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AOL and XM Joining Forces for Online Radio 167

Josh writes "BetaNews is reporting that AOL and XM are joining forces to make available 20 XM music channels plus 130 of its own available to anyone on the internet for free starting this summer. AOL members will have free broadband access to 70 XM channels, although apparently there are plans for a $5/month option for non-subscribers. The deal means AOL Music specials will make it onto XM's channels, and XM promos will be heard across AOL Music's properties."
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AOL and XM Joining Forces for Online Radio

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  • This could be a good thing for non US countries (or wherever broadband isnt 'dirt cheap')

    Speaking as someone from Australia, where we are still fairly limited by bandwidth, the great unwashed masses will LOVE IT. Seriously - most broadband down here is still limited or throttled to stupid amounts, so anything that gets them free music channels for free is going to be H0T!

  • by youngerpants ( 255314 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:31AM (#12199742)
  • Yeah, free... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jspayne ( 98716 ) <<moc.ecalpsenyap> <ta> <ffej>> on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:31AM (#12199746) Homepage
    AOL members will have free broadband access to 70 XM channels, although apparently there are plans for a $5/month option for none subscribers.

    Free, if you are paying for AOL.

    Sirius already has free access to all of its music stations - if you have a subscription to Sirius.


    • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:35AM (#12199778) Homepage
      So does XM, I'm listening right now.

      The real advantage to this, of course, is that XM increases it's potential customer base. Customers who will use the XM via AOL option will fall in love with a couple channels and end up getting units and paying the $12.99/mo. Of course, I'm all for this... I'm a shareholder (tm).

      • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by infonography ( 566403 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:49AM (#12199867) Homepage
        It's not a positive change, if you get into bed even for a moment with AOL they will keep billing you. This is that slimey practice they have not changed. I tried their Netscape dialup and got burned instantly. Even after cancelling the service days after starting it they are still trying to steal money from my account.

        I am all for XM but keep AOL out of your life.

      • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by adamanthaea ( 723150 )
        This bit of the article makes me worry a bit: "An enhanced high-bandwidth version of the service will feature 70 XM stations for around $5 USD per month, although specific pricing has not yet been set. XM plans to replace its current Web radio offering, which became free to subscribers last week, with the AOL-powered service when it launches." XM just upped the monthly fee by 3 dollars for "free" Web radio. Quite frankly, I almost never use it. If I'm at my computer, I have the actual receiver going into
      • Sort of... I have Sirius via Dish Network, and love a few stations. But haven't yet bitten the bullet to subscribe. Granted, the next car I buy will have sattelite, and I'll be sure that it's Sirius capable.
    • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:3, Informative)

      by mmkkbb ( 816035 )
      From TFA:
      The co-branded service will be free to all Web users, with a premium counterpart that includes more stations for a small monthly fee.
    • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by justforaday ( 560408 )
      Free sure has taken on some funny meanings lately...Also see the "free" upgrade to Dark Age of Camelots story that ran a few days ago. You get a "free" upgrade so long as you pay their monthly service fee...
    • Free, if you are paying for AOL.

      I'd pay for AOL's broadband service just for the "Video@AOL" feature. It's about the same as Real Player's premium service and you actually get many of the same "channels". Now that they've added XM radio their already exhaustive streaming selection is expanded further.

      AOL is actually worth it for people who want to stay away from p2p for their online media experience. Do you have Windows, a "newer" PC, live in the United States and have broadband? I'd use the free trial t
    • Re:Yeah, free... (Score:3, Informative)

      by xs650 ( 741277 )
      Sirius already has free access to all of its music stations - if you have a subscription to Sirius.

      You can also have free access to Sirius without paying for Sirius. Just for access to Dish TV to get free access to Sirius.

