I understand that during these holiday weeks we’re supposed to take a more tolerant tack with others, but a couple of recent incidents have severely tested my ability to smile patiently and keep my big yap shut.
Incident one was a recent “salt and cartridges” run to Costco. While gathering the goods I stopped off in the musical instruments aisle to play a digital piano of questionable quality. While doing so I got into a conversation with a youngish aspiring musician who recommended I listen to a piece of music he was fond of.
“I’ll look for it on iTunes,” I said.
“Oh, don’t go there. They destroy music.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Yeah, they say that they encode at a high bit-rate but really they rip songs at 67k and then up-sample it to 128k and it just makes the music sound like crap.”
Were it another time of year I might have responded:
“Huh, well look, I’ve got my iPod right here with a few songs encoded in MP3 format at 160kbps, AAC at 128kbps, Apple Lossless, and AIFF. What say you slip these fine Etymotic headphones into your ears, I play each one, and you identify which is which. Hell, if you can get even two out of four right, I’ll roll you around in my cart and treat you to every bit of free food in the joint.”
But no. Understanding that Santa was keeping a list and checking it twice I simply responded, “Really?”
“Oh yeah, if you want really good sounding files, go to newsgroups. You can go there and ask people to upload the music you want.”
“Uh-huh, but isn’t that illegal?”
I might as well have dumped a 20 gallon drum of Kirkland Cod Emulsion over my head and had done with it. Surely the stench from such piscine effluvia couldn’t have elicited a more intense look of disgust.
Okay, so I can chalk this one up to both his ignorance of The Right Thing to Do (or, at least, Say) and my stubborn insistence on being completely uncool. But some people ought to know better.
Take Forbes.com’s Betsy Schiffman, for example. Although Ms. Schiffman normally covers the Real Estate beat for Forbes.com, she has a background as a technology reporter for Bridge News. This background, I suppose, entitled her to opine in her Ten O’Clock Tech piece entitled “
A Music Machine For IPod Resisters:”
[The iPod’s] also a finicky player that requires lots of love and attention. The battery life of Apple Computer’s… older iPods stinks (although the new fourth-generation models have a respectable 12-hour battery life), and iPod players, as many owners will attest, often behave like prima donnas that freeze up whenever they feel like it, and they will only decide to play again after they’ve been pampered and coddled.
While I well understand a writer’s need to come up with a snappy hook to open an article, I have to take issue with this “often behave like prima donnas” assertion. As someone who’s spent the better part of the last couple of years living with iPods and offering advice on their care and feeding, I’ll admit that I’ve had to reset a couple of my dozen or so iPods a few times, but frankly, if we’re talking troublesome technology, I’d suggest that even my worst iPod problems pale in comparison to what my Windows PC puts me through on a fairly routine basis.
But to be fair, I thought I’d take Ms. Schiffman’s article (which, at first, recommends Creative’s Zen Touch player as a superior alternative to the iPod but then goes on to disparage it for being less intuitive to operate and less polished overall than the iPod) as encouragement to finally play with the 30GB Creative Nomad Zen Xtra that’s been patiently waiting under a pile of papers on my desk.
After charging it up, I installed the player’s software on my PC, plugged in the Nomad, and waited while the PC and Nomad synced the compatible portions of my music library (it won’t play files encoded in Apple’s AAC format). About fifteen minutes into the sync I received an error that some other process was getting in the way and that syncing couldn’t continue until I stopped that process. I tried to quit other applications and discovered that one of the Creative applications had locked up and refused to quit. The Nomad had also locked up. I unplugged the Nomad and rebooted the PC.
Checking the Nomad manual revealed no instructions for resetting the thing (the iPod’s manual includes such instructions as does the wrapper that surrounds new iPods). Turning the Nomad this way and that I discovered a tiny hole labeled Reset. Thankfully I was home and had access to the straightened paperclip necessary to push the Reset button (with the iPod you simply hold two buttons to reset the device — handy if you don’t normally carry a paperclip with you when you travel).
Upon reset the Nomad told me that it had a firmware problem. Again, the manual was no help. I’m recharging the Nomad now (unlike the iPod, the Nomad doesn’t charge via a USB 2.0 connection) and am holding out a hope that the passage of time and another reset will resolve the problem.
Given my experience with the Nomad, I might be tempted to suggest that if we’re going to slap the “prima donna” label on a product, Creative’s player is worthy of our consideration. However, 15 minutes of less-than-perfect operation does not a fair evaluation make. As I’m sure is spelled out in the “So, you want to be a writer!” pamphlet that accompanies each new hire’s Welcome to Forbes.com kit, jumping to conclusions based on insufficient or faulty data does little to serve the reader or enhance a publication’s reputation.