Pandora is one of the more popular streaming music websites on the Internet. It’s more than a simple streaming radio station, however. Pandora allows users to select a type of music to listen to. And thanks to the Music Genome Project, music is not simply put into single categories, but analyzed by human beings, with more than 400 specific traits (or “genes”), so that music from one artist might be paired with music from another artist that might not seem – until you listen to the music – to be a good match.
The Pandora service is great, and can be used for free. Unfortunately, the problem for some users is that using Pandora requires them to keep a web browser open at all times. There is a Pandora desktop application, but it requires users to be premium subscribers to the Pandora One service before being able to use it (no demo is available).
Thankfully, for Linux users at least, there is another desktop option, called Pithos. Pithos – in mythology the box or vase Pandora opened – is a GNOME application based on the pianobar Terminal application for streaming Pandora music. Installing Pithos is simple. There are numerous options on the Pithos website, and once downloaded and installed, using it is just as easy.
The first time you run Pithos, you’ll be asked for your Pandora account information (your email address and password). You can also use Pandora with a web proxy if you like (there is another text entry field for this). Pithos also has an option to use a notification area icon and show song notifications when tracks change. Those can be turned on or off, whichever you choose. Finally, Pithos is able to scrobble your Pandora music listening to your Last.fm music list; simply click the button to begin the authorization process and you’ll be taken to the Last.fm website where you can authorize Pithos.
Once Pithos is up and running, you’ll have the option to create different radio stations. Simply type in the name of a favorite artist or song, and a radio station will be created based on it. The music in the station will be similar the type of music played by the artist or by the overall feel and characteristics of the song. For instance, “Bohemian Rhapsody Radio” includes “Somebody to Love” by Queen, “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor, “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas and “Any Way You Want It” by Journey. All of these songs are big, brash, dramatic songs. Operatic rock, almost. Similarly, a radio station based on North Mississippi Allstars includes mostly southern rock, jams and blues.
You can also tweak the QuickMix, which is a combination of any or all of your other radio stations. This can be a good way to listen to multiple styles all at once, including what you want to hear and excluding what you aren’t in the mood for at the moment.
Like using the Pandora web interface, Pithos offers the ability to Love a Song, which highlights the characteristics that song has, and increases the likelihood it (and similar songs) will appear in your radio station. You can ban a song, which guarantees the song will no longer appear, or say you’re tired of a song, which bans the song temporarily. Be careful with banning songs, though, as when done too often to the same artist, can get that artist banned from all your stations. Pithos also supports Pandora bookmarks. A song or artist, when bookmarked in Pithos, will show up in your Pandora profile page, for quick, easy access.
Pithos is a fantastic application. It’s very light on system resources, gives me everything I like about listening to Pandora streams, without any of the high CPU usage I sometimes get from Flash applications. It’s perfect for computers that maybe don’t have as much processing power, and for free users is an excellent alternative to paying for Pandora One just to get the desktop application. It uses GNOME libraries, but works on KDE and other desktop environments as well.