Another (Technologically) Mixed Marriage

The way we’re mixed: Krissy is an iPodder, whereas every media player I’ve owned has been something other than an iPod: Three Creative players and the current Archos 605. This is because I don’t like paying a premium to be trapped in the Apple ecosystem as a general principle, and also because I have a Rhapsody subscription and have lots of rented music off the the service, which the iPods won’t play because Steve Jobs is a butthead. Whereas Krissy doesn’t care about any of that, she just wants something small that will play music.

Thus, her shiny new iPod Nano, which is tiny tiny tiny — see it here next to my Archos, which while only slightly larger than a first generation iPod looks monstrously obese next to the Nano, which reminds me of nothing more than an overgrown Chicklet. It’s pretty, but personally I would be genuinely terrified of losing it. I can’t find my keys half the time, you know, and this thing is more expensive than my keys. The fact is the current race for the tiniest form factor possible for electronics doesn’t really do much for me. I’m too forgetful to benefit from it. The Archos is not exactly huge, but it’s large enough in size and weight that I don’t fear losing it when I set it down.

Our respective players also exhibit our philosophies regarding what we want out of our player. When Krissy’s first generation iPod Mini finally croaked, I asked her if she wanted to replace it with an iPod Touch, and she looked at me like I was wearing a suit made of mustard. Why would I want that? She said. I just want to play music while I exercise. She doesn’t give a damn about wifi connectivity, playing movies or games, or any of that crap. The current Nano is actually probably over-featured for her in this respect, because it plays movies and games and shows photos, and none of those features is ever likely to be used by her.

Naturally, I think this is madness. The Archos has wifi, an 800×480 touchscreen, the ability to play movies and other media, and (this is why I got this particular model) 160GB of memory. It’s got my entire music collection and a couple dozen movies on it and it’s not even close to being full. I think that rocks. I mention this to Krissy and she gives me a pleasant but blank look that says I know you are communicating something you are enthusiastic about to me, but I really couldn’t care less about it; nevertheless I love you. It’s a tolerant look, actually. She knows the geek moment will pass and we can get back to our lives.

The point is our media players do tell you a little about us. Anything important? No; but still. You take your clues where you find them.

57 Comments on “Another (Technologically) Mixed Marriage”

  1. My husband gave me the black nano for Xmas. And he too had asked if I wanted the iTouch. And I said no for the same reasons. I just want it to play music/podcasts. My nano is currently full without any movies or pictures or games outside the preloaded ones. His 4th gen iPod looks huge next to my dainty, girly nano. ;-)

  2. I could *really* do without a mental image of you in a suit made of mustard.

    As far as music players go, I go with the iPod shuffle. It doesn’t get any smaller than that and I can clip it on my clothes, which I like and it’s sooo smooth and shiny! Shiiiny!

    It’s almost sick how much I enjoy just turning that iPod over in my hand – over and over. Can someone please tell me that I’m not the only one who does that? Pretty please?!

  3. I think you’re being fooled by the fact that both of these are advertised as “music players” into thinking they’re somehow comparable products. You might as well compare a pickup truck with a pair of rollerblades.

  4. As David says, they are apples and oranges. I will say this for the (A)pple — the iPod Nano is the most beautiful sliver of electronic yumminess I’ve ever held. The screen is so bright. As far as the orange goes, the Archos is not even in the same category… it’s almost an e-book. (You can see from the photo how much crisper the Nano’s display is, if that’s important.)

  5. David Moles:

    Well, they are comparable, I think, in the sense they perform essentially perform the same function: They play media, portably. It’s more like comparing a Miata to a minivan.


    You’re confusing the picture with how they look in real life. In real life, the Archos screen is crisper, because among other things it has about three hundred thousand more pixels in it.

  6. I believe one of the secrets to a happy marriage is recognizing that it is possible to ignore someone attentively and to be ignored attentively in return. My husband does it well, and it sounds like maybe Krissy’s “pleasant but blank look” is similar.

    That being said, we’re an iriver family because Steve Jobs is a butthead.

  7. I have two media players: an iAudio X5 that has just been sent into Cowon for servicing, and a Nokia N800 that has a 16GB SDHC for movies/television shows and internet access through Wifi.

