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Friday, April 21, 2006

Updates for my ancient MP3 Player

I've been considering joining the other 80% of portable music player owners, jumping aboard the good ship iPod and getting a new MP3 player. The reasons I never fawned over the original iPod back in 2001 were several fold: I just didn't need hard disk capacity on an mp3 player, I didn't believe St. Steve about going jogging with them, it was big, I didn't think it was feature rich, I thought it was iTunes only (OK so this was my own ignorance, but hey it's not that open is it), it was expensive and come on no radio ?

Instead I hunted around, living on various mp3 player shoping sights, talking to colleagues - reading reviews. I lusted a little on the iPod for a monkey for a music player was out of the question. After some deliberation whilst factoring in multiple characteristics, I stumped up what I still thought was a lot, £124 springs to mind but don't quote me on that bit. I bought an iBead 150M 256 Mb, mp3, WMA, FM radio, recording device.

It arrived fairly promptly and it did the job, it couldn't hold copious amounts, 5 albums maybe less if I was being a stickler about quality. I could run with it, goto the gym, walk about and if I decided I'd chosen the wrong music to carry around I could always flip to the radio, plus I love my Radio 4 morning news.
Despite the fact a Swedish friend of mine walked in several days later with the same device, double the capacity and having paid half the price with beautiful, really really beautiful Bang and Olufsen headphones, I was pleased with my purchase.

For many years it served me well, when I first tried podcasts two years ago now ? It was able in Windows with media player to sync with Andy Curry, and the five other pod casts that existed back then. I fell out of favour with pod casts because, back then there just rubbish. Well when I got my first Mac some 9 months ago I gave them another bash what with iTunes making it somewhat more simple to keep up to date and find pod casts, boom it just worked. Well here I had to re-evaluate my mp3 player. I looked again at the iPod.

During my years in the music playing minority the iPod had shot to fame as the gadget to have, Apple had stayed enough ahead of the curve knowing what people wanted and not changing a thing. OK They added colours, big drives and video.

Steve had changed his mind about solid state players and launched two.

However the iPod 5th gen wasn't much smaller than it used to be. The capacity had rocketed further, I could actually understand more now the need to carrying my entire collection of music. In the intervening year my music taste has matured my collection grown, swelled whereby I can appreciate having my 250+ CD collection at my beck and call ready for instant playback. My financially parlous, credit card ravaging, use of iTunes despite its previously mentioned short comings has become worryingly frequent. An iPod would allow automatic syncing of all this music and my copious pod casts, apparently it can learn what I like to listen to a lot, does this mean it might just constantly play Jose Gonzales and Dave Bruback ?

The pod cast syncing seems great. Currently I have to drag stuff to my current mp3 player out of iTunes, maybe converting to mp3 on the way, if I am part way through a track I've got to manually find the position again, something which I'm led to believe the iPod will do for me. Add to this all the video stuff that's quite clever at the moment. Download Desperate Housewives / Lost / Invasion and all, this might not actually be in UK yet but surly it must come ?

When the coolade has worn off and I've finished using my lunch break to drool on the nanos or the gargantuan 60 Gig video beauty. I start to consider the situation more clearly, going back to my reasons for not joining the lemmings all that time ago. Even now I can sit here with my miniscule player listening to Mark Lamarr, Radio 2 - being introduced to more new music than the iTunes Music Store's weekly free download can ever hope to bring to my audible receptors.

The nano is smaller. Perfectly formed. I do tend to man handle my kit though, hey chicks dig scares... that applies to mobile phones right ? It still doesn't have a radio unless I want to shell out a further £30 and then have that dangling from my neck screaming, "mug me".
It still only plays, MP3s, wavs aiff aside. I have a stack load of music in WMA, that I've err lost the CDs for, "honest guvner". It's from a time when WMA was indeed more efficient and better quality than MP3 - I could re-encode, but why should I. I can't record memos on an iPod, havn't done this on my mp3 player in a while, again not the point.

See no one has yet managed to make the true iPod killer, Sony, Creative, i-Bead, Packard Bell etc, for some reason throwing features at most people hasn't worked. Does this come down to true simplicity, what Apple do well. People want to carry music around and listen to it. Most people want to open a computer and check their e-mail, or browse the web - not scan for viruses, scan for malware, update their virus scanner, try the new microsoft anti malware product, scan their drives for errors, defragment or install camera drivers or printer drivers etc.

What inspired me to write this was that for a laugh I popped on over to and look at how they have changed to try and challenge the ubiquitous iPod. Imagine my surprise when I find that this company is still dishing out updates to my archaic device. They had in their last update tothe firmware, updated the USB interface, the menu system and added GAMES, the radio still hisses, but hey it's FM radio what do I expect ? Whilst this maybe a small thing, the fact that five years on they are still paying me attention actually supprised me. I updated and found Russian Roulette, Pairs and several other little distractions on the improved menu interface. Do Apple still issue update for their five year old products ? I am very much if it ain't broke don't fix it! I'll have another think about it when I listen to my pod casts tomorrow during my shopping, on my 5 year old MP3 player, which by the way nearly got me thrown out of my local apple store last week.


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