Got a new MP3 player – iRiver X20

Lately my 3rd generation 20Gb iPod battery started to die very early. It barely lasted for 2 hours. Changing a battery3rd Generation iPod through Apple’s israeli representatives is not a very nice thing or easy to do and I didn’t want to wait for a replacement do-it-yourself battery from eBay so I’ve decided it was time for a new player.

In addition to that a 3rd gen iPod has only 32Mb of RAM (it optimizes the battery life by loading ~32Mb from the drive every time, thus reducing the need to go back to the hard drive every time) and Apple recommended to have files of 9mb or less for best battery performance. Being the semi audiophile that I am, my newer MP3s are ripped at 320Kbps and I was in the process of re-ripping my older ones for higher quality after setting up my home storage server.

It was getting harder and harder for my poor little iPod to handle these files.

There were a couple of factors I considered while evaluating players (not necessarily in that order):

  • Battery Life – I want a good player with GOOD battery life at least bigger than 12 hours
  • Battery replacement should be easy – this prolongs the player’s shelf life considerably (if the battery is reasonable priced)
  • No stupid proprietary or any other software to load music and/or files to my player – I really hate iTunes and the other programs are simply annoying. Let me just copy god damn it!
  • Linux support with a minimum to just copy music and files.
  • Storage size – The bigger the better
  • Physical size – The smaller the better :-)

Taking all these parameters into account I had to choose if I want to go the hard drive way or the flash way.

I had to make a paradigm shift in my head and stop thinking I can take all of my MP3s with me all the time since they are getting bigger in size and quality and it will affect various parameters of the player itself (physical size, price, fragileness – hard drive based players seems a bit more fragile due to moving parts).

Seeing how my iPod degraded over a period of about 3 years (which is quite good for a hardware device) I’ve decide I want to go with a small, flash based player that has really good sound quality (the iPod is relatively good in that area, but has quite a few contestant in the sound quality department) and is relatively small.

I eventually settled on two devices:

The iAudio i7 is a very small and very good looking. It has 8Gb (there is a new version with 16Gb but it wasn’t available in Israel when I was looking) and its specs say it has 60 hours of play time which is VERY impressive. Even half of that is very impressive.

Both the iRiver X20 and the iAudio i7 has support for MP3, WMA and OGG as well as video support for most format (though some videos might need pre-processing using the player’s PC software or other software before showing correctly on the tiny screen). They have a microphone and the ability to record directly to MP3.They both support the ability to just copy files to them and work without a problem on ALL operating systems including Linux out of the box. I have tested it on Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X (10.4.9), Linux – Gentoo and Ubuntu 7.10).

Having said that, there are 2 distinct and major advantages to the iRiver X20. The first is that it has a MicroSD slot so I can expand it with a couple of Gb. 1Gb and 2Gb MicroSD cards are relatively cheap and larger sizes keeps on popping in relatively low prices. The second is the fact that the battery is EASILY replaceable. You just pop out the back cover and take it out, the same as you would in your cell phone.

The sound quality is relatively the same in both player. If you have good earphones (and you should have good earphones, otherwise, why invest in a good player… ;-) ), they difference is really small.

I really don’t need a color display (it’s nice to see the cover album but not really necessary) and I’m really not going to watch movies on this tiny screen, but if I’m getting it and it doesn’t hurt overall I say “Why not?” :-)

I eventually went with the iRiver X20 because of the MicroSD expansion and the easily replaceable battery.

Up until now (had it for about a week now) I’m quite pleased with it. The sound quality is good and the battery is holding out great. It even supports Hebrew characters, though its displaying it from left to right, but its still better than the stupid hack you need to do to make an iPod display Hebrew characters in ID3 tags and filenames.

I recommend it for anyone with semi (or full) audiophile tendencies that knows to recognize a good player when they hear one, likes to get enough features and quality per buck and good support on all operating system.

iPhoneDevCamp, iPhone, Safari and Microformats

I wish I could attend iPhoneDevCamp but unfortunately I won’t be in the area (or in the right country for that matter ;-) ).

I just read Chris’ post about iPhoneDevCamp and I think these are the right reasons to make the iPhoneDevCamp.