      • Dish Network's America's Top 120 - $37.99 - you get TONS of channels and all of the Sirius channels. It's a great deal. I miss my dish (new apartment looks right into a big line of redwood trees.. can't put up the dish)

        DirecTV doesn't have Sirius, but I think they still have some canned music channels..
  • ... for none subscribers.
    I think the poster meant 'for nun subscribers', as once again AOL shows it's willing to bend over backwards for the Catholic church.
  • AOL CD's? (Score:3, Funny)

    by john.mull ( 790526 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:33AM (#12199763) Journal
    Next up, AOL will publish the worst of the music onto CD's so that you can surf AOL offline. The new CD's will be made by the billions and distributed to a snail mailbox near you.
  • by bfline ( 859619 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:34AM (#12199767) Homepage
    Listen to the XM CEO on []

    XM Satellite Radio has added more than a half million subscribers in the last 3 months and shares of XM have quintupled over the last 2 years. Questions discussed in the npr broadcast: Can XM continue its meteoric growth? When will satellite radio become profitable? Is there room for both XM and rival Sirius?
  • AOL is a big target (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:34AM (#12199769)
    How long until spammers and spyware authors figure out how to have audio ads played constantly throughout the "ad-free" XM radio channels?

    I'm not sure if anyone looks forward to the days that XM content is sponsored by V1@g@ra!
    • I think you mean "How long until AOL convinces XM that inserting ads into their programming is a good revenue stream?" (although exactly not what the customers want, but nevermind that...)
      • If XM's music stations get much worse with the advertisements for other XM channels, let alone normal adverts, I'll be canceling my account.

        I PAY them for what I was promised. AD FREE music. Plugs for other stations are still commercials, but last only a few seconds. I will not pay a monthly fee (not to mention the up front cost of the receiver) to listen to advertisements.

        Advertisements are why I stopped going to movie theaters. I refuse to pay to be advertised at.
    • They get away with infesting a PC's computer because of hidden agreements with the owner of the PC.

      Hijacking an audio stream to insert their own ads is theft of services and you can bet your ass that AOL's lawyers will be tracking down and dealing with ANY company/person who does this.

      IF it ever happens, I doubt it will last very long at all.
  • What a great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaakko ( 69953 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:34AM (#12199771)
    I would gladly pay a monthly fee for hearing music that I can't choose, and maybe advertisements every now and then! It's like radio, but it costs money and bandwidth!
    • I'm not sure of how many radio stations you get in your area, but potentialy this could get you a lot more stations, each specialized on a genre.

      At least that's what I guess should happen.
    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @11:17AM (#12200658)
      music that I can't choose

      That should read: 'don't have to choose'

      That's the whole point if these services are run right: you get to enjoy good music without wading through thousands of titles and deciding what should be played. It's like going to a good restaurant, and telling the chef you trust to just fix you a really nice dinner. Some unexpected pieces are part of the experience, and just like the chef (who costs you more than the food would at the grocery store), you're buying someone's time and expertise - and trusting them to get it at least mostly right most of the time.

      Places like RadioIO [] have been doing a pretty good job at this for a while now. It's worth the cost of a six pack of Guiness to have someone else spend all month digging up music for me to hear.
      • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:30PM (#12202413) Journal
        Exactly. When TV over the internet becomes a reality, I don't want to have to find 30 different channels that I like and send each of them $1/month to subscribe. I'd rather buy a package deal, where I just pay one bill, where someone else will keep track of whether a particular channel is having financial or technical difficulties, etc. It only sucks with current cable TV because we're stuck with huge monopoly companies that are basically free to treat us poorly.

        If the industry doesn't get too swamped by legislation and unfair competition, it'd be feasible for there to be hundreds of these different companies offering different packages. Competition will force them to offer smaller and more focused packages, so I can find what I like, and maybe get some new stuff that's similar, and that I might not have discovered on my own.

        While the internet and micropayments could create an economy without the middle men skimming some of the money, I'd be pretty happy with an economy consisting of a wider range of middle men, forcing a lot more competition between them. They would be less distributors and more aggregators/organizers. We're going to need that if we want the internet's vast info stores to be useful. Note the success of, oh....say, Google?

    • Clearchannel (part owners of XM) + AOL. Who would want that? Oh right, AOL users. *shivers*
    • Let's see here: I can pay $5/mo to get less-than-broadcast quality music... hear it with ads (just a matter of time) and get it through AOL?

