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Microsoft Media Media (Apple)

Microsoft's Tips for Buying an MP3 Player 784

An Anonymous Reader writes "In another extension of Microsoft's 'Plays for Sure' campaign, the company has launched a web page with six tips to help consumers purchase the 'correct' MP3 Player for them. Among the insights of the article hard drive-based players suck and a stopwatch is a useful feature to have on your player. Unsurprisingly, the iPod meets none of Microsoft's criteria. A humorous commentary is available, of course." From the article: "6. Don't get locked into one online store. Have you ever been on the hunt for a particular song? Some obscure indie rock tune or rare jazz performance you heard on the radio? You might have to shop at more than one store before you find the song you're looking for."
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Microsoft's Tips for Buying an MP3 Player

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  • by skomes ( 868255 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:19AM (#12053057)
    They didn't say microdrive players suck, but the page IS about flash players. About the display thing, I wholeheartedly agree, I think people assume any ipod is "teh coolness", but I'd rather buy a flash player with a display and fm tuner for the same price as an ipod shuffle, I think apple manages to confuse a decent amount of people, and the apple fanatics, well, they'll buy anything apple.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Agreed - Apple have really done themselves a disservice by going after the lower flash memory end of the market. To be honest, it smacks of 'me too' corporate tactics which is not what I'd expect from them. While the iPod and iPod Mini are in their own rights awesome MP3 players, the Shuffle really does bring the line down. The iPod brand no longer means quality with it sat at the bottom end of the range.

      Another - slightly off-topic - point that's worried me is where Apple could go with its iPod range. The
      • by iowannaski ( 766150 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @09:17AM (#12053693)

        So, making a player with no screen is doing themselves a disservice, while making a player with a color screen is lunacy.

        Monochrome or bust, baby!

        • I'd say correct to that statement. At least for me, a colour screen adds too much cost for little gain. With no screen, I can't even navigate the songs effectively.
          While colour screens add so much to the price, I think it's better to focus on monochrome screens, whilst doing R&D into colour.
          • by ChuyMatt ( 318775 ) <chuym@mac.YEATScom minus poet> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @11:07AM (#12054020)
            well, i would just like to say that the shuffle is not for you. For people who don't care about what they are hearing as long is songs that they like and without commercials, then that is for them.

            For us, the 40 was the best option. Keep in mind that there are others out there that do not have our wants and lives.

          • by rhombic ( 140326 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @11:33AM (#12054139)
            Adds too much to the cost? The 30GB photo is $350, the 20GB monochrome is $300. Adding the color screen is only a 17% price increase, and you get 50% more storage space to boot.

            I have the 30GB photo, and several of my friends have 20GB mono models. I can assure you, the color screen makes navigation much easier, as well as making the calendar and solitare functions actually usable. But I guess to each their own...

            Doesn't this sound reminiscant of the days when the first color PDAs and color phones were coming out? Same arguements, will probably end up the same place (other than the very budget end, how many mono PDAs and phones do you see on shelves today?)

            Why hasn't apple made a high-end flash player w/ a display & etc? It seems really simple to me. Apple makes a pretty good margin on its harddrive players (at least compared to the shuffle). It's a proven product. Jobs isn't going to risk hurting the hard drive player sales by competing against them with a high-end flash player. So they introduced a flash player into the only market segment (sub-$200) that wasn't populated w/ an existing player. Compared w/ a harddrive player, the shuffle really doesn't work as well with the itunes library model where you sync all of your songs between your PC and your ipod, and build playlists of the tunes you want to hear. It's good marketing, creates and entry level product, and simplifies the product. (obviously, yes, I've drunk the Kool-Aid. And then wondered why I waited so long ;)
      • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @11:47AM (#12054192)
        I rather like the shuffle because I excercise daily. The IPod or IPod mini is too big and bulky. The Shuffle is perfect and because it plays in random mode it is great that no song will be repeated too quickly.

