The new iPods

<p>So we have new iPods.</p> <p>Richard sent me an email asking which model he should buy which made me begin thinking whether to upgrade myself. Especially the new touch screen model seemed compelling to me – at first.</p> <p>Still: I was unable to answer that email with a real recommendation (though honestly, I don’t think it was as much about getting a recommendation than about to letting me know that the models were released and to hear my comments about them) and still I don’t really know what to think.</p> <p>First off: This is a matter of taste, but I hate the new nano design: The screen still is too small to be useful for real video consumption, but it made the device very wide – too wide, I think, to be able to comfortably keep it in my trousers pockets while biking (I may be wrong though).</p> <p>Also, I don’t like the rounded corners very much and the new interface… really… why shrink the menu to half a screen and clutter the rest with some meaningless cover art which only the smallest minority of my files are tagged with.</p> <p>Coverflow feels tucked onto the great old interface and looses a lot of its coolness without the touch screen.</p> <p>They don’t provide any advantage in flash size compared to the older nano models and I think the scroll wheel is way too small compared to the large middle button.</p> <p>All in all, I would never ever upgrade my second generation nano to one of the third generation as they provide no advantage, look (much) worse (IMHO) and seem to have a usability problem (too small a scroll wheel)</p> <p>The iPod classic isn’t interesting for me: Old style hard drives are heavy and fragile and ever since I bought that 4GB nano a long while ago, I noticed that there is no real reason behind having all the music on the device.</p> <p>I’m using my nano way more often than I ever used my old iPod: The nano is lighter and I began listening to podcasts. Still: While I lost HD-based iPods around every year and a half due to faulty hard drives or hard drive connectors, my nano still works as well as it did on the first day.</p> <p>Additionally, the iPod classic shares the strange half-full-screen menu and it’s only available in black or white. Nope. Not interesting. At least for me.</p> <p>The iPod touch is interesting because it has a really interesting user interface. But even there I have my doubts: For one, it’s basically an iPhone without the phone. Will I buy an iPhone when (if) it becomes available in Switzerland? If yes, there’s no need to buy the iPod Touch. If no, there still remains that awful usability problem of touch-screen only devices:</p> <p>You can’t use them without taking them out of your pocket.</p> <p>On my nano, I can play and pause the music (or more often podcast) and I can adjust the volume and I can always see what’s on the screen.</p> <p>On the touch interface, I have to put the screen to standby mode, I can’t do anything without looking at the device and I think it may be a bit bulky all in all.</p> <p>The touch is the perfect bathtub surfing device. It’s the perfect device to surf the web right before or after going to sleep. But it’s not portable.</p> <p>Sure. I can take it with me, but it fails in all the aspects of portability. It’s bulky, it can’t be used without taking it out of your pocket and stopping whatever you are doing, it requires two hands to use (so no changing tracks on the bike any more) and it’s totally useless until you manually turn the display back on and unlock it (which also requires two hands to do).</p> <p>So: Which device should Richard buy? I still don’t know. What I know is that I will not be replacing my second generation Nano as long as it keeps working.</p> <p>The Nano looks awesome, works like a charm and is totally portable. Sure. It can’t play video, but next to none of my videos actually fits the requirement of the video functionality anyways and I don’t see myself recoding already compressed content. That just takes an awful lot of time, greatly degrades the quality and generally is not at all worth the effort.</p>

More iPod fun

Last time I explained how to get .OGG-feeds to your iPod.

Today I’ll show you one possible direction one could go to greatly increase the usability of non-official (read: not bought at audiobooks you may have lying around in .MP3 format.

You see, your iPod threats every MP3-File of your library as music, regardless of length and content. This can be annoying as the iPod (rightly so) forgets the position in the file when you stop playback. So if you return to the file, you’ll have to start from the beginning and seek through the file.

This is a real pain in case of longer audiobooks and / or radio plays of which I have a ton

One way is to convert your audiobooks to AAC and rename the file to .m4b which will convince iTunes to internally tag the files as audiobooks and then enable the additional features (storing the position and providing UI to change play speed).

Of course this would have meant converting a considerable part of my MP3 library to the AAC-format which is not yet as widely deployed (not to speak of the quality-loss I’d have to endure when converting a lossy format into another lossy format).

It dawned me that there’s another way to make the iPod store the position – even with MP3-files: Podcasts.

So the idea was to create a script that reads my MP3-Library and outputs RSS to make iTunes think it’s working with a Podcast.

And thus, audiobook2cast.php was born.

The script is very much tailored to my directory structure and probably won’t work at your end, but I hope it’ll provide you with something to work with.

In the script, I can only point out two interesting points:

  • When checking a podcast, iTunes ignores the type-attribute of the enclosure when determining whether a file can be played or not. So I had to add the fake .mp3-extension.
  • I’m outputting a totally fake pubDate-Element in the <item>-Tag to force iTunes to sort the audiobooks in ascending order.

As I said: This is probably not useful to you out-of-the-box, but it’s certainly an interesting solution to an interesting problem.