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KONK REACTOR column
[Published in the KONK Life newspaper on June 21, 2012.]
Return of the Geek
A couple of years ago I wrote a column called Geek Speak in a local paper. It focused on various techie topics, where I’d introduce or update new and changing technologies we deal with. Topics that can be confusing when you don’t keep up with them. The river of Science and Engineering flows swiftly, so I’m again going to put on my Geek hat, and attempt to pilot you through one of those eddies. This time: Portable Music.
Just a few years ago “state of the art” was an iPod or MP3 player. You’d have to find and download music (much of it unauthorized) or rip music from your CD collection, then mostly manually move it over to your player to carry with you. At least it was more convenient that the old bulky “Walkman” CD player strapped around your waist! But collecting and setting up the music really was a hassle.
Since then the age of the Smart Phone has arisen, and one of the bigger hassles – carrying TWO boxes around in your pockets – has gone away. Every smart phone on the market is now a music player. Actually they’re all pretty good cameras and video recorders, too – so that’s two OTHER boxes you no longer have carry with you. We can now grab a nice little box (often for FREE with a service plan commitment) that handles all your music, your calls, your photos & videos — and for a bonus gives you GPS and access to the internet from almost anywhere. If you’re stuck with an older not-so-smart phone, do yourself a favor and upgrade as soon as your commitment is up. Yes, the plans cost more, but ultimately it’s worth it.
While you’re at it, get some bluetooth stereo headphones. They now work very well, without wires flopping around. The compact ear-bud types are great for walks or jogging. And they’ll automatically take an incoming call; then return to the music. You’ll love it. And if you have another hundred or so to spare, get a small bluetooth amplified stereo speaker box. It will play your music “out loud” instead of in your ear — great for sharing that awesome playlist in a group situation.
What tunes do you play? If you have an iPhone, you probably already know iTunes. Synch the phone with your purchased or imported music, and you’re set. The equivalent for Android phones is Google Play. It takes a smaller footprint on your computer, but it’ll push all of your music (up to 20,000 tracks) out to the net so that it’s accessible from your Android phone. You can let it play over your 4G connection or have favorite songs copied permanently to the phone (trading phone storage for monthly bandwidth usage). Both iTunes and Play also offer songs for purchase.
If you prefer letting someone else program your music and don’t want to store much on your computer, there are several options. If you happen to have a Sirius XM satellite radio account (not cheap), you can pay a bit extra each month (for each phone) to also stream to you via an app. I prefer a FREE alternative, the “TuneIn” app. It lets you select from virtually any terrestrial radio station (every Keys station is on it) and lots of internet-only stations, for NOTHING. Podcasts, as well. (There are also other “radio portals” out there.)
Finally, there are “playlist” services that let you stream songs from a commercial internet “library” one-by-one in sequences you set up yourself, or from shared playlists put together by others. The most comprehensive service is Spotify, streaming virtually ALL released music for a small monthly fee. Other similar services are Rhapsody and Pandora. (The later offers a free service if you let it play ads.)
Almost any song, any radio station, any podcast is now available to you almost anywhere anytime. All you need is a smart phone, the right plan(s), and headphones. Listen up!
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