Ever since I was a kid, I have loved music. All types of music. You name it, and I got it. Blues, Jazz, Rock, Easy Listening, Gospel, Country, Soul, Rap, Funk, Latin, Brazilian. At this point in my life, I have a monster music collection. But this is not about my musical tastes, this is about my iPod. Or I should say iPods. I have been through about 10 of them since they were first introduced. That’s right 10! I like having the newest ones that have even more storage and hence more songs. I use my iPod quite a bit but there are a lot of things that annoy me about this small and simple device.
I cannot understand for the life of me why Apple has a strange cable just for iPods. On one end is your standard USB cable. After all, it has to connect to your computer. On the other end is a connector that only works with an iPod. The USB cable and interface are defined standards. For the other end there are two options, USB and mini USB. Both are written in the spec, and I am sure that we have lots of these cables lying around our offices and homes. So why in God’s name do we need another cable just for our iPods? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use our camera mini USB cable with our iPod too?
In 2008, we went to Barcelona, Spain for a wonderful cruise. We decided to get a bus tour for somewhere around $10 a person. Included in the price of the tour is an audio guide available in multiple languages. When boarding the bus, they give you a pair of orange ear buds for the audio guide. They are also yours to keep. Guess what? The free orange ear buds are identical in every detail to the ear buds that you get with your iPod. The only difference is the iPod’s ear buds are white. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were made by the same company in China. So why does Apple include these cheapo headphones with my $200 iPod? They know that I am going to throw them out. They might as well not even include them in the box. Plus, isn’t Apple supposed to be the high end brand? Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Apple go into the iBud business? They can compete with Sony and the like. I bet Steve Job’s isn’t using the cheesy white ear buds on his iPod either.
Earlier this year, I downloaded some music (legally BTW), and then the natural next step is to move it to the iPod. I drag and drop and NOTHING. I try it again and again. Hmmm. I download some more music (legally), and no problem. The iPod does not like my music. It won’t tell me why but it won’t let me listen to my music. After fussing with it for an hour, I called a tech friend of mine, Augusto. He figured it out, the bit rate was too high and apparently Apple did not like it. Great, but now what do I do? I don’t think that Windows nor the Mac have a utility that reduces the bit rate of an MP3 file. Started googling around I found a public domain bit rate changer. Awesome, so I start throwing away bits of music so it will play on my iPod. And then, I drag and drop again. NADA. Aaaarrrgggghhh. I guessed the wrong bit rate. I think it was at 228kbps and I changed it to 198kbps. Back to the drawing board, and finally, after about two hours, I was able to listen to my music (legally). During this episode, going through my mind is Why? Higher bit rates are good for Apple. It makes me fill up my iPod faster. Oh well.
I am not nor have I ever been a fan of iTunes. All I want to do is to drag and drop music onto my iPod. Let me say it again. All I want to do is to drag and drop music. I don’t want to buy anything. I don’t want to listen to music on my computer. And I don’t want iTunes playing mw WAV files. For me, using iTunes is like getting a bull dozer for Christmas rather than a bicycle. Yes, it can get you from point A to point B, plus it can also move around a lot of dirt. But all I wanted was a nice shiny new bike.
That brings me to the next point. iTunes is truly a pig. I just checked from their web site and it is 92.3 MB. I just did a quick check. I have a smoking fast computer running a Windows 7 and iTunes takes 18 seconds to bring up on my super fast Sony. Just as a point of comparison. It takes 2 seconds to load Microsoft Excel, and 4 seconds to bring up Google Chrome including the first web page. 18 seconds just seems like an eternity on my computer. Like I said in the beginning, I just want to drag and drop songs onto my iPod.
We’re now hitting the home stretch. Here is the last and final reason why I hate my iPod. Although we like to believe that Apple invented the MP3 player, it is simply not true. When I began working at Gateway in 1991, our #1 graphics card was made by a company called Diamond Graphics. I quickly became friends with the CEO and Director of Marketing. We had some good times together. Later, they introduced in the late 90’s, the industries first MP3 player, the Diamond Rio. Even way back then, it was a run away success. They were flying off the shelves as music enthusiasts grabbed up the Diamond Rio to bring portability to their music collections. The Diamond Rio was destined to replace the venerable Sony Walkman. But it was not to happen.
RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) sued my friends at Diamond. RIAA argued that we did not have the right to repackage our CD music to play on an MP3 player. Furthermore, Diamond did not have the right to make such a copyright infringing device like the Diamond Rio. Diamond is no longer in business, but they were the pioneers that took the arrows from the recording industry so we can now enjoy listening to our iPods today. Given all the flaws in the iPod, I sure wish Diamond was still around today.