Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday MP3 Player Cavils Blogging

Matt Damon's character in The Departed:

I'm fucking Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life.
The character didn't live long beyond this remark (spoiler alert!), but the point is, I am not Irish, and -- if my logic is right* -- it follows that I won't deal with something being wrong for a long time. To wit, poor design in MP3 players (Cf.).

I love my Sansa Clip+, but I recently reached a state contrary to Irishness-according-to-Matt-Damon's-character and decided to make a couple of modifications using only a few simple tools, a few beers, and a disproportionate sense of outrage. I remind both readers that I assign high functional priority to an MP3 player that will operate in an eyes-free manner -- I don't want to have to hold it up and look at a screen because, most of the time, I am running while I am using it. Looking at a screen means I am not looking at the road, or at the precipice I'm suddenly tumbling down, or at the car that's about to hit me, or another runner who's about to push me down a precipice or into an oncoming car, etc.

It follows* that the basic functions -- volume up, volume down, next song, previous song -- must be operable solely by touch. The Sansa Clip+'s volume up/down buttons are slightly raised from the side of the device, but not enough. In particular, they're not raised enough to be reliably felt through a layer of clothing, as must be done in cold and/or wet conditions. Hence my first modifications:

Getting to a properly eyes-free state for the next / previous buttons was more than my half-drunken rasp use could accomplish, so I turned to that enduring white trash stand-by, gluing stuff together with, say, Loctite Super Glue:

"Sure," you're muttering to yourself, "the results are elegant and beautiful. But do they work?" Field testing has been limited, but so far, so good. As I crane my view down to where the MP3 player sits charging by its USB cable, I begin making typing mistakes that renew my rage with the eyes-dependent operation, but I also note that it does, as I assume you muttered, look lovely with its new rasp wounds and glued-on hunks of scrap plastic.

If the pieces of plastic fall off, they're easy to replace. If they stay on for a decent amount of time, I'll add another to the top center play-pause button, which is the next most reached-for button on the device. If these modifications void my warranty, you can expect to hear about my resulting outrage on this precious, precious blog.

Since I'm jabbering on about MP3 players, below is the result of one of those memes I saw on Facebook in which you're asked to set your music library to random and take down the first 15 songs that come up. I don't like Facebook memes unless they're the kind I like, so I changed this one from 15 songs to 21, with these stunning results:**

Wilco, "Pot Kettle Black"
New Pornographers, "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras"
The Cure, "Jumping Someone Else's Train"
AC/DC, "Let Me Put My Love Into You"
REM, "Walk Unafraid"
Stereolab, "Les bon bons des raisons"
Uncle Tupelo, "Sauget Wind"
The Carpenters, "Only Yesterday"
The Pogues, "Misty Morning, Albert Bridge"
Van Halen, "You Really Got Me"
Bob Dylan, "Mississippi"
Norah Jones, "Nightingale"
REM, "Stand"
Beck, "Lonesome Tears"
The Clash, "Somebody Got Murdered"
Johnny Cash, "Cry, Cry, Cry"
Elliott Smith, "Bye"
PJ Harvey, "When Under Ether"
TV on the Radio, "I Was A Lover"
The Watson Twins, "Time of My Life"
Kings of Convenience, "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From"

All of the above are awesome and highly recommended musical works except for the so-so and terrible ones that merely serve to show that my music library could use some cleaning. I'm looking right at you, latter-career Bob Dylan song, song by TV on the Radio, and lesser The Clash song that helped people accept the band's break-up.

* No. I wouldn't trust this logic at all.
** Clarification: the results are not stunning.

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