    And a HTC Vogue with EV-DO for on-the-go internet access.

    What does this make me?

  8. I gotta side with Krissy on this one. I got a Nano 3rd gen 8 Gb unit not long ago, for a number of reasons. I like the flash-memory operation, without any moving parts to worry about banging up. I was already familiar with iPods, having bought one for my (now ex-) wife a while back, and indeed, I already had iTunes installed, ‘cos Apple likes to bundle it in with QuickTime (which I need to keep up to date because Second Life uses it). I don’t use the movie or game features on it, either; in fact, the few times I’ve tried to add a video to it, iTunes rejected the operation, saying the video wasn’t in the correct format. And I’m not worried about being “trapped in the Apple ecosystem” because I have so much music as MP3, I don’t need to buy from iTunes Music Store, at least not yet. And I don’t have a subscription to Rhapsody or anything else to worry about Apple locking out. The Nano just does its job, unobtrusively, whether I’m at work, at home, or in the air.

    Of course, if it hadn’t been for my familiarity with the iPods as mentioned above, I might have followed along with my friend from Illinois and bought a Zune.

    (By the way, the Nano replaced a player that’s almost an antique…an Intel Personal Audio Player 3000, with all of 128 Mb of memory, counting the extra memory card installed in it.)

  9. The SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB stomps the iPod nano flat in terms of storage, price, and available features.

  10. Sorry to hear about Krissy’s mini. I still have and use daily my gen 1 iPod mini. Grayscale screen, no video, and a whopping 4GB of memory. It plays music and podcasts, and that’s all I ask of it.

  11. I know you’ve posted on this topic before, and explained why you do it, but I still can’t get over the concept of “renting” music.

    I have a 5G iPod (“iPod video”) with a 60GB hard drive. (Minor nitpick: I don’t know anything about your player, but there’s no way it has 160GB of “memory” unless you either a. paid several thousand dollars for it or b. bought it in, say, 2013.) 60GB is more than plenty for me. I stick with iPods because they’re compatible with everything and easy to use — despite being a geek (while someone here may be able to out-geek me, I’ll just say that I have been known to compile FreeBSD from source), ease of use in something like a portable music player is a great thing. I haven’t tried the Archoses(?) but none of the other not-iPod alternatives that I have tried have been as nice. I do have complaints with the iPod interface, but overall it’s great. The 5G does play games to a point, as well as videos, pictures, etc. I’ve had it for over two years I believe (maybe just about 2, I can’t remember exactly) and I just last month first played videos on it (brought it on a trans-Atlantic flight), so that’s not really a major concern of mine, but it was kind of nice. And finally, I like the ITMS (so do lots of people: it’s the largest music retailer in the country now). I’m not sure what your problem is, exactly… I’d think that the WMA DRM on Rhapsody files is more restrictive than Apple’s Fairplay — I don’t know the details of Rhapsody’s, but the “renting” concept seems to me that it would have to be quite restrictive to have any point. I’ve never run into an issue with Fairplay save that it doesn’t play on Linux or BSD, but I only use the Unices(?) for server duty anyway, and not any kind of media.

  12. I like my iPod mini, and it’s still running like a clock. I recently bought an iPod classic for the purpose of downloading and watching movies and TV, and I wish that I had known about the Archos at the time, because I ended up dissatisfied with the iPod. Still, I briefly contemplated selling the iPod and buying an Archos anyway, but when I investigated the Archos, it took me a while to find where I could download media from, and when I got there, the selection wasn’t that great, and the prices were identical to iTunes. In that respect, I guess I prefer the “iTunes ecosystem” although I, too, would rather not be trapped in it. There is a software application that you can download that lets you rip DVDs or other file formats into iTunes format, so if Krissy wants to share video with you, you can do that. It’s called Handbrake. I think the screen on the nano truly is too small to watch movies on, but you can get a cable that will let you connect it to a TV.

    I agree with Krissy that the iPod touch is outrageous for a device you want to use for exercising. I feel the same way. What if I dropped the f-ing thing? Which happens sometimes. Some of the more basic mp3 players, which cost only like $50, would be better. But again you run into the platform issue. It may be possible to transfer your iTunes library to a simply Sony mp3 player, but if it is, it’s not straightforward to me.

