There were two sights to greet me when I stepped out of the car at the 18th Annual Gathering of The Nick Adams Society. The first -- a deliriously happy subset of mates on the verge of killing a bottle of Caol Ila (the best whisky this year, but not quite as fine as last year's Bowmore Darkest) -- was pretty much a given. The second was not: the supply of this year's music did not issue forth from a Montreal Boom-Box, but from a jauntily propped iPod and a pair of high-end computer speakers.
I was amused, and made a few snide comments ("Aren't we too old to fall for the hype? Hey, that's not the U2 model, is it? It is?! Oh, we are definitely too old to listen to that shite!"). But over the course of the next day and a half, I became duly impressed -- won over, even.
This is my wife's birthday present:
She gets it tomorrow, the day before she boards a plane for San Francisco. In past business trips, she's been able to get a whack of work done on her lap-top while flying. What with the latest scares, the only thing she can now expect from her long flight is bad food, dodgy customer service, and unpredictable company (the terrorists have succeeded, damn their eyes!!). I have loaded this little gizmo to the walls with four gigs of her favourite music, while practising the greatest of restraint and not embedding one single tune that would qualify as one of my personal favourites (anything from these guys, for example). Here's hoping it makes her flight and her time away a shade more enjoyable.
Now, as I've noted before, I have become a Linux man. So when I first went shopping for an MP3 player, I wondered if there mightn't be something on the market that plays OGG. files (if you haven't played around with sound files, OGGs generally have a greater "depth" to them than AAC. or WAV. files, do -- nevermind MP3s). There is, in fact, quite a variety of players that support OGG files, so I stood in the MP3 aisle of a sound superstore and pondered all my options.
And pondered. And pondered.
And gradually took note of just how many freaking options there are for iPods. Dock 'em here, or dock 'em in this, or hook 'em up to this baby. You say you'd like to listen to your iPod while driving? Well you can!
Throw in the fact that I, your humble scribe, qualify by default as "the geek" in our marriage and it suddenly became clear that the decision was made for me.
In theory I am all for challenging iPod's command of this very significant corner of the market. I have purchased nothing from iTunes, and do not foresee the day when that will change. But at this moment, I'm guessing the suits at Apple get on their knees every morning and thank the Maker for Tony Fadell, much the way John Travolta and Sam Jackson do for Quentin Tarantino. Thanks to Fadell, iPod does not simply "have control" of this market: it owns it.
iPod still won't play OGGs, but that's become a moot point. At a certain age (*ahem*), you're no longer able to differentiate soundfile dynamics in earphones the size of jelly-beans. When I need the sound quality, I play the CD. When I need background music (which, for a kitchen guy like me, and a commuting woman like my wife, is 99% of the time), a half-decent docking station is just the thing.
Filling the iPod has been fun -- it scratches the geek itch to lurk among Linux forums, take notes and ascend the learning curve. Thanks to Linux, I'm able to rip a number of my wife's favourite discs, despite Sony's (to name just one corporation) abominable copy-protection programs. Understand: I'm not advocating music stealing. I walk the line in that regard, because I've got enough musician friends to keep me honest.
I've already paid to listen to the music; I am not now, nor have I ever been, a "file sharer"; I just want to play the music on my chosen device. But these copy protection programs are heinous things -- they are, in fact, much more agressive than mere "protection". The old department store adage, "When someone steals, we all pay the price" takes a nasty turn with these computer-hashing execute-files. They're the equivalent of walking in to a store, and being forced to leave your pants behind when you exit. No thanks.
So now my wife has 900 songs of her music tucked into a device the size of a cheap cigarette lighter. I'm looking at the growing pile of homemade CDs (again: perfectly legal transfers of purchased MP3s to CD) on our stereo -- discs fated for a landfill, when they finally glitch. And I'm thinking, How many of those failed CDs would it take to justify the expense of....