mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Defending the iPod..

Lileks has a good response to this "what's wrong with the iPod" article.

Lileks first defends the iPod based on aesthetics. Mad Anthony isn't going to do that, because he has no taste. My desk consists of one of those fake-wood folding tables you can buy at Staples for $30. My walls are covered with posters that beer companies sent me for free. At one point, my TV stand consisted of two of those plastic rubbermaid bins flipped upside down. I tend to favor practicallity over looks.

And the iPod is practical. I can reach in my pocket and advance a song without looking or raise the volume, because the scroll wheel is easy to use. I can switch songs while driving without much problem. And that's because it doesn't have to have 10,000 controls for features most people will never use, so instead it has easy-to-use controls for the couple features I do need.

So let's look at the "I hate iPod" guy's complaints:

order to put music on your iPod you must use Apple's iTunes software. If you need to put music onto your iPod using a computer that doesn't have iTunes on it (which is 9,999 PC's out of 10,000) well then, tough

Well, that depends on PC's - if you assume that it stands for personal computers, and not just Windows machines, his math is off, since Apple has like 3% of the personal computer market and has iTunes built into OSX. But if you are talking Windows machines, it seems silly to complain that a product is bad because to use it you need to install a (very good) program that is free to download. You don't have it on your PC? Then install it.

o if, for example, you owned a computer which you used to encode all of your CD's to MP3 format, and the hard drive on that computer died with all your music still in it, you could not then restore those music files from the copy on your iPod

Umm, if you own the CD's, then can't you just reencode them? And if backing up your MP3's is that important, burn them on a CD or DVD or external hard drive. The 'pod is an mp3 player, not a RAID. It's designed for playing music, not making backups.

By the way, if you wanted to encode your CD's in the quality that an audiophile demands by using the free, open source Ogg Vorbis audio compression software, you're out of luck again because the iPod doesn't support Ogg Vorbis either. Why not? Ogg Vorbis is free, so it isn't because it's too expensive. It's because Ogg Vorbis has no provision for copy control, unlike some variations of MP3 and Apple's own AAC formats

Umm, if the reason that Apple doesn't support Ogg is because of copywrite concerns, then why does it support non-DRM'ed MP3's, including all the ones MadAnthony has downloaded from Kaazza, eMule, and WinMX? I think the reason that the iPod doesn't support OGG is because it isn't a widely used format, and Apple felt that dumping a bunch of money into OGG support when few people use it wasn't worth it. A reasonable desision, and one that doesn't require a conspiracy theory. Same goes for his claims that the 'pod doesn't have a digital out because of piracy concerns. It's a portable MP3 player, it was designed for listening to through headphones. Digital out is just another feature that only a tiny percent of features have a use for.

The reason for Apple's blinders is that, in actual fact, Apple is no longer a technology company at all. With the creation of iTunes they've bought their way into the music industry. Now, like the rest of the music industry, they are caught in a tragically stupid and suicidal concept of copyright and ownership which cannot possibly be maintained with modern technology

Now, I dislike the RIAA as much as the next guy (unless the next guy loves or works for the RIAA, in which case I dislike them way more). But out of all the DRM schemes out there, Apple's is one of the most user-friendly, and is easily bypassed by simply burning the music to CD and then ripping it as an MP3. Compare that to other services like Napster, where you don't have ANY control over your music - once you stop subscribing, your music goes bye-bye. But is the author lashing out at Samsung and other companies that are building Napster-compliant players with crazy Windows DRM? Nope. Because it's always easier to pick on Apple.

Sure, if you have very specific, non-mainstream ways of using your MP3 player, it's possible that the iPod might not do those things. But for most people who just want to listen to music on the go, the iPod fullfils that need and is easy to use, without having a bunch of complex features that you don't need. And the reason that it doesn't have those features is because there isn't a whole lot of demand from it from iPod customers (as opposed to random bloggers), not because of an evil Apple conspiracy.


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen some things on Google that suggest that the dsp chip in the iPod already supports Ogg but that the feature has been disabled. This means that there wouldn't be much of a cost involved in allowing Ogg and that Apple has a reason for disabling it (if nothing else, they could enable it but not talk about it in the documentation to avoid confusing users who don't care about open source)

Even if it isn't already implemented, the fact that it's open source would make it quite cheap to add support.

And althoguh "nobody uses it", Ogg really is superior to MP3 or AAC (see,1558,1560783,00.asp)


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