        Here is how I use the shuffle. Load up the device with songs for your mood. Then excercise, but that might take 45 minutes or an hour and a half. Repeat for six or seven times. At the end of the week reload with new songs.

        If you don't like the shuffle, well the shuffle is not for you. It is for me for people who literally count the grams that they have to carry when they are out and about.
        • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @12:40PM (#12054441)
          The Shuffle is perfect and because it plays in random mode it is great that no song will be repeated too quickly.

          This is the part I don't get about the iPod Shuffle. Didn't just about every MP3 player do shuffle mode both before and since?

          I'm not saying it's bad, but I just don't get it as a selling point. It's like marketing the new BMW - Stearing Wheel. "It has a steering wheel so you can make turns!" um... ok. good. Anything else worth mentioning?

          I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other about whether people should be buying the shuffle. I just think that if they're buying it _because_ of shuffle mode, maybe they should be made aware that there are a few other players out there that may meet their needs.

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @02:27PM (#12054883) Journal
        I don't know.... I can see the validity to the argument that the Shuffle lowers the bar for "Apple quality" - since it's just a "me too" flash player for people who only shop for "cheap".

        On the other hand, it went along with the Mac Mini, which is another experiment by Apple to cater to the lower end of the market - and most people consider the Mac Mini a stunning success.

        I'd never buy a Shuffle, but by the same token, I'd also never buy an iPod Mini. They seem like "all style, no substance" to me. You pay close to the price of a player that can store 4x as much music or more, and you get the exact same thing except in a little bit smaller, colored casing? But nonetheless, it was a huge success.

        Sometimes, you can't just go by the "feature set for the $" to determine what will be a "hit". It may determine what the "technophiles" among us buy, but the general public has other motivations. I've talked to a number of iPod Mini customers, and generally - they don't do lots of MP3 downloading. They jusy buy a few things here and there off iTunes and rip the CDs they already own - so 5GB is plenty of space for 'em.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:39AM (#12053137)
      The thing that Apple consistently gets right is the usability. I have an MP3 player with display, but it's a pain to use. There are just too many user interface inconsistencies. The thing won't even stop fading each track when you skip through a couple of tracks at a time. I realize that the display won't fix that. Given that I want to listen to music and not stare at it, I have to say that a usable player without display beats a player with a display and horrible interaction design any day. I'd prefer if the Shuffle had a display, but it doesn't need one to come out on top of the competition.
    • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:54AM (#12053202)
      They didn't say microdrive players suck
      Yes they did. They said the HD-based players skip if you move them around while they're playing.
      Anyone know if this is true?
      • by Storlek ( 860226 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:01AM (#12053224)
        I have yet to hear my iPod skip at all, ever, and I ride my bike and run with it in my pocket. It gets shaken most of the time it's on.
        • I have yet to hear my iPod skip at all, ever, and I ride my bike and run with it in my pocket. It gets shaken most of the time it's on.

          I had my ipod hard drive die on me, only owning it for about 4 months. What I did it in, I think, was using it while it was sitting in the cup holder in my car. It would sutter and I could feel the hard drive spinning, and holding it would let the buffer fill. But it got to the point where it wouldn't even turn on. Thank god for costco, and knowing the guy workin

          • You know, you could have always used your 1 year warranty if you didn't have a friend at Costco. Anyway, I've mountain biked with my iPod and have never seen the same issues you did in your car. Unless you were taking your car on the Paris-Drakkar, I think it is safe to say you got a lemon iPod.
          • by Slack3r78 ( 596506 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @10:56AM (#12053989) Homepage
            I bought a refurbed 3G iPod in early January. In late February, the HD would clunk and the iPod would lock up trying to read certain songs and files. Rather than risk it, as I use my iPod for moving data as well as music, I contacted Apple for an RMA.

            I filled out the RMA form on the website, the next day, DHL dropped off a box of my doorstep. I put the iPod in the box, called DHL, and they came back to pick it up about 20 minutes later. I got my iPod back about 3 days later.

