Random thoughts

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Dear Apple

January 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Yesterday my iPod died. Or did it? It was absolutely dead: it was not responding to pressing buttons (and, no, “hold” was set to off), it was not responding to plugging it into a power outlet, it was not responding to my USB. It was just a scratch-prone soap-bar-like piece of junk. I bought a new one. I don’t like the iPod interface, I don’t like iTunes, but I bought a new one. Why? Because I’m one of those people stuck in an ecosystem of accessories that would take too much time to replace. Who would want to go through that trouble? In other words, I’m one of those people that marketers would call “a loyal and satisfied returning customer”. Right. So loyal that as I was leaving the store, I secretly hoped the new iPod would use a new form factor for its plug, incompatible with all my accessories. That would have been my catalyst to throwing away all that is Apple-related in my home. That would have made me feel blessed. That would have beaten the inertia. So you can imagine my disappointment as I jumped into my car and quickly verified that my car charger cum line-out mini-jack plugs perfectly into my new iPod classic. iPods maintain backward compatible plugs? That’s unheard of! Lenovo quickly changed the power supply’s plug form factor and the docking station of the IBM Thinkpads as they massacred the brand with the new T60 a few years ago. Why did Apple stick to its pins? Or did it? Outraged I went back home to sync my iTunes library to my new iPod. That’s when I realized that at least on the top of the iPod, the headphones mini-jack is not accompanied by the extra little hole that my remote controller accessory used to take advantage of. Cool, so, at least one of my accessories became useless! We’ve got to beat this ecosystem to death, slowly.

I started syncing my new iPod, which is not accompanied by a power supply anymore, and can only be charged via USB, unless you’re a lucky owner of an older version of the product. Yes, charging with USB would be cool, if it wasn’t that it took some acrobatics to make my PC and iPod talk to each other. It all seemed very simple at first. Plugged in the iPod, iTunes beeped with joy when it saw there was a new little friend to play with, but it didn’t forget its duties and it informed me there was a new version of software for my iPod. I agreed to download and install it. It all happened without glitches, then my iPod took personal offense with this action, and decided to stop talking to the USB. No more charging, no more iTunes’s joyful beeping, no more. Just a fully functional (and fully empty) iPod, and a fully useless USB interface. A few furious searches on the help page and on the web helped me discover there’s a reset sequence. It didn’t do much at first, the iPod religiously observed its local USB embargo for a few more minutes. Then suddenly all my diplomatic efforts bore some fruit. iTunes beeped once again, and the sync started. It synced and synced for about 15 minutes. Then iTunes decided there was an error “reading or writing” the device. Let’s be vague. As a final user, it’s not like I can do much with a decent error message anyway, so let’s be vague. “Read or write”, and you know something must be very wrong when a software’s best friend (I’m assuming that must be the typical relationship between iTunes and an iPod) all of a sudden gets coldly called “a device”. So I diligently unplugged the iPod, and connected it back to the other USB port. iPod and iTunes were friends again, and I felt glad to be of help. A mediator, a peacemaker.

The love-hate ambiguity continued with little variations for about 3 hours. Unbearable “read or write” errors, followed by USB embargoes, and a sync that would never finish. 3 hours later, I had to go, so I just gave up my peace-making attempts. The sync was half-way through.

I can be stubborn, so today I continued. Lots more “read or write” errors today, sometimes as soon as 15 songs after the sync had restarted following a manual USB port switch. It then finished. I was dumb-struck. I guess this is Apple’s idea of entertainment, but it’s not mine. And I don’t want to think that “maybe” it’s my PC’s fault. My USB ports work perfectly well with other devices, while I’ve seen THREE iPods die on me so far, and iTunes can take up to 75% of my CPU just to play music. I don’t want to troubleshoot, I don’t want to be reasonable, I just want to say, it’s Apple’s fault.

I think back about my saturday (yesterday), and about all that I was planning to do with it. Instead, I ended up with an unforeseen accident that made me waste almost a full weekend. And I even paid over 200 dollars to Apple for the privilege of sucking two days of my life out of my limited carnet of days to be lived. The thing is, as far as I can see, the large capacity MP3 player space doesn’t seem to have that many options. iPod or Zune, make your pick. Is that all we can choose from?

Latest update: I’ve just witnessed a miracle. My dead soap-bar has resurrected. I plugged it back to the USB port and there it was, 40GB full and alive. The dilemma… should I go back to the store and return the new iPod? 40GB is slightly small now, and iTunes doesn’t like to deal with “a device” smaller than its own library. I’ll go back to the store, return the new junk, get back my $240, and a certificate stating that when the Grim Reaper comes looking for me, it should come back two days later. Unfortunately I won’t be 33 years old when I redeem those two days of wasted life.

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