      Ah - Radio is truly DEAD.

      Hmm, I'll just continue downloading MP3s: Higher quality, better choice, no ads, and is free.
    • I actually got XM more for the non-music programming, figuring that anything I wanted to listen to I already had, but I have been surprised at a) how nice their mixes are, and b) how much good new stuff I have been turned on to by XM. Fungus53 and Fred44 are far superior to my local alternastation, for instance.

      Of course, I'll probably be switching to Sirius in 2007, when NASCAR moves, unless XM adds ChampCar and ALMS coverage to its new IRL offerings and somehow keeps its current motorsports commentators,

  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:38AM (#12199796) Journal
    for years, techies laughed at users of AOL and said it wasn't the "real" internet. AOL didn't work with normal browsers, wouldn't allow one to have access to normal things, etc.

    There is a HUGE market for that now. Imagine an environment where spam is mostly non-existent because the network is isolated and only approved hosts can send email. Imagine an environment where sites didn't do mischevious things to your system. There's a market out there right now almost screaming to get the very thing for which AOL used to be criticized. There are millions of people out there that don't want 15,124,617,179,945,562 different search results for what they're after (esp when only 5 of them will be what they actually want, the first being on page 20 or so, and the rest will be trash), and they don't care to have to deal with all the other junk out there.

    A couple nights ago I was looking for something online, and my wife and our roommate were in the room goofing off. After having to wade through pages of squatter-crap and such that had all the dumb tags that improve search engine results, I yelled "what have you people done to my beloved internet? It was a wonderful place until you all started getting on too!" I was only half-kidding. I never used AOL (I owned an ISP back in 95, and after that went to broadband for personal use) but I would count myself as someone that would sign up for a trusted environment.
    • The reason why closed nets aren't good:

      1) You may have 5 pages out of 15124617179945562 that you actually need. Coincidentally, only one of which happens to be in the closed net, and that happens to be the precisely wrong one for that specific case.

      2) The company you really needed to find didn't want to get in the closed net because "everybody is in the Web anyway". They don't want partnerships with content portals since "if you want to find us, you can Google us, duh". Plus, the closed net fees are pro

  • by bfline ( 859619 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:40AM (#12199817) Homepage
    Stern, who signed a five-year deal [] with the other satellite company, Sirius, worth an estimated $500 million, left no doubt about his allegiance at the event. "Once you start listening to (satellite), it's like crack," Stern said to cheers. "You will be addicted."

    XM has to do something to stay competitive with Sirius to stay on the map.
    • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:56AM (#12199913) Homepage
      The Sirius deal with Stern is going to go down in history as a huge failure. Offensive humor only works because it breaks rules. Thus, Stern is only successful because people get shocked at what he does. They'll comment such as, "Can you believe what Stern got away with this morning?!"

      After a few years of Stern having no limits, people are going to get bored and stop listening.
      • Agreed. On top of the comments you made, paying him that amount means he will have to attract nearly 10 million customers who would not have joined Sirius without him. Stern may be a popular free option for the average Joe's commute to work, but is that same person going to pay $100 ($200?) for a radio and $12.99/month for life just to listen to him?
        • Obviously not everyone will pay for the service just for stern, however they will probably enjoy the other 150 channels they can listen to.

          Satellite radio is the bomb. I'm never going back, and I will never support XM unless clear channel gets some balls.

          Long live sirius
        • Ha! Who's going to pay $80/month for television? Everyone.

          Who's going to pay $30/month for a wireless telephone? Everyone.

          Who's going to pay subscription fees to connect to gaming networks? Who's going to pay $30/month for broadband access?

