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April 9, 2009 By Geoffrey Morrison

The greatest thing... ever.

I admit, I'm way late to the party on this one.

Still, if you haven't checked out Pandora, you really have to.

Mini "review" after the jump.

Pandora is labeled "internet radio" but that is a vast over-simplification. You tell it your favorite artist, and it plays that artist. Then it plays artists similar to that artist.

I put in Bob Dylan. Logically I also got Donovan and Woody Guthrie. But I also got Johnny Cash.

To this personal "radio station" you can add in other music that you like, so it will play music from that artist (or song) as well, and other artists who are similar to that artist.

So with basically no effort on your part you will be introduced to new artists you may have never heard of that you are bound to like, because they're similar to artists you know you like. How's that for the coolest thing ever?

It figures out what music is similar from information gleaned from the Music Genome Project. This process breaks down each song into 150-500 "genes" to allow for accurate comparisons.

Pandora InterfaceFree!

Best of all, the service is totally free, though there are some caveats.

The music is of streaming quality. That's not to say it's bad. I haven't heard egregious compression artifacts, but it is no CD.

You're also only allowed 6 skips per hour. If you don't the song you can skip it, if you don't like 6 more, you're going to have to listen to that last one. I haven't found this to be too big of an issue.

You can get Pandora on some cell phones, and apparently a Vista gadget.

I tried the former and found it to work surprisingly well on my 8830 Blackberry from Sprint. Though you better have an unlimited data plan or your cell phone bill will be brutal. The Vista gadget I couldn't get to work despite having the latest version of Vista (Hmmm, I bet that was the problem).

You can create separate channels, say, depending on mood or time of day. And perhaps the smartest aspect of the whole thing is that you can just click on what's playing and read about the artist, album, or song.

My biggest concern with Pandora is how much it is going to cost me. True, the service is free, but the introduction to new music, new artists, new albums, is like crack. Already I have over $100 in new CDs waiting in my Amazon queue begging to be ordered (yet something else you can do via the Pandora interface), and I've only been using Pandora for a week.

Seriously, ifyou are a fan of music at all, you owe it to yourself to check out Pandora. I am completely enamored.



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