Last.FM: a couple of small criticisms

December 10, 2007

Image of Last.FM logo

I wake up after falling asleep on the sofa sometime around 8pm and it’s now 2 o’clock in the morning. Davis is curled up on the armchair opposite and there’s just the ticking of the clock in the near darkness to keep me company. I’m now not sleepy enough to head upstairs and don’t want to disturb Is by being unable to sleep, so in hopes of tiring myself out, I tippy-tap the following…

Much as I love to check on my Last.FM page (sad, but true), there are a couple of key pieces of data that it appears to fail to capture which has the effect of failing to accurately reflect listening habits. With its focus upon artists and tracks it doesn’t reflect my recent habit of listening to compilations such as the Fonotone Records collection of bluegrass/old-time music or my own iTunes pop mixes. This is because each of these feature a large number of different artists, only a small number of which might appear way down in the lower reaches of my ‘Top Artists – Overall’ list or briefly show in the ‘Weekly Top Artists’. If Last.FM captured album information and published similar charts as it does for Artists and Tracks, it would better reflect what I’m actually listening to and make more accurate recommendations. Similarly, because it fails to register track length, Last.FM promotes my listening to the brief, piano fragments of Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives or the blink-and-it’s-gone, thrash-core of Naked City at the cost of the drawn-out minimal techno of Fluxion or the frozen tundra-scapes of Thomas Koner. The amount of time I spend listening to the latter may well exceed the former, but the Last.FM methodology favours brevity and quantity.

Image of Pandora recommendation window

While I’m on the subject, I tried out Pandora, Last.FM’s human-input counterpart (“Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs.”). This was a recommendation via the inestimable Dan Hill whose excellent New Music Experiences – which is just my cup of tea, though I’ve yet to finish it. However, I’m not impressed by it so far as, in response to my declared taste for Kraftwerk it suggests Throbbing Gristle, Front 242, David Carretta and Paul Van Dyk. These seem painfully US-centric in their (mis-)interpretation. Then I try creating a new station and entering Erik Satie as my first step, after indicating that he’s an artist rather than a song name I’m asked ‘Did you want the artist Erik Sanko?’. When I respond ‘No, search again’, I’m returned to a blank search box. Third time lucky, I try for Rhythm & Sound, I’m suggested Rhythm Masters… er, no thank you. Same goes for Prokofiev and Sergei Prokofiev. I have better luck with King Tubby, though I don’t like Pandora’s assessment that one of the music’s characteristics was “meandering melodic development”. Ultimately though, I don’t find most recommendations very useful and prefer to rely upon a mixture of intuition and personal research or friends’ recommendations.

[Originally published on A Personal Miscellany]


Access your iTunes library anywhere

January 26, 2007

Avvenue screenshot

Avvenue allows anyone to access their iTunes library anywhere as long as they store their music on a PC and leave it awake and on:

The Avvenu Music Player™ lets you remotely listen to music you have stored (“ripped”) on your Windows® PC. Simply install the Avvenu Music Player and you can listen to your music using the web browser on any other Internet-connected Windows or Macintosh® personal computer, laptop, or Windows Mobile® 5 Smartphone.

This can be done via mobile phones as simply as via a remote computer. It’s an attractive concept, though I wonder a) what this would do to your phone bill and b) to global warming, it being one more reason to leave your PC on rather than turn it off. Rather attractively, it’s free to download.

(If memory serves, this used to be possible on a Mac, but I may be wrong.)

Link: Avvenu product page
Via: TechCrunch

Jax – an iPod plug-in that delivers music management and internet content

January 15, 2007

This looks potentially interesting for those of us yet to take delivery of our iPhones…

Jax, a customizable iPod plug-in that adds music management features and delivers Internet content to iPod nanos, minis, and full-size iPods.

Jax features configurable visualizers and the ability to manage lyrics and search libraries by specific phrases and words. It also manages album art and lets users research artists.

Jax can also download information from the Internet, such as point-to-point directions, current weather forecasts, stock quotes, movie listings and local gas prices. Likewise, it can load news feeds, e-mails and document, as well as video from YouTube, Google Videos, or QuickTime movies.

Available next month apparently.

Via: Playlist
Link: Product page

Ten iPhone suggestions

January 12, 2007

Picture of iPhone

Including at number 9:

‘Allow iTunes Store purchases via Wi-Fi’

The iPhone has 802.11 support, so it can connect to wireless networks. But as far as we know, you won’t be able to use the iPhone to connect to the iTunes Store and download music, movies, and podcasts. Sure, it might not work when you’re in EDGE mode on Cingular’s network (speeds aren’t fast enough), but if you’re on an 802.11 network using a high-speed connection, why not give the iPhone direct access to the iTunes Store?

Link: MacUser article

43 Folders muses on the openness – or otherwise – of the iPhone as a computing platform

January 12, 2007

Picture of iPhone

I’d feel like Apple was abandoning an opportunity to make this more than a phone, and more that an iPod, and even — let’s be frank about the elephant in the room — much more than a Palm or a Pocket PC. There’s the potential here for some serious George Jetson shit and it would be a pity not to capitalize on that as early as possible.

I can very much sympathise with the wish for at least a relatively open platform for developers. And, yes, the iPhone is a different beast from the iPod, but the iPod has remained securely locked down – apart, that is, from games and Linux hacks. For my part, I’ve used the ? software as a plug-in to liven up iTunes’ sound output. I would love to have this on my iPod as well, but requests by the developer have been entirely ignored. I can’t help but suspect a similar situation will apply to apps for the iPhone (widgets may be different). This is still the honeymoon stage, with the device literally locked behind glass or only held in the hands of company reps, but once it’s out in the wild, there’ll be a blizzard of user feedback and the last thing Apple will want is the messiness of third party software and uncontrollable issues.

Link: 43 Folders: Let OS X developers at the iPhone. Please.

This NYT article: “>Phone shows Apple’s impact on consumer products sheds some light on the situation:

Mr. Jobs is moving in that direction, too, but it appears that he wants to control his device much more closely than his competitors.

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”


“These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”

Tangerine – BPM analyser creates iTunes playlists

December 17, 2006


Tangerine lets you easily create playlists with upbeat music, or playlists for relaxing. It does that by analyzing the BPM and beat intensity of the songs in your iTunes library.”