          I'm more concerned with the trend of having to pay to hear honest to goodness free speech. That seems to be more of an attraction than "commercial free," a concept that companies haven't been shy about deserting once they hook their audience.
      • Wow -- I have a feeling you're trolling but I'll bite. People don't listen to Howard Stern because he breaks the rules. People listen to him because he's FUNNY, and frequently insightful. Whether or not they'll pay $10/month to listen to him is another question, and we'll just have to wait and see -- but I do know that the radio industry is full of people who missed on on huge opportunities by betting against Howard Stern.
        • Well, comedy is subjective, so if you find him funny, that's your opinion. I've personally never HEARD him say anything funny. However, I'll admit he DOES funny things. Like when he had sex with a "real doll" on air. His "Fart Man" character at the MTV music awards. That was HILARIOUS!

          But one commonality his humor has is that it pushes boundaries. And like what I said, without boundaries, I doubt if he'll still be funny.
        • Howard Stern is just another feature that sirius will have. If uncensored Stern is what makes people decide to go to Sirius, great. They also get all of the music too. :)

          Sirius already has some good stuff besides Stern.. Radio Bam is kind of funny and Lance Armstrong has a show that he does out of his house too. One of the alt rock stations has frequent band interviews that are usually pretty good too.

          I've had Sirius for a while now and have been really happy with it. Having Howard Stern will just be icin
      • Offensive humor only works because it breaks rules. Thus, Stern is only successful because people get shocked at what he does. They'll comment such as, "Can you believe what Stern got away with this morning?!"

        If the radical conservatives (doesn't sound like an oxymoron these days) have their way, satellite radio as well as cable tv could find themselves fighting the same battle as their free-to-air counterparts with regard to indecency rules.
      • Actually, the Sirius/Stern deal will go down as the turning point for this Company, and satellite radio as well. Although the deal was expensive at $500MM, it offers a lot of people the first compelling reason to look at Sirius.

        I think most people seriously underestimate the draw of a morning radio show for those that listen every day. I am personally not a Stern fan, but if my morning radio show was moving to satellite, I would definitely pay the 12 bucks to keep listening. When you listen to morning r
        • Well, I admit I hadn't thought of that. Even if Stern fails at Sirius, the company will likely still benefit. Millions (I'm guessing) of Stern fans will sign up to Sirius. They'll be exposed to everything else Sirius has to offer and might decide to keep paying. (My dad has Sirius and he's totally happy with it.)
    • There are some of us who chose XM because it didn't have Stern.
    • "XM has to do something to stay competitive with Sirius to stay on the map."

      They already have something competitive, Opie and Anthony on XM High Voltage. (Remember them from 102.7 WNEW NY about 2 years ago). IMO a MUCH funnier smarter and more entertaining show than Howard. Unfortunately XM marketing has been dropping the ball on promoting them.
    • One could argue XM could decide not to blow half a billion dollars on a marketing stunt that will never pay off 1/10th of what it costs.

      One could argue that might help them stay on the map. Its a lot easier to be on the map when you, say, still exist.
  • Maybe now I won't get so freaking many AOL CDs in the mail.

    Will the paying XM Subscribers have the option to NOT hear the AOL advertisements?
  • by sjonke ( 457707 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:49AM (#12199870) Journal
    by providing an iTMS Subscription service, ala Napster's "On the Go". Napster offers (reportedly) poor quality, no indie music and no support for the Mac (all of which are deal killers for me.) If there were a similar, but done right, "on the go" subscription service for iTMS, for me it would put the last nail into "broadcast" music radio (not that it had much life anyway), be it satellite or otherwise. Apple could provide daily (hourly?) "radio" playlists sans "radio personalities" (and perhaps even some with "personalities" inserted between some tracks if you wish) that you can select to sync directly with your iPod to carry it with you. And with that on your iPod you can skip forward, back, pause, etc. Try that on XM. Not to mention that you could do it yourself, including exactly what you wanted, if Apple extended iTunes so that, with a subscription, the iTMS became part of your iTunes "Library", and thus applicable to "smart playlists".
  • For places that have plenty of bandwidth but no radio reception (remote areas), it might work. I work 25m below ground and can't get any of my favorite radio talk shows, so for me it all depends on the content.
    • I work 25m below ground and can't get any of my favorite radio talk shows

      I realize the soviet threat is gone, but really, shouldn't ICBM operators be paying attention to their _jobs_ instead of some random radio program?

