Listening, listening, listening: will probably get things set up perfectly just before Last.fm quits working.

It’s not easy getting Last.fm to work on an iPad… there’s only partial functionality (I suspect that due to Apple’s well known aversion to all things Flash, and also to their reluctance to grant control of the iTunes player to third parties).

Now that I’m working from home, music is becoming more and more a necessity. I couldn’t listen before in the office environment, which could have helped me tune out distractions. Now I can listen, and it helps me stay focused while working on records in “waiting for calls” mode. I have a normal clock radio in my home office that can dock with my iPhone 4 (but not charge it, it’s an older model radio) and play either iTunes or streaming radio via various iPhone apps. Then  I realized from this post  that my iPad has more capable built in speakers, and tons more options for streaming radio.

Anyway, there are various ways to listen to music on the iPad, and I’ve tried most of them. Only a couple integrate with the Last.fm “scrobbling” feature, which compiles lists of music tracks played. I seem to finally have settled on 2 iPad internet radio apps in addition to iTunes, which are something called Radio.com and the one that works best for me, Tunemark. This is in addition to at least 2 other radio apps that I use (radioBOX and Tuner), but that don’t get “scrobbled” by Last.fm to keep a running list of songs played via streaming radio. There’s Pandora, too, but I ended up deleting it, may try it again later but it wasn’t coordinating with Last.fm any more. Why do I keep the non-scrobbling ones? Mostly because they have different lists of streaming internet radio stations, some unique or hard to find. Some are easy to set up. So they’re not worth dumping.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to get the Last.fm “custom stations” or “create your station from an artist, song, or genre” feature working on the iPad, because that seems to be kicked off only using a browser version of Last.fm that requires Flash, which Apple refuses to support. Meh. The only other way to get this feature is to install the Last.fm desktop client, which of course can’t be done on the iPad, because APPLE. Grr.

On the other hand, I was playing around on the old laptop and there I have tons of options.

  • Had previously installed a cross-platform player called Clementine that scrobbles tracks and streaming radio. It’s simple, easy to work with, it just works.
  • Installed the latest beta version of the desktop Last.fm client, which is reportedly buggy, but working more or less fine for me on Ye Olde Lap-Top Computer (it may help that it’s still WinXP, don’t know). But the fabulous custom radio feature works, and the integrated plugins for Winamp work, whoo hoo! I can even “love” songsI
  • Installed the latest Winamp, ditto whoo hoo, especially as I had never bothered to import my iTunes library… and it seems I should have, because my laptop has the oldest and most complete version of my much neglected and out of date music database. I found tons of music that hasn’t survived the leaps to my old pre-Gateway computer, let alone to my old Gateway and the current custom-built with the blue blinky whirry lights. AND the Winamp plugin works – I could never get that working before. Oh, maybe I should check to see if it detects streaming radio tracks… the inability of Winamp to scrobble on my desktop on the old version is, heh heh heh, ,what got me kind of in this musical obsession death-spiral in the first place. And… there we have it, Winamp does NOT scrobble streaming radio, but it starts to scrobble saved podcasts (I have a copy of This American Life’s “Pools of Money” show on the economic crisis, and the Last.fm client detected it and the audio tracks I’d imported from iTunes
  • Tested a different Last.fm plugin, Adaba’s Last.fm Pages and widget. Didn’t work, too bad, it hadn’t been updated in 2 years, and it had the ability to create pages with latest tracks, favorites, etc.
  • Installed another plugin called Last.fm Tabs, which adds interesting features below the current one, WPLast.fm. So now I can show favorites, top rated, and so on. Not quite as good as an entire page of recent tracks, but okay for now. I may explore a different method to put that on its own page later.

So: on the iPad, I can scrobble tracks from iTunes, and scrobble some streamed radio from the Radio.com app (which has a pretty nice interface, but a lot of dead Yahoo radio links, because CBS Radio killed them or something). My iPad streaming Radio.com app (which has a pretty nice interface, but a lot of dead Yahoo radio links, because CBS Radio killed them or something). My iPad streaming radio app of choice is Tunemark, which I think was a 0.99 BARGAIN.”>radio app of choice is Tunemark, which I think was a 0.99 BARGAIN.

Radio.com was HARD to configure for Last.fm. For some reason I couldn’t get signed in for a day. Then when I thought I had turned it on, I hadn’t actually clicked a little green user icon dingus and REALLY complete the connection to Last.fm. Once that was done, the generic user icon (which looked like a Plamobil wee-people) turned into a faint AS (which scrobblers know stands not for Arne Saknussemm but for Audioscrobbler, the precursor software Last.fm bought). It took me 2 whole days to stumble into the solution – not found in any FAQ that I could find.

Yet Tunemark is a pleasure to use and configure. It comes with the stock Shoutcast directory of internet radio stations, but it’s easy to add a stream URL (Winamp is awful for adding URLs, but I grumbled and got along for years). I had to look up some of the harder to find URLs (for some reason, CBS is a major thorn in the sides of internet radio listners, they hid their high-bandwidth URLs well).

A couple of really cool features on Tunemark (and now I finally get to use the fancy new Twitter embed) are the ability to Tweet a track title and artist, or to post it as a status update to Facebook. Also, it has a way to “tunemark” or bookmark a track, which adds it to a local list which can be exported. Pretty cool, eh? I’m still figuring out what other features are hidden behind little icons.

Oh, lookit that, that’s so cute! Yep, it’s cool functionality… and similar to a nifty little thing that the old, old, old offline WordPress client ecto used to have. Just push the little “musical note” button while iTunes was playing, and it would insert a “currently listening” thing into the post. Le sigh, ecto or whatever it’s called now has been dead for Windows users for years… shame, that. Anyway, the thing is, all this fun musical woolgathering is dependent on one single piece of software – that old Audioscrobbler that Last.fm bought 6 years ago that they’ve gradually let get long in the tooth until now, it seems, it’s easier for them to update for everything BUT Apple products. There must be some longstanding fued or something. If they ever break the functionality for scrobbling to Last.fm or any other site from iTunes or from Apple products, a scream of rage will go up from thousands and thousands of hardcore music-track collectors. Reading some of the years-old pleas in the Last.fm community support pages these last few days, I’ve gotten a sense of how bored the Last.fm folks are with answering the same question over and over again: “WHEN WILL LAST.FM HAVE ITS OWN iPAD APP? WHEN? THE iPHONE VERSION LOOKS TERRIBLE ON THE TABLET!”

The beta version of their software is working. I’m hoping that a website redesign is coming (without the horrible Flash that means I can’t work all the music, video, “play” or radio buttons on the iPad or iPhone). But I have a horrible feeling that I’ve finally figured out how to make a record of all the great music I’m listening to now, only to probably lose this ability at any time, at Last.fm’s whim. You see, CBS Radio bought Last.fm a few years ago. Not long after that, they took their best streaming URLs behind a kind of content wall (forcing listeners to listen to high-bandwith WXRT HD via their website, for example) and they also appear to have simply turned off a lot of Yahoo! radio streams, after taking them over. So it’s not known how long CBS might be okay with the whole “scrobbling via API to various third-party players and blog plugins” concept, unless they see significant purchase revenue from incoming links to scrobblers’ pages. I dunno.

Anyway, I’ve listened to a lot of old and new music tonight playing around on the iPad and Ye Olde Laptop, the Dull Uninspiron. While it lasts, I’ll enjoy listening during the day, too.

More music later. And more tweets.

So,

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