Friday, July 07, 2006

Living La Vida iPod

I broke down and bought a new iPod yesterday. This is either my second or fifth iPod depending on how you count them. I bought my first iPod backing April of 2003. That would make me one of the first million people to own an iPod. I’m not exactly bleeding edge but I do tend to be an early adopter.

It was a 20GB second generation model. I had all of one album (Bon Jovi, if you must know) downloaded onto it when I read that the third generation was being released. I indignantly stormed back to the Apple Store and for a “restocking” fee they let me upgrade to the 30GB 3G model. In those early days, I needed a third party software program called xPlay to transfer songs from my Windows machine to the iPod until iTunes for Windows was released.

I went on a frenzy of ripping my existing CD collection, which then it was about 200 CDs. One of my frequent complaints about Apple software is the lack of customizability. They tend to force you to do things the Apple Way. I do not like the Apple music format or file naming convention so I have played with a number of third party rippers and now use Windows Media Player to rip albums to MP3 format at 192 kbps. While I despise having to use Microsoft software when good alternatives exist, WMP has come around to doing CD ripping fairly well. It puts the files in the directories the way I want it to and it can be customized to name files they way I want them. I like my ripped files organized like so:

H:/Artist/Album Title/Artist – SongTitle.mp3

You would be surprised how many software packages make that difficult. When I had my run in with the DRM system on a Foo Fighters album, I was bothered that the pre-ripped songs were sampled at 128kbps and did not have the artist name anywhere in the file name. What? I’m supposed to immediately recognize the artist from the song title? Sheer hubris on the part of the record company.

Since that first Herculean ripping effort, my digital library has grown to over 3500 songs, nearly all of them legitimately owned by me. The security issues with Napster/Kazaa/Limewire and such scare me away from internet petty thievery file-sharing. I have also stocked up on all sorts of iPod gew-gaws and tchotkes. I’m pretty committed to the iPod lifestyle. No Sony wannabes for me.

Despite that, my relationship with my iPod has had continuous undertones of frustration. When my first (or second, you’re counting the one I owned for a week) iPod started skipping and freezing, I took it back under warranty and they replaced it. About a year later, the new one developed a new quirk that took three trips to the store before they diagnosed it as a hard drive crash. This time they charged me a pretty nominal replacement fee. This latest one started getting a shorter and shorter battery life until it would finally not work unless it was started while still in the dock.

At the Apple Store, they said it would be either $68 to replace the unit and it would take several days to get one in stock or they’d give me 10% trade-in towards a new one. The slim, light 60GB model with the color screen seduced me.

I got home to make a few unsettling discoveries. Apple has discontinued FireWire support and my ancient computer only has USB 1.1 ports. The 22GB initial file transfer of my entire library took eight hours. I don’t intend to do that often, or else I need to invest in a USB2.0 card. That is, if I have any slots still available. Also, the top mounted remote control slot on the 3G iPod is no more. That renders the iFM tuner with remote I got for Christmas obsolete. I liked having a remote because I could easily pause it when I ran into my neighbors while walking my dog.

Finally, the color screen has the option of displaying album cover art, which is cool, but the album covers are not in my iTunes database since I rip with WMP. I have to add it the cover art manually, which isn’t hard, but a little tedious. Spot checking most of my ripped albums, I don’t even have album thumbnails for most of them because I ripped the CDs long before that was a standard feature.

In preparation for our epic trip, I bought one of those cigarette lighter powered accessories that lets you broadcast your iPod to your car radio. It’s been extensively field tested by my son using his U2 fourth generation iPod filled with AC/DC and Clash songs. I have also downloaded over 50 hours of podcasts on topics like travel (natch), science, and 80s nostalgia. Whatever we face on the open road, we won’t lack for entertainment.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's compatible with the iPod but I like using MusicMatch software to organize my MP3s. Bands that start with "The" I have to re-name to either eliminate the "The" or put it last (as in "Beatles, The"), but that's my own compulsiveness at work.

I've been using a Dell Digital Jukebox, which isn't a sexy device but it gets the job done. It's a little bit older model so I'm not looking forward to the internal battery dying for the last time...

The broadcast gizmo is pretty cool; I have one made by Belkin (battery-powered) which I like.

trusty getto said...

Hey, YJ, I too have a U2 iPod, and I must admit that I just love it !

I hear your complaints, and I share many of them. I content myself with the limitations because there ain't any other devices that can carry around my 300+ CD collection and get me legit downloads for under a buck ! :)