Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rant: MP3 Players

Lesson Learned for those of you junior officers in the training pipeline getting ready to go out on your first boats:

Do NOT buy a Zen MP3 player.

Quick Tangent.

One time on my last boat, I was standing in the Control Room and tried to be funny by quoting something from Johnny Carson. All the guys in control just stared at me blankly and had no clue what I was talking about. Man I felt old.

End of Tangent.

On my first two boats, we had these crazy old things called CD players. For music, guys just brought along their own little books of CDs to listen to in the wardroom or in their stateroom.

So when I flew overseas to meet my third boat on deployment, I took my book of CDs with me.

Man, I felt like a dinosaur.

NOBODY listens to CDs anymore. At least, nobody did on the boat.

EVERYBODY had an iPod.

I didn't want to be a conformist and resisted the urge to get an iPod. After we returned from deployment, I bought a Zen V-plus mp3 player with 8GB of memory to use on subsequent underways.

It worked out great for a little while. I was using Yahoo Music Jukebox, downloading lots of songs I had never picked up on CD. I paid like $150 for an annual membership and then purchased a lot of 79 cent music downloads.

Then we left Norfolk headed for Panama, a port call in San Diego, and our eventual new homeport in Hawaii. I vowed I was going to jog at least 3 miles per day on the treadmill for the duration of the trip from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor (aside: I did it every day EXCEPT for the day we went through the Panama Canal - I was pretty happy with that).

About two weeks into the trip, I was jogging on the treadmill when all of a sudden my tunes stopped playing. I couldn't figure out why it stopped. I picked it up and looked at dark screen. It had shut itself down due to inactivity, so I pushed the power button again and waited for it to go through its boot-up sequence. I pushed play, and it flashed an error message on the screen:

"No license to play. Sync license from PC."

I stood there staring at the screen in confused disbelief. Then the screen went black again when it shut down due to inactivity.

Um... dude... I'm several hundred feet beneath the surface of the ocean and several hundreds of miles from shore. How the HECK am I supposed to sync this MP3 player up to verify I have a license to play it??? I'm no expert on intellectual property rights and music licensing, but what the heck did I pay 79 cents for if not for the license to play the stupid song on my MP3 player???

Plus, okay, fine, moving beyond the fact that I can't sync my MP3 player when I'm at sea, why the HECK does the thing just STOP and SHUT DOWN when it encounters this obstacle? Hello?!?! PLAY THE NEXT STUPID SONG ON THE PLAYLIST FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Don't just STOP and SHUT DOWN! I'm JOGGING HERE MAN!!!

So I didn't use the playlists I had created for the rest of the trip. I just stuck to playing albums that I knew I owned on CD and had burned to the MP3 player from the CD.

I made a few attempts to complain to Yahoo about it and demanded my money back, but my complaints fell on deaf ears. They never responded to any of my complaints, so I cancelled my membership there.

Fast forward to the present.

Here I am on shore duty.

Plenty of easy access to my computer and to the internet.

Syncing the Zen with the laptop was doing nothing to update the licenses. So I thought I'd start from scratch. I wiped the Zen clean and started reloading from scratch. As it loaded the Zen with the music off my hard drive, it kept popping up a message saying it was not transferring this song and that song due to no license. I said, fine, no problem, get rid of it.

So I went to the gym thinking I was all set with JUST songs that I had licenses for and would stay on my MP3 player. I made NEW playlists with just the songs that I now had loaded on the MP3 player.

It worked for about two weeks.

I was jogging on the treadmill at the PAC Annex and all of a sudden I noticed the music stopped. I picked up the Zen... dark screen. I pushed the power button again and pushed play again.

"No license to play. Sync license from PC."

You've GOT to be kidding me.

I brought it home and synced it with the PC. Tried playing my playlist again.

"No license to play. Sync license from PC."

I'm done.

I wanna take this Zen player out in a field like the guys in Office Space did with the printer / fax machine.

(Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Now I'm wondering if I should be a lemming and buy an iPod. Like I said, EVERYBODY on the boat had an iPod, and I never heard ANYBODY complain about their licenses expiring or needing to sync their iPod with their computer during months out at sea.

If I'm wrong, please tell me. Do iPods have to call home to verify your membership is up to date and check the license data on your music???


Hilary said...

How frustrating. I've used an iPod for almost four years. The only problem I encountered was a poor battery. I returned it to Apple for a new one withing the warranty period and all has been fine ever since. My son has a less expensive MP3 player (I can get the name for you when he's home tomorrow) and has had no problems with it either. I've never heard of needing to sync it.

divrchk said...

Get an ipod. Just do it. Vince actually uses a shuffle when he works out and an Archos for all other times.

Sagey said...

Seriously Dude! I strongly believe it is a problem with Yahoo Music (gee why did they go out of business?). I dinstincly recall you tell me the Zen was the way to go BECAUSE you could use any music website, including iTunes. So have you tried using it with iTunes? Mhh, probably not... you don't get a new iPod UNTIL you try your Zen with iTunes, after that we can talk. :-)

Navy Blue Cougar said...

My "old" moment came when I was talking about the The Phantom Menace being released. I told the guys that I remembered when the first Star Wars movie came out. Everyone assumed that I was talking about the re-release of the first three movies. When I explained that I was talking about the very first Star Wars movie coming out while I was in grade school. They stared at me until one of the guys asked "How old ARE you?"

A few days later, one of the guys had a nice picture of Steve (me) fighting dinosaurs with a sword from the wooden deck of the first submarine.

As far as the iPod goes, I used one while working out underway. I thought it was pretty good until I dropped it in Engine Room Lower Level. I heard it bounce hard and slide down into the bilge. I fished it out with some bilge pickers and it was covered in oil and water. I wiped it off and tried it out and it worked fine. After that, I thought the iPod was great and have never regretted buying it.

blunoz said...

It's not just Yahoo. I stopped using Yahoo a long time ago and have been trying to use the Creative Music Manager that came with the Zen, and I'm still having the "No License" errors, so it's something in the Zen that keeps track of whether or not you have a license.

I will give iTunes a try, but since the "No License" error appeared with both Yahoo and with the Creative program, I am concerned I might have the same issue with music downloaded from iTunes.

Navy Blue Cougar said...

I have never had a problem with the iPod. The only license issue that I have had was when I transferred my music library to a new computer.

When you download the iTunes software to your computer, it checks to see if your computer is registered. You are allowed to register up to five computers. If you sync your iPod with one of those computers, I don't think you will have a problem.

If you use up the five registrations with your account, you are able to drop one of the computers off of it if you want to add a new one.

I never had a problem with the iPod not playing the music that was on it or having a license issue. If you are worried about it, I guess that you could put your library on a laptop if you take one with you when you travel.

I can understand not wanting to follow the herd and buying an iPod, but in this case, the herd is onto something.

Anonymous said...

Just get it. I used an iPod for all of deployment and had no problems with syncing music and whatnot.

Plus, if you get the Nike+ stuff with it, you can keep track of your workouts. It's pretty nice, I can't lie.

JoLee said...

why not just go with an iPhone 3G and quit packing so many pieces of equipment around?

Ruth said...

Have to go with JoLee. Only thing about the iPhone is you have to have a phone account with AT&T or jailbreak the iPhone.

I had the original iPod and except for it needing a battery and being big and clunky, it worked fine for several years. Have now moved on to newer classic iPod and original iPhone. Never have to check license, not for tunes from iTunes store or tunes loaded in from my CD's or imported from other sources.

Do the Apple thing, dude.

Loping Squid said...

Okay. I'm not a big apple guy. I work with another Navy guy who worships at the altar of Steve Jobs. But I have to say, I have an ipod, and I use it all the time. In fact, I use it for the one reason I never figured I would: video. I don't run with it, b/c I like to hear the cars before they crush my head like a wee grape. Seriously. Video. It's great. Especially when traveling. With a small kid.
I was using it at the office for a while. But then the IT-Nazi-fun police said it was illegal.