How d’you like them Apples?

iPod nano My colleague Chris returned from a business trip to the US today bringing me this little beauty. I loved my iPod Photo until it was unfortunately stolen out of my bag on my trip to Mongolia back in July. Since then I have been iPodless and waiting for a reason to buy a new one. Last week Apple gave me one when they unveiled ‘el nano’….

The picture on the website gives you some idea of what it’s like, but the thing I didn’t really take in was quite how small it is. It’s the same height as a busines card and thinner than the iPod shuffle. The display is also much better than I expected – I could see that it was smaller than the iPod Photo’s but had thought that it would feel squashed and be hard to read. However, the text is clear and even the album art is recognizable. I could be wrong about this but it seems the resoulution is higher than on a Photo which may have something to do it.

As I listen to it on my desk – I am continuously picking it up and playing with it – it really is one of those gadgets that seems somehow ahead of it’s time. They have taken all the features from the regular iPod and shrunk them to a quarter the size. Kudos to the Apple enginneers for a) squishing all those electronics into such a small design, and b) not letting slip to the public what they were working on all this time. News of this on the horizon would have hammered sales of the shuffle and mini….

There has been a lot of talk recently about how Apple’s honeymoon cannot last, and that there will be a backlash of consumers defecting to players from other manfacturers who don’t tie themsleves to such closed platforms. That may be true eventually but for the time being Apple are not going anywhere especially if they continue to innovate and produce players like this. Tempted?

Shareaza 2.2 P2P Filesharing Tool Released

After a year of development the latest version of P2P tool Shareaza has been released. Shareaza is a Windows–based peer-to-peer client which supports the Gnutella, Gnutella2, eDonkey Network, and BitTorrent network protocols. It is free, open source, and contains no adware or spyware. If you want to download music and videos from the web this is an excellent tool to use.

Download it here.

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Last.FM Personalized Music Radio

I have recently been listening to the Last.FM radio service powered by Audioscrobbler which is really cool. This offers free high-quality personalized radio that you can listen to online.

You need to have an account to use the service. After picking a username and signing up, you should install the Audioscrobbler Plugin for your media player (iTunes, Winamp etc..) which sends the name of every song you play on your computer to Last.fm. Over time, this list of songs grows larger and larger – you can see your personal listening charts on your userpage. Last.fm automatically finds people with a similar taste, and generates music recommendations for you.

Based on these recommendations, you can then listen to a personalised radio station tailored towards your musical taste. To do this download the Last.fm Player. In fact, you don’t need the Audioscrobbler plugin if you have installed the player – you can create a custom radio station based on the artists you like on the Radio page – but you will get better recommendations over time if you use it.

There are dozens of other entertaining and useful aspects of Last.fm, but you’ll have to sign up and explore them for yourself.

To get an idea of how this works view my profile by clicking here. If any of you sign up let me know the address of your profile page by posting it in the comments section.

Tag your Tunes

As an iPod owner with a shed-load of music, I am always on the lookout for good software for automatically tagging (i.e. adding the track, artist, album name etc.) to my music so that I can find it when browsing through my tunes on the iPod. Recently I came across this tool Musicbrainz which so far I am very impressed with. Adding tags to your music is tedious to say the least and this tool makes it and quick and as painless as any I have yet discovered, and *bonus* – it’s free. Mac users get the best solution from this setup with a plugin for iTunes called ieatBrainz(!) (download here). Windows users can use the excellent Music Brainz tagger software.

Audioscrobbler

Yesterday I began playing around with an interesting community service called Audioscrobbler. Essentially it is a system that monitors the music that you listen to on your computer and then recommends new artists based on the listening habits of other users on the network. Geeky but actually pretty cool.

After installing a software plugin, your computer sends the name of every song you play to the Audioscrobbler Server. With this information, the system then builds you a ‘Musical Profile’, from which it then calculates which people are most similar to you, based on shared musical taste, so you can take a look at what your peers are listening to.

If you are interested in trying it out (it’s free) here is what you need:

1. Register to get your own username and profile.
2. Download a plugin for your music player, and enter your login details.
3. Listen to some tunes :-)

The great thing about this system is that it is designed to be completely unobtrusive – once you have set it up it will work silently in the background monitoring the songs you listen to and sending the stats to the website. To get a better idea of how it all works you can see my statistics by clicking here.

I have also installed a special plugin on my blog that will display the last 10 songs I have played (look in the sidebar on the right).

Let me know what you think.

ADDENDUM: PC iPod uers might be interested in the AudioPod Plugin (best used in conjunction with Katapult to automatically launch AudioPod when your iPod is connected to your PC.)