            There's no need to know the guy at the returns counter, AppleCare is how warranties should be. The only better experience I've had even close was when I RMA'd my Sony Ericsson phone, but I had to actually drive that to the post office myself. :)
      • My Rio Karma really does not like to go running. It usually freezes up after a couple miles with disk errors.

        I keep the Karma for road trips and commuting in my car, and I got an iPod shuffle to carry when I run.
      • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:54AM (#12053374) Journal
        A bit over a month ago, I got back onto a dirt bike for the first time in years. I wasn't doing anything crazy, just some easy trail riding and off-road sightseeing, mostly in the same general area. I was on my way back from one of these outings, humming down the track I'd been using to get home each day, came around a corner into a narrow section only to find some kind soul had dumped a half-metre high pile of dirt across the path. I didn't have my dirt bike reflexes back by any means, and hit the pile off balance and carrying a fair bit of momentum.

        The front suspension bottomed out at the same time as I pitched forward, then those big springs uncompressed and slammed the tank into my groin hard enough to crease the plastic. I'd lost a lot of speed by then and didn't so much crash as roll to a standstill and fall off. It was probably only a few minutes, but it seemed like hours before I could move enough to take a breath and turn the MP3 player off. As a result of this experience I can vouch for two things;

        1. the iPod never skipped a note
        2. hearing the Foo Fighters' MIA still makes my eyes water.
      • by Spruitje ( 15331 ) <> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @08:32AM (#12053584) Homepage

        Yes they did. They said the HD-based players skip if you move them around while they're playing.
        Anyone know if this is true?

        To let an iPod skip is almost impossible.
        The iPod stores about 30 minutes of music in ram.
        Every 30 minutes it spins its harddrive for about 10 secondes to load another 30 minutes of music into ram.
        So, to let an iPod skip is next to impossible.
    • I'd rather buy a flash player with a display and fm tuner for the same price as an ipod shuffle
      Okay, then, show me a flash-based player other than the Shuffle that's less than $100 for 512 MB, or $150 for 1GB. I haven't been able to find one, even including mail-in rebates.
    • by Frankie70 ( 803801 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @09:56AM (#12053802)
      Don't get locked into one online store.

      In all fairness, this would probably have been the advice which the average slashdotter would have given if Apple weren't involved.
      • by gotr00t ( 563828 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @03:40PM (#12055391) Journal
        The fact is, iTMS and the iPod are seamlessly integrated, but Apple has done nothing to prevent users from getting their music from other sources. (to be fair, they made no effort to encourage users to use other sources either)

        The iPod supports a number of popular formats, including MP3 and WAV, but not WMA (they would have had to pay licensing fees to Microsoft). Just because Apple did not support Microsoft's format, many people are insisting that its vendor lock-in. There is nothing preventing another music download service to open up tomorrow and offer MP3's or AAC's for sale (some already do), that will be compatible with the iPod.

        Then is the question of motives. It has been shown that Apple makes nearly no profit off the iTMS anyway, as its probably true that the entire effort was aimed at selling more iPods. What reason do they have to lock-in users anyway? It would actually be to Apple's benefit if other music services aimed to sell music for the iPod.

        The whole idea of Apple trying to force iPod users to use the iTMS is totally untrue. Why, then, would they even allow iPod users to rip from CD's or import audio files that they already had?

      • by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @03:41PM (#12055412)
        Microsoft is just trying to spread the misinformation by making consumers think that iPod only works with iTunes, which is untrue.
  • by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:24AM (#12053076) Homepage Journal
    I know about Linux PDAs and such but is there a Linux-based mp3 player. It seems like a great idea since you wouldn't have to pay fees on the OS. Plus Linux is pretty customizable. Open the player up so people can write plugins and new features. Why hasn't anyone thought of this?

