Scott Hanselman

Zune vs. iPod Video vs. iRiver Clix

December 31, '06 Comments [15] Posted in Gaming | Movies | Musings | Reviews
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Due to a number of amazing events this last few weeks I somehow find myself back in the states with:

  • An iPod 80gig Video
  • A 2gig iRiver Clix
  • A 2gig iPod Nano
  • A 30gig Black Zune
  • A Playstation Portable (PSP)

Now I certainly don't need 5 things that play music and show pictures (and some show video) so I need to do some analysis to see which is right for me, and which is right for the wife (and brother, and parents, etc).


iPod Video

The iPod is usually considered the device to beat, but since iTunes 7 was/is such a phenomenal POS (on both the Mac and PC, there is virtually no one who thinks it doesn't suck exponentially more than the very reasonable iTunes 6) it's possible that the iPod is losing its status as "de facto MP3 player" as in "just buy an iPod."

I saw a skater kid in the Amsterdam Airport last week with a Brown Zune and I asked him "why'd you buy a Zune" and he immediately answered "because it's not an iPod." Apparently Apple is starting to feel like Microsoft has for years. Sucks to be on top, eh?

Good Stuff

Video: I'm using the Video feature way more than I thought I would. It made the 25 hours of flights (each way) tolerable. The screen is bright and clear.

Massive: The 80gig iPod is expansive to say the least. I've got my entire audio collection of over 6500 songs as well as 5 feature length movies and every digital photo I've ever taken on this thing, and I've still got 15 gigs free.

Easy: It's so incredibly easy to buy music off of iTunes and get it on the device. That's a +1 for the WAF. Buying movies and TV shows works great also.

Flexible: I bought a bunch of TV shows for pay-cable channels I don't have and took them with me to Tanzania this year. The iPod supports a standard Camcorder Video Cable (just swap the Yellow and Red RCA wires) and outputs PAL and NTSC. We used it as a one-way Tivo while we were there and had a blast. No less than three spontaneous dance parties broke out while using my iPod in Africa, and because I had my entire music collection with me, I was able to blow the minds of the folks who asked if I had Pitch Black Afro on my 'pod. I said, "please. Who are you talking to. Of course." and proceeded to party the night away.

Bad Stuff

DRM: The DRM can be confusing if you have more than one computer. I've personally gotten confused while "authorizing and deauthorizing" computers, especially during OS upgrades. There used to be a program to turn the songs you bought into MP3s, but it's not working anymore with iTunes 7.

Slow: It's pretty slow if you have 6000+ songs and you say "shuffle songs." It tends to lock up and scrolls slowly. iTunes is virtually unusable on Vista in the current version without disabling Vista indexing and a bunch of other crap I shouldn't have to sweat.

Battery Life: Video just sucks the life out of this thing. I have a "backpack" that has 4 AA batteries that at least quadruples the battery life. Still, a hassle.


iPod Nano

Good Stuff

Tiny: It's small. Not Shuffle small, but "wife's small purse; isn't that cute" small. I find myself using this device the most so far for around town, walking and such. It's just so a great size.

Bad Stuff

Storage: There's an 8gig version now, but most are 1, 2 or 4 gigs. I find the 2 gig one just a little cramped. Wife doesn't notice though.

No Video: A nit, and the screen is small, so it doesn't really matter. They included tiny photos though, why not video?


iRiver Clix

What a surprisingly fun little device! It's an odd size compared to the Nano, much thinker (like 3 times as thick) but comfortable. It feels familiar in its size, but I'm not sure what it reminds me of. It has a very interesting interface in that the whole front screen "click-tilts (my word)" in each direction to provide navigation. Right is "forward" and left is "back."

Good Stuff

Tiny: It's small and pocket-sized. Not as easy to drop in as the Nano, and not something you'd want in your front shirt pocket, but still, small.

Video: It's the smallest video player I've seen, and it's got a great screen. The video is about 15fps by my reckoning, and it's kind of complex to get video on to the thing in the format it wants. I'm still struggling with some obscure messages from Windows Media Player 11 about converting some of my video.

Photos: It's also a nice little photo viewer. Both Music and Photos - using Windows Media Player - are downsized automatically in order to squeeze as much as possible on the 2 gig version. The screen is very clear and Album Art looks great.

Radio: There's a built-in FM Radio that supports recording of the stream. A surprising and very nice feature, I say.

Games: It includes an implementation of Flash and there's a number of downloadable Flash Games to check out. Most are lame, but Sudoku is nice.

Windows Media Player: The Clix is perfectly integrated with Windows Media Player and was the easiest device to sync of all these. I just say "fill it up as much as you can with a random 2gigs from my collection." And it was handled. That's all I ever wanted from iTunes.

Bad Stuff

Storage: There's a 4gig version, as the 2gig is a little cramped, but if you don't mind 64kbps audio (many don't - do be such an elitist!) then you can automatically get a LOT more on as the Windows Media Player 11 stuff gets one thing right - auto squishing of audio while copying works great. That's about it. It's a great little device.

Urge: Urge is the music marketplace for everything but Zune. It's aight.

 


Zune

The OOBE (Out of the Box Experience) on the Zune is very familiar. It's iPod-like, but it does have a different, more organic gestalt. I like it. It's the bizarro iPod from another parallel dimension. The interface is similar to Windows Media Center, but different, smoother, faster, cleaner. I was, and continue to be, impressed. It's more intuitive than the roll/scroll interface of the iPod, and it's faster and more responsive with thousands of songs loaded.

Good Stuff

Decent Size: It's probably the same mass as an iPod, it's just a little less wide, and a smidge taller. The round directional button does beg to be rubbed like an iPod, but maybe that's me. The whole device has a nice texture that's very matte - not gloss like the iPod - so I suspect while the screen will likely scratch, the Zune itself doesn't show many fingerprints.

XBox 360: It plugs in and is charged by the Xbox360. Works great and the Xbox recognizes it as a Zune. Of course, the Xbox recognizes ALL the devices I've got here, but the Zune gets a cute little icon on the Xbox. :P

Screen: The screen is very nice, and is rotatable portrait/landscape. Album Art fills the screen and looks great. It comes with a clear sticker on the screen that I wanted to use as a screen protector, but they put text all over it, so that was a bummer.

Radio: The iPod requires an adapter for FM, the Zune has a tuner built in that includes RDS (Radio Descriptive Service) that gives you the name of the current song. The iPod also has RDS.

WiFi: The Zune will find other Zunes and you can send or receive music over them. While the music is shared, there's DRM added that lets the receiver only listen to the song THREE times, then it disables that song. They can later buy that song. Odd, but better than nothing. WiFi can be turned off to save batteries.

Zune Marketplace: Includes an all-you-can-eat feature where you get complete access to every song on the marketplace for a timed period. I'm doing the 14-day trial. A nice way to find new artists, like Rhapsody. iTunes should take notice to this.

Bad Stuff

WiFi: See above.

Odd Stuff

Software: The Zune software is Windows Media Player 11, but it's not. You do Zune stuff in Zune but you kind of know you're talking to your Windows Media Player Library. There's a whole separate Zune Sharing thing, but it's unclear if you're configuring standard Windows Media Sharing from an alternate interface. You can run both Windows Media and Zune thingie at the same time, but when I tried to sync the Clix in one and the Zune in the other at the same time, I had to reset them both with a paper clip. Not sure if that's USB or the software freaking out. Also odd, the Clix shows up in Vista in My Computer as well as in the "Sync Center" but the Zune is no where to be found in either. Note that you need an upgrade to the Zune software to work on Vista. The Zune desktop software has crashed twice for me in one day, so something will likely be fixed on Vista soon.

 


PSP

Good Stuff

Screen: Seriously, drink in the screen. It's amazing. Glorious. Perfect.

