Gadget Fever

To Pod or not to Pod

Gaahh. I had an iRiver H340 in my Amazon shopping cart last night…and then I removed it in a fit of uncertainty. At the last minute I found out that the US version of the H340 is subtly different from the one supplied to the rest of the world: it doesn’t include the USB Host function. The Host function allows it to plug (for example) a digital camera into the device and transfer photos directly to the H340’s hard drive, rather than having to slurp them off to a PC, and then move them around afterwards.

Okay, now realistically how often am I likely to use this feature? That would be…probably never.

Its absence in the US version means that it is substantially cheaper than the European version, even taking the favourable exchange rate into account: $407 at, or approximately £225 versus £333 at Hey baby, come to Papa.

But as soon as I figured I could live without that feature, I started to wonder what other features I really wanted, and what ones were merely nice-to-haves.

  • Can I live without a colour screen, and the ability to record from a built-in FM radio? Yup.
  • Can I live without the FM radio (which brings players other then the iRiver Hxxx series into play)? Surely. For the money I’d save not buying an iRiver, I could get a tiny Sony SRF-S84 radio as well as a music player.
  • Can I live with a 20GB player rather than a 40GB one? My music collection comes out to about 18GB right now, and according to iTunes, I have less than 3GB of music I’ve rated 4 or 5 stars. That’s what I listen to most. Heck, I could get that on an iPod Mini, and still have space left to slap on a dozen full albums.

Come to think of it, do I really need a new music player right now at all? Hardly. Would it even see much use, while I’m still driving to work? Nope. Wouldn’t it make more sense to save the money right now, and buy one when I’m actually likely to use it (and when prices will have dropped, and new models will be available)? Yup.

Problem is, following the realisation of some stock options, I’ve got a nice little chunk of personal spending money burning a hole in my pocket, and we’re off on holiday to California in a couple of days’ time. The temptation to buy electronics while we’re over there is likely to prove irresistable.

The frugal Scot in me is battling it out with the excited geek going TOY TOY TOY. Any advice?

21 replies on “To Pod or not to Pod”

Martin, I of all people am going to say don’t do it. If there’s the slightest bit of doubt of use then don’t do it. I mean you’re saying that you won’t be using it going to work, and it sounds like you’ll hardly use it at all. I’d wait.

Now, if you have cash burning a hole, put it somewhere. High Interest Access account. Think how much that will be when you decide to use it for a gadget?

That’s what I’m doing for the new Nikon D2X Digital Camera…putting money away and waiting.

Mind you, I’m sitting here using Louise’s Mac PowerBook G4 as I took it overnight to download all the updates it needs, and I’m liking it. I’m liking it a lot. At a time when I’m doing more writing than ever, it’s a very nice option.

Anyway, don’t do it. Hold onto the money and save it, or, go find a gadget you really can use!

Richard, Richard, Richard… you seem to be missing the point here. This is SPENDING money, see? It’s going to fly out of my wallet over the next couple of months whether I blow it all on a single gadget, or fritter it away on video games, expensive whisky, and rare books on eBay.

You’re supposed to tell me that iPods rock, and that I should acquire one forthwith. Then I’m supposed to hem and haw for a little longer before finally giving in to temptation. That way, when it languishes unused at the back of my desk, I’ve got someone else to blame for my profligate waste of money. I don’t want that on my own conscience. Sheesh.


Buy an iPod and then a Powerbook. Then you’ll be poor, but very very happy.

Just dont wear the white headphones – not because you’d get mugged but becasue you’d look like a fashion victim.



Unused iPod? Get real – everyone I know who’s got one is in love with the little marvels. Get the 20Gb version – it strikes the right balance between the “not enough music on it” 10Gb version and the “I’m paralysed with indecision because of the enormous choice” 40Gb. It’s simply the most perfect piece of consumer electronics ever invented, and you need one.

I wholly agree with Dave. iPod trumps all other players hands-down. The current 20 GB model is the best combination of size, capacity, functionality, and ease of use that you’ll find today. I use my iPod mini every day, reloaded once or twice a week from my 90 GB collection. The mini has the added benefit that it fits comfortably in my hip pocket, so it’s always with me.

Okay, now we’re getting into the spirit of things!

If I’m not going to go for a top-of-the-range iRiver, but choose something cheaper instead, it sounds like the new 20GB iPod is the one to have. The 8-hour battery life of the older models always seemed a bit short, but the new ones last for 12…that’s enough for me.

I’m starting to feel good about this decision. If it all works out, and I use it a lot–great! If it doesn’t, well, now I’ve got three people to blame for talking me into it!

Save the money until January and find out then what is happening with Powerbooks… and the alleged new flash iPods.
In the meantime join the SMWS and get some yummy whisky.


A Powerbook would be yummy, but I have even less use for another laptop than I do for an iPod… Membership of the SMWS, however, is a totally excellent idea–in addition to the iPod, of course 🙂

Does one need a reason to have a Powerbook, other than well, its pretty and small, though ought to be called a RelativelyNotAPowerbookAnyMoreComeOnDualCoreG4 🙂
VirtualPC covers the running windows stuff side of it, though I believe performance isn’t that great. (US spelling of rumours) feeds the habit nicely.
The SMWS membership isn’t expensive, though it is possible to buy expensive whisky from them – my aunt in the USA has a friend with expensive tastes, I just bought two bottles on his behalf, 1.110 and 1.111, came to 244 quid, ouch.
Do you fancy meeting up for a dram sometime, sadly the licensing laws prohibit kids?


