Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Ipod_blackI broke down last week and bought an iPod. I got the 60GB model (5G iPod Video, black) and its a pretty cool device. Not without its quirks, but cool for sure. I like it, and I'll be adding some of the available (expensive) accessories as soon as I figure out which of the zillion accessory manufacturers actually makes something worth buying. Talk about a zoo...

iTunes is all hooked up (pretty cool app dontcha know), a few podcasts are subscribed (small list below for people who are interested) and a couple movies have been loaded. Great video conversion information and help can be found here, by the way. I've only bought one song on iTunes so far, and that will probably change but I think it says something that after having this thing for a week I've used it primarily to load some video for traveling and to subscribe to syndicated content (audio and video podcasts).

I really, really wish - every time I look at an apple product package - that they would at least tell me what is included and what's not. I know, I know... I could just ask any random human being on the street what came with their iPod and the zoo of accessories they own, since I am like the last person in the world to buy one of these things, but seriously - no compact wall charger? Leaving out the iPod dock is crazy enough, but I figured there would at least be an AC-outlet-to-USB thing in there.

One thing I learned early on: When it says "do not disconnect" on the screen, regardless of the fact that the message stays there for-freakin-ever, it's best not to disconnect it. If you do, and your iPod starts an endless cycle of reboot, power up, power off, flash the display, reboot, power up, power off, flash the... Yeah, anyhow the iPod updater has a "Restore" option that nukes the iPod, reformats the hard drive and installs all the software from scratch. Works wonders.

Oh and another thing - I can only sync this $400 device to one computer? Seriously? Ok, so I can hook up to a second computer and as long as I don't choose auto-sync, I can manually move files to the iPod. But this is not so good: Mac and Windows synced iPods are not compatible? Jeez, there's something worth spending some serious dev time on. Using the iPod updater to reformat the thing so I can use it on the Mac mini doesn't solve any problems, it creates them. And there's no way I'm buying Apple computers just to work with the iPod.

Oh, and copy-protection and all that RIAA crap aside, iTunes is a service, and it should flow from computer to computer with the authenticated user's settings and content, and I should be able to sync to the iPod anywhere I am logged in. In other words, some content everywhere, and associate the device with my user account, not my computer.

Anyhow, in the accessories department, it's pretty clear I need an iPod dock. I'll have to break down and ask my friends if it comes with a USB cable, or if I have to purchase that separately, too. I won't be shelling out the $20 for Apple's video cable so I can play content on my TV or projector - I think I'll just use one of the almost-exactly-the-same cables I already have lying around the house and just mix up the plugs as described at the Mac Dev Center site:

  • Plug the red RCA plug into your TV's yellow RCA jack.
  • Plug the yellow RCA plug into your TV's white RCA jack.
  • Plug the white RCA plug into your TV's red RCA jack.

Pure. Freakin. Genius. If it works.

But don't get me wrong here. I'm complaining a bit about the proprietary, non-standard and closed nature of the Apple way of business, but this is a terrific piece of hardware, as the marketplace has clearly proven. Audio quality is great. The user experience is simple, flows and just works. But you already know that.

HKCarPlayI stopped by a couple stores the other night between appointments and checked out the plethora of radio-transmitter accessories. I spend a lot of time driving (two hours of commute time daily), so having something that does a good job of transmitting relatively high quality audio to my FM car radio would be nice. On the higher end of the car-audio purchasing spectrum (about $200), the Harman Kardon Drive+Play looks really cool. Not sure if it's video iPod compatible, but I have emailed them to ask. The Monster iCruze also looks nice and it is confirmed to work with the iPod Video models, but I need to make sue my car stereo is compatible - And it's on sale in a huge way as of the time of this writing: $99 for a complete kit. A FAQ page is here.

Oh, and (sidebar comment here) you gotta check out the videos on this page at the HK Drive+Play site - especially the "Title and Registration" one. Heheh...

Below are the few podcasts to which I've subscribed so far. Now that I am coming back to podcasts (my first round with them was more geeky in nature than practical, which is my approach nowadays) the number of shows I am interested in subscribing to is relatively small. I'm pickier. You'll note these all tend to be either professionally produced shows or well-produced indi ones, and that the only common denominator is that they're relevant and matter to me. And none of them are podcasters talking about podcasting. Thank goodness we moved past that phase.

Note: The iTunes interface makes it pretty much impossible for me to figure out where the real home pages are for these podcasts, so it's hard to link you to them, sorry. If someone knows a trick, please tell me (hey Apple - seems like easy access to a phobos.apple.com subscription link plus a standardized "home site" URL in the iTunes XML and UI would be a nice thing to do for sharing subscription links?).