  • few with fm radio

    how come mp3 players with fm radio are so hard to find?

    doesn't it occur to manufacturers/ consumers how much functionality is added with so little effort by adding fm radio?

    i have an iriver IFP-180T solely on the basis of it having an fm radio

    how much does the fm radio circuitry add to the cost of an mp3 player? 50 cents?

    will someone please enlighten me then how come fm radio is so hard to find in mp3 players?
    • by OlivierB ( 709839 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:47AM (#12053167)
      The whole purpose of having an MP3 player is not to have to listen to the radio...
      • The definition of an MP3 player is a device that can play MP3 files.

        Add other features as you wish.
      • Music is music. The point of a MP3 player is to get hold of music you like where you want. It's a simple personal walkman (remember these, around in the 90s, played tapes, quite useful things), only it players data, if you're on a long car journey your MP3 list will run out sooner or later (as in get boring) and you can't change it on the run. So you flick over to a simple radio for a couple of hours to revive your boring music a bit with a break. Then you find more songs you like to add to it.. hence solvi
    • by CosmeticLobotamy ( 155360 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:06AM (#12053240)
      The circuitry for

      a good FM radio

      is not quite that cheap.

      Slashdot has changed its buffering system, by the way.

      They've increased the sentence-per-paragraph allowance to 2.

      Just FYI.
    • by Hektor_Troy ( 262592 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:40AM (#12053340)
      As long as it doesn't become impossible to get one without it, I'm all for more players with a radio tuner. I know lots of people who'd want one.

      Personally I don't want one, but I'd like a portable player.

      Also, some of us live in countries where you have to pay a yearly fee if you have a radio and/or tv. I don't have either, and I'd like to avoid having to pay a yearly tax just to listen to my music ...
  • Correction. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:30AM (#12053096)
    Unsurprisingly, the iPod meets none of Microsoft's criteria.

    Is that so? Up until recently, I seem to recall every iPod sold having a display.
  • by DMouse ( 7320 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:30AM (#12053097) Homepage
    So i can figure out how long the fucker takes to crash. No wait. :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:30AM (#12053098)
    Approximate figures based on CD-quality WMA (64 Kbps)
  • CD Quality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:35AM (#12053124) Homepage
    From the article:

    "*Approximate figures based on CD-quality WMA (64 Kbps)"

    Am I the only one who don't think 64kbps WMA is "CD quality", or is it because the quality of todays recordings on CDs are quite a lot worse than they used to be, of could I just be insane?

    Make me doubt one fact, and I'll start doubting all facts...
    • by x136 ( 513282 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:02AM (#12053228) Homepage
      "*Approximate figures based on CD-quality WMA (64 Kbps)"
      Hey, cut them a break. They probably meant that 64KBps WMA approaches old, worn-out cassette tape quality. It's a common typo. I mean, the keys for "CD-quality" and "old cassette tape quality" are right next to each other.
  • hahahaha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:36AM (#12053125) Journal
    When did ANYONE with a clue listen to Microsoft? "Linux costs you more money", "Linux has more security problems" and "IE doesn't have any security holes which we can't fix and do the second we know about them if you have a fucking time machine!" seems to be all they can say lately.

    I'm sick of Bill and his lies, who gives a fuck if he says Longhorn will stop teenage pregnancy, cure world hunger and get every geek laid within a week of buying it. He talks so much crap now (and so do most people who have spin doctors sitting up their ass all day) that we may as well go listen to the talking clock for a bit and at least get some truth even if it's useless 10 seconds later.
    • Re:hahahaha! (Score:4, Informative)

      by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot.jawtheshark@com> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:56AM (#12053208) Homepage Journal
      When did ANYONE with a clue listen to Microsoft?

      Perhaps people that think that Microsoft makes good products? Managers, business people, the common housewife. Yeah, they all don't have a clue because they don't know that Microsoft is "teh suck". There is a world beyond slashdot, and in that world Microsoft is a household name and a respected company. Those people, the ones that are not on slashdot, outnumber us. They are the market, we are not.