  • what's the difference between this and iTunes radio channels?
  • Triple J []
    Triple M []
    ABC Radio []

    And that's just the first three radio stations I could think of in my home city of Sydney.
  • I assume so.
    Tried to use their free Movielink service. Not just Windows only but IE5+ only.
    AOL is my oldest email account so for 5 bucks a month I'll stay with them for sentimental reasons.
    • About a year and a half ago, I was able to listen to AOL's Netscape Radio [] on a Mac with Mozilla and RealPlayer. (Yeah, I know, RealPlayer is annoying and all, but still, it was possible to listen to the stations with something available for Mac.)

      Unfortunately, they must have realized this actually increased the potential amount of listeners, as they now require you to download a proprietary Windows-only client in order to listen...
  • As a musician I believe that music ought to be free. I can't bear the thought of my work only going to horrible radio stations that are going to try to make the kids buy things they don't want.

    But I'm powerless to stop it.

    When my album is recorded my preference will be to make it available for download from a simple website. This will provide excellent exposure for my performance and encourage people to visit my performance. Very few musicians make good money from CD sales - they traditionally kept the
    • As a musician I believe that music ought to be free. I can't bear the thought of my work only going to horrible radio stations that are going to try to make the kids buy things they don't want.

      But I'm powerless to stop it.

      how are you powerless? Powerless to stop OTHER artists from releasing their music on the radio to "make the kids buy things they don't want", maybe.

      It takes some major effort to get your music played on the radio. A radio station isn't going to just start playing your music, without y
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crazyfrenchmen ( 104386 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:07AM (#12200012)
    What about spinner? It got bought by netscape and then by AOL. Now it's the internet radio offer from AOL. Any idea where it fit in the picture?
    • They downgraded the stream quality substantially, and the free radio player "upgrade" put a time limit on how long you could listen, removed the channel favorites and other things.

      You can get around those though with the spinamp winamp plugin. But the sound quality is still poor.
    • Actually, they manage the time limit through cookies. If you were to block cookies from domain , there would be no more time limit.
  • XM Radio Online, meh (Score:5, Informative)

    by rainwalker ( 174354 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:14AM (#12200077)
    I've been a subscriber for a couple years, and they recently "forced" everyone to add their online radio bit to their subscription, in the form of a $3/mo rate hike, but then you get the online radio for "free". So far, I've been very underwhelmed, for a couple reasons:

    1. The player uses lots of Flash trickery that doesn't work well, as far as I can tell- the ticker that tells you what song you are listening to is frequently wrong.
    2. The player itself is WMP, which is useless to me at home (with no Windows machines); I loathe their choice, but I'm sure they had to go with WMP due to contractual concerns from the record labels, and WMP offers strong DRM.
    3. The real killer, though, is the shitty quality- the "high quality" mode is only 64kbps, and sounds like crap. I am not an audiophile, and most of my music is 128k/160k mp3's, which sound great to me. XM radio sounds great to me. XM radio online sounds terrible. So, it's pretty much worthless, IMHO.
    • by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:32AM (#12200234)
      the sound quality is very tinny (although better than netscape/aol radio) and the selection of channels is kind of poor. Many of the novel XM radio channels arent available online.

    • If your machines at home are Linux, it can work. Go to and search the posts for Linux. I have it running on Suse 9.2 using mplayer (I think).
    • You should give Sirius a try then. With the Mplayer netscape plugin it works fine in Konquerer for me. They use WMP as well, but mplayer has no issue with it and their javascript around it runs fine (no flash for their player).
    • Agreed. I have tried XM Online on both its low and high bandwidth settings. On its low bandwidth setting, it is completely unlistenable due to frequent dropouts. Its high bandwidth setting has the classic whooshing cheap-ass encoder sound to it, as if you're running everything through a $29 flanger stompbox, and there's no dynamic range AT ALL -- the audio is squashed completely flat. This is the main reason I haven't sold my XM PCR, which I was hoping to do once XM Online came out.

