Friday, October 13, 2006

Jumping To iPod

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....

5 comments:

DarkoV said...

"And I'm thinking, How many of those failed CDs would it take to justify the expense of..."

oh. oh. oh. OH. OH! OH !!! That thought smells of danger.

WP, please! Let me take you back to what you said in the entry. "When I need the sound quality, I play the CD." All of the songs on my Nano were "recorded" (or whatever the gekk word for transfer is) from original cd's. I was expecting fabulous sound quality.
O.K., maybe I did something wrong (although after consulting with the da son who's da geek in the family, I actually did things correctly) and I didn't get it whne I tried playing the Nano through a regular stereo. There was, for lack of a better description, a skipping of bits.

I'm about ready to chuck it all and go back to turntables.

If only I hadn't "donated" 700 of my LP's. The mad actions of a young lad in the first years of marriage!

I'd hold on to those cd's, at least, as you noted, until your hearing is so shot that Rachmaninov sounds like AC/DC.

Happy Listening.

Yahmdallah said...

Slightly off topic, but have you given "The Flaming Lips" a try, yet? Everyone I lend a CD to gets infected. It's always the same. The first listen usually results in a sheepish, "well, they're interesting" (subtext: why did you make me waste my time on that silly dreck), and "my wife asked me what the heck I was playing."But they have all come back about a month later saying, "I can't stop playing them! They are so ________ (personally favored positive adjective or adverb)."

Either "The Soft Bulletin" or "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" will work.

Trent Reimer said...

Hmm, sounds like Rockbox can be used with some iPods for those on a mission to get their ogg quality. But I wouldn't know anything about that newfangled stuff. You young folks these days forget what it was like when you had to listen to grandma sing all yer favourites...

Whisky Prajer said...

dv - not to worry, the industry CDs aren't going anywhere. It's the homemade ones that crap out before too long. As for sound quality, I'm guessing the program you used could be at fault. When I first got the computer out of the box I gave Windows XP a run, and ripped a few CDs. I was impressed by the speed, but when I played it back, I found it had produced exactly that "skipping of bits" you describe. The freeware program I used for the iPod was paaaaaaaaainfully slow, but so far everything I've played back sounds flawless (I haven't, I should point out, listened to all 800 songs in their entirety). But when it comes to sound quality, soundfiles that come over the internet are just plain inferior. When I copy CDs as OGG files to my hard-drive, there's an aural downgrading taking place. Change that to a WAV or AAC or MP3 and you step it down a little further each time. MP3s offer incredible convenience, but that's really about it.

yahmdallah - colour me curious. I've eyed the Lips from a distance, and from what I see I like their spirit. But I've never taken the plunge. That might just change this weekend. I'll keep you posted. Looks like you (and other Lips listeners) are not as thrilled with At War With The Mystics(?), so I'll probably give Yoshimi a spin.

tr - "grandma"?!? I should be so lucky!! When I was a kid the only singing the church allowed us to listen to was from the neighbor's dog - and then only on a Sunday!

Scott said...

I'm relieved to hear that you're still at a distance with The Flaming Lips. I nervously included "Yoshimi" on the girls' CD, fearing you'd end up like me -- forever wandering the globe, humming, "Oh Yoshiiiimi, they don't belieeeeve me..." :)