      When I met my girlfriend I showed her my iBook (amongst other things, but we're talking technology here), and she likes it. What did she have? A spyware infested Fujitsu Siemens with Windows XP. She wasn't very happy with her machine, even though it had cost over 2000€. I asked her: "Why didn't you buy a Mac?". The reply was simple: "I didn't know that they existed. All adverts here are for Windows machines, so I thought it was the right thing to do". That's how it is: Microsoft is well known, Apple less well known. On the MP3-player market that is less true, but Microsoft just wants to use it's brand name in its own advantage...

  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:38AM (#12053133)
    ...from the good folks that brought you the hilarious

    Parents Primer to Computer Slang [].

    Now you and your family can be l33t together.

  • by Peter Cooper ( 660482 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:39AM (#12053139) Homepage Journal
    Some obscure indie rock tune or rare jazz performance you heard on the radio? You might have to shop at more than one store before you find the song you're looking for.

    Rare jazz performance? Sure, I often want stuff like that, but why would I buy it off of an online digital music store? Nearly every store supplies its songs in a mediocre 128kbps-ish format, generally sub-par to the equivalent LAME encoded 128kbps VBR MP3. Why would I want jazz, with all its high-hats and dynamic range, in an uber-low quality format? Britney Spears' new single, sure.. but jazz??

    And don't say (who have changed CC processor to someone else)..
  • by earthbound kid ( 859282 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:41AM (#12053141) Homepage

    I like the CARS take on it []:

    • The company that manufactures your MP3 player should never be named after a fruit. That's just hippie bullshit.
    • Under no circumstances should your MP3 player be stylish. You don't want to be taken for a dandy. After all, you never know when you may find yourself incarcerated through an unfortunate series of events that are no fault of your own. And you know what they do to dandies in prison. Yikes.
    • When picking an operating system or office suite, it's a great idea to go with the one with the highest market share, because you're guaranteed a quality product that will be around for years to come. But not with flash-based MP3 players. It's a completely different situation. Completely.
    • etc.

    CARS is good stuff!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:51AM (#12053187)
    Be sure to get that FM receiver option so you can listen to higher-quality music when you get tired of your 64 Kbps WMA collection.
    • Be sure to get that FM receiver option so you can listen to higher-quality music when you get tired of your 64 Kbps WMA collection.

      Or rather, when there's quality programming you like to hear. Contratry to popular belief, there are plenty of things worth listening to which aren't music.

      Radio is one of the key things I miss from my IPods.

    • This is actually one of the main reasons I didn't go with the iPod. There are times when I prefer to listen to NPR than my music. It's nice to have the option.
  • For another fine guide of theirs, check out the Parent's primer to l33t sp34k []. Seems to be on par.
  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:13AM (#12053256) Homepage Journal
    You know, in a way I tend to agree with MS here, in the sense that I always thought moving parts are a bad thing for mobile entertainment devices. Idealy, if it is possible, I'd like my MP3 player to be fully solid state tech. Less power consumption, more rugged, and perhaps higher data density.

    Of course, when the price factors in he equation, HD starts to look much more attractive...
    • by nordicfrost ( 118437 ) * on Saturday March 26, 2005 @06:29AM (#12053302)
      Well, I don't know about the ther players but the iPod has an excellent record when it comes to toughness. People may complain about the battery and... ...well all they complain about is the battery, but the harddrive is not failure prone. Folks with iPods have been jogging with them since gen. 1, and I have yet to see someone complain about a HDD failure due to jogging. My active family uses their minis to jog, inside moist jackets, and it still keeps ticking. The iPod is one tough player.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @07:08AM (#12053410) Journal
    First the most important. Set your budget. You know how much money you got. Count it and don't let anyone tell you to spend more then you want to. If the player you want costs more SAVE up for it. Do never buy with store credit. It ain't worth it.
    1. HD vs flash vs CD vs Minidisc vs Someweird cd like formats.
      • HD's have the most storage but consume a lot of elec and are more vulnerable. They do not skip. MS most be of its rocker. It is CD's that skip.
      • Flash is robuust and storage is increasing but still tiny compared to HD's. Also cost less elec to run so longer battery life.
      • CD's were a cheap way to get loads of storage before flash sizes increased without the costs of HD. Now all but useless. Big, vulnareble to skipping and limited to something like 640mb.
      • Minidisc. Smaller then CD's but still limited compared to HD. A market segment on its own. I had one before the HD player and it was sweet but the HD is sweeter.
      • Weird formats. Don't bother.