    I also discovered, incidentally, that the Mac “ecosystem” forces you to upgrade at least to the Tiger OS in order to use it, so, as usual with Mac products, you have to pay to play. I believe the Archos can connect wirelessly to the internet to download stuff? Is that right? *sigh*

  13. 160 GB! The whole reason why I’ve stuck with the iPod, despite Itunes dependency, is exactly the storage problem–the iPod was the only player I could find that had the kind of storage I need. Currently I have an 80 GB iPod Classic that’s doing well for me (I was so excited to have the video feature finally), but I stay away from subscriptions to Rhapsody and its ilk for exactly the reason you cite you use the other player, because it won’t work with an iPod. So it’s good to know there’s an alternative out there. I’ll have to check it out when my iPod has outlived its usefulness–which, since I just got it last fall, I can’t imagine will be coming anytime soon.

  14. Kevin R @ # 14- I have a 5G iPod (”iPod video”) with a 60GB hard drive. (Minor nitpick: I don’t know anything about your player, but there’s no way it has 160GB of “memory” unless you either a. paid several thousand dollars for it or b. bought it in, say, 2013.)

    It’s got 160 GB of storage. Not “memory” like RAM. I’ve got the 60 GB model myself. It’s nice.

  15. I, too, am in the attentive, tolerant, I love you anyway, non-listening group. Unfortunately that is a bit of a problem in our house. My husband has built a server in the basement where he stores all our media, from photos, through movies and music, all available through our wireless network. He also has built another computer to deal with all the TV equipment. He bought me an iPhone.

    We both understand that I will never be able to work this stuff with out him, because I can’t stop the eyes glazing over non-listening thing. The geek, non-geek bond is a strange and wondrous thing.

  16. For me, I have two players, an IPod and a zune. Why do I have both? Because at the time I bought my original ipod they were the only large capacity media player that directly supported audiobooks bought from I have something like 60 days of audiobooks on it right now, and it’s not even half full.

    As for the zune? It was an impulse purchase from WOOT, and I keep my music on it. Because I’m renting music from zune marketplace, and not being tied to apple for anything. The zune’s video screen is also better than the ipod’s, but I’ve watched like 2 movies total on it so that’s a non-factor.

  17. My portable music player is a battery-powered CD player. I have yet to understand why I need 800 songs with me. For you guys that want them, go wild.

  18. I curious…What kind of music player does Athena have? In other mixed marriages, it’s just as common for child to favor the attributes of one parent as it is for there to be a fairly even mix. I wonder what that looks like in gadgets. (My guess would be that she follows her dad’s tastes, but what do I know?)

  19. This is because I don’t like paying a premium to be trapped in the Apple ecosystem as a general principle, and also because I have a Rhapsody subscription and have lots of rented music off the the service, which the iPods won’t play because Steve Jobs is a butthead.

    I’ll never leave Creative, and that’s pretty much why. My Zen Vision:M and I are very happy together.

  20. JJS Hee. I use the extra memory for ridiculously long books-on-tape. Er, books-on-MP3 I guess? (And pix and videos. And mixed playlists/indulgence of whims.)

  21. JJS@#21: “I have yet to understand why I need 800 songs with me.”

    Because when I’m packing for a five-hour plane trip, I don’t want to have to decide what songs I’m going to want to listen to four days later on the flight back. I used to take the portable CD player and a stack of CDs; now I have my entire CD collection on a 40 GB Zen, which is about the form factor of a deck of cards.

  22. My biggest fear regarding the possibility of owning an iPod nano is that I would accidentally run it through the wash.

    When it comes to losing track of small objects, I’m much like you, John. This sadly includes the frequent misplacing of my wedding ring. Luckily, my wife is a super-good sport.

    I’ll take my expensive technology big and chunky, thankyouverymuch.

  23. Because it’s an easy way to sample music to see if I want to buy it. Also, when I’m writing about music, as I do from time to time, it’s awesome for research. Which also makes it a tax deductible expense.

  24. There’s an old SNL skit where someone reads a book in virtual reality. It required data gloves, giant goggles and a big computer and you got two or three words per page. The demo went something like

    Reader: “Call me”
    Reader: “Ishmael.”

