Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A plea for help

Can people out there who use mp3 players help me out here?

I was thinking about getting an iPod, because it is time for me to find a more up-to-date way to use my music. I am not looking to load my entire CD collection onto a player, because I don't have that much money, so this would be something separate, something portable. I do not want the shuffle, because I want more capacity than that (oh, how my walkman-porting self of about 18 years ago would faint at such snobbery). I am thinking something in the 4-5 gig range. Maybe.

But there are two things that concern me about the iPod, and here is where I could use some input.

1. I have only a USB port, not a USB 2.0 port. I believe that means that I cannot use one of the G4 iPods, right? And not the iPod minis either?

2. This video, whose assertion I have seen supported in one or two other places. Is there someone out there who has had an iPod for longer than a year who can speak to this subject? I understand the costs on replacement batteries have come down, but I am eager to hear testimonials.

So, I am looking at other brands, and then, despite a couple of hours spent on the Consumer Reports site, I feel completely adrift, since all I ever hear about is iPod, and so I know next to nothing about these other brands. Creative? iRiver? Samsung? Anyone?

Then of course there is the issue of format: some players will play stuff in some formats, others in others, but it does not seem that any player can use both WMA and iTunes formats. And is it only the iPod that will play the stuff from iTunes, or am I misreading these things? And am I right that napster does not connect with the iPod?

(And what the fuck is that anyway? "Uh, no ma'am, I'm sorry but this tape deck will only play cassettes sold by Island Records.")

I was going to make a prize remark about the new Ashlee Simpson Karaoke iPod, but then I worried that if I did that, the Burger King might think this whole post is in jest, which it IS NOT. Really, people, I need your help.


Tim said...

First question: Yes, you need either a USB 2.0 connection or a FireWire connection. If you have a desktop PC with a free slot, you can add USB 2.0 support for less than $20. If you have a laptop, I'm pretty sure you can add USB 2.0 via a PC card (one of those slightly-larger-than-a-credit-card size connectors).

Second: I'm on my second iPod. The first suffered from a problem with the FireWire port a year after I got it and stopped charging--this was a design flaw on first generation iPods. Until that happened the battery was fine. The second one does quite well--provided I remember to lock the controls so I don't turn it on accidentally; take it out of my car when the outside temperature is below freezing; and actually plug it in to charge when I'm not using it.

The original version of the ipodsdirtysecret video overestimated the cost of a replacement battery by about $50, and you can get one aftermarket and do the surgery yourself to replace it--providing you have nerves of steel. I have howto instructions on my blog somewhere.

Regarding formats: yeah, this is a bugaboo. Right now, all the stores are trying to pacify the studios by offering only DRMed music. Microsoft's WMA files only work on Microsoft compatible players, which are less than 8% of the total market right now.

To make it more confusing, there is a difference between an AAC (Apple Audio Codec) file and an AAC file with DRM. You can create the former yourself when you import a CD into iTunes, if you so choose, and there are several players out there who can play AACs without DRM. The iTunes Music Store, however, only sells AACs with DRM, which are only playable on iPods (and via iTunes).

And for even more confusion, if you have WMA files that don't have DRM, you can use iTunes on Windows to convert them to MP3s, so you can avoid that lockin trap.

Bottom line: if you avoid DRMed music and stick to pure MP3s and stuff you rip from your own CDs, it doesn't matter what kind of player you get. If you want to hook yourself up to one of the celestial jukeboxes, you need to either get in the Microsoft or the Apple camp, unfortunately.

Of course, the fact that there are white earbuds everywhere on Microsoft's campus shouldn't sway your decision one way or the other...

bkmarcus said...

What Tim said.

But also:

The iPod mini won't fit any of the iPod peripherals. I'd avoid it. And I think you underestimate the size of your CD collection. Mine takes up more than 30 gig.

One additional note on formats: I think you'll want something that can play Audible.com audiobooks.

Re your clearly ancient desktop, here's a thought: www.apple.com/macmini

Disclaimer: I do not work for or receive compensation from Audible, Apple, or third-party iPod peripheral providers. Would it that it were otherwise.

Isis said...

My thinking on the mini was that I would not be able to fit my whole collection on there anyway, so I thought I might start with something a little cheaper and see how I like it, how I use it. But bk, your point about the peripherals is worth considering.

Trouble with just switching to a macmini is that it is an antiquated laptop we are talking about here.

Well, this is all helpful info, and certainly speaks to the advantages of the iPod. But I guess I'm in a holding pattern until I upgrade to a new computer.

Just a note: this planned obsolence crapola is a big pain in my behind.

bkmarcus said...

Just a note on your just-a-note: Raised on the Left, I was of course raised with the myth of "planned obsolescence" -- and I never questioned it until a few years ago. The scheme would only work if (a) the seller held a monopoly, and (b) there were no substitute goods. Otherwise, any value the consumer actually puts on longer-lasting products will provide entrepreneurs with a profit incentive to produce such products. The source of this myth (other than general anti-market sentiment) is in fact the general spending habits of consumers who don't want to pay the higher prices for longer-lasting goods, even when they might be more economical in the long run. We tend to prefer cheaper sooner. (See "time preference" ...)

Isis said...

Fair point, if we are speaking generally. But I think in the world of computers, where the technology changes fast--and we all assume it will change fast--that does not hold. Example: I buy a pretty good laptop in, oh, let's just 2001, planning to use it for a good long time, but now by 2005, I am wishing I had more memory and one of those damned USB 2.0 ports, which were not really around at the time, unless I bought the very top of the line, which would mean I'd be good technologically speaking until 2006 instead.