Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hello From The Home Office

So, only five days later and I'm, basically, in the same place I was. I'm home, sick, near or in front of the PC, handling work and office stuff as best I can despite this cold/flu/infection that has now taken root not only here but across the country at Kaia's as well. She didn't get it as badly since she was ingesting airborne gummy-chews (the aforementioned used shoe-leather flavor) as soon as I couldn't get out of bed last Tuesday morning, and it's paid off, although she, too, is sniffling, coughing and not feeling great.

Despite the fact we're both sick, we've been spending most of our waking hours on the phone together. I actually miss her more, not because she's not here taking care of me, but because I wish I could lie in bed next to her and whisper without having to hold the phone. To those who suggest we should be separated until we both heal -- I say bullshit. We've both got the same thing, so we should share it as vigorously as possible -- with plenty of kissing and loads of hugs and touching -- so it takes off twice as quickly. Okay, so my reasoning might not have the most comprehensively up-to-date medical technology behind it; but I bet we'd both be lots happier in the same bed being together than this TLC from 3,000 miles away.

There's other stuff a-happenin,' of course. I've managed to survive a bunch of On-Demand movies over the past few days: The Ice Harvest (John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt), Walking Tall (The Rock, Jonny Knoxville) and The Fantastic Four (Jessica Alba, A Skin-Tight Body Suit). All were pretty decent, but I can't say I feel badly I missed any of them in the theaters. On top of that sheer unbridled excitement, Apple basically reinvented the wheel yet again by releasing new iPods and a brand-spankin' new version of iTunes. The former isn't a shock because Microsoft also recently released their version of the ipod (a portable audio device called the Zuna), so for Apple to do all this around the same time is far from a shock. What is a shock, however, is that Apple decided to make some significant changes to iTunes. First, they have a new interface therein which cleans everything up and makes it more intuitive; essentially, if you're a dumb-ass (and odds are good you are since the iPod is the most popular audio device out there these days), it will be that much easier for you to navigate your Air Supply, Abba and Gino Vanelli albums. Not only can you do it with improved lists, it lets you do so by browsing through cover art, which nicely mimics the old-fashioned flipping through LP's one at a time, from left to right. The one thing I've subconsciously noticed in downloading and listening to music without having an actual physical product (other than my iPod) on which to focus is that I forget what the actual album art looks like (even if it is on the iPod, it's still not a real, "tangible" CD case or LP like that with which I grew up. So now this enables users to have a bit more personal connection and comfort with their music collection; nice move, Apple. They even implemented an auto cover art option, so if you're too lazy to go get the cover to your "Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits" disc, it'll do it for you -- so now you have yet another reason to be lazy, incompetent or both.

More importantly, though, Apple finally bridged the divide -- between tracks.

The newest feature to hit iTunes, and the newer devices, is something called "Gapless Playback." People who have audio players from iRiver have had this feature for awhile; what it is, essentially, is the ability to play one track right after another without a skip or a pause (ie a gap) between the two songs. So if you're listening to a piece of classical music, or perhaps The Wall or Dark Side of The Moon or Wish You Were Here (or some crappy dance mix your friend Ned did in his basement while he was recuperating from that planter's wart), now you don't have to tolerate the skip between songs. Also, more importantly, somehow the iTunes people managed to figure out that the "Genesis" album can have skips between all the songs on it except for "Home By The Sea" and "Second Home By The Sea." I'm not really sure how they managed this one, but I do know that the software seemgingly took overnight to adjust my almost-full 60GB Video iPod from just a regular iPod into a gapless playback powerhouse. While this might not sound like that big a deal, I now have another 30 or so albums -- including Dark Side of The Moon, Meddle, The Wall, Eric Clapton Unplugged, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded and Van Halen's Live Without A Net to queue into my iPod. Before, I'd listen to them and there would be those distracting pauses which, in turn, wound up sending me (and many of my fellow iPod listeners) headed to another playlist. Now, I can sit and listen to anything from Pink Floyd in its entirety without hearing nary a pause, skip or whimper. It's -- gasp -- as if I am actually able to enjoy the entire album as Floyd actually envisioned it in the first place. And it's only been 33 years since they released Dark Side.

Now, despite the intended sarcasm above, I was amazed when I saw this feature was -- finally -- implemented in this recent update of iTunes. Initially I was kind of irritated because I'd only recently gotten my new iPod, and here I was expecting that mine would not be capable of this feature I've been awaiting since, well, I got my original iPod. Since I roof-tested that one, I at least hoped this new one would be with me for awhile; but since this gapless playback feature was really something I wanted, I silently considered whether I could sell my video iPod on Craiglist and get ahold of one of the new iPods with this gapless playback feature. However, as I did the upgrade, it became clear that my iPod, because it's relatively new, can indeed handle gapless playback. In other words, Apple did all this work, put some real thought into their product, released it, and upgraded and improved the functionality of their product, without getting me to spring for a single thing (other than all the money and time I've sunk into the world of the iPod thus far). So a double congratulations to Apple; it almost brings a tear to my eye to think they managed to almost convince me they're not as greedy, money-hungry and interested in screwing the consumer any less than Microsoft, Intel or Dell. Of course, I fully believe they are right up there when it comes to screwing the consumer; if they were not so bad, they would offer a reasonable trade-up program for old iPods rather than count the "replacement" iPod numbers (it's generally assumed that an iPod's basic shelf life in a person's use is about 18-24 months). I'm not complaining, however; with this new update, they've revolutionized they way I see the product, and I am predicting now that their main competition to date, the aforementioned iRiver, loses its foothold in this market. Now that Apple has instituted the "gapless" feature, iRiver has very few if any counterpoints to the iPod and it just begins to bcome a question of saving $50 and/or being different. Unfortunately, if I were CEO of iRiver, I would not bet my entire company's future on people looking to save $50 here or there or be different. I'd be future-proofing my resume, actually.

In the meantime, I'm logging off and calling Kaia. It's been an hour or so and I'm looking forward to hearing her voice accompany me on another late-evening/night nap. I'd much prefer if she were there in bed with me, keeping me warm and smiling at me through red eyes and sniffles, but, until November arrives, that's where we're at.

Hope everyone is hanging in through this past couple weeks of sickness / colds / flus / infections / reruns of Jerry Springer.

3 comments:

Kaia said...

No kissing while sick baby - yucky.

glo said...

Hope you're both feeling better :)

LisaBinDaCity said...

OK, no fair getting me sick over the internet!