    This is my wife’s mental picture of anything more technologically advanced than changing the input on our TV to go between satellite and DVD player.
    She owns a Sony PSP, and Nintendo DS in the real “I bought you your own so we can play together” sense, not the “I ‘bought’ you one but I plan to play with it” sense but she considers most titles for these devices
    “stupid pretend games.” She will gamely play whatever I like if I load the title first and hand her the device.

    Clearly I never come home to find she’s wasted the day playing Zelda or camping lewt on Warcraft. Although I’ve actually seen her late to a meeting the one time we played Wii tennis. LOL. Like the ipod nano if a device offers real functionality that is obvious to use she’ll happily take advantage. But the second you get into features for the sake of features she’s bored and uninterested.
    I think some apple products enjoy their success due to their utilitarian and highly integrated nature. I would never try to get Susan to use an ipod with rockbock synced with anorak. Ipod+itunes? Sure.
    Same with Windows Media Center Edition. Works great. Mythbuntu? Fogeddaboutit. Considering the hours I’ve wasting tweaking some technology that was supposed to make my life easier, maybe she knows something I don’t.

  25. We both have classic iPods, though I’m thinking of getting Lee the Archos for his birthday, as he uses his largely to watch videos. Me, I just want all my music in one place, so it’s all with me.

  26. Nikitta @ #2: “It’s almost sick how much I enjoy just turning that iPod over in my hand – over and over. Can someone please tell me that I’m not the only one who does that? Pretty please?!”

    I, too, am nuts about my iPod Shuffle. It’s a 2nd gen, it’s my favorite shade of blue (I named it Blue Valkyrie to match my older sister’s Green Archer), and it is indeed very fun to touch – something about that satin finish…plus there’s that whole girly element of liking tiny things (at least, to me it’s girly; I don’t know any guys who collect miniatures…). That said, the Shuffle can be annoying for some people, since it doesn’t have any kind of display, but it’s perfect if you just want to load it up, hit play, and not mess around with fifty different options.

    I don’t really have a need for a portable device as far as video or pictures go, anyway, since my laptop is just about welded to my body already. The only times I leave it behind are when I’m doing something like hiking or shopping, and those are not exactly peak movie viewing times for me; I’m too much of a klutz to be allowed to walk and watch t.v. at the same time.

  27. I am not so sure about the cost difference between an iPod Nano and your car keys..
    Depending on what year your car is and how fancy your key is it could cost you a few hundred dollars to replace a car key..

  28. I’m with Krissy. I have a 3d gen 10gb ipod. I’ve had it for 6 years, replaced the battery once. I just want to listen to my favorite tunes on my commute, when travelling or on the treadmill. It fits in my shirt pocket and it’s all I need. I’ve loaded 90% of my cds on it, and I’m only using 6gb. I get 8 hours of play time out of the battery and that’s all I need to get me from the east coast to the west coast when visiting my brother and his family.

  29. I’ve got a 1GB iPod Nano, bought in 2006. It doesn’t have near enough memory, damn it, but I can’t get enything fancier just yet. My ex-boyfriend (a true Machead) has an iPhone which I still covet. My current boyfriend, who doesn’t really care about Macs or PCs one way or the other, desperately wants an iPhone.

    Forget iTouch – I want the phone, damn it! Except I refuse to give AT&T money, so unless Apple opens up the playing field, no iPhone for me. *pout*

    That said, I suspect in my relationship, I would be more John-like and Boyfriend would be more Krissy-like. We both like gadgets, but I am the one who loves all the bells and whistles.

  30. My old 60GB iPod Photo just crapped out yesterday, and I was about to suck it up and get me a 60GB Classic until I saw this post. 160GB? Dude, that’s all my music and, like, a season of tv. And since I already rip the DRM out of my iTMS purchases, I see no reason to stick with Apple.

    Except for my Shuffle. Damn, but that thing is good for running.

  31. David @35: Ok, that’s simultaneously awesome and really frakkin’ creepy. It disturbs me greatly that my first reaction to it was “meh. I’ll wait for the color version.” I wonder if it would work on darker skin tones?

    I’ve got a Nomad around here someplace. One of the really old ones that’s too big to fit in a pocket. I personally loathe the wheel-thingy on ipods, and I don’t listen to enough music to make it worthwhile to buy a player (The last CD I bought was The Cranberries’ Wake Up and Smell The Coffee. Like, back when it was new).

