Friday, December 17, 2004

How 'Bout That iPod?

I've had my iPod for almost a week now. I've used it every day and I love it. I love having all of our music on a device I can take to work or use with any of our stereos. On the stereos in the bedroom and living room, we connect it with Y-audio cables (1/8" stereo on one end and an RCA audio pair on the other). For the little boom box in the breakfast nook, I've actually used the cassette adapter - as my friend Duane says, they can't really make a CD adapter because the cord will tend to get wound up. Hah. In the car, we can use the FM transmitter. It's not all that great when there's any kind of interference, so I don't tend to use it much, or haven't yet. I figure on our trip to LA for Christmas we'll use it. I love that I can not only look, when I go to the CD store, at the list of stuff we have, to make sure I don't buy something we already own, but that I can have a text file list of artists or albums I'd like to pick up.

And I can use it for carrying other files around, such as the hysterical fake MasterCard ad where MasterCard collects all the things RedSox fans said they'd pay to have the Sox win the Series... $5000. Motorcycle. Car. House. First-born child (go Sox). And Denis Leary's left nut. Not to mention the Fenway Flasher video, of a woman in the stands right behind the plate talking on a cell phone who flashes her breast a little and then completely while the pitcher pitches. Several friends I've shown it to have been watching the play, strangely enough, and not seen it without it being pointed out to them.

Naturally, being an erstwhile (read "limited budget at present") gadget-head, I have certain ideas about how the iPod and iTunes could be better. Shocking, I know. So, let's see... In no particular order... and I've only been using iTunes with iPod for so long, so I'm sure there'll be more.
  1. It's my bloody music, I should be able to copy it off the iPod with iTunes. I know, I know. DRM. Fuck that. I don't have pirated music on my computer or my iPod. Period. If my home machine gets blitzed, I don't want to have to re-rip 250+ CDs or buy all the stuff I've already bought from iTunes. Now, yes, I can, in fact copy the data off the iPod using it as a hard drive, but it is poorly organized and it would be a major production to get it all sorted out again. Not to mention that wouldn't help me with the playlists, which are becoming more important to me because...
  2. It isn't really all that easy to find a point in a list that contains thousands of entries; I've been listening to all my music in alphabetical order by song (since 10/18 whenever I'm at work, pretty much, and now sometimes when I'm at home). If I want to go to that particular point in the iPod's master list, it will take several minutes to scroll through using the touch wheel. Not that I can think of anything to do about that off the top of my head. The iPod's interface is pretty simple and that means it's going to have some limitations.
  3. The iTunes interface is quite simple and generally very nice, but there are some things that are just really annoying about it's lack of compliance with Windows' keyboard behavior. For example, the context menu key works some times (while editing a field) and not others (with a single song highlighted). It would be nice if I could use that to get to the context menu so I can bring up Get Info for the song that's currently highlighted. Oh, and this one is classic - say you're going to highlight a bunch of songs using the keyboard. You find the first one, hold the shift key and use the down arrow to go down several songs. But wait, you went one further than you meant, so you hit the up arrow thinking it will un-select the one you picked by accident. Nope. Guess again. What it actually does is to leave all the songs selected, including the last one that you don't want, and then add in the one that sits before the one you started with! Huh?
  4. Oh, and going back to #1, the iPod should really synch both directions with iTunes. That is, I should be able to say the iPod is the master and my two computers are the slaves. If I am at work and buy a song and add it to the iPod, I want it copied automatically to my home computer the next time I hook up there. And if I change a playlist or the name or info for a song, I want the change to propagate among the three sources as necessary until they are all the same. I mean, even if I'm manually managing lists, if I grab the whole library and throw it on the iPod, it shouldn't duplicate anything that's already there!
  5. There was a #5 I was just thinking of, but it's late and I can't think of it now...
OK, I just noticed that you can hit ^I to get to the Get Info screen, but it would still be nice if the context menu worked the way it is supposed to. The home and end keys don't really work the way I would expect either with or with out control, shift, or control-shift. I don't feel like figuring out what they do or which do nothing right now. The just oughta do something sensible like jump to the top or bottom of the list the way other Windows applications do.

As for the problem of trying to get songs out of the iPod onto a computer, there are various packages available, such as iPodRip. iPodRip isn't all that great, but it's working at the moment. I'm going to have to look around some more and see what's out there... and if I don't find what I want, then I'm going to write one myself.

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