Praise for the
iPod

I   
bought my wife an iPod for Christmas this year. Couldn't resist it in spite of its high price. It's just too damn cute and useful. I got the 10 gig unit because they worked the marketing so you'd just have to go the extra $100 to get the extra items not available on the 5 gig. The 20 gig seemed to me to be overkill since hard drives tend to fail in about three years anyway. Ten gigs is enough to store practically anyone's entire CD collection. Who has more than 160 CDs? I certainly don't. Well, maybe some music junky.

I am particularly impressed by the extreme integration of the navigation system. The buttons do all that you could ask ... well, almost. It is very rare to see a machine which is nearly perfect (given the available materials). And this thing is right there where you cannot go much further designwise.

Another good thing is that it has a standard jack for headphones. I don't particularly care for earbuds. So, I can just plug in something else more to my liking ... and ... you can input your stuff into any gizmo that accepts that type of jack as input (like your stereo) ... or even with an adapter for other size jacks. Too bad auto makers don't supply you with any type of input hole.

My brother thought that it was "solid-state" at first. Well, to put ten gigs of memory would cost at the very least I figure $1500 ... too much to sell many ... (maybe in another 5 years). The back of the thing is stainless steel for a heat sink. If you punch up too many selections too quickly, you can feel it warm up. It "rams" about 20 minutes of music off the hard drive (for no skip symphonic movements?) and parks the drive heads. Very thoughtful. It juices up in 4 hours and lasts 10 (8 hours worth in only 1 hour plugtime). I'm really happy with it so far. So is my wife. When it dies in three or four years another similar thing will cost $50. You watch.

MusicMatch Software is inadequate

If you buy one of these expect to get about 80% of your stuff onto the machine intact. The rest will have to be finessed. The software is a little quirky and can erase things from the library if you look away for a second. It doesn't erase the hard drive ... just the entry in the library so you have to retype it. You can get anything on ... eventually ... and ... you only have to do it once.

Your plan will be to put your CDs on your computer first, converted to mp3's. This takes about 10 minutes per CD on my machine (1.2 gigahertz). Quite a drag, but putting them on the iPod takes only about ten seconds (or less) per CD by firewire. Don't transfer anything till you've got it all straight on your hard drive and in the MusicMatch library. Then and only then ... transfer it. I suspect that screwing around on the iPod drive will get it all fragged up. Maybe it can be defragged (hope so).

One big problem is that you have to go online to musicmatch.com in order to fetch the names of the tunes on your CD so that these can be included in your library rather than just Track 01, Track 02, etc. This worked fine for pop music but failed dismally for classical music. Apparently, all classical music is pressed by Bozos. Either MusicMatch couldn't find anything at all ... or worse ... the Bozo CD makers have included that info for you. Which would be nice but all the info I got was all wrong. Virtually every piece was screwed up so bad that I had to manually retype all the info. They put the wrong composers on every track ... not just some ... every ... and on every album. Phew! What a drag. The only relief is that most often I just had to type "Brahms", "3rd Symphony" and let the Track 01, 02, 03, 04 suffice. You can't accept that on a pop album though. You would need to know the individual tune.

What iPod really needs ... Auditory feedback

When I'm driving and want to select something, I really don't want to put on my glasses to look at the little screen and press buttons. It's got a great backlight but what it really needs to do is speak to me. Tell me the name of the artist and song through the earphones ... then I can drive and select at the same time safely. This would require that about 300 syllables or so would have to be programmed into the software to speak names which are reasonably understandable. For instance, if it's got to say Chopin, it might guess chop-in or some such nonsense. But you would only have to select the correct syllables once and thereafter it would pronounce the name correctly. You would just have to correct the grossest errors just so long as you knew what you were going to hear.

Maybe in another incarnation this will be included. Sure ... and midi will make a comeback.



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