  32. When my last cell phone died, I did a little research and found a Sony Ericcson phone that has all the bells and whistles of the modern phone plus a slot for a memory stick for music. I currently have a 4 gig stick w/ 100 hrs of music. Not bad, phone, text messaging, internet, camera all wrapped in one. I plug in my computer speakers @ work and rock on!

  33. Then there’s the iPhone Shuffle.

    It has no screen and a single button; when you press it, it dials a random number from your address book.

  34. iPhone Shuffle… (sn*rt!) (grin)

    I ordered the iTouch the moment I heard it was announced. I’d wanted a phone-less iPhone from the start. I have a phone, I have an 8GB nano. I wanted portable WiFi Safari.

    Damn thing works really,really well, but is not a substitute for a PDA, just a really good portable browser. If this sounds good for you, don’t bother with more memory. Go with the small/cheap one. (double-grin)

    Dr. Phil

  35. Dr. Phil @ 42:The iPhone/iTouch is kind of a moving target as far as PDAs are concerned. Originally, they came out with next to no official support, but now Apple is officially supporting development. It’s something, though it’s not the same as having actual apps in hand.

    Adam @ 37: The iPod Classic comes in 80 GB and 160 GB.

  36. “I have yet to understand why I need 800 songs with me.”

    Have you never wished you brought a different CD with you? I’ve also become a huge fan of shuffle play on my iPod. Some of the pot-luck playlist from my selection of 5000 songs have been inspired! (Of course you are occasionally reminded that even your favourote artists have released a certain amount of … ‘filler’ in their careers.)

    I love the functionality of my iPod. It’s been used almost daily for the last 18 months and it’s hard to see me wanting to move to a different brand.

    Do I buy from the iTunes store though? Hell no! DRM sucks big time.

  37. I use an old hand-me-down 1.5 Gb Ipod mini to supplement the semi-broken radio in our car – I listen to podcasts during my commute and, with its battery replaced (surprisingly easy to do) it works just fine.

    Thing is, the other day I left it at home by accident and decided to try a daring experiment – I would procede to drive to work IN SILENCE. Would I die of boredom? Would I become culturally detached and lonely? Actually neither of these things happened. I enjoyed the journey considerably, noticed a couple of roadside features that had previously escaped my attention, timed my gearchanges perfectly and progressed considerably in the plotting of a work of fiction I am currently not writing properly (I now know that the hero’s ‘rescuers’ are enemy fifth-columnists, but that that’s okay because he will come to see that he has previously been on the wrong side).

    I’m not coming over all luddite, but there really is an alternative to being continually entertained by portable media.

  38. I’ve a little Creative Zen Stone, and while I love it to bits, I have indeed lost it in the pocket of my other jeans, behind a box of matches, under a packet of cigarettes, on top of a similarly-coloured magazine..

    As a result I’ve taken to keeping the headphones plugged in all the time, so I just have to pick them up and reel the player in.

  39. From my observations, no one ever loses their iPod because they all walk around holding it out in front of them (what’s with *that* anyway?). I expect it’s far more likely to be stolen right out of your hand.

  40. Adam Rakunas (#37): they don’t make a 60GB iPod classic; only 80GB and 160GB. I have the latter, because it’s the only one big enough for my music collection.

    While I only use the iPod as a player, I regularly carry around three different pieces of electronics gear that can play music: the iPod, my phone (a Sony Ericsson W710 which will play MP3 and non-DRM M4A), and my Palm TX.

  41. I’ve been babying my ancient (by electronic device standards) IRiver HP120 along, but it’s developing a short in the headphone jack. I think I’m going to move on to an Archos, myself. I really don’t want to go with Ipod, because, as you, I have so much music already ripped to MP3 format, that I don’t *need* ITunes. I also value a device that can be treated as a portable hardrive and doesn’t require special software to load it up. Also, i’m rather non-conformist and the very first reason I don’t want an Ipod is because I don’t want what everyone else has. I want something *different*.

