Scott Hanselman

iPod Nano - What sucks and what doesn't

November 03, 2005 Comment on this post [8] Posted in Reviews
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Step1_ipodnano_blackI helped a friend out a while back and she hooked me up with a black iPod Nano 2G yesterday. I've love being 'paid' with gadgets. I've got an older 3rd-gen iPod 15Gig so I figured it'd be interesting to see how iTunes plays with two iPods on one machine. 

Here's what happened:

  • Downloaded the new iTunes 6.01 and installed it on my laptop.
  • Plugged in the Nano and was told after some thrashing that "an error occurred while installing your hardware. It may not work."
  • iTunes noticed it though and started it's "What's your iPod named" wizard. I set it up as Scott's Nano and told it to "automatically update with Music."
  • I've got certainly MORE than 2Gigs of Music so I was interested in the Shuffle-like "figure it out and give me some music" features. Apparently I'm an idiot or these features don't exist.
  • After some churning iTunes reported that my iPod didn't have enough room for all my music. Not sure why that wasn't obvious since iTunes knew (via it's icon) that it was a black Nano.
  • It offered to make a Playlist with "a selection of music" from my Library. I naively assumed this was the shuffled pile I'd been hoping for.
  • It made a 300 meg list of music, mostly stuff I'd listened to often or recently. 300 hundred megs you say? That's weird. No warnings, no log, no logic, nothing.
  • Turns out that it assumes you want ALL your podcasts by default. That was 1700 megs for me. I had to manually select that I just wanted "checked" podcasts and had to cull that list.
  • I also told it to sync my photos, my calendars and my contacts.
    • Interestingly there is NO error message when you have > 1000 contacts. This is a known limit, but there's no notification. The contacts just don't show up. LAME. The interface is a single checkbox.
    • It syncs EVERYTHING in your calendar for all time, in both directions. This makes the calendar interface on the iPod VERY crowded and almost unusable as I've got 801 appts in Outlook as of today.
    • It automatically assumes that you want music first and photos, contacts and calendars last. So, if you fill it with music, you get no contacts, photos or calendars. You'll only get a warning if the photos can't fit.

I'll I want is to say:

  • I want 1.5 gig of music, randomly chosen.
  • I want the rest for photos, but I want ALL my contacts along with 6 months of appointments.

I fought with this interface for an hour last night. I don't know what's happening at Apple, and I'm just a caveman, but do I know this:

  • iTunes 4 just worked.
  • We went from v5 to v5.5 to v6 now v6.01 in the space of a few months.
  • Something is seriously wrong in v6 that makes USB connectivity questionable at best.

My conclusion: If you have more music than your iPod can comfortably fit, you're going to fight with the space management aspect continuously.

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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November 04, 2005 4:04
How strange. The "Autofill" button isn't present when you plug in your iPod? Maybe it's a Shuffle-only feature?

Here's my advice. Create a new smart playlist, limit it to 1500MB and make sure "select by" is set to "random", that should be the default. You should be able to sync that playlist to your nano. Then when you want another 1500MB of random songs, select the "fill mah nano" playlist, select all of the songs, remove them from the playlist and iTunes will fill the playlist back up with another selection of random songs.

Kind of a roundabout way of doing things, but I'm just trying to get songs on your Nano for you. ;)
November 04, 2005 5:15
Also with your podcasts you can tell it to only sync the ones that you have not listened to.... Well... That sorta works... Once you get it all set up
November 04, 2005 10:13
Who said Apple was good at software? Everyone raves over Apple, and yet, their stuff seems to suffer the same flaws as everyone else.
November 04, 2005 18:27
Have you looked at the anapod explorer from Red Chair Software? I use the Notmad Explorer for my Jukebox Zen and it works very well for me. I have no idea how the Anapod works, but if it is at the same level as the Notmad, it should be good.

November 04, 2005 21:01
You upgraded to iTunes 6? I'm waiting for JHymn to work against 6...
November 04, 2005 23:01
I think you're too demanding. I just use my iPod for music, and I'm careful not to put more music onto iTunes than can fit on my iPod (presently 3,753 songs). I LOVE the shuffle feature more than anything; the iPod is totally my favorite toy. Since I spend roughly two hours a day on the subway, I consider it a complete lifesaver. My morning commute today consisted of Vivaldi, Verdi (Rigoletto), Huey Lewis & The News, a renaissance Venetian lute pavane, Cole Porter, Barbra Streisand, Wagner (Meistersinger), Guys & Dolls, Chopin, Puccini (La Boheme), and Handel (Rodelinda and Semele). It's just too cool.
November 04, 2005 23:17
I just upgraded to and have had several problems with it.

It doesn't recognize my shuffle half of the time(a reboot of my system/iTunes seems to fix this?).

It freezes when trying to rip cds. I'm still in the process of ripping my CD collection and after one or two CDs iTunes goes all buggy and I have to force quit it and restart more than once.

I buy audio books through iTunes and it gives me, for example, 2 tracks that are 2:30 hours each. This isn't a problem with iTunes, but with Apple's/'s distribution plan. However, in iTunes to burn the audiobooks to CDs I have to create a playlist with 1 track and then when I try to burn it, it asks if I would like to use multiples CDs to which I answer yes. Then it burns the first CD and freezes with no instructions to insert the next CD etc... It has crashed after burning the first CD multiple times and there is no interface to tell it which CD you would like to burn, so you're stuck starting the burn over again and having duped copies of CD number one. Lame.

I don't think it's being too demanding to want your software to work properly. Especially a program that should have a team of well funded developers working on only it.
November 05, 2005 0:51
ITunes has to be some of the dumbest software ever written. I've had exactly the same problems that you describe with my families assorted Shuffles, Minis and Nanos. What a mess!

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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.