Saturday, 17 June 2006

logo.jpgI first discovered and wrote about Pandora some time back, in December or so. Well, since then the Pandora crew has been hard at work and there's more new features that make the great thing they'd developed even better.

To re-cap, Pandora lets you enter the name of a musical artist, and it creates a "station" of similar, complimentary music based on the original selection. That music streams and plays in the web-based player like a radio station. And it's complete songs that play, not just clips. You can also rate the tracks and there are links to do things like buy from iTunes or Amazon. You can also take discovered songs you especially like and create new stations from those.

In a nutshell, use Pandora and you'll find lots of music you'll like that you'd never find otherwise.

But anyhow, about the new stuff...

On the Pandora blog just yesterday they announced some new features, one of which is called Backstage. It's a back-end into much of the information that drives Pandora. Here is how they describe it:

We created Backstage as your door to the music universe that lies behind Pandora. Search for an artist or song to start your exploration.

... whenever you hear a song you love, just click the song, album, or artist name to learn more. That click will take you "backstage" where you can browse an entire universe that tells the story of more than twenty thousand artists and their collected works.

Sample entire CD's, read about the history of your favorite bands, look at artist photos, build your musical profile, buy albums and tracks from iTunes or Amazon, and get all kinds of great recommendations for songs, albums, and artists you might enjoy.

Find something you like? You can create a new station with just a single click. Have some time on your hands? Just want to browse? Want to settle a bet about how many albums The Cure released in the 80's? Hop over to http://www.pandora.com/backstage and search for your favorite artist or song to get started.

Very cool stuff.

There are some other feature tweaks to the main Pandora interface, too. You can now rate a song with a single mouse click. Just mouse over the song you want to rate, and click the thumb (up or down) graphic that pops up. They've also added the ability to create a new station from any artist you encounter while listening. Just click the song menu and select "New Station: from artist" and Pandora will instantly create a new station for you.

And if you're wondering how the Pandora team does all that music comparison and correlation so you can find music you like, well guess what? It's a people-driven process, not automated. No wonder it works! Learn more about the people that manage the musical cataloging here.



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Saturday, 17 June 2006 12:08:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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What podcasts do you listen to? Which ones actually keep you coming back?

Honestly, there are so few podcasts out there that I can stand to listen to anymore. I deleted a whole slew of podcast subscriptions the other day because I felt like I was wasting massive amounts of time on those occasions when I did listen, and because many of them have simply turned me off completely and therefore got skipped over and never listened to (and honestly that's most of them).

What are my pet peeves? Okay, here's my harsh list for what will cause me to kill the audio before the podcaster even gets started.

  • Any podcast that opens with anything even remotely like "your speakers are about to blow up" or "warning, "the sound you're about to hear may cause damage." Give me a break. Everyone says that, and the only potential damage is me pushing a pencil through my ear to drown out the un-original intro.
  • Don't say "welcome to the world of (anything)." That's as lame as the movie trailers that start with "In a world..." People laugh and cringe at the same time. And it's sad when cringing is accompanied by uncomfortable laughter.
  • Open your show with "blahblah podcast" plus the date and then never use the word podcast ever again. Use of the word "podcast" more than once in any single sentence, or in more than one sentence in a row should be a felony. Agh. I know it's a freakin' podcast, it's not like it magically found its way onto my computer - I had to do all kinds of work to find it and access it. Tell me something I don't know and (here comes the 'o' word again) original.
  • As much as it might mean to you, chances are nobody else especially wants you to pontificate about how you and your girlfriend celebrated her 31st birthday this past weekend. In fact, your girlfriend probably doesn't want you saying it either...
  • Podcasts about podcasting. Uh, yeah.
  • Crappy indie music. Note that I have nothing against independent music if it's good. But any music that's bad (indie or otherwise) is bound to drive away listeners. The operative word is 'crappy.' If you played "We Built This City" on your podcast opener, I'd probably click the 'Close' button, too.
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Repetition
  • Seriously, you don't need a blog entry with the same copy/paste text on the page for every episode. I'm reading to see what's different, not what's the same. I already unsubscribed from the podcast, don't tempt me to do the same with the blog.
  • Snot noises (sniffling, etc). Seriously, blow your nose or take a decongestant or something.
  • "So I thought I would talk about something like that and so ummm yeah so uh I am going to talk about that now..." GAH!

They can't all be that bad...

Anyhow, my new goal is to find 10 awesome podcasts that attract, deserve and retain my attention. Let me know if you have suggestions.



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AudioBlogging | Blogging | Random Stuff
Saturday, 17 June 2006 10:14:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Not exactly my typical blog topic, but I found this to be very interesting, and somehow I think people like Bill and Melinda Gates might think so, too.

It certainly might be worth putting some serious thought and effort into. Is this possibly the changing face of education?

The Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD is not your typical school. Instead of the standard educational model, this private school takes a radically different approach - Kid-powered learning, if you will. 73 students and a few teachers have turned the traditional model on its proverbial head. Done right, this could be a powerful form and method of education. It sure looks like the kids are well-educated, smart and (perhaps most importantly) involved in their world.

There's a DVD that a film maker made about the school and its students, and you can view the trailer here:



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Random Stuff
Saturday, 17 June 2006 08:14:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Love it. The bathroom: It's not just for laptops anymore.

Introducing iCarta (click to view larger size). Thank goodness there are people out there inventing these things and making a zillion dollars as a result. Is it really that simple? Who the hell funds these things, anyhow?

ICarta

Specs:

  • 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional
    clarity and high quality sound
  • Charges your iPod while playing music
  • Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
  • Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
  • Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
  • Easy to remove from Wall Mount


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Saturday, 17 June 2006 07:23:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 16 June 2006

Okay, so the video of the Bellagio style fountain show with Diet Coke mixed with a bunch of Mentos was cool. But what happens when you mix them up in your body? Makes for some serious gas, I guess.

Wonder no more. Here's yet another video where the subject performs another Mentos experiment that succinctly proves the theory (click to view the video):

Pepsi-girl

Thanks, Sean.



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Friday, 16 June 2006 19:42:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 15 June 2006

Stellarium-logoStellarium is a free open source planetarium program for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

If you're at all into telescopes or the night sky, this one's for you.

in version 0.8.0:

sky

  • over 120,000 stars from the Hipparcos catalogue with info
  • asterisms and illustrations of the constellations
  • images of nebulae
  • realistic Milky Way
  • very realistic atmosphere, sunrise and sunset
  • the planets and their satellites

interface

  • a powerful zoom
  • time control
  • multilingual interface
  • scripting to record and play your own shows
  • fisheye projection for planetarium domes
  • spheric mirror projection for your own dome
  • graphical interface and extensive keyboard control

visualisation

  • equatorial and azimuthal grids
  • star twinkling
  • shooting stars
  • eclipse simulation
  • skinnable landscapes, now with spheric panorama projection

customisability

  • add your own deep sky objects, landscapes, constellation images, scripts...

 

Click the image to view a full size screenshot:

Stellarium1

More great screenshots here.

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Thursday, 15 June 2006 21:42:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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