  • Diggnation (video and audio podcasts) - these guys sit around and discuss what's hot on Digg.com
  • Ebert & Roeper - movie reviews from the top critics, weekly audio from the broadcast television show
  • Engadget podcast - ultimate gadget geek site and podcast show (but their RSS feed is broken and iTunes is out of date, ugh)
  • Major Nelson Radio - podcast from inside the world of the XBOX and XBOX Live!
  • NASACast video - this Week at NASA video podcast - just a cool, short video update on what's happening at the space agency
  • Security Now! podcast - Consumer focused security audio show - We really need more security-focused podcasts
  • Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's Journal - The director of Superman Returns video-blogs lots of interesting stuff in the process of the creation of Superman Returns, which is set to hit theaters this year. Professionally produced video shows (I don't think Bryan is shooting any of these, but hey...)

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Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 10 January 2006 10:15:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Tuesday, 10 January 2006 11:02:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I use the XtremeMac AirPlay (~$40) in my car. It's a reasonably good FM transmitter with the frequency selector on the unit. 94.3 seems to be the only consistent station that got me from Wilsonville to Hillsboro without interference during my commute.

We got the full deal at CarToys for my wife's ScionXB. They ran an aux cable to an amp under the passenger seat, behind the dash, and then out of one of the handy change slots by the cig lighter for a direct aux in connection. That works pretty well but with the road noise on a freeway commute, I struggle to hear the quality difference between that and my FM transmitter most of the time. They through the iPod aux hookup in for free at the time because I was getting her $1,200 worth of new deck, speakers, and amp. I think they said it would have cost $200 for the parts and labor to hook it up otherwise.
Wednesday, 11 January 2006 03:29:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
It is amazing to me that some people have waited so long to get an iPod. Can't even imagine not having had one model or another for the last four years.

You should not be getting an endless cycle of reboots when you disconnect abruptly. Just one chide from your computer. Try resetting your iPod. (It is best to unmount properly, but everyone forgets now and then.)

I think you might want to get the combination FM radio/remote Apple released for the 5g yesterday, too. A charger is also pretty much a necessity.

Be careful at iTMS with video content particularly. I responded to a free download of a near half-hour introduction to "Battlestar Galactica." Am now the somewhat embarrassed owner of all the episodes at a cost of about $60. Just had to see what happened next.

Free downloads of video include some media, such as the WaPo and ABC News, Google (hundreds of iPod compatible files) and Veoh (thousands). An alternative or supplement to iTunes podcast downloads is Juice, which allows for more organization.
Wednesday, 11 January 2006 10:09:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
If you want the multi-computer shared tunes thing, you might want to check out MP3Tunes (http://www.mp3tunes.com/). It's a new service that allows you to back up and sync your music online so you can not only use your library across computers but stream your music, too, so you don't even have to install iTunes if you're sitting at the Internet cafe and want to hear your collection. I haven't used it myself, so I can't vouch for it, but it's pretty intriguing.
Saturday, 14 January 2006 13:13:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I finally got an iPod video as well a couple of months ago, but the 30GB model. What won me over is the huge capacity but it's small enough to tote in my pocket easily. The nano just didn't have enough storage for me, especially for those long plane rides where it comes in the most handy.

There are so many things that I like, but so many other things I dislike as you found. In thinking about it though, most of the things I like are limited to the cosmetic design and UI. The "deeper" functionality like connectivity, sync'ing, itunes, etc is what I hate most about it.

My biggest gripe is that ratings and album art are stored as meta-data in iTunes vs. part of the file itself. Granted, this isn't apple's fault since I don't believe this is part of the ID3 spec (i could be wrong though). So all the time i spend getting album art for my songs, it won't display in Media player and consequently, nor on my Media Center PC. I had to download a freakin' tool just to sync album art and ratings between WMP and iTunes. Lame!

Other gripes i have are similar to yours about sync'ing and the "do not disconnect" message. I absolutely HATE the fact that if i make one wrong move when i connect my ipod to a PC (i have 1 PC at home, my work laptop and work PC), it will start to overwrite the songs on it and try to sync from the local libary. Yeesh.
Saturday, 14 January 2006 14:11:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hi Trevin -

I agree completely. I am looking forward to seeing this in action:


Now that looks cool.
Tuesday, 24 January 2006 06:58:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Why IPod ? i have Archos Jukebox !
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