iPod Ouch

iPod Ouch

Remember when the iPod Touch 4G came out? My daughter sure does… it was about a month after her birthday… the birthday where she got an iPod Touch. The 4G had a camera, so she was a bit disappointed. I told her this was her first (harsh) lesson of the Apple World. A newer, better, faster, and shinier model will always be right around the corner.

Fast forward one year… She loves her iPod Touch. Sure, it doesn’t have a camera, but that’s fine. One day she tells me (while very upset) the the screen has a crack in it. I know she’s careful with it, and she claims she didn’t do anything that would have damaged it, but she does live in a house with many “rambunctious” siblings. I trust her, and tell her we’ll take it to the Apple Store and see what the options are. (It’s still usable, but the crack is pretty annoying.)

At the Apple Store, a kind and helpful employee says that since we do have AppleCare, we can use our “get out of jail free” card, and they’ll actually just swap the iPod for another one, at no charge. After a big, big thanks from us, and a warning to “be careful!” from the employee, we’re on our way. I figure it was the least they could do for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent with Apple over the years. (Oh, the original iPod was engraved with her name, so a tiny loss there.)

Fast forward to the release of iOS 5. I’m all set to update the iPod Touch, and it seems stuck at version 4, not wanting to update. It seems odd… I know we bought it right before the launch of the 4G model. I check the model number, see on Apple’s web site that it’s a 3G, and try again. No dice. I then dig through Apple’s Support Forums, where there are some notes about confusion between 2G and 3G and mislabeled model numbers. At this point, my daughter reminds me that we got a replacement, and we then start to believe that we were given a replacement model that was older/different than the original model we brought in. #damn

So at this point, were not even sure which model we originally had. After digging through my orders on Apple’s web site, I finally determine that we originally had a PC086LL/A, which is indeed a 2G iPod Touch. So no mistake on Apple’s part there… it’s all on us.

So what’s left? Not much. I just explain to her that even though you buy a piece of hardware from Apple, you can’t expect to run the newest software on it 16 months later. Of course it still works, and does all the stuff it did before iOS 5 came out, and that’s just fine right? We get so tempted by the new shiny stuff though… the stuff the tech sites hype up and convince you that you need.

That said, I still use the iPod I got back in 2005. It still does everything I need an iPod to do. It doesn’t run any apps, it just plays audio. But I fear those times are gone… and we’re stuck in a world of constantly wanting new hardware to keep up with the new software.

Ouch indeed.


iPod Review – Five Years Later


I got an iPod for Christmas in 2005. I’m going to review it now. Wait, 2005… Is that a typo!? No…

I’m still using the first iPod I ever got. My wife gave me the 5th generation 30GB iPod with video. And yes, I did review this iPod back in 2007. So what? I’m reviewing it again.

I love this iPod. I have not felt the urge to upgrade or replace it. It works as well as it did 5 years ago when I got it. The interface is simple and easy to use. It does one thing, and it does it well.

I use this iPod almost every day. At least, every day I drive. I’d guess that 98% of its usage is in my car as an audio player connected to my car stereo. I have no desire to get an iPod touch, as I actually think the interface would be much more difficult to use while driving. In my previous review I did mention something about this:

The iPod interface also requires you to look, or at least be able to feel around and guess where to push. Other players (with actual buttons) allow you to memorize where the buttons are and what they do. I could operate my Rio while driving and never take my eyes off the road. This seems to be a big concern with the iPhone as well, it will require visual attention to be able to use it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been using the old iPod interface for so long, but I feel much more at ease using it to navigate for music playing than I do for my iPhone. It’s all spin and click, no typing or swiping.

I still on occasion have an issue with the iPod not turning off, but it happens seldom enough that it’s not really a bother. Battery life also seems a bit shorter than it used to be, but hey, it is 5 years old and has been used a lot. The battery does hold a charge, so that’s good. The only really bothersome thing is that at some point it got confused and started showing the wrong artwork for some of the files on it. So I’ll be listening to Sleep and it shows album cover art for Cat Power. I’ve gotten used to it. A restore might fix that, but I’ve never had the energy to do one.

I don’t need apps, or wifi, or a camera, or anything except a music player, so as long as it holds out, I’ll keep using the 5th generation 30GB iPod for my automotive audio needs.

(And yes, I do realize that by posting the sentence above, it will somehow cease to function within a matter of weeks. I’ll let you know when that happens.)


Bigger iPods

As I was listening to the Macworld Podcast about the DRM-free deal with EMI, I came away with these points. The iTunes store will offer DRM-free songs, which will cost more, but also be of higher quality. So who wins in this case? The consumer, right? You can choose DRM-free music (and pay a bit more) or choose DRM music and pay less, but have to go through the process of stripping the DRM yourself. Oh, you will also have the option of ‘upgrading’ all the DRM music you have to (higher quality) DRM-free versions (at a price.)

