Disclaimer: I have always been a Windows user. Thus, I am used to the frustration that comes with this. I am used to the Blue Screen of Death (thankfully, it happens rarely now). I have struggled with upgrades that were most definitely NOT “plug and play.” I am used to the clunky uncoolness of the Winbox “design aesthetic” (stop snickering, Kevin and Steve) although as a Dell laptop user, I always snicker to myself when I watch Atlantis. Must have been a hell of a product placement deal, and I want a sticker for my laptop, too.
Anyway, I am not a Mac user, but I have looked on from afar and noted that Mac stuff seems to actually have a design aesthetic. I own an iPod mini, though, so Mac has gained a foothold in our home. It’s the thin, impossibly smooth, beautifully designed, cool white edge of the wedge.
Because, of course, once you buy one Mac product, you feel a pull towards the Holy Church of the Maccessories. That’s how they suck you in. You buy the stuff, thinking you’ll enhance your coolth. Only later do you realize that you’ve been suckered. So you buy another product, either a real iPod item or something made by another company “for” iPods. And you realize that that wasn’t quite what you had in mind, either.
It started innocently enough. I took my brand-new mini with me on the trip to Salt Lake for Mom’s birthday party. I forgot both chargers that came with it, the USB direct-from-a-laptop one that came with (which only worked if plugged directly into the laptop, but didn’t always charge the thing, just update it) and the AC/DC transformer one (which was the only one that worked consistently).
The AC/DC transformer is a bit clunky, but it’s light enough for travel. Now, of course, I have it upstairs on the nightstand, ready in case I feel like listening to music at bedtime (it helps me sleep, but the earbuds were always a little uncomfortable). Anyway, there I was on my way to Utah, all set to listen to my tunes on the plane and block out all the noise and confusion around us (I seem to recall a rather obnoxious toddler that fussed the whole way).
Then I discovered that I’d lost a lot of charge when I forgot to “lock” the controls on the mini, so I could only listen for an hour or two on the flight. No more tunes for me for the rest of the weekend. Bummer.
While waiting to depart Shit Lake Salty International Airport, we browsed in a tech gadgetty store designed to appeal to travelers. And since there was a little travel-size iPod charger that claimed to be compatible with a Windows laptop and my mini, we bought it.
And it didn’t work. So no iTunes for me on the way home, when I could have really used it. It was frustrating, because the gadget was beautifully simple, just two wires that pulled out from a central spring-loaded spool. Handy, small, packable, well-designed, and total cr-r-r-rap.
After returning home, David got me an iPod dock – because the Firewire cable “for Windows” that came with the mini never did work that well with the various permutations of USB hubs he had me set up with. It worked fine if I plugged directly into my computer, but I also had this hub thing that was more convenient. Yep, would not charge through that, only through the direct connection. So the dock was purchased and is now permanently plugged in and ready. I like its simple form-follows-function design; it holds the iPod up at a convenient angle for browsing tunes while working at the computer. Works great, but it’s a little heavy for travel.
Of course, it didn’t end there.
For Christmas, I mentioned that I might like a car-charger gadget that also broadcast to an FM receiver, for use in in my car.
So in short order, I had this gadget. Which even the most hardened Windows user will notice is missing some of that smooth, simple, clean “coolth” design ethic. It works fine – it can be powered via a car charger to put your tunes on your car radio, and with an adapter (hey! Got those!) you can use it with your home stereo system, too. Drawback: the thing takes power via the big dock connector in the base, but the output has to go via a little wire-and-spring-loaded spindle thing… yes, very much like the thing we bought in Shit Lake… from the earphone output it the FM transmitter thingy. And if you forgot this bit, no tunes in the car, but you’d have a fully charged iPod when you got where you were going.
Then an acquaintance of David’s mentioned that there was another product out there that was more like a one-piece, drop-in, pop-in thing. So we went and looked at it, and David thought he could sell the other FM transmitter thing on eBay or something.
However, there’s the small matter of the new car transmitter thing not having the ability to transmit to the home stereo. So no rush getting rid of the old gadget just yet, might have a use for it…
After all this gadgetty geekery, you’d think I was done. I hadn’t succumbed to getting a “Hello Kitty” silicone skin for my mini. I hadn’t fallen for a funky lanyard. But then I noticed that the wires on the cheapo earbud headphones were frayed and about to break. Time for new headphones. So I bought the “official” iPod high-quality ones. They came in a beautiful little package, all tucked away in a perfectly designed little white plastic case.
They look cool, don’t they? Serene. They promise you an unparelleled intimacy with your music just from their sleek, modern, in-your-ear design.
Only problem is, they don’t fit inside my ears that well. The left one keeps working its way out, and I’ll go from a nice musical experience to “Tin Pan Ear Canal” quality. I walked across the parking lot to lunch the other day, and they worked their way out every 20 steps or so. This with the smallest size, which felt very tight when inserted in the ear. Strangely, the largest size (which I’m testing now) seem to stay put better. Somebody on Amazon in the review section (each image is linked its Amazon page, complete with reviews where applicable) mentioned a special technique for using the ‘buds. Apparently, there’s more to it than simply “stick it in yer ear,” but iPod failed to mention this in the owner’s manual. It involves pulling up on the ear with one hand while inserting, in order to straighten out the channel. Another site commenter recommended rotating the rubber earcups 180 degrees for a better fit and seal in the ear. Huh. Both methods together seem to improve the sound quality.
Well, anyway, all this iPod and iFauxed gear seems to be working for me better. So now, that frees me for thinking about the next iPoddy gadget down the line. Which, of course, I’m not going to buy, I’m joking here. Right. Hmmm. No, I really don’t need speakers. I’m not really thinking about that at all.
But at least I’m in good company, because it seems Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II also has a silver mini. Well done us.
I wonder what kind of earphones she’s got?