      Another problem is

    • I don't mind the quality - it sounds fine to me. What I do mind is that I have a 6mbit DSL line and have VERY frequent skips in the stream. And I'm PAYING for this.

      I'm getting rather close to canceling my XM account - though I use it in my car very frequently, so I'll just have to decide if having the music available in my car (I drive about 3000 miles a month for work, with my own personal driving adding to that) for the extra $3 or so they are forcing me to pay.

      First thing I'm going to do is see if I
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:16AM (#12200098) Homepage
    Its interesting, with the internet it would be relatively cheap to set up a "radio" station, compared with the huge overhead of launching satellites etc.

    With wireless internet becoming more prevalant/cheaper over the next 10 years in suburban/urban areas, satelite radio could be obsolete in those areas (bumped by cheaper internet radio), so they need to get the brand and marketing out there. Its also cheap for the satelite radio stations to stream over the internet since they've already paid to "program" each station.

    Interestingly enough you can listen to low quality streams already. Actually large difference in quality between an high quality MP3 and satelite radio is convincing enough for me not to subscribe when my XM trial is turned off. (I can tell the distance in a moving car with road noise etc..) Although the selection on satellite radio isn't bad, my collection is better..
  • Launchcast (Score:4, Informative)

    by helix400 ( 558178 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:28AM (#12200202) Journal
    If it doesn't let me custom build my own radio station, then there is no way I'm switching from LaunchCast from Yahoo []

    Its cheaper too. =)
    • I recently started toying with LaunchCast. So far, I like it. It's playing songs I don't like at the moment, but I'm training it.. :)

      I haven't paid for the service yet, so I'm stuck with Medium quality, but it sounds almost as good as the 96kbps stream I was doing from my house, so I'll see what happens. :)

  • From a strategic point of view, this seems consistent with what XM has done and says it will continue to do -- be ahead of Sirius on technology. They had their satellites up first; they've got the first walkman-sized radio, and now they've got a way to allow millions of more users hear their signal. XM is focusing on how users hear them, while Sirius is focusing on what users hear...
  • While the technical underpinnings may be fascinating for this new music distribution system, the fact remains that the core content is still the same. It's plain old jive-ass radio; the same as you would get (and from which you would want to get away) from Clear Channel. Irritating announcers, insufferable commercials, lame music. Just coming to you through the wire instead of the air.

    The real alternative to radio is to use the internet to find people who have the same or similar interests in music
    • While the technical underpinnings may be fascinating for this new music distribution system, the fact remains that the core content is still the same. It's plain old jive-ass radio; the same as you would get (and from which you would want to get away) from Clear Channel. Irritating announcers, insufferable commercials, lame music. Just coming to you through the wire instead of the air.

      Actually, it's not the same "jive-ass radio." XM Radio is commercial free, most stations are announcer free, and the musi

    • DVD burners are cheaper than you think []

      Problem with your idea is that it's too expensive to have a device in your car to listen to your music on a DVD. If the parts are resonably cheap, they are more than likely not setup to just "plug in" to your car stereo (many people haven't even upgraded beyind the OEM unit in their vehicle!)

      What I'd like to see (and I'm sure one exists, although I'll bet it's exensive as hell) is a standard head unit that can read MP3's (and whatever other sound formats) from DVD (
  • Once Sirius started doing something like this with Satellite TV, the number of promos they run doubled, all directed at those who got the service for free, trying to get them to sign up. I wonder if XM can come up with a better way to advertise to them; no point annoying current subscribers like Sirius been doing. Or this is a bad sign for us subscribers?
  • I was waiting for this to happen, it was only a matter of time, and I'm glad that it is happening. But why did you pick AOL? My god; couldn't you have joined up with Google or Yahoo, or someone better than AOL? Ugh. I still need to use the AIM service through Trillian because my friends refuse to move to Jabber.
  • I'm not sure why you would want to pay to listen to online radio when WOXY [] is free. And they are even currently beta testing AAC+ streams [] which sound pretty sweet. During the week they have live djs that play requests and they are always commercial free.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments