Good iPod. Happy iPod.

A few days ago, in the violent throes of a severe case of buyer’s remorse, I let fly at my poor trembling iPod. Ranting was both therapeutic and surprisingly entertaining. It went like this: I was uncertain about the big purchase. I finally got nudged over the edge, hesitating late adopter that I am, and made the big purchase. I brought home the big purchase and plugged it in. Not only did the big purchase not work, but it broke my whole computer. Then I got plenty mad you bet.

Since then I have upgraded my PC to Windows XP, read the iPod manual, and talked to several helpful and sympathetic people. Now all is well… I pulled out of the death spiral. I am across the divide and perfectly insufferable. Let me show you my sleek and lovely beautifully designed iPod! Steve Jobs is a genius!

It’s interesting to watch myself go through the compressed hate-to-love trajectory, because I see it all the time from the manufacturer’s viewpoint. I make sofware for a living, and I have often listened with grave concern as a customer absolutely rips into my product and my company. Wait long enough, provide a few well-timed hints and WHAMMO! they’re your new best friend. I like those customers. And now I am one.

My shiny new iPod makes me think about the old BBC radio program (sorry, programme) Desert Island Discs. The premise: what records would you take with you to a desert island? Suppose instead we made a show called Desert Island iPod. It might work something like this.

HOST: Hello and welcome to our show. Tell us, what would you put on your Desert Island iPod?
YOU: Every single piece of music I’ve ever owned or thought about in my entire life.
HOST: Oh I see. Well, thanks awfully for joining us today. Cheers!

ZOMBO has the answer is one of the more remarkable sites I’ve seen in a long time. I highly recommend a visit. The intro animation takes a little while, but it’s worth the wait. Take in the site for a few minutes… maybe buy a ZomboTee t-shirt. Then go to the “NewZletter” news sign-up page. You don’t have to actually sign up for the newsletter. It’s just an entertaining page.

Six minutes of terror

All eyes are on Mars tonight. The latest rover has officially landed, but as I type these words we haven’t heard yet whether he’s taking phone calls just yet. I was poking around the JPL Mars Rover site tonight, and I’ve been impressed that the pages seem to be loading quickly. Either nobody cares or they’ve solved some of their bandwidth problems since the last rover mission. They’ve also got some terrific videos about the mission. My favorite was about the entry, descent, and landing phase of the mission, affectionately known as Six Minutes of Terror. The probe has to go through an insane pyrotechnic metamorphosis with split second timing on its way to the Martian surface. The video describing all this is very slickly produced, including some nifty mission animations. (See the MPG version or the Quicktime version). It’s nice to see flashes of the old exciting NASA that makes you proud to pay taxes.

My iPod Death Spiral

I bought an iPod for Christmas, and it’s been making me crazy ever since. I have a PC, and the Mac side of my family (everybody except me) has been prancing around for years now bragging about their cute iPods and darling iMacs. Even so, I wouldn’t have bought an iPod except for the fact that a PC-packing friend at work also got a iPod, and he verified that the experience is very good on the PC, and gave the thumbs up, along with everybody else in the universe, to the iPod’s lovely design. So I broke down and bought one.

Yes, it’s cute, but it didn’t work with my PC out of the box (no FireWire on my PC) so I had to go to the austere Apple Store temple to get the USB 2.0 adaptor. But if you use the USB connection, it doesn’t recharge your iPod while it’s in the docking port. The battery runs down like mad while you’re transferring songs, and then I have to switch the little fiddly dock cable to the charger to juice it back up again. Then I download the iTunes software, and it doesn’t know how to talk to my Samsung CD player. All my other CD players can manage it (WinAmp, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, etc.). If I try to play a CD with iTunes, it plays each song for exactly zero seconds and is done with the CD in about five seconds.

Worse than that, by the time I downloaded the latest Windows 2000 service pack (to make iTunes happy) and installed the latest QuickTime, iTunes, and iPod transfer software, I found myself with a mysterious system slowdown bug that makes my computer crawl like a dying donkey. Now I’m stuck in an upgrade death spiral whereby I have to keep upgrading one thing after another in order to reach equilibrium again. Why is it a death spiral? Because nothing is working right now (well, to be specific, everything is working at a miserable crawl), so I can’t stop until I fix the whole computer. Now I’m in the process of upgrading my whole OS to Windows XP. Will it help? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know.

Among the many clever things they did with the iPod, there was this: you can engrave whatever you want on the back of it for free. Pretty neat! But they say in the fine print: all sales of engraved units are final. I put my last name on mine. I wish that I had instead emblazoned it with the words: I AM AN UNRETURNABLE DONKEY.