There are a few facts that support Chris’ view:

  • In the first week Apple sold 700,000 units
  • The iPhone is closed for outside application, but not for web applications
  • Having a couple of million units out (after it is also sold in Europe and Asia) means there are a couple of million users using Safari on their iPhone and want to get the right experience in all/most sites.

The day I heard that the iPhone will be closed to 3rd party apps but will use web applications as its main extension approach I thought one thing. Apple should make Safari (or at least just Safari on the iPhone) Microformats aware.

Since the main interaction of users with 3rd party application on the iPhone is through web sites, extracting as much meaning as possible from such a web site will give iPhone users the best experience. For example, if I had an hCalendar someone in a site, or an hCard, if Safari on the iPhone (or Safari in general) would have Microformats support I could quickly add the meeting or contact information to my iPhone with one click (arrr, is it click or touch?)

If Apple will do that at some point in the future, it means that the Microformats community will gain a couple of million users which might in turn convince web site designers to support Microformats.

Microformats are exactly the small and right amount of standardization that can make the web a better place for both users and developers.

It seems that Microformats becomes more important in smaller devices where the ability to extend their applications and the devices itself is usually limited and input is measured as the smallest and shortest action one should take to make something happen.

Universal Binaries

Is it just me or Universal Binaries for Mac are a world domination scheme to increase the bandwidth usage of the world?

I know that the Apple folks didn’t want people to start figuring out “Do I have an Intel process or a PowerPC one?”, after all most people don’t really know what’s inside their machines, but in 99% of the cases, when downloading from the web most sites that do provide the software could tell quite easily if the the browser is running on an Intel Mac or a PowerPC Mac by looking at the “User-Agent” string that the browser sends.

I also have another solution, add a patch to older OS versions (and add it to new ones) so that they could look inside the .app file (executable or whatever they call it) and see if it has the necessary bits to tell it if its Intel or PowerPC. If it’s the wrong version, the file itself should include a link to the correct version.

This adds a bit of a burden to the creators of the software (they need to provide a link to the Intel version on the PPC version and vice versa and use a specific compiler and compile two sets of the application) but makes the whole thing a lot more pleasant.

Combine these two methods together and you get decreased bandwidth costs for everyone. Only at the worst case where both the web application failed to detect the correct Mac version and the person downloaded the wrong version that doesn’t fit his/her Mac type, only then they will download both.

Luckily Apple’s market share in PCs worldwide is still a single digit percentage so the bandwidth issue is still small, though its probably rising around Silicon Vally ;-)

Mac Software Updates – I expected more from Apple

We recently got a Mac Mini to the office so that we can test Yedda better with Safari and in general how Yedda looks, feels and works on all of the various browsers on Mac (mainly Safari, FireFox, Camino and Opera).

It’s a cute little machine. I can easily understand why people fall in love with Mac and Apple products in general.

After setting it up and powering it up I ran the Software Updates so that I will have the latest, greatest and safest Mac software.

After running it and updating various things I ended up with 3 items that needed an update:

  • Java for Mac OS X 10.4, Release 5 (Version 5.0)
  • AirPort Extreme Update 2007-002 (Version 1.0)
  • iPhoto Update (Version 6.0.6)

When I wanted to update them, it downloaded them and when it tried to install the updates I got an annoying error (I don’t have the error in front of me now so this is paraphrasing):

“An unexpected error has occurred”

I tried twice and it didn’t work, so I went to the knowledge base articles of these updates and manually downloaded and installed them.

To my “surprise” manually doing it worked like a charm.

Now I know this is a bit of a petty rant, but as a user that never used a Mac full time (the only two Apple computers I used full time was an Apple IIc and iPod) the expectations that were set by Apple’s marketing machine and others were quite high.

The expectations were high, and my disappointment was about the same height.

I’m not a normal/novice user so I did know what to do, but I think Apple should have the decency to tell me why the update/installation failed, or at least provide a button or a link to say what happened (a link or a button would be good so that it won’t alarm the regular users and will give the necessary information to those who knows what to do with it).

It’s as simple as that. Really.