iPod Ownership

Yeah. That's right. I have an iPod now.

My opinion of them has only really gotten worse since I last discussed them here almost five years ago.

Just for the sake of context, here's why I have one:

Back in February, I was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry with an aftermarket stereo I had installed a few years ago. I picked it out, so I naturally made sure it played back mp3 discs, and life was great. I could simply dump a ton of songs onto a CD-R, jam that sucker into my dash and I'd have 10-13 hours of music per disc. Hence how my series on albums I downloaded seven years ago came to be.

In frigid early March, I was hit by an oncoming vehicle while traveling roughly 45mph. This effectively totaled my 12-year-old (and otherwise perfectly functional) method of conveyance.

Working at an automobile dealership does have its advantages as it turns out: within 24 hours of impact, I had purchased a newer vehicle with more amenities than I had before, and frankly, more than I really needed.

One of those amenities was an 6-disc in-dash CD changer.

“That's not so bad,” I told myself. “I can still get eight hours of music without having to reload the changer.”

After about three weeks I realised all I wanted was my old mp3 disc player.

I was smart enough to keep the player once my car had been totaled, but swapping it into the new car presented some troubles. Since it had a changer in the dash, it was twice as tall as the mp3 unit, so removing it would result in a hideous void front and center.

My only other option (aside from building a linux-based carputer complete with touchscreen and video playback capability) was to jack into the tape player (via an adapter) with a portable mp3 device.

I wouldn't be removing the device for any reason except to load new music on it, so I needed a way for it to draw power from the car and feed music to the tape deck at the same time, without having a cluster of wires trashing the cockpit.

And, of course, since the iPod has grown to be the most popular and ubiquitous device, it's the only one with an accessory available that can accomplish what I needed it to. I can't even buy a loaf of bread anymore without an iPod dock on it.

So, rather than dump $500 or whatever it is Apple is charging for those things, I bought a ailing 4g unit from a friend of mine. She claimed it was possessed, so I had rolling-action Jesus pay it a visit. Evidently, the dude can heal himself some personal electronics. Snagged it for under a Benjamin.

The worst thing about the iPod isn't the iPod at all. It's iTunes (typing lower-case “i”'s in front of capitalised words is really freaking me out).

iTunes turns everyone who uses it into obsessive-compulsive id3 taggers. Why? because it ignores filenames completely. As far as it's concerned, those filenames never even existed.

I started my digital music collection in 1998, so I've come up with a pretty consistent way of organizing my music. All tracks in an album go in a folder and the filename consists of a double-digit track number, the title of the song, and the file extension. And this method was perfectly compatible with my old mp3 disc player.

Suddenly, I'm expected to go through my entire library (strewn across hundreds of CD-Rs and a handful of hard drives) and meticulously re-tag all of them? No. I refuse. I refuse to use iTunes. That jukebox does not belong on a Windows installation in the first place.

From using the iPod for awhile, it appears I have very different listening habits from the average user (the one Apple designed this thing for). I listen to albums in context. I don't want them split up or shuffled or otherwise rearranged. And repeat? Seriously? I have 60gb of music to listen to and I'm gonna keep it locked to a single track? You're nuts!

And if, heaven forbid, I don't have a track tagged, it doesn't mean I want it in the top of my playlist.

I tried Rockbox (an alternate firmware for a variety of mp3 players, including most from the Apple line) and really enjoyed its functionality. It even added gapless flac/cue album playback, and presented my files in an uncluttered file-tree view, which is what I expect when I'm looking at files on a hard disk.

The one issue that made it unusable was the unfortunate truth that since Apple's hardware is proprietary and Rockbox is open-source and not exactly kindly looked-upon by Apple, they can't implement remote control through the dock port. What this means is, I'd have to fiddle with the stupid thing while driving, a dangerous activity to be sure.

For years, I heard people go on and on about how much they love their iPod, but now I understand. It's not the iPod they love, it's their music collection that they've loaded onto their iPod that they love. If anything, that little white box is standing between the user and their music.

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