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ATPM 11.09
September 2005




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Pod People

by Sylvester Roque,

Yes, the rumors are true. I am one of the Pod People. You know, those unfortunate souls who cannot seem to go anywhere without a certain small music-filled hard drive attached to some part of their anatomy? Wait a minute, it’s not my fault. Listen to my story, and I think you’ll see that I resisted as long as humanly possible.

Life Before the iPod

When the MP3 craze first began, I wasn’t very interested. Portable players were not yet the rage, and the only real option was replaying the files on your computer. I had an aging computer with a small hard drive. Why in the world would I waste valuable time—and hard drive space—ripping my music collection? Besides, there was a stereo in the computer room—all I had to do was reach out about a foot or so and insert a CD. OK, once in a while I had to grab a new batch of music. Besides, I needed the exercise. But how in the world did I go from that to being one of the Pod People?

Flash forward a few years. The iPod is all the rage. As the second-generation iPods are announced, Mac users everywhere are selling first-generation iPods to get the new ones. My wife bought a first-generation model for a price that was just too good to pass up. She immediately discovered that she liked listening to audiobooks while working on other things. OK, this new gadget was cool, but with my budget it was going to take more than cool to persuade me. Besides, I could always borrow hers once in a while. It’s a short commute to work, and while at work I can’t teach and wear headphones at the same time, so what’s the point? She was in Iowa; I was in Louisiana. Surely I could hold out.

My Surrender to the Pod

Shortly before the fourth-generation iPods were announced, I surrendered and became one of the Pod People. The will to resist just wasn’t there anymore, but as I said, it wasn’t my fault. The desire for an iPod started to grow when I missed connecting flights for several trips in a row. Whether the airport is large or small doesn’t really matter; there are only so many things you can do for five or six hours at an airport.

The second time that happened it was followed shortly thereafter by a more positive development. One of the ATPM contributors had a third-generation iPod that he was willing to sell for a more than reasonable sum of money. A couple of e-mails later and I was the proud owner of an iPod that was in mint condition. Resistance was no longer an option; I was an iPod owner. I use it now whenever I can, so I guess that makes me one of the Pod People.

You’ve Got the Pod, So What Do You Do With It?

Most of the time my iPod leads a somewhat ordinary life. It’s filled with fifteen gigabytes of music from my iTunes library. B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Queen, et. al. are all right here in my shirt pocket. With the compression settings I have been using, I’ve got more than enough music to survive the next flight delay. The closest it’s come to an adventure was a recent car trip from Iowa to Louisiana. Boy, was I glad to be one of the Pod People.

In the pre-iPod days, trips like that were a nightmare. It seems that, no matter where you were going somewhere along the route, radio reception was terrible or the available stations were playing something you really weren’t interested in hearing. We usually solved the problem by putting a boom box and multiple CDs in the car. Anybody remember to bring extra batteries? I’ve been holding this thing for hours…are we there yet?

This time, instead of a boom box, several flashlight batteries, and an obscene number of CDs, we carried an iPod and Belin’s TuneCast FM transmitter. We’ve had it for some time and originally bought it because it worked with both the first- and third-generation iPods. I’ve also used it as a quick way to transmit audio from my iBook to our home stereo. There are more options available now with several different options for connecting to your home or car stereo. Some of these devices are FM transmitters, and some use other connection methods. Use the one that you prefer. I’m not implying that other options are inferior. I haven’t used them yet. We used this one because we already had it.

This arrangement was quite an improvement over the boom-box in the pre-iPod era. We generally used the radio and the iPod, depending on what was on the radio. When the iPod was on, we were either listening to music or Larry Niven’s Ringworld on audiobook. An iPod is so much lighter and easier to carry than a boom box.

The problems we had along the way were minor. First, after a few hours on the road we had to replace the two AA batteries in the TuneCast. I’d forgotten to replace them at the start of the trip, and they had been in there for some time. Second, we did have to change the radio frequency that the TuneCast broadcasts on twice because local radio stations were occupying the frequency we usually use. If you are in the car alone or in an area where the FM band is a little crowded, this could be inconvenient. Belkin’s TuneCast II has apparently taken steps to address both of these issues.

Further Adventures of My iPod

Now that I’ve had my first iPod adventure, I’m thinking about a few other projects that might be interesting. If I can convince myself to use the iPod as a disk, I could record voice samples that I need to analyze rather than use an audio cassette. We’ve also got a short road trip coming up soon. I’m tempted to store the driving directions on my iPod as notes and see how well I like reading them that way. It might be a little more convenient than reading the directions from a map. I might also try a few more audiobooks. They play well on the iPod but I’m not a big fan right now. Maybe I’ll check out some of the open source audiobooks that are available. I’ll keep you posted.

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Reader Comments (1)

Lenore Zarin · December 26, 2005 - 18:42 EST #1
I just received an Ipod Shuffle as a gift; your articles have been tremendously helpful in educating me as to all of the uses for my Ipod. Now i am really excited! I can do so much more with my Ipod than listen to music.

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