Wednesday, 11 January 2012

MP3 players and me

There are people who listen to music on an mp3 device almost every day

I'm not one of them - and while I do like to listen to music at home, in the mornings and when commuting radio is my preferred drug (Newsradio and Classic if you're asking). Radio has never been just background to me and I've always listened to 'serious' radio as a form of entertainment, and over the years I've heard some great performances, some stunning plays and truly informative documentaries, not to mention almost running off the road once due to laughing so much at a political satire show ...

I've always had decent radios, and in the days when I used to go bush I always used t take a halfway decent radio with me, as part of the fun was sitting out in the dark by a fire listening to the radio.

However it not just been radio, there's been recorded music as well, but that always came second. Over the years I've had various walkmen and so on but it was always radio I valued including good serious talk radio. In fact one of my favourite toys (still have it) is a solar powered radio that I used to use on my walk from the bus to work. Leave it out on a sunny window sill during the day, and there it was, charged, for the journey home.

Life of course changes. Over the years life has got busier and somehow serious radio listening time got squeezed out. Not that I havn't tried to find space for it.

For example, when I started riding my bike regularly to work I bought myself a little USB stick sized MP3 player that had an FM radio. Well listening while riding isn't that safe but I discovered podcasts, so on days when I took the bus rather than rode I found myself taking the USB player and listening to podcasts of BBC talk radio.

The interface on the player was one of the old style not very intuitive two line displays, so I ended up replacing it with an 4GB iPod classic (bought from the Apple store in Cupertino, no less). That was truly superb, with excellent sound reproduction, and iTunes provided a truly wonderful sync mechanism.

However, after two or three years the rotary switch thingie on the front became unreliable, and I never got  round to replacing it, and no, I didn't move over to doing the obvious and start listening to podcasts on my phone. Instead I stopped listening to podcasts altogether, as to tell the truth I was struggling to find listening time. Driving more and more rather than using the bus or riding my bike killed my listening time.

At the same time more and more interesting broadcasts ceased to be available over the web as podcasts, but instead were available as on demand content.

On demand content is fine - I can still listen to interesting shows from the BBC, NPR and RTE, but it does mean having to sit in front of a computer and doesn't have the convenience factor of being able to listen to them in the car via the aux cable, or while doing something else like waiting for a bus, weeding or pruning.

On the other hand I miss my periodic fix of intelligent talk radio, so, as new year's resolution I've decided to revisit podcasts. The good news is that old favourites like the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent are still available, so it has legs as an idea, but how to download and play them?

I could of course have gone out and bought myself an ipod and bought back into the whole iTunes thing, but with open source alternatives like gPodder still being available, a better solution seemed to be a no-name 8GB MP3 player from ebay for less than $20 - cheap enough to lose, break, or whatever but chargeable via a standard ipod style cable and mountable as a windows formatted disk. It also comes with an FM radio meaning I can easily setup presets for Newsradio, Classic and Artsound (no FM  ABC local or Radio National in Canberra) for those times when I just want to zone out, or have to ride the bus.

It's also simple to use - just like my old USB stick MP3 player, content is simply added by copying the files to the player. The other thing is that, late to the party as always, I now have a car with an aux socket on the sound system meaning I can plug the player in and listen safely while driving.

So player #3 - let's see if it makes it on to 2012's what worked post ...


Arthur said...

Why not use your phone? I use pocket casts on android for podcasts, and tunein radio pro for worldwide radio plus recording.

dgm said...

I'm still using a Nokia principally for its push email service. The Nokia comes with a dedicated and not bad podcast manager, but you are locked into their system for evermore. Upgrading to android would be an option but most come with ridiculously expensive monthly plans that would mean I can buy a no name mp3 player every month and still come out ahead