Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 15, 2007

An Apple® a Day

I've gone and done it. I've slipped over to the other side.

No, I haven't ordered a new Mac G5 quad core processing super computer with 30" Cinema display, (retail $4,500.00 at your friendly Apple website). I might like such a thing, should I ever have the time to want to compose symphonies by ear or make full length movies. (Actually, I'm hearing that many long time pros in graphics and such return to PCs, irritated by the Apple's smug, patronizing insistence of doing things their way)

Still, the minimalist art that is Apple product is almost worth it.

No I haven't given up on my PC, though it clearly has bus or memory issues. In a way, I have taken a bolder step.

I have laid the hint for and received for Christmas an iPod 4G nano. In authentic Apple brushed aluminum, no loud colors for this one.

This is radical departure for me into the world of compressed audio. Compressed audio, and we'll resist getting too technical here, is cramming digital music into smaller files. All those ups and downs on a sound wave require a lot of digital bits to reproduce. Stereo is recoded onto computers at a rate of 1.5 or so megabits a second. That's 11 megabytes a minute, times two tracks for stereo. For Take a Pebble, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, that's about 275 MG. That's a lot of storage and download time, even as capacity and bandwith explode.

But, you don't have to describe every pixel in a digital photograph (bitmap)--you can use language to describe what is happening to sections of information (JPEG). This can be done to music. Think of a football field marked off in a grid. To describe a diagonal move, you could say "He moved from (x,y) to (x+1,y+1) to (x+2,y+2)," and so forth, but you can see that this would entail a lot of writing. Or you could say (and I'm not much of a mathematician any more, so you won't get a trigonometric formula for this) "He started at (x,y) and moved one yard right and one yard up forty times. One of two of the moves were only a half a yard, but don't worry about it." This is kinda the idea, along with many other kinds of prediction and analysis.

Hey, I said I wasn't going to get too technical! The gist is, stuff like MP3 was invented to address transfer and storage issues, and became further popular because CD players don't work so well in a portable environment. Digital tape, without compression (any more than in CDs, anyway), suffers from the same mechanical limitations as any tape format. It has to be wound to the correct position. Before current capability, DAT tape was a stalwart for home studios, and many stand by their trusty old ADAT recorders, a great machine that terrified the music industry with it's CD quality reproduction. Affordable hard drive recorders (like your Tivo) and CD burners have made DAT obsolete. I actually have machines of a competitor format to DAT called DCC. These machines are extremely rare, and may be quite valuable one day. Until recently, I still used my portable DCC player and wired headphones to exercise. You can't carry it on a Nordic Trac, it will skip and it's too heavy. And you have to make those tapes, an entire new one for variety. I would have switched to the improved variety and portability of a good MP3 player except for one thing. MP3 sounds like crap, especially in the higher ranges. Cymbals hiss. Rock has lots and lots of symbols, and this quality is unacceptable to any serious listener, no matter how conveniently produced.

Then comes Apple's ACC format. Forget about it. Put all 600 CDs on 36 GB of your hard drive, back them up off site, and you have a permanent, instantly accessible and programmable music collection that is virtually indistinguishable in quality from CD. It's that good. Be sure, in preferences, to set error correction on to eliminate pops and clicks that imperfections on your CD might cause before embarking on this monumental task. (Apple not making a big huge point of this not being the default is as every bit as dense as Windows not having the firewall on by default)

And then iTunes exports whatever you like (more or less) to the credit card sized iPod nano. (such blatant disregard for things like capitalization is what causes bloggers to enter amorphous blobs of comments that glaze the eyes, as if they were the first e e cummings ever) I have no interest in the larger, video displaying unit, I have enough hobbies for now. From the main library, you drag and drop to new lists, as I have one for general exercise, and then subsets of that for tempos suitable to the Nordic Trac and the slightly slower stepper. iTunes automatically updates changes to the lists you would like to keep updated on the iPod. Perfect. It will shuffle the songs on demand--you don't know what's coming next, a fantastic feature, especially in an exercise mode, where one needs all the non-monotony one can get.

When one selects shuffle, however, the player shuffles all the songs in the iPod, and starts playing them all. You have to back out of that and select the playlist you want, which will be shuffled, though not visibly. It's a little confusing.

It keep photos, and iTunes will download my favorite Public Radio shows like a Tivo, and all and all it's pretty cool. Stuff is coming soon that does all this and takes pictures (good ones) and telephone and internet and god knows what else, but I think I'll be using this little sucker for a while.

Here's a look at my Nordic Trac list for now:


At 7:16 PM, Blogger JD said...

I don't think I could live w/o my Ipod. Podcasts are very cool. Every morning I have my choice of 7am NPR news update, Bloomberg's "on the economy", NPR's Business and World stories of the day, etc. etc....

Mom got me the "big one" for Christmas. Should be good for the plane this summer w/ movies and whatnot. Ang got me some nice Bose in ear earphones to go with it. Sounds amazing. Only problem is that I need to turn my computer on every morning to get my podcasts. Wish is was wireless and would download to my Ipod automatically. Oh well. Can't complain. I have "37.9 days" of music on that thing and still like 27 GBs left!

Thanks for telling me about that shuffle thing. Didn't know that. Ang has the Nano. I had the "Shuffle" for 2 yrs b/f this one.


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