Martin –

Here’s my $0.02 (worth less every minute…):

I’ve had a 20 GB iPod for almost 2 years. My goal was to have a single device that would hold all of my music, so that I could take it anywhere. We have about 300 CDs – when ripped to VBR 192 (or less KBps) MP3, they slightly overfill the 20BG. By dropping some minor stuff, I am able to fit – the final tally is 4602 songs.

I put some effort into making sure that I can use the iPod everwhere I listen to music: my workstation at home, my office at work, in the car, in the workshop, at the gym. I invested in a great case (vaja). I took the time to rip all of our CDs.

The end result is very much worth the effort. I can now listen to any of my music anywhere. I find that I do not listen to radio much anymore (except for 10@10 – 10 great songs from one great year). Usually, I run the iPod on shuffle and just skip any song that I am not in the mood for. On the down side, I am exposed to less new music. (Although with Clear Channel running almost every station, I would not be hearing quality new music anyway.) On the up side, no commercials – I have, in effect, created my own music station with a 2 week archive of songs I know pass at least a minimal test.

The iPod itself is beautifully designed with every detail thought out – there may be cheaper devices, there may be devices with more features, but none is as well designed.


BTW – Andy, I’m a dev on Virtual PC for Mac. I wish it was faster too and we work hard to make it faster. While I will not comment on specific rumors, remember that they are rumors: the stuff from the rumors world does not reflect reality. If you have not tried VPC 7, try it – it’s significantly faster than 6.

Hi Mick (sorry for taking up space on your blog Martin),
I’d love to try it, I’m someone who would like to get an OSX based Mac, preferably Powerbook, but cost considerations prevent that right now. So I’m a potential switcher.
I realise the technical constraints you work within for the x86->G4/G5 emulation and it seems you guys have done a great job.
What I’d love to do is get the fastest powerbook when the next speed bumps (more likely wait till much later next year when dual core G4 or G5 in a Powerbook arrives, unless Jobs pulls a “one last thing… available right now” out of the hat @ MWSF) so I can run Visual Studio 2005, MSSQL 2005, etc on it too without it being too slow. I guess games will still have the gfx emulation problems with hardware acceleration?
Any comments on that would be much appreciated 🙂 , hell, an MS job while you are at it 😀
p.s. Too bring this on-topic, I may get an iPod at the same time.

Hmmm. I bought Virtual PC just before MS bought Connectix. If it really is significantly faster on G4, then perhaps I’ll fork out for the upgrade. Except it means giving money to billg, which would be a first. Honestly.

There *has* to be some kind of Powerbook upgrade in January. It’s been way too long since the last one (I bought mine around then), and there’s a Stevenote, so *something* has to happen. So if you’re in the market for a brand new one I’d wait a couple of months. Otherwise get a refurb – much cheaper.

Unless you want a small capacity flash iPod (a la iPod Mini) I wouldn’t bother waiting. Just get the 20Gb. Nothing else out there gets it as “right” as the iPod, particularly the interface.

Current thinking on the Powerbook seems to be a speed bump, perhaps with better ram/gfx/etc. From the news reports on shippable CPU it seems too early for G4 Dual, and any “leaks” point to G5 being far off still. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Dual G4 gets called a G5, however some recent game has G5 as a minimum spec, so that could be problematic if it really requires a G5 and a G4 doesn’t support something it is looking for.
Isn’t it always stevenote at MWSF, and he is back from the cancer opp which is good?
http://www.macrumors and its ilk provide endless speculation on all this of course.
I’d concur with your hold off until mid January to see what is happening, there seems to be reports of stock being run down?


I’d still stick with original opinion. Seriously.

I got two iPods free, first one was sold in a week and we still have the second one, but I stick with my MiniDisc.

Powerbook however, now there is something interesting. After having just played with Louise’s new G4, I am very much tempted, especially since I am doing less and less PC based work, and more writing and web based stuff.

I’d say Powerbook or save it for a bigger toy.

Andy (and others) –

VPC and Games: Games and VPC really do not work that well for 3 reasons: Graphics tech, CPU and spikey perf. VPC only emulates a 2D card, so today’s 3D games don’t do so hot. Moving to a 3D is non trivial and we have discussed it, but for now, we have not moved in that direction. Raw CPU perf is important as well – modern games do alot more that just draw polys – the CPU is used for phyics, AI and so on. Spiky perf really means the difference between a real machine where perf is very steady and predicable. On VPC, perf is “spikey”, the first time some code is run, it needs to be recompiled into PowerPC, that takes time. The next time, if that PowerPC fragment is still in VPC’s code cache (between 16 and 28 MB), it will be run without recompiling. That and other factors mean that VPC’s perf is often not very smooth. This is not a problem for most apps. However it does show up in sound and media apps, and of course games. As such we don’t recommend VPC for games.

iPod: I’ll say it again – if you want to do what an iPod does, no one does it better.

PowerBooks: I have the 15″ 1.5GHz G4 PowerBook with 1Gb of RAM – it’s a great machine! Is it as fast as a Dual G5? No. Is it much lighter and still fast? Yep!

Truly Drool Wothy, but outragously expensive: The 30″ Cinima display. We got one in our lab for testing – OMG! Sitting in front of it fills your entire visual field, all at high resoultion. I’ll never buy one, but wow…


Thanks for the info on the code cacheing.
Is 3D something that could become simpler over time if Apple or MS chose to push drivers in such a way that they could be addressed similarly on both platforms?
I presume that as the hardware is the same, at some level that must be interfaced with in the same way? If a game uses OpenGL or Cg then does that compile down very differently on PPC/x86 and much later on in the pipeline come back to looking the same for the GPU?
I’d have thought the driver API must be somewhat similar, though I realise there must be some Win32 stuff for the kernel going on versus the OSX drivers and however they sit.
(I’ve only done DirectX coding in the past which isn’t much help here!)


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