19 July 2009

Pocket Pandora

Wow, yikes. I increased the dose of a medication and lost nearly a week to daze. I thought occasionally "I need to write a blog today", but then time would slip away again. Next time I change a dose, I'm going to get a week of stuff written ahead and enlist someone to drop them into the blog day by day for me.

There was one cool and music-relevant thing from the week to share. My old Blackberry, an 8703e business powerhouse, died. I was right at my "get a new phone if you renew your contract" date (picture my faithful steed collapsing inches from the finish line), so I was able to replace it with the latest coolest the very next day. I am so loving my Blackberry Tour. It's smaller, faster, and does all sorts of amazing things. It even has a camera! (There were places in my office that banned cameras, so I avoided getting a phone with a camera. Now they ban phones, iPods, flash sticks, and just about everything but pencils so there's no advantage to a cameraless phone.) My only complaints about it so far are that it doesn't have Wi-Fi and that it doesn't have a magic battery that never needs charging.

The most wonderful feature is that there is a Pandora client for this generation of Blackberry. I mean, "w00t!" doesn't even cover it. Of course, regular readers know that this leaves me with my old dilemma again. (Amber on Music: Tyranny of the Scrobble) If I stream Pandora on my phone, the music won't be scrobbled to my Last.fm profile. On the PC, I use PandoraFM, but that doesn't work on the Blackberry and Last.fm has no Blackberry client for their streaming music. Wah.

(Of course, my scrobbling is all gewhackity these days because my library is on the shared drive that keeps getting stuck on my roommate's computer. This resource PITA is balanced by his contribution of new music to the household, though, so I cope. I also expect to get some wordage out of his intermittent efforts in streaming his own music out. But I digress ... )

The Pandora client is pretty slick. It is easy to use and has all the Pandora features for just plain listening to music, including Thumb Up/Down and "why was this chosen?" You can listen to any of your Pandora stations or start a new one from a single artist or song seed. It shows the album artwork even bigger than it does on my PC, which is nice. It lets you select music quality level to balance performance and data consumption. I really like that it adds itself to the top of every application menu, so you can get into it to skip a horrible song or pause it with practically no navigation.

It omits some features that I use a lot, though. I can't edit any of my existing stations, or even see their seeds. It lets me select my Quick Mix station, but doesn't let me add anything to it. That kind of spoils the point of Quick Mix, seems to me. I can, however, delete any station. I'm not sure why I would feel the need to delete on the road more than mixing up something new to meet my on-the-road needs.

There are a few drawbacks that bother me. The earbuds that came with the phone suck utterly. They hurt my ears, have crappy sound, and fall out. Boo to you Blackberry. I can replace those with something better, of course. I can't fix the other glitch, which is only a problem for total geeks like me: the "why this song?" blurbs are often slow to load and too long for the Blackberry-sized window. I can cope with that. It drives me up the wall that the music pauses briefly for every alert, which leads to a string of hiccups as SMS and email land. You choose a Blackberry because you expect to get a lot of SMS and email, so this is not a small problem for the crackberry-addicted.

I do step back and put this in perspective. It will only let me listen to radio stations I developed myself in advance and not let me develop any while I'm on the subway? Poor me. I'm complaining about something that is head and shoulders above just plain old pocket radios. It won't replace regular-broadcast radio in cases of emergency or civil insurrection, but it totally demolishes it for music. If I whine about this again, take away my phone and make me get by with an AM transistor radio for a week.

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