Notebook > Technology

Hearing rooms

Technology | Websites allow users to create their own concerts

Issue: "Orphaned no more," July 30, 2011

Many have happy memories that center around sharing music with friends: spending lazy teenage days listening to records or CDs, or discovering a new favorite musician at a concert venue. Today, new websites are making it easier to keep sharing and discovering music along with friends-even if they're far away. (available for free to invited users or those with Facebook friends who are users) gives an outlet to would-be DJs. The site is populated by "rooms" (like concert venues) that typically play a certain sort of music. Each room has one to five DJs who take turns picking music-and anyone can become a DJ. Just want to listen? If you're "in" a room, you can vote on the current song choice ("awesome" or "lame"). DJs earn points based on song ratings, and if nobody likes the choice, the DJ loses a turn.

For an experience more like the record player in your bedroom, try Listening Room (, which has no voting-users simply sign up and create a room, add songs to the room, and then invite friends to join the room and do the same.

Changes in the air

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Do you still have a landline phone? You may soon be in a minority: In its recent wireless communication report, the FCC reported that 51.3 percent of adults ages 25-29 have ditched their landlines entirely in favor of cell phones-the first time this number has tipped into the majority in any age range. About 40 percent of adults ages 18-24 and 30-34 live in wireless-only households. Another trend indicates the way we think about our phones is changing. In May, Nielsen reported that 38 percent of mobile consumers in the United States now use smartphones-devices like Android phones or iPhones on which we not only send and receive calls, but write and read email, Tweet, play games, take photos and video, track finances, read books, and do a host of other activities. And 55 percent of customers buying new mobile phones in the past three months bought a smartphone instead of a more traditional cell phone-up from 34 percent one year ago. Not only are answering machines going the way of the dinosaur, but phones that only make calls someday will be a thing of the past.

Horse power

While high-speed internet is readily available in many areas of the United States, some rural regions still lack access, relying instead on slow or unreliable providers-or no access at all. A number of factors, including low population density and difficult terrain, have made it unwieldy or unattractive to install the fiber optic cables needed for broadband in these areas. But who knew draft horses could help? In mountainous Vermont, where Fairpoint Communication hopes to bring high-speed internet to the entire state by 2013, an old technology is helping bring in the new: Belgian draft horses have been recruited (along with their owners) to help run cable through difficult terrain.


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