Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Pandora to work in France on the iPhone

Pandora in an internet-based radio music service. You normally play it on your computer via the internet but it can also work on some mobile devices.

What makes the service rather cool is that you select songs you like and it will automatically creates a "station" that plays similar songs based on 400 attributes. You can also rate (thumbs-up or thumbs-down) a song on the station and Pandora will take that into account in creating the station. You cannot simply select songs to play, however; you select artists and songs you like and Pandora creates the station.

There is also a Pandora iPhone Application which means you can plan Pandora music whenever your iPhone has Wi-Fi access (or if you have a data plan with your provider).

I thought this was perfect for Paris so I got the App and paid something like $30 for the full-blown version which eliminates ads and gives you unlimited skipping-to-the-next song capability not allowed by the free version.

However, when I got here, I discovered that Pandora only works in the US! They control this by checking the IP Address of the network through which your PC or mobile device is connected to the internet.

However, if you use a proxy or VPN service you can route your connection through another network and if this network is in the US, then Pandora should work.

It turns out Secure Tunnel offers just such a service for $5.95/mo. It is not designed specifically for this purpose -- it provides secure and anonymous communications over the internet and data channels for your mobile device -- but it works because Secure Tunnel's servers are in the US! This means that regardless of how you connect to the internet, it APPEARS to the websites you connect to that you are in the US because all your traffic is routed through Secure Tunnel.

Once you create your account Secure Tunnel, they provide you iPhone VPN installation instructions which are very simple:

1. Go to Settings | General | Network
2. Select VPN
3. Select PPTP
4. Enter any description you want (I entered Secure Tunnel)
5. Enter mobile.securetunnel.com for the server
6. Then enter the username and password you created for your VPN account

That's it. It works.

I am listening to the Chris Botti channel now which plays smooth Jazz -- a nice sound for a late night in Paris blogging :)

PS Word of warning on Pandora -- it will suck your battery dry in no time. I use it in the apartment where I dock my phone into special iPhone Logitech portable speakers which simultaneously keeps the iPhone charged. Until I figure out how to get internet access while romping around Paris, I can't use Pandora while out. However, and this is the big catch, it doesn't appear that you can CLOSE Pandora. Yes, you can PAUSE the music but you can't actually shut it down. If you forget this, as I did today when I left the apartment, you will find that Pandora continues to run in the background somehow and your battery will go from 100% to nothing very quickly. The only solution I have found is to actually shut iPhone down and restart it before you take it out.

PSS Read my next post on what to do if your iPhone battery goes dead while you are out.

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