
For an applet, an .AU file has to be saved using
CCITT mu-Law compression. Prior to Windows 95,
Microsoft sound codecs didn't support mu-Law
- Will Langford, Web Week reader
Conferencing on the World Wide Web is an exhaustive guide to Web-based discussion forum software maintained by David R. Woolley. It includes brief descriptions of commercial and freeware forum software, as well as related packages that have some features of Web-based conferencing, and links to product reviews and articles.
The site also includes related articles about assessing and choosing your own forum software. One article on this site called Choosing Web Conferencing Software identifies several distinct processes for achieving conference capabilities in a Web setting. These includes centralized forums, groupware (like Lotus Domino), bulletin board systems, Usenet newsgroups, and mailing lists.
Although using a Web interface may blur some of the distinctions between these subcategories, you may find it helpful to consider their different capabilities in order to fully appreciate the range of packages covered by this broad product category.
.AU FILES IN APPLETS, PART II
Dear Dr. Website®: I just read your "Dr. Website" column about the use of .AU files in an applet [May 19]. Having been a similar situation a couple of weeks ago, I think I can better clarify what problems the user might be facing.
First off, an applet will only play a specific kind of .AU file, an 8-bit 8.125 KHz (sample rate) monophonic .AU file. It also has to be saved using CCITT mu-Law compression. The mu-Law part is the key, because prior to Windows 95, the Microsoft sound codecs didn't support mu-Law, so none of the software under Windows 3.11 could convert or play that format. I'm working with Unix machines for the most part, but if those Windows programs don't support the ability to save .AU files with mu-Law compression, they won't play in an applet.
-Will Langford firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for providing a more complete answer on troubleshooting .AU files that failed to play correctly in applets. In the earlier column I had focused mainly on only one part of the question, addressing how to find programs that could convert .WAV files to .AU files that would play correctly in applets.
Let me provide a couple of additional pointers to online resources with good information about Web audio formats. The Graphics and Sound File Formats site gives an easy-to-understand explanation of sampling rate, bits per sample, and stereo channels.
Capsule summaries are given for the AU, WAV, AIFF and AIFC, HCOM, IFF, MOD, SND, and VOC formats. Audio on the Internet is a site that discusses the impact of audio on the Net, a range of file formats, and future trends.
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