      Basic conclusion? Determine your size needs. This is based on A. How long do you listen it in one go. B. What is your tolerance for repeats. C. How often do you chance your songs. If you use it 4 hours per day, can't stand to hear the same song more then once in a week and never replace your songlist you are going to need more space then someone who likes to listen to the same album over and over again. HD's also can be damaged more easily by extreme rough use. Not by carrying them with you in your pocket while running but if you throw your stuff around the hd might not survive. For most people there will be no problems.

    2. Goodies. Ehm yeah right. Goodies are for sucking in the gullible. It is like those stickers "now tastes better" or "free toy inside". You are buying a music player. Concentrate on that. A carrying harness is nice and all but you will most likely put the thing in your pocket. Other stuff like stopwatch is clearly MS being of its rocker. Anyway your mobile phone probably has one and you can always just use something called a watch.

      So don't be tempted by "extras". Extras are easy. Making a damned good solid mp3 player is not.

    3. Display. Obvious dig at the iPod shuffle. Also MS not understanding a thing. If you have created your ideal music collection and just want to listen to it on shuffle mode then why do you need a display? Determine your own needs. If you never use the playlist in xmms/winamp to select a song why would you suddenly want to do so on the move? If you do then get a good display AND a mp3 player with a browse system that doesn't drive you up the wall.
    4. Radio. Let a professional make your play list. Oh yeah. Big brother knows best and for your extra convenience they will have lots of MS commercials to make sure you make the right decisions. God how can a single company be so out of touch. RADIO SUCKS wich is why we have music players in the first place. It costs next to nothing to add fm capabilty HOWEVER this also means radios are cheap. You can get one for a few bucks or even as a free toy. If you want a radio. Get one. Don't waste money on an mp3 player. Further more if you use your player inside or worse in a train expect incredibly bad reception. It also adds clutter to your player. Again determine your own needs. If you sometimes want to listen to the radio then fine look for it in your player. Just realize this one simple fact. Portable radio's are cheaper, last longer and been around far longer then personal music players. So why do so few people seem to use portable radios on the move? Why do radio's in cars come with personal music players (cassetes)?
    5. Pick the right size. I know bill gates never really said that 640k should be enough for anyone but this page is so out of date. If you are buying less then 512mb these days you are getting screwed. Prices have dropped and even 1gb flash players are pretty affordable. 128mb or less is something you should get for free.

      As for the whole wma nonsense. My hearing is pretty bad but on the whole

    • "CD's were a cheap way to get loads of storage before flash sizes increased without the costs of HD. Now all but useless. Big, vulnareble to skipping and limited to something like 640mb."

      I really don't know where you are getting your information from, but I have a CD based MP3 player and I have never had it skip. You can jog, bike, and hike with the thing and never have a problem. Probably because with the internal cache memory in the player, it doesn't really have to hit the disc that much for more dat
  • Humorous Commentary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2005 @07:40AM (#12053496)
    How many ways can one company tell you not to do something without ever actually telling you not to do something? Answer: six. That may sound like a lot, until you consider that the company in question is Microsoft and has untold armies of FUDmeisters in its marketing department working around the clock (at which point six sounds a little like maybe their manager was a little light with the whip that day). Faithful viewer Simone Bianconcini alerted us to a very informative page on Microsoft's Windows Media site called "Six Tips for Buying an MP3 Player with Flash Memory," and let us tell you, now that we've read it, we haven't felt this educated in minutes.

