Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Marci finally coughed up something she wanted that she didn't have, about 7pm on December 22, and of all things she picked an iPod.

I've been ripping MP3s (of CDs I own -- without having to learn from the example of Durwood Pickle, who was in a small group Bible class with my in-laws at Waterview C of C for years) since 1999 or so, and have ripped almost our entire collection, so there's plenty of content for her to take advantage of. My personal MP3 player, a Creative Nomad Zen that began life as a 30GB model and has seen two additional hard-drive upgrades due to drive failure (everything bounces once, with the general exception of hard drives) to 40GB, currently has something like 33GB full of songs. You want it, I got it.

The hard part was getting the iPod before Christmas. Having had hard drive issues with my own player, we were going to go with a flash drive (no moving parts = nothing to fail). The BestBuy price for the 2GB iPod Nano was $199, but for $50 more you could double the RAM to 4GB. I wanted the 4GB one, but as it turns out so did everyone else, making the 4GB model in essence, vaporware. I was as surprised as anyone to find a 2GB iPod Nano on December 23, and so home it came. Success! As it turns out, 2GB is enough to hold about 50 hours or so of music depending on compression. Seeing as the battery in the Nano will last for about 12-14 hours, 2GB seems practically excessive, score a point for the practicality of the wife.

This past Sunday I finally sat down to open the box and load the player. Turns out there was a copy of most of our MP3s and WMAs on Marci's computer, so I figured we load iTunes, and away we go.

*Buzzzz* Thanks for playing.

Apparently Apple thinks that if you're buying an iPod you're new to the digital music world. When iTunes (the software you load on your computer) starts up, it ought to ask you if it can look on your hard drive and find any MP3s or other music files -- but it doesn't. At least Windows Media Player will auto-search your hard drive by hitting F3 and catalog your music files, but if iTunes will do this it's pretty demure about telling you about this capability.

What iTunes will do is let you 'Add a Folder' to the list of music it knows about. This would work well if your music was all in a disorganized blob in a single folder. In essence, iTunes can only deal with one 'container' of music at a time, so if you're tidy and fastidious with your ripping and have each album in a separate folder, you're in for some drudgery.

The other kicker is that Apple doesn't 'do' a file format called WMA, or Windows Media Audio. If you drop a CD into a Windows computer and tell Windows Media Player to rip your music, you're most likely going to get a WMA file, which isn't all bad. MP3 is a good way to take an audio file and make it small enough to carry around, but it's a relatively old compression algorithm, and there are newer ones that can make files of equal audio quality with less size. Apple's AAC is one, and WMA is another. For a given file size, WMAs will sound better than MP3s, which is one of the reasons I went to WMA when I switched from Windows98 to Windows2000 and WinXP. About half of my collection is WMA, the other half is MP3.

Steve Jobs owns about 70% of the MP3 player market with the iPod line, and his position is that he doesn't have to play WMA files on his device, in part because if you buy music from iTunes you buy AACs and if you buy songs from other online vendors you may get MP3s or WMAs. Why make it easier for the competition to sell songs? At least with iTunes and Windows Media Player 9 (or 10) you can convert your existing, unprotected WMA files to AAC files -- which is what I spent literally four hours doing early into Monday morning this week. Thus, iTedium. At least I managed to read the latest Wired and National Review issues cover-to-cover.

Marci likes the iPod but hates the earbuds. I'm going to have to get her some Shure E2c earbuds to match mine (mainly so I can get mine back from her), but she apparently has the world's tiniest ear canals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's why I rip all my CD's to MP3, universal compatibility. I still use a creative MP3 player, but that iPod video looks pretty cool. However, all of my music is ripped to folders and subfolders which would be a pain if Itunes really won't automatically import it all. (What kind of crappy program won't do a subfolder search?)

And apparently DRM'd WMA can be a problem. My wife downloaded a bunch of song from Musicmatch the other day, but my computer will no longer recognize them. Tech support from Musicmatch says that they think my Windows DRM is corrupt. I haven't found a spare two hours to try their fix yet, so who knows what's wrong.

So the moral of the story is buy CD's if at all possible and just rip them to MP3. IF you get one of those Sony rootkit CD's however (sony should be boycotted for that fiasco) it could be a problem. Linux anyone? I wonder if there is a good Linux CD ripper that would work in a VMWARE player Linux virtual machine?