So what does Apple get out of this? They will be ready and willing to sell you a bigger iPod. If your iPod is at 80% capacity, I’m guessing that after doing the ‘upgrade’ to DRM-free versions, or after enough time buying the new DRM-free stuff, you’ll run out of room. When you need that iPod with twice the storage of your old one, Apple will be there to sell it to you.

Thanks Steve Jobs!


Dumb Devices Storing Data

Our devices are dumb. They are not very aware of each other, and they should be.

I was thinking about this after I got home from BarCampMadison, where we talked about storage solutions. The thing that really trigged it was that for about 3 minutes, I thought I lost my digital camera. While you freak out for a minute about losing an object, you also freak out (probably much worse) about losing the data.

What would be nice is a way for devices to talk to each other, and be able to sync and backup data without user intervention. So, I carry around a digital camera, a mobile phone, an iPod, and a laptop. What if the camera could easily communicate with the other devices and say “Hey, I have 30 new photos, who can store these for me?” The laptop might respond “I’m the primary device, I have all the digital photos, give them to me” and then some wireless magic (wifi, bluetooth) would be used to do the right thing.

No laptop present? Perhaps the iPod could say “I’ve got 10 gigs of free space, give me the photos, and I will give them to the master when I get in range and connect.” No iPod? The mobile phone could be the storage device. Meanwhile the phone is talking to the other devices and asking them to sync/backup the new data it has, “Hey iPod, store these new phone numbers I got in the last 4 hours.” And on and on…

The idea is really to spread your data far and wide. We talked about this a lot at BarCampMadison. The situation will only get worse as our digital lives create more and more bits we have to deal with. Those bits need to be saved, and synchornized, and backed up. Doesn’t it seem silly that I need to manually tell my computer to sync with my phone every morning? Shouldn’t they be smart enough to do that when they get in close range of each other? Yes, there can be conflicts in the data, but do all the easy stuff first, then ask me to resolve conflicts. Syncing the iPod is nice, but in the future I hope having to physically plug in a device to have that happen seems just silly. (Sure, today we have issues with wireless communication, large amounts of data, and battery life, but those are all problems we can solve.)

We have automated backup solutions for our regular computers, but these mobile devices we carry are getting more and more important, and holding more and more data, and we need to make sure we don’t just lose it all to the bit bucket.


iPod Review – One Year Later

I’ve had an iPod for just over a year now, so I thought I would make a few notes on it. I know the iPod is a beloved product, and the music player in some people’s minds, but it, like any other product (by Apple or otherwise) could use some improvements…

I have the 5th generation 30GB iPod with video. It was given to me by the lovely Dana. Before the iPod I was using a Rio 500, and an iRiver IPF-180T.

I had one annoying issue with syncing my iPod, but other than that, it’s been pretty much problem-free.

Now, in comparison, the Rio 500 still beats the iPod for bookmarking. The Rio has a button that will set a bookmark in any MP3 file. No so with the iPod. It does not support bookmarking of any audio file. This is annoying, especially as it was a feature I used daily, and had to give up on when I moved to the iPod.

The iPod does remember what is playing when you turn it off and continues from there (of course my cassette player did this in 1975 as well) but this fails when you plug your iPod into your computer! So if I’m half way through a podcast, and then want to charge or sync my iPod, it forgets where I was after ejecting, and I’m back at the home screen, and damned if I can remember what I was listening to. Sucks…

The iPod interface is simple, but I know at least one other person who has one that occasionally will not turn off, and has said “Couldn’t they just put a damn ON/OFF button on it?” Sometimes mine won’t turn off, so I just put it in my bag and hope it turns off automatically after a few minutes.

The iPod interface also requires you to look, or at least be able to feel around and guess where to push. Other players (with actual buttons) allow you to memorize where the buttons are and what they do. I could operate my Rio while driving and never take my eyes off the road. This seems to be a big concern with the iPhone as well, it will require visual attention to be able to use it.

The Rio kicks the iPod to the curb in regards to bookmarking, but that’s about it. As for the iRiver, the one I have is a cheap, low-end model, and the interface is horrible. The advantages it has is that it can record using a built-in microphone (I wish mine had an audio input though) and has an FM tuner. You can also combine these and record live from the radio. I guess it also plays WMA files, but I don’t have any of those. I mainly use it as a cheap, portable recording device, even though the quality is fairly poor in noisy situations. (I did use it to record myself snoring once.)

In summary, I do love the iPod, but it’s not the ultimate player. It could use some improvements. I’m not sure Apple will ever improve it to my satisfaction, but I thought it was worth critiquing.

(This post just talks about the iPod as an audio player. I plan to follow-up with it’s use as a video player as well.)