On having an iPod

So I bought an iPod while we were on holiday. The 20GB model. And, boy, it is gorgeous. I must have spent hours ogling its sleek design, running my fingers over its sensuous, smooth surfaces, and taking great delight in the touch-sensitive action of the clickwheel. And that was before I loaded it up with any music.

Of course, I then went out and got a protective case for it. (Or rather, Pat and Susan bought me one for my birthday.) Rather than carrying a thin, elegant, and gloriously tactile gadget in my pocket, I now walk around with a much thicker, rubberised white plastic and perspex brick.

It’s still recognizably an iPod, and the functionality of the thing hasn’t changed, but even though I appreciate the extra protection the case provides, I’m feeling somewhat dubious about it. I’m not ungrateful for the present, mind–I asked for it, and Susan took me down to the local Apple store where I chose it myself. As cases go, it’s great. But using a case diminishes the iPod itself.

If I just wanted a music player, and wasn’t concerned about looks or design, I could have bought a cheaper gadget. But I didn’t. I bought the iPod because it is, quite simply, beautiful. And now I’m covering it up? It’s like buying a Porsche and never driving it for fear of chipping the paintwork. The fear is driven by a sense of frugality, but also by a certain embarrassment at being able to afford to pay over the odds for a mere whim. Call it Rich Man’s Angst. I get nervous and awkward when I have to go Christmas shopping, too. When did Christmas stop being fun?

Anyhoo…. I still love my iPod, and using it has given me the urge to tidy up my music collection. I first got an MP3 player in 1999. It had a whopping 64MB of memory, so space was at a premium. I still have a whole bunch of CD rips encoded at 96Kbps, and they sound pretty bad, especially when I’m using the Belkin TuneCast FM transmitter to listen to them over the car radio. A lot of those files aren’t properly tagged with ID3 metadata, either.

It looks like I’m going to have to (have to) spend some time re-encoding a pile of CDs. Which makes me wonder: is it time to switch from MP3 to AAC? I like MP3 for its portability and compatibility, but with iTunes on my PC and an iPod in my pocket, what exactly do I need the compatibility for? If I’m willing to put in the effort now to re-encode my CDs into AAC, I’m sure I can manage it again in a few years’ time when a better codec comes along. Considering that the bulk of my collection is encoded in MP3 at 196KBps or higher, going AAC probably will save me some space, too. The 2GB I have to spare won’t last me another year…

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 Amazon.com, or approximately £225 versus £333 at Amazon.co.uk. 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?

To make your GBA perfect

I know it’s not particularly big or clever to make fun of foreign products trying to market themselves in English…but sometimes it can be just a teensy bit amusing. Take, for example, this GBA Movie Player adapter I’ve just bought, on a tip-off from WillC2 in a recent comment:

Scan of the box for the GBA Movie Player

  • “A good and cool device for your GBA” Excellent. I’d hate to buy a product that wasn’t cool. I might look like a dork.
  • “It must work with CF card” I can just see the product designers looking anxious, crossing their fingers, and wishing with all their hearts: “It must work with CF cards, it must!
  • “To listen to the music” Aha. Fans for the Doobie Brothers, I see.

And on the back of the box, they decided that politeness was definitely the way to go for their basic instructions:

GBA Movie Player instructions

For all that, I have to say it’s a rather nifty little product.