We’ve been looking for a way to beef up our music collections without dipping into the ramen noodle fund ever since the iron fist of the law came smashing down on the paradise of free file-trading that was Napster. That’s why we were excited to try Fogware’s Internet Radio Recorder, a Windows program that, for the price of a couple of CDs, lets us save internet radio streams to our heart’s content.

Alas, it was not to be. Internet Radio Recorder lets you save audio streams from internet radio stations as MP3 or Ogg Vorbis files, and it will rip CDs to the same formats. It also lets you burn and label CDs of your new MP3 library.

But the program’s great achievement is also its biggest shortcoming: It relies on internet radio stations, which are simply too flaky, inconsistent, and low quality to warrant serious recording. Most over-the-air radio stations don’t even offer an internet stream, thanks to misguided FCC rulings that have all but shut down the internet broadcast industry. All that’s left is a swarm of all-night pirate radio stations from Europe playing a mix of ambient and techno music, with the odd public radio station thrown in here and there.

Internet Radio Recorder lets you browse a huge list of such stations, but its search tools are inconvenient and its recording tools clunky. Most of the time, it’s just an annoying and not very useful toy. It looks as if we’re going to keep spending our lunch money on CDs after all. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Integrated CD recording tools
Worst Feature: Nearly useless radio station search utility

Fogware Internet Radio Recorder
Price: $40
System requirements: Windows 2000 or Windows XP; 100MB of disk space; broadband internet connection

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Link: Fogware Internet Radio Recorder

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