Ah, music; It can have a very powerful effect on people, but only when timed right (try humming the Star Wars cantina theme at a funeral). I own a very large music library but having it shuffled certainly throws off my mojo. I rely in tools such as smart and pre-made playlists, carefully setting id tags such as Genre, Mood, BPM and closely watching play and skip counts to make sure listening is a satisfying experience. About half of my library is composed of songs I don’t really love but I keep for the sake of variety and because I like to hoard stuff (among other uses). This is why I’m so picky when it comes to using the right player, both at home and abroad.
About 4 years ago I didn’t really have much of a “library”. Half of my songs I kept in the “My music” folder (Windows XP) and the other one at the office. I was lucky back then to be allowed to play music at work. They had a very strict IT policy, but it was perfectly OK to bring audio CDS, eventually one of my superiors suggested I rip them into Windows Media Player when he saw me swapping disks. I remember One day I had WMP scan the entire building’s network for music. I found the entire Green Day collection! I used to take the bus so I got a portable CD player that also played data CDs for the trip.
Eventually I got tired of burning disks and got myself an iPod. Being the underprivileged cheapskate that I am, I got the 512Mb shuffle. At the time it was a cheap alternative, and although there were other players that did more for less, I just didn’t trust the other brands. I installed iTunes with the CD that came bundled-in and decided to allow iTunes to manage my music library.
I switched jobs and I learned the joys of Peer to Peer file sharing. It wasn’t long at all before the library became pretty big and I decided to have iTunes “consolidate tracks” and have it completely manage all my music. I started playing with smart playlists which slowly had me become very anal when it came to have all my tracks organized; I needed to have the right genre, year, track number, artist and it had to be accurately rated, specially with downloaded music. It was all legal, if you’re wondering; Free-to share music and whatnot. Yeah.
One day the shuffle just broke. I went to unplug it and half of it remained plugged in. I had no way to disassemble it or anything. I went a couple of years without portable music (except for the occasional burnt CD) until I started researching MP3 players that were not Apple brand. Long story short, I went through several players, all with all sorts of neat features iPods never had, for a fraction of the price.
Just one issue: iTunes only syncs with iPods. The horror. I had fallen in Apple’s trap. I had to manually copy the files and when I did it didn’t really make a difference in the library. I figured the problem was the software and went looking for alternatives. WMP? Yuck! The interface is ugly, it sorts the music wrong, and they mess up the “artist“and “album artist”, erratically turning them into “artist” and “contributing artist”. I tried a couple more but they were all missing one or two key features. Most recently I tried Songbird, after reading it promised to be the ultimate iTunes killer. Well, this bird needs to grow feathers before it can learn to fly. It was (and is) a bloody mess. So sad, really, because had it worked, it would do everything iTunes did, then some, then sync to my non iPod player.
Last week I was trying to sync it and I was in a hurry to an appointment. It kept freezing up and saying it was full. I was so frustrated I yanked it off the USB port and hurled it at a wall. Poor Sansa c250 went to music player heaven. Why was I so frustrated? Was it the software? The hardware? No. It was because just then I realized I had been Apple’s little bitch for all these years. I had spent countless hours trying to figure out a way to break free, all for naught. There I was on square one.
I broke my piggy bank, took it to the Coinstar and bought a last-generation shuffle. It truly is a wonderful thing. With a built-in speech function, it doesn’t really need a screen, and also, it can now play playlists. It’s so tiny you forget you’re wearing it, and it’s just… so fucking cute! Have you noticed how apple products always look so awesome, and how they always make the previous generation look like crap?
Here I am listening to my new baby as I type. The circle is closed, for now. I can stop researching players… I can finally enjoy music. I am such a crack whore. There is just one thing. These earbuds… they are evil! They are ergonomically sized and shaped to fit the average African elephant (sorry Asian elephants, your ears are too small). I get a headache from wearing the suckers, but I have to if I want to be able to use any features the player has, because the controls are set ON the cable! Whose idea was that? I can use my old noise isolating earbuds just fine, but I can’t do anything but listen. I can get an adapter for about $15, or I could buy the apple-branded alternative for about $90. Almost twice the cost of the player (with earbuds). Genius. Evil genius. I’d smash the iPod against the wall, but it’s so cute…