    In this completely unbiased article with absolutely no underlying agenda or ulterior motive whatsoever, the Redmond Beast makes a humanitarian effort to warn you about certain pitfalls that dot the path of buying a portable digital music player, so that you don't wind up with a music device without a built-in stopwatch, which, of course, would be a fate worse than death. Here, with brief summaries of Microsoft's explanations, are the six tips that could save you from inadvertently spending all eternity in Flash Hell:

    1. Understand the basics, i.e. flash players are inherently better than hard-drive players because they don't skip unless you throw them at the water just right.

    2. Make sure you're getting all the goodies, i.e. you just won't be happy unless your player can record FM radio and includes, for some reason, a stopwatch.

    3. You'll want a display, i.e. there's no nobler way to die than by trying to change songs with a three-line, teensy-button human interface while jogging and being struck down by a Dodge Stratus.

    4. Let a professional make your next playlist, i.e. why listen to your own music when you can listen to nonstop commercials and obnoxious local DJs on FM radio? And record them digitally, so you can share that great beer jingle with your friends and loved ones?

    5. Pick the right size for you, i.e. Windows Media is great, and we just wanted to harp on that for a minute. Have we mentioned that Windows Media is great?

    6. Don't get locked into one online store; it is, however, just fine to get locked into one proprietary data format and DRM scheme-- as long as it's ours.

    Interestingly enough, before it was refined into the Six Commandments you see above, an earlier draft version of the list was considerably terser. AtAT operatives have secured a copy, and it seems to imply that Microsoft might have had some sort of unstated underlying objective in mind when it put these tips together, although we're having a tough time seeing just what it might have been. Maybe you can help:

    1. Don't buy an iPod, iPod mini, or iPod photo.

    2. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.

    3. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.

    4. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.

    5. Pick the right size for you (as long as you don't buy an iPod shuffle).

    6. Don't buy an iPod of any kind whatsoever.

    We know the hidden message is there, lurking just beneath the surface. Maybe these three additional tips found in another draft unearthed by faithful viewer DT will shed some light on the subject:

    1. Make sure your flash player isn't white. You don't want to get it all dirty now, do you?

    2. If your flash player has a fruit on it, you might get poisoned by insecticide.

    3. Always listen to Uncle Bill; he knows what's best for you.

    Hmmmm. Nope, it's still a mystery. Impenetrable. Guess we'll never know.

    Say, is that the smell of fear wafting over here from the Pacific Northwest?...

  • CD Quality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Saturday March 26, 2005 @08:01AM (#12053527) Homepage
    Microsoft says 64kb/s WMA is CD quality.

    What does that makes 128kb/s? Or 192kb/s? Sooperdooperaudiophonicbeyondcompare quality?

    The only thing that is CD quality is...a CD. And while 128kb/s AAC is fine (and somewhat better than MP3 and WMA), it isn't even close to CD quality.

    64kb/s? That isn't even FM radio quality. I'm not talking Clear Channel 99.something playing the top five hits over and over FM. I'm talking real FM quality (i.e. WGMS in Washington DC, or hundreds of PBS/NPR stations across the U.S.). Heck, I've not heard a WMA that I would compare to CD, and I'm not talking expensive stereos; I'm talking about listening on a stock car stereos.

    I realize this is a silly rant, and there are people who listen who really can't tell the difference. But lets stop pretending on audio quality. It reminds of the 60's when every amplifier manufacturer was claming the most ridiculous power outputs until the government stepped in and made them stop.
  • 6. Don't get locked into one online store. Have you ever been on the hunt for a particular song? Some obscure indie rock tune or rare jazz performance you heard on the radio? You might have to shop at more than one store before you find the song you're looking for.

    Do the different "stores" actually have significantly different content, other than artificial differentiation (like Apple Records hating Apple Computer)? Should they? I mean, there's no significant overhead for online stores to carry every track out there.

    In practice, online DRM-protected music distribution will tend to become a "natural monopoly" like operating system software. You'd have your choice of half a dozen Clear Channel Radio equivalents all with he same content and all tied together behind the scenes to Microsoft. Choice would become the choice of buying your copy of Windows XP from CompUSA or MicroCenter.

