Accessories for the iPod are plentiful, and now there's software to make the portable music player even more versatile. Roxio's The Boom Box...
Accessories for the iPod are plentiful, and now there’s software to make the portable music player even more versatile.
Roxio’s The Boom Box ($50, Mac only) includes five applications that reportedly can do a lot. Windows PC owners, read on because there probably is, or will be, similar software for you, too. Let’s take a look:
1. MusicMagic Mixer automatically creates coherent playlists. After the software analyzes your digital music library, you pick a song that fits your mood. Mixer analyzes its acoustics, selects other songs in your music library that have a similar tempo, energy level and harmonics, and moves them to the iTunes library as a playlist. The idea is that these songs sound good together and complement a particular mood.
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I’m doubtful that a software program can do that successfully and imagine the results will be homogenous sound.
But I’ll try it. I pick Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” as my seed song, and Mixer creates a playlist that includes Avril Lavigne’s “Naked,” U2’s “Original of the Species,” R.E.M.’s “The Ascent of Man,” plus songs from Green Day, The Beatles and the soundtrack of “Brother Bear.”
I laugh, and then listen. Turns out, I like this playlist. The songs are recognizably similar, but not boring, at least not to my ears.
When I choose U2’s “All Because of You” as my seed song, the playlist includes other U2 songs along with George Harrison’s “Open Up Your Heart” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” Guess my age is showing through my collection. I don’t love this list as much, but the songs sound good together and I can always revise the list.
2. iPodderX downloads podcasts to iTunes for you to listen from the computer or transfer them to your iPod for listening later. “Podcasts” used to be self-produced radio shows and now the term includes almost any save-for-later audio files.
To find podcasts, browse iPodder’s world directory, listen, and subscribe to the ones you like. Connect an iPod to your Mac and iPodderX will transfer the podcasts to the iPod.
In truth, I’ve never listened to a podcast before. I open iPodderX’s directory and scroll through the long category list with choices from Agriculture and Audio Books to Comedy, Education, Games, Health, Law, Music, Sports and Talk Radio. I pick Music, select a podcast, and at the bottom read its description and choose “Preview Latest Podcast.”
For a while, I dabble in various podcasts, surprised by the excellent sound quality and smooth voices of the self-chosen hosts of these homemade radio shows.
The sampling I listen to includes a movie review and an music podcast, which are impressive, but I decide not to subscribe because the daily podcasts would be automatically downloaded to my iTunes Library.
The next day, Apple comes out with a free iTunes update that makes it easy to browse a directory of podcasts, listen and subscribe from iTunes. There’s also a directory of established Internet radio programs. If you’re curious, check out both of them.
The advantage of using iPodderX, a Roxio spokesperson notes, is that it offers a list of all podcasts available and supports photo and video podcasts.
I’m fascinated by the popularity of podcasting, not only because it provides free (and frequently expert) commentary on a wide range of topics, as well as music of all kinds, but also because it enables anyone to produce a radio show on the Internet.
All you need are a Mac or PC computer, podcasting software, a microphone and headphones. Broadcast what you care most about, and know a lot about, so that others with the same interest will want to listen.
To learn how, search the Web using keywords such as how to create podcast. You can also read the Macworld article, “Start your own podcast” (June, www.macworld.com/2005/04/secrets/junecreate/index.php), or read the book, “Podcasting: The Do-It-Yourself Guide,” by Todd Cochrane.
Interestingly, Cochrane’s argument for podcasting goes like this: As we browse the traditional radio dial, we see a wide variety of programming choices, but most are controlled by the major media companies that limit programming to what they want us to hear.
Podcasts, it seems to me, provide a wide variety of programming choices, and most are limited to what the podcaster chooses to broadcast.
3. iSpeak It is a Boom Box application that can transform a text document, e-mail or Web page into a spoken audio file and save it on an iPod. With iSpeak It, for example, you can listen to e-mail or Web articles instead of reading them.
To try it, I had iSpeak It convert a recent column to audio and save it in my iTunes library. The female voice got the words right, but didn’t read it with the rhythm that a human would.
The computer voice is generated by the text-to-speech engine built into Mac OSX, and according to my 12-year-old, it sounds scary, like a robot.
Still, it works, so if you don’t have time to read that 20-page report, but do have time to listen as you crawl along in commuter traffic, this solution might be right for you.
4. Auto Hijack captures and saves Internet music or radio shows, as well as audio from other applications, DVDs and other sources. You can use it like an audio TiVo by scheduling it to record live radio shows, for instance, so you can listen later.
I haven’t tried this application, nor CD Spin Doctor.
5. CD Spin Doctor converts analog audio from cassette tapes or LPs to MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless digital files. It also detects tracks, reduces noise and enhances the sound quality before saving the converted audio file in the iTunes library.
In sum: The Boom Box does pack a lot into its $50 package.