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Monday, August 10

One Step Closer To An iPod

I've resisted the iPod for a long time. I think there's a dichotomy over such a device. On the one hand, I don't like the way that it feels like one company's proprietry format that has been used as a steam roller to build brand and get people to need the iPod. It's not that Apple have got the monopoly on the concept of the mp3 player, it's more that they've got a model with both iTunes and that kooky connector at the bottom of the iPod which makes people need their products. You want a need docking station to play mp3s, chances are it has an iPod connector on it? You want to get online music for an iPod, then iTunes is the only way...

... well, sort of.

I've been resisting, since I want more control over my music collection. I like my "brick" of an mp3 player, customised by myself to have loads of capacity (by the standards of 2006 when I customised it). It's certainly a handy tool for recording gigs. It seemed a cheaper option when I bought it. But it's non standard. That said, as a device which stores my several thousand mp3 exactly as I would store them on a computer hard drive (and do), it's exactly the device I think I want. But... well, I can't use it in my car. My car has the kooky iPod adapter.

This is the problem, I want the convenience. I want to just drop my mp3 player into a slot and get the music. But I don't want the iTunes nazis riding roughshod over the many 1000's of mp3s I've diligently ripped from legitimate CDs over the years, nor do I want to lose the various mp3s which came from no album, but which are mine to listen to (recordings I've made, or whatever). It's a tussle for control - I want to control my music and the iPod seems to want to tell me I'm wrong.

So what's with these bloomin' Apple standards? Well, the truth is that they've found a way to make the management of a music collection work. You have a tool which can allow you to buy new music, rip CDs, find music, work out what you like, and generally make your listening experience a good one. The reason they've got a prioprietry standard is precisely because they want to control the parameters and make the system work. I'm the spanner in the works, not Apple.

But I don't care.

Then I found Media Monkey. This is a tool which can organise my music collection in such a way that it stays where I want it, but is also meaningful to the likes of an iPod. It can also synchronise the collection onto the iPod for me, thus avoiding iTunes. On top of that, it will help me remove the "pollution" caused by the variously dumb ways I've ripped my music collection in the past. It contains an ID3 tags editor which works really well on a large set of mp3s.

ID3 tags are the thing which tells an mp3 player what a track is. It contains the original album, genre, artist, etc etc etc. When you're playing whole albums from a known directory, this is not that relevant. When you have an iPod which considers Albums to be more incidental, and thinks of music as a collection of tracks which "happen" to come from albums, then you need the album info to be right. As I've used a couple of CD rippers to get my (and I want to emphasise this) legitimate CD collection into mp3 format, and as some of those rippers have used publicly created databases of CDs to get their track listings, there have been various bits of crap added to my ID3 tags. It now matters to put this right.

Media Monkey seems to be the answer.

I just have to work out when to buy the iPod. Perhaps after Edinburgh. Though it would be nice to take it away to Edinburgh with me...

Extra note: I tried to download the trial version of Media Monkey - it ended up asking me to use "TrialPay" which is a scheme that makes you try out some product or other, or register for a free trial, in order to "pay" for use of something else. In this case I thought that registering with eMusic was a way of getting my trial Media Monkey - and why not - 25 free downloads of music... not bad? In the end, eMusic was a bit thin on the ground with actual albums I'd want to buy, so I have terminated my subscription (after downloading 25 things I rather do like)... but it turns out that my registration has given me the full-blown GOLD edition of Media Monkey. Result!


Blogger Steve said...

As a long-time rabid anti-Apple person (I really needed a synonym for the "n" word that I was prepared to use about myself there!) I must admit iTunes itself is pretty good. I actually LIKE the "genius" functionality and the query-like auto playlists (that let you say things like "play me a random selection of my top 25 most listened-to Pink Floyd and U2 songs).
OK, it's a bit on the bloated side, but I also have long established collection of legitimate mp3s - including dozens of albums downloaded from eMusic in the days when I actually needed to explain to people that it was possible to legitimately download tracks and it took several minutes per song to do so - and I still have the stored exactly how *I* want.
It's hidden away slightly, but iTunes does have an "allow iTunes to fuck up my directory structure" *option* - it's on by default, but you can turn it off.

Just saying :-)

6:21 AM  

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