    Meanwhile, the "obscure indie bands and rare jazz performances" can be found without DRM on a CD from the band's own website or Amazon. I buy individual tracks from iTMS, but when I go to buy an album I pay a bit more and wait a bit longer to get a "clean" version.

    I've bought more CDs in the past couple of months, since I got my iPod, than I've bought in the past couple of years before it. This makes me wonder about the industry. I sometimes wonder if they're not pushing DRM-protected music so hard they're trying to hurt CD sales...
  • by bitswapper ( 805265 ) * on Saturday March 26, 2005 @10:02AM (#12053811)
    Hmm - first of all, its not an article, its an ad, and I think it would help if people in general called it out for what it is. After all, there's no author. Secondly, its obviously an ad to convince you not to buy an iPod, and that's all it is.

    Expecting an ad to be accurate is like expecting a fart to smell like perfume.

    There are several ironies that one cannot help poke fun at:
    • "Let a professional make your next playlist"
      A professional what? Playlists are bought and sold. There's about as much 'professional insight' in radio playlists as there is in coming up will silly ways of walking.
    • "Don't get locked into one online store."
      How about "don't get locked into one OS/Office Suite/browser vendor"? Just couldn't resist that one.

    Also, people should remember that this ad came from a corporation. Corporations are by definition non-living entities which have the capacity to act as if they were living beings. In other words, they enjoy many of the same rights and benefits as living, breathing human beings (more, in fact), but have no internal moral code to speak of, since they're not people. Without an internal moral code, they could be accurately thought of as severely mentally ill.

    So, you could interview any severely mentally ill individual and get information just as good/delusional as you get from Microsoft:
    • Linux costs more that Windows
    • Aliens from outer space talk to my brain
    • Linux is/will be illegal
    • MP3 Players with hard drives are not as good as those without
    • DDT - good for you, good for me
    • Windows is more secure that Linux
    • The drinking water is seeded with mind control drugs from the CIA
    • "Trusted Computing" makes all things computer trustworthy
    • Sharks don't bite
    • The patent system works just fine for software
    • We have your best interests in mind

    Maybe /. should have a "Delusional Corporate Drivel" (I know, triple redundant) icon for stuff like this MS Ad...

    • It may be an ad, but it is disingenuously presented as information... Microsoft does this masterfully... their web site is a source for knowledge base articles, a source for patches and updates, AND it is a kiosk for all their wares. But the lines blur here when compared to an ad in a normal context, e.g., a magazine (granted, some play fancy tricks to make magazine ads look like news but apparently there's a requirement they MUST put a disclaimer), a TV ad, etc.

      To the ad-unaware, this looks like a "howto

  • by Asprin ( 545477 ) <(gsarnold) (at) (> on Saturday March 26, 2005 @10:10AM (#12053828) Homepage Journal

    From the article: "6. Don't get locked into one online store. Have you ever been on the hunt for a particular song? Some obscure indie rock tune or rare jazz performance you heard on the radio? You might have to shop at more than one store before you find the song you're looking for."

    Ok. I call bullstuff. Show me **ONE** radio station anymore that even aspymptotically approaches indie rock songs or rare jazz performances.

  • by teddaman ( 854135 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @10:59AM (#12054000)
    So you can enjoy the Blue Screen of Death!
  • by Rick and Roll ( 672077 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @11:02AM (#12054008)
    Found here [] (at the bottom).

    You can match logos. When you see it on a device and on an online store you know the two will work together with a no hassle. It just works!

    Plus, they didn't capitalize each word of It Just Works (tm) or add the trademark symbol.

  • Rule 7? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Saturday March 26, 2005 @05:02PM (#12055958)
    The player and jukebox software combo should support music formats of AAC with Freeplay DRM. After all the iTMS gets exclusive deals for those hard to find songs you might be wanting occasionally.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.