I quite like last.fm’s radio service and I listen to it often when I get bored of my music collection or when I am just way too lazy to set up a playlist. But there are obvious limitations the most essential of which is the simple fact that they don’t have all the songs I’d like. Plus what if I just wanted to listen my own songs like a radio station?
Apple’s answer was the Genius feature in iTunes. It is a good feature indeed, nevertheless I found myself not using it too much. The selection algorithm is OK, but there are still times when a completely unsuitable song somehow gets selected to the playlist baffling me how it got there.
This is why Boffin excited me from the very start: this tech demo beta from last.fm combines two excellent sets of data, firstly your own music collection and secondly last.fm’s plethora of user tags.
The spartan UI has three play control buttons and a weighted tag cloud. Simply selecting the tags that suit your mood and hitting play would start a “radio station” of your own songs. I don’t know much about the selection process but so far it has never disappointed. A great way to rediscover some rarely listened tracks or forgotten numbers as well.
It’s worth mentioning that the initial scanning looked so awesome and interesting I would never have imagined the dull process could ever be like. To generate the tag cloud Boffin needs to run through your music collection and gather their metadata. While doing this the filenames complete with path are rolling up in a discreet shade of grey in the background adding a geeky effect. And for the coup de grâce Boffin quickly dowloads photos of the artists found and floats them fading in and out in the foreground. The end result looks so good I won’t even post a screenshot: I think you should see it for yourselves.
Boffin only reads mp3 files yet but support for various other formats is promised. Hopefully even some user recommended features such as boolean combination of tags or more interaction with the track selection process will eventually be implemented as well.
The beta is currently available for Windows and OS X. Along with the prebuilt binaries the source is also downloadable and many claimed they’ve successfully compiled it under various linux distributions. To use it no other software is needed: just let it scan through your music and then hit play. If you have a last.fm account then you can use the official last.fm client to scrobble your playlist.