  42. Just on losing your keys – here is an ad they are currently playing in New Zealand:

  43. “The whole reason why I’ve stuck with the iPod, despite Itunes dependency, is exactly the storage problem–the iPod was the only player I could find that had the kind of storage I need.” (Stacy @17)

    But it’s only been recently that Apple caught up to other companies. Creative and Archos, I think, both beat Apple to hard-drive based players; the first iPod was 5gb, I think, but by then both Creative and Archos were up to at least double that.

    (caveat: I’m trying to remember the late-90s here. I’m not sure how well it’s working)

    It’s only with the latest gen player that the iPod has more capacity than others (seriously, Creative, 16gb for a Zen? That’s a big wtf to you). The previous gen Zens went up to at least 60gb, and I was waiting for just the one more, and then it took a giant step backward—

    Which is why I’m stuck with my 160gb iPod classic, even though I hate iTunes. And unlike Scalzi, I’ve got nearly 25,000 songs, and mine’s almost full. I’ve got to take the one video I’ve got on it (Eddie Izzard’s *Dress to Kill*) to fit all my music.

    But that’s okay, because I’ve discovered that, though I thought I might, I don’t use it for videos; I’d rather listen to it while reading or writing. So it’s dedicated to music.

    (then again, maybe one for music and one for video would be good…)

  44. I’ve got the Creative Zen Vision:W, 30GB. For whatever reason, the 60GB version of the W is physically larger and much more expensive than the storage increase ought to be.

    A friend of mine has the Vision:M, and after comparing features with her, I’ve got to say that the W is far superior to the M. W interfaces better with PCs, and, despite the non-Windows FS, it allows drag-and-drop unlike the M. It has an easily-accessed battery for re-seating, rather than a reset button. It’s stable– i’ve only done that 3-4 times in 6 months. It charges off any USB, and it docks with USB in addition to its custom port. It also takes CF cards and can few pics and files thereon.

    I selected the Zen Vision:W over i* becasue they play Xvids. Yeah, I download TV shows, and they play on the Vision without conversion, unless they have AC3 sound, which is easily remedied. And while it does feel a bit huge when I’m just listening to mp3s, I’m glad for its 4″ TFT screen when I watch shows and movies on it– subtitles are crisp and legible on the screen. Sweet.

    And of course it has all the usual doohickeys that’re missing from iPods: FM radio, microphone, onboard speaker, line-in jack. And its battery life is pretty damn good.

  45. The point is our media players do tell you a little about us.

    Then what mine says about me is that I’m a cheap bastard, as I have a 2 gig Ipod Nano or whatever which I got free at a job interview last year. It’s ideal, because it’s got enough room on it for over a day of music, so perfect for those hours at work when I’m concentrating on writing a test plan and my cow-orker is loudly slurping his coffee…

    And it’s small enough to put in my breast pocket and not feel it, which is great.

    Furthermore, since I don’t buy music online and just use mp3s, I don’t have to worry about the apple ecosystem.

  46. I have to agree with you on your choice of the Archos over the iPod. I had a chance to buy the Apple iTouch 16GB, but decided to go with the Archos 605, 80Gb model. I am still very impressed with the features and it works like a bomb.

  47. I had a 80GB player back in 2002 — Creative Jukebox 3 with a 80gb laptop drive swapped for the stock 20gb. Only downside is the only way to interface with it is through the crappy Creative software; on the upside it’s FAST with firewire. The main feature it has that is lacking in newer players is line-in recording. Guess that’s been removed for lack of market interest or fear of lawsuits.

  48. You’re right, your respective choices in media players do say a lot about the two of you. Namely, that Krissy is smarter than you are. But you already knew that, right?

    I mean really, what you see as Apple’s hegemonistic buttheadedness, most people see as seamless, painless, integrated ease of use. Whatever style points you may gain by bravely going against the grain are more than offset by the fact that you have let your emotional reaction to the cult of Jobs cloud your judgment. Remember, it’s not just the media player that matters in this equation — it’s the way the iPod works with iTunes and the iTunes music store. From a holistic perspective, Apple is firing on all cylinders, and all other media players are gimped in comparison. That may change in a year or two, but for the time being Apple deserves to dominate this market.

    Really, the Apple Koolaid doesn’t taste that bad. And once you’ve had a serving, you may find that it actually goes down fairly smoothly — effervescent, yet sublime.