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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Webscape
Kate Russell
By Kate Russell
Click Webscape-r

Kate Russell gives us her latest selection of the best sites on the World Wide Web.

MediaMaster

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

First up is a new offering which lets you upload your own tracks from your PC and listen to it online from any other computer with a broadband internet connection.

This is not a new idea, but MediaMaster has given it a neat makeover. Though its aim is to be a commercial service, at the moment there is no limit to how much of your collection you can upload and then stream - for absolutely nothing.

After a free and quick registration, you get taken to an unfussy main screen, which allows you to manage the service.

Even before you add music you will see they have started you off with some classical numbers - a classy touch. You upload your own material from either a simple interface, which deals with individual files, or an advanced interface where you can import entire folders.

You can even choose to tweak the upper upload rate to ensure it is not eating too much bandwidth. Bear in mind only unprotected tracks can be imported and for legal reasons they cannot be re-downloaded again - only streamed.

When you playback you will notice similarities with desktop music managers - like the ability to rate tracks and create playlists.

MediaMaster even analyses the metadata and fetches album art, which you can also see in the library view - missing chunks from the cover means you have not imported the entire album.

There is no support at the moment for importing playlists and ratings, though this is coming soon. A lovely touch is the ability to stream your playlists or what you are listening to now with your friends - they receive the link and play it through their desktop media player.

And in the spirit of Web 2.0, you can even create a widget of your collection to embed in blogs or social networking site.


Last FM

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

So that is the music you know, now how about discovering new music matched to your tastes and having it streamed from any computer for absolutely nothing? Well that is the promise of these next two sites, which have been described as radio-killers in the making.

Both of them try to figure out what music you like listening to and then build personalised music stations around it.

The first is Last.fm. Its somewhat busy interface makes it quite a daunting prospect at first glance because it has got lots of social networking elements to it. But you can actually get to grips with it immediately by just plugging in your favourite band.

The site will then try to play back similar artists it thinks you will like - based on other users' preferences.

To really get good results though you will need to register and start scrobbling - a fancy term for sending details of your favourite songs and artists to your profile. You can download various scrobbling tools for your desktop media players, so every time you play one of your own songs data is sent which means the site can make more accurate recommendations.

And you can help it along by voting on whether or not you like the song it is serving up to you.

The social aspect of Last.fm comes through in the neighbourhood part of the site which connects you to people with similar tastes. It allows you do discover their favourite artists and figure out what you might like by inspecting the tags they have associated with them.

More recently Last.fm has begun offering tag radio - you simply pick a tag and play.


Pandora

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Now for those who want a simpler and perhaps slightly more user-friendly experience, this next service is what you need.

American-based Pandora takes a pseudo-scientific approach to music. It has emerged from the music genome project, whose goal is to assign hundreds of different attributes - genes, if you like - to songs to identify what makes them unique.

To see how this works, simply plug in the artist or track that you like and Pandora will create a radio station based on similar attributes to the song or artist you have chosen.

You get a brief taster just by logging on, but to really get stuck in you will need to register with a US zip code - if you have not got a US zip code, there is an international version expected soon.

Your account will store up to 100 stations, with the music streamed at 128 kbps - so here too broadband is a must. Again, the basic service is free, supported by ads.


Metronome

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

At Metronome Online it does effortlessly what it says on the tin - an easy-to-use essential tool of the trade.

Choose your colour and speed, and then it is down to you to keep your music in time.

There is also a really useful tool, a tuning aid - a 440 hertz tone which musos will know as an "A" note.




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