Wireless/Browser: It includes 802.11 and a very capable Web Browser, as well as support for Podcasts (RSS with attachments).

UMDs: The industry hates UMDs as a proprietary media, but I love their size and relative cheapness. If you spend a lot of time on planes, grab a few movies (or rip and squish DVDs) and you're set from LA to New York (or PDX to JRO).

Games: Of course.

Oft-updated Firmware: You can update the Firmware over wireless and it's always adding new features. It includes Sony Location-Free TV now, as well as a features for connecting to PS3s.

Homebrew: This thing is forever being hacked into, and you can run Linux and all sorts of MAME Emulators and such.

(added from comments from Laust M. Ladefoged) AUTO-Podcast Downloading:

I think you left out the single most important feature of the PSP and what basically sets it apart from the other devices in your list (at least for now), namely its ability to wakeup from standby and automatically download all the podcasts you have subscribed to via WiFi.

This feature was added with the recent v3 firmware and has completely changed the way I have access to my prefered podcasts.

My PSP wakes up about 6 in the morning, automatically downloads the latest podcasts, ready for my listening when I put it in my pocket on my way out the door - no longer any need for syncing with my computer anymore, so nice.

Bad Stuff

Music and Storage: You can get a 2gig 4gig memory stick and there are 4-8gig hard drive add-ons, but it's not a very great music player. It IS a great movie machine though.


Conclusion

I'd say this:

  • You want the ultimate media player? Get a Zune or iPod video and base your decision on a combination of your politics and the features. Both kick ass. The wireless social Zune stuff is slick, but I have only met one other person with one. That'll eventually change. Buying TV Shows and Movies on iTunes is fabulous and seamless. My Mom and Dad run around the country in their RV, and I think they could use an iPod Video as a "disconnected Tivo" very easily, connected to their little 13" TV. However, the screen on the Zune is larger and nicer than the iPod. Both a great. I'm still torn on this one.
  • You want a little media player?
    • You want video? Get an iRiver Clix. It's got a great screen, a smooth interface and long battery life. (I haven't run out yet).
    • You don't care about video? You might still get a Clix, unless you want a really thin player, then get a Nano.
  • You only care about the screen? You want games first, video second and music third? Get a PSP.
    • The PSP has a fantastic screen, but it's max 2gig capacity (unless you get an external hard drive) and poor battery life make it a niche device for geeks. Of course, I am a geek, so I take it everywhere as well. The combination of Videora and a DVD Ripper makes it nice for up to 4 feature length films.
  • You hate DRM and are concerned about using iTunes or Urge or Zune Marketplace? Don't use them. Buy CDs and Rip.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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A Day in the Z - Mischief and Mayhem 1

August 15, '06 Comments [12] Posted in Movies | Musings | Parenting | Z
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ZmischiefthumbWARNING: This post has nothing technical going on. Maybe a little because of the MP4 compressed video, but that's a stretch at best. If you don't have young kids, or perhaps you hate pets and/or small children, ignore this post.

My good friend Eli told me after the birth of his lovely young daughter:

Kids go through three phases, Plant, Pet, Person. My daughter (A month old at this point) is currently a Plant. We feed her, she water us, and she sits for long periods. Z is now in the Pet stage. He'll follow you anywhere and smiles when he sees you.

God help us when they become People. Because with People come Opinions.

Z is eight and a half months old and he's unstoppable. He's a biscuit away from walking and he roams the house ruling with an iron, if slightly moist, fist. This is an obnoxiously long video with no audio of my pride and joy roaming the house.

A few notes and disclaimers. The kitchen is being remodelled so that's why we have no countertops. Z is in the "decoy drawer" that I've setup for him that includes old remote controls and random safe stuff for him to 'discover.'

This video is an MP4. If you have trouble viewing it, try Quicktime, a newer Windows Media Player, or the amazing-give-it-to-your-famly VLC Player.

