[lug] iPod or MP3?

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Thu May 28 17:51:13 MDT 2009

On May 28, 2009, at 3:24 PM, Scott Mann wrote:

> Hi All,
> I'm starting to look into getting an iPod or MP3 player and I'd hope  
> to benefit from your collective experience with these things ;-)

I'll try to be very "generic" here... 'cause there's a lot of tools  
for managing music, and a lot of ways of playing music (or video)  
portable these days, and all have merits... so it's a very personal  
decision... even some of your individual sentences touch on things  
that have a lot more depth... here we go...

> Most of my music is now digitized (from vinyl and tape, or ripped  
> from cd) in either WAV or MP3 files. I don't have any iTunes, yet,  
> but I will likely start buying music by the song in the future. In  
> part, I suspect, that where I purchase those songs from depends on  
> what player I end up getting.

Digital formats:  This can be a big one or a little one depending on  
if you're a audiophile or not.  There's a ton of formats out there and  
almost all players can play just about everything, but if you do get  
into using the iTunes Music Store via iTunes, do make sure you have  
something that can play AAC and/or Apple Lossless formats.  Apple  
recently removed all DRM from the files downloaded from iTunes, which  
is nice... but some players don't play their formats.  MP3 comes in  
variable-bitrate and non-variable-bitrate varieties as well as  
different bitrates for the encoding, and most "generic" MP3's are done  
at 128 kb/s.  Personally I can hear a difference between that and 192.

Many people are raving these days about "all you can eat" download  
services like Rhapsody and ironically, I've even heard Apple fans  
talking about the Zune online subscription service as being a good  
value.  These newer subscription services are worth looking into if  
you have "unlimited" bandwidth available to you.

> I often listen to music on my desktop (running Fedora 10). Now, I'd  
> like to be able to put that on to some device to carry around with  
> me and to hook up into the stereo system in my car (I know that the  
> car stereo has a port for an iPod, but I'll have to dig into what  
> else it might support).

Check to see if it's a REAL iPod connector in the vehicle.  If it is,  
that might be a good reason to get an iPod branded device.  The  
connector usually handles integration between the car stereo's  
controls for forward/back, song selection, etc... although be warned  
that some of the user interfaces on some car systems are seriously  
poor.  C|Net does a good job of reviewing the different factory  
options.  If their "iPod" port is nothing more than a 1/8" stereo  
plug, you can feed anything into it, but you're going to want a  
playback device you can safely/easily operate while driving... which  
may be "none of them", depending on how you feel about driving  

> My only restriction is that I do not use Microsoft software either  
> at home or work (not really a religious thing, mostly just the way  
> it is).

That helps.  If you're not using Windows or Mac OSX, iTunes is  
probably out as an option.  While iTunes isn't all that "powerful"  
compared to some other desktop apps, it's definitely the "simplest"  
way to manage a "true blue" iPod.

This probably means you're not tied to the Apple products by anything  
unless you really have a real flat-multi-pin iPod connector in your  
car.  There are LOTS of other great quality players out there.

> Anyway, given all that, does anyone have any recommendations about:
> 1) A music player (iPod or MP3)

Some other folks have mentioned a few good names.  Some players also  
have features you may not have thought of that could be convenient  
like high-quality RECORDING (something un-heard-of on real "iPods")  
and other things like the USB-drive behavior someone else mentioned  
where you just plug it into USB and it behaves like an add-on hard  
disk that you just add files to.

> 2) Synchronization software on Linux (I've gotten as far as  
> installing Banshee, although I don't know much about it or any other  
> similar tools)

This one I have no comment on... I don't use Linux as a Desktop OS  
anymore.  Sorry.

> 3) Anything else, including "go read <blah> and stop using our  
> bandwidth!"

LOL... just a thought on saving some money while you decide.  If you  
need a "real" iPod, look for used ones... they're ultra cheap on  
online auction places and sites like Craigslist, and they're really  
not like computer hardware where they somehow become obsolete after a  
few years.   They all play files, etc.  However, as far as I know no  
Linux software currently handles FIRMWARE updates for the real iPod  
devices.  Something to consider... you might have to connect a "real"  
iPod to a copy of iTunes on Windows or Mac to update its firmware if  
any updates come out for the device.  That doesn't happen very often.

I currently own an older 20 GB iPod "Color" (it will show photos and  
cover art, but doesn't play video)... I'm guessing one of those would  
be REALLY inexpensive by now... they're built like tanks and it'll  
probably keep going until its hard disk fails.  Newer devices have  
flash memory as their "disk", but if an older unit has been abused  
(dropped, etc...) the drive could be problematic.  Getting them open  
to replace the drive is a pain, from what I've read.

I also have an iPhone, and use it secondarily as a music player.  More  
and more I don't bother carrying the old 20 GB around, since I can put  
a few gigs of stuff I want to listen to directly on the phone...

In the past I've had a few other players, but none are current  
products ... all the way back to the first Diamond Rio.  I think there  
are a number of players out there that do nice things the iPods don't,  
but back when I bought the Color iPod, it was one of the better  
options available, and the phone came with the "next" one... but if I  
were looking for another device, I'd definitely want high-quality  
recording capability and probably that USB-drive functionality... as  

The simplicity of Apple's system is both good and bad, but it works  
for just getting some stuff on the things to listen to... and since my  
primary laptop is a MacBook... it's just where I'm at with everything  
right now.  There are definitely more powerful players with more/ 
better features than the iPods, so if you're not planning on running  
iTunes itself... those are probably the way to go.  Maybe thinking  
about that iPod connector in the car... seeing if there's any cables/ 
conversion kits to control some other brand directly from the car  
stereo... if the user interface on the dash is worth using...

(I bought an "inexpensive" $100 Panasonic car stereo in 2001 for the  
Jeep to replace the stock stereo, that also had a "real" iPod  
connector.  The user interface is a little wonky, but it's better than  
trying to look at an iPod or mess with it while driving... the iPod  
can be thrown in the glove box, and it'll be charged and ready to take  
with me when I get where I'm going, and I can shuffle or go to things  
via the Panasonic's user interface... actually the stupid thing came  
with an IR remote... I have NO idea why you'd need an IR remote to  
reach a foot away from the driver's seat, but I suppose it does  
something useful in a larger vehicle.  Since it's an older "version"  
of the iPod connector, it will NOT charge the iPhone...

Anyway, now I'm rambling... if the above brings up any questions, just  

Hope that helps.

Nate Duehr
nate at natetech.com

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