Three Years Later

No, this is about the venerable iPod. I know, it’s been a lot of computer and political blogs, and I’ll try for something with more humor and/or wacky in days to come. I have a first generation iPod, if you read last week you already know that. 5 Gigs of space, currently using about 3.9 of it. It’s got the old, moving parts wheel, no backlit buttons, battered to fuck headphones (replaced once in the three years).

But let me rewind.

I love music. I think that spending an afternoon listening to music is one of the best things a person can do. Since I’m on the go a lot, I like to have something to listen to that isn’t going to absorb my mind completely, but will let me grove. As a kid, I had a Sony Walkman, and I used to tape my CDs to my walkman, rather than splurge the beaucoup bucks on a Discman. The one minus was, of course, having to fast-forward or rewind to skip or re-hear a song. Still, ever car I knew had a cassette player, and a road trip just wasn’t a road trip without a bunch of tapes and McDonalds. At some point in time, a family member got the 50 CD changer for their car, and we loaded it up for bear. The problem was that we could never remember where each CD was on the track and how it all stood.

By the time I joined the work force, I’d collected a couple hundred or so CDs and pared my tapes down to under 50. This meant it was time for the Discman and a CD carrying case. For the most part, that worked fine. I knew what I liked to listen to, and for the most part, any given day had a decent sound track. It was the perfect thing for days I had to slog through crazy code or documentation. My issues with a Discman are really my own fault. I have eclectic tastes in music and my collection spans from Dr. John and Ella Fitzgerald to Rammestein. This doesn’t make me very different from most people I’ve met, which means that I’m fairly sure a lot of people know my pain of ‘What CDs should I bring to work?’

Enter the iPod. I was lucky (and stupid) enough to pick this up first generation, and it marks the only time I’ve ever done that and not had the device blow up on me (like my Palm). I’d been poking around the MP3 player solution for a while, and had used iTunes to rip some CDs to my hard drive. But the ones I’d seen had all reminded me of that dreaded 50 CD changer in the trunk of the car. How can I remember that Playlist A is Ella Fitzgerald and B is Aerosmith? I didn’t want to have to carry a cheat sheet around with me.

There was also the MiniDisc, but copying songs onto the MiniDisc from a Macintosh is arduous and painful. That and I use my MiniDisc to record live performances and port them back to my computer. It’s a 1x recording though, and a four hour concert takes four hours to port back. And then I have to split the tracks. Argh. Mind you, I run Virtual PC on my Mac, so sometime I say to heck with it all and work that way.

Not to knock the MiniDisc for what it is, but when you get down to it, the interface is what kills it for me. I don’t want to have to remember what to do in a pinch, and if I’ve forgotten, I can look down and know right away what I’m doing. I wanted, and still want, a nice, simple, GUI.

Which brings us right back to the iPod, doesn’t it? You’ve all seen it. Sleak, small, as big as a deck of cards. It’s got that classy Mac form and function, and the interface is perfect. It harkens back to the way life used to be with a tape deck with that simplicity we all recognize. The MiniDisc, while still clinging to the market, is loosing the battle for a portable music choice.

Today’s answer for music is the Hard Drive solution.

Why did I pick hard drive? I have a couple hundred CDs that I’ve imported to my backup hard drive (80 gigs) and it’s barely made a dent. I tried counting my CDs but my brain died. Suffice to say, I’ve copied over all my personal CDs, and a couple of my SOs. I’m thinking about copying hers as well. I’ve also got a lot of CDs I’ve borrowed from friends that I just shoved onto my hard drive or made a copy of, and some bootlegged, P2P stolen albums. On the peculiar side, I tend to pick up and purchase most of the CDs of my favorite artists, even if I’ve downloaded the entire thing. Not all, though. I don’t really like U2’s newest album, and while most of it sits on my hard drive, I doubt I’ll listen to it anytime soon. The latest Indigo Girls CD? On my ‘get this NOW’ list.

So honestly, my collection of CDs isn’t going to make a dent out of a 20 G hard drive player, and it’s all on one item. The new MiniDiscs can hold a Gig each, so we’re looking at 20 discs plus player or … one player. Right. Also, I am the sort of person who wants to carry around the majority of my music collection, in a variety of play lists, in my pocket. Sue me.

Now that we’ve decided on a Hard Drive player, which one do we pick? Today’s market is hugely different than the one I had three years ago, and the first non iPod option that leaps to mind is the Zen Xtra, which is as cool looking as the iPod. 60 Gigs, it reads WMA and MP3, keen iPod like interface, a find feature. Again, we’re around 14 hours of playback and a USB connector.

Are you sensing the theme?

Don’t think I hate USB, it’s not like Firewire is the be all and end all of connections. Shit, if you have a PC and you’re not a geek, you’re probably thinking ‘Fire what?’. USB 2.0 is slower, not by a lot at max connection speed, but it’s slower. You can daisy-chain more off of USB, granted, but a lot of computers only have USB 1, and that means the 5 minutes it takes to copy 3 gigs from Mac to iPod on Firewire translates to a few hours on the USB. Pain.

And I don’t think the iPod’s perfect (see last week’s episode). As an MP3 player, though, I have no complaints. It think, I’d like, if it was more.

Since I’ve been tagged at work for emergencies, we’re gonna call it here. An incomplete and unsatisfying blather on MP3 players.

Get the iPod. It’s pretty, it works, and it stores a shit load of data.

NB, I always take the playback with a grain of salt. Batteries are a thing that’s always irked me, in that I remember the early Palms ran on AA’s and when they died, you lost it all. So I like rechargeable, non-Flash memory.

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