File Attachment: ZMischief.mp4 (5882 KB)

We'll be back in tech tommorow.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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iRiver clix

June 7, '06 Comments [7] Posted in Movies
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HanselmaniclixMight the iRiver clix be the first Portable Windows Media Player to not suck? It's very possible.

$200 for 2Gig, the same price as the 2gig iPod Nano, but this one does movies and has a 2.2 inch screen and has an FM tuner (nice for NPR) and a voice recorder. Wallpaper to the right.

Just in case you have one and want to know what makes it tick, here's how to take yours apart.

Anyone have one of these bad boys who also had an iPod? It's calling me. Sounds like something Omar would like, but he went for a Philips GoGear with 6 gigs for $180.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Immediacy and the Remoteness

April 22, '06 Comments [6] Posted in Z | Coding4Fun | Movies
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Orb4Remote1Ok, you've sold me. I poo-pooed in the past, but I'm digging it today. I'm away from home and local news in the hotel I'm in is crap. I've got TVs and movies at home I'd like to watch.

Orb.com, while sporting the worst of user interfaces, is the bomb. It was obviously written by folks who know their server side. ;)

I've used BeyondTV in the past for this same thing, forwarding ports outside and auto-transcoding video streams, but the setup of ORB was so very easy and it just works.

I've got the Windows Media Center PC running over yonder in Oregon while I'm here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a hotel. I want to watch a show that the Media Center taped back home. I'm connected to the 'net via a Verizon Wireless Cellular Phone PC Card.

Orb detects my connection speed and transcodes the video to the level appropriate for my connection. (This can be overridden as well.) The quality of the video over this cellular connection is pretty sweet.

Orb3There's some kinks to be worked out around seeking within a stream, but this is a no-brainer: Microsoft, buy them, build it into Windows Media Center. (Of course, this is too niche and no one cares about remoting TV, right?)

Remote2

Other than BeyondTV (BeyondTV Link) what are the competitors?

Of course, an alternative to getting video from my house is to get it from the cloud. Why get my copy of a show when there's a cloud copy?

As an aside, being away is hard, but Webcams make it easier. Watching Z react to my voice over the phone is a blast.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Interracial Couples on TV

April 17, '06 Comments [13] Posted in Movies | Parenting | Z
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HelloiammixedWhen I see things changing like this, it makes me smile and feel better for Z's future.

More and more on TV there are interracial couples that aren't called out as "The Mixed Couple." Sometimes it's a little played out when entire movies are created about how shocking a mixed couple supposedly is. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was ground-breaking in 1967, but Something New just pandered to racial stereotypes as did FX Network's recent reality show "Black.White," succeeding in little except making both families and their respective races look ignorant. Perhaps it was a West Coast thing. It would have been interesting had they picked families from integrated neighborhoods with a little more savvy.

Life and love are a lot more complicated than just Black and White. Here's a list of popular TV shows with mixed couples on right now.

Grey's Anatomy, ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Dr. Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh; Dr. Preston Burke, played by Isaiah Washington.
Their relationship: Top surgeon falls for intern. Opposites attract.

Lost, ABC, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Bernard, played by Sam Anderson; Rose, played by L. Scott Caldwell
Their relationship: Viewers didn’t know Rose’s husband was white, but they did know she had unwavering belief in him.

ER, NBC, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Dr. Neela Rasgotra, played by Parminder Nagra; Dr. Michael Gallant, played by Sharif Atkins.
Their relationship: She’s an ER doc; he’s just back from Iraq. Was the quickie wedding a good idea?

My Name Is Earl, NBC, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Earl’s ex-wife Joy, played by Jaime Pressly; Darnell, played by Eddie Steeples.
Their relationship: He works in the Crab Shack; she’s after Earl’s lottery winnings. Earl and “Crabman” remain best buddies.

There's a great organization in Seattle called the MAVIN Foundation. It's a non-profit that is focused on celebrating the mixed race experience. It is known for its work hunting for mixed-race blood marrow donors.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.