Streaming Music Services: Which Rock?

Streaming Music Services: Which Rock?

Music is the primal (and thoroughly awesome) force that moves us all, and the Internet has substantially changed the way we listen to the songs we love. Did you know that there are several music streaming services online? Better still, several of the best streaming music services are free to use, and they let you listen to select songs from your favorite artists, albums and genres, hassle-free.

The services typically vary in function. While some will analyze your favorite music and use those tracks to recommend new artists and albums, others provide a variety of preset channels to pick from, and a compelling mix of sports, commentary, and even live events. Still others let you upload your music collection to the web so you can access it from any computer. All of them are web-based, but many are available as apps as well.

If there’s one drawback to these digital services, it’s that they require an online connection to work fully. In other words, if there’s a blackout, good-bye musical distraction. Still, it’s a great way to connect with like-minded fans, and/or simply space out to your own personal Top 10 lists.

Following are five of the best music streaming services that you can listen to on-demand at home or work:

PandoraPandora is a front-end for the Music Genome Project, which is a massive effort to “capture the essence of music at a fundamental level” by using algorithms to  brew up recommendations for listeners. In other words, Pandora’s online radio service turns up recommendations that are “genetically” linked to your favorite songs. As such, Pandora is an excellent music streaming service if you’re in the mood to expand your listening. It has some shortcomings, however: The free version of the service only allows for 40 hours of listening a week, and it’s only available in the United States.

Last.fmLike Pandora, Last.fm is something of a frontrunner in the realm of music streaming. It also gives you recommendations based on your favorite listening selections, and lets you build playlists. The site is loaded with social networking options, which has helped build a rich and busy community around the service. Last.fm is a great choice if you’re looking to share your musical interests with your pals.

GroovesharkIts name might bring up a mental image of the mellowest killer in the sea, but Grooveshark is actually one of the most popular music streaming services on the Internet, thanks to its ease of use. Unlike other services, you don’t need to sign up for a subscription: You simply dive right into the site and begin building a playlist. If you’re at a loss to find anything you like, you can even upload your own music collection to help build up the Grooveshark database.

SpotifySpotify is an excellent streaming service that lets you share your playlists with ease. Premium users can access an offline mode to store music locally. The service recently launched in the United States, and is also available in much of Europe and the UK. Sorry, Canadians. It’s quickly risen to become the most prominent of the streaming music services, at least from the standpoint of awareness and media coverage, even if Pandora has it beat in terms of ubiquity on connected devices such as WiFi-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players.

Slacker RadioYou should check out Slacker Radio—and don’t come back with a response like, “Ehhh, maybe later.” Slacker Radio has great audio quality, and tons of customization options. That’s worth getting up off the couch for, right? But don’t believe us: Take it from top critics, who continually label it as a favorite pick on their best-of lists.

For more about the best music streaming services on the Internet, visit:

The Best Streaming Music Services at PC Mag

The Five Best Music Streaming Services at LifeHacker

Top 5 On Demand Music Streaming Services at VentureBeat

How to Self-Publish Your Book or eBook

How to Self-Publish Your Book or eBook

It’s somewhere on the top of every aspiring writer’s “To Do” list: Write a Novel. Preferably one that earns a descriptor like, “Great American,” “Best-Selling,” or “Phenomenally Popular.” Alas, not everyone has the time or energy to engage in courtship dances with agents and publishers. Fortunately, the Internet is brimming with some of the best resources you can use to self-publish your own books.

You’re not restricted to publishing novels, either. There are tools online that let you self-publish magazines, eBooks, and even cookbooks. Most self-publishing services are hooked up with one or more major book distributors ( including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and international distributors as well), so selling online is a snap too. Of course, some writers still prefer the thrill and challenge of having their work acknowledged and promoted by a publisher. But if you’re looking for something quicker, easier and more practical, here are some great resources you can use to self-publish your writing: 

LuluLulu is the Internet’s go-to spot for self-publishing. You can pay for printing, editing, and marketing services a la carte, or else you can opt for a package experience that hooks you up with a personal coordinator that will take you through the process. If you’re undecided about what you need, you can sign up for a free consultation, and the site also offers extensive back-end selling tools for businesses. Distribution to online websites, iBooks and the Nook is also offered.

CreateSpaceCreateSpace is a publication service run by Amazon.com. You can turn your book into solid matter by using either the site’s free or paid services, and you can put the finishing touches on your work with the site’s affordable editing, design, and marketing options. You can also promote your novel via your own eShop, which is hosted by Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing – Many authors are turning to Amazon’s popular Kindle eReader to publish, with digital books starting to outsell print volumes. Using KDP, you can publish small Singles (about the size of a long essay) or full-size novels alike in digital eBook format, and get them up on the site for download to the Kindle Fire and similar devices in a matter of days. It’s shockingly convenient.

MagCloudMagCloud is a print-on-demand service that’s headed by Hewlett-Packard (HP). It’s tailored for the creation and distribution of digital editions and single-issue magazines. MagCloud offers digital support, too. Show the world that the fanzine is not dead by printing your own magazines and distributing them to friends, family and supporters! 

iUniverseWith iUniverse, you have access to advice and tips from insiders that have already had success self-publishing their work. The iUniverse Roadmap walks you through the publishing process, making it as easy as possible to get your work off the computer and up for sale. 

What About eBooks? – For some people, there’s no substitution for the rough lick of pages passing through your fingers. Let’s be reasonable, though, eBooks are only going to become more popular, not less so – especially with digital manuscripts now outselling print volumes. That’s why you should definitely consider putting out an eBook in addition to your print books or as an alternative when it comes time to self-publish. After all, hard copies of books and magazines tend to be a bit more costly than virtual alternatives, and a potential reader is far more likely to shell out for the (much) lower cost of an eBook.

Lulu.com’s even found that eBooks can offer readers additional benefits, and potentially boost sales of print editions as well, and offers eBook publishing, as do many of the other sites mentioned on this list. There are other services that can help with digital publishing programs as well, including SmashWords, Publish Green, and FastPencil. Look at what each service offers and decide what’s right for you. 

For more information about self-publishing books and eBooks, visit:

How to Self-Publish an eBook at CNET

How to Self-Publish Anything at Mashable

Why Every Entrepreneur Should Self-Publish a Book at TechCrunch

Make Free Phone Calls Online

Make Free Phone Calls Online

Briiing briiing. It’s for you. It’s big savings. Technology has changed drastically over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is humanity’s love for nattering at each other over long distances. Email makes it easy and cheap to communicate with loved ones who are on the other side of the country, but nothing can take the place of a meaningful telephone call. But how do you make those calls without having to worry about the minutes ticking down and the dollars piling up? Thankfully, a number of new services let you make free phone calls online over the Internet.

The best way to get started: Familiarize yourself with some of the many ways to make calls at zero cost online, as all offer different features, technology and services. As an example, there are VoIP (Voice-Over IP) programs galore that let you perform unlimited PC-to-PC calls, as well as alternate solutions that allow for PC-to-phone connections, videoconfrencing or video chats, and a variety of apps and services that offer unique calling capabilities. Keep in mind that you may need to download software to make these calls, though the necessary programs are usually free. More importantly, some VoIP telephone services do not support emergency 911 calls, or connect to standard operator reference services. Whichever software you choose to make calls with, confirm that it supports 911 at the very least. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to consider keeping a land line handy for emergencies.

That said, if you’re looking to put pro bono calling capabilities on speed dial, here are five of the many ways that you can now make free phone calls on the Internet.

Google VoiceGoogle Voice can be used on any Web browser, and it’s also available as a stand-alone app for Android, Blackberry, and iPhone. Essentially, the call management service lets you sign up for one number that can ring all your lines (cell, home, office, etc.) and alternately lets you connect to a destination phone for free. However, calls are limited to three hours in length (after which you will be disconnected, but can simply connect again), and they’re only free as long as you call numbers based in the United States and Canada. If you call foreign countries outside of North America, you’ll be charged a per-minute fee.

Google TalkGoogle Talk is a free browser plug-in that allows for unlimited PC-to-PC calls, and free PC-to-phone calls. If you want to make any kind of phone call via your PC, you need to have a microphone headset, which can be purchased at any electronics store.

iCallWith iCall’s software, you can make free calls from your PC to the recipient’s phone. The computer you call from can be located anywhere in the world, but in order for the call to remain free, the recipient must be in the United States or Canada. The program is very easy to use, though calls are limited to five minutes, and you must listen to a ten-second advertisement every time you re-connect.

SkypeSkype is probably the best-known name in VoIP technology. Many people have Skype accounts, which makes it easy to perform PC-to-PC calls. Skype is also great for videoconferencing and video calls, and it has a useful text-based Internet chat service.

FreeBuzzerUnlike most programs let you make free phone calls over the Internet, FreeBuzzer doesn’t limit you to the United States and Canada: You can make free calls to over 40 countries by utilizing phone-connecting software that’s similar to Google Voice. Your calls are limited to a brief two minutes, and you can only make three free calls in a day, but FreeBuzzer is still a good option if you want to say a quick hello to an overseas friend. Also, the company’s mascot is a mosquito. Charming!  

For more help with making free phone calls, visit:

Freebies at About.com

Make Free Calls Using Gmail at TechVibes.com